I’m A Triathlete: Sugarland Guitarist Thad Beaty

For the guitarist of the Grammy-winning group Sugarland, triathlon and touring make perfect harmony.

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For the guitarist of the Grammy-winning group Sugarland, triathlon and touring make perfect harmony.

When guitarist Thad Beaty is on tour with the country music group Sugarland, his lifestyle is the antithesis of what you’d associate with a professional musician: He wakes up early, exercises regularly and adheres to a strict vegan diet. With sound check not until 4 p.m., he can fit in all of his triathlon training during the day in whatever new town the tour bus rolls into—swimming at a local YMCA, and riding or running on a local triathlon course. “As long as I’m back by 4, everything is good,” he says.

Last year, in between performing about 70 shows, Beaty trained for his first Ironman-distance race—IM Arizona. “I was able to recruit some folks on the road to work out with me and get involved, but mostly everybody just thought I was crazy,” he says.

His quest to race Ironman coincided with a new chapter of his life focused on health. As a result of a full touring schedule in 2010, his weight had reached 230 pounds, and his cholesterol had crept up with it. When his mother was diagnosed with colon cancer, his family decided they all needed to make a change. “We joined the crusade with her,” Beaty says. After researching anti-cancer diets, they started eating more raw foods. He now races at 160 pounds, sticks to a vegan diet and feels great. “I have more energy; I have more brain capacity—I feel sharper,” he says.

Exercise naturally followed the diet change—after racing a couple of triathlons in college, he swam, cycled and ran to stay active and keep his workouts interesting between shows.

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Then came Ironman. In early 2012, Sugarland lost guitar tech Kevin Quigley to stage 4 lymphoma. Beaty says he and his wife, Annie Clements (the band’s bass player), realized, “We need to figure out how to give back. It’s our job to get involved not only in our health but in the lives of the people that we tour with and the lives of the communities we’re fortunate enough to be able to go into and play shows for.”

He raced Arizona to raise money for MusiCares, the Grammy Association’s charity that had subsidized Quigley’s medical bills throughout his cancer treatment. At the same time, Beaty started his own foundation, Music That Moves, aimed at inspiring the music community to become healthy while raising money for the causes they believe in. “The goal is to get the music community to be inspired beyond just the stage—to change lives across the board,” he says.

This year, Sugarland’s touring is on hold (lead singer Jennifer Nettles just had a baby), so Beaty has time to act as the spokesman for the Kona Inspired program, in which age-groupers earn spots to the Ironman World Championship by sharing how they exemplify the mantra “anything is possible.” “It’s people who have overcome tremendous obstacles, and they get to now show the world,” he says.

Beaty will race Ironman Hawaii along with the Kona Inspired athletes, and leading up to the October race, he’ll meet with the athletes. “I want to be the ambassador to help share all these truly stirring stories and get other people who have these stories to realize that they can do amazing things,” he says. “My goals for this year are to make it to Kona in one piece and to celebrate that day and that race.”

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