Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Customer's Letter of Complaint--and Ski Bag Gear Review

My battered--and taped--Rossignol ski bag
Dear Rossignol,
I love--and I mean love with all my heart--your skis, especially my side-cut 80 Voodoos that travel with me on every ski trip for powder, crud, ice and groomers. But I'm no longer a fan of your gear bags, namely one in particular, the Super Haul 2-Pair Wheelie Ski/Board Bag.

I want to love this bag as affectionately as I love my skis--in fact, I planned to do so when I purchased it. It looked sturdy, it offered plenty of space for all our gear, it featured more bells and whistles than its predecessor, it received good reviews from other purchasers, it was a bargain buy at Sierra Trading Post

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Fit-Pic: It's an Alta Christmas...on Skis


To quote a popular tale this time of year: Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night! And what a merry Christmas it was for this girl. I got to spend it on skis in one of my most favorite places on Earth: Alta, Utah. Don't get me wrong: I can ski just about anywhere, but there's something special about Alta--or more my memories of it. I skied it for the first time exactly a decade ago this December (man, time flies!), back when Utah had an early season dumping--not this year unfortunately--and Alta's vast terrain felt like a true winter wonderland. The history buff in me is fascinated by its past, how it was the first of the Utah resorts to run a chair lift and how it looked back in a vintage 1974 video.

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Culinary Skiing Adventure

Serving up delicious food at the Keystone Culinary Festival
I think it's safe to say that I love food just about as much as I love sports, especially skiing, running and triathlon (if I had to pick three). So when I heard about a new event that combined food and sport in one weekend--and in January, no less, when I'm always yearning to get out of the Windy City and take some turns in the mountains--my mouth started to water.

OK, you caught me. Skiing or not, it also helped that I remembered my experience at the Keystone Culinary Festival where my taste buds were satiated with gourmet goodies that I probably wouldn't order off a menu, but was so glad to have them forced upon me. I had to get my ticket's worth, after all, and that meant trying everything on tap at the March event. Good thing I skied all day. But if I could mimic that experience again, I'd try to drop everything to do it. Yes, it was that good.

And I have a feeling that the Beaver Creek Food & Wine Festival, slated for January 26-28, 2012, could easily match those expectations. It's the first of its kind at the Colorado resort. It's full of locally and nationally renowned chefs. It's skiing and food--what's better than that?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Fit-Pic: Christian Vande Velde Visits Garmin


How's this for a holiday greeting? Christian Vande Velde, a professional cyclist who races with Team Garmin-Cervélo, answered questions, talked cycling and signed autographs at the Garmin store on Michigan Avenue. He has turned in some impressive finishes this year: 4th overall at the Tour of California and 2nd overall at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. Vande Velde grew up in the Chicago area, and lives and trains in Libertyville, Ill., most of the year--he was out riding his bike this morning with Bo Jackson, and Robbie Ventura and Dave Noda of Vision Quest and says that he'll ride outside until the temperatures dip below 20 degrees. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A P90X Primer: What You Need to Know

I couldn't name the first time I watched the P90X infomercial. I couldn't tell you if it was before or after I watched the one about Insanity or Jillian Michaels or the Total Gym (you know, that apparatus that Christie Brinkley and Chuck Norris peddle). But I can definitely attest that I was skeptical at first. Could these people really looked that ripped after following a program in their living room? Was it a  scam like the weight-loss pill infomercials where the spokesperson gained weight to film the before shot that was filmed after the "this is what I looked like after taking X pill" (so I heard)? Could you really get an effective workout at home, doing P90X?

I let those inhibitions go this summer, cracked down and bought myself a copy of the 90-day program. But it wasn't until I had the opportunity to talk to Tony Horton, the motivator behind the 12 workouts to rotate through, that I really became a believer. Sure, one hour of Core Synergistics was enough of a  butt-kicking--I was ready to collapse during a set that Tony flew through effortlessly while I had to pause and regroup--but I wasn't ready to quit yet. Far from it. Bring on the muscle confusion. Bring on the workouts that are tough even before adding the weights or resistance bands. Bring on the blood-rushing, sweat-inducing, breath-panting torture--and ensuing pain and soreness.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Top 11 Stocking Stuffers for Triathletes

Source
Are your stockings hung by the chimney with care? Are the triathletes you know waiting for them to be filled courtesy of St. Nick? It's easier to create a triathlon-themed stocking than you might think, even if you're waiting until the last minute to do your shopping. Blame it on the trifecta--where you have the freedom to think about three sports instead of just one.

Following in the footsteps of runners' stocking stuffers, we ran through our picks for filling a triathlete's Christmas stocking. For a sport that's often labeled as expensive, you might be surprised to find several stocking worthy items that won't break the bank.
  1. Sport stickers. M dots, 140.6, 70.3, 26.2. You name the number or symbol and chances are you've seen at least as many of these car stickers tacked on the rear as you've read "My child is an honors student at...." You can't wrap a sticker in gift wrap unless you place it in a box, but you can slip it into a stocking.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Who's Going to Win The Biggest Loser 12?

We watched them arrive on The Biggest Loser Ranch morbidly obese, waddling their way around the gym, and sporting body ages that nearly doubled their real age. We watched them in the gym week after week--or maybe we missed one here or there but caught up on the blogs--as they shed pound after pound. We watched them run all, or most of, a marathon, something that seemed completely impossible at the season's start when even a mile looked like the greatest endurance challenge ever.

I always get excited about finale night on The Biggest Loser. I want to see the transformations, or a near lack of as past seasons have proved (sorry but I know I've seen a contestant or two who's arrived at finale night shedding only a small percentage of weight). I want to hear the stories about how they fared or failed at home and having to deal with life after the Ranch. I want to see the numbers posted from the giant scale and see how they contestants stack up. And I want to see who is going to take the at home prize (please let it be one of the women after the all-male trio up for the big bucks) and who is going to win the $250,000.

Don't ask me why but a familiar line from a Black-Eyed Peas song came into my head when thinking about my prediction: "I've got a feeling...." I've got a feeling that John could be the winner. He's shattered records all season, he's thrilled to be up against Antone because the former NFL-player motivates him to work 10 times harder, he cut himself off from workout distractions when he went home before running the marathon. But then I also have a feeling that it could be one of my season favorites, Antone or Ramon. Antone laid down a challenge last week and said something to the effect of bringing out his NFL beast (my interpretation, anyway). Antone's like a big teddy bear

Well, the scale won't lie tonight and I'll just have to wait and see. But in the meantime, weigh in on who you think will be shedding the largest percentage of weight--between Antone, John and Ramon--and winning the title of The Biggest Loser. And then stay tuned to NBC at 9 p.m. (or 8 p.m. if you're in CST like me) or follow along during the Fit-Bottomed Girls live tweet (hashtag #BL12).

Monday, December 12, 2011

Top 11 Stocking Stuffers for Runners

Source
Confession: my mom still fills my Christmas stocking. The toothbrush, the calendar, the gum, the handpicked ornament representing some highlight from the last 365 days? It's all still there in some way, shape or form. If we're together for the holiday, the "kids" still have to shut their eyes and wait for the stockings to be filled Christmas morning. If we're not, Mom mails a "stocking in a box:" all the treats that Santa would want in the stocking but delivered, and opened, before the official day (shh, don't tell Mom).

