Thursday, December 30, 2010

Pedaling to Those New Year's Resolutions

Whether you asked for a new bicycle for the holidays or you’ve watched your current ride collect dust over the last few months, you know you don’t want winter hibernation to get the best of you and win in the battle against personal fitness gains. Forget the excuses the your new ride isn’t ready for worn tires, you don’t want to clear the bike cobwebs, or it’s too cold, gloomy, snowy, icy, insert-winter-adjective-here to pedal until the ground thaws. We have a solution to break in the new ride, whisk the dust bunnies away and prevent you from feeling sorry for yourself when you’re frustrated over bike splits come spring. And what's even better is that it comes to town right after the holidays are over, meaning even more motivation to stick to those New Year's resolutions that often fall by the wayside just days into January.

Meet the latest round of Taste of VQ, the Vision Quest Coaching program designed to let you sample world-class coaching and structured cycling workouts that have seen proven results among past participants. If you've ever wanted to train with a professional cyclist, here's your chance as Vision Quest was founded by Robbie Ventura who once rode with the U.S. Postal Service Team that helped carry Lance Armstrong to a Tour de France win (I hope I'm describing that right). Plus it will help you feel fitter and faster—even besting a few competitors who had the one-up on you before—in the saddle when winter’s over and you’re ready to ride—or race—outside again.

You know you're already starting to plot those resolutions after feeling like you've packed on the pounds in the last week. And the timing couldn't be more perfect...this next Taste of VQ session starts on January 3, right after you've watched almost all the bowl games you can handle, eaten the last of the holiday cookies and told yourself your diet starts now. The session runs through the week of February 27 and offers eight sessions of bike training to prep your body for successful cycling come next season, drop a few holiday pounds and take your power levels to new heights. Instead of feeling like you’re trapped indoors, you can be laying the foundation for the upcoming year—and getting a head start on those goals you fell short on last season or what you want to accomplish in the future.

Taste of VQ can help you address your weaknesses and improve your skills while working on cadence and pedaling abilities. You’ll also see plenty of short VO2 intervals with lots of rest and some strength endurance work, which will help you maintain the development level you achieved in the last season while continuing to grow. 

Once a week, you can come and train using VQ equipment and have access to the staff. This package is perfect if you are unfamiliar with the benefits of a performance center versus a gym, or if you are unsure that structured workouts really make a difference. And at $150 a session, it won't break the bank, especially if you're feeling a little tapped dry from the holidays. To learn more and to sign up, check out Then prepare to be pushed to your limits and beyond.

Photo grabbed from

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christian Vande Velde Visits Garmin Chicago

Christian Vande Velde at 2008 USA Pro Cycling Championships
He's a world-class professional cyclist. He races with Team Garmin-Transitions. He contended for the yellow jersey at the 2010 Tour de France before pulling out with two broken ribs. He's won a stage of the Giro d'Italia and finished as the overall champion of the 2008 Tour of Missouri. He's the one and only Christian Vande Velde, a familiar name among the cycling world and even more familiar, perhaps, among Chicago circles thanks to his suburban roots (Vande Velde was born in Lemont).

It's not every day that you have the opportunity to meet a cyclist of Vande Velde's caliber, but your chance comes this week for Chicagoans or anyone else hanging out along Michigan Avenue come Wednesday. Vande Velde will be at the Garmin Store at 663 N. Michigan Ave., on Wednesday, December 29. From 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., the 34-year-old cyclist will be on hand to sign autographs. And maybe you can sneak in a photo op or a question that needs a pro's answer.

Whether you're off from work this week or still plugging in a few days before the New Year, this is one diversion you could use. But be sure to arrive early...I've heard that a similar event last year had crowds in the store and out the door. And do you really want to pass up a meeting with this cyclist who's not only the Team Garmin leader but a leader among the field?

For more details about the event, contact Garmin Chicago.

Photo grabbed from fsteele770 at flickr.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Fit-Q: What did Santa bring you for Christmas?

By now the presents have been opened, the stockings emptied, and the stomachs stuffed with holiday breakfast, dinner and all the snacks in between. So the all important question that's on most people's inquisitive minds is what did Santa bring you for Christmas? Being that we like to talk about fitness, we're wondering what fit finds found their way under the tree this year.

Was it that new Garmin that you wanted to track your runs? The road bike you'd been eyeing all year but couldn't justify purchasing on your dime? Did your parents or mate outfit you with new racing gear? I could go on, but it's no fun to only list items I've received over the years. I need some new hints for my wish list, and want to hear from others. Please share in the comments! And hope you had an enjoyable holiday!

Photo grabbed from jimmiehomeschoolmom at flickr.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Fit-Pic: Snow, Ho, Ho

Think Santa can only be found at the North Pole prepping for the big Christmas delivery? Wrong. Santas are in full-force this time of year. At the mall, ringing bells on the street corner, at the holiday party--the obvious spots that this mind could name. Then there are the not-so-mundane, as this video illustrates. Santa knows how to shred--and shred well--at Keystone's A-51 terrain park. I couldn't resist...I've heard of Santa on the bike and Santa on the run and Santa on skis (even those who could ski free at The Canyons on December 18), but the snowboarding was a new one.

Any unusual spots you've seen Santa that don't require the Norad tracker that goes into full force on Christmas Eve?

Video courtesy of Keystone Resort at youtube.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

David Barton Wants You...

David Barton wants you to sweat. David Barton wants you to burn calories. David Barton wants you to enjoy guilt-free holiday eating--or at least try. David Barton wants you to get Carved at Thanksgiving and Trim at Christmas. But who is this David Barton and what doesn't he want you to do this holiday? David Barton is a body-building entrepreneur, in short, who's the namesake behind DavidBartonGym. And he doesn't want you to pack on the pounds over the holidays, especially tomorrow on Christmas Eve.

"How so?" you ask. DavidBartonGym locations in Chicago, South Beach, Seattle and New York's Astor Place and 23rd & Seventh are opening their doors to anyone looking for a workout on December 24 between 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. (according to the Facebook invite, anyway). Not a bad deal for anyone who happens to be in these locales without a gym membership or spot to workout while visiting family or friends--perfect, actually, since some fitness center guest fees can run upwards of $20 per day. Or if you're a local, this freebie offers an ideal chance to no-holds-barred check out the gym, change up the usual routine and try something new.

But you don't have to only hit up the cardio machines upon your visit. DavidBartonGym is practically begging you, in a good way, to check out TRIM, a new, intense 60-minute class. Developed by David Barton, this hour-long weight training class is designed to target all the muscle groups and guarantees  to prevent post-dinner or holiday party weight gain. Bonus for a day often filled with eggnog, Christmas cookies and nibbles at every turn. The magic formula: Start indulging within two hours of working out to maximize your metabolism. Your workout will help bring your body to a hormonal state that prevents you from storing fat and gaining pounds.

For more information and to register for the free 12 p.m. class, check out Your body will thank you for it come December 26. Or if you can't make it this time, give yourself a jump-start on those New Year's Resolutions with another round of freebies on New Year's Eve.

