Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Neato Speedo

Technical swimsuits have never been known for their fashion-forward-ness, but Speedo is changing that with a recently announced collab with fashion house Comme Des Garcons. I'm totally smitten with the logo-ed version, they've also got a pretty cool tie-dye suit. (So far, I can't find the suits on sale via the U.S. retail site.) Even on this grey, cold day, slipping into one of these suits would almost be enough to make me wanting to go swimming! Posted by Liz

The Epitome of Home Gym

In my weekend of blog reading randomness, I came across this picture (at left) on pro triathlete Elizabeth Fedofsky's blog and couldn't help but ask, "Can I have your gym?"

Talk about being hard-pressed for an excuse to skip the workout. How can you when your basement is your gym? It has everything this budding triathlete could need--OK I'll swap the treadmill for an elliptical since I haven't stepped foot on a treadmill since sometime early last year--plus the privacy I'm a fan of when going through my injury prevention drills and core training moves.

What's not to like about this space? I'm envious of the bikes on the trainers with laptops to monitor progress, a TRX system hanging from the ceiling that's perfect for suspension exercises, a treadmill, a yoga mat, stability ball...you get the idea. I'm tight on space in my own home, opting to live close to Chicago's Lakefront Path than have more bedrooms and square footage, and set up my trainer in the living room until one of us starts tripping over various parts to move between the couch and the kitchen counter. My only question: is he riding staring at the computer and all the Computrainer data, or is he watching TV? That set-up would be primo with a TV to keep the time flying by. All my favorite shows, random movies, maybe an Ironman video or two, and I'd be set. I'm already sold on this model but an TV upgrade would be an extra I'd pay for. Photo grabbed from Elizabeth Waterstraat. Posted by Kate

Monday, March 30, 2009

Weather or Not

Does the weather ever get you down? You've heard Liz and I lament over the snow and bone-chilling temperatures all winter, then may have noticed a spring in our step when our Windy City weather improved and we could shed our layers. With last week being gray and gloomy, my mood seemed to coincide with the weather--difficulty getting out of bed, mopey, finding it hard to focus, and sounding like Eeyore every time I spoke. Plus Sunday's snow put a damper on my Shamrock Shuffle plans, leaving me to spend yet another day working out at the gym and spending an afternoon indoors.

So it got me thinking, can weather affect your mood? I figured I couldn't be the only fluke out there and right away, a study released in October 2008 popped up on WebMD. Only problem the results from this study done in Germany didn't produce the results I expected. I guess I've taken living in the Windy City for granted and didn't even take into account how wind could affect mood. And apparently it can give you a negative mood moreso in the spring and summer than the fall and winter. Not many were fans of the shorter days--I'd hate to live in the far north where it's even more dark in December--and darker moods could put you at risk for seasonal affective disorder. And I knew there was a reason I'm always eager to get outside when the temps heat up and the sun comes out more frequently. Not only do I feel better, but according to this 2004 study, my mood is elevated from spending time outdoors when it's nice out. But I'm starting to think that maybe I'm spending too much time outside in the summer so it's making that winter indoor time even tougher to struggle through. Or maybe I'm just crazy. Let us know if you've met your match when the weather goes sour. Photo grabbed from Photobucket. Posted by Kate

Snow Shuffle

We've already welcomed the start of spring 2009 but that didn't keep the snow from falling across the Midwest Sunday morning. And snow it did...the sky spilled the white stuff as fast and as hard as some of the major storms that ripped through in January.

Talk about bad timing. It was also the morning of the 30th running of the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle in the Windy City. And the first race of my season (if we can call it that since it was also the only race I signed up for) which also marked the first time I'd be running since December's California International Marathon. What a greeting! The cold was bad, but the snow made it even more difficult to convince myself that it was time to end my running hiatus. I checked the race website, hoping, praying that I might find the race status updated from yellow to red, maybe even black (note: this is a system the race organizers put into effect after the hot 2007 marathon) so that I'd have more of an excuse to skip the run and spin at the gym. I'd totally take a race rescheduling--like Jenn at Fit Bottomed Girls whose half marathon was postponed until next weekend due to weather--but of course that's a pipe dream in Chicago.

Yes, I was one of the majority--32,500 entered the race, only 13,741 finished--who opted to skip the shuffle. I missed Deena Kastor running to victory on the women's side and Emanuel Korir for the men. I didn't get to recount my race morning like Roman Modrowski of the Chicago Sun Times did on his blog. Nor could I post Facebook status updates such as: "Just finished the shamrock shuffle...in the snow! Love the Chicago weather!!" I don't have any snowy pictures of the race, just what I took from my balcony as I justified staying indoors that morning. And the only Facebook updates I reveled at were those who had my mindset and stayed home; I laughed when my friend posted this one: "Race season was supposed to start this morning...something about 5 miles with 3 inches of snow already on the ground and more on the way doesn't seem right."

I hand it to anyone who braved Chicago's streets for five miles yesterday--it was slushy, snowy and all-around chilly. What do those runners have that I seem to be lacking right now? Is it motivation? Is it knowing that you paid $40 for the race so you better get your money's worth (that thought did cross my mind but I STILL decided to pass) and run? Is it the bragging rights that go along with running through undesirable conditions?

If you were planning on running yesterday, did you make it to the start line? What crossed your mind that morning and either helped or hurt your decision? Let us know in the below poll or by commenting. Meanwhile, I'll be selecting another race to start my season. It's almost too appropriate that my photos managed to disappear and not make it onto my memory card so here's a picture grabbed from Metromix by Chuck Berman. Posted by Kate

Friday, March 27, 2009

Don't Try This on Your Own

My heart dropped when I visited the Outside Online blog and read the latest post. I thought my eyes were deceiving me--after all it was late and I was tired--when I read of yet another accident involving yet another famous name while skiing. This time the skiing world mourns the loss of one of its own, and a name to reckon with when it comes to ski movies, Shane McConkey. The crew was filming in the Italian Dolomites when it happened on March 26.

McConkey, 39, was ski-BASing for a new Matchstick Productions film when the accident occurred. He had trouble ejecting out of one of his skis when performing the ski-BASE stunt--ski off a cliff, eject from your skis using hand levers and pop open a parachute--which caused an uncontrollable spin he couldn't break out of. According to the Outside story and ESPN, it's not entirely clear as to how it happened, if the chute got wrapped around the ski, how the skis wouldn't eject and if airflow around the attached ski contributed to the spin. The Red Bull athlete has performed the stunt several times before--he's even photographed above ski-BASing outside the Silver Legacy hotel casino in Reno, Nev.--just this time something decided to go wrong.

Not that I didn't respect the stunts he performed on two skis before when watching my yearly round of ski movies, but I'll have an even greater appreciation for them next time I see him flying through the air. McConkey did things on skis that some of us can only dream of--or would rather put in the hands of the professional, especially since they make it look so fluid and effortless. And I can't think of anyone who didn't respect McConkey and what he did for extreme skiing. Photo grabbed from RenoTahoe at flickr. Posted by Kate

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Gearing Up My Garmin

"It will change the way you run." That's what a woman told me about her Garmin Forerunner 305 as we waited to meet up with family members after December's California International Marathon in Sacramento. And that was just the news I needed to hear since I had already requested the 305 as my Christmas gift from my parents and knew it would be waiting under the Christmas tree in a few weeks thanks to a crazy discount and rebate at Costco.

