Friday, September 20, 2013

Jersey Boys...Oh What a Night

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to attend the Broadway on Tour performance of Jersey Boys at the Ohio Theatre.  I had heard lots of positive things about the show and was definitely looking forward to seeing what it was all about.

Well, the show and the packed house did not disappoint.  It's the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and how the group came to be.  The story is told in a very entertaining way from the perspectives of all four members of the group in four segments (seasons) and they use the seemingly endless hits that they produced to do it.  I've been to several of the shows in Columbus the past few years and this was probably the most the entire audience has gotten into the entire performance.

You don't realize how many hits these guys had until they just keep singing and singing.  It was a very interesting look into life on the road for four guys and all the things that go into keeping groups together and watching them fall apart.  The rise and fall of relationships, financial struggles, sacrifices, and successes.

Nick Cosgrove as Frankie Valli really delivered with a voice that you just don't find anywhere.  Jason Kappus as Bob Gaudio, Brandon Andrus as Nick Massi, and Nicolas Dromard as Tommy DeVito were also outstanding.  All four really embraced their roles and seemed perfect for the personality that they were portraying.

If you are looking for a fun evening out, this is a show for you.  There is some language that would not be suitable for children, so just make this a date night and enjoy!

This show will be in Columbus until September 29.  For more information about the show or to purchase tickets, visit the CAPA website at:

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Running Apparel Brands...Can You Keep Me Dry?

This is a different kind of blog entry for me.  Running friends, I need your help.  And brands who make running apparel, I would REALLY love to hear from you.

Those of you who know me and especially if you have ever run with me know that I'm a big guy (6-foot-6, 198 lbs after this morning's weigh-in).  And when I run, I really sweat!  I mean the kind that sometimes during a 10-mile summer run requires wringing out my shirt (if I wear one) multiple times with enough liquid coming out that I could more than refill the liter bottle of water that I usually carry.  And it doesn't stop there.  The longer I run, the more my shorts and even shoes just become soaked.  Yes, I's gross.  And uncomfortable.

Here's where you - the reader - come in.  I've tried numerous supposed dri-fit, moisture-wicking shirts and shorts.  I would love to hear your recommendations, running friends.  Especially if you perspire heavily like I do.  I would like to especially challenge a brand or two to step up and let me review a set of their products (shirt and shorts) in exchange for proving that they've got the best gear on the market, especially when it comes to shorts.  I typically haven't spent a lot of money on this apparel because I haven't seen a difference.  However, my guess is that Nike, Asics, Brooks, Under Armour, or another brand has a product out there that they feel confident in and might want to sell me on it.  And, Lululemon...I'm on your mailing list and read all your claims that your $64 Pace Breaker shorts are the best out there.  I really challenge you to put your money where your mouth is and send me a pair to prove it.  Until then, there is no way I'm forking over that kind of cash for a product I know nothing about except from my female running friends who swear I'll see a difference.  Oh, and Running are welcome to get in on this challenge, too, as you have access to every brand.  What's your recommendation for this very loyal customer?

I look forward to hearing your responses, running friends, and let's see if any brand is truly willing to put their products to the test.  I mean...what are they out, right?  I've proven time and time again that I'm a loyal customer when I find products and services that work for me and meet my expectations.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The First Five Grand

My first race (left) and my most recent marathon (right)
This morning's run was much like most of my runs.  No fanfare.  Just me, a few other runners and bikers, and the open road or in today's case the open trail.

However, today's run was extra special.  During the first mile of what would end up being a 7-mile run, I ran my 5,000th career mile.  To some that might seem like a big number and to others who have run for awhile it's not as big a feat.  For me, it was special.

I started this running journey 1,161 days ago on May 26, 2010...much like today on the trail and ironically like today without the Garmin providing me time, pace, and distance.  On that day, I was lucky to run two miles.  I went back the next day and barely pulled out another two-mile run without walking.  It was brutal!  Over the next two weeks, I only managed to run three more miles.

Then, on June 12, 2010, things finally started to click.  That day, I went out to run two miles and ended up running four miles.  I went back out the next day and ran three more miles.  And I went back again.  And again.  And again.  And I haven't stopped going back out.

Running has provided me with countless benefits.  When I started, I weighed in at 235 pounds.  Not awful for a 6-6 guy, but today's weigh-in of 198.5 pounds has me in much better shape.  I'm eating smarter (notice I didn't say less) and drinking a whole lot more water.  I really do feel like I'm in the best shape of my life.  And it doesn't hurt that for nearly half of my running journey (575 days and counting to be exact), I have been on a streak of doing at least 100 pushups and 100 situps each day to help augment the running.

