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.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Race Day Repeat in Chicago

I never have a chance to watch the Chicago Marathon live on TV or cheer for the throngs of runners. I'm always running--and now I'm sitting on my couch recovering from No. 11. But before I analyze my own race (still figuring out a plan of attack for that one)--or fall asleep in the process of writing a race report with a tired body and mind--I started following what unfolded on the elite side.

It's easy to say that the 2009 and 2010 races were like night and day, at least if you compared the temperatures where there was nearly a 50-degree variance between the two races. In 2009, the race-start temperature was in the 30s, while this year the race start temperature was in the 60s and even felt a little warmer. But those temperature differences didn't keep the 2009 winners from repeating on the infamous flat and fast course that is Chicago.

Sammy Wanjiru defended his 2009 Chicago Marathon win with another victory this year, holding off Tsegaye Kebede (2010 Virgin London Marathon winner) and Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot (2010 Boston Marathon winner). Wanjiru won the race in 2:06:24, not quite as fast as the 2:05:41 he ran last year, but still ahead of one of the most competitive field's ever.

According to a press release, Wanjiru, Kebede, and Feyisa Lilesa matched paces through 35 kilometers, making for a battle of the youngest elite men at 23, 23 and 20 years old, respectively. Lilesa dropped after 35K, which left Wanjiru and Kebede trading leads until the very end. Then Wanjiru kicked hard at mile 26 to claim victory. Kebede finished in 2:06:43, and Lilesa reaching the podium in 2:08:10. Jason Hartmann was the top American finisher, taking eighth place in 2:11:06.

Update: Liz summarized her race-day watching here at Time Out Chicago, including a video that shows Wanjiru's break away.

As for the World Marathon Major standings--a series that offers a $1 million prize purse split between men and women where runners receive place-based points by competing at the Chicago, New York, Boston, Berlin and London marathons--Wanjiru now holds a 10-point lead, which almost guarantees him the titles. The only way the standings could change would be if Kebede decides to race in New York next month and he finishes either first or second. With a top finisher, he could overtake Wanjiru.
On the women's side, Liliya Shobukhova repeated as the winner. But this time the Russian finished five minutes faster than her 2009 time--2:25:56 in 2009 versus 2:20:25 in 2010--and set a new Russian record as well as a personal best. According to a press release, Shobukhova overtook Astede Baysa at the 35K and ran solo through the chute. Baysa eventually finished second, but more than 3 minutes behind Shobukhova at 2:23:40. Maria Konovalova took third in 2:23:50, American Desiree Davila finished fourth in 2:26:20 and Irina Mikitenko rounded out the top five in 2:26:40.

Shobukhova's win today also secured her title as the World Marathon Majors champion with 85 points.
The first racers to cross the finish line this morning were the wheelchair athletes. The men's wheelchair competition saw 12-time Paralympic Gold Medalist and 12-time World Champion Goal Medalist Heinz Frei set a new course record in his Bank of America Chicago Marathon debut. Although his age, 52, could be considered old for the sport, Frei  finished in 1:26:56, outlasting a younger field that featured 9-time Boston Marathon Champion Ernst Van Dyk, who also made his Chicago debut.

Meanwhile it was a return to the podium for American Amanda McGrory in the women's wheelchair division. She captured her third Bank of America Chicago Marathon championship in 1:47:25, reclaiming victory over Tatyana McFadden, her University of Illinois teammate who won last year. McGrory won a sprint down the final stretch of Columbus Drive against Wakako Tsuchida who crossed two seconds later in 1:47:27. McFadden finished in 1:56:11.

For more details about the race or view results, check out And stay tuned for how my race--if you could call it that--unfolded.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

All in a Day's Work at Ironman World Championship

Between cloudless sunny skies and temperatures rising to above 80 degrees, you'd think it was still summer in Chicago. And if you ignored the changing colors of the leaves, imagined some palm trees and pictured those waves you saw in Lake Michigan last weekend, you just might be able to transport your mind to Kona dreaming.