It was my last race of the year, last chance to qualify for the 2009 Boston Marathon (I failed there), and a last-ditch effort to make it through all 26.2 miles after suffering what I like to call body-breakdown in my last few weeks of training. And after all the tribulations I dealt with leading up to the race, the final one of not knowing if I'd even be able to last past 10 miles before pain shot through my hip and my right foot cramped to the point of barely being able to walk, I needed any saving grace to get my running in gear come next season. With Garmins dotting the course--I spotted them on numerous runners as I was passed or I passed back and could hear their incessant beeps throughout the race--I figured these speed demons were onto something. After all, this marathon is known for sending a large crowd to the Boston Marathon each year: Among the 2008 Boston Athletic Association statistics, CIM "ranked in the top five marathons who send the most number of qualifiers to Boston."

While I've been putting it off for more than three months (yikes has it really been that long?)-- either as my protest against running since 2008 ended in defeat or fear of the pain returning the minute I pick up the speed--I've waited long enough to set up my new toy. My Garmin 305 has been out of the box, but that's about all I've done with it up until this point. That and a quick flip-through of the manual where I decided I didn't want to mess with it--OK so maybe I didn't really want the temptation to test out my toy and go running on a chilly Christmas morning with my hip still making me limp as I walked. But with my first race of the season finally here I'm biting the bullet--finally--and dealing with my running demons and new gear.

I'm hoping the 305 will help me train more at the right pace and gain a better guage all-around. I'm notorious for tracking my run distances through Google maps and a pedometer and roughly estimating my elapsed time. And I'm also tracking with my Nike+ system, but admittedly, I never calibrated the steps properly and it always tells me I'm running further and faster than I actually am. And shock: I've never used a heartrate monitor. Twelve marathons, three half Ironmans, two centuries and numerous long-distance rides, and one Ironman and I've never monitored the one thing that is pretty key in training. I'm also curious to really record my workouts and analyze the information. I've done mini-efforts in the past with recording my workout for the day and how long it took, but I've never really gotten into comparing past workouts as I can screw around with on the Garmin. The tracking software available with the system just sounds really cool. Until I attended a demonstration at the Garmin store on Michigan Avenue, I never knew the intracies of the data analysis all the way down to how the elevation affected your run, mapping your workout, and the link with Training Peaks, yet another online tool to train with. Plus the option for a cadence sensor for the bike and footpod to track indoor workouts is appealing. I'm convinced I can use all the help I can get on both the bike and the run, although I'm not sold on the loud beeping to warn me of exceeding my heartrate zone or surpassing a mile marker (but hey, at least I can turn it off).

I'm still curious to see how the Garmin will change how I run--and yes, I saw yet another one at the gym last night before said runner took off on a speed workout with The Road to Boston training group--but it's change I can believe in. Photo grabbed from gpslodge.com. Posted by Kate

Note: I realize the 305 isn't the latest Garmin product on the market, but it's one utilized by several runners and has a separate accessory to benefit cycling as well. I'd also take one of the Garmins Liz announced the release of--the FR60 and the Mac-compatible Garmin, especially since I'm a MAC regular and a PC foreigner--but a deal is a deal, especially when I'm convincing my parents, who don't always get my running, that this is a helpful tool. At least my dad buys it when I say it'll help me get to Boston--he understands my desire to get back and fast. In the meantime, I'll keep you posted on the Garmin progress.

Before You Bench Your Workout...

Turns out Lance Armstrong broke his collarbone in the bike crash that happened on Monday in Spain. He has to have surgery to repair his right clavicle and will be sidelined for roughly four weeks. He even expects to make it back in time for his next major race before the Tour de France, the Giro d'Italia. How does he do it?

Even though the righty can't exactly write legibly or tweet, as he joked on Tuesday, I'm guessing he'll figure out a way to ride in his downtime. Maybe not at normal speeds or positioning, but it's not impossible.

When you're down and out, how can you keep your fitness up without hurting yourself even more, curbing your recuperation time or losing your fit levels. I broke my collarbone a few years back, right after signing up for the Chicago Marathon and the week before my first triathlon. While I couldn't race the triathlon and lost all of my arm strength, I was determined to train for the marathon and keep my legs strong. Here's what I did to keep the pounds from packing on (I wallowed in my misery with some ice cream treats) and the fitness from going out the window:
  • Ride the stationary bike. I used to ride upright as part of my morning workout, but with my arm in a sling, my balance felt off as I sat upright. I switched to the recumbent bike and could pedal away. Granted I was much slower at times and it got uncomfortable, especially on my lower back, but I slogged through and managed to sweat enough to feel satisfied with my workout. Sadly enough, I judge many of my workout successes based on my sweat rate and how wet I am when I call it quits.
  • Walk on the treadmill. This one didn't work as well as I had planned since it never revved my heartrate but I gave it a go when the bikes were occupied or I couldn't stand the thought of pedaling another day. It helped when I found good programming on TV because it was impossible for me to balance on the treadmill and read a book (just imagine another broken bone)
  • Plan long destination walks outside. An obvious solution for a workout with a treat attached as the reward. Granted I think my husband was ready to kill me when I suggested that we walk from my apartment in downtown Chicago up to the West Lakeview neighborhood to get frozen custard. He relented since I suggested barreling through the lakefront crowds during Air Show weekend (if you've ever seen this Chicago sight, you'll know how packed it can get when the weekend has nice weather) so he could see the planes. The custard wasn't exactly his mission for heading outdoors and we'd usually bike there so the walk really needed to be enticing. In the end, our tummies were treated to frozen heaven on a hot day--and the one thing I could manage to scoop into my mouth with my dominant hand in a sling--and our feet were screaming for mercy after being tortured a 10-mile trek round trip. Don't laugh, but we forced ourselves out for another walk in the evening--only 2 miles tops--to partake in free Chipotle.
  • Stairclimbing. I didn't actually try this while I was sidelined, but if you can avoid the stairmaster which might throw the body off-kilter, it could work. I climbed the stairs to and from work every day and the motion never hurt my collarbone, and living in a high-rise with two staircases stretching 50-plus floors, I probably should have visited the stairwells for a different workout. Stairclimbing is great cardio and perfect for building and strengthening leg muscles.
What suggestions might you have for working through workouts when you're not completely intact? I will say though, it's amazing the things you take for granted when everything is operational. But I digress. Yes, sweet treats ease my injury misery and that concrete was my walking reward. Photo grabbed from magicsmarties at Flickr. Posted by Kate

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Deena Kastor's Comeback At The Shamrock Shuffle

As an everyday gym rat who's constantly striving to become a little bit faster, a little bit fitter and a little bit stronger, I'm totally in awe of professional athletes. They have unfathomably ridiculous raw talent, unwavering dedication to their sport, and, sheer guts: Every ounce of their being fuels their courageous ability to race hard, fast and past the brink of pain. Which is why my heart broke for one of the female athletes I most admire, Deena Kastor, when she suffered a broken foot during the marathon at the Beijing games. Injuries are devastating for any active person, but for an athlete who's entire career revolves around a sport, I can't imagine how insufferable it must be--mentally, physically and emotionally.

