Monday, August 31, 2009

Gettin' Lucky in Kentucky

The winner's circle isn't only reserved for horses in the Bluegrass State. Louisville might be home to the Kentucky Derby but it's also host to one of the few Ironman events in the States with all the hype cooling off after the May event only to ramp up again come the end of August. Ironman Louisville was among one of the many endurance events taking place over the weekend--I only touched on a few last week, even accidentally omitting the infamous Hood to Coast relay--and for those participating it was all about getting lucky in Kentucky but not in the phrase's traditional connotation.

Part of the reason to hold an Ironman event in Louisville in August is for the added challenge of battling the heat and humidity in addition to the distance and terrain. Take China's Ironman this April where the temps soared to 113 degrees, or Ironman Arizona when it was held in April left athletes struggling through scorching sunlight and intense winds (both events have since been moved to different times of the year). Typically Louisville is no exception with heavy rain producing fast currents in the Ohio River when the race was first held in 2007 and then intense heat--nearly equated to Kona proportions--last year. But 2009 was different, with projected highs only being in the 70s--I heard high of 75 on The Weather Channel as they rolled through the State Fair forecast. So at least from a weather standpoint you could say that triathletes were getting lucky in having a better-than-average race day.

The other luck and hard work comes on the race course itself with the record-setting crowd--news posted online stated that nearly 3,000 athletes were registered to participate--competing for rights to boast Ironman completion and for one of the 64 age-group slots, 8 pro slots to October's World Championships. This weekend marked the last chance to nab a ticket to Kona in 2009--Ironman Wisconsin on September 13 marks the first chance to qualify for the 2010 Championships.

Talk about an eclectic crowd--triathletes came from more than 20 countries and across North America to race in Louisville. If you check out the results, you'll see racers from Texas, Colorado, Indiana, California, Kansas, and Ohio just to name a few states. And maybe it's just my quick scan of other Ironman results but Ironman Lake Placid tends to have several racers from the East Coast, especially New York, and Ironman Wisconsin has a large concentration of athletes from Wisconsin and Illinois.

And they were fast. The men and women professional winners, Viktor Zyemtsev and Nina Kraft, won in course record-setting time, and a record 2,345 triathletes finished the race. Some of the age groupers even bested the pros, finishing among the top 10 overall. While there weren't many Chicagoans competing, the bulk is tapering for Ironman Wisconsin, there were a few area athletes participating. There are probably more with Chicago connections, but one that stands out is D'Arcy Lynch who finished second among the 30- to 34-year-old women. The cool news with that story is that this year will mark Lynch's third trip to Kona--she first qualified at Ironman Wisconsin in 2006 and then scored a spot at last year's Ironman Louisville. Another standout is MJ Slikas, who won her 40-44 age group and also earned a return trip to the Big Island. Congrats!

Check out the official results and updates at I'd post them here, but didn't want to be too repetitive. Photo grabbed from merfam at flickr. Posted by Kate

Friday, August 28, 2009

No Excuse for Skipping Hydration

What's the most popular accessory for carrying your water and sports drinks when you're out and about? I wish I knew the answer, but I can only surmise based on observations and personal preference. But with all of the options out there, you can't really have an excuse for not staying hydrated even if you're just scouting out the nearby water fountain. Here are a few that I've spotted on the go this summer.

Camelbak--or the like--hydration packs: These backpacks with straws (that's what I call it at least) conveniently draped over the shoulder make hydrating on-the-go almost too easy, especially if you don't want to dig in a bag for a water bottle or search for a water fountain. These are really popular while hiking, and I've seen some people sporting them while running and walking. I find it easy to use while cycling, especially on century rides and lately I've spotted triathletes using them during races (and I thought I was one of the few who used it while racing a few years ago, but earlier in the month I must have seen at least five triathletes wearing them on the 56-mile bike).

Water bottles: This is the option I think I spot the most often. We'll buy them as singles or in 24-packs at the grocery store, grab them from volunteers after a race, tote them to the beach or to work. And they're easy to fill with our favorite combination of fluid whether it be straight-up tap water, PUR-filtered water, a sports drink or even watered-down juice.

Fuel Belt or any other brand of belt with bottles: Popular among runners, especially half marathoners and marathoners, these are great for carrying a sports drink for those long miles where you know you need something besides water from the water fountain (that's me and my Lakefront runs) or you're going out in the middle of nowhere and know you won't be getting fuel unless you bring your own.

