Thursday, May 27, 2010

So Great It's Epic

Lindsey Vonn has hers. Do you have your Epic Pass for the 2010-2011 season? Time is ticking down to save on one deal the skier or snowboarder in you doesn't want to miss when the snow falls next winter.

You have until May 31 to score one of the best, and unrestricted, ski/ride passes available, locked in at spring prices and only requiring a $49 deposit. And if you buy or renew your pass by the end of the month, you're also entered into an Epic Pass Summer Getaway Sweepstakes. I never win contests but the thought alone of having a chance to escape to Vail, Beaver Creek, Heavenly, Keystone or Breckenridge is motivation enough for me.

But the summer sweepstakes isn't the only reason to get jumping on an Epic Pass. For $599 you get unlimited skiing at six resorts--Vail, Beaver Creek, Heavenly, Keystone, Breckenridge and Arapahoe Basin--from November through April with zero black-out dates or restrictions. Or for $449, go for the Epic 7-Pack, seven days of unrestricted skiing perfect savings for those week-long winter escapes. Or if you head to Colorado to ski but never make it to Vail or Beaver Creek, and you know that trekking to Tahoe is out of the question, simply save with the $409 Summit Pass for unrestricted and unlimited skiing at Breckenridge, Keystone, Arapahoe Basin.

Think these deals couldn't get any better? Think again. Last month Vail Resorts sweetened the Epic Pass even more and made it possible for pass holders to ski year round by adding access to Argentina's Las Lenas from June through October. Once the California and Colorado resorts close in April, Epic Passers don't have to put their skis into storage until November. Instead they can twiddle their thumbs until June and then flock south to Argentina to ski Las Lenas. The catch is staying at one of the selected hotels--Piscis Hotel, Escorpio Hotel, Aries Hotel, Villa Capricornio or Acuario Hotel--to get the free skiing. But that just means adding another ski trip to the calendar right? Click here for more details on that deal.

Sure, skiing and snow might be the last thing on your mind, at least if you're as far enough removed from ski country as I am, but it's well worth it to think snow for this purchase. You'll be thankful when the winter chill returns and you want--and need--an outdoor activity. Logo grabbed from

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Fit-Pic: Oh the Sights You See on the Lakefront

Spring--or rather, summer--has sprung in Chicago. For this week anyway. After the sun pushed its way out on Saturday afternoon, it was sticking around for a Sunday fun day on the Lakefront. And by 10 a.m. Sunday morning, people were out in full force taking advantage of that path we love for all of our active pursuits (including Biggest Loser Season 9 finalist Michael Ventrella). Walkers, runners, cyclists, leisure bike riders, inline skaters, baby joggers--you name it, they were out. And early, too. By 10:15 a.m. the popular beach spots had comfortable crowds and the path had runners and cyclists battling for space--and I was among them but more focused on taking in the scenes than trying to hustle home and back to the AC.

That's how I was finally able to get a picture of the above Lakefront fixture--Speedo man donning the straw hat--I've spotted in years past but never had my camera--or the guts--to snap a shot. This marks the third season I've seen him pacing the Lakefront, usually somewhere between Oak Street and Fullerton, and he walked right by me while I snapped a picture of the beach bootcamp (see right). And well, since he was out and about--and I stood still--I finally wanted my proof that interesting characters do exist on our Path. And well, some people have unique ways of exercising on the Lakefront. You have the cyclists and the runners, in the blurry distance you have the beachgoers, and then you have peeps like the Hi-Guy (missed catching him out there today and he deserves a write-up all his own, so stay tuned) and this Speedo-wearing resistance-band-carrying walker.

Consider yourself warned for things to look for next time you're out along Lake Michigan. Speaking of which, have you ever seen any odd-ball or unique characters while out and about?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Fit-Pic: How I Spent My Saturday

When the weather gets nice, we go riding. Well, that statement is only partially true. The weather was supposed to be nice in Chicago all day Saturday, but apparently some fog and mist settled over the city and didn't leave until early afternoon. I wouldn't know though--I left hours earlier for Wisconsin to ride the Kenosha Bike Club's century. Well, 62.5 miles of it to be almost exact. That's three of us--me holding up the rear--on the homestretch back to Waterford Union High School, and the fourth was taking the picture while pedaling (let's just say I was super-impressed as I can't even eat solids or gels while I ride).'d you spend your Saturday? Photo by Johnnie Seward.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Happy Birthday to the FBGs

This week is exciting for anyone who's into fitness. Friday is Bike to Work Day (although Chicago likes to have a separate holiday next month). Today, Wednesday is the Ride of Silence to commemorate those who've lost their lives on bicycles. Last weekend held several marathons, half marathons, shorter races and triathlons, and next weekend promises to do the same. But the happy news that we're sharing here? The Fit Bottomed Girls turn two today. Why we like that? They were our inspiration for starting Fit-Ink, proving that you can make a go at a fitness-focused website.

Tune into for lots of goodies. Yes, some of them are already done--sorry about the delay on my end for sharing the news--but there are still plenty more before the week is out. On Monday they unveiled new partnerships and FBG features. The Fitties, awards going to their favorite fitness products for the year, came out on Tuesday. Today you can check out the Noshies, more awards, but this time they go to the best bites of the year. Thursday you can read about the Fit Bottomed Girl of the Year; last year it was swimmer Dara Torres. On Friday you'll get a peek at the most popular posts of the year. And Saturday, be sure to tune in for the "How Well Do You Know the FBGs" quiz.

And among all of these great reads, you also have a chance to win some prizes from some of their sponsors like Nike, TRX, lucy and Vega. Check them out--I love these girls!

Lindsey Vonn Pitches Wrigley...Again

There's always at least one reason to visit the friendly confines even if you're not much of a baseball fan. The Cubbies are my National League team of choice and I'm a baseball fan so I don't need much convincing to get me to a game when the opportunity arises. But had I been able to attend last night's game, I would have had more than the game to be excited about. Olympic gold medalist Lindsey Vonn was at Wrigley Field last night. First to throw out the first pitch, something she did for the first time last October 1 right before the Cubbies' season ended. And second to sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh inning stretch.