Photo grabbed from DavidBartonGym.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Eight Reasons to Run During Tonight's Lunar Eclipse

I know what you're thinking, Chicago: The weather is ruining your total lunar eclipse plans, especially if those plans included tonight's Lunar Eclipse run and Nike LunarEclipse+ launch at Fleet Feet Sports's Piper's Alley location.  It's cold. It's late--that 1 a.m. gathering time and 1:30 a.m. departure to catch the eclipse at 1:41 a.m. is going to require a nap, some caffeine and a little rallying. It's snowing and the Lakefront Path has definitely been covered by Old Man Winter. And you know the cloud cover and continuing snowfall are too thick to see tonight's total lunar eclipse. But don't let Debbie Downer win tonight, keeping you indoors, dry and warm and snow-free. Here's why you still want to make the trek to Fleet Feet for an event that's sure to go down in Chicago running history:
  • The last time a total lunar eclipse coincided with winter solstice was back in 1638, and it's only supposed to coincide one more time this millennium. Twice in one-thousand years, people.
  • It's the longest night of the year and the shortest day, you may as well have a fun event planned around running in the dark. 
  • Whether you've run through all of the city's other snow spectacles like the Shamrock Snow-Shuffle, last week's Rudolph Ramble or the year of the snowy Chicago Marathon (and that's not even all the events marred by our crazy bad-timing weather), or you've never braved the elements, you'll earn your bragging rights tonight. Snow covering the ground, sub-freezing temps, and a run that starts when you would ordinarily be in bed? I'd award a badge on the spot.
  • An event with Fleet Feet and Nike involved? From fashion shows and shoe unveilings at Fleet Feet to Nike's special runs back in March and April, I haven't been disappointed yet. 
  • You'll get a chance to trial the newest shoes to join the Nike family, the LunarEclipse+, before most others.
  • If you're one of the first 75 people through the door, you'll score a limited edition Nike tee. 
  • And if you spend more than $50 on Nike product, you'll go home with a gift valued at $30--perfect for any gaps on your gift-giving list or to gift yourself.
  • Music, food, drinks and a raffle? That's better than spending the night at the bar, with a workout to boot.
So come on, what are you waiting for? Tonight could be the closest you get to a bona fide snow day--and those who think you're weird for playing with the powder will all be in bed. I'm still planning to attend (I live too close to find a good excuse to skip out anyway), are you?

Photo by Alison Rezabek, featuring the way Chicago looks tonight as the snow falls.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Watch Ironman from Your Couch

You know that Ironman races typically last at least eight hours (a pinch less if you're a pro on a fast course) when some of the professionals start to roll in, all the way up to 17 hours when the day's clock strikes midnight. That's a long time to be watching a race as my family can attest--or racing if you're a triathlete who draws the line at the shorter distances--even if you're in paradise to watch or compete in the Ironman World Championship. So if you can watch a collection of the 140.6-mile race's best parts in two hours, wouldn't you do it? Of course! But you'll have to tune into NBC on Saturday afternoon beginning at 4 p.m. EST to catch all the highlights, stories and finish-line glories from this year's race, which was held in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, back on October 9. It might be two months after the fact, but if you couldn't make it to the Big Island to watch the showdown in what's been touted as one of the most exciting finishes in Ironman history, it only means the excitement has been building since race-day wrapped. I should know...I was sitting at dinner scrolling through my phone's feed until the winner was announced.

Instead, let the lava fields' action come to you. Expect to see plenty of footage of the eventual 2010 champions, Chris McCormack and Mirinda Carfrae, as well as Julie Dibens, who led a majority of the women's field until Carfrae passed her on the marathon leg, and Craig Alexander, who was looking for a three-peat. My guess is we'll also catch some of Chris Lieto's pedal power--he went into the race as a favorite thanks to his cycling speed and his steadily improving run. But the jury's out on whether Chrissie Wellington will make a showing--remember, she withdrew from the competition after feeling ill and missed out on her chance of trying for a grand slam World Championship win (No. 4). I can't say for sure as I've skipped the youtube video has been previewing the last few days, keeping my anticipation growing for Saturday.

But the coverage is never all about the professionals. The NBC airing always promises to unveil a few other stories on a human interest level. Remember Jon Blais and his fight against ALS, followed up the next year by Brian Breen, the Chicagoan who won a lottery spot and dedicated his race to the War on ALS and the Blazeman Foundation? Or what about Bob McKeague, who is still the oldest man to finish the Ironman--if Lew Hollander keeps racing though, he'll have McKeague beat by next year? Or Sister Madonna Buder, Brian Boyle, Rudy Garcia-Tolson, and Biggest Loser season 2 winner Matt Hoover who's quest for Ironman fell a bit short on the 2009 course when he couldn't finish the marathon before the 17-hour cutoff? There are plenty of stories of trials and triumphs, some I've already heard from people who conquered the course and more than I'll learn in a few days. And then there's Al Trautwig, whose voice is a narration fixture and all-too-fit for the story-telling.

What are you waiting for? It's freezing outside (if you live by me, anyway) so you know you can avoid leaving the house. The bike is collecting dust in the corner now that it's the off-season, and your workouts these days are mere jokes in comparison to the miles you put in during the heavy build periods (or is that just me?). Plus, there's no Ironman to follow online until the 2011 season calendar kicks off in early March. Three months without a race to keep tabs on? Yikes, better catch the big Kahuna on Saturday!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Biggest Losers Did Run the Marathon

So I'm a little obsessed with The Biggest Loser in its final weeks. A post earlier today. A reference last week to being hooked on BL. Guessing the contestants sent home a few weeks back. Countless thoughts that got self-edited--just in case you were starting to think that the only time I updated Fit-Ink was before an airing of the show (yes, it might seem like it at times but those life-changing moments manage to motivate me to write, surprise, surprise)--before posting to spare you the frustrations (sometimes), and tips and inspirations (always) from the show. This isn't a Biggest Loser blog, afterall.

But it happens to swing that way on a night when there's rumor of a marathon. And not even rumor, if I had been paying attention earlier and caught this NBC story, confirming the marathon run to be seen tonight. Or that the Biggest Loser Club featured information on marathoning that made the task seem less daunting than it did when Tara, Helen, Mike and Ron became the first finishers. Or that most of the contestants were expecting a 26.2 miler should they surpass the competition to be among the finalists at the ranch. So where was I? Apparently in excuse city, denying that such an event would take place again, just like several deny the need to work out to combat those extra pounds--or Elizabeth last night, rattling off all the reasons for how hard it was to workout, eat right, stay focused, run through a calf cramp, insert-excuse-here now that she was home.

Yet back on the ranch, they came, they saw and they conquered the marathon course. And Ada, who I latched onto long ago when she started shedding weight as fast as some of the heavy-hitting guys, set her sights on beating Tara's 4:55 from BL 7. She cruised to the finish line in 4:38 and change--and that time includes a bathroom pitstop! For someone who was morbidly obese just two months before, 10:37 per mile is pretty darn fast for a first timer. Hmm...could we potentially see a match up between Tara and Ada in the future? Tara did however run a 4:23 at the 2009 ING New York City Marathon with more time to train, not 26 days as given the first time, and this latest batch of Losers appeared to be running much more than those from seasons past.

As for Elizabeth, Frado and Patrick? I'm convinced that some careful editing made those last five miles look a little easier than they actually were--either that or they didn't suffer from my syndrome where I'm looking for the finish line at mile 22 and literally dragging myself up Michigan Avenue to reach the Chicago Marathon finish. But to go from zero to 26.2 in a few short weeks--and still toting extra weight--is pretty darn cool. And they all finished within the time limits that some races have for its participants--8 hours--before diverting them to finish on the sidewalks. Patrick crossed in 5:45, Frado in 5:51 and Elizabeth in 7:27. Congratulations runners, and I really hope you didn't feel too much pain afterward and could jump back into those weight-loss workouts.

