Friday, July 31, 2009

Big Names Head to Michigan

I'm one who normally blasts Michigan for a lack of things to do and a far-from-less-than-stellar downtown that is Detroit. But sometimes, the Motor City Triathlon weekend being one and this weekend being another, I can say something good about the state and its action-packed events rather than tell my friends to get a good look at a Chicago skyline and note the Detroit differences--and not feel the need to rush back to normalcy in Chicago but enjoy the vacation vibe of southwest Michigan. So back to this past weekend...the excitement stems from my for-once elation over going to Michigan and the crowd I'll be surrounded by. And selfishly happy that my parents will be watching this race and I could convince them once again to come out and watch--my dad likes to joke that he thought his event-watching finished when I got married and boy was he wrong.

The world of triathlon converges on southwest Michigan come July 31 and August 1 with the Whirlpool Ironman 70.3 Steelhead Triathlon taking place in Benton Harbor, St. Joseph and the surrounding fruit belt countryside. And the best part is that as this race has grown over the years--it's turning seven in 2009--drawing more age-groupers, spectators and pros. The swim is pretty along the Lake Michigan shoreline, the bike features a tour through the fruit belt where Michigan farmers grow a wide selection of berries and apples, and the run follows a course through the Whirlpool campus (I had no idea that Whirlpool was a Michigan product until I wrote about the race one year for Windy City Sports). But after still recovering from the Spirit of Racine Half Ironman and wondering why I signed up for that when I already planned to race at Steelhead, my eyes were wandering more to the field of competitors than my own training and tapering. When I confirmed my entry materials, I peeked at the pro field coming and was thrilled to see big names like Andy Potts, Luke Bell, Leanda Cave, Amanda Lovato and Nina Kraft. I'm the dork who has only seen this troop racing on TV during Ironman and 70.3 coverage and maybe being interviewed briefly. But knowing they'll be on the race course, in that same transition area and possibly standing beside me at one point if I could get so lucky, really gets me going.

But then I was just as excited to see some big Chicago names--or perhaps only big to me since I've tracked down a few in the last year to interview them for different articles--among the racers. Jenny Garrison, a triathlete out of Naperville who went pro last year and has added 70.3 events to her schedule this year. Andrew Starykowicz, out of Long Grove who seems to put most guys to shame on the bike with his blistering speeds that even some pros can't compete with (I have yet to track him down though). Emily Cocks, from Chicago who I didn't even realize had gone pro until this race--she had a really good finish at the St. Croix 70.3 in May and is fast at all three disciplines. And even some age-groupers who turn up atop the leaderboard at home--and I probably notice because they either are or have been in my age group. Christine Anderson who races on the Timex team and Adrienne Saeger who's part of the Mideast Elite and recently won the Spirit of Racine triathlon amid some drafting debacle brewing on the slowtwitch message boards.

Regardless, it's shaping up to be an exciting weekend in Michigan. I'm about to hit the road myself...have to meet my parents for dinner in Union Pier and as usual am running late. At least my bags are packed, it's just my bike that has issues. More to come post-race and we'll see how the excitement unfolds. Posted by Kate

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Biggest Loser Goes Endurance

They slogged it out in the gym for hours on end at the ranch. They had epic sweat sessions in their hometowns prepping for the finale. But now that life has gotten back to normal--minus that whole adjustment of eating right and maintaining the new weight--not every Biggest Loser competitor is slowing down the workout routine.

Even when it's not on the air, the Biggest Loser knows how to grab my attention. I was psyched on Friday when announced that Tara Costa, who finished third in the seventh season of The Biggest Loser, would be running the New York City Marathon this November. Go Tara! Here I am thinking that my guilty pleasure reading would only have one random fitness bit for the week--Valerie Bertinelli completing the Napa-to-Sonoma Wine Country Half Marathon on July 19--and now I get to enjoy two running-related clips.

I sort of suspected that Tara might run a marathon one day, or at least hoped she would. I was the big dork who'd trade e-mails with Liz about the show or tell a friend after spin class that Tara has a runner in her and could--maybe even should--consider running the distance after the show. Not to mention all those endurance challenges that As the competition heated up in the last season of The Biggest Loser so did the training and challenges with competitors first cycling for 24 hours as a relay, then running a half marathon, and then the final four returning to the ranch before the final weigh-in to run a marathon. When I watched Tara finish the half marathon in 2:24 while tipping the scales at 200 pounds, I was impressed and knew if she lightened her load she could probably run even faster. Then when she ran the marathon in less than 5 hours, still striving to lose weight and only learning of the run a few weeks before, I was really impressed. I don't know what kind of training plan those four could follow in a short four weeks, roughly, to prepare for the 26.2 miles, but it probably could only have one long run at most before tapering, and I guessed that they weren't fully prepared for the distance.