Vonn tweeted about heading down to Chicago from her grandparents house in Wisconsin. When I read that, call me a ski dork but I so wanted to be there. It wasn't going to happen, but for anyone who was at last night's game--you're lucky and I'm jealous.

Vonn was in good company too: She shared pre-game grass time with former U.S. Supreme Court Judge Sandra Day O'Connor. I'm reluctant to post pictures here as they're part of the Chicago Tribune's Cubs photo gallery, but here are the links to Vonn's pictures.
As for her singing and pitching from last night? I'll have to look for a YouTube video to see those. I'm guessing though that like her first pitch, she didn't disappoint last night. Photo by Jack Affleck, Vail Resorts.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Give an Adventure Gift

How refreshed do you feel after a week in the woods--not necessarily the literal interpretation--where you're out of the city on an adventure vacation? And how much do you love trying something new on that adventure, especially when you have that "ah ha" moment where you feel like you've mastered the basics of the skill? It feels pretty good, right? Wouldn't you like to share that feeling with others? How about helping a few kids experience these adventures and explorations you love?

You can: by supporting Chicago Adventure Therapy, which provides adventurous experiences to at-risk youth. The organization takes kids into Chicago's urban wilderness and teaches them sports like hiking, kayaking, biking and rock climbing, and in the process the kids become empowered and learn responsibility. Basically they're removed from their comfort zone and asked to make decisions and solve problems in this unfamiliar environment, but they come out better people. For more details on adeventure therapy, check this out.

How can you support this group? Come to their fundraiser on Thursday night at Stanley's Kitchen and Tap, 1971 N. Lincoln in Chicago. Show up, purchase a ticket at the door for $50 and be prepared to have a fun night out at the Night of Improv. You'll enjoy entertainment courtesy of improv group Virgin Daiquiri, drink specials, raffle prizes, a silent auction and a "life auction." Plus how can you resist samplings of Stanley's menu--pizza, hot dogs topped with Mustard Girl mustards, tater tots, burrito wraps and lots of veggies--without dropping a dime once you're inside? And you're helping kids at the same time.

Sure, you're attendance might feel like retail therapy where you're comforted for the evening, but your support of adventure therapy helps contribute to kids' long-term effects. For more info, check out or the Facebook invite. Photo grabbed from Chicago Adventure Therapy.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Spring into Summer with Equinox

Tired of the spring hints being quickly replaced by gray skys, rain and fleece wearing temps? Itching to get out of your sweats and into capris and shorts? Send spring packing and think summer come tomorrow night at Equinox Fitness Clubs around the country. The weather outside might not reflect summer's arrival in 30-plus days (yay!) but Equinox's Spring into Summer event is going to get you beach ready. Events at their clubs run from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, May 18.

Guests can enjoy free workouts in the group fitness studios sponsored by SHAPE Magazine, check out the latest and greatest fitness fashion trends at The Shop @ Equinox, and nosh on PopChips and Pinkberry at select club locations. Sign me up! Who else is in?  

Photo grabbed from super devoika at flickr.

Weekend of the Half Races...and More

I've admitted before that I have an unhealthy obsession with race results, especially come Sunday afternoons or Monday mornings. Blame it on my old job where I had to update a website every Monday with a few race results and upcoming events, which later developed into a freelance gig highlighting Chicago-area winners at the races. And I attribute it to my outside-Illinois friends and family who are running--naturally I want to follow their progress.

So between events that I already knew were taking place this weekend, a few more I forgot about until a newsletter reminded me, and friends who were racing half marathons in Chicago, Cleveland and D.C., I had race-result radar on come Sunday. And of interesting note: There were a lot of big-name races of the 13.1 and 70.3 variety occurring. We're talking the weekend of the half-marathon and half-Ironman distances, with a few marathons, 10Ks and 5Ks mixed in. The highlights? Read on...

Rohto Ironman 70.3 Florida. It's flat, it's fast, and it's Florida. And not just any part of Florida: Walt Disney World Resort's Fort Wilderness Campground is the start site for this half Ironman. And you'll see portions of Disney World on the bike and run. I doubt that these scenic stars were on the minds of winners Timothy O'Donnell and Leanda Cave. O'Donnell leapt from fourth to first on the run to win while Cave went from third to first to repeat as champion. Read more about the day here and check the results here.

Rite-Aid Cleveland Marathon. You could run a 5K, 10K, half marathon or marathon at this Sunday race. Perfect for anyone who can't decide what their legs are up for on race day--you can upgrade to the full marathon or downgrade to the half. And you get a tour of Cleveland on this course that's been deemed flat and fast enough for BQ seekers. Yes, it's a huge draw for Ohio runners but there's plenty of out-of-state runners, too. My favorite find was checking the half-marathon leaderboard to see a Chicago name in the top five. Wendy Ploegstra finished fifth--first among 25- to 29-year-old women--in 1:26:09, and I had the pleasure of interviewing her for Competitor's Winner's Circle in March (expect to see an excerpt from the interview soon). Check race results here. Also, registration is already open for 2011--race day is May 15.

Marine Corps Historic Half Marathon. This race landed on my radar in December for two reasons: a calendar of events I was compiling, and my brother- and sister-in-law running it. From what my sister-in-law reported, it was a fun event, too. Filled with locals cheering--and wearing colonial garb--including a spectator who brought mini ponies with them. The only problem was the biodegradable bib that could be planted to sprout wildflowers: between all the sweating, some runners watched their bibs disintegrate. Oops. Check the results here.

Magellan Corporation Chicago Spring Half Marathon. Until last year, Chicago was known for its half marathons in August and September. Now spring has just as many--possibly more if you count the suburban races--with the first city installation yesterday. The Spring Half Marathon features a course that loops around the Lakefront Path twice, plus a 10K for runners who don't want to run 13.1. Check the results from this sold-out race here.