I still have to ask the question about how these four survived the marathon and its training with an abbreviated schedule. Doesn't too much too soon spell out injury? Did they really accomplish enough at the ranch to be ready? Yes and yes, but with a little gray area.
  • Most marathon training plans follow a 12- or 16-week schedule, while this group had about four. But as Brendan told That's Fit, their workouts are easily marathon sessions of their own--with eight to 10 hours in the gym every day and only one to two hours of that in the intense zone. I don't have the science know-how to back it up (and I'm going to pull the lazy card and opt out of the research for the moment) but I figure based on personal experience that those sessions could help build a somewhat solid base to train for the marathon.
  • You don't have to be Speedy Gonzales on the marathon course. We're not all as fast as Kara Goucher or Desiree Davila or Josh Cox or Meb Keflezighi, but sometimes--and most times--finishing the marathon is more about getting it done rather than the time it takes. Not to go all cheesy but you can accomplish anything you set your mind to--marathons included. 
  • To back that up, take the suggestions from Michael Scholtz, Biggest Loser Club fitness expert. He says that as long as you can walk comfortably for 45 to 60 minutes, you can finish a marathon, even if it's two weeks away. The keys are to walk more of the ran than run it, and train with an interval style that integrates running bursts into your regular walking routine. You'll be comfortably tired at the end of the workout but not so exhausted that you can't get up the next day to do it again. And you'll build your endurance at the same time. Sounds a little familiar to the workouts seen during the "Last Chance Workouts" on the show with Bob and Jillian pushing them to run faster interspersed with treadmill walking scenes. 
But now the question is who's going to be making up the final three? We know Patrick and Frado are already in the competition--Frado's face showed plenty of weight loss before he even weighed in last night--but who's going to win out between Ada and Elizabeth? I can't even guess how America will vote, but my vote is for Ada. If you set a marathon record, finally see the positives in a rocky relationship with your parents and only now fall below the yellow line, you need a second chance even if that was the theme from another season. Regardless, here's where you can cast your vote.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Will the Biggest Losers Run a Marathon?

You know how time flies when you're having fun? I think there's a new phrase in order as it relates to this season, number 10, of The Biggest Loser: Time flies when you're losing weight. Maybe that's not the case for the contestants, but it sure seems that way to me, the viewer. I'm still having a hard time believing that next week I'll be tuning in for the season finale, and that tonight the final contestants will be traveling home to continue their journeys. And this is coming from someone who usually half-heartedly watches early on and grows more attached--or more annoyed, depending on the game play--to the competitors as the weeks progress. I've seen every episode, got interested from the start because of some early competition, and still tuned in even when my favorite endurance challenges from seasons past--the half marathon at home, the cycling relay, the swim--have been replaced with balance challenges, a stairclimb, and the tote-the-weight-you-lost for step-ups and a mile run. Nothing wrong with those challenges, I just miss some of the others.

With that being said, I can't help but wonder what's in store for tonight and I'm asking myself if I'm going to see what has become a tradition of late--the Biggest Loser Marathon. Frado mentioned it one week--that his daughter wanted to run part of it with him. Ada has shown her running prowess much like Tara did a few seasons back. And then others, in Ron fashion, showed they're not necessarily cut out for the running, even if only for a few miles. Brendan, the 3-time Boston Marathon runner, struggled. As did Mark, although his treading behind could easily be blamed on his extra weight and still weighing in as the heaviest competitor. While these two got the boot last week, Elizabeth still remains on the ranch, battling with her body as much as she fights with the others to stay above that yellow line. Question is: if the four left on the ranch, Patrick, Frado, Elizabeth and Ada, do indeed have to run 26.2 miles, who's going to win? My money is on Ada, even though they're all winners for completing such a feat and for having far less time to train than most marathon plans suggest. But I'll save that conversation for another time...and that's only because I have to make a mad rush to the pool now.

Photo grabbed from katielann12 at flickr.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

What's your strangest race reminder?

After the 2007 Chicago Marathon, race director Carey Pinkowski and the rest of his planning team enacted a flag warning system to notify runners of changes to course conditions in the days and hours leading up to and during the 26.2-miler. I noticed a similar flag system when I ran Grandma's Marathon in 2009--a black flag hanging near the mile 21 aid station on a day where temps reached 80 and the cool breeze that typically blows off Lake Superior was nonexistent. But these are weather warnings for snow, ice, rain, bone-chilling cold and extreme heat. Nothing like the following warning a friend of mine shared yesterday morning: First trail marathon this weekend comes with this pre-race warning. yikes. We strongly suggest wearing bright colors for your day in the woods. It is still deer hunting season for archery and muzzle loaders.

I couldn't help but laugh the first time I read it, from the deer hunting season to the comments that followed about shopping Farm and Fleet for some neon orange. But that's no joking matter, especially when I remembered this trail race is taking place in Indiana where, no offense, the runners are in the minority among the hunters, couch potatoes and not-so-physically-active population.

So it got me thinking...are there other races out there with these slightly wacky warnings? And Badwater doesn't count--2010 winner Zach Gingerich already told me about his SAG-ers and Bart Yasso referenced it on more than one occasion. I'm a city girl and the most remote running my legs get are on the northern Wisconsin roads and even then they're paved and lined with houses but lack the water fountains and heavy traffic I get at home. What's the strangest pre-race instruction/warning/rule/advice you've received?

Photo grabbed from at flickr.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My Favorite Top Chef All Star

I have an addiction to reality TV, one that's strong enough to rival my fitness obsession. And not just of The Biggest Loser variety--which, I might add, has sucked me into its evil vortex once again where I don't want to miss a week and I cheer for Ada as I did for Tara in season 7. I found a sporty bunch of Survivors vying for that ultimate Survivor title in Nicaragua. I had my picks for The Apprentice (let's see how that unfolds this week), and I drooled over desserts post-workout for Top Chef: Just Desserts. But tonight unveils one premiere I've been waiting for for weeks. Not just because the foodie in me wants to catch up with the Top Chef alums who fell just short of the top prize, but also because a few of my all-time favorites are returning to the kitchen in Top Chef All Stars.

Call me a sucker for the Chicagoans cooking in the kitchen like Dale Talde, who helped open Vong here at home but now lives in New York, and Dale Levitski, who waited tables at Sola between his season 3 and the live finale and now mans the kitchen to rave reviews at Sprout. But a running chef? Sorry Dale and Dale, but Carla Hall wins out in my book. I can't wait to watch her in the kitchen this season after growing to love her last time around in season 5. So when I had the chance to interview her earlier this year, I was all too excited but saved the reveal until now.

Kate: During Top Chef, you candidly equated the competition to being like a marathon, which tipped me off that you might be a runner. How did you get into running?

Carla: I joined a running group with a friend to be her workout partner for a 10K. I honestly didn't think she would last, but several races and two years later I was entering a marathon.

K: What do you like about running marathons?

C: I enjoyed the personal challenge. Each workout pushed me. The rush, however, was finishing in a better time than expected.

K: I heard that you ran the Paris Marathon for your 40th birthday and had a unique experience from the race. Would you mind sharing that?

C: My mom and a couple of friends had scheduled a visit to Paris at the same time as the marathon. This being my mom's first experience as a race spectator, I had to school her on cheering, standing at an agreed upon place, and how to hand off my fresh water bottle. There was no mom at the first spot, the five-mile mark. I was crushed. I admit I shed a couple of tears. I needed and wanted my mama. The second spot came and went--the 21st mile marker. I wasn't as crushed this time. Perhaps my mom was wrapped up in a French experience. At mile 22, I see her on the left side of the street--I was on the right--waving her arms and yelling for me. I threw my arms up as if to say "I can't get my water bottle from there."...Just seeing her was great, but I kept on running. The next thing I knew, I heard these quick footsteps behind me and the faint calling of my name. It was my mom! She was now running in the race and her coat was flying out like a Batman cape. She was determined to get me the water bottle. She finally caught up with me and I stopped and hugged her. It was the best! The other spectators cracked up, but that one gesture was fuel for my soul. I soared through the next few miles like it was the first. There's nothing like a mother's love.