Whatever the case, finishing the distance was pretty inspiring and even more convincing that with proper training, Tara could knock out a pretty good race. I'm just thrilled she wants to do it again and so soon. Now I have another person to track at the Nov. 1 race--my friend will be running her first marathon too. Not to put the pressure on, but I wonder who will finish first? Or will Tara be gunning for former Biggest Loser contestant and season 5 at-home winner Bernie Salazar's Chicago Marathon time (he ran 4:15:59 in 2008). Posted by Kate

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Even More Kara News

I suspected this was going to happen but I was awaiting details. If you're as crazy over Kara Goucher as we are and you live in Chicago--or are coming in for Sunday's Rock 'n' Roll Chicago Half Marathon on Friday--you can meet her in person. Just head over to Fleet Feet Piper's Alley, 1620 N. Wells, at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, July 31, where Kara will be sharing training tips, signing autographs--first come, first serve--and celebrating the launch of the LunarGlide+ (a pretty cool shoe we hope to learn more about soon to share with you). The event also gives you the chance to score some stellar Nike raffle prizes, trial the new shoes and learn about their technology, and enjoy refreshments. The only request by Fleet Feet is to RSVP for this event. Better act fast--other Fleet Feet events are known to draw a following and with Kara in the house, this won't be an exception. Posted by Kate

On a side note: or if you're like me, you'll be wishing you were at this event as you drive to Michigan for Saturday's Steelhead 70.3 Triathlon. It's time like this where I could be two places at once.

It's a Rockin' Rollin' Goucher-Filled Weekend

Liz and I can hardly contain ourselves. In fact, I was on the edge of my seat ready to post this information as soon as I found out a few weeks ago but was afraid it wasn't official yet and I could be spilling the beans on news that wasn't quite ready to be spilled. But nevertheless, the release is out and most people know that we have a reason to be getting excited in Chicago this weekend. Kara Goucher is coming! And for once we won't have to do any double takes when we see runners who remind us of Kara hitting the Lakefront Path because she'll be here in person, headlining Sunday's Rock 'n' Roll Chicago Half Marathon (yes, to us at Fit-Ink this far eclipses the bands along the course and blues singer Susan Tedeschi post-race).

Remember our obsessions back in April when she ran Boston? We battled over the Kara love with Paul at and sported Kara tees. Liz got to interview her twice (lucky girl; click here and here to read) and Kara's wardrobe secrets were uncovered (maybe not so secret but we thought they were special). Maybe we'll see those flag barrettes and LunaRacers again--thank goodness the arm warmers and gloves can be stashed in the Windy City. Or will she be sporting some new gear? Tune into the action either online through a live webcast at beginning at 6:30 a.m. on Sunday, August 2, or along the course on the streets of Chicago or the Lakefront.

Thank goodness she didn't hang up her running shoes just yet for a baby break...I'm hoping for Kara domination on Sunday. She already won the 5,000m at Nationals in June and is preparing for the World Championships in Berlin later in August, but a win would be sweet. I sound like a sap but I couldn't bear to see a heartbreak at the finish line as we all saw in Boston.

But before the big race day, I've turned on the radar, armed for any Kara sightings. Here's to only being so lucky. Go Goucher go! Photo grabbed from zenkerf at flickr. Posted by Kate

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Totally Toured Out

If you feel like July flew by thanks to nice weather, tons of events, and maybe a vacation or getaway mixed in, then maybe you're like me and realizing that you didn't pay as much attention to this year's Tour de France and the much-hyped Lance Armstrong return as you should have or wanted to. That's definitely my excuse for the month--wanting to blog about it or follow more blogs about it than I actually did (Robbie Ventura's tales from the tour was about the only site my eyes saw) and eventually deciding it was useless to try to catch up because it was nearly over.

But enough about me and my excuses for watching America's Next Top Model reruns or Michael Jackson's funeral or Pieces of the Beijing Games on Universal Sports before tuning into the cycling, which frankly I'd have to watch on my computer anyway because my cable company opted not to carry Versus which works every month of the year but July. If you want a run-down of the 21 stages, hear about all the action tonight at an event that captures all the action from the Tour from two famous faces that lived through all 23 days. Robbie Ventura, a former professional cyclist who most famously rode on the U.S. Postal Service at the same time as Lance, and Bob Roll, another professional cyclist whose claim-to-fame came while cycling with 7-Eleven and Greg LeMond's Z team and later trained with Lance as he recovered from cancer, are speaking from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Trek store of Highland Park, recounting this year's Tour de France. Both former cyclists commentated live from the Tour with Versus and witnessed their fair share of spills, chills and excitement. The presentation will be followed by a question-and-answer session and promises to be entertaining for all those with even an inkling of interest in the Tour. Besides who doesn't want to hear how Alberto Contador was able to win again, how Lance could finish in the top three but lose his second-place standing that he held through a few stages, and Levi Leipheimer went from fourth to pulling out thanks to a broken wrist (boo).

But be sure to RSVP to before heading up because you could find yourself stuck outside on the pavement while Ventura and Roll entertain the limited attendance field. Photo of Christian VandeVelde grabbed from Robbie Ventura's twitpics. Posted by Kate

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Breath of Fresh Air

Planning to run the NYC Half Marathon in August and need more reason to log those 13.1 miles? Need a spot into this exclusive race after not having the qualification standard or not scoring a lottery slot? Whatever the case may be, the Fresh Air Fund may have the answer. The organization's Fund-Racers team is looking for runners--and sponsors, too--to participate on its team at the August 16th event.