ING Bay to Breakers. Tradition trumps all at this San Francisco classic. At 99 years young, it's easy to say that this race is one you have to run at least once in your lifetime. And not exactly for the speedy portion of the race. The fun factor might be more the draw, especially for out of towners--you get a lot of costumes on the course. You can check the time results here, but I think the more interesting part is learning more about the costumes. So, if you participated in Bay to Breakers, what did you wear on race morning?

Kaiser Permanente Colfax Marathon, Half Marathon and Marathon Relay. So I forgot about this race until I was paging through my Tweets and seeing how @halfmarathons spent their Sunday. They tweeted from this Denver race--even taking pictures of the bongos that serenaded them near the finish, the nuns cheering and a monument in City Park. Check out their updates here and find the race's results here.

That's all my highlights for this past weekend, but if there's another race you're looking for, head to for more results. And stay tuned for next weekend--everyone around the Midwest tends to get excited for Memphis in May, and that's just the start of things. Photo grabbed from davitydave from flickr and

Friday, May 14, 2010

Get Fit With Your Phone's Apps

I only recently joined the technology revolution by finally trading in my old school, very basic cell phone for an iPhone. And let's just say I didn't completely do it willingly--I needed my current phone to die before I bit the bullet. But in exploring all the new features I've been missing out on for years--from the simplest perk like text messages that don't take ages to type to the ease of internet at my fingertips--I continue to remember the phrase Apple's grilled into my head: "There’s an app for that." 

How many times have you heard that phrase when it comes to iPhones and iPod Touchs, and now even with Androids, BlackBerrys, Palm PREs and smartphones? Making dinner reservations, there's an app. Identifying a song you like, there's an app. Scheduling a yoga class, there's an app. Access to my local yoga studio's schedule is only the start of the fitness-focused apps. From class schedules to mileage trackers, you'll be hard-pressed to not find an app to keep you on top of your workout. Add one—or all—of these fitness-focused apps to your phone and you’ll never feel like your workout has to suffer when you can’t make it to a training session.

Go Swim. You can’t make it to swim practice and want some drills to improve your stroke. You can’t remember what drill your coach suggested you practice—you know its name but not how to do it. Sound familiar? Enlist the help from this free iPhone app that features a comprehensive library of more than 50 drills illustrated in photos and videos. Go Swim doesn’t just offer drills, you can also stay on top of all your swimming news while interacting with other athletes on the Fan Wall. Free, available in the iTunes store.

CardioTrainer + Racing. If you’ve heard of the Virtual Training Partner available on Garmin Forerunners, Android users can get the benefits of that program on their phones. That means: This app challenges you to beat your old times by offering a virtual race simulator that include a voice shouting into your ear to tell you how ahead or behind you are from your target. CardioTrainer is free on its own, $2.99 with the Racing component, available in Android Market.

iMapMyRun/iMapMyRide. Want to repeat that training ride you did last week with the triathlon group? How about following the 5K route you’ll see at your next triathlon or the 13.1 miles of the Rock ‘n’ Roll half? This free iPhone app uses your phone’s GPS technology to map your routes, which you can then share with friends and workout partners. Plus track your speed, pace, distance covered and more on your next ride or run, and use it with and for more personalization. Free, available in the iTunes store.

FitDeck. You’re training on your own today and desperately need some ideas to keep you from doing the same routine for core work, stretching or strength training. You need FitDeck, which works on most mobile devices, to spit out slides that will guide you through a workout. And you can’t use the excuse you skipped because you didn’t have weights or resistance bands: It has exercises categorized as upper, lower, middle and full body that you can do anywhere. $9.99, available at

Lose It. You’ve learned that what you eat is just as important as how hard you train when it comes to reaching your athletic goals. So keep tabs on your calorie intake—and outtake at a spin session or road run—with this free iPhone app. That’s Fit (link: called it a “glorified calorie counter” but its food database is helpful to make sure you’re refueling properly after training. Free, available at the iTunes store.

These are only five app suggestions for your phone and smart device. There are tons more to download either via your favorite fitness website (i.e. Women’s Health magazine and Shape magazine) or at your phone’s online store. Just search fitness and you’ll unlock the possibilities—and your training will thank you.

Photo grabbed from Robert Scoble at flickr.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Know Thy Self Workout in the Park

An excuse to workout for most of my Saturday? All the samples a girl could want? Fitness classes that aren't the same old same old? I'm sold! But where do I want to go so badly? The Self Magazine Workout in the Park, making its last stop of the season, in Chicago, this Saturday, May 15.

I can't quite explain why I get excited over this event year after year--and that's even in years when I can't attend due to other commitments (including this Saturday). First time, I didn't know what I was getting myself into and dragged my husband--then-fiance--with me to Lincoln Park to check it out. Granted I was the only one who went inside--maybe a little too much estrogen and chatty Cathys for him--but I left way too early by my own wishes. Note to self: Don't give yourself only a half hour to peruse the park because you'll leave without experiencing much of anything.

That's because Self is transforming Butler Field at Grant Park into a fitness festival from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. You don't have to worry about when you're going to get your workout in for the day, the three fitness take care of that with classes that start at 11:10 a.m. and run all the way to 3 p.m. And a new class starts up every 25 minutes so you don't have to suffer through moves your body can't handle. Try classes like Beach Body, Retro-Robics and Rock Bottom on the main stage--aren't the names enough to draw you in and wonder what kind of sweat session you're in for?--or head to the Rebounding Zone for either Resistance Rebounding or Urban Rebounding. Not in the mood for those types of cardio? Chill out in the Quiet Zone with yoga and Pilates, taught to you by Mandy Ingber, yoga trainer to celebs like Jennifer Aniston. Check out her yogalosophy she shared at New York City's Workout in the Park.

Ingber isn't the only person with a celeb connection in the house. You've seen her on Access Hollywood and NBC and now you can spot Maria Menounos on the Main Stage in Chicago. She'll be working out and sharing her fitness secrets that keep her energized for her hectic, and often bicoastal, job.