K: How do you juggle your catering business, being a Top Chef star, spending time with your family and staying fit?

C: I have to admit it's hard, and I'm not always successful. Sometimes a workout is taking several flights of steps instead of the elevator or a few sun salutes first thing in the morning.

K: Are you still able to keep up with running? Where are your favorite spots to run, especially in the metro D.C. area?

C: The running has slacked off, but it's one of my fitness goals for 2010. My favorite place to run is along the C&O Canal.

K: I read that you practice yoga. How did you become interested in it and have you found that it helps you in the kitchen?

C: Yoga is an excellent practice for centering yourself and strengthening your center for correct posture. I spend most of the day prepping and standing over a table with rounded shoulders. If I don't constantly correct my posture, my back screams at me the next few days.

K: What's your favorite post-workout snack or meal?

C: Clif bar, apple and an energy drink.

K: Do you have any fitness goals for 2010?

C: No marathons in the forecast, but I would like to run a 10-miler.

And I'm sure win Top Chef All Stars would be a goal too had I asked. Now here's to cooking in the kitchen--I just hope Carla can surprise us all like she did the last time around. And maybe provide a few running analogies in the process.

Follow Carla at her website and stay tuned to Bravo on Wednesday nights for the latest season of Top Chef at 10 p.m., 9 p.m. central.

Photo grabbed from DC Central Kitchen at flickr.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Cyber Monday Shopping Steals

Whether you already braved the stores for Black Friday or you've been holding out until after the

Whether you already shopped to your heart's--and your wallet's--content on Black Friday or your holiday shopping is just getting started now that the family's cleared out of town, you're not going to want to skip the biggest online shopping day of the year. How can you go wrong with shopping in your pajamas, not worrying about what time the stores open and close, not complaining about your aching feet from standing in line (plus no line to begin with), and zero distractions like bumping into your neighbor or fighting over the last must-have item (at least online you don't know if you're nabbing it from someone)? You really can't, especially if you already bought your gifts and now you need retail therapy for yourself. Not only is today Cyber Monday, the biggest online shopping day of the year, but you're also bound to find something for everyone on your list and with savings, too. Here are some of the deals I dug up:
  • Skirt Sports. Save up to 60 percent on select items like the Tri Tank or the Gym Girl Ultra. And if you spend more than $125, you'll get your gifts without spending a penny on shipping, otherwise it's a flat $7.95.
  • Need a new pair of running shoes to get you through the winter? Spend $100 or more on non-outlet items at this shoe site and you'll save $25 on your purchase if you enter the code CYBER at step 3 of checkout. Some brands and styles don't apply but you'll have to check the site for those details.
  • Under Armour. Brr, it's getting cold outside and you're stuck hunting for more layers to keep the frostbite and chill out on your runs. That's where Under Armour's ColdGear comes in handy: lots of options for tops, bottoms and base layers, and plenty of colors too. And now you can order with free shipping--but it ends today. Use the code UAGIFT when you check out to get the savings.
  • Injinji. Some people swear by these socks with individual toe holes, calling them the perfect running socks especially for when the mileage adds up. Score some of these blister blockers at their online store for 15 percent off today--no coupon needed either.
  • Time to restock that triathlon gear after using it all season long. You can save 20 percent today at by entering THANKS20 at checkout. And the good news is that even if you don't finish all your shopping today, the deal is still good tomorrow.
  • Want some swimsuits that total two or three for the regular price of one? That's what you'll find today at where savings are up to 80 percent off. So it's on the clearance rack, but you can search by style, color and brand and still score plenty of swim favorites.
  • Adidas. Whether you're running and training this winter or need to stock up on gear you destroyed over the last season, you'll save through tomorrow at Not only do you get free shipping, but you can also save 30 percent on clothing.
  • The North Face. La Nina is dumping snow in ski country already and if you're hoping to get out there sometime this winter and need some warm outerwear, you can find it online at The North Face. Forget the crowds or lack of selection at the retail store and score free shipping at the online one.
All these sales have me yearning for some online shopping before all the deals disappear. Goal: track down a Denali fleece for my dad and not pay full price. What deals have you uncovered for today?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Fit-Pic: Ironman Arizona Pre-Game

Another day, another Ironman. That's how it's starting to feel when talking about Sundays in November. First I tracked Ironman Florida, then last weekend's 70.3 World Championship and now Ironman Arizona (after I get back from my minute-in-comparison workout). And then next weekend, I'll no doubt be watching Ironman Cozumel. Wow, I really don't have anything exciting to do on cold Sundays, do I? But the difference between this weekend and the other three is that I have visuals from Tempe, site of Ironman Arizona, which is about to get underway. Call it good timing (or poor since it didn't involve a stay through race day with the option to register for 2011), but these Fit-Pics were taken less than 24 hours ago on-site as triathletes checked in their gear and made final preparations before arriving with their game faces on this morning.

Looking down at the event area with the bikes on the right near the water.

Got bike? Got gear? Here's a racer heading to athlete check-in.

Hopefully it doesn't rain, those transition bags could get pretty wet.

A few thousand are piling into Town Lake to tackle that 2.4-mile swim.

There sure are a lot of bikes!

For more pictures, check out this slideshow. Then follow along with all the action at

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Oprah's Fit Ultimate Favorite Things

Either Oprah Winfrey has dreams of working out when her show's final season wraps in a few months, or she recognizes sporty comfort when she sees it. And with the media mogul's stamp of approval, two active brands, Lululemon and Nike, are only going to become more popular now that they've made her final Ultimate Favorite Things list (her show is going bye-bye next year). Among the 22 items guests received at the taping of her annual Favorite Things episode (part one was revealed on Friday and more are in store come Monday) were Lululemon's Relaxed Fit pants and pairs of Nike Free Run+ shoes. Let's just say BIG, GIANT LIKE.

I already went ga-ga over the Nike Free shoes earlier this year--I caught myself doing it again the other night when my friend wore hers. Minimalist design to mimic barefoot running builds running strength with compromising comfort, support and traction. And when you can choose from a variety of colors, you're bound to find a color combination you like enjoy to wear the Frees on and off the running route. Why does Oprah like them? "It's the next best thing to being barefoot," she says.

Now my eyes can spot the Lululemon insignia from a mile away and I'm surrounded by it--I swear--every time I go to yoga. I might feel like the odd woman out in since my down-dog go-to's consist of Nike, Under Armour, Adidas and Moving Comfort, and my only Lulu pants have probably been out of style for at least two years--a never-in-the-yoga-studio pair I snagged on sale before Lululemon expanded to within walking distance of my house. I only wish that my closet could handle more of their items (sorry but at $98 a pop, my wallet has to take a pass--it's cringing) like those drawstring pants or the Scuba Hoodie. But I've got one question: why did she choose the the Relaxed Fit Pant over the Still Pant? Same price, same four-way stretch fabric that's a Lululemon signature, same appealing drawstring. Must be the back zipper pocket to safe-hold keys and ID and the waist design that can flatter any rear. With the option to roll it low or wear it high, depending on your best assets, these pants apparently provide the illusion of a smaller behind. And what's not to love about that? And Oprah thought so too, saying, "Anything that cuts your butt in half should be your favorite thing too!"

OK, OK, so I ogled over the cruise trip and the big screen TV--and my mouth watered at the sight of the mac and cheese--but to see these fitness finds among the big ticket items was a huge plus. And a bit of a surprise to follow a panini press, a pan of decadent brownies and that so-called best mac and cheese, items that can pack on the pounds instead of parting with them. But if Oprah likes them, they must be good. Right?