In addition to the health benefits, I have made some incredible friendships.  When I started this journey, I was running solo.  However, soon after running my first race on August 28, 2010, several local runners in Mount Vernon began to get together in the mornings at 6 a.m. and the Mount Vernon Running Buddies were born.  Ever since that day, it's a rare morning that you don't find someone from that group meeting up for the daily run.  Their dedication to running is amazing!

I've also enjoyed meeting numerous runners from Central Ohio and beyond.  Run DMC is a group that corresponds primarily via social media, but people in that group have become some of my very closest friends.  I've also met great people in the midst of races who have gone on to become close friends, too, after we helped each other get through the tough times in a race.

Since this journey began three years, two months, and four days ago, I've been blessed to be able to run in some great places.  I've run on the beach of both the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean as well as the Gulf of Mexico.  I've run across the Golden Gate Bridge and back.  I've run the magnificent mile in Chicago, under the Arch in St. Louis, and on the track at Daytona International Speedway.  I've run a three-state 5K with a mile at three different state welcome centers.  I've run three marathons (Columbus 2011, Earth Day 2012, and Last Chance for Boston 2013) and eight half marathons (Pittsburgh twice, Earth Day twice, Erie, Xenia, Cap City, and Columbus).  I've participated in two amazing relay races - Hood to Coast in 2012 and Relay Around Columbus in 2013.  And too many shorter races to even mention, yet all have been incredibly fun and provided their own enjoyment to this journey.

Running my leg at Hood to Coast
The journey has not been without its bumps in the road either.  I spent August of 2011 with limited mileage due to shin splints.  Then, about the same time in 2012, the shin splints returned and turned into stress fractures in both legs that sidelined me with only 78 total miles from August 1-October 31.  I had to learn patience through the injuries.  And I also learned the importance of cross-training both on the bike and in the pool as well as with core workouts.  The encouragement and support from other runners was unwavering and helped me immensely as I worked to heal.

As I reflect back on the past 5,000 miles, for me it's all about the journey.  It's not about any personal accolades or even the fact that I've reached this milestone.  It's about the people's lives I've been able to be a part of and the amazing times that we've had.  For those of you who I've had the pleasure of running with, THANK YOU!  For those of you I haven't met in person yet, but who have supported me from afar, THANK YOU!  YOU are what this milestone is all about because without you this journey would be pretty lonely.  I look forward to seeing all of you on the run sometime soon!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Zoom to BOOM! with COTA

Red, White, and BOOM! will light up the Columbus skyline
As we turn the calendar to another month, the summer is really starting to fly by.  When I think of July, I think of hot days, picnics, and of course...fireworks!  And in Central Ohio when you think fireworks, you definitely think Red, White, and BOOM!

Red, White, and BOOM! is billed as the largest fireworks display in Ohio and it takes place on July 3rd in downtown Columbus.  For complete information about all the activities and the schedule for the day, visit the Red, White, and BOOM! website.

This year will actually mark my first ever trip to watch Red, White, and BOOM! in person.  I've always wanted to go see it before, but the biggest reason that I didn't go was because I didn't want to fight the crowds and mess with all that traffic.

Well, thanks to COTA and it's Zoom to the BOOM! initiative I really don't have an excuse to not go any more.  For just $5.50 round-trip for adults or $2.00 for children through the age of 12, you can park in seven different locations (Crosswoods, Dublin, Gahanna, Grove City, Olentangy/Bethel, Reynoldsburg, and Westerville) and ride an express bus downtown between 5:30-8:30 p.m. and get dropped off near Huntington Park where you can show your COTA wristband and go into the ballpark for free where some of the best viewing seats for the fireworks show await you.  (For details on the Park and Ride location drop-offs, click here.)  There will also be activities at Huntington Park including entertainment by McGuffey Lane and Phil Dirt and the Dozers, face painting for kids, inflatable games, and more.  Concession stands will also be open.

Then, after the fireworks, buses will leave downtown between 10:45 p.m. and midnight from the designated Red, White and BOOM! boarding zones to head back to the seven park and ride locations.  It's that simple!!!  Not only do you get the best seat in the house to view the show, but COTA handles all the driving and stress of traffic and parking downtown.  Sure sounds like a winner to me!

