Sunday, October 21, 2007

How I Got to Carnegie Hall, An Amazing Team Member Story, and More!

So much to talk about, and so much time! This is a long one, folks, with lots of links to people and places that I urge you to check out!

First, and always foremost, the latest addition to the Fred's Team Honor Roll is

and the total to date that will go to the Aubrey Fund for Pediatric Cancer Research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center is an astounding


The marathon is only two weeks away, but there's always time to join the Honor Roll. Click here to visit my Fred's Team site, make a secure on-line donation, and learn about Fred's Team, the Aubrey Fund, and MSKCC.

Before we get into the running, I've got to tell y'all about an event I worked on this past Monday (yes, I do a lot of charity work. I was either a real ass in a former life, or putting karma points in the bank for something really awful I will eventually do. Maybe both.) It was a benefit for the Actors Fund, the umbrella organization that supports all members of the performing arts. I love the Fund; they've helped me in the past and I'm always happy to give back.

Background: in 2001 actor/musician/writer/comedian/radio host/etc. Seth Rudetsky produced a "one night only" concert version of DREAMGIRLS for the Fund, and now the Fund produces a yearly one-night star-studded performance of a beloved musical. This year, instead of the usual large-cast musical, the Fund produced a concert featuring their president, the enormously talented Brian Stokes Mitchell. I've worked on all of these concerts since they began -- I've known Seth since college, and when I found out he was doing DREAMGIRLS I called him and got on board. Ever since then I've been assigned to "bitch" for Seth for these events, partly because I know him, but primarily because I read music and know how to put an orchestra book together, which is what I spent the majority of my time doing for these events. This year, Seth was not involved in the concert, so I figured I wasn't doing it, which was probably a good thing because between school and the marathon training and seeing doctors to deal with my tendonitis, there ain't a lot of extra time in a day. Lo and behold, I get a last-minute call from Tim Pinckney, who has been writing/producing these concerts along with the 800 other things he does for the Fund. They need someone to put the books together for Stokes and his pianist, and then for the director (Richard Jay-Alexander) and the musical director, Paul Gemignani. HOLY CRAP!! I've worked with A-team people before, but this is A++++++++++ team! Plus, it's the Fund, and I'd never say no to them. So with the ten spare minutes I had, I put together the books, attended as much rehearsal as I conceivably could over the two weeks, and then on Monday, the 15th, I went to Carnegie Hall to assist on the event.

I live, as you might know from an earlier post, directly across the street from Carnegie Hall, and yet I've never actually been there. Sad, but true. Not only did I get to go inside, but backstage and all around. Number one, gorgeous. Number two, one of the nicest stage crews ever. Number three, oh my God, a concert with a 44-piece orchestra on the stage of CARNEGIE FREAKIN' HALL! Stokes' special guests were Heather Headley, Nikki Renee Daniels (opera singer,) Phylicia Rashad, Reba McEntire, and the Broadway Inspirational Voices. Plus Patti LuPone (who was there to give an award to entertainment lawyer/producer John Breglio,) and in the audience and then at the after-party at the Russian Tea Room: Betty Buckley, Chita Rivera, Donna McKechnie, and a whole slew of Broadway divas and dudes. Wow, wow, wow. The concert itself couldn't have been more spectacular. Stokes is a brilliant singer, and enormously charismatic. He was obviously having an amazing time, and the audience had one right along with him. The only sucky part was that the show went too long and we ended up having to stop before we could get to the encores. We were really down to the wire -- 10:59:59. Stokes couldn't even come out for a second bow, that's how tight the time was. But I'll tell you, the audience was completely satisfied. They were definitely part of a real special evening.

Oh yes, I did run a little bit, too.

The Team is winding down its weekly workouts as we begin our taper in preparation for the NYC Marathon, which is, as of this post...TWO WEEKS AWAY!!! On Tuesday we had our last speed workout at Riverbank. We did a one-mile warmup and three miles at projected marathon pace. Much better than Sunday's debacle. Okay, it wasn't a debacle, it was just a bad run for me. Jeff reminded me that it was a good lesson to learn. And you know, between that, and Gretchen's amazing letter, and being reminded by a Teammate who is a survivor how lucky we are to be healthy and able to run -- well, if that doesn't give you perspective, nothing will. So it's all good. My pace for the three miles was 9:17. Remember that number.

Wednesday was recovery day at Longevity Health. I got the trifecta -- massage, acupuncture and chiropractic. I'll tell you, I wouldn't have been able to run last year without their help, and the same goes for this year, too. Plus which they're going to put together a little somethin-somethin for the Team as a thank-you. Dr. Margolin, Dr. Rubenstein and the staff at Longevity provide free services to the Broadway Bares performers every year, and they've been so generous to me, since I'm not making any money while I'm in school. So I'm even more amazed that they would help the Team out --for the second year -- just because I asked. If you're a NYer, or planning to visit, check them out. They are the real deal. For you runners, they have great massages for post-race recovery. Book early and often.

