Archive for May, 2010

Roll, Relax, Recover

admin | May 26, 2010 in Endurance,Music,Running | Comments (7)

It’s out of my hands.  There’s no treadmill on the tour bus, and I can’t wish us there any faster.  Some drives are longer than others, and when we do finally get where we’re going, there’s music to be made.  Work to be done.


If I can scrounge up a sliver of time for a three or four-mile run, I’ll do a happy dance and call it a win.  If I can’t get more…then I don’t get more.  I got somethin’; it’s all good.

On the longest rides, we can roll from dawn ‘til dark.  Oh, well – no worries, no guilt.  Seriously, if I let an erratic schedule, travel hiccups, and a lack of absolute consistency get into my training spirit…I may as well toss my shoes into the recycler and give ‘er up.

So I’ll just call it “recovery.”  Days off are good, even necessary, and sometimes just watching the world sail by through the glass, ticking off the miles with a cold Mountain Dew reflecting back at me in the windshield…

…that can be good, too.  I’ll run tomorrow.

Timposter Drops Costume and Runs For Real

admin | May 21, 2010 in Endurance,Music,NYC Marathon 2010,Running | Comments (10)

I met him for the first time in Pittsburgh in September of 2009.  I was in town with Tim McGraw and the Dancehall Doctors for the official kickoff of football season – a huge gig – but we also did a small “under the radar” gig the night before at the Pepsi Roadhouse, a small club that we packed out to raise money for charity.

He caught THAT show, and we met in passing. Shot a photo.  I remember he asked me some questions about running with Team McGraw…like he was thinking about it.

Lee Crites. I’ve not seen his show, but I know the story.  I’ve seen the video clips.  He is a Tim McGraw impersonator in Michigan – dresses the part, performs the tunes, and makes a living as a down-home doppelganger.

I love that I used doppelganger.  I crack myself up.  Lee prefers tribute artist; more often than not, I’ve come to refer to him instead as our team Timposter. (Rhymes with imposter.) Yep…after a few months of training and quiet deliberation, he’s signed up and ready to run the New York City Marathon with me and the rest of Team McGraw!

We actually went for run together at our concert stop in Grand Rapids, Michigan back in February.  I had a break before soundcheck that afternoon, so we connected at the arena and went for a short run through downtown.

It was icy, snowy, slushy.  Not built for speed, but for trepidation.  Care was needed to avoid unwanted twisted ankles.  Even so, Lee kept a good pace on our little jaunt.  He’d been training already, and with many months left until the marathon in November, it would seem our “Timposter” was on track for the big race!

It’s kinda funny, though.  He did sorta look like Tim, even when he showed up to run…but not REALLY.  Then again…even the REAL Tim doesn’t always look like himself sometimes.  “I saw The Blind Side twice, and I didn’t even recognize him!” I’ve heard folks say that.  Sure, if Tim’s got on the stage armor…but in regular clothes…

Hang on a second…now that I think about it, I’ve NEVER seen these two guys standing together…just like you never saw Bruce Wayne and Batman at the same time…

No…it couldn’t be.

Guinea Pig To Run New York City Marathon 2010

admin | May 10, 2010 in Endurance,NYC Marathon 2010,Running | Comments (6)

I’ve seen the Eiffel Tower complete the New York City Marathon.  Numerous hulking ballerinas and “Larry the Lighthouse” have all crossed the finish line.  More Elvises – (El-VI?) – than I can count.

And they’re adding a guinea pig to this year’s mix.

That would be me.  On November 7, 2010, I will run the New York City Marathon for the third time; when it’s done, it’ll be my sixth marathon.  I’ll run it for many reasons, most of them the kind that make your heart race, pump, or break.

"Larry the Lighthouse" guides the way in New York City in 2008.

It comes with the territory; as an athlete, I am physically stronger because I train to be.  As a charity runner, I am touched by those that courageously fight a disease seeking to tear folks apart.  My heart races with the inspiration of those that have touched it, pumps with enthusiasm from those that enrich it, and breaks with the knowledge that this disease exists to be fought.

