Friday, July 30, 2010

Meet Josh Cox in Chicago

I'm in a hotel room in Benton Harbor for a race tomorrow but a little pre-race jitters are leaving me typing away instead of sleeping. I just posted this story at but am sharing it here too. Enjoy and more once this darn race is done.

He's Ryan Hall's training buddy out in Mammoth, Calif. He's shoveled snow with 2009 ING New York City Marathon winner Meb Keflezighi. He's run the 56 miles of the Comrades Marathon in Africa with Team World Vision. He won the 5K that was run in Boston the day before the 2010 Boston Marathon. He's been on the cover of Runner's World, a contestant on The Bachelorette and was recently on the cover of Competitor magazine. Enough with the guessing, he's Josh Cox, an amazing runner who definitely doesn't play second fiddle to Ryan and Meb, and he's in town this weekend to celebrate the running of the second annual Rock 'n' Roll Chicago Half Marathon.

If you were already at the expo Friday evening to pick up your packet, you may have spotted Cox at the Nissan booth signing autographs. Don't despair, it wasn't just a one-time showing. He'll be back at the expo tomorrow afternoon and then will be holding the finish line tape as the fastest male and female runners of the morning cross the finish line. Here's where you can catch Cox tomorrow at McCormick Place:
  • 1-1:30 p.m. Nissan Training Tips Seminar at expo seminar stage
  • 1:30-2:30 p.m. Autographs at the Nissan booth
  • 2:30-3:30 p.m. Panel of Experts Seminar
Then on Sunday he'll be on hand signing autographs just steps from the finish line from 10-11 a.m., again at the Nissan booth. You can find the Finish Line Festival in Grant Park.

Can't get to McCormick Place or Grant Park? Catch running tips from Josh Cox, Ryan Hall and more online through Nissan's 'Master the Shift' program. This is really cool stuff, and I've only had a chance to look at it briefly. Cox is part of Team Ryan at 'Master the Shift', which empowers runners and those who want to take up running to become better athletes. We're talking tons of tips, personal experience stories, advice from experts--you name it--in the form of content, videos and blogs. Check it out at

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Stock Up on Swim Gear

Between buying a bike and the maintenance fees that then follow, upgrading your running shoes and gear periodically, shopping for swim stuff and a pool membership for when the open water just isn't cutting it, enrolling in the requisite member groups to save on at least a tiny aspect of a race or training plan, and registering for the races, triathlon is an expensive sport. So if you're exhausted spending more and more on your sport, there is an online savior when it comes to the swimming gear. At least if you're searching to stock up on swim suits for beach season, triathlon season, masters season or a combination of all three. If you want the answer, go to now and you'll see what I mean.

Swim Outlet has serious values when it comes to swim suits, and not because they're poorly made, discontinued leftovers or no-name brands. You'll find your Speedos and your TYRs and your Nikes, but you might think you're eyes are playing tricks on you when you see the price tags that accompany the Club Swim line. Most of these suits come in under $20, even more of a bargain than the discounted Speedo, TYR and Nike products available. And that's not even touching on the leisure suit and triathlon gear selection.

All I have to ask is, "Where were you when I was younger, Swim Outlet?" I had a lot of swim suits to get me through year-round practices, from the practice suit to the retired-to-drag suit to the swim-meet-only suit. But I know my mom wasn't paying $20-a-pop. Try $50 and up--not good when you need at least one new competition suit and two new practice suits per season because the others in your collection have faded, stretched-out, disintegrated or no longer match the team's selection for the new season.

Let's just say, I replenished my swim collection with a few new numbers thanks to this site. Probably more than I needed in one season now that I'm not swimming day in and day out, but at the time I thought the deals were too good to be true. Apparently I was wrong and that's just how Swim Outlet rolls. 

Photo grabbed from

Monday, July 19, 2010

In the Presence of Greatness

What's better than participating in a race where you know some big name pros are starting off in the waters ahead of you or at the front of the start line? Well, almost better, since the racing is half the fun. The answer? Meeting them in person. And that's exactly what I get to do tonight with two triathlon greats, Craig Alexander and Mirinda Carfrae.