I'm not even close to covering all of the booths and events at the Workout in the Park. But hopefully there's enough here and online to convince you. It's like the pages of the magazine unfolding live in front of you with all the workouts, product samples, taste tests, beauty products and style consultations your eyes can handle. And with Saturday promising to be a little nicer than it was a week ago, what are you waiting for?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Daily Feed: Sites We're Searching 5/12

Do rainy days ever get you down? They definitely know how to ruin my mood and more often than not throw my schedule out of whack, too. What does that statement mean? It's my admittance to being both slow and uninteresting in today's commentary. But I wanted to write something so I turned to what others were writing instead. Here's a few items that caught my eye:
  • I've periodically checked in with Fitness editor Rachel as she shares her tale about training for her first triathlon. And, well, after this weekend she should be able to call herself a triathlete, as long as an injury, kick during the swim or bike malfunction don't get in way.  Follow her adventures at this blog and be sure to vote on the outfit she should wear at the Aflac Iron Girl Las Vegas.
  • Gosselin siting! I really shouldn't get that excited over news involving reality stars Jon and Kate Plus Eight. After all, the show's off the air--Kate was already voted off Dancing with the Stars-- and the media circus surrounding this couple and their legal woes has finally calmed down. But Girls on the Run had a Kate and Cara (one of the nine-year-old twins) sighting at a 5K over the weekend--see this photo for more. And that was news worth repeating.
  • Whose abs need some definition after a winter hidden under heavy, warm layers? Sure, the temperatures in Chicago really have us doubting the end of winter, but even so we probably want to be prepared for baring all. If you weren't ready to sport your bikini bod when it was 80 in April, get yourself in shape with these ab busters from Mari Winsor and Shape.
  • It's practically impossible to tote weights with you when you're on the go and traveling, and you know you can't bring a treadmill or elliptical to ensure you'll stay on top of your workouts (if I'm driving to Michigan I'll bring my bike and trainer, but that's another story). But check out these seven essential--and easy to tote--items that will keep you fit regardless of where you're going and how tiny your luggage may be.
And let's hope this rain, gray and cold goes away to put us all in a better mood tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Update on Kara Goucher's Baby

Here's a big old faux pas on my end. As the news trickles out about Kara Goucher's pregnancy and I'm getting excited over the guessing games and baby banter that typically explode after hearing "I'm pregnant," I'm even more out of the loop than I thought I was. Yes, I missed Friday's New York Times article. Yes, I missed Saturday's Runner's World tweet. But I thought by Sunday--and even Monday morning that I was all caught up. So. Far. From. The. Truth.

I received a comment this morning in response to the baby news (and for some unknown reason it can't be viewed live at Fit-Ink) that left me wondering how I could miss the most obvious baby news of all and left me hunched over in shame for getting so excited to create baby polls without researching more for the story. As Kate shared: "I hate to ruin two of the polls, but Kara and Adam are expecting a little boy! I'm a fan of her's on facebook, and her sister sent out an announcement to all the fans about the news!"

That's odd. I'm a fan on Facebook too, unless there's a hidden page that I just can't seem to find. Thanks Kate for correcting the error of my ways! Much appreciated! And sure enough, when I went to read my morning Runner's World headlines, an awesome interview was published late last night confirming the boy on the way and talking about some of the reasoning behind the pregnancy's hush-hush early on. It's a great read--check it out here.

So with two polls basically irrelevant now with all the news that's unfolded in the last 72 hours, there's still one in the running. And it can potentially be the most fun: guessing the day Boy Goucher is born. Here's a re-post of the Due Date poll (as I called it) created yesterday. The rules are still the same: Guess the date range of when you think this baby will make his grand entrance and click the appropriate box. Then in the comments section, write the actual date you're thinking. And while you're writing in your date, feel free to include your take on the name Kara and Adam should give to their son. Granted with all of the planning that has gone into this pregnancy, they might already have a name, too. But birth dates and name games never get too old for opining.

Photo grabbed from Etsy Ketsy at flickr.

Get Your Rock 'N' Roll On in Chicago...and Fast

Hey Chicago! Do you have your sights set on running a half marathon this summer? Do you want to run this 13.1 miler through the streets of Chicago? Consider running the Rock 'n' Roll Chicago Half Marathon, coming to the Windy City on August 1. But act fast because registration is set to close soon.

Forget scrounging up extra cash for the race fee, begging friends to join you in the venture or wondering how you're going to survive a half marathon in the middle of summer. You need to put all those thoughts aside and just register for the race now before it's too late. Race organizers are announcing online that the race is nearly full and they sent an e-mail with the same warning. When a similar announcement went out for October's Bank of America Chicago Marathon, those last 2,000 spots for the 45,000-participant race were gone before the work day was out. At Rock 'n' Roll, you'll be vying for one of the 20,000 spots available. And knowing our love for running in Chicago, coupled with the out-of-town draw to the city's big-name races, it's no surprise that those spots are disappearing. Score one by registering here.

Some quick facts about race weekend:
  • The 2nd annual half marathon will be held Sunday, August 1.
  • The race starts at 6:30 a.m. Consider it an effort to avoid the heat.
  • Registration costs $110 (plus Active Network registration fees)
  • What you get with registration: goodie bag, race T-shirt, entry to the post-race headliner concert, bands playing along the course route, finisher's medal and finisher's certificate
  • The race benefits the American Cancer Society and runners can be a part of the organization's charity arm: DetermiNation.
  • The race starts and finishes in Grant Park at Columbus and Congress.
  • You get to run a portion of the race along Lake Shore Drive.
  • Kara Goucher won this race in 2009 and crossed the finish line ahead of all the other competitors.
  • It's a flat and fast route that partially mimics some of the Chicago Marathon's course.
What are you waiting for? Register today!