Aerobottles like the Aerodrink: They take on different names and looks but these are a step up from a traditional water bottle and fit in between the aerobars and a handy way to stay fueled during a triathlon. Fill them with any combination of water, sports drink, energy fuel (like Hammer Nutrition products, Accelerade or Infinit). Then when you're racing you don't have to reach down or behind you to pick up a water bottle, just bend down a pinch and sip from the straws. Another one of my faves.

Hand-held or waist-wrap bottle carriers: I don't know about you, but it's tough to carry a water bottle as is while on the run because it can easily slip out of your grip. These holders make it a lot easier by either strapping the bottle around your hand or slipping into a holder that wraps like a fanny pack around your waist. Not to go back to triathlons again, but I've seen a lot of people sporting these, especially the hand-held ones, on the run leg so they can hydrate before waiting for a water station to pop up. Some companies making these include RoadRunner Sports, Asics, Brooks, Fuel Belt, Ultimate Direction, Nike, Amphipod and Nathan.

Hydration stations: OK, this obviously isn't an accessory but at least here in Chicago we're fortunate enough to have a great bunch of volunteers who come out on Saturday mornings at points along the 18 miles of Lakefront Path to set up tables filled with water and Gatorade. It's just like being at a race where you can help yourself and then you don't even have to carry your own fuel.

Water fountains: What's not to love about the good ol' water fountain? It's usually an easy find in a public spot, so you don't have to always worry about bringing your own fuel. That's a plus in my book--I like to carry as little as possible when I run, even trying to leave my house keys behind if someone's at home. I wish all running routes had water fountains as accessible as my home base Lakefront. I know where nearly all of the water fountains are on the Path so I can stop and sip as I please. The only problem is in the winter and early spring when the fountains are turned off, but six to eight months--maybe even more depending on the weather--out of the year isn't worth complaining about.

So with all of these options, how do you stay hydrated? Photo grabbed from Mike Schmid at flickr. Posted by Kate

Adventure-Packed Weekend

It's hard to believe that summer is starting to wind down (sob), between kids already going back to school, the cooler temps that we cannot seem to shake in Chicago, and late-summer fruits and veggies making their way to the farmer's markets. Labor Day Weekend is just around the corner but before it gets here, it feels like there's one last pre-September hoorah for events. I thought there was a lot going on sports-wise in Chicago this weekend but it turns out things are bustling across the country--at least in the sports I track. Here are some events to keep your eyes on this weekend and either attend if you're nearby or track from home.

The big news around Chicago is that it's Chicago Triathlon weekend. The hype is definitely around the city with triathletes lining up at Fleet Feet Monday morning to rent wetsuits, the last-minute workouts on the Lakefront, the easy runs, and then the Friday and Saturday action at the expo. And as someone pointed out to me, this is one of the city's last big showdowns before the 2016 Olympic bid announcement. With the Chicago Triathlon being the inspiration and guide to the Olympic design, if the Olympics are held in the Windy City, the race might have to be on its best behavior. Now if only the weather could hold out.

But the triathlon is not the only event going on around town. Sure, the kids events and SuperSprint take place on Saturday and the Sprinters and Olympic-distance racers kick things off on Sunday morning, but the city is also hosting a sea marathon on Saturday. Take a paddle and kayak 26.2 miles past Chicago landmarks and racing against other boats toward the finish.

Or if you want to get in some distance on the bike...Vision Quest Coaching is heading to Lake Geneva for a century ride. You don't have to ride the 100 miles--other distances are available--but you might want to simply to enjoy the rolling hills and lake town atmosphere.

It's starting to sound like the Olympics are already around Chicago between the events listed above and then knowing that if you hit the Lakefront Path Saturday morning you'll see packs of runners en masse training for the Chicago Marathon. But there are still two more event to fill out the Olympic line-up. The AVP tour comes to Oak Street Beach and some of the best beach volleyball players are tearing up the sand in all-day tourney action. While you may not get to see Kerri Walsh, who gave birth to her first child earlier this year, or Misty May-Treanor repeat an Olympic-sized victory, there are plenty of other v-ball superstars (who also sport super bodies to ogle over) competing. Or check out the shores of Lake Michigan for the Chicago Shoreline Marathon. This 26.2-mile event swaps running singlets and sneakers for oars and kayaks at takes places on Saturday. You'll even catch a few familiar Chicago faces from WGN, NBC5, Fox, ABC and other local stations.