OK, that's a far-reaching stretch. I know because I just caught some of my friend's Big Island honeymoon pictures and know that Chicago could never be a Hawaiian paradise. But when the Ironman World Championship is happening, I can watch it live via my computer, and social media has become the go-to source for companies when it comes to updating Iron-fans, the Windy City comes pretty darn close. In the few spare minutes I had today--between an awesome, insightful Nike meeting to driving my parents to McCormick Place to return empty-handed on a Bank of America perk for tomorrow's race, and pre-race stretching to a family dinner--I was following the faves I wrote about earlier in the week plus a few more whose names skipped my mind when I created my original list. Although the finish line has yet to close, here are some of the finishers among those I tracked. More to come tomorrow--it's almost midnight here and that means time to get to bed so I can run 26.2 tomorrow.
  • Mirinda Carfrae. I know she's a fast runner and I know she wanted this win--I interviewed her in July, which means you'll have to come back to read some of those notes--but talk about an awesome race day. She ran her marathon faster than several guys, logging 2:53:32, and becoming the World Champion in 8:58:36. Some could argue that she won because Chrissie Wellington had to pull out after feeling flu-like, but I beg to differ. She dug deep to pass on the run and never had to look back. 
  • Chris McCormack. Here's an Aussie who's back on top as Ironman World Champion--he last won in 2007. But this win at 8:10:37 certainly didn't come easy. I'll have to go into more depth when I can think again tomorrow.
  • Andreas Raelert. This guy knows how to make a World Champion run fast for his win. Raelert pushed Alexander last year, and he and Macca were running head to head for a while (if I read Twitter correctly) until Macca pulled ahead. The finish was close with Raelert coming in at 8:12:17.
  • Craig Alexander. How can you not like Crowie and root for him? From, it sounded like Alexander was at a distinct disadvantage during the bike this year, and while he could try to play catch up on the run, even his 2:41:59 marathon split wasn't enough to catch McCormack and Raelert. But he did log a 8:16:53 for the day.
  • John Lloyd. I used to work with Lloyd's wife with Windy City Sports and Rocky Mountain Sports and let's just say, here's a family with a healthy Ironman obsession. They've traveled the world to compete and try for World Championship berths. Lloyd finally gained his earlier this year (again, I'll check tomorrow to tell you where), and finished today in 10:11:56.
  • Adam Zucco. Dang, he took eighth in his 35-39 age group in 9:16:34.
  • Christine Anderson. If you thought Zucco was fast, Anderson might be faster, comparative to her age group at least. She took seventh in her division (25-29) with a 10:28:25. 
  • D'Arcy Lynch. I happened to be watching when Lynch crossed the finish line in 10:51:43. 
  • Laura Sophiea. She just happened to be crossing the finish line at the same time as Lynch. Who knew?
  • Julie Shelley. I think it's safe to say that Shelley just keeps getting faster--or that she really likes racing in the heat. Shelley capped off the day finishing in 10:58:51.
  • Sonja Wieck. I've checked in on Wieck's blog throughout the summer and now I'll be looking forward to reading her race report. She came in at 10:17:53.
Stay tuned for more race highlights come tomorrow. It's shut-eye time for me as much as I'd love to continue watching these athletes cross the Ironman finish line. Talk about addictive--and inspiring. Darn, I'm so wishing I signed up for a 2011 Ironman, like Wisconsin again.

Friday, October 8, 2010

How to Wear the 2010 Chicago Marathon

Who decided to run the 2010 Chicago Marathon because of its special 10-10-10 race date? How many of you are spending 10-10-10 running your first marathon? Whether it's your first or your 15th, chances are you want to remember your marathon milestone. And more often than not, you want to remember it with more than your medal and race T-shirt. That's where sponsor Nike steps in. Not only does the company make the T-shirt you receive in your packet, organize the pace teams to help you reach your goal time and offer amenities on course to energize you when you really need it--like the Powersong station--but it also designs plenty of other items to help you sport your Sunday accomplishment. With special call-outs to Chicago like the skyline, the city flag and other things that connote Chicago, Nike has all the wares you could want. And not gear that you'd want to wear once and pitch. I have plenty of race tees from all these Chicago races, but even I can't pass up some of these.

Check out this slideshow for some of the items you might want to add to your marathon memorabilia.

And not on the lookout for a special Chicago-designed sneaker that you can only get when you're in the Windy City. Then if and when (come on, you know you're going to cross even if someone has to roll you across) you finish Sunday's race, head to Niketown after you finish--or anytime on Sunday and Monday--to score Finisher gear that won't be unveiled until race day.