And if you've run it before, what are your likes/dislikes about the course? I'm curious as I was supposed to run this race when it was known as the Chicago Distance Classic but I broke my collarbone the day before--so much for knocking a half marathon off my schedule that summer. But I'll save that story for another day. Photo grabbed from msullivan63 at flickr.

Monday, May 10, 2010

We Want to Know All About Baby Goucher

At Fit-Ink, we're super excited to hear that Kara Goucher is pregnant. After all, we've admittedly been obsessed with this hot-to-trot marathoner since her debut at the 2008 New York City Marathon and have blogged about her since she prepared for the 2009 Boston Marathon. With baby's expected arrival in September, it got us thinking what others were thinking of baby. And who doesn't love playing baby guessing games? Check these polls out for Baby Goucher, and share your guesses and comments.

And this one...

And one more, I promise...

The Due Date poll closes on September 15, so get those guesses in--add your exact date choice to the comments section (if you're having trouble, e-mail it to We just might have to do a giveaway--our first to date--for this baby pool. Details will follow, as I could be getting in over my head, but I'll come up with something as it wouldn't be a baby pool without some sort of contest involved. Let the guessing begin!

P.S. My husband thinks I'm nuts for going gaga over this Goucher baby--"Why does everyone get so excited over babies?" he asked. I think he freaked that I wanted one--with an Ironman coming up that's so far from the truth--but I answered, "Why not? We get excited over anything about Kara Goucher!"

Wow, Kara Goucher's Pregnant!

Just call me a bit late to the punch on this one, but something inside of me had a feeling that something was up. At Fit-Ink, we're not shy about our love of Kara Goucher--Liz has been lucky enough to meet her and interview her a few times, while I can only follow her races on TV and dream of being as fast as her. And we both sport Phiten necklaces like the one Kara wears when she's racing, in hopes that it'll help with our running recovery, too.

Call it intuition but Friday night had me reading random news at More because I was curious about what she was up to because the last news I recalled was the March cover story of Runner's World. No news there, but what I should have been reading was The New York Times. Because it was Friday's NYT that featured a story about the friendship between Kara Goucher and Paula Radcliffe. But that wasn't the most eye-appealing news; Goucher is pregnant and due in September, which also happens to be the same day Radcliffe is due with her second child, Sept. 29. Wow, congratulations, where have I been? I knew about Radcliffe's pregnancy--definitely stumbled over that this winter--but Goucher? Runner's World's news page had to share that announcement yesterday. Goucher has her baby bump, and if my math is correct, she's on the downswing of her pregnancy.

It's probably one announcement that many runners were waiting for--or Kara fans, at least. Last year Goucher was set on putting the running on hold to start a family post-Boston and post-Berlin. But there was a deadline attached: get pregnant by late April so there's plenty of time to prepare for the London 2012 Olympics. Goucher needs to be ready for marathon trials, which are set to be held Jan. 14, 2012, in Houston. Looks like that came true and with plenty of time to spare.

And the crazy part is that both Goucher and Radcliffe are still running fiends at five months pregnant. They're training together in Oregon and planning to race the New York Mini 10K race in June. Oops, not race, run for fun. But we all know that their pregnant bodies will only slow them down enough to finish with the rest of the fast pack and not minutes ahead.

I'm totally not speaking from personal experience, but after reading Erin's pregnancy challenges at Fit Bottomed Girls (and due just two weeks before Goucher) and hearing stories from two running friends who slowed to walks and eventually nothing during pregnancy, I wondered how Goucher and Radcliffe could keep up with their competitive streaks. Turns out they have a few secrets, reported by the Duluth News Tribune:
  • Goucher's training on the Alter-G treadmill, which allows her to run at a lighter weight than her body weight.
  • Goucher and Radcliffe are working with Oregon Track Club Elite/Portland coach Alberto Salazar.
  • Goucher's ob-gyn Dr. Robin Barrett is also a runner.
  • Radcliffe has advised Goucher having been through this before.
 Now that the baby's out of the bag, it seems like Goucher is getting back into the media spotlight. And oh how I wish she'd be attending a race that I was running. Goucher will be speaking at the Rock 'n' Roll marathons in San Diego on June 6 and Seattle on June 26. And she'll be heading north to Duluth to speak at Grandma's Marathon on June 19.

Wow! I can't wait to follow their 10K run in June and any other news that stems from this latest release. Thanks Runner's World and New York Times for some exciting Sunday reading and links. Check out a few more here and here--Runner's World is all over it today. Photo of Kara (left, 203) and Paula (right, 201) running the Great North Run in 2007, grabbed from Connor Lawless at flickr.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Daily Feed: Sites We're Searching 5/8

It's been a busy week in the Windy City--for me, anyway. For better or worse, that hasn't prevented me from keeping up with my online reading. Here's what fitness randomness caught my eye this time around:
  • If you're into Ironman or following Lance Armstrong news, you might appreciate this letter to Lance about what to expect at an Ironman. For months, rumors have been circling about Armstrong planning to race the 2011 World Championships in Kona and here's a fun jab to the training.
  • I love me a smoothie to feed my hunger. But after a while my wallet is hurting from all the trips to Jamba Juice and I'm looking to go DIY. Jamba Juice is turning 20 and celebrating this month with lots of specials, but check out these smoothie recipes from the New York Times' Well blog to stir up your own.
  • Still need a gift for Mom for Mother's Day? Check out the gift guides from the Fit Bottomed Girls and FitSugar.
  • May is National Bike Month. Get your ride on with these suggestions for road bikes and mountain bikes from Outside.
  • Bored with your regular workout routine? I am, but I found some new moves to try with these exercises from SparkPeople. There are tons of options for a total body workout.
  • With a sold-out field of 35,000, the 35th running of the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon in Indianapolis took off this morning. The course feature a loop around the famous Indy 500 speedway, which helps draws crowds from around the country. Check out the results!

