Top 10 Reasons to run the Country Music Marathon


10.  It is part of the Southern Charm series from the Rock n Roll Marathon Series. In order to receive the extra medal, you must complete three out of four Rock n Roll Southern USA events (New Orleans, Raleigh, Nashville, and/or Savannah) in 2015.

9. Live music on Broadway. Regardless of the time of day you can find live music playing in one of the bars on Broadway. Be sure to check out Legends corner and Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge are a steps away from the Ryman Auditorium.

8. A Healthy habit: Forget those Netflix marathons on the couch. Running/walking a marathon or half marathon will put you in a great mood, keep you healthy, and help you earn those calories after the run.

7.  The Music on the course: The Country Music Marathon is the original half marathon and full marathon dedicated to country music since its inaugural running in 2000.

6. Celebrity sightings: The Country Music Marathon has had its fair share of celebrities including New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, Sheryl Crow, members of the country music band Diamond Rio, Weather Channel meteorologist Stephanie Abrams and GAC host Suzanne Alexander.

5. The post-race food and drink. Nashville will not disappoint you when it comes to letting your inner-foodie come out. You can find Nashville’s authentic flavors in many areas of town such as Downtown, East Nashville, and Germantown, The Gulch, Midtown and 12South. Each neighborhood has its own personality but somehow is still down-home Nashville. Some favorites include Pancake Pantry, Mike’s Ice Cream, Hattie B’s, Holland House and the iconic Loveless Café.

4.  The support: The South is known for its southern hospitality and the people of Nashville deliver some of the best crowd support anywhere in the world, making sure you get to the finish.

3. The city of Nashville provides a beautiful backdrop for this race. The course runs through downtown Nashville, along the riverfront and the surrounding neighborhoods providing runners with amazing views and some challenging hills.

2. Run for something greater than yourself. Become a St. Jude Hero. These amazing runners and walkers do more with their race by raising funds for the patients and families of St. Jude. They help St. Jude make sure that no family ever receives a bill for treatment, travel, housing and food—because all a family should worry about is helping their child live. ( )

1. The headliner Martina McBride. She has received numerous major music awards, including most wins (tied with Reba McEntire and Miranda Lambert) for the Country Music Association Award (CMA) for Female Vocalist of the Year, with her fourth win in 2004. She holds the record in that category for most consecutive nominations. She has been nominated for 14 Grammy Awards with hits like Independence Day, I love you, Concrete Angel and I’m gonna love you through it. This concert will rock!

Running Thoughts….

Running thoughts…

Over the past few months I have had the honor of coaching, pacing and witnessing some incredible acts by pretty amazing athletes and friends all over the country. Each one of them taught me how to be a better coach, mentor, friend and person while participating in half marathons, marathons and triathlons. In every instance, I gathered valuable insights regardless of their ability, some were age-group and overall podium contenders, some middle of the pack runners and some were back of the packers.  After witnessing these events, I reflected on several aspects of racing, running, and endurance sports. It made me realize that there are certain rules and tricks that are critical to success on race day. At times these helpful nuggets of information are either rarely spoken about or forgotten about in the excitement of the event. In either case, they deserve to be reiterated. 

There are several books written about racing successfully and there is no way to cover all of them in one blog post or even one hundred blog posts. In fact, there are various definitions of what successful racing means. Each one of these rules and definitions deserves its own book and not a paragraph or two. However, I do want to break down a few things that will help you achieve your goals or at least give you the tools to take a good honest look at them and adjust them as needed. Over the next couple of blog posts, I will cover some of the most important rules and tricks to help you attain a new level of success in your racing and training.  First up:

The PR conundrum

PRs. Ask most athletes what those two little letters mean and they will not only tell you that it stands for “Personal Record.” They will more than likely go on to tell you what their PRs are in their chosen event. Most will also go into great detail on how, where, and when they achieved it. Typically this is where all of the non-runners’ eyes will glaze over and they wish they had never asked the question. We wear these statistics like badges of honor. Memorizing them like they were on the back of baseball cards or fantasy football points. The problem with PRs is that we think about them too much before and during a race. Let me explain why this is a problem, and how it can derail your success on race day.