Now I'm all for tradition, and I'm certainly not complaining about the treats that I do get because my mom is creative to no avail when it comes to stuffing these suckers year in and year out. But sometimes I wonder what else could be found in my stocking Christmas morning (I can still act like a kid on December 25, can't I?). What if Mom were to stray from tradition and offer up a stocking with a running theme? A stocking is just a larger version of a sock, after all. And if that's the case, here are some picks to fill a runner's stocking come Christmas--or Secret Santa exchange, White Elephant party or Hanukkah.
  1. Feetures! socks. Any socks would fit into a stocking, but I'm currently digging my Feetures pair. They're soft and bright white--even after multiple washings--and they're holding up to the abuse I put most socks through. I'm always losing a sock in the wash, poking holes in their toes, or finding strays in my sock drawer. And what runner couldn't use a new pair of socks? Certainly not me.

Friday, December 9, 2011

What to Love About the Craft PXC Storm Tight

Sometimes blogging just doesn’t go your way. It’s kind of like running when you have a race outcome that you’re not completely satisfied with. You wish you could remember where you went wrong, you wish you could remember the good parts instead of all the bad parts, you wish you could banish the negative energy.

Now transfer those thoughts over to writing and you’ll find my current position. I’m sitting in front of my computer, trying to recount the phrases that ran through my head during last night’s Spinning workout. There’s something about me and biking—and Thursday night, only Thursday—that revs the creative juices in my brain, giving me oodles (yes, oodles) of thoughts to run back home and jot down. Except last night I needed secret powers or magnetic energy, anything, to transfer my thoughts to paper before class ended. By the time I got off the bike, all the phrases I tried so hard to remember as I pedaled through climbs, headwinds and sprints weren’t coming together as well as they had during the sweat session. I can remember keywords like REI fleece pants, snowshoeing, slipping on ice and doubling up, but ask me to connect them all together in carefully crafted prose and I’m stuck in my tracks.

You see, all of those phrases are supposed to explain my affinity for the Craft running pants I modeled at the Fleet Feet Fashion Show last month. I’m practically as clueless as you, reading this for the first time, figuring out how I meshed them together in a cohesive, rational thought, which I swear I did but needed a notebook next to the bike so I could hop off and jot it down. Let this serve as a long-winded introduction to the Craft tights pictured above.

And now onto the review.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Train Now, Ski Later

Slackline? I can't even balance on a plank.
Nothing compares to a ski day on the mountain, unless you can't get there. The fresh air. The sun or the chance of a snow shower and fresh tracks to be had. The workout without really trying--not exactly, but I can easily eat more and feel my looser in my jeans after skiing.

The only problem is that I can't walk out my front door with my skis in hand to take some runs before hitting my desk for the day (boy do I wish I could). And if I hopped in my car to spend a weekend in Vail, or Keystone considering it's a few miles closer, I'd be forced to turn around before buckling my boots because it'd be time to head home upon arrival--or there could be strong winds on Interstate 80 and I'd be stranded somewhere in Nebraska (that's a nightmare in itself). And my mountains? Well, around here we call them glorified garbage dumps (sorry Wisconsin and northwest Illinois, but you haven't convinced me to return yet). Yeah, it stings a little when you live 1,000 miles from your heaven on Earth, the Rockies, and the only snow you'll be seeing in the near future falls under the snow globe variety.

But I know that I'll be making it onto my skis eventually, it just takes a little longer than for others. I'm just giving the snow a chance to settle so I don't scratch my skis on a stray rock or branch (and sob about it later). I view it as more time to get in shape before I get there--Christmas cookies out of the system, training plan back on track (not counting this week), holiday distractions pushed to the backburner--so I'm not catching my breath every two seconds on a blue run the first day or cursing my husband for taking me on perfectly shaped moguls and feeling the after-effects when I'm buried in the gully and my ski is halfway up the mountain.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Thrills and Chills at Beaver Creek Resort: Birds of Prey

Looking up a BC run, presumably Golden Eye
The male ski racers on the World Cup circuit took to it last week. The female ski racers will be racing it tomorrow. It'll be part of the FIS World Alpine Ski Championships when they land in Vail and Beaver Creek in 2015. And it's one of the 13 runs you have to ski from top to bottom, lift opening to lift close, at the annual Talons Challenge. Don't ski it early and you could easily be looking at a scary sheet of ice.

To some, including the World Cup racers, it's known as the Birds of Prey downhill course at Beaver Creek Resort in Colorado. To others, you'll find it listed on the trail map as Golden Eagle. The double black run can be accessed from the Birds of Prey lift or the Cinch lift, which takes you to the summit, follows a blue trail out of the start gate, and then picks up speed, near drop-offs and jumps before it turns blue again and ends where the Birds of Prey, Grouse Mountain and Larkspur lifts converge.

I forgot just how steep and scary this run can get until I was watching the Universal Sports' coverage of the World Cup men. Bode Miller made the run look easy until you saw him panting at the bottom and still catching his breath when he was being interviewed. He eventually took the race but not before other favorites like Aksel Lund Svindahl and Didier Cuche got their skis handed to them on some of the course's wily turns. Turn too early, turn too late and you could be done for. Lindsey Vonn, who calls Vail her hometown, warmed up on the run today in preparation for tomorrow's race--a super-G that was switched to Beaver Creek after there wasn't enough snow in Val d'Isere, France. Chances are that she's making it look just as easy as Miller.

The Biggest Loser's Marathon Mission

Maybe it's just me, but tonight's episode of The Biggest Loser is one that I've been looking forward to since Ramon and Jessica were eliminated. Jess because she was the quiet champion, in my eyes, who lost weight fast and looked athletic from the get-go, but unfortunately was viewed as a threat (if you do the math, she'd look like a waif if she lost half her body weight by the finale to stand up to the 400-plus dudes at the start, Antone, John and Vinny). Ramon because I liked the energy he brought to the show each week and rooted for him to make it to the finale with Antone, my other favorite.

My money is on one of these two, Ramon and Jessica, taking the win and finding themselves automatically into the finals, with a cash incentive to boot. They're younger than the other competitors, they've been training together post-show, they always looked like the least likely to break down during a physical challenge or Last Chance Workout, and they said they were determined to take the marathon win in their exit interviews.

Monday, December 5, 2011

To the Olympics (Trials) They Go

Overbeck at the Chase Corporate Challenge
I always knew the California International Marathon was fast. I once wrote it down on a list of marathons that were good Boston Marathon qualifiers. I ran it in 2008 when I desperately tried to chase a second Boston qualifying time so I could run with Liz in Beantown the following April. I may not have qualified as I had hoped--note to self: don't try to run another 26.2 after finishing your first Ironman and a hotter-than-ideal Chicago Marathon--but I ran faster than expected, given that I could barely finish 10 miles two weeks before the race.