When I met Deena (so cool!!) at an ASICS-press event a couple days before the NYC Marathon, she'd just been cleared to start running again. Riding her bike next to editors doing their pre-marathon tune-up run, she was smiling and chatting and brimming with good spirits. But it must have been terribly hard to endure cycling part of the marathon course that she wouldn't be able to run--a race that she may very well have won had she been healthy and able to train. Still, she had an awesome attitude about her injury, and it was really moving to hear her speak so passionately about how excited she was to get back to running.

And now she really is back. In Chicago! She'll run the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle on Sunday with 32,500 other runners (including Kate, go Kate!). I'll be rooting for Deena to win it all. I hope she crosses the finish line glowing with the joy of running the race of her dreams.
To check out an interview I did with Deena on her comeback journey, click on over to TOC. That's Deena and me at Tavern on the Green before NYC! Posted by Liz

So Long, Spa Cafe

Whenever Kate and I can clear our schedules for a lunch date, it's inevitable that we wind up at an awesome spot in the Loop called Spa Cafe. Kate bikes down from Old Town and I walk over from Jackson and State. They have a menu filled with healthy wraps, salads and sides that are fresh, healthy and delicious. Over a shrimp and spicy carrot wrap or Thai chicken salad we've hammered out blog-related stuff, updated each other on our ski trips, and chatted about our training and races. Inevitably, the time flies and I happily head back to my desk full of good food and great conversation.

Which is why it felt like a punch to my stomach today when I discovered Spa Cafe is...closed. Sad! In its place is a restaurant called On a Roll, that offers a menu of 'wiches on, well, rolls. I went up to the register and asked, "What happened?" The girls behind the counter said the investor had decided to change directions "due to the economy." (This baffled me, considering every time I've been into the venue the line is at least 5-10 people deep--pretty impressive considering that most folks are brown-bagging it these days.) "Is it still fresh, healthy, light ingredients?" I asked. They shook their heads no. I briefly scanned the menu and the healthiest item I could find was the Thanksgiving sandwich (turkey, stuffing, gravy, etc). Spa Cafe, we loved you! May you RIP.—Posted by Liz

Jazz Up Breakfast

Tired of munching on cereal for breakfast? Need a break from the toast or oatmeal? Running out without a meal to start your day, promising yourself you'll grab something on the go? Next time you're ready to revamp your menu, try taking a stab at this meal. All you need is a few extra minutes in the kitchen, but it's well worth it for this fuel that can carry you through lunch if need be. Meet the yogurt parfait, a healthy alternative to breakfast, even dessert, that doesn't require much extra time preparing and provides those sought-after daily fruit servings.

I've always loved yogurt, but admittedly I'd take the fat-free Yoplait flavors or the super sugary Dannon fruit on the bottom varieties before indulging in the better-for-me types. I started experimenting with Greek yogurt after my sister swore by it and I read that Bernie--the at-home winner from Biggest Loser 5--ate it daily. Plus I wanted something thick, not runny, to eat with my morning banana. So after some trial and error (learning I wasn't a fan of the European style yogurt at Trader Joe's and had to strictly stick to the Greek), I came up with my go-to breakfast and dessert that feeds my urge for ice cream.

Try out your own version:
Greek yogurt, eyeball the amount you want to eat
blackberries
raspberries
blueberries
strawberry slices

Add the fruit into a serving bowl, top with Greek yogurt. If you need some added crunch or flavor, sprinkle some granola on top. While you might not have all of these fruits on hand, you can also use a frozen berry mixture or any combination of the berries. I'm also a fan of slicing banana and adding it to the mix--but I have to be really hungry to do that otherwise I'm full until dinner. And if you want more defense of yogurt for breakfast, check out this post. Posted by Kate

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Make It a Lululemon Day

If you haven't been able to tell from some of my previous posts, I'm a sucker for freebies, especially of the fitness and food variety. Discounts and sales are great too, but finding free deals are my favorite. And lately I've been on the hunt for new classes to amp up my fitness regime. While this deal is a Chicago special--especially for those living in Lincoln Park--a little web searching can turn up some events in an area near you because this store is all about customer education in addition to the merchandise up for sale.

If you're looking to get a workout in tonight and need it to be new and breaking from your normal routine, try visiting Lululemon Athletica's Lincoln Park location at 2104 N. Halsted. Kicking off at 6:30 p.m., the store will be hosting a boot camp workout taught by Lululemon ambassador Mike Thomson of Core Fitness. I'm penny-pinching and searching for things on the cheap and this event is free, plus you'll find an assortment of nibbles to munch on after the butt-kicking boot camp. Trust me, you'll get a workout from this class. With a combination of bodyweight plyometrics, strength drills, cardio moves and an ab blast, the soreness will set in after you wake up those tiny core muscles that have been resting all winter, or forever. But at least your muscles can scream at you while you sit through the rest of the program which includes a lecture on how testosterone and estrogen affect our bodies. So guys, this workout is for you too.

OK, so you're not in Chicago or you just can't make it to Lululemon tonight? If you have a Lululemon store in your area, check out the community page online and look for fun events happening near you. Many stores regularly offer free yoga or Pilates over the weekend taught by area instructors, or you'll find more boot camp-type activities. Photo grabbed from BTB Fitness. Posted by Kate

Monday, March 23, 2009

And We're Crashing...

What's with all of the bike crashes today? OK, it's really not that many--two--but two famous faces have landed themselves bruised and battered while riding their bikes.

Lance Armstrong crashed during the first stage of a five-day race in Spain. It's not clear if he actually withdrew from the race, but CNN reported he walked to the ambulance on his own and pointed to his collarbone as if something were awry. And argh, how frustrating for it to happen near the end of the stage: With 20 kilometers left in a 168K ride, a pack of riders spilled across the pavement. Hope Lance's fall is nothing too serious that would derail his training and racing for this year's Tour de France.

While Liz spotted deer running out in Cary, Ill., last Sunday, Matt Lauer was deer-railed on his bike over the weekend and didn't make it into work this morning. The morning show host was out riding his bike (probably enjoying the great weather that we were soaking up in Chicago, proving that spring really does exist) on Long Island but a deer run-in threw him from his bike and he landed on his shoulder. He joked about the accident with co-host Meredith Vieria and promises to be back at work on Wednesday after having surgery tomorrow.

Maybe it wasn't a collision with a deer or a cycling race with some of the best in the field, but we've all fallen off our bikes at one point or another. And I'm probably an exception but I've crashed twice too. How many have forgotten to clip out at a stop and tipped over? That'll give you a bruise and maybe a little raspberry. Any classic crashes out there? Here's mine: My front wheel started wobbling on a downhill during a century ride last May and before I knew it I'm flying off the bike and onto the pavement. I rode all of two miles before I was out and checking for loose body parts (phew, no missing teeth or achy joints). Granted I still don't know what exactly happened that day--if it was the bike that had a loose spoke or if I just had issues with controlling my bike which I learned was too bike for me the following month--but it sparked story-telling from my friends who recounted tales of their own mishaps. Or my friend who showed up to Spinning missing more forearm skin than me after a crash that resulted in cracked aerobars, road rash and a busted helmet. Ouch, but at least misery and pain love company and I knew someone as worse-off as me.