As to the “guinea pig,” I’m training to set a personal marathon record…and Coach Kevin Leathers is setting the bar.  He wants to make me an example of his coaching expertise for the rest of our team.  Throw the spotlight on me, start the clock, and see what I can do.

See, I can’t really say I’ve run a marathon for TIME in fifteen years.  My first two, in ’95 and ‘96, those were just “I’m gonna go do this” finishing goals.  Since the formation of the Team McGraw program in 2007, my focus has been much more on our mission to support brain tumor research through the Tug McGraw Foundation and helping our runners achieve the goals they have set for themselves.

Never my performance, my time, my finish.

With camera locked and loaded, I draw and shoot Julie Hamill (left) and Jen and Glen McDevitt crusing right along!

Now, I’m always out there.  I’m training, and I do many of our team events.  I’m not gonna participate in a program like this and talk my way around doing the work that our folks do.  But on race day, I’m out there for them: the runners; the volunteers; those in their battles against brain tumors, brain trauma, and other debilitating diseases; the family and friends supporting all of us in our efforts; and those held in our memories along the way.

My time?  Whatever.

Case in point: the first Team McGraw marathon was New York City in ‘07.  My training was sufficient, but not especially hardy.  I was out there to have fun, hang with the runners, grind out my race and practice what I preached: run smart, be patient, pace yourself.

NYC 2007: "You put your right foot in, you pull your right foot out..."

And I’m not only a runner on race day.  I’ve got a runner’s hat, a cheerleader’s hat, a photographer’s hat, and sometimes, (though it is small by comparison,) a coach’s hat.  (Coach Kevin wears the big one…as well he should.)  I’m pluggin’ along, yucking it up with stragglers, snappin’ photos, and making sure that I end the day better friends with some of my folks than when I started.

Alright, alright…yeah, I sit in with some of the bands along the race course, too; it’s just the musician in me that fights his way out in between mile markers!

After a challenging half marathon only a few months earlier, Debbie Persaud finishes stronger than ever in NYC 2008.

Everybody finished that first year; the same in 2008.  That second year, I intentionally started all the way at the back.  Not one of the other 50,000 runners were behind me, which guaranteed I would run past half of our team.  That was what I wanted – to spend a little time on the course with as many of our folks as possible.

That’s a hard way to go.  Lots of weaving around slower runners, congestion, tighter crowds.  There’s a reason you should put an accurate time down on your registration form and accept your starting placement with runners at your training level.  I won’t do that again, at least not in New York, but it was a nice way to share the day with so many of our people.

New York City 2009, I didn’t run.  I had planned to, but at the last minute, Coach Kevin and I figured I’d be of better use on the sidelines.  He was right.  Early in the race, we were both on hand with smiles, cameras, and backpacks full of “Attaboys!” and “Go get ‘em, girls!”

Kristen Hallock-Waters is undeterred as we talk nutrition at a pivotal point in the 2009 NYC Marathon.

Later on, when things got hairy, we were there with the needed advice, water, nutrition gels, bandages, stretching suggestions and massage assistance for cramped hamstrings when it was…kneaded.

(Ugh.  I know.  Bad one.)

For the third year in a row, everybody finished.  Awesome.  I loved being on the sidelines; still, our friends that run the New York City Marathon want me on the course this November, and I want to be running alongside my team as well.

Team McGraw: (Left) Coach Kevin Leathers, Inspiration Expert Jen McDevitt, and yours truly.

So Coach Kevin will put me to the test.  I’m his guinea pig – the one he plans to mold, needle, poke, prod and push into the fastest marathon I’ve run.  Ever.


(For more about my New York City Marathon 2010 campaign and to make a donation in support of quality of life research for those with brain tumors, brain trauma, and other debilitating cognitive conditions, please click here for my donation page.)

Spies in the Trees

admin | May 9, 2010 in Endurance,Running | Comments (5)

It’s not as if I’ve got time for a run; I don’t.  We’ve already had a full day getting ready for the night’s concert in Columbia, Missouri: gear prep, soundcheck, rehearsal, and general “work out the bugs” activities.  I’m pretty slammed.