But could California International really live up to its fast reputation when several speedy female runners needed it to as they gunned for their Olympic Trials qualifying time in what would be their last chance before the January event in Houston? (How's that for a long-winded sentence?) The answer would be a resounding yes. For some runners, December 4, 2011, will go down as a day in history, the special Sunday when they reached one tough cut-off on the road to Olympic glory. And for a few others, they'll hopefully forget that Sunday just wasn't their day. It pains me to write that, since I silently cheered for several Chicagoans after learning of their Olympic attempts over the summer. It helps to meet filmmaker Wendy Shulik, who's been chasing the women as they try to qualify and filming them for her Miles and Trials documentary, and who will get you as excited (or close to it) as she is for Trials' tribulations.

Kate Gosselin Runs Sin City

Kate, minus her 8, ran along the Las Vegas Strip
She's famous for the reality television show Jon and Kate Plus 8, and then Kate Plus 8, that showed her raising a family of multiples. She's famous for the subsequent book deals and appearances that landed in her lap after becoming a reality TV star. She's famous for a shaggy, spiky haircut that was a popular Halloween costume one year. She's famous for dancing with Tony Dovolani on Dancing with the Stars. And now Kate Gosselin is hitting the headlines once again for running, and finishing, the Zappos.com Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Marathon, a race that took over the Strip on Sunday night.

Her time? She finished her first 26.2-miler in 4:59:21, which rounds out to a pace of about 11:25 per mile. Not bad considering she looks half-frozen in the picture People.com published and that a majority of the race was run after the sun went down.

But "killing it" as Gosselin was quoted in People? I'm not so sure about that. She ran her first marathon faster than Katie Holmes (5:29:58 at the New York City Marathon), Ali Landry (5:41:41 at the Boston Marathon) and Valerie Bertinelli (5:14:37 at the Boston Marathon). But she didn't beat Oprah, who ran her first and only marathon in 1994, finishing with a time of 4:29:15, and there are plenty of other famous women who've run faster, too. Yes, a marathon is commendable, but watch what you say in that post-race euphoric state especially when the race technically had a time cutoff of 4 hours and 30 minutes, and you finished 29 minutes beyond that. Just sayin'.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Hot Chocolate Epic Fail?

And I thought the haters in Chicago were bad. I'm not so sure after the all-out rage that exploded in the Washington, D.C., area yesterday after--and perhaps during considering my friend texted status updates from the starting pens--the inaugural Hot Chocolate 15K and 5K. The race has been held in Chicago for four years and as some would say to varying degrees of success. But from the looks of this social media movement, the race's first appearance on a national level (Dallas and San Diego are next, followed by San Francisco and Phoenix--and I swear Denver was in the mix at one point, too) did not go well.

The race started late...not just by a few minutes, or 15 minutes because of a last-minute course reroute when a truck got stuck in Chicago, but 35 or so minutes. The traffic was horrendous and the cause of the delay--the cars were on the course. The 15K may have been short. The carpool situation wasn't ideal for a Maryland resident--per my old roommate who lives on that side of the District.

Now this is all hearsay, but still, it doesn't sound good. Runners created a Facebook page to voice comments where they're sharing race reports, complaints, pictures, and demands for registration refunds. Ouch to RAM, the race organizer, but at the same time, maybe they just shot to high for a first time race? How large are the other big races in D.C. like the Army 10-Miler and the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler, and what do they do to get it right, or seemingly so, time and again?

Sound off, runners!

Friday, December 2, 2011

'Tis the Season to be Jolly: Santa Hustle 5K

Not a fan of cold weather running? Me either. Last week’s Turkey Trot was cold enough for me—and it wasn’t even that bad in retrospect—but between that and the simple fact that my legs are tired from running, and recovering from injury, since March, I’m ready to hang up my sneakers for the year. Not even some reasons to run this winter could convince me otherwise. You see, I’m also a skier, and a slightly neurotic one at that, and the minute the hat, gloves and warm boots come out around here, I’m poking around the internet for travel deals to Colorado.

But not so fast. There’s a race that’s been gathering a bit of publicity that might just pull my running shoes out of winter retirement. It’s only a 5K, perfect for whatever Mother Nature decides to throw at us—snow, sleet, wind or warm temps. It involves holiday merriment, something I could definitely use considering my Christmas decorations are still in storage and I’ve been called Scrooge more often than not in the last month. It has offered a pre-registration discount, $5 off if I registered by Nov. 21 (oops, missed out on that one). And you can find it featured in the December issue of Runner’s World and on The Rachael Ray Show.

It’s the Santa Hustle 5K, happening this Saturday, December 3, at Montrose Harbor in Chicago. And December 11 in the Great Smoky Mountains—Sevierville, Tenn., to be exact where a half marathon is also on tap. And December 17 in Indianapolis.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Epic Pass Deadline Extended

Vail, you're too nice. For all the procrastinators out there, snow.com announced that the deadline for purchasing an Epic Pass, one of the five season pass options for skiing seven resorts in Colorado and Lake Tahoe, has been extended. Instead of being left out in the cold by not purchasing your pass before the clock struck November 30, skiers and snowboarders now have until December 5 to add a pass to their online shopping cart. 

Ooh, six more days to decide? It's almost too good to be true, considering I forgot last year's deadline, forgot to badger husband to buy a pass and then forgot that he wouldn't want to ski as often as me as a result. I know what I'd be adding to my Christmas wish list if our TV didn't break two weeks ago--I'd be going Epic. Skiing through winter certainly beats suffering through it in the Windy City. But even that doesn't have to be the case this winter with a Chicago to Vail deal if you travel between January 8 and February 17, and book your trip by next Monday. Check out all the details if you're like me and can't tolerate Midwest skiing. Or rather the 30 seconds or less it takes to ski down the run followed by the 15-minute lift line.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Score a Skiing Season Pass Before It's Too Late

I like to ski...a lot. I also like to save money though that's more because my sporty pursuits can put a real dent in the wallet...and on the credit card...and in the savings account. Well, not exactly. It's really so I can ski again, and again, and again. And when you live 1,000 miles from a ski destination, it's those other costs--flight, transportation, eating out, and lodging--that start to add up. Sound familiar?

Maybe you've debated over where you want to spend your winter skiing--and how long and when. Maybe you've tried to talk yourself out of the need for a season pass. Maybe you've been trying to tack on more ski days to your upcoming schedule to justify the need for a season pass. Maybe you've been saving your pennies waiting until the last possible second to pull the trigger on buying your season pass. But you know you want one, and you know you can't go a season without skiing, and you know you can't, or shouldn't, spend top dollar to make those turns in your favorite powder stashes (that's me). Whatever your excuse is for not currently having an Epic Pass in your arsenal for the 2011-2012 season, aside from living closer to another mountain in say Montana or Wyoming or Utah, your time is about to expire.

The deadline to purchase one of the five Epic Pass options to ski seven resorts in Colorado and around Lake Tahoe--Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Heavenly, Keystone, Northstar, Vail, and Arapahoe Basin (not owned by Vail Resorts but still just as awesome to have in the mix)--is today, November 29. And if you don't decide by midnight tonight, you're truly SOL because that means you have to buy lift tickets per time, which can add up if you plan to ski more than seven days at one or all seven of these mountains. Ouch.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Divorce for Lindsey Vonn? Reports Say Yes

I thought it was a hoax. I read a tweet from The Ski Channel and shook my head in disbelief. It sounded too false to be true, if that even makes sense. Lindsey Vonn? Single? Soon? What am I reading?