What body parts have you banged up on your bike? Have any crashes that you're willing to share? Photo grabbed from realaworld. Posted by Kate

Friday, March 20, 2009

Destination Date: National Marathon (but 2010, not 2009)

Next year consider adding the National Marathon to your race schedule. If you're looking to keep up the running motivation during the winter, race a spring marathon, or couple a training race with a weekend getaway, a trip to the Nation's capital could be just the ticket. The Fourth Annual National Marathon kicks off Saturday, March 21, and welcomes runners from around the country to participate in the full marathon and the sell-out half marathon. Yep, that's right, the race has exceeded its expectations in the half marathon year after year with an at-capacity crowd expected to toe the line this year and the half marathon racers outnumbering the marathoners two to one in 2008. But if that means success of a race in its infancy--and competing with a fall classic in the area, the Marine Corps Marathon--then it's a good thing.

But with the race season just getting started in Chicago around the same time, plus the difficulty of training through the winter in the Windy City (I'm just thinking of the struggles of those training for Boston), what incentive do you have to head to the capital to run a race?

  • It's a great getaway from the Midwest for the weekend. Not too far via a plane ride and not too close where you feel like you didn't really escape.
  • The tourist allure of the capital: its historic sites, free museums, saying you saw the White House when Obama was president, notable restaurants and more. There's more to do in the city than just coming to town to run a race and you have plenty to keep you occupied before and after running.
  • New terrain. While this can be a plus or minus heading into uncharted territory, it's a great way to see a different city and its sites. And in DC you'll get a little mix of hills that we lack here. And the course provides a great tour of the city with a route running past the Mall and marathoners even add a run along the Potomac.
  • Better weather. This one is all up to Mother Nature but the average temperature in DC this time of year is warmer than Chicago so things are already looking favorable. And if it's a mild winter you might get lucky enough to catch a few buds for the upcoming cherry blossom blooming. An early start at 7 a.m. is also nice in case there's a heat wave whirling through to keep temps down, and you'll finish at a reasonable time to still be able to enjoy the day in DC, or return home.
  • Capped race with fewer participants than the Chicago Marathon. Yes, the Windy City caps its marathon at 45,000, but it's still larger than the National Marathon where registrations only reach 8,000, with 5,000 of those in the half marathon. That seems tiny compared to the races hitting the downtown around here.
  • Another positive or negative depending on how you look at it are the qualifying standards for the event. This is mainly to control road closures and such, but it can also give you a goal to shoot for to gain entry into the race.
  • Winter motivation. If you go into hibernation mode when cold weather strikes and need a reason to run either on the treadmill or outside, keeping your eyes on a spring time race can be just the cure-all. You'll have to stay on top of your training or you might bonk come race day.
  • Training for another race. If you register for the half you can use the 13.1 miles to gauge your training for an upcoming race, even the Boston Marathon if you're running that in April. Or maybe as a trainer for an upcoming 70.3 or Ironman triathlon. Same goes for the marathon, especially if you're good at recovery. You can keep Ironman training in check by running a marathon early in the season (note: some may disagree with me on this but it worked for me).
  • Budget wise, you can usually find some pretty good flight deals from Chicago to Washington. Plus with two airports out of here and three into DC (Reagan, Dulles and even Baltimore) you should be able to find some option that works with your wallet. And once you arrive in DC it's easy to get around via the Metro or even walking (and the Metro runs early to get racers to the start on Saturday) so you don't need a rental car.

The race draws a number of runners from the Chicago area although most of the runners hail from the East Coast especially the Maryland, Virginia, DC vicinity. Oh wait, that's another reason to run: different competition, just in case you see the same faces at the races at home. Good luck to all of those running on Saturday and to my DC friends, maybe I'll run this one next year and drop in for a visit. Photo grabbed from runwashington.com. Posted by Kate

Multitask During March Madness

Before beer, burgers and basketball get the best of you this weekend, plan to maximize your time in front of the telly burning calories before you burn your brackets when your picks don't work out. Rather than sit and let the beer gut develop or start to feel sorry for yourself when you look at the scale come Monday morning, multitask during the NCAA tourney with some workouts that will help your training in the long run.
  • Stretching. Any trainer--or at least those I've spoken with this winter about my own running issues--reiterate the need for proper stretching. Sometimes it's before working out, sometimes it's after, but either way you don't want to leave it off the schedule. Try hip bridges, wall sits, calf and hammy stretches, bicep and tricep pulls and more while the game is in play or on commercial.
  • Take the game to the gym. Everyone is doing it, or so it seems when you glance around at the TV screens at the gym: pedaling on the stationary bike, using the elliptical or running on the treadmill while flipping between games. Thanks to technology and the TV hookups for individual machines it's even easier to squeeze in your workout and game watching at the same time.
  • Cycling. If you have a trainer for your road/tri bike, set it up in front of the TV and instead of watching a spinning video or movies, keep the game on. I don't know about you, but a little motivation from athletes on the screen always keeps my workout in check--like Biggest Loser Tuesdays where I push through the last workout before the weigh-in. Mileage in the saddle during the winter only preps the legs for the upcoming riding season--and with spring finally arriving, that time is closer than ever.
  • Core training. Admit it, the only way you'll get in those moves to strengthen your core is if you find the time to do it. TV time is a great motivator to start those crunches, lunges, squats and legs lifts. Pull out those stability balls for crunches, grab a medicine ball and pass it between a partner, practice your push ups and perfect your plank. Your body will love you when you really throw yourself into training season.
  • Resistance band training. Use these stretchy bands to work your arm muscles with bicep curls, shoulders and delts with rows (if you can find a sturdy object to wrap the band around), or practice woodchops, triceps extensions, lateral rows and chest presses. You can also work the core with more lunges, squats and hip strengthening.

Not only will your body thank you after a combination of these moves and workouts, but you'll be less inclined to snack on junk food while sitting in front of the TV. Or if you still do, at least you'll have a calorie burn to cancel out some of the splurging. This is one change your body can believe in and might show results at the races too. And for even more at-home moves, check out some of these sites: Shape, Self, Fitness, Men's Health, Women's Health, and Fitness-at-home.com. Photo grabbed from upliftmofo at Flickr. Posted by Kate

Yahoo For Yassos!

That headline is a joke. Truth be told, there are three things I truly, deeply dread during training: Tempo runs, races and speed workouts. The night before these workouts, I'm a nervous wreck. Butterflies arrive by flocks in my tummy, making it hard to fall to sleep. The morning of, I'm pacing like an AIG exec, sipping coffee and trying to chill out. Then it's off to the track and...here we go! Hard effort for 800m, recovery jog for 400m; repeat until you pretty much feel like puking.

I make too big of a deal out of a simple workout, obviously, but no matter how many of these sessions I complete, each time the fear of the discomfort I know I'm going to endure freaks me out anew. This morning I did eight Yasso 800s. I haven't done Yasso's yet during this build-up, but I did have a smile on my face (despite the butterflies) as I headed to the track. Kate and I met Bart Yasso, the Runner's World Chief Running Officer, when we ran the Madison-Chicago 200 Relay with him on a media team last summer. Meeting the legend and running guru in person--I can assure you he's even more interesting, kind, easy-going and fun to be around than you hope!--means this workout will always have an extra-special place in my heart (with the butterflies, of course).