Photo courtesy of Nike.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Snow Deals All Day Long

It snowed 20 inches in Breckenridge last night. Park City said it was firing up its snow machines to prep for its opening. Alta has a 41-inch base and plans to open Friday. Vail and Whistler are set to open on Friday, too. With all this snow celebration in the air, it's obvious it's time to pull the skis and boards out of the closets, or plan that next snow country vacay.

But if you're looking at those shreds and noticing a few base gouges--or you forgot you needed new goggles this season--or you simply need an excuse to shop, you want to head over the SteepandCheap for its snow only sale. Known for providing goods at discounts of 50 percent or more (most of the time), it's turning up the winter heat and offering the best from its ski closet all day long. Score new powder skis, a new softshell, warmer gloves or non-scratched goggles--and that's just for starters. The site refreshes frequently with new items but that means you have to act fast to get what you want, or hope it comes around again.

Check it out at or download the app to your smartphone to get the latest on the deals.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Daily Feed: Sites We're Searching 11/12

Talk about someone who wishes she was out in ski country right now. That's totally how I'm feeling today knowing that Keystone opened last week, Brighton opened yesterday, and Solitude and Breckenridge opened today. It's getting cold again--no more Indian summer-like temps that left us wondering if winter really was on its way--and there's snow predicted for the weekend (not in Chicago thank goodness, but my in-laws are expecting seven inches in Minnesota) so it almost seems too fitting that I be in a locale where I can play outside instead of shiver. I know, I know, you're probably thinking what's wrong with the Windy City but that's another discussion of its own.

But being that the shorter days and cooler temps find me indoors far more frequently, it seems that I'm all about online reading. And here's the list of links that attracted my eyes this time around.
  • Team Julia or Team Lindsey? Mancuso v. Vonn? Oh dear, I just wrote something that only feeds the subject of this New York Times article.
  • Need a new push-up? Check out this warrior version from Fitsugar.
  • Forget training plans for runners, Runner's World has one for spectators that you'll want to get to your cheering section when you start training for your next race. Watching a marathon can be just as much of an endurance event as running one.
  • With Thanksgiving just around the corner, SELF takes a look at four ways you can boost your metabolism to get it running full force before the big feast. We know you don't want to loosen those belt buckles from now until the New Year.
  • It sounds too good to be true: tours that double-up as workouts. Ah, yes, that's what Well and Good NYC found with City Running Tours. Lace up those sneaks to discover that new locale.
Have a link you'd like us to check out? Share it below in the comments. In the meantime, enjoy that weekend ahead!

Photo grabbed from SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget at flickr.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Chicago Goes to New York

The Windy City's marquee race wasn't even a month ago, but Chicagoans who were either shut out of running on 10-10-10 in their hometown or wanted to run a fall 26.2 miler in a different state and on a different famed course took to the streets of New York City and its five boroughs on Sunday. Marking its 41st running--the first NYC Marathon was run in 1970 and cost $1--the Big Apple's fall classic didn't disappoint especially for any runner seeking cooler running temps, a lively crowd and a star-studded field.

The Land of Lincoln wasn't short of representation at this infamous race, and 511 finishers claimed Illinois as their state of residence among the results. And being that I'm located in the Land of Lincoln and tend to follow its runners (call me a race stalker since I recognize some of their names from Chicago races), I couldn't help but check the New York reports. And share a few of those race stories.

Take Dr. Brooke Jackson, a Chicagoan who was featured on banners across the city as part of the 10-10-10: The Date to Motivate campaign for the 33rd Bank of America Chicago Marathon, and her husband James Lackland. Both ran on Sunday with Jackson rectifying her Chicago experience across the streets of New York and bettering her time by 30 minutes.

Or Irina Reutovich who left New York with some bling--the 60-year-old Russian (according to race results) took third place in her age group with a 3:44:57.

Brian Grudowski can call himself the fastest Illinois male NYC Marathon finisher, running a 2:29:20 to finish 43rd overall. Meanwhile Elena Shemyakina, 51, claims the honor for the women, finishing third in her age group with a 3:08:49.

Tatyana McFadden races out of the University of Ilinois but she's among the wheeling leaders, not the running ones. And this year, she was the fastest wheelchair racer among the women, covering the course in 2:02:22. This wasn't the first time McFadden could claim victory...she won the 2009 Chicago Marathon and finished third in 2010.

At first I thought Matthew Ancona had a bad day out there, feeling the effects of racing the Ironman World Championship last month to turn in a 3:55 race. You'll usually find his name at the top of the race results--he won the Magellan Spring Half Marathon in Chicago back in May--not in the middle. But not so, at least if past NYC Marathons are any indication. In 2009, Ancona paced the four-hour group (the picture at left was snagged from Facebook), and my instinct tells me that he probably returned to do it again. How could you not want to run in New York for fun?

But not everyone had a good day out there. I really can't say who--as I pointed fingers at myself last month in Chicago--yet it's bound to happen over the course of 26.2 miles and 40,000-some runners. Does it really matter though? Sometimes it's all about crossing the finish line or helping someone else reach their time goal.

For more results from the 2010 New York City Marathon and to search for your friends and family running, click here. Do you have a race day story to share or a blog where you posted a race report? I'd love to read it!

Photo grabbed from puddy_uk at flickr.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Who's Getting Kicked Off The Biggest Loser?

If you've seen the previews on NBC, then you're familiar with tonight's live reveal of the Biggest Loser contestant who will be sent home at the end of the evening's episode. Trainer Bob Harper will be at said contestant's home to see what he/she looks like at the present day and how much weight he/she has lost since leaving the show.

I'm not trying to spoil any of the excitement, but I'm wondering who it is, especially since I happened to look up to the television (busy computer eyes) as Bob flashed a childhood photo of the contestant. My vote goes to Jesse. Here's the rationale:
  • The photo looked a little like him.
  • The climate appeared a little chilly but not as chilly as the temperatures I've heard about on the east coast like Massachusetts where Elizabeth and Brendan are from.
  • Jesse's bio says he's from St. Paul, which would cater to my weather assumption. 
  • I swear I saw Bob tweet that he was in Wausau, Wis., within the last few days. At first I wondered why and now I think Jesse is the answer.
  • Jesse even thought that he was being paired with Aaron because he's a big threat, suggesting that he thought he could get kicked off. 
Only minutes will tell. Are you tuning in? Follow the action via Twitter with the Fit Bottomed Girls!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Read This New York Race Report

I've never run the New York Marathon. I'm from New York--born and raised until I was seven and my parents uprooted my sister and I to Michigan--and love all too many things about it like the bagels, the pizza, the hot dog stands, the Yankees. But it's still one marathon that I've only been able to appreciate from afar--or live through the stories of others, like this one.

Take 2008 when Fit-Ink was still in its planning stages but Liz and I swapped race battle at Ironman Wisconsin and then Chicago (yes I did that funky double then, too), her at New York, and then me again at December's California International Marathon. We were both secretly on the quest for Boston Marathon berths--she got hers while I fell short. And well, I looked for every hint of race advice I could get for the December race since it'd be my last chance to join the 2009 Boston ranks.

Nothing was different in 2009--or 2010. When I wasn't running, I was reading others' tales, and when I was running, I'd scour the internet for experiences like my own. Like Sonja Wieck. Or Slater Fletcher. Or Weight In Vain. Or Adrienne Hengels. Or MJ the Ironman (MJ Slikas). Or Bree Wee. That's just internet cookies and random clicks kept my eyes busy.

But here's one recent race report (it's only maybe hours old) about the New York City Marathon that I was loving. Not because of who wrote it--my The Bachelor obsession, Dr. Andy Baldwin--but because it only solidifies my yen for marathon and testing my legs across New York's five boroughs. I'd trade the Windy City for the Big Apple any day to see those sleeping bags and herds gathered at the start on Staten Island, to listen to the crowds at the Central Park finish line, to spot celebrities like Trista and Ryan Sutter or Anthony Edwards, to hear the music playing through each neighborhood and engrave it to memory, to smell the familiar scents from the street carts and wish I could chow down, too.