He's fresh off a win at the first Ironman 70.3 Racine (old course, new name, same race weekend). She's fresh off a win at the Vineman Ironman 70.3. They're both world champions, he at the Ironman and she at the Ironman 70.3. But both Craig Alexander and Mirinda Carfrae will be at the same place tonight: Arlington Heights' Metropolis Performing Theater's ballroom.

As if that wasn't enough Ironman-related excitement, Chrissie Wellington, the three-time Ironman World Champion who smashed the Ironman-distance record this past weekend at Challenge Roth, will be there next week on Monday, July 26.

Both events run from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and require a ticket to attend. Tickets cost $15 for one event and $25 to attend both events. The theater is located at 111 W. Campbell Street in Arlington Heights and doors open at 6 p.m. to get seated.

Here are more details about the events and the athletes' excitement from a press release:

The events are presented by Runners High ‘n Tri, where the owners are fans of Alexander and Wellington and are encouraging local fitness enthusiasts to participate in the Q&A sessions. Wellington appears on the wake of her recently announced multi-year partnership with Brooks, a key player in making her visit possible.

The dynamic duo--now triple threat with the recent addition of Carfrae--will share their awe-inspiring stories of overcoming the seemingly impossible on their roads to the top. Bob Babbitt, co-founder of Competitor Magazine and an Ironman Triathlon Hall of Fame inductee, will moderate the Q&A sessions.

“I’m honored to share my experiences as the Ironman World Champion in the same series as Chrissie Wellington with fellow running mates in the Chicagoland community,” said Alexander. “Last year’s dialogue with the local Runners High ‘n Tri customers was a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to another great evening.”

The following Monday, July 26, the Dynamic Duo series will continue with a Q&A session with Wellington.

"I'm excited to be a part of an event series in conjunction with my fellow Ironman World Champion, Craig Alexander, and am looking forward to sharing tips and having dialogue with other triathlon and fitness enthusiasts," said Wellingon. "I'm also honored to appear on behalf of the Brooks Running team. I'm very grateful for the support of my fans and I'm looking forward to a spectacular event with Runners High 'n Tri."

Tickets are $15 per person for either event or $25 per person for admittance to both events. Tickets are available for purchase at Runners High ‘n Tri and they are required for entrance into the event. Attendees will have the opportunity to get a photo taken with Alexander and Wellington following the event. Event proceeds will benefit Alexander and Wellington’s charities, WINGS (a safe house for domestically abused women and children) and the Blazeman Foundation for ALS, respectively.

“We’re thrilled that to have both Ironman World Champions make an appearance and talk with their loyal fans at this unprecedented series,” said Mark Rouse, co-owner of Runners High ‘n Tri and 14-time finisher of the Ironman. “It's a great privilege to have both Craig and Chrissie here to share their incredible journeys as champion triathletes with our local community. Both of these extraordinary athletes have a mile long list of accolades and we are gearing up to take full advantage of this opportunity.”

I can't wait to hear what they have to say. And expect news from some exclusive interviews with them soon. Photos grabbed from thomas pix at flickr and

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Worried About Weather

Why all this talk about the weather? I asked today's Fit-Q about the weather to see if anyone else worried about weather as much as I do before I race. I wasn't always this way, but I think the whole weather-monitoring gig started with the 2006 Chicago Marathon.

I remember windy, rainy and chilly conditions predicted, neither of which I wanted to experience, and nearly called off my race to register at the last minute for the Detroit Free Press Marathon the following weekend. The marathon was already full (if I remember correctly) and I raced anyway under conditions that were not nearly as bad as what I was reading on the night before--got a PR in the process too.

Follow that up with a rainy 2007 Boston Marathon where I almost turned in my registration to defer until the next year with the weather threatening a Nor'easter to hit Monday morning. Sure, the Boston hype kept me running but waiting for a bus in Boston Common and huddling under an awning at Hopkinton Middle School were not my idea of good race prep.