So, anyway, after all that drama, I survived. The funny thing is that the efforts that create the most pre-workout angst tend to have the biggest payoff--crazy-awesome endorphins, a sense of accomplishment, and, hopefully, some faster legs. Got a workout that gives you the chills? Click "comments" below and tell us about it! The photo grabbed from oregonianphoto at Flickr is of Adam Goucher sprinting along the beautiful outdoor track on the Nike campus in Oregon. The track is surrounded by soft trails rambling through the woods and trees everywhere--even inside the oval shape. It's the kind of place that makes you feel like you could run Yasso 800s forever. Posted by Liz

The Daily Feed: Sites We're Surfing on 3/20

I'm having more of a web-surfing morning than a writing one, so here are some of the sites I've been perusing. Check 'em out:
  • I talked about the release of the new Utah Ironman yesterday, but found out even more Ironman news when I went to the event's website. Ironman, are you trying to tell me something? One of the 70.3 races now has slots available to qualify for Kona. Not that I stand a chance in the shorter distance or reaching the top of my age group, but I was considering racing the Rhode Island 70.3 race on July 12.
  • Adidas just released its gear for the Boston Marathon. Oh how I wish I were going, the jackets and shirts are awesome and in blue, my favorite color. Not that I didn't like the past offerings but doing this online browsing makes me what to get back there even more. Liz, you have to score one of those jackets when you're there next month!
  • With all the penny-pinching we're doing these days, I was thrilled to find suggestions for healthy snacks on the cheap from Rodale. They're simple and sound easy to make.
  • I'm still writing some posts about my trip to Keystone, but I was yearning for skiing with the return of cold weather to Chicago, I was checking out ski country. Spring break deals abound at the resorts this season--Keystone included--and festival season kicks off too. If you can plan a last-minute trip to the mountains, head to Keystone's Blues and BBQ Festival in the River Run Village on March 28. Expect more on the upcoming festival season--I've been browsing too much and exciting myself over skiing and sun.
  • Speaking of skiing, the ski helmet debate has returned after the untimely and shocking death of Natasha Richardson on the slopes. I'm still puzzled as to how it all happened and could happen since she was with an instructor on a beginner slope, not messing around in the trees or hucking cliffs.
  • After three months of no running, I could use this tip on spring running from FitSugar. I think I might break out the running gear this weekend and test my legs before I burn out at next Sunday's Shamrock Shuffle.
Photo taken in Keystone's Independence Bowl on one of those sunny, spring-like days. Posted by Kate

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sign Me Up, Scotty! There's a New Ironman!

Southern Utah, rocks, canyons, more elevation than I'll ever see at home. I've never even been to a spot in Utah other than Salt Lake and the nearby ski country, but I'm asking to be beamed to St. George...specifically around the date of May 1, 2010. Ironman athletes rejoiced when the World Triathlon Corporation announced that another Ironman triathlon was being added to the North American roster. Now instead of fighting over the roughly 2,200 spots in the seven existing races, there's one more to battle over. Or maybe that means less shoving and more sharing. Either way, I'll take it, even if it means another battle with my fingers over signing up online (2009 races in Canada, Florida and Arizona almost happened but I talked myself out of my craziness each time).

For all those triathletes fighting for a coveted spot in a North American race, come 2010 there will be one more to add to the roster. The World Triathlon Corporation announced the release of Ford Ironman St. George, an endurance event set to be held on May 1, 2010. Registration is already open at ironmanstgeorge.com.

Utah once had an Ironman-distance race years ago, but it hasn't been on the repertoire since about 1999. Now St. George and its surroundings will be home to the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run. The race will cover Utah scenery like the Sand Hollow Reservoir, Snow Canyon and Red Cliffs Desert Reserve. And for all those looking for a way to get into Kona and the 2010 Ironman World Championships, this race will have 65 slots for the taking.

Here's some more information about the course itself. Triathletes will swim one loop in the Sand Hollow Reservoir, then take to a bike course that runs through the towns of Hurricane and Washington before following a route into St. George. On the bike racers will be able to check out views of Snow Canyon. With a transition in St. George's Town Square, the racers will start the two-loop marathon course which includes a climb toward Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, a wind through Pioneer Park, traversing along Diagonal Street and more. The finish line features a backdrop of downtown St. George alongside Heritage Tower.

I'm getting excited already--sounds beautiful. Granted that also means a lot of practice and going blind into a bike course--I doubt you'll find a CompuTrainer ride to download for this new course--and those hills could kill this poor Midwestern girl's non-mountain tamed legs. Hey, but one can dream. Photo grabbed from everymantri.com. Posted by Kate

Endurance Zzzzs: A Mattress For Ironmen and Runners

This RW blog post had me laughing out loud. The Spring Air Company signed a licensing agreement with T3 Athletic Recovery Products to produce and market the "official mattress of Ironman." A mattress for endurance athletes? Come. On. But then I thought about it, and, seriously, why not? We put so much money into our bikes, our shoes, our plane tickets to races, etc....why not soup up the bed we sleep on every night? All this one needs is some water bottle holders. Here's some press release info...
  • Celsion 5 Zone Latex supports the entire body and delivers pressure point relief and ensures proper spine alignment.
  • The Celsion Talalay Latex actually cools you when it’s too warm and warms you when it’s too cool.
  • The Celliant ticking is clinically proven to relieve pain, promote quicker healing, boost the immune system, improve sleep quality, heighten athletic performance and increase oxygen levels in the body by 29%. All of which lead to overall better health.
I would love to be a lab rat trying this sucker out. I'm sure my husband would love that—ha! Photo grabbed from ironman.com. Posted by Liz

Salsa Dancing for a Cause

He came, he salsa'd, he wowed the crowd. And out of all the competitors, he raised the most money for the cause, Susan G. Komen For the Cure's Chicago affiliate. Robbie Ventura easily came out a winner at last Friday's Dancing with Chicago Celebrities.

He's used to winning cycling races and leading the pack on two wheels, but going into the dance arena to compete in the Fourth Annual Dancing with Chicago Celebrities brought an entirely different course of action. Ventura practiced numerous times with his partner Annette Goldman and even with a week-long cycling camp sandwiched in between lessons he came to the competition ready to compete. Onlookers say that Ventura looked sharp on the dance floor and brought the same determination from his cycling days to his dance steps. He looked so good--and coordinated--the crowd cheering for him swore that he won the event. There must have been some glitch in the judging because Ventura states he didn't win the dancing part, but did receive the title of MVP for raising the most money for the cause.

Jury's still out on who did win the race, but when I find out I'll let you know. Media coverage after the fact seems to be a little sparce--I found a video of Evelyn Holmes from ABC dancing and heard Daryl Hawks recount his experience briefly on the Sunday night news. But in the meantime congrats to Ventura for bringing finesse to the dance floor. Could this mean a stint at Nacional 27's salsa nights? Posted by Kate

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Noggin Protection

Whether it's skiing, cycling, rock climbing or white water rafting, wear a helmet when you head out. Not to be preachy, but not only will it protect your noggin but it could save your life.

I was shocked to read the news about Natasha Richardson's accident on the slopes at Mont Tremblant. I was even more shocked when People reported that it happened with a ski instructor and on a beginner run. I hoped that I'd find information that said Richardson was wearing a helmet but that wasn't the case. And with her condition listed as very serious--and the latest from People that has a friend saying she's brain dead--it's unfortunate that there was no helmet in use.