Not to be confused with a "protect our air"-type organization, the Fresh Air Fund has provided summer vacations for more than 1.7 million New York City children from low-income neighborhoods. Kids have spent summers with host families around 13 states and Canada as well as time at overnight camp in the Adirondacks where they can learn to swim, canoe and more. Last year the Fund-Racers raised more than $125,000 for the organization, which has provided these fun experiences for kids since 1877.

Fund-Racers are responsible for paying the entry fees for the NYC Half as well as raising a minimum of $1,000 for the Fresh Air Fund. But the camaraderie--as well as the fundraising--is well worth it. Are you in? Click here for more info about the team. And yes, running for a charity team does guarantee a spot into the race.

Can't make it to the race but still want to help out? The Fund is still in need of Friendly Town hosts during the month of August. Host families open their hearts and home to a NYC child who would not otherwise have the opportunity to escape the hot, crowded city streets. Check out for more details. Photo of some of the 2008 Fund-Racers grabbed from Posted by Kate

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: More on Racine

As I further analzyed my Spirit of Racine race day, I couldn't help but organize my thoughts as good, bad and ugly as I recounted the highlights and low points during the day. Not to beat an overused horse--or however that saying goes--but here's more of my race rundown and randomness:

The Good
A personal best time at the half Ironman distance and while not feeling completely prepared to race after a busy June, vacation and riding 150 miles the weekend before
No mechanical issues on the bike
Seeing my husband at the finish line and as I transitioned from swim to bike and bike to run
The volunteer support
Great traffic direction on the roads--last year at Steelhead I thought a truck was going to turn into me as I pedaled past even though I was on the course
Organization in the transition area with less-crowded bike racks and room to set up transition
Food on the run course for those of us who thought the bananas, pretzels and Oreos looked far more appetizing then the Sport Beans, Shot Bloks and gels stored in our pockets
A finish line medal
An assortment of post-race food including pulled pork sandwiches, pizza and watermelon, plus the personal reward of treating myself to Kopp's Custard
Surviving the run on busted legs...I confirmed my suspicions on Thursday that I had plantar fasciitis in my left foot and a shin splint on my right leg
No major chafing or blisters as I encountered last year
Great weather--overcast and not too warm
The company of racers--I knew a few people out there and had people to cheer for on the run and watch cross the finish line

The Bad
Running out of small T-shirts at packet pick-up before I arrived
The so-called short swim--I was wondering how I could swim 1.2 miles in under 24 minutes
Getting kicked in the eye during the swim--but at least my goggles didn't fall off or fill with water
Fifty-nine degrees in the waters of Lake Michigan and no booties for my feet or sleeves on my wetsuit--it was 56 degrees and foggy last year and I swore I wouldn't be able to survive sub-60 temps again, but the water did warm up overnight
Drafting and blocking on the bike
Getting passed by scary packs of cyclists and nearly running over a plastic tool that flew off a woman's bike as she struggled to return her water bottle to the cage
Painful running and wanting to throw in the towel before starting my second loop thanks to my feet and shoes hurting
The porta-potty lines, although that's to be expected at any race
The shallow swim that had more than your usual amount of walkers in the water

The Ugly
My now-black big toe--there's no hope to saving that toenail
Feeling nauseous around mile 4 on the run
My out-of-whack bike computer that went from telling me I was riding at 31 mph down a street to not working at all before logging three miles on the bike
Drinking Heed when water just didn't cut it--I needed electrolytes but while my stomach can tolerate Perpetuem it can't stand Heed.
The blistery skin on my back thanks to a previous week's time in the sun
The complaints about the race and those racing at SlowTwitch
My near freak-out at dinner on Saturday night when I realized I never got a number to wear on the run, just bike and helmet numbers--a volunteer eased my fears the next morning by calmly assuring me no one received bibs
The near-blister forming on the bottom of my right foot at mile 12--thank goodness I wasn't running a marathon
Watching runners gain on me over the 13.1 miles with no chance of being able to stave off all of them
Waking up the day after exhausted, thirsty and unable to move my right leg below my knee--just call me hobbles

Now if only I didn't have to gear up and do this again in two weeks. I'm just hoping my legs heal so I can run without getting passed like crazy. Posted by Kate

Girls Can Rule, Too

The ladies can be queen of the course. No ifs, ands or buts about it for all those naysayers, debaters and message boarders posting to SlowTwitch, a popular site for triathlon online, who assert that the fast girls on the Spirit of Racine course were cheating on Sunday. I'm not trying to open a can of worms in an attempt to point out who's right and who's wrong in this SlowTwitch thread, but I couldn't help but take some of these comments as implying that a girl couldn't ride that fast or that she had to be drafting and/or cheating to pull of a blistering time. Those comments from Sunday could go in a million different directions, but if I can make one generalization it's that guys just can't seem to let go of being beaten by a girl.