My neuroses hit a new low before Ironman Wisconsin two years ago. We were pummeled with rain Thursday night, three days before the race, and the forecast was calling for the rain to clear and then come again on Sunday race day. Not good for this freaked out racer who was totally a fair-weather fan when it came to taking her bike out--and knew all about Ironman Wisconsin 2006 where it was cold and rainy and Ironman Lake Placid 2008 where it poured. Packing my transition bags was an adventure in itself--would it be windy, would I was a windbreaker or arm warmers, did I have anything that would keep me dry? I was checking and, choosing between which site had the better forecast and might be more correct, up until the time I turned off the lights for bed and as soon as I awoke at four something in the morning.

So with temperatures hot last weekend and predictions for another hot two days this weekend, I was online once again to see just how the weather would shape up come Sunday morning for Ironman 70.3 Racine. I'm already picturing my hydration cooking in the sun in the transition area, and remembering the strange taste it took on the last time it sat too long in hot weather. The heat? No surprise there. But the threat of thunderstorms? I wasn't liking the looks of that, especially when it wasn't just showing the inclement weather. Accuweather and NOAA--my other go-to sources on conditions--didn't fare any better and in fact, they were worse. Take the NOAA hazardous weather outlook for the evening:


But wait it continues into Sunday morning.


With T-minus 16 or so hours til race time left me wondering just how bad the weather could get. It was more the hazardous weather and the 75 percent chance (Accuweather), 60 percent chance (NOAA) and 40 percent chance ( that were scaring me. And leaving me to hope that Racine wasn't a survival mission, or another duathlon like Steelhead 2008.

Here I am, wanting to race, but unsure of it being the best decision to make. I have another half IM in two weeks that usually ends in a plod, rather than sprint, to the finish because I'm exhausted or injured from Racine. My husband the sherpa wouldn't be joining me and I'd be on my own aside from the people I knew racing. And an old injury, the darn calf and Achilles that kept me in PT last fall, felt like it was flaring up again. This Racine idea has DISASTER written all over it but I was too stubborn to quit. But that's another post in itself--the mental game. Plus I couldn't help but worry about my bike. When it was new, I was protective of it, but that hasn't changed two years later. I still didn't want it to get wet sitting in the transition area over night--if it rained--and feared my bike tarp that usually makes a showing at this race was going to be banned per race rules (thought I read something about that). 

Call me crazy, but I really was driving myself nuts thinking about this stuff. Yet I don't think I'm the only one out there who worries about weather before a race. What would you do? And do you worry as much as me? It's OK if you do, maybe we can form a self-help group. Photo grabbed from

Fit-Q: What weather keeps you off the race course?

Funny how last summer we were cursing Mother Nature for not giving us a summer--at least in the Midwest. Now she's lashing out and giving us one of the hottest on record in recent years, which makes the air conditioning, cool treat and waterpark businesses boom (my guess, anyway) but keeps race conditions for us athletes less than ideal. Or maybe I should say far from ideal, especially when we're sweating buckets, slowing our speeds in an effort to save our race, or opting to not show up in the first place.

So what keeps you from participating in a race? Or are you so determined to reach the finish line, you don't care what Mother Nature throws your way? What keeps you from a race weather-wise? Tell us!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Getting to the Fiery Hot Center of LAVA Magazine

Just call it a volcanic eruption among the magazine world, specifically the endurance sports sector. Its name comes from the volcanic islands that hosted the first Ironman race back in 1978. Its content is all triathlon with an Ironman and half-Ironman distance focus--it is, after all, owned by the World Triathlon Corporation, who owns and organizes the Iron-labeled events (Ironman, Ironman 70.3, Iron Girl and IronKids). Its tagline includes the phrase "serious triathlon." And it specializes in all the latest and greatest gear, news, athletes and more for triathletes. Triathletes--and anyone looking to get into the sport--meet LAVA.