Even the New York Times has a story on the ski helmet debate. Michael Kennedy met his death on the slopes as did Sonny Bono. I've crashed on my road bike twice, broke a helmet both times, and know I probably wouldn't be here writing if I didn't have some protection.

I'm sure skiing examiners out there are posting like crazy on this one, but it's the helmet use that grabbed my attention. Helmets can be used in a variety of sports and can help prevent serious accidents from being worse off: taking a hard spill, crashing on the road, flipping over your handlebars, springing from a raft and hitting a rock. Sure the easy answer is to say, don't do these things, but for an endurance athlete, you can't exactly tell him or her to stay off the bike. There goes the triathlon season.

Protect yourself the next time you hit the road or trail and grab one of these helmets (depending on sport, of course):

  • Giro--makes helmets for skiing and cycling
  • POC--Julia Mancuso wore this brand during the 2006 Torino Olympics and the company is about to break into the bike market this season
  • Boeri--skiing helmets are this company's claim to fame; I've had mine for more than seven seasons
  • K2--this ski manufacturer makes a pretty cool helmet that integrates goggles and head protection without the all-too-common goggle strap
  • Bell--recreational riders and racers can find a cycling helmet to fit their needs here
  • Rudy Project--makes cycling helmets and has a coupon online to save 25 percent on a helmet purchase

There are still plenty of other helmet makers out there, but these are just a few to start shopping with. And one plus to wearing the helmet when you're skiing, on a cold day it keeps you warmer than a hat. In the meantime, my thoughts are out to Natasha Richardson and her family.

Picture: That's me and my husband with our helmets: he started wearing his after a crash that knocked him unconcious in 2000 and I went full-time in 2004 after getting it for racing season. As for the bike...I've cracked two helmets and don't leave home without one. Posted by Kate

Free and Fit-Friendly

You know that saying "The best things in life are free"? I feel like this week I'm totally living that up when it comes to feeding my stomach. And if you're in or around Chicago, you can too. Berry Chill, a chilled-yogurt delight local to the Windy City, turned one a few days ago, and it's celebrating with the entire city by offering special chill treats. From now until Sunday, you can walk away with a sweet, cold, healthy treat without having to crack open the wallet.

The catch? To score the deals, you have to follow the company's mascot, Yogi Jones, on Twitter. Throughout the day, Twitter feeds share the latest special and time to score. If you have the feed on your phone, show it when you place your order, or bring a print out with you. Some deals thus far include the Fro-J, a new drink with orange juice and yogurt promoted all week at specific times; BC Blender, a smoothie stocked with your choice of yogurt and toppings; a gift card giveaway; a 5 oz. yogurt with toppings. It's a savings of at least $4, something that makes me happy because I'd eat Berry Chill all the time if I could. And I'm glad I no longer live around the corner from the State Street location or I'd really be in trouble.

OK so what is all this praise about Berry Chill? I'm a fan because I view it as a healthy version of an ice cream sundae (trust me, my husband doesn't see it this way, he'd rather have his DQ). I'm probably incorrect in comparing it to Pinkberry or Red Mango on the coasts, but it's Chicago's answer to snacking--even for those who are lactose intolerant. The chilled yogurt that comes out the consistency of soft-served ice cream is chock full of live active cultures minus all the chemicals that wiggle into so many foods today. And unlike fats and cholesterol hiding in those DQ and Baskin Robbins treats, this one only contains 20 calories per ounce. The toppings include a fresh fruit rainbow with everything from blackberries and strawberries to kiwi and pineapple, Girl Scout cookie pieces, granola from another Chicago fave Milk & Honey, candy pieces and more, beating out the toppings bar you might remember as a kid. And the flavors get a little wacky too: Try banana walnut biscotti, pink guava, or green tea. Yum and my waistline is liking it too since I usually get the small 5-ounce size (100 calories of yogurt) topped with fresh fruit. And it won Daily Candy's Best Bite award in 2008--and nominated for other awards--so some taste buds must be liking it.

If you're on Twitter, or need an excuse to check out the hubbub (in my case), it might be worth a shot scoring some free food in the process. At least it makes my stomach happy. Photo grabbed from Berry Chill. Posted by Kate

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Daily Feed: Sites We're Surfing on 3/17

It's warm and sunny in Chicago today so while I'm wishing to be outdoors, my fingers are doing some wandering on the computer. Some of the things that caught my eye:
  • Who doesn't love a little green in their milkshake and splurging on a Shamrock Shake? Actually I hate to say it but I don't, something with a green bagel as a kid turned me off those artificially colored treats. But did you know you'd have to spend nearly two hours walking on the treadmill just to burn off the small weet treat. It's even worse if you find yourself noshing on a deli-size corned beef sammy or jazzing it up reuben-style. Not to mention the artery clogging risks, trans fats grams and maxing out the daily sodium, you'll need to spin hard for at least an hour and a half to cancel these calories.
  • Need some healthy and quick ideas to spice up your dining repertoire and DIY at home? Keep It Simple Foods has suggestions for breakfast, lunch and dinner to add a little kick without going overboard to your daily menus.
  • Sale! I love me some bargain shopping and I'm finding it today at SkirtSports. This Boulder-based company is releasing new spring gear--and in flashy new color combos--but at the same time you can find some old favorites at savings of up to 70 percent off. My wallet is liking this one.
  • Remember my bit about needing some running motivation? I'm really trying to muster some energy and scouring different sites for useful information. I'm hoping this post from Under Armour will help me with my form. And I'm excited I found a new blog at Runner's World all about trail running: TrailHeads!
Have a fun site to share? Send me there! Posted by Kate

Going the Distance

Last week it was all about half marathons on the race calendar. With one such race already marked off the calendar for 2009--the March Madness race Liz just recapped--the distance running season is already off and well running. Before the Bank of America Chicago Marathon up and closes far-ahead of its October 11 race day--last year the race closed in mid-April--or other races up their registration fees to the point where you're not sure if you're either committed enough to the distance or if your bank account can handle the withdrawal (check out this story on how the economy affected marathoners), consider adding a marathon to your race calendar. You can still start training for a late spring race like Cleveland, Green Bay or Rock 'n' Roll San Diego without being too far behind in mileage, or plan ahead for fall classics like Chicago, New York (accepting lottery entries until May 1), Marine Corps, or the Nike Women's Marathon. And with marathon participation numbers growing each year, this is one place/event where it's OK to join the crowd.