Photos in slideshow courtesy of Nike.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Don't Be Tardy for This Party

Whether you're running the 2010 Chicago Marathon on Sunday or you're simply a runner who wants to enjoy this awesome return-to-summer weather, you need to make your way to Niketown at 669 N. Michigan Avenue tonight. Actually, even if you're not a runner, the motivation at tonight's fun run might make you want to start. Going with tradition--at least for the last five years, maybe longer--Niketown is holding its annual pep rally that precedes its Thursday Run Club fun run. Here's what you'll find tonight to kick off the run:
  • a question-and-answer session and autograph signings with elite Nike Athletes, including Sammy Wanjiru, Joan Benoit Samuelson, Chris Solinsky and Amy Yoder-Begley. Wanjiru won last year's race, Samuelson won in 1985 and returns this year to celebrate her win's 25th anniversary, Solinsky is a 14-time All American, and Yoder-Begley is an Olympian. Have any questions about race day? This group can provide good answers and worthy tips.
  • Appearance by the winners of the 2009 Northside Southside High School Challenge. Also keep in mind, this fun challenge will be racing 2.62 miles toward the finish line on Sunday after the runners have set off for their 26.2-mile run through the city.
  • check out the marathon-themed merchandise and maybe make a few purchases before going to the expo, like some warm-weather wares. No huge lines, plenty of sizes and maybe even a few things you won't see at this weekend's expo. My favorite? Look for the Chicago hot dog tee.
  • watch the unveiling of the Michigan Avenue windows featuring the names of all 45,000 participants in Sunday’s race. Maybe you'll even spot your own.
After the festivities, Nike Run Club will depart for a two-mile taper run to get those legs loose for 10-10-10. Talk about a perfect way to wrap up training. Ready, set, go!

Photo grabbed from Nike Run Club Chicago.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Who to Watch at the Ironman World Championship

For some, it's been more than a year in the making--qualifiers from Ironman Wisconsin 2009. For others, it's been only a few weeks in comparison--qualifiers from Ironman Louisville 2010 and Ironman Canada 2010 held on August 29. But if you're an Ironman triathlete, or just a triathlete who's into Ironman, all eyes are on this weekend's Ironman World Championship held in Kailua-Kona on Hawaii's Big Island. And not just for watching (or following online) Craig Alexander and Chrissie Wellington attempt to defend their titles, or hope anxiously that perhaps Chris Lieto and Mirinda Carfrae--the 2009 runners-up for the men and women--can usurp them. Oh no, I've got some locals in mind, or others with random ties (OK, call me a race-result stalker but I honestly only remember their names from races I've run), to follow come Saturday. They'll be running through the streets of Kona in their underpants today at the annual underwear run, fighting through the ocean with 1,800 other competitors, riding up to Hawi and back, traveling the Queen K, and running down Alii Drive toward the finish line. Here are some of those I'll be following online come Saturday (click read more in the lower left corner):

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Get Fast in Time for the Chicago Marathon

Twenty-mile run? Check. That was three weeks ago. Since then you've been either relishing in the taper time, freaking out about the rest you're giving your legs for the big race (yes, it is good), or wondering how in the world you're going to survive 26.2 miles on Sunday after lessening the mileage the last few weeks. Or more importantly, you're wondering if you'll be able to set a personal best on the flat and fast course. If you set your alarm early for tomorrow morning, you'll be able to set up your legs for success at the 2010 Chicago Marathon.

Join Mike Thomson, the strength and running coach at Core Fitness Chicago and a sub-3-hour marathoner, for a track workout that will boost your VO2 max. The workout starts at 6 a.m. Wednesday, October 6, at the track between Chicago and Pearson just behind the Museum of Contemporary Art (800 N. Lake Shore Drive). Thomson says this workout is designed to shock your nervous system and boost your VO2 levels to set you up for success come Sunday. This particular workout needs to be done five days before your big race and then you'll follow up with a similar workout on Saturday morning. It's the intensity that matters when it comes to raising your VO2 max.

Need proof? Athletes at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs have followed this track workout for years when they're in the final preparations for their "A" races. And now you have the chance to experience some of that Olympic-caliber coaching. For more details, e-mail Thomson at Or just show up at the track in the morning.

Photo grabbed from rowens27 at flickr.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Chris Lieto's Secret Weapon?

The countdown to the biggest dance of the year--if you're a triathlete and not a Dancing With the Stars fan, that is--is on in full force. That's right, the Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, the race that many triathletes dream of racing and only a few are so lucky to attend, takes place on Saturday, October 9, and the competitors have been spilling onto the Big Island. By this time next week people will be boarding--or being rolled onto, depending on the state of their legs after 140.6 miles--planes for the mainland, packing their bikes and bags, and readying for much-needed time off.