But I’ve gotta get out.  I’ve gotta get somethin’. Finding an open window around supper, I shoot back to our dressing room and hurriedly grab my running gear out of my wardrobe case.

Honestly, I’m not sure what I’m in for.  I’ve been straight from the bus to the hotel back to the bus and into the arena, so I haven’t really paid attention to the geography or the weather.  I know it’s not raining – and I know it’s been cold – so I make a guess.

Tights.  Fine.  Short socks.  My ankles might get chilly, but I prefer them.  Gloves, check.  Garmin GPS, charged.  Shoes, a given. Black and white striped stocking cap.  Gotta keep the head warm –  and it’ll keep my hair out of my face if the wind is coming from the wrong direction.

I’ve got my camouflage UnderArmour long-sleeve in my bag. I’m not planning on sneaking up on anybody, but it has served me well on some hunting adventures, so that’ll do fine.

At the last minute, I grab my “All Access” laminates and stuff them in my fanny pouch.  I don’t know how I’m making my exit backstage, but I’ll need ‘em to get back in.  Granted, my people know me, but my people may not be at the back gate.

Suited up, I point towards the door.  “Are you going out for a run?” asks one of our crew guys.  Yeah, that was the plan.  “There’s some kind of trail right behind the buses.  I don’t know where it goes, but I saw it back there.  You might wanna try it.”

Cool.  There’s no time to explore options; I’m just grabbing a quick three, anyway.  Blow the guns out, make my way back, and clean up for the show.  Whatever the “trail” is, it’ll be just fine.

Out the back door and to the fence between the buses, I find what he’s talking about.  It seems like more of a service road than a trail, paved and running around the back of the arena.  No traffic.  I click “start” on my watch and start running.

The road heads downhill initially, twisting and turning its way down.  I’ve no idea where it’s headed, but I’m not going that far.  Then I see the sign posted along the road at a curve.

“Trail.”  Well, the sign says so, so I guess it’s true.  It’s a trail.

It’s paved for three-quarters of a mile before the pavement gives up to dirt.  Snow has accumulated in spots, up against the shoulder.  I’m not sure how long ago it snowed, but I’m well aware of the softening impact on my legs as I hit the dirt and leave the street.  Ahhhhh.

Before I’ve made it halfway, the pavement that went to dirt becomes mud and sludge.  Not interested.  I’m limited on how many pairs of running shoes I keep under the bus, so trashing a pair on a short run ain’t smart.  I’ll make up the difference on the other end.

I turn around and shoot back uphill.  Passing my starting point, I’ve still got a half-mile left.  Up and around the building, past the trees that run along the trail on what is my right-hand side…and I catch them spying on me through the branches.

Perhaps they’ve been watching me already, impressed by my athletic gait and sturdy carriage.  Maybe I’ve caught them by surprise, indiscernible in my camo clothing.  Not wanting to suffer by comparison, they choose not to lope alongside, but to instead casually observe from a distance.

A deer.  Two.  Three.  The longer I look, the more I discover.

As I catch their gaze, they attempt to stare me down.  Intimidation?  Not gonna work today, “deer.”  Besides, I’ve gotten my three miles for the day…and our opening act is already onstage.

I turn and head back down the trail, through the gate, and into the venue, feeling invigorated by my healthy little jaunt and confident that my cervine spectators are now heading out for a run of their own.

I grin; go get ‘em, guys.

Valentine’s Day-Tona

admin | in Music | Comments (4)

Some greet this day with the loving smell of roses drifting through the room.

I wake to the tender sweet fragrance of hot rubber and gasoline.

Some choose carefully the morning’s soundtrack, a painstakingly selected musical memory that fills the air, reminiscent of the loving moment the two of them have shared…and meaning very little to anyone else.

I wake to the revving of engines and the rumble of automotive anticipation.

