Archive for April, 2010

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

admin | April 25, 2010 in Music | Comments (6)

(Thanks to JoAnn Boeckermann for this shot from our concert in Des Moines, Iowa.)

“So, on a big tour like this with a star like Tim McGraw…I guess you guys just FLY everywhere?”

No way.  Not a chance.  Have you seen the show?  Even just pictures of it?  It’s huge.  Stages, video screens, platforms, instruments, cameras, lighting rigs.  Take a look around and think about this: when we arrive in the morning, the arena is EMPTY.

Basically…we bring everything with us.

There are a lot of folks needed to pull off the spectacle that is the “Southern Voice” tour.  A lot of buses carry our folks from place to place.  A lot of trucks carry all the gear those folks use to build the circus.

So this show…ROLLS.  To try to fly something like this would be more of a military operation than a concert tour.  Besides, everyone on tour sleeps in between cities.  Each bus is fitted with sleeping accommodations so band and crew have at least a fighting chance of getting some rest before building a new show the next morning.

If you’ve flown, you know how comfortable you aren’t – snuggling up in a plane to the tender touch of the window, or the neighbor you don’t know, or the drink cart that rakes your arm regularly if you happen to have an aisle seat.  Granted, that extra two inches your seat reclines…now THAT is heaven.  Let’s you board the plane and sleep like a baby.

Okay, not THAT baby.  Not the one that the parents fed right BEFORE boarding the plane.  I know; I hear the screaming, too.  But he’s a baby.  I understand.  It’s not his fault.  (But they could have waited and fed him NOW; I’m just sayin’.)

So buses are the preferred mode of transport.  Sometimes, though, there just is no option.  For example, we play a concert in Des Moines, Iowa the night of February 13; the morning of February 14, we open the Daytona 500 in Florida.

According to Google Maps, we are looking at 1334 miles.  Depending on the route, almost 24 hours driving time.  Without fuel stops.  Perfect.  If we drive, we will arrive more than twelve hours AFTER our scheduled performance…and it’s TELEVISED!

Not a good plan.  So after storming the stage in Des Moines for all our friends in Iowa, we head straight to the airport.  A skeleton crew and our band of merry musical men.  Lean and mean.  We’ll catch back up to our rolling compadres later.

Tonight…we fly; tomorrow, Daytona.

Lance Miller Opens Country Music Marathon with Team McGraw

admin | April 22, 2010 in Endurance,Music,Running | Comments (2)

Lance Miller.  We first got to know each other out on the road.  He opened up for us on tour with Tim McGraw a few years back – warmed up arenas full of folks for Tim and Faith Hill on the “Soul2Soul Tour” in 2007, and wound up the crowds on the outdoor stage for McGraw’s “Live Your Voice” tour in 2008.

A great singer, a great songwriter, and simply a great dude.

Lance will be providing entertainment at the Team McGraw “Bowling for Brains” warm-up party on Friday, April 23 before the Country Music Marathon and Half Marathon the next morning.  Runners and fans alike will be on hand to eat, play, and enjoy some of Nashville’s best music with Team McGraw…and believe me, Lance is one of the best.

I’ll be out on the road with McGraw in Ohio that night, then on to Detroit for another show; I hate that I’m gonna miss the race, and I hate even more that I’m gonna miss listening to Lance with my runnin’ buddies before taking to the starting line the next morning.

Dang it.

When Lance was out on tour with us, I would often just sit out in the audience and chill, take in his “country as mud” singin’.  Sometimes, I sang alongside him, tossin’ in backup vocals on his tunes – (one of my favorites is “Back in the New School”) – or his favorites by country greats and musical legends.

I’ve been a fan for a long time; I guess a lot of folks first got to know him through his season of the television show Nashville Star, performing and building a national fan base as a weekly favorite among viewers.  “Nashville Star reminded me of what it meant to be an artist,” explains Lance.

Whether you’re running or not, make time to swing by “Bowling for Brains” and give Lance a hello for me.  Tickets and information are still available for this terrific event in support of Team McGraw and the Tug McGraw Foundation, and it’s a great way to spend an evening relaxing in Music City before taking on the Country Music Marathon.

For more on Lance, swing by the Lance Miller MySpace page for a great look and listen into a great artist.