But when you click on The Ski Channel's link, you'll realize that it actually is true. That skiing's golden girl, Lindsey Vonn, is getting divorced. Wait, what? Say that again.

Lindsey Vonn and her husband of four years, Thomas Vonn, are getting divorced according to a statement provided to The Associated Press and later revealed at The Ski Channel. Thomas Vonn wrote in an email to the AP that he filed for divorce last Monday, according to the article. The couple got married at the Silver Lake Lodge at Deer Valley on September 29, 2007, and Lindsey subsequently took her husband's surname, and the world started calling her Lindsey Vonn instead of Lindsey Kildow.

Thomas is a skier himself, also competing on the U.S. Ski Team and finishing ninth in the Super-G at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Park City. Lately he's served as Lindsey's chief adviser, helping her focus on skiing while he coordinated interviews and logistics, and provided tips on the race course. That also includes accompanying her to appearances and events as I met skiing's power couple when Lindsey threw out the first pitch at Wrigley Field (wow, was that really two years ago?).

As of right now, Lindsey isn't letting her personal life stop her skiing life. Or at least not too much. She still plans to be coached by the U.S. Ski Team and race the World Cup circuit for the season. And sure, it was tape-delayed, but she was on Universal Sports' ski coverage yesterday afternoon.

I can only wonder about celebrity status and marriage meltdowns. Like A-listers in Hollywood, maybe this marriage had too much time in the limelight?

Read more about this news at ABC News and ESPN


Photo grabbed from Vail Resorts and credited to Jack Affleck.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Gobble, Gobble: Run a Turkey Trot

Is it just me, or does it seem a little odd that we're boarding planes to see family near and far, buying turkeys and all the fixings, and watching the holiday decor turn on around the city? While the marathon seems like it was ages ago (even more than the month and a half that it actually has been) and my last 5K feels long forgotten (maybe that's attributed to the fact that I have no chocolate leftovers), I'm still in disbelief that it's practically Thanksgiving and I'll be chowing down on turkey, er turducken as far as tradition goes in my house, in two days time. But this year, I'm hoping to add another activity to the mix and hope that it finally sticks enough to become a tradition: the Turkey Trot.

Getting in a sweat session on Thanksgiving, or any holiday? That's a given: I can't remember a time where I didn't run around outside with my cousins, hike the hill near their house, run along the Lakefront or through my parents' neighborhood, sneak into the secret Spinning class at the gym, or push my way into a crowded yoga studio for a detox class. Besides, it gives me extra justification for the holiday smorgasbord. Healthy or not, you'll find me indulging on the holiday desserts that I swear I have a second stomach for, after stuffing myself full of turducken, green beans and sweet potato.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Time to Think Soldier Field 10 for 2012

It's the end of the work week--TGIF. It's Veteran's Day--thank you to those who've served our country. It's 11-11-11, a date that we're not going to see for another 100 years. All of these are great to celebrate, but here's something to get runners excited and set to start planning for 2012: registration for the Soldier Field 10 Mile race opens today.

The race that's held over Memorial Day Weekend and at Soldier Field has veteran spirit written all over it, so it's only appropriate that this Chicago favorite starts registration on Veteran's Day. Plus it's perfect to get a jump-start to next season whether it's a goal to increase mileage, try a race you've been out of town for before, aim for a PR at the 10-mile distance, you name it. My running mind is excited because I could only watch the 2011 Soldier Field 10, my legs being in no shape to run or even walk the shorter Hut-Hut Hike, let alone 10 miles, even though my mind was ready to go.

Quick details on the race:
  • Runners finish on the 50-yard line at Soldier Field
  • The race will be held Saturday, May 26.
  • The course runs along the Lakefront
  • Finishers receive a medal and special commemorative item, in 2011 it was an awesome stadium blanket.
Ready to register for this race that sells out every year? Check out all the details and get started at soldierfield10.com. I'll be signing up later today, will you?


Photo grabbed from soldierfield10.com.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Fit-Pic: Reflective on the Run


I'm usually the person who likes to hang in the background, hopefully going unnoticed. That's not going to happen when I wear this Nike jacket. Unveiled at the Fleet Feet Fall Fashion Show last night, the Vapor Flash Jacket has technology that produces 400-candlepower reflectivity. So much for slipping into the background: We had more than 100 LED lights flashing on us to show just how bright these jackets are when it's pitch black.

It's perfect for running in the dark--and I'd contend that it's even better for biking since I always forget to bring my blinky light with me and can only hope that drivers see me pedaling on the roads. It's bright on one side but reverses to a matte fabric with glow accents so you can tone it down where needed. I really wanted to go home with this jacket (Fleet Feet was kind enough to reward the models with one of the running fashions we sported during the show), but this one was such a hot commodity--and it retails for $300--it had to stay at the store. Christmas is coming...can we say wish list?


Photo courtesy of Lauren Matricardi.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

NYC Marathon Preview: 10 People to Track

The world fires itself up more for the New York City Marathon than pretty much any other race, Boston included. That could be because it draws a crowd larger than Boston's, runners are practically begging to get in year after year with a packed-to-the-hilt lottery, there's always at least one celebrity running it (oh, Katie Holmes, I still remember when you took to the course and People snapped a Star Tracks photo), and it takes runners on a tour through all of New York's boroughs.

I've known that I've wanted to follow the November 6 race for months, even though I hardly know anyone, on a personal level, who's running. But in addition to the speedsters like Meb Keflezighi--and what could be a showdown between Meb and Geb (Gebre Gebremariam)--and Mary Keitany, here's who'll I'll be tracking when the race kicks off Sunday morning and runners start flooding the Verrazano Bridge:

1. Andy Baldwin
2. Kristin Armstrong
3. Mario Lopez
4. Christy Turlington Burns
5. Ryan Sutter
6. Dave Zimmer
7. Mya
8. Ethan Zohn
9. Apolo Ohno
10. Jennie Finch

You might recognize all of these names at the get-go with the exception of one. Dave Zimmer isn't famous in terms of being a reality TV star, a TV host and former Saved by the Bell star, a Runner's World columnist and author, or an Olympic athlete, but he's the owner of Fleet Feet Sports in Chicago so I couldn't help but get excited.

Who do you know who is running the ING New York City Marathon?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Help: A Running Costume

It's Chicken Run at the Trick or Treat Trot.
Apparently I'm really bad at wearing anything but my usual running outfit at a running race. The running outfit itself may change from year to year--a swapped tank here, a new pair of shorts there, and an added layer when necessary--but still, I'm hard to sway from my usual shorts/capris, tank, sports bra and pullover. And of course, my socks (unless it's a marathon) and shoes.