Some wake to prepare breakfast in bed, fresh coffee announcing its arrival as its aromatic splendor wafts upstairs to where she sleeps, awaiting the visit from her boy.

I climb out of my bunk, stagger out the bus door, and find stale coffee on a barren table outside where the crowd has begun to assemble…awaiting the visit from OUR boys.

Valentine’s Day at the Daytona 500.  Sure.  When I think romantic reflection, affection, and love, that’s what I’m thinking of – screeching tires screaming around the corner at more than 170 miles per hour around a steaming track surrounded by roughly 168,000 rowdy howling race fans.

Doesn’t everybody?

Okay, maybe not.  But it is a great capper to a very full two-day travel adventure.  Only twenty-four hours earlier, I was slogging through the snow with my favorite stalker at the Red Flannel Run in Des Moines, Iowa. A quick cleanup and it was on to lunch, rehearsal, and then a rocking Wells Fargo Arena welcoming Tim McGraw and the Dancehall Doctors on our “Southern Voice” tour.  Straight from the stage, it was to the airport…and on to Daytona, Florida.

(Jeff Gordon's crew and car are good to go, sharp and ready for the race.)

So here I am, wrinkled and bent after an all-night flight, a two-hour nap on the bus, with bad coffee in hand as I wobble over to our stage o’ the day.  The stage is huge and already surrounded by friends and fans as we arrive.  Winking digital cameras flash their greetings as I step behind my keyboards and try to pick the sleep from the corner of my eye: “Mornin’, y’all.”  Yawn.

Video screens and “Daytona 500” banners provide a stunning backdrop, and a giant thrust out front gives the boss plenty of room to get up close and personal with the folks.  The stage is flanked by ramps on both sides allowing for a race car to be actually driven across the stage! Television cameras begin to plot out their plan to carry our few songs out to the millions watching at home; this is gonna be BIG.

Parked off the side on one of the ramps, a red, white and blue race car emblazoned with “Tim McGraw” on the hood and sides.  Now, I wonder who’s gonna be ridin’ in THAT little cruiser…

After making sure everything is ready to go, our percussionist Dave, our drummer Billy, and I head out into the masses to see what’s what.  Folks are scattered out on the track, just kinda sittin’ around.  What am I missing?  It’s like us having people sitting up on stage until showtime.  I have to ask, and what I’m told is “it gets us all more connected.  They let us sit on the track until the race starts.”

Hmmm.  Okay.

Sarah Palin is scheduled to appear.  I don’t see her.  Harry Connick, Jr. is supposedly somewhere.  I don’t hear him.  So my boys and I take a walk down pit road, where the work before the work happens.  Piles of tires, tons of tools, and gaggles of reporters and fans and photographers swamp the makeshift aisles working their way between cars and crews.  It’s cool to see…but it feels like swimming upstream in both directions…so we head on back to the bus to get dressed for the show.

After all the travel and adventure it took to get to Daytona, the actual show just flies by.  Sure enough, a thunder of a motor kicks off the show and a race car rolls onto the stage carrying Mr. McGraw in true “500” form.  Fans rockin’, engines roaring – it’s time.

“Something Like That,” “Still,” and then “Southern Voice” are the songs that actually make it to television.  (We play a few others warming up for this little shindig.)  A massive flag corps has choreographed a routine for part of the show, so we get to see a little piece of our own show; THAT doesn’t happen often!

After the last note, we are hurried off the stage and back to the bus, which is already running and pointed toward Nashville.  Most of our boys have a more traditional Valentine’s Day waiting back in Tennessee to tend to, and they’re anxious to start, well…tendin’.

I get that, and I don’t blame ‘em.  Still, I can’t help but wonder.  Last year at this time, not content to spend the day at home alone, I ran away on my first ever deep-sea adventure to go fishing for valentines.  This year, I wake to Valentine’s Day 2010 surrounded by race cars at one of the coolest car races in the world.

I can only imagine what undiscovered adventure is waiting for me NEXT Valentine’s Day.

Huh.  We’re a bus.  Gentlemen…start your engines…