Call it getting "chicked" or passed or any other random term and you have yourself a situation that we all find ourselves at one point or another during a race whether it be a triathlon, a marathon, a cycling ride or race, or even a 5K. Unless you're winning a race, more often than not someone is going to pass you over the course of the race, and we can probably all remember a situation where we were passed while out on the course. Maybe it's just me but it's one of those things you accept, get over, but use the situation to make you better in the future--working toward a faster PR, pushing that speed just a little more next time someone goes by on the bike, churning out interval workouts. And oftentimes sex doesn't matter--how often do you see girls riding in packs with guys (for me, every morning I'm out on the Lakefront riding), co-ed marathon training groups, boy-girl running pairs, co-ed swimming packs?

Yet when it comes to triathlon, more than once has sex somehow seemed to matter. Again this could just be me as I have a tendency to internalize things and go paranoid according to my mom, but as I read the SlowTwitch info earlier today, I realized that it really wasn't just me. The idea of a girl dominating a guy just didn't seem to fly on this message board, and I couldn't help but think that I encountered some of these folks last year at Ironman Wisconsin. So triathlon, especially the longer races like half Ironman and Ironman events, tend to draw more males than females, but that's no excuse to not give us the time of day and act like you own the course even when you have others breathing down your neck.

Take a situation I found myself in during the swim at Ironman Wisconsin last September. And I'm not trying to complain here, but really, someone might be able to relate. I cannot tell you how many guys I encountered in the swim who thought they ruled the pool--or Lake Monona on that morning. Sure, I was a deer in headlights as I walked with the crowd down to the shore to paddle my way to the starting line, but I knew I was a somewhat strong swimmer and didn't want to seed myself in the back of the pack. But I also wanted to try to be courteous to any fast guys and stay out of their way at the start--and avoid being pushed underwater or kicked or shoved, as has occured in other races by girls in my wave. I hung a few people back from the 'do not cross' line, trying to stay in line with other pink caps (the females) in the vicinity while watching more blue caps (the males) squeeze into the first few rows of floating swimmers. And I hate to say it but those who did creep up toward the front really did not seem to belong; I'm stereotyping but they really didn't look like swimmers with lanky frames nor could they all tread water properly as I watched some expend energy flailing arms and/or legs or avoided a jab in the stomach. And it unfortunately only got worse when the cannon went off and the tidal wave took off in the water. As any triathlete knows, sighting is key to manuevering through the swim. Yet, just like you'll encounter a driver who thinks it's his/her way or no way, the same held true for these swimmers. I'm sighting, attempting to stroke my way through the masses and find a spot to settle into my swim, and cannot escape the "I'm right and you're wrong swimmers"--being pigeon-holed on at least two occasions by two blue-capped swimmers who refused to move out of my way. I'd find a space between two swimmers and as I'm going along trying to pass them one not only tries to grab and nearly claw at me but they are both failing at swimming in a straight line and I watch the one on my left drift right and the one on my right drift left, heading for a collision while barring me from pushing either out of the way to swim through (I'm stuck diverting my path and swimming around their feet to scout a new swim spot in the lake). This happened on more than one occasion too, with me being focused to go around the back side to pass and relocate.

Or take the swimmers who try to draft. This is a fun one since there are no rules against following in my wake during the swim. I don't like swimmers close to me--growing up as a competitive swimmer I'm used to circle swimming during practice and having my own lane in competition, not taking to a skier-cross-like field in the water when it comes to triathlon. I learned after the 2007 Chicago Triathlon that I don't like swimmers following stroke for stroke and try to swim away--even if I lose time--whenever possible. Not to revert back to my Ironman experience but after I rounded the first turn and the crowd thinned out a bit, I headed over to the far outside near the boats specifically to escape potential drafters. I spotted one and continued to move further out, thinking to myself "I'm going out waaay out here so you'll leave me alone" and hoping that straying out further would keep them at bay. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.

But my favorite "girls can rule" moments happened on the bike. Many triathletes admit it's common to see geeked-out bikes with less-than-geeked-out riders perched atop--or at least I remember learning that when I first started writing about the sport. The lightweight bikes, the Zipp wheels or special race wheels, the hum of disc wheels, the aero-helmets, the sweet looking rides that you can only guess (and be close to right) that they cost a small fortune. So when those of us without the sweet rides or spiffy wheels can pass a better bike, there's a quiet sense of elation. Unfortunately the racer on the so-called speedy bike doesn't have the same mentality. My favorite race memory came from a comment made by a cyclist during my second loop on the bike course...the winds had picked up and as we headed toward Mt. Horeb on Wisconsin's farm roads we encountered building headwinds in addition to the already challenging rolling terrain. I'm not a fast cyclist by any means, especially during the IM where I just wanted to survive without too many errors or mechanical issues, but was feeling pretty good during this round of headwinds and was motoring forward. As I pushed through the wind and across the low-rolling hills (the tougher ones come later), I was making some headway on some other riders on the course and found myself making some passes. Go me! But not everyone out there felt that way. I received a comment from the peanut gallery that went along the lines of "Aw man I'm getting passed by a girl" as I motored by a guy with a Zipp wheel in front and a disc wheel in back. OK so I was a little ticked off at the comment that I interpreted as having no right to be passing him but also that he was joking. So I joked back a "Hey, come on" but only heard silence; thinking he was mad I also shouted a just kidding, again with no response. Hmm. At least I never encountered him again. Sure I'm jealous of the people who pass me, but after they go by I always think more power to them...I wish I could be even half the cyclists they are.