Here are a few notable races coming up that you might want to add to your calendar, both with little time to train to prep those legs for 26.2 miles (unless you're like my cousin who runs 20 miles every Saturday and can pull off sub-four hour races even when he says he's injured) and plenty of time to plan a training schedule and keep the race in the back of your mind all season:
  • Country Music Marathon--this one is coming up fast, just the week after the 113th running of the Boston Marathon, but Nashville promises to deliver on elevation shifts, crowd support and musical entertainment
  • Big Sur International Marathon--I was surprised to learn that with little more than a month out this April 26 race still has registration openings. This popular race is also one of the more challenging out there--from both having to train all winter and having some of the toughest bout with hills, even steeps.
  • Illinois Marathon--this first-time race is filling quickly, less than 200 spots left, and approaching way too fast. April 11 will be here before your legs might want it to come but if you've trained all winter, it's one way to get in an Illinois-based race (especially if you're shooting for 50 races in 50 states) without running Chicago.
  • Lake Geneva Marathon--racers flock to Wisconsin lake country May 9 for this race. The perk is that if you're not prepared to run the full marathon you could always back out and tackle one of the shorter distance races taking place that weekend.
  • Cleveland, Green Bay, Minneapolis, Stillwater, Wisconsin, Rockford, Madison--I mentioned all of these and their respective May dates in the half marathon information
  • Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Marathon--who wouldn't want an escape to southern California to run a race? San Diego goes rock n roll with music along the course that also provides a great tour of the city on May 31. I might have to beg my sister to let me stay with her and run this one. Check out more RNR races at eliteracing.com
  • Grandma's Marathon--this is one to plan for 2010 if you want to head into Minnesota's Iron Range to run this popular race. You have to request applications in January and the race fills quickly. Good news too is that the hard-core headphone ban enacted the past two years has been lifted with the new regulations by the USATF (Grandma Lutter, this means I'll think about running this race again).
Notable fall races to plan ahead for:
  • Bank of America Chicago Marathon--October 11, this race closes earlier every year
  • ING New York City Marathon--November 1, accepting lottery entries until May 1
  • Marine Corps Marathon--October 25, registration opens April 1 and closes fast
  • Detroit Free Press Marathon--October 18, this race continues to grow in size but not at Chicago or New York levels. And it features the only race run in two countries with runners crossing the Ambassador Bridge and Windsor Tunnel between the U.S. and Canada.
  • Philadelphia Marathon--November 22, registration opens April 1
  • Lakefront Marathon--October 4, for those that don't like the crowds in Chicago they head north to Milwaukee for this tame race that produces some fast times
  • Twin Cities Marathon--October 4, registration open April 17
  • California International Marathon--December 6, while you'll find rolling hills during the first half of this point-to-point race, it's essentially all downhill--and fast.
  • Grand Rapids Marathon--this race saved the day in 2007 after runners sweat, crawled and boarded buses to the finish line of the Chicago Marathon by offering discounts to those who couldn't run Chicago. Turns out that the Grand Rapids race (October 18) gets a good rep even beyond the fee savings--runners have recommend it to me as a great race that's well run and organized, and fast too.
  • Portland Marathon--October 4, when other races said it was illegal to run with headphones, Portland maintained that you could run there with your tunes. Now it's just a great tune-friendly race in a great green city.
  • Honolulu Marathon--December 13, what better excuse do you need to head to Hawaii in December? The hills and climb up Diamond Head can be tough, but paradise is worth it.
  • Baltimore Marathon--October 10, this popular East Coast race draws Marine Corps spillovers and Boston-qualifier seekers, plus you finish with a run through Camden Yards.
  • Nike Women's Marathon--October 18, this race has become so popular that it's now limiting entries to a random drawing. Will you be so lucky to get in and come home with a Tiffany finish-line award?
There are tons of marathons to choose from besides those that I've listed. Small and large, in major cities and remote areas, in vacation destinations or close to home, green-friendly, and more. Want more to consider? Check out the calendar at marathonguide.com for a pretty comprehensive list. Photo grabbed from Machu by matthewdavidpeterson.com. Posted by Kate

Thank You, RW

I've been plugging away in front of the computer for the past week and a half, catching up after not devoting as much time to email and responsibilities while in Colorado. But one thing I haven't done is focus much on website browsing or digging for new fitness happenings. That is until this morning, when a quote from Runner's World reached out to me in just the right way.

"Sustained motivation is essential to achieving your potential" --Grete Waitz

The well-known marathon runner who won the New York Marathon nine times and a silver medal at the 1984 Olympics feed me exactly what I needed to read. All winter I've struggled with motivation in my workouts. Granted I think some of it is warranted--too many long distance events, too many marathons and total body breakdown in 2008--but with spring just around the corner (and the shock when I realized that spring's official start is this week, gasp!) and my legs saying "we don't run," I'm hoping to get my mind in the game and let the body follow. I have goals to accomplish this year and I preached about them in my New Year's resolutions, but I know I'm not going to get that Boston time and join Liz at the start line next year if I don't have everything in the game. And I'd like to think I have the potential--I've seen the times and predicted results that pace me ahead of where I actually finish--it's just a matter of getting there. Here's to welcoming spring and a season of training. Photo grabbed from teamsugar.com and myrunshorts.com. (Homer's kinda how I'm feeling these days when it comes to the run). Posted by Kate

Monday, March 16, 2009

Fit-Pic: Talons Challenge

There's nothing like sun, skiing and Spring-like conditions, especially when you're experiencing the Talons Challenge at Beaver Creek. We lucked out with a warm day--sure beat that subzero morning I was skiing in Park City in January--when we took to the 13 toughest runs at Beaver Creek to earn our Platinum pin and find our names among other Challenge finishers next time we're at the resort.

The challenge happens as a one-day event in January each year--mark your calendars for Jan. 23, 2010--with registrations limited to roughly 1,500 skiers and boarders. Or if you can't make it on that day, you can ski with an instructor to have the accomplishment certified. You'll take to the infamous World Cup course, Birds of Prey, luckily not logging speed and jumps like Bode Miller and Hermann Maier when they hit the mountain. Then follow it up with bump black runs off the Birds of Prey and Larkspur lifts and on Grouse Mountain. My favorite part is you can take as many breaks as you need, just as long as you can hit all the runs before those lifts close at 3:30. And if you take an extended lunch and shed layers as many times as I did (yep, I forgot how hot I can get skiing the bumps), that 3:30 deadline can start to look like it's not going to happen.

I'd hate to see what the troughs look like on these bumps on Talons Challenge day when thousands are hitting these runs throughout the day. But I'm happy we were hit with soft snow thanks to the sun hitting the mountain just right--with the exception of the slick top on Birds of Prey where I prayed the rest of the day wouldn't be as nerve-wracking as that and the last two runs on Larkspur where the bumps acquired some lumpy, icy chunks. And to say you're sweating, dripping even, while skiing, that's new to me. Posted by Kate

Call It a Post-Race Ritual

I ran the March Madness Half Marathon up in Cary, Illinois yesterday. It was an awesome race: well-planned, beautiful weather, happy runners. (For a full recap, click here to check out my race report on TOC's site.) I know I was happy: it was my best half time ever. Yip! This was quite a shocking turn of events considering I went into the race expecting mediocre results. I've chronicled my not-so-fun (or fast) winter of training indoors here on Fit-Ink: Despite banking plenty of miles, I've only had a couple of great runs since early January. And this race was hilly, so I knew it'd put my treadie workouts to the test. The stars aligned on Sunday. I am grateful to the running gods for helping me have a fun day out there.

After a race--especially a good one--the first thing I do? (Hint: It's not stretch out, though it should be.) I always rummage through my gym bag searching for my cell phone. Then I call my husband--even if he's been watching from the sidelines--I'm bursting to tell him how it went. (And I know he appreciates hearing every last detail rehashed for the next 10 hours, haha.)

Next up? Calling my Dad.
I grew up jogging with my Dad...for many years the only way he could beckon me outside was by luring me with promises of a latte at the end of the jaunt. I usually only managed a couple of miles--we both find that fact incredibly ironic now that I'm pretty much running-obsessed (at the time, I was much more excited about sprinting around a soccer field, or basketball court or tennis court...okay, also sleeping in on the weekends). So, he knows the ups and downs of my runs as well as I know them myself. He even followed along for almost four hours from his hotel room in California, where he was visiting my little brother at college, as I ran the NYC Marathon back in November. (I called him the second I picked up my baggage in Central Park.) He's heard about every PR--and every bummer performance--in my life within a couple hours of the race.