Everyone's calling today Marathon Monday Mania, registering for their shot at admittance to the 2011 race--don't forget the lottery opened at noon--and parading their 2010 finisher medals around town. Call it the unseasonably warm weather we're having in Chicago, but I can see why. And no, I'm not talking about the chance to freely run with Yankees garb and avoid getting booed out of town. Chicago's full of medals and those limpers on Columbus Day, traditionally the day after the race, but minus the clamor for lottery slots. One thing is for sure: regardless of what marathon you run or watch, the day after leaves you wishing you could do it again or do your first. Did you register for a lottery spot or do you think you can gain guaranteed entrance with your speedy legs?

Photo grabbed from the NYC Marathon.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Star Studded Marathon Results

The finish line is torn down, the runners are resting their well-traveled feet, the medals are being worn around the necks of thousands all across New York City and probably the entire tri-state area. Race day still lingers on for more than a few hours--til the clock reaches midnight and November 8--but the ING New York City Marathon has its champions--Gebre Gebremariam and Edna Kiplagat--and its finishers, plus all the wannabes who'll be registering for lottery come tomorrow. But in the meantime, here's how some of those famous feet--from the celebrity runners--fared through New York's five boroughs to finish in Central Park.
  • Al Roker. He may have doubted himself at one point, but Roker proved that anything's possible. He crossed the finish line with a time of 7:09:44.
  • Meredith Vieira. She may have kept her marathon goals under wrap until days before the race--or at least to my ears, who only heard the news on Friday morning and is usually a pretty avid Today Show follower--but it wasn't so she could bow out gracefully from the competition. We'll see how Vieira manages tomorrow on The Today Show and how much she ribs Al for beating him. Just like Natalie Morales bested Hoda Kotb at last year's "Today Show Does a Triathlon," Vieira topped Roker with a 5:59:00. You go, girl!
  • Jared Fogle. My husband doubted Subway Jared's ability to run the marathon at more than a walk or shuffle after catching a commercial with Meb and Jared running where Meb looked like he was barely moving and Jared was ready to keel over. But he was eating his words when I checked the marathon results to find that Jared finished in 5:13:28.
  • Desiree Ficker. One would have expected Ficker toeing the line at Ironman Florida over the New York Marathon--or I did, recognizing her name as a triathlete before marathoner--but she returned to New York for the second year in a row. The only unfortunate part was she didn't have quite the day she was looking for, finishing with a 2:52:30, instead of the 2:39:30 she ran last year.
  • Andy Baldwin. Here's a reality TV who can run--and fundraise for a cause (not knocking anyone else out there at all but merely pointing out Baldwin's efforts). Baldwin was spreading the word on Orange Laces, the ING Run for Something Better program that's trying to fight childhood obesity. And after running Chicago not even a month ago, he turned out a 3:31:48.
  • Haile Gebrselassie. Even if you're not a marathoner you've probably heard of Haile, perhaps expecting a win and a world record, or at least a blistering half on the front or back ends. But the shocker came when he dropped out at mile 16--and then his announced his retirement. I guess you could say he was using the race as a way to say good-bye to the sport and turn a bum knee into a more eye-catching headline? Nah, the tears say it all...he wanted to go out with a better bang.
  • Shalane Flanagan. Making her marathon debut and recovering from a slow 6:51 mile, she still managed to take second place, finishing just 20 seconds behind the winner with her 2:28:40. Stay tuned for more on Flanagan--I was trying to write it earlier but kept getting booted off the internet (had to be honest there).
  • Meb Keflezighi. OK, so I became obsessed (only mildly, I swear) with this runner after reading his feature in Runner's World a few years back and was so elated over his 2009 marathon win, despite what all those Meb haters said about him not being a true American. But try as he might, he couldn't repeat today, finishing with 2:11:38 to take sixth place. If it counts for anything he did finish first among 35-year-olds.
  • Ryan Sutter and Ethan Zohn. These two reality stars--Sutter from The Bachelorette and Zohn from Survivor--had a friendly battle going to see who could run faster to earn bragging rights and more money for their charities. Sutter took home the title with his 3:20:39, over Zohn's 4:16:20. But Zohn could argue that Sutter had an unfair advantage with some Rocky Mountain altitude training--and the fact that a year ago he couldn't compete because he was undergoing cancer treatments.
  • Robin Quivers. Howard Stern's sidekick would have been a unlikely marathon runner before losing 80 pounds. But she went from barely able to walk to running 26.2 in 6:09:00.
  • Amani Toomer. This former New York Giants football player became the first footballer to run the NYC Marathon in 17 years (who is the last NFL player to do so? I'm going to get my research guns out for that trivia bit). He trained for five months with Team Timex and Facebook pictures showed him starting dead last. But he passed a lot of feet to finish with a 4:13:45.
  • Edison Pena. So we all know the story of the Chilean miner who trained roughly six miles a day (give or take) while trapped underground. His persistence paid off and he crossed the finish line in 5:40:51.
  • Anthony Edwards. I always forget that this former ER star and Top Gun sidekick is a marathon runner. Edwards is almost becoming a regular on the marathon course, he ran last year and ran Chicago's race in 2003. This time around he ran a 4:04:45.
For more results from today's race, check them out here at the ING New York City Marathon website.

Photo grabbed from the ING New York City Marathon celebrity section, capturing Ethan Zohn starting his race alongside one of Sutter's First Descents teammates.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Big Apple's Marathon Stars

Meb Keflezighi 2009 London MarathonIt runs through five boroughs, including two islands and two bridges, with a finish line in one of the most spectacular spots in the Big Apple. It welcomes at least 45,000 runners and has held the honor of being the U.S. marathon with the most finishers in recent years--with 43,660 finishers in 2009, it has the most finishers ever in a marathon. And as it celebrates it's 40th anniversary this year, the ING New York City Marathon is pulling out all the stops with a star-studded field.

I would have said this months ago when the race announced that Meb Keflezighi and Deena Kastor would be two elite front runners come November...Keflezighi to defend his title and Kastor to shoot for her first NYC win. But I still have to stand by the assertion months later, even with Kastor pulling out after announcing her pregnancy. Why? Because not only are there a handful of famous names and faces toeing the line, but there are also some famous running faces embracing the "city that never sleeps" as the calendar to race day counts down.

For starters, Ryan Hall and Deena Kastor can be found at the marathon expo. These two may not be running much lately--between Hall first dropping out of Chicago, then dropping his coach Terence Mahon, and Kastor due in a few months-but they're out to support the runners. And so is Josh Cox, a Meb training buddy in Mammoth (check out this funny video from last winter) and close friends with former The Bachelor Andy Baldwin.

