Monday, June 27, 2011

Quick Fix: Grab a Last Chance Chicago Marathon Spot

Wait a second...didn't the Chicago Marathon fill months ago? Yes. After all, that's why I rushed to the computer to register when an email warned only 5,000 slots remained. But why do I keep getting email reminders that it's my last chance to register for the 2011 race? Because the marathon sold out to general entry way back in February when we were scrambling to register for a race that was more than 7 months away. But the charities affiliated with the marathon still have spaces available for the October 9 race.

Good news if you forgot to register in February, didn't want to think about running when we had the snowpacalypse to deal with, had an injury or race-day conflict or regretted skipping registration ever since. But bad news because you're going to have to decide soon. While race organizers kindly reminded us on National Running Day that charity registration--for the organizations with slots to spare--was still open, they also warned that it would be closing on June 30. So unless you're planning to borrow a bib from a registered runner off Craigslist--it's illegal anyway--this is your final chance to make yourself a 2011 Chicago Marathon runner instead of spectator.

Once you get over the fundraising factor, which can be daunting if you look at the bare bones of how much you have to raise without noticing the assistance you get or the perks you receive in return, it's almost like you have to ask yourself why you rushed to register in the first place. Thousands of runners are already running for one of the 99 (if I counted correctly) affiliated charities, the fundraising commitment is really not as high as you might expect, and you're helping others by committing to run and submit some donations to the cause. And if that's not incentive enough, if you register by June 30, you're entered into a drawing to win prizes like race day VIP packages and race memorabilia.

Need some suggestions for a charity? Here are some of my favorites--recognizable organizations in no particular order, really--among those charities ready to welcome you to their team with their spots to spare.
  • Chicago Run. Kids and running? I was all over this when I learned about their start for an old article I was writing--and I'm still just as enthused about promoting a healthy and active lifestyle for Chicago kids.
  • Bright Pink. Ready to enlighten and empower young women with high-risk breast and ovarian cancer outlooks? Now's your chance to get pink, bright pink.
  • Charles Tillman Cornerstone Foundation. Remember my excitement when Tillman, aka Peanut, can to run at Universal Sole? Here's an organization the Chicago Bear started after his daughter was diagnosed dilated cardiomyopathy to help Chicago-area kids and their families who are in need.
  • Bears Care. Run with Bears Care and your funds will help build public athletic fields around the city.
  • Team Hole in the Wall. A pleasant surprise to see this team on the list because I remember swapping stories with my dad about his work involvement with this organization last summer, spending a week at a South Dakota camp for kids with life-threatening illnesses. To help send a child to camp, I'd take it.
  • Back on My Feet. Maybe you can't run with BOMF early in the morning. Show your support instead by marathon running with the organization that uses running to promote self-sufficiency for homeless populations.
  • A Running Start Foundation. In registering for the 2010 race, I managed to accidentally sign myself up under this charity. Talk about feeling awful--I didn't know until I picked up my packet. It's a cool organization too, using sports to improve the lives of East Africans. Who knows? Maybe there's another Sammy Wanjiru or Moses Mosop out there.
  • Salute, Inc. Remember running the Soldier Field race in May? That 10-miler also supported this organization which helps meet the financial, emotional and physical needs of military service members while raising awareness of their sacrifices.
  • The MGR Foundation's Team M3. The name stuck: I learned about this student mentor running program that connects Chicago Public High School students with adult mentor a few years back for a community focused article (I'd share the link but it's no longer available online). 
  • Imerman Angels. If you were fighting cancer, wouldn't you want a mentor who had been there and beaten that--and could almost act as a sixth sense? Here's a community that provides one-on-one support for cancer fighters, survivors and caretakers.
  • Friends of Prentice. By running for the women's hospital at Northwestern Memorial, your efforts go toward the Prentice Ambulatory Care Clinic, which provides care to uninsured and under-insured women who walk through Prentice and NMH.
  • Chicago Police Memorial Foundation. They protect us and now it's our time to give back to the Chicago police officers who put themselves in the line of duty and were killed or injured.
  • Best Buddies Illinois. Ready to run on behalf of friendship? That's the goal of Best Buddies Illinois, which wants to establish friendships, leadership opportunities and more for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities.
  • Children's Memorial Hospital Foundation. OK, so I've known about these spare spots for months yet have kept mum (sorry!), same as last year. But wouldn't you want to run for the kids?
  • Girls on the Run SoleMates. Grab your tiara and your girl power for this organization which empowers elementary school aged girls to run and feel good about themselves.
  • Team World Vision. Bart Yasso, Ed Norton, Josh Cox, Dr. Andy Baldwin. All these famous names, and a few others, have run for this group which works to provide clean water for Africa and Haiti.
  • Cellmates on the Run. Not to be confused with jails, prisons and convicts, this is an arm of the Chicago Diabetes Project which helps advance diabetes research. 
And that's just a sampling--even more are listed in the charity section of the event's website and none that are less worthy of getting support. But be sure to read about each charity carefully if you're blindly choosing--the fundraising amounts and perks for you the runner vary by charity. Anyone out there who's run with a charity before? Why'd you do it and why'd you like it?