Thursday was the last step workout at Riverside Drive. We were on the long, low steps (they're the only ones lit; it's dark at 7pm now!) and did an easy combo of steps, hills and a little running.

Saturday was the last Team long run -- the traditional running of the last 10 miles of the marathon course. We start at 58th St. and 1st Ave (on the Manhattan side of the bridge) and run the course -- on the sidewalks, naturally -- until we hit Tavern on the Green. Jeff hands out little cheat sheets that give you the course along with the mile markers. There were at least 50 people there, and again the weirdness of remembering that there are about 800 runners on Fred's Team, because there are about 15-20 of us who come to the Tuesday-Thursday sessions, and about 30 or so for the Saturday long runs. My neighbor (and Honor Roll member) Joel came with me, but he's a faster runner than I am so we didn't run together. I was really looking forward to this run, I wanted to get that good feeling back that you get when you've run a race properly and can finish strong. I remember having a lot of trouble with this run last year, primarily once we got back into Manhattan -- there's a hill from 110th to 90th, the entrance to Central Park. It's not that steep, but it does come at a rather inopportune time on the course, which makes it much more devastating than it normally would be. And for the training run, when you're on the sidewalk, you're running on cobblestones, which is exhausting by itself, no hill required.

I started at a 10:00 pace; it was fairly easy to keep track of time but I didn't do mile splits because I wanted it to be more about the run than the time. After a couple of miles I started picking up the pace, and hooked up with Lynn, and brothers Rich and Harrie.

"Why Fred's Team Runners are the Most Amazing People In the World"

At the beginning of the year, as Rich was getting ready to graduate from medical school and Harrie from college, Harrie was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer on his salivary gland. He was treated at MSKCC. What blows me away is that during his treatment, Harrie finished his coursework, graduated college, and ran at least three times a week. Only a few months after finishing treatment, he'll be running a marathon. I've only known him a short time but his energy and positive attitude amazes and inspires me.

I can't begin to do justice to their story, you've got to read Rich's moving account of Harrie's journey, which you can do by clicking right here. Go, click. I'll wait.

Rich and Harrie are going to run the marathon together, and it's an honor to run alongside them. Well, maybe a little bit behind them. Read on...

The four of us ran together over the Willets Point Bridge, through the Bronx and back into Manhattan. They were running at a great pace for me, and of course as soon as I mentioned it, BAM, they were off like a shot. Rather, I slowed down. What happened was we hit 11oth Street, and after a block they decided to move to the parking lane of 5th Avenue, off the cobblestone. It took me about 4 blocks to decide that the risk of tripping on the cobblestone outweighed getting clipped by a car, and I moved there, too. Much better! But they were too far ahead for me by this point. I caught up to another Teammate named Lynn; we are about at the same pace and frequently end up neck-and-neck during races and long runs. We paced each other into and through the Park (down Cat Hill, yay!) out of the Park, up CPS, back into the Park, and to the big finish. I was so much happier about this run, it was exactly how it should have gone, a mini-version of the marathon. And it felt a lot better than last year -- I remember last year being a struggle. My (fairly correct) time: 1 hour 33, or a 9:20 mile.

So that's two runs at a 9:20 pace. Other long runs at a 9:30 pace. I am getting ready to predict...MY PROJECTED TIME. That'll have to wait until next post, though. I'll give you my race number and all sorts of info about the big day.

Lastly, but not leastly: Liz Robbins from the NY Times is writing a book on marathon runners, and wanted to talk with charity runners about their stories. After sharing Gretchen's letter with y'all, Jeff suggested I talk with her. She interviewed me on Friday, and again on Saturday after the run. I wanted to share a portion of it with you (you'll still have to buy the book, though!) Liz asked me what my inspiration was. We talked about all the people we know who have been helped by MSKCC, passing MSKCC during the marathon and how amazing it is to see the kids outside, and I said something like, "I'm just running a marathon. But so many people thought that was important enough, or the cause I am running for is important enough, for them to donate money on my behalf. I don't even know some of the people who donated to me, yet they thought enough of what I am doing to support my marathon effort. That inspires me. If they can have that much faith in me, and be that generous, I owe it to them to put out 100 percent effort and do the best job I can."

You are as much a part of this marathon as I am. Thank you for running alongside me.

Next week: MARATHON INFO, and the LAST CONTEST...

And finally, because we don't have enough pictures of my cat on this blog, say hello to Spot:

She is happy to see you!

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