And time and again, similar things have happened to me while swimming and cycling during triathlons. On the swim, I'll find the guy who starts in the wave ahead who I'll catch but who won't move out of the way and persists in sticking to a crooked path. Or on Spirit of Racine's bike course, I encountered a guy who either didn't want to get passed, or didn't know what he was doing on his bike. On a busier road the lane for cyclists was pretty narrow and spray paint on the pavement directed us to stay to the right. As we rounded the corner, the cyclist in front of me must have thought the signage said to stay left because all he did was drift further left in the lane, making it impossible to pass on the left without breaking the rules of leaving the lane or passing on the right. At least two guys creeping up on me saw my frustration and as they passed me with an on your left comment, nodded to my comment about figuring out the left-lane rider. But when they pedaled around him, he finally moved over, giving me a chance to pass too. I only mention this because of the above SlowTwitch link to complaints about the race--and to blow off some steam since the situation easily could have been ruled as blocking. Or take the circle swimming workout I found myself in when I begged to share a lane at the gym pool so I could squeeze in some laps one evening. Three triathletes in a lane, yet I could never figure out a good way to make a proper pass. I admit I didn't want to be annoying and tap the ankles--and feared that not everyone knew that swimming signal for passing--but at the same time, I thought the other two were annoyed with my swim antics. I'd find myself on their ankles and start to swim around, but even when they saw me they'd continue to swim as opposed to stopping for a second, even at the wall as I did my flip turn and they touched the wall before pushing off, to let me by. Sure I felt like I was ruling the pool that night--and enjoyed it--but in the process felt like they were hating me for being in the lane.

Whatever the case, I think we're all just asking for a fair shot out there. I know these situations are easily unintentional and just a case of bad fate, but still it's hard for a pint-sized athlete to hold his or her own next to a tanker--or a pusher and aggressor. And not to harp on it, but sometimes it sounds like there are some athletes out there reverting to antiquated ways and going all sexist on the race course stating that girls can't be that fast or something was up with those times. Sure I'll admit I'm puzzled about the 16-minute swim time someone posted on Sunday--even if the swim was short, not even elite racers came close to that time which has me suspecting something. But at the same time I can't help thinking about that silly mocking rhyme that kids taunt: girls rule and boys drool. Photo grabbed from Posted by Kate

Introducing a new section to Fit-Ink, Fit-Heat is our spot to blow off steam. If you have a thought to share for the section, please contact us at so we can post your vent. We know we're not the only ones out there frustrated over a race or action.

Monday, July 20, 2009

What Was in That Racine Water?

Something's in the water in Racine. Not only does that pocket of Lake Michigan water produce swim-like-the-fish times and fluctuating water temperatures, but it's almost like the triathletes pass through that water and onto some fast rides, runs and personal bests during the day. That's all I can say to start off my rendition of a race report from the Spirit of Racine, a half Ironman-distance triathlon I haphazardly added to my calendar a few weeks ago (seems to be a common theme with me and events this summer).

Not to rip off a post Liz already shared at Time Out Chicago (check out out by clicking here) with her race experiences, but I wanted to use her organization to share my own story.

The short version:

The medium version:
I almost didn't have information to post at all because when I returned from Racine and checked out the results posted online, I didn't have a finish time nor a swim time listed with my name. Fast forward 24 hours and the results site was updated, complete with penalties, swim times and final standings. And I finally knew how I stacked up instead of relying on my watch's time, which I probably started early and knew I stopped late to avoid a finish line photo of me staring at my wrist rather than pumping my fists in jubilation. The time, 5:12:58, and a new personal best for my record books.

The morning started with a 4:45 a.m. alarm I nearly ignored, two bananas spread with peanut butter, some nibbles on a bagel from the hotel's continental breakfast and Trader Joe's electrolyte-enhanced water. After final touches in transition and a walk down the beach that could almost look like a death march of triathletes, the gun went off at 7:12 a.m. for the 1.2-mile swim (which I think was short) in 64-degree water that had warmed from the 59 degrees announced at packet pick-up, followed by a 56-mile bike ride on the roads west and north of downtown Racine, and a 13.1-mile run on a two-loop course along the shoreline past houses and the Racine Zoo. And for once I could force myself to eat and hydrate on the bike and run: cleaning up all of the Hammer Nutrition Perpeteum and nearly all of the Gatorade in my Aerodrink bottle, cups of water and Heed during the run, two banana halves and two super-salty pretzels.

The long version:
I honest-to-goodness didn't think I was prepared for this race. I signed up on a whim in June when it sounded oddly appealing to race a half IM followed by another half IM two weeks later--after the Ironman challenge last September I guess my mind was telling me to devise some challenge for this summer too? But after running Grandma's Marathon followed by a painful week of hiking in Yellowstone and the Tetons and a weekend where I should have been riding my bike but never touched it, I was feeling less than prepared. And even in returning to Chicago to get back into the swing of things, I felt like I was failing daily thanks to our lackluster summer that has more cloudy, cold days than warm ones and I was missing my precious time swimming in Lake Michigan. Yet at the same time I was seeking revenge in Racine, specifically on the bike course where I flatted last year and although I continued on after struggling to change my tire, my whole game was thrown off and I had a less-than-stellar finish.