If there's one good thing that comes out of having a 45,000-participant race, it's having a second chance at registering with entries to still be had. You just have to look among the charities. But you have to act fast because the countdown is on. June 30 will be here all too quickly and then you'll be SOL til next year.

Photo courtesy of Children's Memorial Hospital's team.  

    Thursday, June 16, 2011

    Blink and You Missed It: Ironman NYC

    11 minutes? Seriously, that's the amount of time it took for the inaugural Ironman U.S. Championship, to be held August 11, 2012, in the New York City area, to fill its general registration. I can barely get ready for a bike ride in 11 minutes. You can't watch a complete quarter of football or basketball. Even an elite can't run a 5K that quickly.

    I can understand why so many people are obsessed with this a point. A race that's in a bustling metropolitan area--I don't think you could consider Louisville or Panama City Beach hopping when compared with New York. A race that's guaranteed to have plenty of crowd support--if everyone in the tri-state area understands and knows to line each mile of the course. A race that runs between two states on the bike and the run--and finishes in Manhattan with the most urbanized backdrop in the states? OK, I get it.

    But still, I don't think I'd pay $895 to it--if I even had $895 to spare. I thought $525 was bad the first time I registered for Ironman, yet I still coughed up the $575 to do it again two years later. But I like the Wisconsin course and the farmland tour--I don't think I could say the same for the bike route along the Palisades Parkway and the Hudson River swim. While I appreciate that the Parkway will be closed to traffic--it's scary when the cars pop up in Wisconsin--I can't help but associate it with cars, cars speeding far faster than they technically should be. My cousins grew up within walking distance of the Palisades and I remember trips to their house and from their house that were rarely at the speed limit and still having cars whiz by. Thank goodness that's not a concern for this race, but the Hudson River can be. Not the nicest body of water to want to swim in. If I thought Town Lake in Tempe, Ariz., looked awful, I'd be even less inclined to swim the Hudson.

    It's not for me, which is a good thing for those clamoring to grab a spot when registration opened at noon yesterday. Price tag and course aside, I'd have a bed to sleep in that doesn't require a hotel stay and guaranteed crowd support--I'm sure I could convince my parents to visit my aunt. But I guess all you other Ironman triathletes are thinking, "Good riddance, more for me." And I'm fine with that. Sorry, but Ironman St. George excited me more. But that's likely because I know the New York region far better than Utah--and I love wide-open spaces.

    But from an organizational standpoint, it's pretty impressive a race of this magnitude, which has to cover 140.6 miles in a tight metropolitan area, found a way to do it. Closing the Palisades when it's only been closed for emergencies? Not being allowed to close New York city streets except for two blocks? Race organizer John Korff is a logistics genius. I know why any local would rush to register. But how do you train for the bike? Does the Palisades Parkway allow cyclists or is this a CompuTrainer-only practice session?

    Photo grabbed from Koshyk at flickr.

    Wednesday, June 15, 2011

    Marathon Motivation: Nike 26.2 Preview

    Who's running the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on October 9? Who needs a little marathon motivation to get off the couch and start training? Who needs advice on how you're going to complete this event you mindlessly signed up for months ago, not thinking about training, fueling, clothing and everything else a marathon might involve? If you're nodding your head yes to any of these, you can get that jolt, knowledge, inspiration and more this Saturday, but you'll have to come to Chicago to get it.