For tickets to hear Lance at the “Bowling for Brain’s Warm-Up Party before the Country Music Marathon, vist the TMF Online Store.

Lindsey Vonn: Skiing Champion at ACM Awards

admin | April 19, 2010 in Music | Comments (5)

The Academy of Country Music Awards are well underway.

Escorts scurry through hallways getting Miss “I Just Won” back to her predetermined seat in the audience after doing whatever backstage “what I forgot to say when I accepted my award” stuff she had to do.

The “I Can’t Believe It” band dances right behind her, not sure where they are headed, but not caring; they’ve never won anything…until now.

Mr. “I’m Happy To Be Nominated” backslaps Mr. “Sorry I Beat You” with congratulations, and he sincerely means every word of it.

It’s country music.  Most of us kinda know each other anyway.  No cut to a commercial before a fight breaks out stuff here; we are all, more or less, friends.

My boys and I are waiting outside the dressing room for our call to take the stage.  One dressing room for a lot of band boys – the girls have their own room – and it is getting a little tight.  So I wander out the door and into the hallway, tired of the nose-to-nose nature of the room…and there she is.

I can’t not speak.  We almost collided as she slunk past our door, a tall blond bombshell, gracefully wrapped in red…without the customary protective helmet and goggles.

I have to say…something.

“Well, hi!  I was just sharing a story about you earlier.  My name’s Jeff; I’ll be performing with Tim McGraw here shortly.”

Her name is Lindsey, she says.  Lindsey Vonn. 2010 Olympic champion.  Skiing’s rock star.  “So…what was the story?” she asks.

I give her the short version, pointing out her early start as a young skier at Buck Hill in Minnesota and my rudimentary experiences as a new snowboarder on the same mountain.  I note that we both finished up our seasons this year at Whistler, hers with an Olympic Gold medal, mine with more speed, sharper turns, and fewer bruises.

At the possibility of my potentially following her footsteps to a future Olympics…she laughs.  “It sounds like you are already on your way,” she offers, and then she hustles off on hers.

She is presenting tonight, and I’m sure that at any moment they are going to…

Tim McGraw band to the stage, please.”

An Olympic Revelation at the ACM Awards

admin | April 18, 2010 in Music | Comments (5)

(Tim McGraw and the Dancehall Doctors are set to perform on the Academy of Country Music Awards this Sunday, April 18 at 8/7 CST on CBS in Las Vegas, Nevada.)

We’re in Vegas for three days. The producers for the 2010 Academy of Country Music Awards have been preparing the show for months. We’ve flown in the entire band and crew, shipped in most of our gear, and maybe even rented a few additional pieces.

There’s lighting people, video people, production people, catering people, driving people, publicity people, media people, newsy “let me have a peek inside of your world with a less than comfortable question on camera” people…and all kinds of other just “people people” that I don’t know WHAT they do.

SIDENOTE: Have you ever said a word over and over so many times, it starts to sound silly, to the point that you begin to wonder if it’s really a word at all? You at least question the spelling? It’s weird. “P-e-o-p-l-e. Okay, yeah, that’s right.”

We’ll have tons of friends at the show. I’ll probably run into Chesney’s guys tonight at some point. It’ll be good to see ‘em. Keith Anderson will be all smiles if I run into him. Blake Shelton. The Rascal Flatts boys.

Everybody that we never see because THEY are out on tour when WE are out on tour. It’s a busy night, bands coming and going, but we’ll run into many of our friends, even if for just a moment.

There will be others there I don’t know. I know where folks are scheduled to sit because of the placeholder cards propped up in chairs with their names and photos. L.L. Cool J. Really? Matthew McConaughey. He’s from Texas, and he’s been here before.

Lindsey Vonn. Lindsey Vonn?

Lindsey recently won the 2010 Olympic gold medal for women’s downhill skiing at Whistler Mountain in British Columbia, Canada…and she’s coming to the Academy of Country Music Awards.

Really. Okay…my night just got a lot cooler.

She’s been on my radar all winter. I already knew of her start, honing her early skiing skills on Buck Hill in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Was watching as she wrestled with injuries. Held my breath as she was forced to debate even competing.

Watched…and rewound…and watched again as she won the gold medal after flying down Whistler Mountain.