You can find lots more information about this program by visiting the COTA website and the Zoom to the BOOM! specific link.  For tips on riding COTA, you can also go to this link.  And if you decide to join me in doing this on Wednesday, make sure to follow COTA on Twitter and tweet using the hashtags #COTAbus and #RWB13.  It's going to be a fun night!!!  Hope to see you at Huntington Park or while we Zoom to the BOOM!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

For the Love of Outback

Debbie and I after we met for the first time
Well, last night it finally happened.  Yes, that's right...Debbie Gibson and I finally met in real life.  For those of you who are new to the blog, you might be wondering what the big deal is.  However, there is quite the back story that you need to catch up on.  :)

See, I've been a fan of Debbie's since her teen pop sensation days of the late 1980's.  Her hit "Lost in Your Eyes" was my junior prom theme in 1989.  I've got several of her cassettes.  Yes, I may have even had a slight celebrity crush on her like a lot of my 17-year-old friends.

Fast forward to a year and a half ago.  My friends at Outback Steakhouse, who I had gotten to know through the power of Twitter, sent me 40 presents to give away in conjunction with my 40th birthday.  After giving a bunch away to friends and family and then branching out to people in the community, members of the news media, our town's mayor, and even Jungle Jack Hanna of the Columbus Zoo, I saved the best for last.  I was determined to try to get the final present to Debbie Gibson.  Yes, it took lots of tweets and nearly five months after my birthday to do it, but Debbie got the final present and was even nice enough to send a fun video that she filmed from the dressing room of the Tonight Show to mark the occasion.

A little over a year has passed since then.  Debbie and her publicist, Elizabeth Neff, have both been nice enough to correspond with me from time to time via Twitter.  When I noticed on Debbie's website that she would be in Ohio for a concert at the end of June, I started to think that maybe I would finally get the opportunity to meet her.  As the day of the event drew closer, I sent her a couple of messages.  Before I knew it, her production manager, Rob, was calling me on the phone and telling me what I needed to do to meet her at the concert.

I was stoked!  Despite being a big fan, I had never even seen her in concert.  And now, I was going to get to go backstage and meet her!  Was this really happening?!?

Saturday came and I made the drive to Cincinnati through lots of rain.  I was worried that maybe the concert, which was outdoors, would get canceled.  However, the rain stopped about the time that I arrived and before I knew it the time had come to meet Rob and go see her.

I don't know about you, but too often we put celebrities on pedestals as better than everyone else.  However, whatever expectations I had for meeting Debbie quickly vanished the moment I walked in her dressing room with Rob.

As soon as she saw me, she gave me a big hug and immediately acted like I was a long lost friend she had known forever.  We talked and laughed.  Next thing I knew, I realized that it was just Debbie and I hanging out and chatting as Rob had disappeared to take care of some things.  Seriously, could it have been a cooler experience.  What could have been intimidating was not because of how kind she was by going out of her way to make me feel special.  She is a very genuine person and it was really easy to talk to her.

I left the dressing room and waited outside while she made last-minute preparations for her show.  I was able to stand on stage and watch the whole performance.  It was great!  She sang lots of her old songs ("Shake Your Love", "Lost in Your Eyes", "Only in My Dreams", "Electric Youth", and "Foolish Beat",  and even a tribute medley of songs by other artists that she enjoyed back in the day.  Debbie is definitely a performer and did a great job vocally as well as interacting and connecting with the crowd.  And she has endless energy, too.  She even rolled with the punches when a stray dog got loose on stage and she led the crowd in "Who Let the Dogs Out".  She also didn't miss a beat during her rendition of "Lost in Your Eyes" when she had to whack a mosquito who had landed on her arm mid-song.
Debbie heading out to the stage to get the concert started
I had so much fun throughout the concert as she would came on and off stage walking right past me.  Before the first song, I gave her a fist bump.  I had no idea what the protocol was or what I should do.  Guess that came from working with student-athletes every day.  LOL  I also had fun chatting with Rob and her two dancers, Eddie and Buddy.  Everyone was just incredibly cordial and fun.

When the concert ended, I had the chance to talk to Debbie for a couple more minutes before she headed off to meet her fans and sign autographs at the merchandise tent.  She even paused long enough to record a quick message with me for our mutual friends at Outback.  Probably the most impressive thing for me all night was being about 45 minutes into my three-hour drive home and getting a message from her saying that she enjoyed meeting me finally.  Seriously, Debbie, you are the best!

Well, it's been a little over 24 hours now since the fun night and I'm still buzzing over how much fun it was.  We may never cross paths again (although I'm really going to push Outback to let us both be in a commercial 'cause Debbie may be a bigger fan of theirs than I am and that's saying something), but for one night she was kind enough to take the time to get to know me a little better while allowing me a glimpse into what life is like for her.  What a cool thing to do!