As for those toeing the line on Sunday, November 7, here are a few of the recognizable names among the 45,000 or so expected runners.
  • Al Roker. This Today Show weatherman alluded to running his first marathon earlier this year but made his goal sound like more of a pipe dream than a reality. He's already notched a half marathon, completing August's Rock 'n' Roll Chicago, and his somewhat slimmer shape only further indicates that he's ready to chug through 26.2.
  • Meredith Vieira. Maybe the Today Show likes running races in pairs? Hoda and Natalie did their first triathlon together last summer, and now it's Al and Meredith's turn. She predicted a 6-hour finish--or thereabouts--on Friday's show.
  • Andy Baldwin. This Bachelor ran the Comrades Marathon in May--a 56-mile trek across South Africa--and now will be taking to the streets of New York.
  • Shalane Flanagan. The last time an American woman won the NYC Marathon was 1977. And while Flanagan may be making her marathon debut on Sunday--following in the footsteps of Deena Kastor and Kara Goucher--many are thinking she could break the drought and become the top American marathoner.
  • Desiree Ficker. I keep thinking of Ficker as the dark horse in this competiton. Because she's more known among the Ironman circuit--she finished second to Michellie Jones in Kona in 2006--but even more so because her running strength helped her achieve that runner-up slot. I can only imagine how fast her legs could potentially go when she doesn't have a 2.4-mile swim and 112-mile bike ride before the marathon.
  • Subway Jared. Is the famous sandwich-dieter now adding the same flair to marathoning? Maybe so as Jared Fogle takes on New York's 26.2 in hopes of inspiring others to get off the couch and get running--no matter the speed.
  • Ethan Zohn and Ryan Sutter. You remember Sutter from The Bachelorette and Zohn from Survivor, but these two are more than reality TV stars. They're friends...but at this race they're friends racing within the race to see who can best whom to earn more money for their charities.
  • Edison Pena. He's the Chilean miner who's also a marathoner and has been making the headlines since the 32 miners were rescued from the mine. Pena kept up with his training while underground, just a little modified.
  • Haile Gebrselassie. Possibly the best part about Sunday's race will be the showdown between this speedster and defending champion Meb. It's been labeled Geb versus Meb and rightly so...these two could go stride from stride all the way to Central Park.
Know someone who's running and needs to make this list? Will you be watching or following on Sunday? Check for more details and be sure to tune in Sunday.

Photo by Julian Mason from London, UK (Crop of London Marathon 26.04.09 (3)) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, October 29, 2010

Is Fat-Phobia Good or Bad?

I have a confession: I'm a fat-phobe. I don't know if it's a bad thing or if I'm even thinking of a phobia in the traditional sense, but at the given moment I think it helps to explain my affinity for the reality TV weight loss shows and some other reactionary news that follows. My husband tells me this every week when I return home from the gym and demand he cease his Discovery Channel-watching so I can watch the final hour of The Biggest Loser (yep, it happened on Tuesday). And Thintervention. And Money Hungry. And Celebrity Fit Club. And Joy Bauer's Joy Fit Club segment on The Today Show. If there's a scale involved, more often than not you'll find me tuning in. Yep, it's true, although I think it's more for their lifestyle changes, healthy recipes and workout tips that help.

But unlike some people--or rather one journalist who's not only trending in the top 10 on Google at the moment but also sparking conversations across social media platforms, friends and acquaintances included (the Fit Bottomed Girls first alerted me), I'm not bothered when it comes to these "fatties" on TV, like when they have to weigh in at the show's start. Even that little fat-phobic section of my brain, mind you. I might not be able to voice it appropriately when making a Facebook comment to a friend (I always, ALWAYS, wonder if I'm saying the right thing in those cases and hoping to not offend in any way, shape or form) but I have good intentions, I promise. And if I have ever offended, or not said enough to show I care, I'm sorry.

But before I send off another round of sirens, let me just put this out there: what's wrong with seeing a little representation of society across the tube? You always here that we don't want to watch a bunch of idyllic people moving through life with everything going their way that glazes over the struggles real people face day in and day out. When we're going through a recession, do you really want to watch shows where people buy the items on your wish list and make it look like it's not a big deal? I didn't think so. Did you want to watch ER and see all the emergencies turn out for the best instead of the worst? OK, that's not a good example--I'd love for them to survive--but it wouldn't be real life if the doctors saved all the patients wheeled into the emergency room.

So fat people on TV. Isn't that just a representation of today's society? If you go by the numbers--63.1 percent of Americans were either overweight or obese in 2009--then I'd have to say yes. While my personal thoughts might leave me fearing the 4X and 5X shirts--sadly I didn't even believe these existed until I had to order one for a MS Walk participant a few years ago--it stops at what others do, or in this case, look like. To each his own, right? But to answer the editor's question posed to Maura Kelly--"Do you really think people feel uncomfortable when they see overweight people making out on television?"--I'm sure there are some out there who do. But if it bothers you that much, just change the channel. That's what happens at my house when the other party has had a little too much of my Biggest Loser renegades. Or just don't be so insensitive and discriminatory in a public forum.

For more reactions, check out a few of these:
Photo grabbed from Tobyotter at flickr.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Climb Your Way to Fitness

A workout that doesn't require a gym membership? A training session that can be completed in 20 minutes or less but offers the good kind of hurt that's more common among sessions three times the length? A lung-testing, calorie-blasting, cardio-burning fitness challenge?

The answer? Stairclimbing. And we're talking from your traditional stairclimbing, those few steps you take in and out of the car, up and down your front porch, and more, to stairclimbing where you're running up and down flights day in and out, exercising on the stairclimber to get that taut tush, or racing from bottom to top in the stairwells or some of the tallest buildings in your city.

A few weeks ago, you may have caught some information about SkyRise Chicago, a stairclimbing event that takes you to the top of Willis Tower. You tackle 2,109 steps to ascend 103 floors that take you 1,353 feet into the air. I might be a self-professed crazy endurance athlete, but looking at those numbers is exhausting me. And I thought the 94 floors to reach the Observatory at the John Hancock Center was rough--quads burning, panting, lungs nearly gasping for air. Don't let that description scare you off. Those are some of the joyous parts of stairclimbing.

OK, joyous may not be the proper word to use, but when you feel those sensations as you near the final floors of your stairclimbing adventure, you know you're doing your body good. You're not only increasing your lung fitness but you're also improving your overall fitness. All with an exercise that burns you out much faster than say a walk would, but yet it rivals the walk's benefits.

I knew stairclimbing was a good exercise--word of mouth, feeling the burn through my own body, convincing my mom to try the StairMaster and then listen to her complain about its toughness. But the "how good" facts were new to me. Did you know...
  • if you climb stairs for two minutes and do it five or six times per day over the course of eight weeks, you can increase your heart-lung fitness by almost 20 percent
  • that means you'll up your odds of a longer life (who doesn't want that?), reduce your bad cholesterol by 8 percent, raise your good cholesterol by about the same amount, and shrink your risk of a heart attack, stroke and even early-onset wrinkles
  • the fitness gains from 11 minutes of daily stairclimbing over eight weeks rival those from 36 minutes of walking over six months
Hmm, I'm no number-cruncher but I'm sure the cost-benefit analysis would be off the charts. Those numbers would also explain why I was so sweaty in the 16 minutes it took me to finish the Hustle Up the Hancock, why my legs felt like Jell-O when I tried to do crazy Workout Sunday and rush off to Spinning afterward, why my lungs and heart felt ready to explode at the top, why the color drained itself from my face and why I was so dazed, why I can feel a StairMaster session in my legs the following day.

And I'm leaving out the obvious fact: Stairclimbs are easy to train for, as long as you don't have locked stairwells or reside in a ranch home. Go Rocky style outside the Philadelphia art museum. Scale a stadium's steps. Run up and down flights in your home--an even easier option when you're living in a high-rise--or at work. Skip the hotel elevator and track down the stairs. You get the idea....I even tracked down a list of races around the country--albeit it's a little outdated with its list of 2009 and 2010 events, but the event links still work--to check out here.

I'm sold on the stairclimb. Are you?

Photo grabbed from Jose C Silva at flickr.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Fit-Pic: The 2010 Chicago Marathon in Pictures

I have my mom to thank for instilling me with a love of pictures. I might be more into taking scenic shots so as not to worry about eyes blinking shut, movement or missing the action in the frame (all of which have happened when I move away from my thousands of tree, mountain, sunset and water shots), but that doesn't keep me from enjoying all kinds of photos--hers, mine, friends', Flickr's. And that especially holds true with sports action shots from skiing, running and triathlon--you don't want to see me on a bike, trust me.