So while I wasn't thinking I was prepared, I figured I could at least still participate in the race, treat it as a training day for the 70.3 in two weeks and practice all the things I struggle with at each race--running up the sand, pulling off my wetsuit (quit getting stuck around my ankles), getting on and off the bike quickly, nutrition, etc. Good thinking, but if only everything was in 100 percent working order. Last Saturday, I meet Liz for a training ride and notice a small slit in my tire. It holds out for our ride but when I take the wheel to get fixed, I learn that my bike needs an overhaul--new chain, new cables and some loving that it didn't look like I was giving it. The swim looks like it's headed south too with a lousy open water swim that left me sloshing around Lake Michigan and times that seem far slower than past years. Then the run is a disaster when the foot pains fail to go away and only intensify. In a last-ditch effort to heal myself and get back on track I go for a massage which helps but also confirms I have plantar fasciitis in my foot and a shin splint in my leg. am I going to run now?

With all that being said, I pack up my gear and drive to Wisconsin anyway. I really start to have second thoughts when I check in and learn that the water temperature is 59 degrees. Brrr! Fine so it was colder last year measuring in at 56 degrees, possibly less, but I swore to myself I wouldn't want to endure those chilly temperatures again, or not without a long-sleeve wetsuit and some booties. I have neither, opting not to stop at the tri store on the way out of the city to buy booties and never reserving a warmer wetsuit. But I go and rack my bike anyway, bump into Liz as she's racking hers, and then go to Milwaukee to enjoy a relaxing dinner before race morning comes.

Once you've done these early morning races, they either become easier to deal with the early mornings because you've gone through the drill and know what to grab and/or do, or if you're just not in the mood, they're just a drag. I was definitely dragging Sunday morning. Ignored my alarm clock, took forever to get dressed and eat breakfast, and was even slower setting up my transition area--even forgetting temporarily how to put my water bottle onto my aerobars. And forgetting to take my timing chip off my bike until I already left transition--at least I had two minutes to spare to grab it and go.

Ah, the swim. The early morning announcement that the water temperature was now registering at 64 degrees sent cheers through the crowd, including me. But still that long march down the beach to the start always gets me. It's like you're being shipped to the point of no return, knowing that by the time you get to the start, the clock to start the day's event is too close for comfort. And this time as I walked out there I kept asking myself, "Why am I doing this?" and telling my husband that I really didn't want to be there. Those comments showed in the swim too. I can usually get off to a good start but I felt like I was sleeping while out there, just sort of moving along but not really making any headway and finding myself on the heels of others before swimming alone. But it did go by really quickly and I was surprised when I neared the last buoy and just had to swim in--and had to stand instead of swim thanks to a shallow swim course.

One done and now onto the bike. I took my time in transition--after being spoiled last September having my wetsuit peeled off my body, I've had trouble pulling it off on my own without some grabbing and yanking and tugging around the ankles. Same scenario on Sunday where I pryed it off but wasted precious moments and energy--at least I didn't get to my bike and find my sunglasses halfway down the racks and my helmet upside down in the aisle, which is what I faced last year. Then it was down the middle aisle, out the exit and into the mounting area to pedal uphill and hit the course. I changed my gears the night before to account for the hill but they weren't easy enough and that climb was still a bit painful, but then I hit my groove and kept riding. Aside from the periodic pavement bumps I was feeling good--my bike computer was a different story, first telling me I was traveling 31 mph, then hitting a bump and not registering anything. Guess that would mean I'd have to push the bike since I'd never know how fast or how far I was going. But that was the least of my worries. A common complaint from the triathletes at Racine was the drafting and blocking on the bike--it'd either be hard to get around someone, there'd be a stream of cyclists that would hold you up, or packs would fly by. Not fun, but at least I didn't hear fizzing coming from my bike tire or watch a chain drop off. Once I hit mile 40, I pushed the pace back to Racine, knowing I'd need as much bike cushioning I could get since I didn't think I could run. And that was a good feeling, creeping up on others who passed me at the start or out of transition and then soaring by. That whoo hoo made up for the earlier feeling when Zipp wheels and aerohelmets passed me up and I didn't stand a chance at holding my own against them. But at least I was feeling strong instead of tiring myself out from my death grip on the handlebars, failing to go aero and putting on the brakes downhill (yep, I get scared going fast thanks to previous crashes). And I'm building, losing time, between five-mile increments, starting to think that the mileage was off as I got faster.