While the active weekend is always a fun one to have in the summer, there's still just as much action to be had without leaving the house or being in Chicago (I was just amazed that all of these events were happening over one weekend when it seemed like there was hardly anything happening last weekend). If you're an Ironman fan, there's a showdown this weekend in Canada and Kentucky, and you can track it all at Triathletes are scrambling for some of the last spots at this year's World Championships at Ironman Canada and Ironman Louisville. Both occur on Sunday with start cannons going off just hours apart. And with racers taking at least eight hours to finish, it's a good event to check on periodically throughout the day. Perfect if the less-than-ideal temperatures have you down--it feels more like fall than summer doesn't it?--and you're thinking a weekend at home is in the cards.

Uh oh, I'm starting to sound like a walking event calendar again. Time to get out and get moving--or just battle the chill. Good luck to everyone racing this weekend! Posted by Kate

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What Some People Will Do for a Wetsuit, Part 2

Was a new shoe being released? No. Did I miss an announcement about a sale? Not that I could find in rereading a newsletter. So what caused the line forming outside Fleet Feet Piper's Alley on Monday morning? The hottest commodity on the block, at least if you're a triathlete: a wetsuit rental that would get you through the weekend's Chicago Triathlon.

And this wasn't just any line. My husband spotted it when he biked down Wells after a night on call and when I went over more than an hour later the line wrapped past the building, along the residential courtyard and in front of the next set of buildings north. Those in search of wetsuits brought chairs and cushions to sit on, reading material and more to keep them entertained. You'd think they were waiting to score tickets to a hot concert, but no, they wanted one of the 60 or so wetsuits available for weekly rental at the store.

I have to admit, at first I thought they were a little crazy to be spending $50 to rent a suit for seven days. They could possibly find a slightly used one online at for the same price or find a sale at an online retailer and get some discount on an item they could use year after year. Plus the idea of waiting in line to find out your size was out would be heart-wrenching.

But they knew something about the weather that had escaped my radar or had some extra sensory perception telling them that race weekend would warrant a wetsuit. Yes, Chicago has been blessed, or unblessed depending on how you look at it, with a less-than-stellar summer, especially when it comes to the temperatures and the rain. And the weather also left us playing Russian Roulette to see what we'd wake up to especially as races approached (I've only checked three times but I swear the forecast has differed every time from an ideal partly cloudy 74-degree day to rain to temps in the 60s). But despite that, Lake Michigan was at least attempting to warm to its typical late-summer temps. Until last weekend, that is, when the Lake was bone-chilling cold and some athletes claimed they were so cold they turned around and got out before completing their desired distance.

Whatever the reason, these racers knew that they needed that wetsuit to solidify their goals of completing the triathlon. The first person in line (pictured above on right) said he arrived around 6:15 a.m. to wait for Fleet Feet's 10 a.m. opening. He didn't want to work all summer to race the Chicago Tri and then have a little weather get in the way of keeping him comfortable in the three disciplines--not exactly his words, but I didn't have a notebook with me and couldn't write anything down. And the three photographed above would be scoring some extra warmth come race day. They comprised part of the first five in line.

Good luck racers and hope no one was left out in the cold! Posted by Kate

Monday, August 24, 2009

Fit-Pic: What Some People Will Do for a Wetsuit

What some people will do for a wetsuit--waiting in line, camping out and maybe even arguing a bit over who was actually in line. But judging from the predictions for this weekend's weather in's initial forecast of 74 and sunny (at least when I checked on Saturday) has now changed to a sub-70 day--and after taking a dip in Lake Michigan where I was freezing for a majority of the mile, they may have been onto something. These triathletes wrapped around Fleet Feet's Piper's Alley location on Monday morning, hoping to score one of the 60 or so wetsuits the store was offering for rental for this weekend's Chicago Triathlon.

More triathlon coverage to follow. Stay tuned. Posted by Kate

Friday, August 21, 2009

Gear Off Kara Goucher's Back

It's that time again where we're gearing up for some Kara Goucher action on the racing scene. Yes, we're still floored from Kara's win at the Rock 'n' Roll Half on our home turf a few weeks ago, perhaps because we don't want all this Kara hype to disappear if she does take that well deserved break to start a family. But before that happens, Kara's toeing the line at the World Championships in Berlin, hoping to speed past the competition in the marathon and finally get that sought-after victory that has eluded her at her other races in New York City and Boston. I know I'll be tuning in--although I have yet to figure out how that'll happen--to cheer for Kara once again. And to check out what she'll be sporting on race day. In the two-plus-hour event, what else besides clothing and shoes are you going to look at after you've already sized up the competition, spotted the racers you want to watch, and wished you could have abs and legs that are that ripped? Or at least that keeps me entertained after I whisk the "if only I could run like that" thoughts out of my head.