    If you're not within driving distance to the Windy City, start looking at weekend fare specials now because the Nike 26.2 Preview sounds too cool to miss. And if you can drive, bike or run your way to Soldier Field's south parking lot sometime between 6 a.m. and 4 p.m. on June 18, you may have to do just that. Trust me, I already got excited about this event once--sharing it with Chicago at Time Out Chicago's The Rundown--but after I learned even more about it last night, my energy levels spiked again. And for an injured runner who's starting to really hate her leg for quitting on her when the running season couldn't be more perfect (minus the heat and thunderstorms), that's saying a lot. Here's why even injured me wants to make an appearance:
    • Saturday promises to offer a motivational start to whatever event you'll be training for this summer. The marathon is the focus but you could be running a 26.2 outside Chicago, a half marathon, your first race get the idea. Nike and the companies who are coming out to be a part of this special day really just want to get you excited about running.
    • Earl Bennett, a wide receiver on the Chicago Bears will be in attendance, offering training tips from an athlete's perspective. He's set to arrive at 11 a.m.
    • Rumor has it that Dathan Ritzenhein will also be on-site, maybe even running with a group or two. But don't quote me on it.
    • Group runs will be occurring throughout the morning, departing from Soldier Field's south parking lot and running along the Lakefront Path. Expect to run 8 miles--or pull off early or run twice. Runs start at 6:30 a.m., 7:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., and 11:30 a.m.
    • Nike and marathon experts will be on-hand to talk nutrition, coaching and training advice.
    • Nike will be showcasing its latest running apparel and footwear. That could mean the opportunity to see the LunarGlide 3 before it's released to the world in July.
    • Fleet Feet Sports and Naperville Running Company will offer gear recommendations, in-depth running instruction and good form running tips. I can only guess that good form must mean a version of the Good Form Running that Fleet Feet offers weekly at its stores.
    • Though not related to Nike and more something that formed because of the Preview, there's a #FFCheer tweetup set to start around 9:15 a.m. Stay tuned for more details. 
    • And the event is tented, to a degree, so even if the predicted scattered thunderstorms roll in, you won't have to be entirely exposed to the elements.
    Is that enough to crawl out of bed and run--or pretend to run by browsing--on a Saturday morning. I think so. But don't forget your wallet, you might find something you want to purchase to help you with that training. And who knows, maybe you'll find a training buddy. For more details about Saturday's Nike 26.2 Preview, check out And as Nike says, "Let the road to race day begin."

    Photo grabbed from Nike and

    Tuesday, June 14, 2011

    Wednesday Workout...with Allison English

    What does your typical Wednesday workout call for? Is it a swim, a bike or a run? How about some Pilates or yoga? Or do you take hump day off as a breather from whatever you put yourself through Thursday through Tuesday? Whatever the case, Chicagoans want to tune in for this suggestion. It's Yoga in the Park--Lincoln Park's Oz Park, to be exact--and it's taking place tomorrow, June 15, from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Allison English, yogi extraordinaire from Equinox Fitness Clubs, is teaming up with Lululemon's Halsted Street store to lead aspiring and routine yoga enthusiasts through an hour-long session.

    English leads packed classes at Equinox Lincoln Park--trust me, I've seen the masses spilling out of the studio--and teaches in a way that makes you embrace rather than shy away from yoga. I've only sampled about 30 minutes of her classes while learning about other Equinox offerings, but as a usually scared, completely inflexible attendee, she explained all the postures with easy-to-understand cues and knew how to make yoga fun. She also makes you wish you could be as flexible as she is--but that, I know, is something that would only happen in my dreams as I can barely touch my toes, and that's cheating with bent knees.

    If the lure of an outdoor workout isn't enough, here are two more reasons to attend: Class is free and Lululemon is bringing the mats. Perfect for anyone who either doesn't have a mat or doesn't want to spend the rest of the evening cleaning dirt off hers (that would be me).