But before that happens, the 2010 Ironman World Champion has to be decided. Will Craig Alexander earn the three-peat? Will a previous winner like Faris Al-Sultan, Normann Stadler or Chris McCormack take the crown? Or will it be a new name like 2009 runner-up Chris Lieto, who possibly represents the U.S.'s best chance at a win? And when I read that two elite runners were packing their bags for the Big Island to cheer on Lieto, it got me wondering about his race-day potential and what he'd be bringing to the table. When you pore over race results for work, follow one-too-many athletes and have watched the 2009 Ironman show down an unhealthy amount of times, you start to assemble a list of what-ifs. Or at least I did.

Lieto is a monster on the bike. If you've watched the World Championship in the last few years, you've probably noticed that Lieto moves to the front of the pack on the bike--he came into T2 first last year and was the one to beat heading into the run. Alexander, a strong runner, did just that--he ran Lieto down, slowly chipping away at his lead and eventually striding by. Alexander can hold his own on the bike, but you most like won't find him leading like Lieto. But the tables are turned on the run where you could almost view the marathon as Lieto's weakness. Yikes, I'm not trying to sound as if I know everything about this triathlete and I can't even say how accurate this assessment is, but I'm starting to think that Lieto could pose an even greater challenge to Alexander this year--or maybe win it all.

Why? Because I'm guessing that he might have some secret weapons in his training arsenal: Ryan Hall and Josh Cox, the two runners heading to Kona to cheer him on. Hall's out of running Chicago, but he'll be in Kona before heading to the Windy City to support his Hall Steps Foundation runners. And after Hall leaves, Cox arrives to watch the Big Dance. The Hawaii trips don't exactly provide the evidence I was looking for, but these considerations did:
  • It's known that Lieto has been working on his run more. Craig Alexander says he noticed it when he raced Lieto in two 70.3 races last year in preparation for Kona. Crowie beat Lieto in both races, but not by much, and admitted that Lieto not only looked stronger on the run but he also was faster.
  • That statement alone makes me think that the threesome of Lieto, Cox and Hall has been working together up in Mammoth. Hall and Cox live and train in Mammoth Lakes along with other elite runners like Meb Keflezighi and Deena Kastor. Lieto's a born and bred Californian, and it's been reported that he trains in Mammoth. Sure, he could be there for higher-altitude cycling, but it almost makes too much sense for him to run, too.
  • Why wouldn't he employ the help of two elite runners for tips on faster running and some fast legs to follow on a training run? Especially when one of those runners is a K-Swiss teammate? That's my theory anyway.
  • Bobby McGee, a running coach (maybe professor is a better word since he knows so much about the sport, getting faster and biomechanics), said that a triathlete can lose a race because of the run and can win a race with a good run. Not his exact words--he said it better than my rough summary--but those words stuck in my head. Work too hard on the bike and your legs develop muscles that can actually inhibit your running. Sounds a little like Lieto has super-developed cycling legs, a cycling triathlete, that often fail him on the run--only because a runner triathlete can outrun him when it counts.
  • If Hall and Cox are heading to Kona to cheer for Lieto, wouldn't it make sense for them to provide him with some of their running expertise and go for a few taper runs? Or perhaps Lieto has been the guest runner on training days with Josh, Ryan and maybe even Meb. Or sharing the training and running advice from Josh and Ryan's coach Terence Mahon. Just hypothesizing.
The Kona travels just got me thinking that maybe 2010 would be the year Lieto became the groom and not the groomsman or usher. He came so close last year with a second-place finish. In a competition so tight, you know that one simple mistake or a slight falter could cost someone else the World Champion title. What do you think? Who's going to take it all at the Ironman World Championship this year? I can't wait to find out. 

Photo grabbed from thomas pix at flickr.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Twin Cities vs. Chicago, Who Wins?

If you were looking to run the Bank of America Chicago Marathon but couldn't sign up in time (the race closed less than 55 days after it opened on Feb. 1, 2010), chances are you found another Midwest race to meet those fall marathon goals. Two such races--Twin Cities in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn., and Lakefront in Milwaukee, Wis.--near and somewhat dear to my heart took place this weekend and offer some of the same charm as the Windy City's race but also enough variation for anyone who decided long ago that Chicago wasn't the place to run a marathon. And being that I become rather obsessed with races, results and marathons this time of year (oh and the Ironman World Championships), I had to give a shout-out to my husband's hometown and the spot where he might be working next year.