Lindsey will be front and center as I man my post behind my keyboard rig for tonight’s performance. She’ll be listening – and I’ll be remembering that MY first snowboarding day this season was ALSO on Buck Hill…and that I ALSO helped close the season on at Whistler…

Wait…”McMahon heads to the Olympics.”

Maybe there’s still a chance…

COUNTRY WEEKLY: Tim McGraw’s Team McGraw

admin | April 17, 2010 in Endurance,Music,Running | Comments (8)

A big “Ya Gotta Believe!” and “Thanks!” to the folks at Country Weekly Magazine for showing their support of Team McGraw and honorary chair of the Tug McGraw Foundation, Tim McGraw; awesome!

The article posted April 16, 2010 shares details on the upcoming “Bowling for Brains” fundraiser and warm-up party set for April 23 in conjunction with the Country Music Marathon and Half Marathon in Nashville the following day. Also included is Tim’s personal perspective on the ongoing efforts of our program and the dedication of the athletes and all those that donate and support Team McGraw.

As the national director of program development for the Tug McGraw Foundation and Team McGraw…and Tim’s friend and keyboardist for seventeen years…I have a special appreciation for our partnership in this effort.

Thanks, Tim; it’s a pleasure to serve with ya.

Click here to visit the Country Weekly website to read their article and learn more about how you can join in the fun next weekend with Team McGraw!

RACE REPORT: Stalked by a Running Diva/Des Moines Red Flannel Run 2010

admin | April 12, 2010 in Endurance,Race Report,Running | Comments (12)

Katie McLenaghan is stalking me.

It is kind of flattering, really.  Rolling all over the country, eight boys living on a bus, it’s kinda cool to think of a hot little runner chick scouting my journey, tracking my moves.

Not that it’s that hard.  The schedule for the Tim McGraw “Southern Voice” tour is posted for public view at  Anybody can find it.  I just didn’t know she was paying attention.

I get the call just a few days before the race.  The 21st Annual Red Flannel Run is scheduled for February 13, 2010, the same day our tour stops through Des Moines, and Katie, currently living in Chicago, is in town visiting family.  It’s snowing, it’s cold…and I am to serve as coach, runner, and escort in her attempt to set a personal record on the five-mile course.

But of course, fair maiden; it would be my honor.

The start of the 2010 Red Flannel Run in Des Moines, Iowa.

Katie.  She first popped onto my grid two years ago, a dedicated and longtime friend of Team McGraw’s running rock star and brain tumor survivor Jen McDevitt. Katie had elected, seemingly out of nowhere, to take on the 2008 Bank of America Chicago Marathon in Jen’s honor.  It was her first time to bear the Team McGraw colors, and we were glad to have her.

Don’t get me wrong; I love Katie.  But running shoes, dirt in the face, and possibly puking at the finish line just doesn’t seem to match up with her daily diet of jewelry endeavors, fashion sense, and the pursuit of all things, well, glamorous.

I don’t really think she was even a runner back then; she was choosing to be…to support her friend.  Did she know what she was taking on?  Would she be like so many that climb this mountain…once…motivated by friendship…and then mark it off her bucket list?

(Left) Jen McDevitt and Kate McLenaghan at 2009 Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

Absolutely not.  After months of training, she completed the 2008 Chicago Marathon in honor of Jen with style and sweat, grace and grit: two parts Runners World, one part Cosmopolitan magazine, and a pinch of “Sex in the City.”

In 2009, Katie returned to shatter her personal marathon time by almost 40 minutes, shod in the most chic of running shoes – covered in glitter, no less.

Carrie Bradshaw herself could not have been more proud if our running diva had covered the 26.2 miles in her favorite pair of Jimmy Choos.

In 2010, she is running the Chicago Marathon for the third time with Team McGraw, followed exactly four weeks later by her first ING New York City Marathon.  Awesome.

So, absolutely …I’m in for the five-miler with ya.  You bet.

I crawl out of my bunk on the bus while it is still dark.  We have rolled in from the previous night’s concert in Madison, Wisconsin…and the bus is cold and quietly parked outside of our hotel.  Wiping the sleep from my eyes, I drag me and my luggage up to my room to suit up, stretch out, and get the blood moving.

Katie calls; she’s in the lobby.  It’s been snowing, and I’m less than prepared, so she’s got a great green “Loras College” cap for me to wear during the race.  Both she and Jen attended Loras College together; I’m honorary for the day.