    But one thing to keep in mind is that Yoga in the Park might turn into Yoga in the Store if today's weather doesn't carry through to tomorrow. If it's nice, meet at the Dorothy statue in Oz Park. If it's inclement weather, meet at Lululemon Halsted, 2104 N. Halsted. Not sure? Call the store at 773-883-8860. Or if you can't make it, there's always next week. Yoga in the Park is every Wednesday at Oz Park, same time but different instructor. The 22nd brings Allison Powel to the mat and the 29th brings Cory from CorePower Yoga's newest location in Roscoe Village.

    Photo grabbed from

    Sunday, June 12, 2011

    What I Miss About Running

    Another weekend, another set of races I can’t run. I’m really beginning to sound like a broken record, I realize, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from being injured and stuck on the sidelines, it’s that I really miss running. I appreciate the sport far more now than I did before when I could head out for a run whenever I wanted. I know it. Heck, I complain and whine—all the time—about the fact that I’m not able to go out and do my usual summertime damage on the Lakefront Path.

    But rather than wallow in self-pity, the easy route that I’m pretty good at taking in anything not running-related, I make fitness lists. Goals to shoot for next time. What went wrong at this race. Days to squeeze in training sessions. Superfoods, with their oh-so-super-meals, that might give a boost. Why I’m frustrated. So in list-making tradition, I’m taking a stab at what I miss about running. Superficial or not, here it goes:

    1. The sweating. Sounds weird, I know, but the 90-degree temperatures earlier in the week brought back this memory. Granted I couldn’t tolerate a midday run in that heat, but I love it when beads of sweat start to form on my forehead. To me, it’s the sign of a good workout—and getting out all the toxins. Not so nice in the winter but perfect for this time of year.
    2. Its ease. You know how we always say that it’s easy to go for a run? I almost forgot how easy it is, especially in this weather, to throw on a tank and shorts, add my shoes, sunglasses and tunes and head out the door. The hardest thing is finding a spot to store my keys. Not biking. I packed a duffel bag full of stuff I could potentially need when I went to the Udder Century last weekend.
    3. The ability to eat almost anything after a good, hard run. Some people eat to run, I run to eat. I’m sure those eating habits will catch up with me later—or rather I know so judging from this lack of running—but I feel less guilty about eating a burger or getting a concrete at Scooter’s after burning calories on a run.
    4. The racing. Watching races is one thing, as is volunteering, but I’ve learned through spectating that I belong on the race course. What can I say, I like racing against the clock even though I haven’t been logging PRs lately. And hearing about others’ accomplishments have been making me sad because I can’t be out there doing the same, or try.
    5. The day-after feeling. Who’s sore the day after a long run or hard effort? As much as it hurts to get out of bed, I’ll take that over a hangover.
    6. The runner's body. Runners come in all shapes and sizes but I'm definitely noticing a not-so-welcome change to what I'm towing around these days. Sure, it's my own fault screwing up the diet and exercise that works toward weight loss--skipping another boring ride on the bike, feeding a food craving--but I didn't think it'd be this hard to tone my lower half without the run.
    7. Running in the rain. I can't believe I'm writing this one because normally my only rainy runs happen when the rain starts to fall after I'm already outside or it's a race. But I miss the soft drizzle that cools my body enough without wrecking my shoes, the rain clouds forming overhead that tell me to run faster to outrun the storm, the harder rain that soaks my clothes but not my spirit (most of the time).
    If you couldn’t run, what would you miss most?

    Note: A version of this post originally appeared at FFCheer.

    Friday, June 10, 2011

    Decisions, Decisions

    It's 48 hours and counting before the start of what is usually my first triathlon of the season. The only problem is that this year instead of signing up weeks ago like I usually do, my entry to the Motor City Triathlon has been left in waiting. First because I was too lazy to sign up then delayed because of my injury, and now because I can't decide what's best. I thought I solidified my decision while trading messages with a friend who's in a similar predicament, but then a million thoughts raced through my head telling me otherwise. And now I can't decide what's right--do I swim and bike and skip the run, or do I skip the race altogether? It's almost exactly how I found myself a few weeks ago when I was convinced that I would walk, run or hobble my way through the 10 miles of the Soldier Field 10 no matter what. But I changed my mind at the last minute, realizing it probably wasn't the best idea since the doctor told me no running at my last appointment. Disappointed, yes. And determined to keep it from happening again.