Take last week's Homecoming 5K where runners were encouraged, told even, to wear gear sporting their alma mater. Me? I wear my usual #FFCheer tank and shorts, tossing arm warmers and a jacket in my bag in case I got cold (but thanks to overdressing on my bike ride to the race start, I was more than happy to lose the layers). Everyone else? Tees shouting Illini, Spartan, Go Blue, Dartmouth, Loyola and more. Shorts in what I can assume were college colors. A runner wearing a bright yellow apron that I can only assume was his way of sporting his college pride. Another runner who wrapped a Berkeley flag around his neck and let it billow like a cape as he sprinted with a jogger stroller with a future member of Cal's class of 2033. So where was my purple pride? Where was my Northwestern tee, or rather, one of my many NU tees that I collected over the years? Back at home, buried in the drawer outnumbered by the race tees. And my excuse? It wasn't made of technical material. Here I am worried over how uncomfortable I could be during the 20-something minutes of a 5K instead of representing my school, and being one of the four alumni at the race (if I counted correctly in the race results).

Sunday, October 30, 2011

10 Easy Costumes You Can Run In

I'm not one of those people who create, design and plan their Halloween costumes far in advance. I'm lucky if I visit the costume shop for inspiration--or a cheap purchase--days before October 31. But even with costume procrastination, I can list dress-up suggestions, original or basic, for whatever fete lands on the calendar. Except ask me to devise, or even don, a costume for a running race, and most of my ideas go out the window. Why? Because they're all fitness-based and they don't seem all that original, unique or even costume worthy when you're dressed like nearly everyone else. Nor would they be easy to run in, a key component to any costume that I'd be likely to wear (I'm not out to win any costume awards at the races but I am a PR seeker). And for reason No. 3, any of the good costumes--an Indian chief, sock hop gal, Goofy and the Statue of Liberty--were costumes I wore before ninth grade and if they are still in existence, they are 300 miles away.

All things considered, I should have begged my sister to write about costumes conducive to running and share her knowledge from working wardrobe in theater productions. I might be creative with words but she has me beat hands down in the hands-on department. Instead, I'm going to have to rely on my own costume intuition for these 10 outfits.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Daily Feed: Sites We're Surfing 10/24

Long weekend away from the computer? That's my excuse for some intense screen time this Monday. I know I should be pounding away at the emails in my inbox (sorry, people who I owe a reply) or writing up a storm (ahem, race reports that are long overdue), but instead what am I doing? Reading and tiring my eyes at the sight on online text. But hey, at least it's informative and/or insightful. Right?
  • Here's the skinny on a new company making yoga tees from sustainable materials from After5Detroit.com. Cool factor: this might just be my one and only chance--beside the Motor City Triathlon and the Detroit Marathon--where I show a little Detroit pride. The founder hails from the "Mitten" and took over my editing duties at our high school's newspaper (if memory serves me correct) when I graduated.
  • It almost wouldn't be a feed without something on one of our faves, Kara Goucher. And no, it's not the news bit that shocked me: leaving coach Alberto Salazar. It's Goucher's explanation for why she left Alberto Salazar and the Oregon Project.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Fit-Pic: Oh, What a Beautiful Morning



Is it possible that Chicago's lakefront could look this awesome in October? Apparently so, as I snapped this picture on my bike ride home from the Homecoming 5K. A calm lake, runners on the path, temperatures just warm enough to keep sweat at bay, sunshine with no clouds, and my personal favorite: no crowds. It's interesting how a pristine fall day doesn't elicit the same masses that flock to the lakefront on the first nice spring day. But hey, I'm not complaining. I only wish that my running legs had more in them than a 5K (note to self: do not ride mountain bike with flat tires to race site and do not get three hours of sleep regardless of race distance). With the month we've been having weather-wise, I'll be adding this memory to the vault. My eyes are going to need it in January and February, unless I'm out west skiing.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Healing Powers

It's hard to believe that six months ago I almost didn't make it to the Boston Marathon finish line. Not because I've had glorious races since that limp, hobble, shuffle kicked in at 10K when it became too much to try to run. Not because I already finished another marathon, another one that I probably wasn't supposed to start in the first place. And not because I can walk normally, practice yoga on two feet instead of my knees that saw more action May through July, swim without dragging my feet behind, and spin sitting down the entire class.

Operating at near normalcy, minus the lack of speed and endurance when running and cycling, I almost forgot about my injury. That might be stretching it a little--or a lot--since I'm reminded nearly every day that I did have a tibia stress fracture, I still find myself using it as an excuse when I sit on the bike or have a slow run, and friends ask me about my leg at least once a week (which, don't get me wrong, I appreciate). From a mental standpoint, I'd like to think that I forgot. Because I pushed the constant nagging, the "woe is me" sadness, the depression that hit when exercise came to a near stand-still, and whatever other emotion that seemed to envelop every email, conversation and work project into a secret dungeon in my brain where I locked the door, tossed the key and couldn't return.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Running is Better with Chocolate, Hot Chocolate

Isn’t there a saying about how the world is better with chocolate? I’d like to think that it’s true, but I’ll also stand by another statement: will run for chocolate. And yes, I will run for chocolate. I did it once before, thus earning myself a sweatshirt bearing that statement, and I’ll be doing it again at the Hot Chocolate 15/5K when it cruises into Chicago on November 5.

But this isn’t a repeat of past Hot Chocolate races that have been labeled too crowded, not enough chocolate or a so-so race jacket. There are so many changes to the 2011 edition, good changes, that are making the race seem entirely new in every aspect but the name. And I’m not even referring to the most obvious fact that the race has gone national, with Hot Chocolate races to run in Washington, D.C., Dallas, San Diego, San Francisco and Denver through December 2012. Nope. It’s the Chicago changes to look out for.

Mark that Race Date: Chicago 2012

Elites run Chicago on 10-10-10.
You came. You ran. You crossed the finish line at the 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon. Now that the blisters, aches and sores--plus we can't forget jubilation, excitement, joy, insert-happy-emotion-here for accomplishing your goal--have subsided, you're starting to think you're not one-and-done with marathoning and that running Chicago 2012 might not be such a bad, or crazy, idea.

You came. You watched. You cheered. You handed out water to the runners rushing by. You got the itch, the motivation, to run Chicago's 26.2-miler next year. Forget being on the sidelines, you want to inspire the next batch of marathon wannabes.

But inquiring minds want to know: When is the 2012 race date for the Chicago Marathon? It's a question that's been stirring in our brains since before we even toed the 2011 start line or picked our perch along the city's streets. And now the organizers behind this 45,000-runner race are ready to tell us.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Fit-Pic: I Spy Biggest Losers

Can you guess who five of these pictured people are? A hint: two famous faces are standing together on the left and three famous faces are on the right. I know, I know, the picture is rather small, the faces are far away, and unless you're stalking weight loss TV as much as I do (yes, the majority of my TV schedule consists of The Biggest Loser, Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition and I Used to Be Fat), you probably don't have a clue.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Dance Like a Ballerina

I don't own ballet shoes, I've never had a tutu and the only time you'll find me tuning into Dancing with the Stars is when my other TV options go on commercial--all of them. So what, then, was I doing at Equinox for a dance class? Because it's not every day that you can attend a group fitness class taught by professional Joffrey Ballet dancers. Even if you do trip over your own two feet, lack coordination and look about as graceful as a penguin walking across a room.