Until next's time for me to get my weekend started and get back on the training wagon. Photo grabbed from

Friday, May 7, 2010

Conquer Your Caveman (or Cavewoman)

Confession: I spend a lot of time working out. Spinning, elliptical and now yoga are my go-tos if I'm not running or cycling outside. But lately I've noticed that it takes a lot to tire me out. I sweat a ton in Spinning and yoga, but it's only a scant few classes I've attend to report on for Competitor magazine that make walking difficult--nah, make that moving in general--the next day. And ironically, they're also the shortest in duration. First it was High Intensity Training, then it was Cross Fit and most recently it was the Caveman Workout. 

I tried i.d. gym's Caveman Workout on Monday. My quads are still sore four days after the fact, to the point where it hurts to descend stairs and stand up to climb on a spin bike. I've compromised my yoga workout, even skipping because it just hurt too much--not because I was running late or had a scheduling conflict as it usually the case. I'm two weeks out of finishing the Boston Marathon and I was in less pain after those 26.2 miles than after 45 minutes of bringing out my inner cavewoman. And to me, that's the sign of a good workout.

How it works: eight stations set up around the room, each using a different piece of equipment. But we're not talking your regular gym fixtures like hand weights, resistance bands, body bars and the like.  Instead it feels like i.d. raided Home Depot and the junkyard to prep for class with the tires, ropes, slosh tubes and sledgehammers. There's even a keg at station No. 8--one guy jokes that we're going to do keg stands on it during class.

Wrong. Each station means a different workout move and while keg stands might rush the blood to your head, it's a burpee--using the keg as a platform and lifting it over your head--that tuckers out your muscles. And that's the goal at every station. You have 45 seconds at each station with roughly 30 seconds rest--20 if the instructor catches you loafing--and the goal is to figure out a way to survive without flat-out stopping for three rotations through the eight stations.

George, our instructor, showed us suggestions for moves to make at each station and their modifications. We had a tire to do push-ups around, a 60-pound sandbag to push, ropes to lift and ripple, kettlebells for squats or bicep curls, a tire to hold above our shoulders as we climbed up and down stairs, slosh tubes (PVC piping filled with just enough water to test your balance) to lift, a sledgehammer to whack into a tire, and a keg to use for more push-ups or ab curls or burpees. And at each station he encouraged us to get creative with the moves and try something different.

My initial game plan was to follow George's suggestions for each station figuring that would be the best way to meet the class's goal: to burn the most amount of calories in the shortest time period. How long did I last? I didn't even make it through the first 45 seconds at station No. 1 without having to switch from push-ups to plank. Push-ups for 45 seconds is not easy, and even holding plank with your feet elevated on the tire is a challenge. George announced we had 35 seconds and those 10 seconds felt like a minute. The good part is you start to hit a groove and the 45 seconds doesn't always seem like a death sentence. Instead you're ripping through the stations too fast to remember how you made it work, until you have to face it again. Plotting ways to endure each station helps the time fly by, like kettlebell squats that switched to bicep curls with 15 seconds left, or rippling the ropes together before going one by one. But the slosh tubes? The second the water tipped to one end, I couldn't find a good method of attack. Let's just say there was a lot of teetering at that station in an attempt to balance myself. And the sandbag? First rotation, awesome. Second and third, not so much--I could barely push the darn thing.

At least we're all too busy working out at our stations to note the progress--or failure--of others. You know that self-conscious feeling you get when you're trying but the exercise isn't coming as easy to you as your neighbor? Not here--class varies from week to week so you won't see the same rotation twice. Plus you're moving too fast for it to matter. So fast that you're dripping sweat and panting like you finished a 10K. But that's the idea: survival of the fittest. My legs might think otherwise--more recovery time maybe--but it found my inner neanderthal.

Classes available on Sundays (9:30 a.m.), Mondays and Thursdays (5:15 p.m.) at i.d gym, 2727 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago.

Photos courtesy of i.d. gym.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Meet the Nike Free Run+

Maybe I was a little too excited about the Freedom Run (but after winning, can you honestly blame me?) on Wednesday night. But after I took off my medal and colored bracelets to relax at home, it hit me that I missed one of the important messages from the evening. That would be release of the new Nike Free Run+, the whole reason we were running in the first place.

I saw the shoes on the feet of other runners as we gathered at Fleet Feet, I just arrived too late to try a pair. And then I saw them again at our post-run party at Altitude--a special display devoted to the newest Frees and all of their pretty colors. I knew the basics of the Free technology, or at least what I remembered from the first version released nearly six years ago: how they were designed to take away many of the traditional supports of running shoes for more foot freedom, give your foot protection from the elements, and make you rely on your foot's natural motion when running. That hasn't changed and in fact, what may have been skeptical in 2004--taking out all the supports and leaving minimal cushioning so that you were practically running barefoot--is now one of the hottest rages.

I know some of the skeptics from 2004 who doubted that the lack of support would be good for your running. Meanwhile, I bought into it even though I had yet to try it. Why? I liked the idea of having a shoe to wear after a long hard run that wasn't that particular running shoe but could help strengthen your foot muscles. I wore running shoes everywhere and style-wise, this didn't look like your regular running shoe. And it was recommended to alternate running with the Frees and your regular running shoes to work on that strengthening, but not going super-long while wearing the Frees. I've gotten shin splints as a result of a slight change in my go-to running shoe (the Nike Pegasus, back in the day), and through marathon training knew that it'd be OK to switch up my shoes. Yes, Nike did a good job convincing me of the Free's benefits at a 2007 media event, but the skeptics I knew said it would never fly.

Look who was right. Six years and a few Free versions--3.0, 5.0, Everyday to name a few--later and we're meeting the newest Nike using the Free technology. As the latest version in the Free line of Nike running shoes, the Free Run+ updates the cushioning, support and fit from previous styles. It's more supportive than the 3.0, more flexible than the 5.0 and even more like running barefoot without exposing your feet to pavement elements. And it's the first Free shoe to be Nike+ ready so if you have the sport kit for your iPod or a Nike SportBand, you can drop the sensor into the footbed slot and track distance, pace, time and calories burned on your run. And well, these new Frees just look cool too--and you can bend them in half.