So what's Kara going to be sporting during the 26.2 miles? The jury is still out on some of the goods, but we were lucky enough to find out some details on her footwear. And I'm willing to bet some of her old favorites, or styles at least, will make their way out of her closet. Here's how to score an outfit nearly as awesome as Kara's, available at a Niketown near you or online at

Lunaracers--These lightweight speedsters combine the racing flat weight with training shoe cushioning. While Kara will be running a pair specially designed with a hot pink bottom, you can score these with a neon yellow bottom.

Race Day Airborne Top--Kara sports this top at many of her races, just peruse some pictures from the year and you'll see it in pink, white and green. The question is what color will she wear on Sunday, August 23? For a similar item, you can also sport the Distance Airborne top, available in the same shade of green as the top Kara wore at Rock 'n' Roll Chicago.

Race Day Brief--Kara wears these on her bottoms at every race, and according to what Liz reported on Kara's Boston outfit, these are Kara-specific. But that doesn't mean you can't wear short shorts too. Find a slightly longer version in the Race Day Boy Brief--black, short and tight.

While it's not a running outfit, I'll be cheering in my Bring Boston Home tee that Nike printed for Kara's Boston run. Time to go get Kara-fied! Photo courtesy of Nike. Posted by Kate

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Steelhead Short Report

There's a reason it's taken me forever to post an update about the Steelhead 70.3 Triathlon on August 1: I cannot finish my race report. I'm partially to blame as I'm always psyched to write reports about good races and less-than-thrilled to share the bad ones. And while we all dealt with the weather conditions that definitely affected my racing day, there was more to what I like to call my downfall than that. So while I'm still finishing up the play-by-play, here's an abbreviated version.

Happy Thoughts
*Good dinner the night before with my parents at Timothy's in Union Pier.
*Having my parents watch me compete, especially since my husband was stuck in Chicago on call and no one would trade shifts with him (which also falls into the not-so-happy category).
*The swim wasn't canceled this year. Hooray for not running 2 miles, then biking and then running 13.1 (my legs really didn't like that last year).
*Knowing several people who were also racing. My gym had really good representation, especially the Thursday night spin class, which also meant I didn't have to walk the 1.2 miles to the swim start by myself.
*Body surfing in the water. We had gentle waves building in Lake Michigan as the morning wore on, and if you caught them right you could surf across them, making the long swim go by just a little faster and more fun.
*The post-race party. OK, so it's not really the party because a local Benton Harbor restaurant does host an event for athletes after the race, but the finish line atmosphere is a fun one. After you've received your medal and had your chip clipped, you don't want to exit the athlete-only area right away. There are chairs to relax in--and they're undercover--kiddie pools filled with ice-cold Gatorade, soda and water, and tables that start looking like the Farmer's Market I was missing at home, filled with fresh peaches, nectarines and plums. Delish after chomping down on mushy bananas and Sport Beans on the course. And that's not even counting the Pizza Hut buffet that awaits after reuniting with your family outside the athlete-only zone. It sounds grossly unhealthy and yeah, it kind of is since you can beg volunteers to keep piling pizza, chicken, burgers, pasta, and garlic bread and breadsticks onto your plate, but it's oh so good upon finishing. And after a painful bike and run (more to come on that), it was well deserved too.
*Ideal water temperature. Lake Michigan can be finicky in terms of its temperature. Take the chilly temps hovering around Racine for the 2008 Spirit of Racine--I froze in 56-degree water--and again in 2009 where it measured 59 degrees the day before the race. I never heard the water temperature in Benton Harbor but it wasn't a brace-yourself-it's-cold day and the water felt pretty good.
*The volunteers at these half Ironman races are amazing. I didn't really pay attention to them on the bike because I carry my own fuel and can't grab a bottle while riding (definitely a skill I need to work on), but on the run they were plentiful and with the exception of one bad choice on my end they were always stocked with cups, sponges and food. Thank you!
*The cops stopping traffic at the major intersections. I sound like I'm whining but I swear I had a close call with a car last year at the race. I'm riding my bike past an intersection and a cop has instructed a car to pull out onto the main road, but the car looks like it's about to plow into me and the guy who's about to pass me instead of making a tight turn and going into the far lanes. Talk about scary. But at least I wasn't put in a similar situation this time around.
*Having relatively the same run course as last year. I like signing up for the same race year after year so that I can gauge improvement--or lack of--and get more familiar with the course. And while the 2008 course was different from the 2007 one with an added hill that we had to run up twice, everything was the same this time around.