Equinox Fitness Clubs and The Joffrey Ballet have teamed up once again (they first partnered up in the spring) to offer a ballet-inspired group fitness class for the fall. Classes started October 5 and run through November 10 at two Equinox locations, 900 N. Michigan and Lincoln Park. Coinciding with The Joffrey's production of Don Quixote, which runs October 12-23, dancers will lead class-goers through a marriage of Spanish dance and Bolshoi ballet moves.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

There's No Stopping a Runner

Source
She didn't win Sunday's Bank of America Chicago Marathon. She didn't finish in the top 10 or qualify for the U.S. Olympic Trials. She didn't qualify for the Boston Marathon, she didn't break four hours and she didn't run the race with a visual impairment. But finisher Amber Miller is generating more post-marathon talk than the winners. She didn't just run the marathon, she ran it at nearly 39 weeks pregnant--and then delivered a baby girl, June, later in the evening.

I know, I know. Let your jaw drop. Blink twice and re-read. Furrow your brow. I did.

Your eyes aren't deceiving you, you're reading correctly. Chances are you've probably heard this story at least once already, since it seems to have started locally and then spread like wildfire from New York to Los Angeles. And it spread through some out-of-the-ordinary circles, too--the link was shared by my running friends and by my mommy friends. I should rephrase that: friends who are mommies.

Talk about two sides divided. The runners: amazed. The mommies: Is this mommy runner nuts? Do I not "get" runners?

My answer to the mommies: Miller's not that nuts, and maybe you don't understand how hard runners will push to reach the finish line of a race. I completely understand that there could be health implications and risks involved in running especially when you're that pregnant. I completely understand not getting the mommy angle because I've never held my own child in my arms. And I've only heard how painful running while pregnant can be--and why friends have pressed the pause button on running until after the baby arrives.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Look Who Won the 2011 Chicago Marathon

Heat, what heat? There was no stopping runners on their marathon mission this morning, from crossing the finish line to running personal bests, two feats that can often run awry is the weather is less-than-perfect for a 26.2-mile jaunt. If warm weather was supposed to slow down the runners taking to the streets for the 34th running of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon--or prevent them from toeing the line in the first place, which has happened (in say, 2007)--it never did. The weather didn't keep 35,628 runners from crossing the finish line, the second largest in event history, and with countless PRs to boot. And that personal-best pace was set early, with the elites achieving several records of their own.

In winning the men's race, Moses Mosop broke the tape in 2:05:37, breaking Sammy Wanjiru's 2009 course record by 4 seconds. And in winning the women's race, Liliya Shobukhova became the first athlete in Chicago Marathon history to win the race three consectutive times. Shobukhova accomplished some other feats with her 2:18:20 run, too: her time sets a new Russian national record, it's the second fastest women’s time in event history, and it's the fourth fastest women’s time ever run. This win also solidified her World Marathon Majors title and $500,000 prize.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Just Your Average Chicago Marathon Runner

A few weeks ago I was assigned to track down a handful of local runners who'd be toeing the line at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon for Time Out Chicago and share their stories. Let's just say they were more than inspirational. Aside from being unable to find a costumed runner (if one of you is out there, please give a shout in the comments!), it turned into a very eclectic group. From first-timers to seasoned vets. From the joggler to the charity runners. From the Olympic hopefuls to the four Team World Vision runners who're turning race weekend into a 100-miler challenge (believe it or not, the 26.2-mile marathon is the final leg of their journey). You can read about theses runners at The Rundown, but keep reading for a few more motivational stories from those who'll be racing on October 9.
Gen Levy

Determinator
The marathon is a goal that Gen Levy couldn’t renege. “Naturally, the first thing a non-runner would think of would be to sign up for the Chicago Marathon, right?” the 32-year-old says. The first time marathoner can’t wait to cross the finish line as part of the American Cancer Society’s DetermiNation team and is running the final 1.2 miles in memory of her step-mother. But she just hopes race day goes more smoothly than October 2’s dress rehearsal. “I realized as I was about to cross the start line at the Bucktown 5K that I had put my running capris on inside-out while getting ready in the dark,” she says. Oops.

But hey, we’re only human. Certainly another runner can own up to a goof like that. Right?

Bound for Boston
Chanthana Tsai
You don’t need to ask Chanthana Tsai if she’s ready to run. “I run because I like to push my body to its limits,” she says. “I really enjoy setting goals and watching the progress.” This Gold Coaster is more than prepared for her fourth run on the Chicago course—“I love this race!” she says. “It's so well-supported and I enjoy training for it in the summer.”—and she’s gunning for another Boston-qualifying time to boot. In fact, her goal time is Post-It noted to her fridge, on marathon stationary no less.

I have to confess, I wanted to share Will English's story before he toes the line for his first Chicago Marathon, but between my final carbo-load, organizing my race things (and spending too much time tinkering with my old Garmin), following the Ironman World Championship updates, and needing to get to bed, it's unfortunately going to have to wait for post-race. But in the meantime, you can follow his trail to the start line in part one, part two and part three.

Now it's off to bed. Signing off until after the 34th Bank of America Chicago Marathon is in the books.

Weather Woes

Chicago can't seem to get a break on the weather. At the Magellan Spring Half Marathon, it poured and had temperatures colder than what we'll see tomorrow at the Chicago Marathon. A few weeks later, the 13.1 Half had to be cancelled because the heat and humidity became too much for runners to handle. Triathletes competing at Ironman 70.3 Racine--one of the closest to the Windy City--thought they'd get a break from last year's heat, but no, it was just as relentless and maybe even worse.

But that's nothing compared to the city's marquee race, the Chicago Marathon. Columbus Weekend should signal cooler temperatures, yet for some reason Mother Nature gives us the exact opposite. 2007: hottest marathon on record. 2008: not as hot but still unbearable for many. 2009: if you could call temperatures at the start in the low 30s, then sure, this one was picture perfect. 2010: hot again with the event alert system changing from yellow to red as runners slogged through 26.2 miles. And 2011: sounds like it'll be a repeat of last year, which isn't bad per say, but makes it more difficult to run fast--and you're at greater risk of heat stroke and heat exhaustion, and need to be diligent about hydrating before and during the race.

The marathon weather is such a concern that Weather.com thought to focus coverage on it. Ah, when marathoning meets mainstream, but if only it wasn't heat related.


What do you do to stay cool on a hot run, especially when it's a marathon? Are you worried about the temperatures affecting your marathon dreams?

Fit-Pic: Indian Summer

It's hard not to complain about 80 degrees and sunny in Chicago--in October, no less. But when the nicest week you've seen in a month falls during the rest period before the Chicago Marathon, it's really hard to resist resting indoors. You know the feeling? I wanted to be one of those dots laying in the sand, or running along my favorite path, or riding my bike since the crowds finally thinned out along the lake (yes, it does take a marathon only hours away to do that), or even swimming one final time in Lake Michigan (waters were calm, a jet-skier was out and at last check the water temperature was still in the 50s).

But instead, I--along with 44,999 other runners--found myself here at McCormick Place, site of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon's Health and Fitness Expo. That marathon that started to seem real nearly two weeks ago? It just got more tangible. To be expected when you cash in your confirmation ticket for your bib number. Too bad, it also signals to me that a beach nap would not be a good idea--it'd zap my energy that I'm already low on (lack of sleep) but frantically trying to store for Sunday. Am I right?