While you'll have to wait 'til next year to run these two races, that doesn't mean you can't learn a little more about them almost a year in advance. In fact, it might actually help solidify monumental marathon decisions: where to run, when to run, should you run. So we're taking a look at some of the reasons to run these other two Midwest races that have found spots in the hearts of the Chicago running community. But first up, the Twin Cities Marathon (the two races needed their own posts).
  • This race has been held either the weekend before or the same day as Chicago, and both scenarios can work in the favor of Chicago runners. You can still train with your friends, just race in a different state. And you could end up with better weather.
  • If you take a look at's forecast for next Sunday and then the real-time temps for today, you might wish you're running 26.2 now instead of next week (depending on your ideal running temperature). And being that you're north of the Windy City in Minnesota, you're also more than likely to find chillier temperatures what you'll find close to home or could avoid a weather front that's heading toward Chicago.
  • Smaller scale. Not into running with 45,000 of your "closest" friends? This race was capped at 11,200 runners. While the spots were gone by early June, that's still more registration time than Chicago had this year.
  • Scenic. You'll run a tour of the two cities starting at the Metrodome and finishing at St. Paul's Capitol Building. It may not be an out-and-back or a traditional point-to-point (Boston, California International) but consider it a better option since you're not shuttled 26 miles to the race start.
  • Get the family and friends involved. You want to run a marathon. Your support team and/or friends want to participate too, but not for 26.2 miles. Twin Cities offers a weekend of running with the marathon and a 10-miler held on Sunday and a 10K, 5K and family events on Saturday.
  • If you're into running races when the race itself is celebrating a milestone, then this is definitely one to consider for 2011. The Twin Cities Marathon will celebrate its 30th running next October.
  • Flat and rolling course characteristics help produce Boston-qualifying times for several runners. And fast times for the elites too--Deb Buzunesh, a 23-year-old from Tampa, just topped the female results with a 2:27:24.
  • And for the elite American runners, it's a chance at a payday. Chicago, Boston and New York will have the fast feet from Kenya, Ethiopia, Russia and more, who will eventually go on to top the results lists. In Minnesota--if 2010's men's race is any indication--it's all about the American runners, or at least those who reside in the states. Deba Buzunesh, a 23-year-old Ethiopian from Tampa, Fla., won for the women, while Sergio Reyes, a 28-year-old from Palmdale, Calif., topped the men's results with a 2:14:02.
Have you run the Twin Cities Marathon? What did you like or not like about it?

Photo grabbed from meetminneapolis at Flickr.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Fit-Pic: You Know You're in Kona When... see some of the best Ironman athletes running the Big Island's roadways. Tanned, ripped, HRM-wearing eye candy--for the girls maybe and pangs of envy for the guys? Chris McCormack, a.k.a. Macca, shared this pic via Facebook from a run along the back section of the Ironman World Championships marathon course. Among the bunch you'll find McCormack, Terenzo Bozzone, Torsten Abel, Dirk Bockel and Rasmus Henning, all professionals set to race in Kona and usurp Craig Alexander. Now just wait for the underwear run later in the week where onlookers might seriously regret their day-before consumption or excuse for skipping their workout. That's even more intense eye candy.

Photo grabbed from Macca via Facebook.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Even the Best Runners Get Tired

Hopefully you're still not shell-shocked over Ryan Hall's announcement to drop out of October 10's Bank of American Chicago Marathon. On Tuesday, Hall cited fatigue as his reasoning for pulling out of the race where he hoped to break the American record. But while some sounded angry over Hall's decision, or disappointed that they'd no longer be sharing the course with the fast American and potentially sharing in his record-setting appearance, his justification simply makes sense. And can show us that even the best runners aren't superhuman--all the time.

Take Hall's blog posts at You could read his most recent entry, the one that followed the official announcement that he wouldn't be running, that essentially explains his take on the reasons behind dropping out. More political, more "hey fans, here's why I can't run in two weeks," more detailed. Deeper, if you will, provided I was asked to give a literary analysis on a blog post. Whether it's just good writing or good story-telling, Hall makes a compelling argument for postponing his next marathon until 2011. He didn't want to end up like Greg Meyer who told Hall not to make his mistake where he ran Chicago to defend his title, wasn't ready to run and he marks it as the beginning of the end for his running career. At 28, I'm sure Hall doesn't want to be done with his glory days--he has too many goals to yet accomplish.