I had the pleasure of spending time with some world-class athletes over the years including American Record Holder Josh Cox, 2004 Olympic Marathon Bronze medalist Deena Kastor and 2004 Olympic Marathon Silver medalist Meb Keflezighi.  All of them have given me a similar piece of advice when it comes to PRs and racing. Essentially it boils down to this: They don’t think about time when they race. They race based on effort and how they feel on that particular day at that particular time. Yes, you have read that correctly! World-class runners do not go out on race day and say “I want to run a (fill in the blank time) for (fill in the blank event). Instead, they pay close attention to how they feel before the race and more importantly during the race. They are not tied to mile splits and hitting them mile after mile.  Instead, they are paying attention to the course, their effort, staying within themselves, not going out too fast, nutrition, and so on. They allow themselves to have variations in their mile splits because they would rather back off their pace a little to give themselves the opportunity to stay within themselves. This allows them to save some energy for the later miles of the race instead of going out so hard that they do not have anything left and end up walking. Being in tune to what your body is telling you throughout the entire race is key if you want to succeed.

Racing and  attaining PRs are about smart energy management. Think of it as a tank of gas in your car. At the start of the race you have a full tank, provided that you rested and had the proper nutrition. Just like in your car, if you floor the gas pedal you burn through your tank very quickly while stressing your engine. This will make you run out of gas before you get to the finish line.  However, if you take it easy and slowly accelerate you will have a much better chance of an enjoyable race and finishing strong.

Take some time to consider some of these things the next time you are racing. Ask yourself, are these ideal conditions for success? What is the weather like? Is it too hot, too humid, too cold, and so forth? Did you sleep enough? Did you have a good breakfast? Is my PR goal time realistic? Have you studied the course?   Remember, sometimes success is defined by executing your perfect race plan regardless of whether or not it a PR was achieved. Sometimes having a smile at the end and having fun on the course or simply finishing the race is enough to say it was a successful day.

Fitbit Flex vs. Jawbone Up Activity Band Showdown

Lately, I have heard various friends say “I have to get my 10,000 steps in.” It has become sort of a game for many to achieve this daily goal in an attempt to stay active, lose or maintain weight, and stay healthy. The fitness wearable-device market has evolved over the last few years. Just a few years ago, wearable fitness devices like the BodyBug would cost upwards of $300. The latest batch of wearables includes the Fitbit Flex and Jawbone Up, which cost $129 and $99 respectively.  But, which one is better? The answer is, it depends on your particular situation.

The Fitbit Flex and the Jawbone UP both have 3 axis accelerometers that measure steps, sleep, calories and food. They both are water resistant. You can shower with either unit, but swimming or other water activities are not recommended. They both have mobile apps for iPhone and Android. However, they have various distinguishing features and, depending on what type of user you are, these differences can make you fall in love with your activity band or think it’s too much of a hassle.  

Style and Comfort

The Fitbit Flex and the Jawbone Up are both fairly comfortable to wear. Similar to a wrist watch, after a little while you forget you are wearing it. However, both have design weaknesses.  The Jawbone Up coil design makes it easy to take on and off your wrist, but it does tend to snag or get caught on long sleeves. At night, it can get caught on pillows and sheets. In comparison, the Fitbit Flex can be a little tough to get on, but doesn’t get caught on anything.  Both the Fitbit flex and the Jawbone Up come in fashionable colors.  However, only the Jawbone Up allows you to change the color of the band (each color sold separately) to match your mood or what you are wearing.   

Sleep Tracking

Unfortunately, neither device automatically detects or switches directly to sleep tracking mode without user intervention. However, the Jawbone Up’s one touch button lets you go into sleep tracking mode much easier than the Fitbit Flex. In order to get the Fitbit Flex to go into Sleep mode, you must continually tap the device for a few seconds. This process takes a little getting used to and isn’t that user friendly.  The Fitbit Flex allows you to edit your sleep time, but it isn’t as accurate. The Jawbone Up also goes into its awake activity mode automatically, whereas the Fitbit Flex needs user prompting. 


Both devices have free iPhone and Android Apps available, and both have the ability to connect with friends that use either a Fitbit device or the Jawbone Up. However, only the Fitbit Flex has a web interface that you can access on any computer connected to the Internet.  The Jawbone Up does have superior iPhone and Android based apps, with better graphics and interactive charts. Plus, it is a bit more user friendly than the Fitbit Flex. You can purchase a one year premium service from Fitbit that gives you in-depth analysis of your data and other features for additional $49.99 per year.  


The Fitbit Flex is the clear front runner with the use of low power Bluetooth wireless real-time syncing. In order to use this feature, users must have an iPhone 4s or later, or a Samsung Galaxy 3S or later. A complete list of compatible phones can be found on the Fitbit website. If the user has another phone, the Fitbit Flex will sync wirelessly through the use of a wireless USB dongle and an Internet connected computer. The Jawbone Up must be connected to the phone using the phone’s 3.5 mm audio jack in order to sync. The 3.5 mm end of the Jawbone Up is protected by a cover but this cover can come loose and eventually could be lost.  