Please tell me yes and that I can wait until Monday's recovery day to get my beach time. It'll make the heat wave--and potential suffer-fest at the marathon--more worth it. Don't you think?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Elites to watch at the 2011 Chicago Marathon

McGrory, Frei, Mosop, Hall and Shobukova at press conference
When your mainstay marathon is a part of the World Marathon Majors race circuit, best described as a championship-style competition of five of the world's major marathons (Chicago, New York, Boston, Berlin and London, plus the IAAF World Championships and the Olympics), it's expected that you're going to see some fast feet among the elites. I might miss them every year because I'm running, but when you're on the course when Paula Radcliffe sets a world record (or not, thanks to a recent decision, but that's another story), it helps quicken your pace. Add in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon's course, known for being flat and fast and delivering a world record or two over the years, and race director Carey Pinkowski who's been at the helm for more than 20 years, and the talent is practically begging to be invited. At the elite athlete press conference the athletes are beaming when they're introduced to the crowd and those who speak echo how excited they are to be racing in Chicago--it happens every year.

With that said, here's who you want to keep your eye on Sunday, October 9, when the 34th running of the Chicago Marathon kicks off from Grant Park.

Wolf Creek edges Arapahoe Basin in a Snow Battle

Arapahoe Basin's guns signal winter skiing full-steam ahead.
Some people are running marathons this weekend, sweating it out in cities--namely Chicago--that are finally seeing their Indian Summer. Others are racing at the Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, where it's always summer. But somewhere, somewhere, it's not 80 degrees and sunny--and for once, it's in just the right spot: ski country. Because while triathletes and runners compete in their A races, skiers can hit the slopes, or start to think winter at some of them.

It's all thanks to a western storm that dropped fluffy white snow instead of rain, and whose path basically ran through ski country. Snowboard Magazine showcases who's seen a dusting--or more since you can't really call 12 inches at Sierra-at-Tahoe a smattering of snow (well maybe you can in Tahoe)--in the last few days. But what its preview of La Niña round two doesn't tell you is something that could easily be surmised from the shots: that the ski season is beyond belief close to starting. Here's why:
Arapahoe Basin turns on its snowmaking machines.
  • Wolf Creek Ski Area in Colorado. They've seen so much snow that they're opening their terrain on Saturday, October 8, for a weekend of skiing (and at $33 a lift ticket). Oh yes, time to start waxing.
  • You know that battle between Loveland and Arapahoe Basin to be the first ski resort in Colorado and North America to open for the season? They're not the only two in the snow-making game. A-Basin turned on their snowguns at 4 p.m. October 6, but can they beat Wolf Creek? From the sound of The Basin 411, A-Basin will be making snow through the weekend before opening. 
  • What about Maine's Sunday River, also rumored to be gunning for an early start? Their guns were blazing amid the fall colors, hear them roar.
Only the next 24 hours will tell. Wolf Creek can taste victory dance, but can A-Basin open overnight? Anything's possible in snow wars, right? You can't help but ask if you're yearning for turning.

Photo credit Kimberly Trembearth.

    Thursday, October 6, 2011

    Niketown Pep Rally to #OwnChicago with Robbie Gould and Elite Athletes

    I spotted my first visiting runner this morning. The giveaway: a rolling suitcase, running shoes, capri leggings and a wandering eye. Banners are dotting the streets, hotel keys read Let's Run Together, the kick-off press conference occurred this morning and the Bank of America Chicago Marathon expo opens tomorrow. Chicago is most definitely embracing marathon fever all the way down to our Twitter accounts shouting #ownchicago.

    But maybe you're like me and know this race is happening on Sunday yet you're not totally fired up about it yet. My excuse? I wish I could be basking in this Indian Summer sun, desperately seeking my tan that faded in our September chill. Silly, yes. But there is a sure-fire way to turn the dial on my excitement meter from a one to a 10--it's an event that does it every year. The Niketown Pep Rally, happening tonight at 6:30 p.m. at Niketown Chicago, 669 N. Michigan Ave. And each year only improves upon the last. Here's why this one will top them all:

    Spa-ah! Equinox Marathon Massage

    It might seem a little presumptuous to start thinking about what you're doing after Sunday's 34th running of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. After all, we're still three days out from the race and crossing the finish line can still be up in the air--you know, in case you have to drop out, you get injured or the predicted 79-degree heat becomes too much on the body. But forget the negative what-ifs. You're determined to run 26.2 miles no matter what, and you know you'll be crossing that finish line on Columbus Drive, feeling your muscles burn and ache at least once on the course, craving a beer or other post-race treat once you regain your appetite and can eat more than gels and Gatorade.

    Back to those burning muscles. You're aching, you can barely walk, you're hobbling from point A to point B (trust me: I've been there). You want some relief and recovery, simple as that. Your method? Massage. It's good for recovery, it relaxes and softens your tired and overused muscles, and it'll pump oxygen through your overworked body--and that's just for starters. Here's a deal that you can't refuse: The Spa @ Equinox is offering 15 percent off all massage services to those who participated in the Chicago Marathon. They want to celebrate and congratulate your accomplishments, too, and they want you to feel even better in the process. To claim your reward, visit one of the four Equinox spa locations in the Chicago area: Highland Park, North Michigan, Lincoln Park or the Loop, and bring your marathon bib with you. This offer runs from October 10 to 16, so you won't have to rush over on Monday, especially if you're still relishing in your accomplishment and getting your medal engraved.

    Whether it's a sports, Swedish, shiatsu or deep tissue massage, I know my muscles will thank me later. And that's a reward I can run 26.2 miles for, or maybe it's the other way around.

    Photo courtesy of Equinox.

    Wednesday, October 5, 2011

    Marathoners Own Chicago


    You've put in the training. You've logged the miles. You've caught yourself ogling marathon gear more often than you should be on your computer. You've been dreaming of this weekend since you registered for the 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon in February. In other words, you're ready to own this race, own Chicago.

    And Nike wants you to do just that. Except the company known for its running shoes, gear, accessories and Chicago Marathon sponsorship doesn't expect it to happen through sporting official marathon gear. Even though wearing a Run Like El shirt is one of the easiest ways to accomplish owning Chicago, Nike has you beat with an even easier option. You don't even have to leave your computer to do it--or better yet your smartphone.

    Tuesday, October 4, 2011

    Age-groupers to watch and follow in Kona, Ironman World Championships

    Craig Alexander. Chris Lieto. Andreas Raelert. Chrissie Wellington. Mirinda Carfrae. Julie Dibens. I could go on--Faris Al-Sultan. And on--Caroline Steffen. And on--Linsey Corbin. Sure, we can all name a laundry list of professional triathletes who are racing at this year's Ironman World Championship, the big hoo-rah in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, but what about the age groupers, Ironman Foundation athletes and lottery winners in the mix?

    From age-group speedsters to friends and acquaintances who are racing on October 8 at the Big Dance, here's who I'll be following from my perch in middle America.

    Monday, October 3, 2011

    Race Without Trying: Bucktown 5K

    After crossing the Bucktown 5K finish line
    Bucktown: how I have missed you. Bucktown: you’ve changed…for the better. Bucktown: I think I might have to run you again…next year.