The familiar start hill comes into view and we're all putting on the brakes so we don't crash into the crowd at the bike dismount area. Then I'm running into transition to get my run on. As I'm throwing on my running shoes and grabbing my gear, feeling like I'm taking longer than usual (luckily that was not the case when I saw my T2 time), I notice none of the other bikes are back from my rack. Talk about good encouragement on the bike. And feeling good as the run gets underway with my legs in seemingly working order, passing a couple people out of the exit. "No mechanical issues this time," I shout when I run past my husband, recalling my flat issues from last year. But I spoke too soon because it was my legs that would be giving me the problems this time. I held my own but not at the speed I wanted with the bottom of my left foot hurting thanks to plantar fasciitis that was only massaged out on Thursday, a sore right leg that had been giving me problems since hiking and shoes that felt more like boards than pillows. But I trudged through, ignoring the pain but watching the speedracers heading the opposite direction on the two-loop course and cheering for those I knew. It's not fun out there though when all those people you gained on during the bike fly right by on the run and under normal circumstances you could at least try to keep up...or you wonder when those behind are finally going to catch and pass you. But no complaints as I didn't get blisters which usually plague my feet and the food at some of the rest stops were happy sights--I've never eaten so many bananas or pretzels during a half marathon but they were so good. And the last three miles were more of a relief than a struggle, knowing that you're almost at the finish line and can trudge it out for that much longer.

And seeing that finish line in sight, looking at my watch and seeing I'm finishing far faster than the previous year, and hear the crowd cheering, those last few steps feel pretty good. I even cross the finish line with my arms outstretched, instead of my typical goof-ball move of stopping my watch before celebrating the accomplishment. But it does feel good to stop running. The only problem now is having to gear up the body, adrenaline and energy to do it all again in a few weeks. Guess that's event season, but not something I'd trade for a second. But I do wish I had seen Liz cross the finish I cheered for her on the run I said I'd see her at the finish line but somehow managed to miss the feat. Maybe another one next year? Posted by Kate

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Workout Wednesday in the Windy City

Not to bust your bubble if you're living outside Chicago and checking out this Fit-Ink post. A couple of cool events flew threw my inbox in the last few days that I wanted to share. Whether your workout is in a rut or you're seeking some helpful tips for your next race day, there's something for everyone around the Windy City this evening. I'm just bummed that I can't go to all three.
  • Pilates for Runners. Check out this seminar at the Fitness Formula Clubs' Gold Coast location beginning at 6 p.m. Granted you have to be a Fitness Formula member to take part, but it sounds full of tips for how runners can improve their strength and conditioning off the pavement. Experts will be on hand to show you how a Pilates workout designed to strengthen your core can not only improve your endurance on the run, but leave you breathing better and in better form.
  • Tour de France Viewing Party. The 11th stage of the Tour occurred today and you can catch all the action on the big screen thanks to the Element Triathlon Club. Head over to Brasserie JO for delicious French eats and post-work treats during the Happy Hour from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Did Lance advance in the rankings? Plus you can have your chance at winning a new bike from Kozy if you guess the correct stage winner.
  • Vision Quest Expert Series Clinic. For all of the triathletes beginning to fret about those races coming up as summer wears on, this one is for you. Charlie Cunnick, a VQ coach and former Northwestern University swimmer, talks about how you can swim faster and improve those oft-dreaded times without adding yardage or pool time. He'll offer up some tips and theories you can take to that next practice. The event begins at 7 p.m. adjacent to the VQ Chicago facility, at The Goddess and Grocer at 2222 N. Elston in Lincoln Park.
Or the other viable option is to spend an evening on the Lakefront. Looks like those storms haven't decided to breeze through so it could be a nice night on the path for a bike or run, or hitting the lake for an open water swim. Posted by Kate

Fit-Pic: Secret of Post-Century Eats (or Mine Anyway)

Suffice it to say, one look at the photo at the left and I think I lose my credibility as a Fit-Inker. Here we are talking about fitness, healthy eats and the active lifestyle, and I look like a couch potato chowing down on a definite no-no item. Trust me, the photo has a viable explanation, but one that does not make the nutrition gods pleased in the least.