And if you take a look at one of his older entries--or had followed all along from the beginning--it's really not surprising that he decided not to run. He's tired. No excuses about it. Just like any average runner hits the fatigue mark--after all, there is that saying that if you can survive marathon training, you can survive the marathon--so did Hall. And rather than push through it, he's a smart enough runner to know that as he ages, it becomes less and less possible to bounce back quickly from those tough sessions. He cited a 12-mile tempo run and a 25-mile long run within the course of three days. I know that's a lot for me to run--I'd be knocked up for at least a week after running 25 miles unless I walked most of it--and I'm sure it's still a lot for Hall, especially at the speeds he'd take those miles at. Or take a gander at Josh Cox's workouts, Hall's training partner up in Mammoth, which he posts regularly via Twitter and Facebook. How these guys don't get tired with double sessions, hours each, is beyond me. Sure, marathon runners can be deemed superhuman, but it's back to reality--and a little refreshing for the rest of us--when they show they need a break too.

Ryan, we'll miss you along the Chicago Marathon course, but will be looking for you supporting your Hall Steps Foundation runners and are happy you're still coming to the Windy City. And rest up so you can continue toward your American record goal. We're sure Hawaii will help with that much needed R&R--Hall and Cox will be there next week to support K-Swiss teammate Chris Lieto in his final preparations for the Ironman World Championships. 

Update: Liz just posted an awesome interview with Ryan Hall at Time Out Chicago. Check it out here.

A Quote to Remember

Ryan hall 2009"Sometimes when you're painting a masterpiece it gets messy. When I show up on the starting line in Chicago I want to make it special." --Ryan Hall, via Twitter

If Runner's World wants to add a quote to its Quote of the Day repertoire, I'm all for adding this one by Ryan Hall. Not because he's explaining his decision to not race the 2010 Chicago Marathon, but more because it's eloquent and one of those sayings that any runner might consider leading into race day. The eloquent aspect is rather obvious but the other bit may be more opinion than actual truth. But I like to think that it makes sense...maybe not for your first marathon if you're gung-ho on crossing the finish line no matter what, but most likely for that race where you wanted to run fast and now see you're going to fall short of your expectations--even those that others set upon you. 

In a somewhat weird way, I feel like I can identify with what Hall's saying. Or at least understand a bit more why he'd throw away--as some commented--the chance of leaping into the record books once again, having a huge payday, and not passing up any appearance fees. Sometimes it's just not your day. A simple phrase but one that not all of us runners always seem to understand.

Case in point: Chicago Marathon 2007. Yes, that one where it was 90-something degrees as the race crept on and was eventually canceled and turned into a fun run to salvage the racers still on course. I had already painted most of my masterpiece in training but the race would add the final touches--not the same as knowing while training that things were drastically wrong, but related enough where you hopefully catch my drift. Long story short, my clothes were soaked by mile 10 and I was really feeling the heat effects somewhere between miles 11 and 12. Before reaching the halfway mark--and the spot where I'd see my family--I already knew my race was over. No personal best, no decent time, no run all the way but slower. It was full-on survival mode--make it to the finish line to collect medal No. 8 and save my marathon legs for the potential of running a cooler race. As I stopped to walk, I'm getting pats on the back and encouraging phrases like "Hang in there!", "You'll be OK!", "You can do it!" Meanwhile, all I could help thinking was that I knew when to throw in the towel and call off the race. Fine I was still out there, unlike Hall who won't be toeing the line, but I'm at the point where my masterpiece got smeared and the only thing special about this race was finishing.

Second case in point: Chicago 2008. Hot again, but not as bad as the year before. Except this time I'm not only contesting the heat--where I know I struggle--but also coming off Ironman recovery. Good idea to run a marathon barely a month after a 140.6-mile race? Probably not. I could have used some of Hall's reasoning then to avoid the marathon altogether. Sure enough, I hit the wall at mile 15 and mustered the energy to walk/run the last 11 miles--I can't give up now--but I know that re-qualifying for Boston is not happening.

The key, or so I think, is that I lowered my expectations. It's what I can easily do as an age-grouper but probably doesn't come as easily for a professional. The only hype I have is my own and maybe my family's--they are nice enough to watch me year in and year out, no matter how slow or fast I go--and my finish time, and place, isn't riding on the hopes of millions. But I'll still have to pocket Hall's words for the times when I'm questioning why I'm showing up to race in the first place. When I don't want to run for fun, when I don't need a Boston-qualifying time, when it's too cold or hot to enjoy myself, or when I'm really too injured to battle through 26.2. In a weird way, I can learn something from Hall, even if others currently think he's a quitter. He's really just teaching us a lesson about when to listen to our bodies and how to make races special.

Photo by By George Roberts (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


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