The latest magazine sporting triathlon talk officially debuted on July 15. But if you were poking around online, you'd notice that LAVA has been on Twitter a while--although only now starting to tweet more frequently--and has a website that went live before the hard copy landed in the mail (and domain space reserved since March, if not earlier). But while some of the online presence is easy to gain access to, you won't be able to find this magazine's three 2010 issues at the newsstand. LAVA is available via subscription only, with a friendly athlete twist. Any domestic athlete registering for a North America Ironman or Ironman 70.3 this year and next will receive a one-year subscription to the magazine. And here I am getting all excited about answering a trivia question correctly to gain a subscription--I'm signed up for both a full and a half Ironman this year, and know I'll be adding one of the distances to next year's schedule, so I didn't need to worry about missing out on the pub.

I'm a sucker for magazines. Yes, I write for them--that was my concentration in college with my journalism major in an effort to avoid the hard-news reporting that several of my classmates preferred--and yes, I edit them day in and day out.  I read a ton of them and subscribe to almost as many--one look next to my bed and you'll see what I mean. I have a backlog to go through right now but that doesn't keep me from finding more to add to the collection, especially when they pertain to sports that interest me. And already I'm intrigued by LAVA. It probably helps that the website's latest news includes an interview with Tyler Stewart--2009 winner of Ironman Coeur d'Alene and a pro member of Team LUNA Chix who I met in San Francisco this April (I almost sat in her seat while she was on stage for a presentation) and a dinner to die for--seared red snapper with Thai citrus sauce. I'm already looking forward to whatever comes next, but I'm hoping that my initial excitement doesn't fall by the wayside as what tends to happen with me. As in, I hope LAVA doesn't end up in the pile of waiting-to-be-read magazines. Nah, with triathlon season in full swing and my interests more in tri's three sports over one focus, I think I'm set. Are you in? Photo grabbed from

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Fit-Pic: Girl and a Goat

This definitely isn't the most attractive picture of me at the top of Mt. Evans--highest road in North America that I cycled up at Endurance Corner's Boulder camp last month--but it is one of the funniest. With my thoughts drifting beyond the triathlon and fitness world this week and into two of my other loves, food and restaurants, this photo became all too appropriate to post. Stephanie Izard of Top Chef fame opened her new restaurant Girl and the Goat in Chicago's West Loop on Monday. While I'm no chef--and I don't eat goat--you have a girl and a goat three feet away in the above photo. That's what I'm greeted with upon reaching my first fourteener, on a bike no less--wandering mountain goats.

I learned a few things while pedaling up Mt. Evans and then hanging out at the top. The 14,000-foot climb attracts a lot of bikes, cars and goats. Our group of 25 or so hearty souls clamored to the top, and I rode with two older men for a bit but their pedal power got the best of me. I stopped counting the number of cars that passed me by early on--it was getting depressing, especially when the incline really hurt. And those goats? They could hang out on top all day, and this guy pictured had even more furry friends, cuter too, in my opinion. Crazy? Yes. Entertaining? Let me know what you think.

And if you've stumbled upon this post because of my Stephanie Izard reference--and you dined at her new restaurant--I'd love to know what you thought. Forget triathlon, training and fitness, the food side of my brain is urging me to skip it for a night and go. Photo provided by Chuckie V.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

And the Badwater Winner Is...

Dean Karnazes, Scott Jurek, Pam Reed. Just add Zach Gingerich's name to the list of Badwater winners. And the name I can say drew me to follow the competition this year--I tracked down Gingerich for a story I was writing last summer, a small tie that made me feel entitled to cheer him on the road to victory.  The 30-year-old Aurora, Ill., resident won this year's 135-mile footrace that runs through Death Valley and ends at the Mt. Whitney portal. He clocked a time of 24:44:48, which is his best time on the course. Last year was Gingerich's second time competing at Badwater and he took third in 25:06:12.