But remember that the Free Run+ still has some technology so you're not totally barefoot running. But you are bringing out the best of both worlds. The flexibility enhances your foot's natural movement, and flex grooves on the sole trigger muscle activation to strengthen your foot muscles and give you the barefoot feel. You'll still get cushioning and arch support to give you some stability in your shoe. The midsole's bootie fits your foot like a glove and make it comfy to sport the Frees with or without socks.

Still not convinced? What if I said the likes of Paula Radcliffe, Kara Goucher, Dathan Ritzenhein and Meb Keflezighi use the Free technology? They do, often using the Free Run+ during recovery and cool down runs. Check out this piece for what these elite athletes had to say. Are you sold now?

Photos courtesy of Nike.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Give Mom the Gift of Fitness

Stumped as to what to give Mom for her special day besides a card? I am--and I know that she deserves more than that, especially since I can't surprise her at home. But I like to give gifts other than flowers, no matter what the occasion, and they usually go the fitness route. Last year I gave her a photo from her first run event--a 2.62 walk at the 2008 California International Marathon that kept her occupied while I ran the marathon portion. For Christmas, she got a Polar FA20 to monitor her daily activities. With Mother's Day quickly approaching and only a day before I need to drop a package in the mail, there's still a lot to choose from. Good news with this list is that Mom doesn't need to be a workout buff to enjoy these fitness-focused gift ideas.
  • Remix Lulu Hoodie ($98) and Groove Crop II ($86) by lululemon. Whether Mom's into yoga or simply likes to be comfortable, she'll love one or both of these pieces. The hoodie's myriad of colors can pair with just about anything, and it's a perfect layering piece that's a step up from the too casual look that would leave Stacey London cringing. The reversible crops can get Mom from a workout to running errands without losing their shape.
  • Sami 2.0 Large Club Bag ($60) by Nike. I've been fortunate enough to score this bag and previous incarnations (like this Monika Standard, $160) courtesy of Nike, and my mom has practically drooled over them. My problem is parting with these bags that look more like handbags than gym bags, but they easily fit all the shoes and gear you need for a workout--including a special spot for a yoga mat. 
  • Perfect Core Pant ($98) by lucy. There's a lot of looks for Mom at lucy (lululemon, too), but if you had to choose one, you can't go wrong with the pants designed to make Mom's lower half look good all while keeping her core engaged and body aligned. So good that you might want a pair too.
  • The Women's Health Big Book of Exercises ($14.99 at Forget Mom saying her workout is in a rut or she knows she needs to blast some fat but doesn't know where to start after getting off the treadmill. This book is full of strength training exercises to work whatever body parts she wants, and it has several specific workouts she can take to the gym.
  • Gym Girl Ultra ($60) by Skirt Sports. Take this best-seller from Skirt Sports, a company that designs its products specifically for females, and use it for work and play. No one will no the difference and Mom will always be comfy and cool without having to sport shorts. And specially for Mother's Day: save on 2-day shipping and score a free kids skirt when you spend $125.
  • Run Like a Mother ($10.19 at by Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea. If you've ever read this duo's works in Runner's World, Shape and Women's Health to name a few--or followed them as they blogged as the Marathon Moms on Runner's World--now you and Mom can read the essays inside that make this book break the mold of other running-themed books out there. It's a mix of personal stories, advice, anecdotes and conversations that get you through the run, not necessarily what gets you out the door--but often the best words a woman needs.
  • CorePower Yoga DVDs ($18). My mom doesn't like to run or ride a bike, but she does love yoga. The only problem is that sometimes she doesn't have time to attend her favorite class or it doesn't work with her schedule. So Mom needs the opportunity to practice on her own, which she can do at home in front of the TV on her time. The only thing missing is teacher assistance, but these are a solid substitute with their instruction that transports you right back to the studio.
If you're into giving experiences as gifts rather than tangible items that can be worn, watched or read time and again, check out some of these options that might float Mom's boat, especially since you can plan to do it together.
  • Run or walk a 5K. If Mom's not a runner, her arm could probably be twisted enough to walk an event. An annual Mother's Day event is the Walk to Empower brought to you by the Breast Cancer Network of Strength and taking place in 13 cities across the country.
  • Go for a massage or give a spa day. Athletes love these sweet rewards but so do Moms. Think about all of the long hours she's been on her feet, toiling in the kitchen or hunched over a project. She'll sigh a huge breath of relief over one of these packages.
  • Buy a ticket for Self Workout in the Park. It's a gift you'd have to give either a day early (May 8 in New York City) or a week late (May 16 in Chicago), but it's a celebration of fitness that provides fun and entertainment for women of all ages and workout abilities. I've always had fun at this one in years past.
That's my list of gift ideas for Mom. If you need more, check out this slideshow from FitSugar. What are you planning to give for Mother's Day?

Photo grabbed from TracyElaine at flickr.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A Bike Bag's Basics

Have you ever visited the cycling store and felt completely out of your league? And not because of the massive quantities of bikes--road, tri, mountain, hybrid, comfort--grabbing your attention from the main floor. I'm talking about the abundance of gear for your bike once you have the basic two wheeler, maybe pimping it as far as clipless pedals, bike shoes, and a water bottle holder--and not know what exactly to purchase and what to pass up, especially if you're looking for the bare essentials.

I've definitely acquired my fair share of accessories over the five years since I bought my first road bike. And I was definitely overwhelmed when I left the store with that purchase, not bothering to buy anything extra and thinking I had everything I needed in the bike alone. Boy was I wrong--I couldn't ride this sucker like I rode my Costco special I've affectionately named "Big Green" that got me the places I needed to go and even tolerated 20-30 miles on the Lakefront Path before telling my knees no more. Once I upgraded, I learned that I'd need more than a water bottle (if I even remembered to bring that) with me on the trail. So when an athlete I coach asked me about bike gear to buy, I sent her this list of the basic bike gear--mostly what to shove into your saddle bag--I wished I had purchased at the get-go rather than days before a race. I called it "all the stuff to help with a flat or problem on the road."