With hours to spare between the seconds I'm spotted on the race course, my mom happily snapped away the below images from the day. But I'll first kick things off with my pre-race day memories.

 At the expo, you wanted to visit the Nike area to search for your name on the participant wall.

 And pose for your picture by the 10-10-10 that won't be seen again for another 100 years.

 My dad and I are walking along the marathon's first mile, heading south toward its Grant Park start. It will look a little different about 30 minutes later when the runners flood the entire street.

 Affixing my bib...apparently I landed a charity spot for A Running Start (which explains the blue) but the high number was a bit of a surprise unless bib numbers were decided based on when you registered and not alphabetically or by start corral.

 That's me about to go into my start corral. Tip: stand by a garbage can to get ready and stow the gear you won't need until after the race. No one will bump into you, push you aside or say you're in the way. And yes, that's a crossword I'm carrying--helps to distract me before the start.

 This Brit runs pretty darn fast with two prosthetics. And he made the evening news for a quick interview.

 Fast legs coming through!

 There goes a fast pack of runners about to cross over the Chicago River at the Sears--oops, I mean-- Willis Tower.

 I'm running with the rest of them approaching the halfway mark.

 Check out the 2010 banners, featuring a collection of inspiration runners, that have adorned the city lampposts for weeks.

 That's me with the photographer after I finished No. 11 and hustled over to Runner Reunite.

I couldn't close the books on Chicago 2010 without getting my medal engraved at Niketown on Monday (free for Nike+ users who picked up their lanyards at the expo or for runners who purchased finisher's gear) and finding my name on the storefront's windows. My name's up there I swear--I have the poster (another freebie for Nike+ users) to prove it.

For more race day pictures, Time Out Chicago was on hand to create a few albums as was Raymond Britt, a photographer and writer I worked with back in the day of Windy City Sports. Or if you ran, don't forget to search for your on-the-course pics at Do you have pictures to share? Send us your links!

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Race That Wasn't

When you complete an Ironman less than 30 days before the Chicago Marathon--and you're planning on running that too--you almost have to set yourself up for failure. Or at least know that it might take a miracle to either run a personal best, break a lofty goal you have after other sub-par efforts in the last year, or win a bet that you set with your dad (I still don't know why I agreed to that one fresh off the Ironman). You lower your expectations, I did anyway. First because I would only be 28 days post-Ironman--even if that marathon is more of a trot, walk, push, struggle to the finish line no matter what. And then as I watched Sunday's forecasted temperatures only rise higher and higher, I knew I'd have to pull something out of my bag of tricks--if there was even anything left since I'm convinced I used them all during the 112-mile Ironman bike--to run well in the heat.

What a difference a year makes--and not just from one temperature extreme to the other. It was 67 degrees at this year's race start (so I heard), whereas last year it was 33 degrees (or somewhere in the 30s). Last year, I was sitting on my couch after the race wondering how I accomplished what I accomplished. Yes, not exactly the choicest of words, but even a year later I still don't know how I PR'd in a race that I didn't even think I'd be able to run until mere days before. Long story short: I ran too much, stressed out my calf and Achilles, and landed myself in physical therapy from mid-September until two days before the marathon. I had to promise my therapist that I'd pull out of the race if anything started to hurt or flare up to only be cleared to toe the line for my 10th Chicago Marathon. Because of that, because of the ideal cold temps and because of my time, I don't have a 2009 race report to link back to--it's like I still think it's a dream...not real enough to write down (beware, I might return a year later and finally knock one out because I do still remember that ideal race day, believe it or not).

I said that this year's race--my 11th, and as someone at Nike's running summit pointed out on Saturday, a third of all of the Chicago Marathons ever run (33)--was a big question mark. I said that last year, too, because I had to thanks to my injury. But I also tried to return to the course with zero expectation, something that proved successful in that 2009 effort. I should know better...any time I think I've figured out the patterns with my Chicago Marathon running, I'm thrown for a loop. I'll save that for another time though because my marathon analyses could stretch too long and turn into an irrelevant rant for this report anyway.

Basically, the only racing I did was in the first seven or so miles. Then I started to feel the heat, my pace started to slow and all hell broke loose--I was doing things during the race that I've never done in all 18 of my marathons that include Chicago, Boston, Grandma's and California International but minus the two during Ironmans where I used the port-a-potties.
  • Like use the bathroom at mile 10. 
  • Like grab tissues from the medical tent to blow my allergy-induced stuffy nose. 
  • Like stop...not once, not twice, but three times to retie my shoe because it felt loose (one), to yank on my sock to pull it higher (two), to yank on the other sock for the same reason (three). 
  • Like walk at mile 10--even in the 2007 race, the hottest I've run, I waited until halfway through mile 11 to walk and bail on a good race day. 
  • Like visit multiple tables for fluids and drink two cups of Gatorade, thinking it would make my cotton mouth vanish. 
  • Like miss spotting my parents in Greektown, a post I've caught them at every year they started making the trek there to watch me run by. 
  • Like want to walk the final 0.2 mile along Columbus because I simply didn't care about running or feel that proud of my time, accomplishment or race day.
  • Like look at my blood-stained left shoe (a remnant from Ironman that decided to pop under pressure) and take it as a sign that running wasn't a good idea.
  • Like grab the perfect banana at an aid station (I'm a picky banana eater and love the green-speckled ones, often a hard find at races), proceed to peel it and then watch it fall to the ground before I can put it in my mouth.
  • Like psych myself into thinking I could have a good day because others told me I would. A lapse in judgment and I forgot that I'm the one who needs to tell myself I'm ready or expect nothing and be surprised at the outcome. 
  • Like high-five my dad when I saw my parents at mile two and shout to my friend when I spotted him at mile five (quite possibly the only positive firsts). 
 As if you can't already tell, I threw in the towel. I didn't exactly quit on myself, I quit on the clock. As I told my dad earlier today, my expectations were to cross the finish line for No. 11, not injure myself or need medical attention during the race like so many people I saw in the latter miles, and be able to walk without being too sore. Not as eloquent as I said it--I tend to forget those perfect phrases before I can write them down--but good enough. Considering I didn't cramp up while napping in a chair, sitting at dinner or overnight (I could ride my bike to breakfast this morning), I walked home yesterday and don't feel that worse for the wear, and I have my 10-10-10 medal, I'd say I'm not as disappointed with the effort as I could be. Sure, I wish I could tolerate the heat more. Sure, I have regrets for running more miles the week before the race than I did in each of the four weeks between Ironman and Chicago, and for skipping run workouts on the hot summer days. Sure, I want a faster time recorded by my name. Sure, I yearn for that iPod shuffle I bet my dad. I could go on...and on...and on....

But that's sometimes what races are for: To learn from your mistakes and fix them before the next effort. And that's just what I'll be doing. Except for some shorter distances and runs for fun, I'm not running for a while (OK fine, I didn't really do that much this year anyway). But I do plan to delve head-first into training for the 2011 Boston Marathon so instead of dogging it as I have the last three times I've run it, I can re-qualify to return in 2012. That means actually training, actually running instead of creating excuses for why I didn't run or couldn't run fast, and actually setting my sites on a good Boston race day instead of a so-so one because of other events down the road. I'm not quite sure yet as to how I'll do it but I'm accepting applications for coaches, motivational tips, advice, training plans and the like. For now, I'm putting the 2010 Chicago Marathon to bed.

Photo courtesy of my mom, taken at Runner Reunite. Sorry Dad, I didn't want to crop you out even though you don't look like the happiest race spectator.


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