Thanks, Debbie, for a fun-filled evening.  Thanks, Outback, for helping to connect me with someone I know can call a friend.  And thanks, Twitter, for once again showing me that anything is possible if you work at being yourself to establish a relationship with someone else.  I can't wait to see what will happen next.

Debbie and I after the concert

Thursday, June 6, 2013

What an Oz-some Night....The Return of Wicked

Glinda and Elphaba
Last night, I had the opportunity to take the family to see the Broadway show Wicked at the Ohio Theatre in Columbus.  This was my third time to see it and it seems to get better each time!

The story is basically a prequel to the story of the Wizard of Oz and attempts to explain what all is going on when Dorothy arrives.  However, it's a story like you've never heard with lots of plot twists and turns that you never expected.

The show starts by showing how Glinda, the Good Witch, and Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, met in school.  Like any relationship between strong personalities, their story has its ups and downs, but after a rocky start as rivals they become friends.

Jenn Gambatese, an Ohio native, stars as Glinda and does a great job of portraying the self-absorbed blonde with great vocal range and a flair for the overly dramatic.  She has great comedic timing and provides plenty of laughs with her antics.

The star of the show is Alison Luff, who has only been portraying Elphaba for just over a month since joining the team.  While she may not have been 'greenified' for very long, she pulls off the performance with aplomb.  Her vocal skills were so outstanding that my oldest daughter leaned over to me at one point and said "Dad, she sings better than the Elphaba on the (original cast recording) CD."  That's pretty high praise.  She also did a great job of portraying the misunderstood girl who grew up to wear the label of Wicked Witch.  Of the three different performers I've seen portray the Elphaba character, she was definitely the best.  The young woman has some serious pipes and had the best rendition of "Defying Gravity" that I've heard.

Curt Hansen was strong in his role as Fiyero, the love interest of both of the main characters as well as some of the swooning women in the packed house.  He also nailed his songs including his duet with Luff on "As Long As You're Mine", which is my personal favorite song in the show.

Fiyero and Elphaba singing "As Long As You're Mine"
 Kim Zimmer as Madame Morrible and John Davidson as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz both brought plenty of experience on stage and television to the show and did a good job in their roles.  The rest of the cast was also outstanding and never missed a beat.

This show will be in Columbus until June 23.  If you have never seen it, it's a three-hour journey that will have you on the edge of your seat and ready to cheer as the cast puts on what I personally feel is the most enjoyable Broadway show there is.  For more information on purchasing tickets or even a shot to get great seats for cheap through the nightly Wicked lottery, visit the CAPA website at:

How much do I like this show?  I would go to the performance each night if my schedule and bank account would allow it.  In fact, I need to see if there is a way to volunteer to be an usher because it would be worth it just to hear the show each night.  It's that good!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Let the Healing Begin

It was just a couple of hours ago that I posted my thoughts about what happened at the Boston Marathon yesterday.  It was a struggle to find the words, but I knew that I needed to in order to begin my own process of moving forward from this tragedy.

Late in the afternoon, I saw a posting on Facebook that runners everywhere were being encouraged to meet at the nearest high school track tonight at 9 p.m. and run one mile for Boston.  I shared the post among my local running group, the Mount Vernon Running Buddies, and hoped that the stormy weather would be done in time for me to participate.

Little did I know just how therapeutic one mile could be.  It was dark and wet when we arrived at the high school track, but the rain had stopped.  We all worked our way on to the track and the 10 of us gathered at the starting line.  John Hofferberth, who is busy this week with all the final details for the Earth Day Challenge half marathon, said a couple of words and we took off.

I'm not used to not having a plan for my run.  I'm also not used to just running a mile.  I knew that I didn't want to go all out, but I also knew that I wanted to go hard enough that I was working at it.  I thought about the victims and their families as I went around the oval.  I didn't look at my watch.  I knew that I was moving at a good clip, but it wasn't about that.  I ended up doing five loops of the track instead of four because it just felt right.

When everyone had finished, we stopped for a moment and chatted as a group.  We didn't all know each other before the event that only lasted about 10 minutes.  But what I posted earlier today about running bringing people together was true as we all interacted like old friends.  We talked about a few upcoming local events and one person shared how she had just started running again and had already run for two hours on the treadmill before coming to the track as she wanted to really start working hard to improve her fitness.  Another person ran three miles barefoot to the track and then ran home afterwards.  For me, it was the first time since August 3, 2011 that I had run on that track as I remember vividly leaving that day with really bad shin splints from pushing too much speed work.  This time around I left with a great sense of pride in my running family as my mile felt like I was walking on air.

It may have only been one mile tonight, but it was many steps in the right direction towards the healing process for all of us in the running community and I'm so thankful that I was there.