    I’m not sure how a less-than-23-minute race could be so memorable, yet it was. Actually all of the short efforts I’ve run since July—thought few and far between—have been. But what made this 5K different:
    • It must have been at least five years ago that I last ran this race. Correction: it was 2005, six years ago, and I was a first timer (but I felt like a course novice today, too).
    • I barely slept the night before and almost didn’t go—my bed was very cozy at 7:30 a.m.
    • I forgot how to dress for cooler weather running. Wake up to air temperatures claiming to be in the high 40s and I freak out, wear gear that’s ideal for standing in the cold but overheats the minute I start moving, and start feeling uncomfortable at the first mile. When you stand around the start corral and look at what others chose to wear for the race, you realize how many better options you left at home. Yes, arm warmers, pocket tank and lightweight Nike pullover, I’m talking to you.

    Sunday, October 2, 2011

    Nike's Chicago Marathon Gear, Where Art Meets Running

    One advantage to living in the city of the marathon you're going to participate in: you get to see to gear up close and personal before everyone else rolls into town and starts wandering their way through the expo and Niketown. So when you learn Saturday morning, by no one's fault but your own (the event was posted clear as day), that an event later that afternoon will provide an exclusive unveiling of Nike's 2011 Chicago Marathon gear and LunarGlide+ 3, you drop everything and run. Literally.

    And to AKIN's Lincoln Park location I went to see what all this hype was about. Who knew that an afternoon away from the stationary bike, elliptical and pool could be such a good thing? Not only to appease the gear junkie that takes up residence within any time an event rolls around, but also to see a celebration of running removed from its usual confines. Art, running, streetwear? When you're a runner like me and you're standing among an audience who look (and shoot pictures) like they high-tailed it from New York's Fashion Week, it's weird, but even I could appreciate meeting local artist Tara D., who designed the 2011 Chicago shoe and T-shirt featured below and got even cooler when she stopped crafting to talk about how she designed these marathon wares.
    Because I didn't expect her to say, "I don't know any runners at all." Wait, what? Since she couldn't reach out to friends to learn about Chicago running, she says that she reached out to the community and started studying at the running stores. And I'm not trying to be presumptuous in saying this--I swear something to this effect was expressed--but she married these two small local communities together, the proof was laying on the table.

    Whether you're starting to virtually shop for Chicago Marathon goodies before you arrive into town and attend the expo or you locals want to beat the rush and purchase your marathon wish list now, here are more items to add to the roster. Without further ado, the 2011 collection as seen at AKIN.

    Nike LunarGlide+ 3 and Dry Fit Tee designed by Tara D.

    Saturday, October 1, 2011

    Nike and Akin Unveil Chicago Marathon Gear and Lunarglide+3

    How did I not know about this event until, oh, just now?

    http://www.akinchicago.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/chicago-lunarglide-3-13.jpg

    I've always thought that I stay on top of at least some of the running action in Chicago and that I'm a reporter, considering I also run with the media team (we'll be out tomorrow at the Bucktown 5K and you've seen some of us throughout the spring and summer at the Soldier Field 10, Elvis is Alive and Fort2Base). I'm nowhere near as recognizable as my media teammates--trust me, I can arrive and depart pretty anonymously, just how I like it--yet I still find and report on the endurance community's news.

    But apparently I missed the boat on this release until now. Sure, I got to run in the Lunarglide+3 two weeks before it was officially unveiled--awesome!--and learn about the Nike 26.2 Preview before it actually happened and see some of the 2011 Chicago Marathon gear fresh on the shelves (Fleet Feet had it on display when I stopped by last Saturday). But this? I think I'm rearranging my Saturday schedule--aka workout--to go check it out. The gear is awesome as Fleet Feet already showed me. I need a little running kick in the pants. My run that was supposed to happen this morning hasn't started yet and at the rate I'm going, probably will not. And heck, it beats watching my college football team get beat down on the field.

    Thursday, September 29, 2011

    26.2 Places to Eat Over Chicago Marathon Weekend, the Last Half

    Art Smith ran the Marathon, too, in 2010.
    Have no fear, I wasn't going to leave you stranded at the 90/94 overpass right before you cross under the halfway mark banner at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. Just like the race, we have to make it to the finish line with these eats. So for the second 13--and 0.2 for good measure--I've picked up right where I left off with a spot that's steps from the course when runners hit the north end of Greektown.

    14. Greek Islands
    I definitely ate here one year after the marathon, I remember my dad requesting it and I acquiesced—and I ran so hard during the race that I couldn’t get up from the chair when the meal was over. Besides, you ran through Greektown earlier in the day, you may as well dine in it—plus now’s your chance to overload on saganaki and bread, both of which are about as free flowing as the wine around here.

    15. Grahamwich or Graham Eliot 
    Some may disagree with me but I’ve enjoyed my meals at both the original (can I call it that?) and its fast casual cousin.

    16. The Purple Pig 
    Jimmy Bannos and Tony Mantuano behind the same spot? This is almost too good to be true. And they’re open late so if you need a near-midnight snack after the race, you won’t have to go hungry, you can go gourmet.

    Wednesday, September 28, 2011

    26.2 Places to Eat Over Chicago Marathon Weekend, the First Half

    If Stephanie Izard (middle) is expediting, she'll break for photos.
    The foodie in me comes out around marathon time. The parents are in town (hello meals my wallet can’t afford), my stomach is screaming out for food and lots of it after running 26.2 miles (as long as I don’t drink too much Gatorade on the course), and well, I never would have majored in journalism if I hadn’t thought that my post-college dream was to become a food critic (picture Julia Roberts’ character in My Best Friend’s Wedding and you had my 18-year-old self’s grand aspirations). And I feel like I need to set the record straight on places to eat when you’re in the Windy City after reading another runner’s list last year—one, I might add, that Runner’s World caught wind of and posted somewhere in the depths of social media. The list wasn’t bad, per say, it’s just that there are better choices—or my choices—and they’re different. And more must-eats-when-in-the-Windy-City. And not deemed go-to’s by a site that’s based out of Albuquerque (in defense, the list was compiled by a traveling runner--and Chicago 2010 participant--and gastronut).

    Coming to Chicago to run the Bank of America Chicago Marathon? Check out these 26.2 eats when you’re in town—or save them for your next, non-running trip.

    1. Girl and the Goat
    Unless you reserved this one right around the time you signed up to run the marathon, you’re going to have to reserve now for the next time you plan to be in town. This Top Chef (Stephanie Izard) hot spot has a two-month long wait list for most nights in the near future—I tried weeks ago to reserve on Opentable and couldn’t get in until November. But the cuisine? Soooo worth the wait, even for this barely-eats-meat girl who’ll take bikes of the pig face any day.

    2. Table Fifty-Two
    Oh Art Smith, what would we do to dine at your Chicago restaurant (and not because I can walk there from my house). Your hummingbird pie, your hot-out-of-the-oven biscuits to start off the meal, your deviled eggs that I’ll only eat out of your kitchen, your mac n cheese that’s so rich I can’t take more than a bite, your pleasant surprises on the menu—the fish special that I think I eat every time because not one sounds worthy of skipping for fried chicken.

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