Meanwhile, Oswaldo Lopez, the man who was trying to chase down Gingerich to the portal for a pass and win, is a bridesmaid once again. Lopez's runner-up time was 25:05:38; last year he finished second to Marcos Farinazzo.

And talk about girl power. Jamie Donaldson was the first woman to finish--she's no slow poke either, running in third for a chunk of the race--and she crushed the course record she set in 2008. Her 2008 time was 26:51:33 and this year she finished in 26:16:12.

See how the rest of the competition fares via Twitter. I'm either a glutton for punishment or a sucker for race updates, but it's really interesting to read. And that's taking into account my relatively new-found ultra-distance attraction. Until I read a Runner's World article about 2002 and 2003 Badwater champ Pam Reed, my running know-how sort of stopped at the marathon distance. Yes, I knew ultras existed--there are two spanning the Lakefront Path in Chicago, spring and fall--and yes, I knew there were races far longer than the marathon's 26.2. I just didn't know any of the story lines behind the longer distances, and well, a laundry list of other things. We'll just leave it at that, but credit a little Google, RW and work for the tune-in. Photo provided by Zach Gingerich.

Breaking Down Badwater

When it comes to endurance events you could say that the Badwater Ultramarathon takes the ultimate prize. Forget running a marathon or a 100-mile ultra. Even an Ironman's 140.6 miles could seem a little easier than the Badwater challenge--after all, you're on a bike for 112 of those miles. But Badwater? It's 135 miles through Death Valley, starting below sea level at Badwater Basin and climbing to Whitney Portal, the trailhead for Mt. Whitney, 8,360 feet up. It started yesterday morning, July 12, with runners starting as early as 6 a.m. Keep in mind that wiith its mid-July event date, participants expect to face some of Death Valley's most grueling and heated conditions. It's been labeled the "world's toughest foot race" and has tested the likes of Dean Karnazes, Pam Reed and Scott Jurek, all ultramarathoners who have won the race within the last decade. Bart Yasso told stories about his experience at the race in his book My Life on the Run--something about bananas, hot pavement, a stench and shoes practically melting (I'm recalling his retelling at a rest stop somewhere along the MC200 relay--little sleep, tired legs, nearly nil memory retention.) And you have to be invited to participate.

So how does a runner from Aurora, Ill., end up at such a famous ultra race? He runs far, he's fast and he's been winning other ultra-distance races for a few years, making it look easy in the process. He's 30-year-old Zach Gingerich. Not to be confused with the professional runners of the world, he works a regular day job at a desk (his Badwater bio says he's a business analyst and when I interviewed him for a story I was working on last summer he showed me a clip where CBS News profiled him at work and running)  and does the running on the side. But he can run pretty fast especially as he logs more hours--and he has the stamina to perform these 20-plus-hour runs.

But his current claim to fame? He's leading this year's Badwater with four miles to go. After starting from Badwater Basin at 10 a.m. yesterday--the last field to depart, Gingerich rallied among the field to solidify a spot near the top. He's familiar with the position after finishing third last year, but like anyone, he's hungry for a win. Following the field yesterday, bedtime brought a peek at the results to show Gingerich holding steady in third place. But things changed overnight. At the 90-mile checkpoint, he moved up to second place, covering the distance in 16 hours, but still 30 minutes behind the leader Marcos Farinazzo. But Gingerich made a move in the next 32 miles and leapt into first place, clocking 21:38 for 122 miles and watching Farinazzo slip away; Farinazzo covered the same distance in 23:46 and fell to fourth place. At the 131-mile checkpoint, Gingerich was still maintaining his lead but has Oswaldo Lopez just 17 minutes back on his tail. Close behind them is female leader Jamie Donaldson, who covered 122 miles in 22:53. Now it's the final stretch to the Mt. Whitney trailhead to finish their journey. Here's to hoping a local boy can take it home.

Follow the coverage online or through the Badwater Twitter feed.

Photo provided by Zach Gingerich.


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