Charging and Battery life

Both devices have internal rechargeable batteries. Each one must be recharged using their proprietary USB chargers. Both recommend that the user charge the device when they are not going to be active, such as when the user is sitting at work or watching a movie. A full charge can be accomplished in a couple of hours. The average battery life for the Jawbone Up was just short of 10 days and the Fitbit Flex lasting just shy of 5 days before needing to be recharged. 


Neither the Jawbone Up nor the Fitbit Flex is very accurate when it comes to distance or true amount of steps. Throughout my testing, I saw between an 8 to 15 percent differences in accuracy. In my testing, I used a hip based pedometer and in some cases, a Garmin 910XT with a foot pod over the course of several days to see how accurate each device was. The tests included walking up flights of stairs, walking vs. running around a quarter mile track, jogging in place, running on a treadmill and walking around a grocery store with a shopping cart. There were mass fluctuations in both steps and distance between the two devices, and when compared to the pedometer or the Garmin.  Sometimes the devices were overly generous on steps, and in other cases they did not record steps. During the shopping cart test, my hands remained on a shopping cart throughout most of the grocery store. I made sure to sync each device just prior to walking into the store and again while exiting. In this particular test, each device registered less than one hundred steps while the pedometer registered over one thousand. This is due to the fact that there was not enough movement in my arms, therefore the devices did not register the step.  Both devices will allow you to calibrate your steps to hone in on your distance but again depending on how you use the device it may or may not count your steps.

Bottom Line

Both activity monitors provide an excellent snap shot of your daily activity level, the quality of your sleep and eating habits. However, no activity monitor will work for you unless you actually get up off the couch and move! Neither is made to replace an activity specific device like a Garmin or sports watch. Both have sharing capabilities that allow you to support, compete and motivate your friends. So perhaps the best question to ask is which device do your friends currently own?



Pike Place Market, Seattle


If you were expecting me to rave on about flying fish and the produce available at Pike Place Market… I am sorry to disappoint you. Let’s face it, those stories have been done to death. This story isn’t about fish, cherries, flowers, chowder, coffee, or “Pike Place Market Gum Wall”. This story is about expanding your culinary horizons so to speak. There are a few hidden gems in the market that if you know how, and what to ask, you can increase your culinary IQ exponentially with healthy, flavorful additions to your cooking repertoire.  


Market Spice has been a part of the Pike Place Market landscape selling specialty spices and teas since 1911. I consider the freshness and quality of herbs and spices just as important as the freshness and quality of your meat, poultry, fruits or vegetables. In short, you wouldn’t put old spoiled milk over your cereal, would you? Yet, a majority of home cooks use old, stale, and flavorless spices in their recipes robbing them of flavor and health benefits.

The first thing you should look for when finding a spice merchant is quick turnover. Just like fish, you do not want your spices hanging around very long. Market Spice manufactures all of their spices in small batches by hand, this along with their high traffic creates a very high turnover. Spices, particularly ground spices and herbs quickly lose their freshness, aroma, and flavor. As a rule of thumb, you should not keep your dried herbs and spices more than one year, and using them within 3-6 months from when you purchased them is even better.  In short, spices are not something you want to be buying in bulk, unless you are an incredibly active cook and are heavy handed with the spices. Remember, if you’re buying high quality spices, you will not need to use as much in your recipes. A little goes a long way.

If you are feeling adventurous, I highly suggest that you talk to the people behind the counter at Market Spice, ask them what they like to use, how they use it, and ask for a sample. The staff at Market Spice are passionate about spices, herbs and teas. They tend to have personal stories about different spices like cumin and spice blends like their signature kebob blend or harissa spice blend. Once you discover the world of spices you will never be able to buy grocery store herbs and spices again.IMG_0056


Britt's Pickles

Besides Market Spice, Britt’s Pickles is a must-stop while at Pike Place Market. The store is in the Corner Market Building on Pike Place, just down the hall from Frank’s Produce and across from both Shy Giant Yogurt and B&B Ranch Meats. These are not your ordinary store bought vinegar cooked pickles. The pickle fanatics at Britt’s Pickles are hand making deli-style pickles, kraut, and kimchi the old fashioned way with no artificial preservatives in oak barrels. By naturally fermenting the pickles, versus cooking the pickles in vinegar, you keep the culture probiotic organisms that occur naturally in the pickle brine give you fantastic mouth-watering flavors without the vinegar overload that most people associate with pickles.