Bike pump. Definitely key, especially a floor pump. You'll see people toting these around in transition area and a lot of people bring their own for fear of not being able to borrow one or getting a flat on the way to the race even though you pumped them full of air before leaving home (I got a flat with my bike in the trunk of my car once). And it's good to have at home to pump air in your tires before going out for a ride. Village Cycle just up the street from me has air outside the store...kinda like the way you go to a gas station to get air in the tires. I feel like such an idiot for not buying a floor pump until my road bike was a year old and I had already raced my first triathlon--I relied on a very basic, very cheap hand pump--and I learned how crucial that pressure gauge was. Finally, finally I wouldn't have to guess on my tire pressure, or have a tube burst during a ride (luckily my husband's and not mine).

Mini bike pump. Consider this an optional item but some people choose to carry a mini pump when they're out riding so that they don't have to fumble with CO2 cartridges (I'll get to those). The mini pump is nice because you can often attach it to the downtube on your bike and always have it with you in case you're out riding and notice that your tires need air. Or if you're racing, use the CO2 cartridge to fill the new tube, and then screw up and lose the CO2 into the air rather than in the tube, you have another method of getting the tube to fill--that happened to me last summer where I got a pinched flat and the tube wouldn't inflate (turned out it was punctured somewhere). We wasted two CO2 cartridges to fix it and then used a new tube and needed a hand pump to fill it. And if you can find a mini pump with a pressure gauge, even better.

Tool kit, patch kit and tire levers. These tools are the basics to carry for flat trouble and basic repairs. You can use the patch kit to patch up a tube--or so I've heard but have yet to use, ha ha. But sometimes you're better off swapping tubes on the road and doing the patching at home later. The tire levers help you get the tire off the rim of your wheel. Some people can barehand it--not me--but these are usually most helpful especially when trying to get the tire/tube back onto the wheel. The tool kit is good to have in case your seat needs adjusting, something feels loose, etc. And wiith the different screwdrivers and allen keys, it also comes in handy for building ikea furniture or having in the car on a camping trip (I've used mine for that more than on the road).

CO2 cartridges. I had no idea what these were used for the first time I had to write a list of gear to bring to a triathlon. But I quickly learned how handy CO2 cartridges are for races: They inflate your tire super fast after you change a flat. And each canister holds just enough to get the tire plenty plump so you don't need a gauge to check the tire pressure. The confusing part lies in buying threaded or non-threaded cartridges--easily solved by having an inflator that uses both.

Tire inflator. You can't just buy the cartridges, you need a little device to use them, the inflator. Last summer a group of cyclists told me that this was the good kind to have because of the trigger. Wish I had known that before I bought the simpler version that leaves more room for error and wasted cartridges.

Spare tubes. Feel free to laugh at my stupidity for thinking I'd have to go to the bike shop every time my tires went flat. Tubes to the rescue--and they are so easy to carry and always have at least one on hand. Now I don't leave home without one, and they've saved me from walking 10 miles home on more than one occasion. Tthe tubes are folded together into a tight package that easily slip into a bike bag. Some people even toss them in the back pocket of their bike shirt but to each his own.

Bike bag. So with all of these goodies, you can squeeze most of them into a saddle bag to have with you on your rides. You'll never notice it's there and then you're prepared in case of a problem. But finding the bike bag itself can be a challenge; I had issues finding one that would fit my tri bike.

I think I've covered the basics above, or at least what I've been toting around. Granted I still feel like I failed my athlete by leaving her in the dark before triathlon camp over the weekend. I was psyched that she'd learn a ton about the sport in a short time period, which she did, but I failed to tell her some basics before she left. Oops.

If I've missed something you carry with you, feel free to add it to the comments. I'm already realizing that I skipped over one other essential that's not of the tool variety: food. My Bento Box--easy accessibility--always has a Clif Bar and Sport Beans in case I'm starving during a ride, but the saddle bag also works as a good storage spot. Just don't forget what's inside or you'll be stuck with an expired gel or rock-hard Beans--not good for the stomach. Photo grabbed from

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Daily Feed: Sites We're Searching 5/3

What a weekend of racing! I was psyched for my friends battling the rain during their half marathon and marathon in Pittsburgh, especially since I couldn't motivate myself to do much on my own. And my Ironman enthusiasm kicked up with the inaugural running of 140.6 miles in St. George, Utah--a race I had to talk myself out of registering for when it was announced last year. Good thing too--I don't think I could train through the winter and I freaked when I heard how cold the swim could potentially be.

All these events meant a lot of online following over the weekend and checking up on the official results come this morning. Here's where I was pointing and clicking:
  • Hats off to anyone who ran the Pittsburgh Marathon and half marathon. The skies opened up just after the race start and didn't let up. There's a soaker that guarantees bragging rights for years to come. I followed my friends' progress with this maptracker and then looked up their results.
  • Michael Weiss became the first Austrian man to win an Ironman title while Heather Wurtele dominated the bike and didn't look back until she crossed first at Ironman St. George. If you want 17 hours of action, read, or if you just want the basics, read Kevin Mackinnon's report.
  • The women's half marathon race at Saturday's Illinois Marathon was a close fight for one, two and three, according to the results. Random tidbit: I spoke to second-place finisher Heather Prekop yesterday who said that winner Grace Kimani came out of nowhere to win. Fleet Feet Chicago racers Prekop (1:22:39) and Christina Overbeck (1:22:40) ran together the whole race and Kimani slipped by at the last second to edge them by 0.03.
  • Runners also took to the races in Wisconsin, Eugene, Providence, and Flying Pig Cincinnati. My favorite was reading Bart Yasso's status update with the Runner's World Challenge runners.
And not to go all race crazy...I mixed it up a bit, too:
Photo grabbed from miss_k70 at flickr.


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