But yesterday, I was sans cell phone. I'd gone for an EZ swim in the UChicago pool on Saturday and--ugh--left my water bottle open in my gym bag, unknowningly dribbling H20 into the my phone en route. I'm having bad luck with water bottles lately! (The phone, may he RIP, didn't recover after drying out, so I ordered a cheapo new one from Zendoo.com.) So, with no one to call or text, it was just me and my post-race euphoria, and a long drive home. I will admit that, left with no other means of celebration, I turned the music up on the radio and belted out a few songs as loud as I could. Once home, I beelined my husband's study for a breathless recap. Then it was off to my computer to email Adam, my coach. (I love it when I have good news for him!) The only thing left to do? Call my Dad as soon as my cell phone arrives tomorrow. Got any post-race rituals? Share 'em by clicking "comments," below! Photo courtesy WeRPhoto.net, check the site for more race pics. Posted by Liz

Friday, March 13, 2009

How Are You Getting Over That Hangover?

Aside from the promise of warmer weather this weekend in the Windy City, the weekend before St. Patrick's Day typically means dragging out the green tees, Kiss Me I'm Irish pins, and hunting for green beer and Irish grub in between drunken debauchery and parade partying. Chicago holds two popular parades, one downtown and one on the south side in Beverly, and this year both happen to fall on the same weekend. Talk about a double dose of drinking with an equally daunting risk of hangovers come Monday morning--and to only start again when the true St. Patty's Day rolls in on Tuesday.

But did you ever think a drink typically sipped by athletes could help cure a hangover? I definitely didn't...until I spoke to the founder of Zym the other day. Brian Koff, founder of the product local to Chicago but available to all online at gozym.com, taught me more than a thing or two about his product. And talk about making a sale for the greenest holiday of them all. Zym, with its catchy green tube and lemon-lime endurance formula, is just asking to tag along to all the St. Patrick's Day festivities. It's convenient to carry and its combination of electrolytes and B vitamins--remedies for a hangover according to health911.com--can be just what the body needs after heavy imbibing. Zym also boasts effervescense, low calories and a light flavor to add spark to that plain glass of water. Pop it into your Nalgene before you're off for the day and you could whisk that headache away before you even arrive at the office (that's what some claim at least). It might just save you and your Irish holiday.

But be sure to know that Zym isn't just a hangover helper. Anyone can drink it to simply spice up your water without a ton of extra calories, or athletes can use it to break down lactic acid build-up and add electrolytes to a depleted system. I like to say the drink saved me from dying on a training run along the Lakefront last summer--water wasn't cutting it but Zym revved my system enough to get me home. Photo grabbed from Zym. Posted by Kate

P.S. Check out more interesting info on sports drinks and tablets as we gear up for the upcoming outdoor season...spring is springing!

The Daily Feed: Sites We're Surfing on 3/13

You'd think with it being Friday the 13th I'd be looking up superstitions or ghost tales, but no, I'm catching up on my weekly reading. My eyes perked up when these stories caught my attention today:
  • Did you know March is National Nutrition Month? Guess it's time to do that spring cleaning before the official start to spring comes our way next week. Clean out the refrigerator toxins and swap them with healthful nutrients your body needs at EatingWell.
  • Any good winter workout deserves a cookie splurge in my book (or maybe I had a craving?). I wanted to get my fix in the form of Girl Scout cookies, especially Tagalongs, Samoas and Thin Mints. Apparently antiquated practices do not allow for the sale of cookies online, and I can't find any vendors around me so I'm going to have to stick with cookie-filled Edy's. Note: the Girl Scouts celebrated their 97th birthday on March 12.
  • My mom recently started Prevention's Flat Belly Diet, finally admitting that she was sneaking snacks and savory treats and cheating on the sly. She claims this is one diet she's excited about and even inspired her friend to start so they can challenge each other and compare results. Go Mom!
  • The Iditarod, the famous sled dog race traveling across Alaska, kicked off last Saturday. Follow the mushers and their progress from Anchorage to Nome at Iditarod.com.
  • Bree Wee, a pro triathlete living on Hawaii's Big Island, has been training tough all week. And alone. Check out her blog to see why.
Photo grabbed from Alaskan Dude at flickr. Posted by Kate

Luck O' the Irish

Have you ever dreamed of traveling to Ireland? What about running the Dublin Marathon? You could just have your chance at both...at least if you're in or around Bozeman, Mont., and in a running mood on March 14. Save the partying and imbibing until after your a.m. workout: a half marathon or 10K race coined Run to the Pub.

The early-season race bound to take you around Bozeman finishes in Bogart Park, steps away from Pub 317 on Main Street. And that's when the second round of fun begins. Not only have you revved your metabolism but you've secured some extra calories for another beer, maybe even some corned beef or fish and chips. While the ale is perfect for toasting leprechauns, pots of gold and other Irish lore, you could be finding your own lucky fortune in the form of a trip to the old country. That's right, participants--regardless of finish time--have a chance to score a trip to Dublin in October to run the Dublin Marathon. The trip includes airfare, entry into the race and three nights lodging in the capital of Ireland.

And even if you spend the morning traipsing through mud and slush, or freezing your extremities to the finish line, you can always find a sweet reward among your compadres if it's just singing Danny Boy. The race starts at 10 a.m., 10:30 if you're in the 10K, so you won't miss out on the St. Patrick's Day celebration. There's an entire day of drinking left, or just head to the slopes at Big Sky and rev the engine even more. You might have to ski off the post-race party.

Know of some unique St. Patrick's Day celebrations, active or otherwise, in your area? We'd love to hear about them. Photo grabbed from Pub 317. Posted by Kate

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Lost On The Road: One Awesome Waterbottle

About two weeks ago, I embarked on a lonesome, Saturday-morning, 18-miler on the lakefront. Despite the flurries, frigid temp (7 degrees real feel!) and bitter gusts of wind, I was so burnt out from treadie running that I didn't care how cold it was outside: I was hitting the road. Armed with a Nano-full of good music and podcasts, two gels (Gu not Clif, but that's a whole other story) and my super-cool Asics water bottle (see pic), I hit the road.

I will spare you the gory details; suffice to say, I completed only 17 miles, it took me almost three hours (yeah, ouch), and (sniff!), I had to ditch my trusty water bottle just south of the Oak Street beach (in that little park between the beach and Navy Pier). Despite jostling up and down in my hand for more than 8 miles, the water inside had frozen solid! And at that point, my hands had become so numb that I couldn't imagine carrying the cold rock of a water bottle back down the path. It was a casualty of a run. It was a sad moment, probably even sadder than it should've been due to the fact that I was exhausted, frozen, and in desperate need of some calories (no water = no way to eat those gels). It was aerodynamic. It had a soft mesh casing that slipped around my fingers. And it had a little zipper compartment where I could fold in some cash for an emergency. I like to think another runner jogged by it enough times that he finally decided the bottle had been forsaken--and then picked him up, washed him off and gave him a happy home. Although
that the run is now just a memory, I still miss my bottle. Got any running gear you can't bear to part with? Posted by Liz

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