Britt's Pickle Counter IMG_0052

If you are like most people that visit Pike Place Market, you are an out of town tourist. The best way to save money while shopping at Market Spice and Britt’s Pickles is to stop at City Target located less than a block away and purchase a case of Ball mason jars with covers. This 10 dollar investment will save you many times over. In fact, Britt’s Pickles give you a discount if you bring your own container.  Not going to fill up a case of mason jars with herbs, spices and pickles? No problem, head to Cost Plus World Market and they sell individual jars in different sizes starting at about $1.50 per jar. Market Spice sells glass containers but they sell them for twice as much as those found at City Target or Cost Plus World Market.  Yes, you can buy spices and herbs without the glass jar but I have found that the aroma of the spices leeches out of the plastic bags and can quickly ruin your other spices not to mention permeate your clothes. Trust me your luggage, clothes, and wallet will thank you.  


Garmin Foot Pod

During Rock n Roll Seattle Half Marathon I was asked, “What’s that thing on your running shoe?” to which I replied, it’s a Garmin Foot Pod. The Garmin foot pod is approximately the size of a quarter that easily snaps onto your shoe laces. Why do I use a foot pod, when I already have a Garmin 910XT GPS watch? The answer is simple: accuracy, flexibility, and additional data that cannot be provided by having a GPS watch alone.

There are basic things required for any GPS to work. First, it needs to acquire satellite signals from several different satellites. The more satellites the GPS can acquire the more accurate it will be, but what happens when the signal is interrupted? Let’s say by a tunnel?  The GPS watch will do its best to calculate distance based on the information it has, however, because it loses the signal from the satellite, it loses accuracy.  A discovery made by many whom participated in Rock n’ Roll Seattle. Most of those whom I spoke with after the race, had a Garmin GPS reading of 13.5 miles or greater as their finishing distance, while my Garmin logged 13.22 this adds up to more than a quarter mile differential. My Garmin was more accurate than other participants with the same GPS watch because as the satellite signal faded, the foot pod continued to provide data to the watch until it could reacquire satellite signals.

The Food Pod itself is really easy to set up and maintain. There is no on or off switch that you have to deal with or remember to turn on or off. The battery is easy to replace and available at most drug stores for about $3.00 USD and lasts approximately a year or 400 hours of use. Pairing the foot pod is very easy. This setup will vary by device, so be sure to check your watch’s instruction manual for details.  Using the 910XT as an example, you’d go into the ANT+ menu and enable the foot pod there by pairing it.  Each foot pod is assigned a unique ID, which then connects to your watch, so there’s no interference with others at large races or the gym. Once enabled, you typically want to calibrate it for the highest levels of accuracy.  In general I recommend going to your neighborhood high school track but you can also use GPS to calibrate it if you do not have access to the track.

Once it’s connected, you’re good to go!  As long as you don’t adjust the position, you’ll never have to touch this menu again. There are only two times you will have to change anything on your watch, first is to turn off the GPS if you are working out on a treadmill indoors. This will save your watch’s battery. The second time is you will need to access the menus on your watch is when you replace the battery on the foot pod.

Not sure if your Garmin is foot pod compatible? Check it at:

The Garmin Foot Pod retails for $69.99 on but I have found Amazon has the best price at $46.34

Garmin Foot Pod on Sneaker
Garmin Foot Pod on Sneaker

Garmin foot pod


Why blog?

I admit I have resisted blogging for a decade. Friends and colleagues have suggested I blog about an array of completely different topics that I cover but I resisted because I felt that I could never specialize in just one area and too many things would end up on the editing room floor so to speak.  The other reason I had no interest in blogging is because it sounded too much like work and I already have way too much on my plate.  I am a professional journalist and author who covers a vast array of topics including consumer technology, wine, food, travel and other topics for national publications, TV, and radio. Sometimes these stories, articles, recipes, or reviews appear under my own name and sometimes they do not. I spend a fair amount of time ghost writing for other personalities or companies.

So why am I willing to turn over a new leaf and start this blog? My primary reason for starting this blog is to share my thoughts and passions with whomever is interested in learning more about me or a particular topic. I have met so many incredible people over the years. Each one of those people have touched my life, and inspired in some way. In getting to know some of those people, I realized each individual has various facets to their lives that we don’t see or learn about because it doesn’t come up in every day conversation. In many cases, it is surprising to learn how much we have in common or how interesting the other person is. Have you ever seen someone out of context and it took you a minute or two to recognize them? This has happened to me several times in different situations. In each case, I was happy to see them participating in an activity that I also enjoyed. These types of interactions with others make our connections stronger, enriching both of our lives.

Hopefully you will find something in this blog that will inspire, educate, entertain, and perhaps even challenge you to go out and do whatever it is you are passionate about.

Cheers and thanks for reading.