I have a secret: I'm not talented enough to eat while I'm cycling. At triathlons I'll see several bikes in transition with gel packs taped to the frames, Bento Boxes stuffed with treats and bottles loaded with Gu. As for me, I can barely slurp down enough Perpetuem (a Hammer Nutrition product recommended to me last year for its liquid calories that are easy on the digestive tract) to keep me from bonking on the run. And if I'm riding for distance out on the Lakefront Path, at a century or on farm roads, I nix the fancy aerodrink bottle and only sport a 50-ounce Camelbak with emergency sugars stored in my Bento Box. At the centuries I refuel at the rest stops, and on the farm roads and Path I refuel when I return to start, not riding more than 50 miles when I'm out and relying solely on water. point to this long-winded explanation goes back to that torpedo you see entering my mouth as well as another treat that I luckily didn't capture on camera. When I finish those long bike rides, I'm still hungry. Take Sunday, for example, where my husband and I rode the Heatstroke 100, battling some gentle rollers and medium to tough headwinds for the day:
  • Rest stop 1, roughly 9 miles into the ride. Chowed down a banana slathered in peanut butter--my favorite pre-ride breakfast--and drank some Gatorade and water. I ate my last banana the morning before, didn't eat before leaving the house at 6 a.m. and would prefer to skip breakfast than resort to fast food.
  • Rest stop 2, 22 miles later at mile 31-ish. Stole a bite of my husband's apple, more banana and peanut butter, two slices of watermelon, more Gatorade.
  • Rest stop 3, 60 miles in. Handful of trail mix, two more slices of watermelon, three cups of Gatorade.
  • Rest stop 4, 10 miles later. We talked about skipping this stop but we did get off our bikes and I grabbed a cup of Gatorade before continuing onward.
  • Rest stop 5, 80 miles in. Half a banana with peanut butter, a cookie, an apple, more Gatorade and water.
  • Rest stop 6, less than 5 miles to go. A Nutter Butter and water.
  • I think I ate another apple somewhere along the way, and I feel like I ate more at stop No. 5 than what I listed but I can't remember it. Also, I continued to sip from my Camelbak while pedaling.
Some people reading this run down of my food intake might be ready to slap me in the back of the head as they do in the "Should Have Had a V-8" commercials, knowing that there's no way I ate enough out there. I'm convinced I'm a nutritionist's nightmare even though I really don't feel hungry while I'm pedaling and the reward comes after the bike is in the car and the miles are done for the day. I'm the one who caters to the "feed me" stomach by feasting on ice cream. Last year after the Heatstroke 100--easily the longest day on a bike ever thanks to hills, constant headwinds and extreme heat--the Dairy Queen within eyesight of our car was calling our names. But my ice cream needs post-ride didn't end with a one-time Blizzard. After practicing on the Ironman Wisconsin course last August, I'd pass a Culver's on my way out of Verona and I hate to say it but not once did I pass up stopping before driving back to Chicago. I'd spill the concrete on myself trying to drive and eat before ignoring the custard craving.

Alas, the DQ received our business once again at the end of this year's Heatstroke 100. Filled me up too--at least until the following day. Monday morning and I'm famished, and the banana, cereal and then bagel do not want to fill me up and there's no ice cream in sight either. As for what to eat the day after riding 100 miles, two days after logging nearly 50, we figured the massive torpedo in my hands was justified. So the burrito that's twice the length of that from Chipotle and has to weigh close to five pounds became the "I-deserve-it meal." I confess I only nibbled--I passed on ordering my own foot-long brick--but if it my name on it and not my husband's I totally would have chowed down. Maybe not the healthiest of post-race eats--loaded with chicken, easy on the lettuce and beans but just enough guacamole, and two tortillas to build the monster--but it satiated my taste buds. Posted by Kate

Run Down the Aisle to "I Do"

If you're a regular--or somewhat regular--follower of the Today Show, especially tuning in to watch the features that stray from generic news clips and updates, then you might know what today brings on the Today airwaves. Today Throws a Wedding caps off its 10th wedding during this morning's coverage, featuring the vineyard-themed wedding for runners Nick Cordes and Leigh Daniel. The key word here is runners, as I'm sure Liz and I can both attest that the wedding countdown wouldn't have been as exciting this season if these two runners weren't among the competitors or then selected as the wedding couple.

Liz--she beat me to the punch--shared her excitement over the news months ago when Nick and Leigh were still competing for America's vote (speaking of which, did you cast a vote for this couple?) and we both quietly followed them through the competition rounds and daily wedding choices in the past weeks. Admittedly, I fell off the wagon just before the final couple was selected, but loved checking in again to see my faves watching their choices for wedding dress, attendants' attire, rings and honeymoon. And I was pumped even more when Natalie Morales casually mentioned how Nick proposed to Leigh: strolling up to her and asking her while she was cycling on a stationary bike. Not only do these two have a sweet proposal but they also have a less-than-ordinary courtship thanks to meeting while in the Olympic development program and getting kicked off the team for falling in love (or something like that--here's the story told by Today). Talk about true love to put their goals of one day competing in the Olympics aside.

I can't wait to check out the ceremony, and see if there are more runners among the attendants. Stay tuned to NBC for more coverage, or follow their Twitter feed online. I'm curious to see who goes for a run before walking down the aisle. Photo grabbed from Posted by Kate

Monday, July 13, 2009

Back...with a Vengeance

Sorry for being MIA to all the Fit-Inkers out there. Going on an active vacation and then coming back to reality--both work duties and a training call--certainly don't bode well for my system. I'm either writing emails, reading news and fun stuff that I'd like to track down more info on to blog about, talking training or training with Liz, or catching up on sleep (isn't a vacation supposed to re-energize the system not zap it?) that when I look to share news on Fit-Ink there's nothing left in my fingers to spill out.

But with it being National Blog Month (I swear I saw a headline about this around the Fourth of July), several events that have happened or are happening, and more great news to share with active people like us, I'm vowing to get back on the wagon. Erin at Fit Bottomed Girls phrased it perfectly a few months ago when she fell out of her workout routine. Except that I'm Kate and I've fallen off the Fit-Ink wagon...and now I'm desperately sprinting to catch up. Stay tuned for more updates and again sorry about nothing new to view. Just like a fitness routine can lose its focus, apparently so can blogging, especially when there just don't seem to be enough hours in the day. Posted by Kate


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