We grab some coffee and then do a quick radio interview with a local station.  I guess this race is a pretty big deal, and the folks there are happy to share our message of support for the Tug McGraw Foundation and quality of life research for brain tumor and brain trauma.  It was quick and easy…and much appreciated.

Then we head to the race course.  It’s really more of a fun run than a race; lots of folks have prepared well for the race with wigs, costumes, and various versions of flannel pajamas.  Katie takes special interest in one runner wearing long johns…with his seat flap…uh…flapping.

She says she has his back; well, I guess so!

We then run up on a few of our military that are using this race as training for an upcoming exercise that will require them to run distance heavily laden with gear.  As I recall, all three of these men are headed toward Officer Candidate School in the U.S. Army; jubilant but focused, they  are suited up in fatigues and 50-pound packs for a short practice run.  If Team McGraw doesn’t offer us enough inspiration…now we’ve got THESE guys!

Thanks for your service, fellas.  Really.  Thanks.

Katie is hoping to set a PR for five miles – anything under fifty minutes is good with her.  She tells me that she plans to do her first mile in 9:30 to get her started.  Uh…no.

Change of strategy.  Kicking off with 9:30 is a plan to hit 47:30…and we are just trying to get under 50:00.  I explain the benefits of running negative, leaving enough in the tank such that we might actually run the back half of the race faster than the first half.  We’ll run the first mile in ten minutes, see how it feels, get things rolling, negotiate the crowd swelling the streets…and then carefully crank it up.

Stick with me, Katie…and we’ll get your PR.

We had not run together before, so despite my frequent “How are ya doin’?” checkups, I’m not sure how she’s feeling throughout the race…but I know at the end she is still strong and sassy.  We stick to our strategy, sneak up our pace after the first mile…and ultimately snag her a 48:46…1:14 seconds under her goal!

A quick breakfast stop and back to the hotel.  I’ve got a show to play tonight, and Katie is anxious to wash off the run and don her best diva for the concert.

But for a few minutes yet…she’ll be relishing her runner.

And a darn fine runner you are; good job, girl.

Creepy Facebook God of Running

admin | April 2, 2010 in Endurance,Running,WordSmatter | Comments (4)

Okay…that did NOT just happen.

I’m poking around online, picking up pieces of runner stuff before jumping into something really work-related. Checking out training blogs from some of my fellow runners, dropping Team McGraw notices into Facebook, posting up pictures from a recent event.

I jump into Running with Snakes, a running blog that first catches my eye via the tagline by musician Ani DiFranco on the homepage: “The finish line is a shifty thing…and what is life, but reckoning?”

Okay, the quote is the second thing that grabbed my attention; the first thing is probably the word snakes.

The author juggles ultramarathoning and mommy-hood, and I stumble onto a fun entry titled “Running Should Be Free, Man,” where she notes the expense of big marathon events, the addictiveness of finishers’ medals, and her return to the simple joy of the run.

I log onto her site, post a comment, and receive the expected verification notice to assure that I’m not some pulseless computerized spammer. I type in supessec as directed. Accepted.

I then wander over to a blog called Push Me…I Need You! I’ve never been here before. It appears that Amy – author, runner, and push-ee – has started this blog as a tool to solicit motivating participation from other runners.

Again…log in, my two cents. Verify, please. Type in henur. Accepted.

Time to find a push of my own. I pay a visit to Coach Kevin Leathers’ blog, Can’t Stop Endurance. His new training post spotlights pace training, sharpening the sword. I can use a little sharpening. Excellent.

Log in and enter my response. Security check. The word is aphrida. Accepted.

Though I’ve done this before, for some reason, I’m especially aware this time that the three “words” serving as the keys to admission of my comments are not even words. I think they might be, and I am curious, but after typing supessec, henur, and then aphrida into my laptop dictionary, I find nothing.

Huh. Before logging off, I stop by to drop something onto the Facebook page for the ING Philadelphia Distance Run. (Now officially the ING Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon.) I’ve run it the last two years, and though I can’t make it this fall, Team McGraw will be there…so it’s time to beat the drum.

Same drill. Log in, add my comment. This time, I’m asked for two words…


Uh…(quick glance back over my shoulder)…uh…yeah…