Not-So-Happy Thoughts
*Me. I'm thinking I wasn't recovered from the Racine race, or what I thought was taking it easy for that race was really harder than planned. I just had more than my fair share of disappointment for the day.
*The close quarters of the transition area. We were so cramped walking the rows of transition and the bikes seemed really close together. Sure, there are bags and more people in the tight quarters before the race, but it was just as bad during the race, especially coming in from the bike. I was hopping over wetsuits that got tossed into the aisle and carefully making sure I didn't swing my bike too close to the bikes already racked. Kinda crazy.
*The pain on the run. Again, this all goes back to me and issues my body was having. My left foot was numb when I started out on the run--that was a new sensation, and not a good one--and then it went to heated pain where my heel felt on fire. That was the plantar fasciitis talking. And that's not counting the issues my right leg was giving me--it just hurt to run and you couldn't ignore it.
*The wind, the wind, the wind. Talk about a strategy going awry...I usually go a comfortable pace to gain my bike legs and then throw it into high gear for the back half. But as we turned onto highway 63 for the long stretch home, we were met with a wall of wind. Ugh, and all you could do was watch the speedometer slip, hold on tight--I swear I was going to get thrown on some of those gusts--and watch the bike time take longer than planned. And while some people said they felt a tailwind earlier, I always thought the wind was blowing around me.
*The path to the bike in area. There was a new twist to get to the bike dismount area. The bike route was mixed up a little this year and in my opinion, not exactly for the better. Instead of turning off the highway, then one more turn before the bike dismount line on a wide road, we had to pull off the highway, turn onto a foot path and pedal--or more like wind because you really couldn't go fast--past lines of spectators, and then dismount. It was a little hairy and I'm an early unclipper and had to clip in and out so I didn't topple over on the turns, and it was nervewracking riding past so many onlookers while in what I called a caution zone.
*Cars on the road, especially a white, beat up Bonneville. While many people complained about drafting at my other half Ironman, Racine, it didn't really affect me except to discourage my speed (or lack thereof) when a pack would go by. This time the drafting was at a minimum, if at all, but there were cars on the road that were getting in the way. I can totally understand the impossibility of having a 56-mile route completely closed to traffic but when a car gets in your way and won't pass you and you can't pass it--yes that's the Bonneville part--it gets incredibly frustrating. And he gave me the finger as I struggled to figure out a way around him. I think he was attempting to pass a slower cyclist in front but there was no oncoming traffic yet he didn't move over and blocked those of us--OK, maybe just me--approaching from behind. Talk about full speed ahead when I could finally pass. And then it happened later where a red minivan was driving down the road ahead of me. It never got in my way but it looked like it tripped up a few people, maybe even caused a woman to ride off the road, lose her balance and have to get back on her bike.
*The rain. It's always nice to hang out at the beach, enjoy the pizza buffet and then slowly head back to transition, pack up and go home. Rain was on its way and fast at the finish. By the time I left the athlete-only area, talked to some friends and got in line for the pizza buffet, it started to sprinkle and then just flat-out rain. So the leisurely post-race atmosphere turned into a chow down, a hustled limp to transition to shove gear into a bag and then more shuffling to the car.

OK so it sounds like a laundry list, but I guess I get very analytical when I have frustrating races. And this one definitely got me flustered. The sad part was the day started like that and never seemed to improve either. Oh well, just chalk it up for the next race. And know that I have to slow down and rest my legs before I'm really sidelined. And I guess this "short report" was a little more than I planned on--more of a highlights or memories list. More to come... Posted by Kate

Monday, August 3, 2009

Those Are Some Fast Legs

Not that I should be at all surprised, but sheesh...Kara Goucher is a speed demon at the half marathon distance. She didn't even need padding--like those starts at the NYC Marathon in years past or the SkirtChaser 5K where the women have a head start on the men--to be the first person across the finish line at Sunday's Rock 'n' Roll Chicago Half Marathon. If you were lucky enough to be in Grant Park Sunday morning to watch the finish--I missed it unfortunately, cooling off after a debacle of a race at Steelhead (more to come on that one)--you saw Kara Goucher sprint to the finish line in 1:08:05 mere seconds ahead of male overall winner Chad Ware (1:08:24).

Not only did the win keep Goucher undefeated at the half-marathon distance--she won in Lisbon earlier this year in 1:08:29 and debuted at the distance in 2007 at England's Great North Run running 1:06:57--but her 5:12 per-mile pace set her 13 minutes ahead of the female finishers. No question they were fast too, with second and third finishing in 1:21:50 and 1:22:28, respectively (I only wish I could hold paces like that). These guys and girls make running look easy. I'm jealous! For more results click here. Photo grabbed from Stewart Dawson at flickr. Posted by Kate


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