    Yet once again, my mind is racing. Finishing a century, or rather 75 miles of it because I didn't want to push too hard, is one thing. Racing a triathlon is another. And I'm stuck weighing the options.

    • A guaranteed workout while visiting my parents in Michigan. I treasure these because otherwise it means a weekend of lazing around, eating and not exercising because the non-running choices become even more difficult to track down at their house.
    • Participating in my first triathlon of the season, fourth time at Motor City, even if it only means swim and bike.
    • Testing my skills at swim and bike when I don't have to worry about a 6.6-mile half-road, half-trail run afterward.
    • In a weekend full of events--Ragnar Relay, North Shore Half Marathon, Ironman 70.3 Kansas, New York Mini 10K, Eagleman, SheROX and the Trek 100 to name a few that friends are racing--I'd be getting in on the action.
    • I love this race! From the price to the smaller crowd, it beats what I'd find back in Chicago.
    • Leaving town and leaving the craziness that is the Old Town/Wells Street Art Fair. It sounds terrible but instead of welcoming the street fair that interrupts our daily routine for two days, we leave town to escape it. And what better reason to leave than to have a race.
    • Missed opportunities to swim at the pool when the weather doesn't cooperate. This doesn't exactly relate to the race but I'm looking at the weather forecast and doubting my chances of swimming at the pool in Michigan. Skip the trip and I could swim indoors, no problem, back at home.
    • Only being able to race the swim and the bike at the triathlon. 
    • Knowing that I'd have to walk from the swim exit and up the beach to my bike. I'm usually a pretty fast swimmer and I couldn't help but think how many people would pass me in transition, and how long that transition would be.
    • Knowing I'd have to stop after the bike. The competitor in me would want to continue. 
    • Knowing I wouldn't be able to cross the finish line and claim a race time and medal. I already spent part of the week plotting a way to work through the run, but couldn't rally a relay partner to be my legs.
    • Fearing the swim and the bike because of the race mode mentality. I know that I have to be careful, but without a cast, no one else would know that I'm recovering from an injury. What if I get kicked in the leg? What if I have a bike accident? What if I start running because that's what I'm used to? 
    • Having to pass on yet another race--good thing I have yet to register.
    • Bad weather. If it's cold like it's been in Chicago the past two days, the last thing I want to do is get in the water.
    Now dear friends, I'm asking for your help to reach a decision on this race. Should I or should I not race in Sunday's Motor City Triathlon?

    Wednesday, June 8, 2011

    Tough Mudder's No-Fail Fitness Prep

    That's the slithering: the Boa Constrictor obstacle.
    Call me obsessed with the Tough Mudder event series now in its second year. But I can't help myself. The event looks more wild and challenging every time the race organizers post pictures from its latest location--two easy routes to take to this endurance girl's heart. And--if all goes according to plan--I'm supposed to be in Boulder right before the Beaver Creek rendition and am oh-so-tempted to detour out to the Beav' before driving home to check it out and possibly participate. The only problem is that Tough Mudder is only one day of the year--unless you're lucky enough to qualify for the championship event in December, crazy enough to city hop to more than one event or certifiably insane (yes, really) to sign up and participate in both days of challenges in your favorite city--and that can mean make or break time if you haven't trained a little for the challenge.

    Lugging logs? Slithering through tunnels? Hauling yourself and your best buds over walls, hay bales and snow? Outlasting the monkey bars I haven't touched since I was oh, about 11? I'm getting scared just thinking about the disasters that could come race day for this body that hasn't seen my exercise beyond some wimpy attempts at yoga, repeats on the bike and forced swims. Granted I haven't been a couch potato, but I totally could use a Tough Mudder tune up. And that's even if I end up not participating because my leg's not ready for the wear and tear.

    These moves, what I deemed the no-fail fitness plan, are just what the trainer offered for whatever challenge you've got on your calendar for the summer. I unveiled the essentials at to get started on conquering Beaver Creek's course. And if those aren't enough to feel the burn, there are more, 16 altogether, to add a little jolt to the fitness routine. But check out my favorites first--I think they're less intimidating than the others, but that's just my opinion. 

    Photo grabbed from Tough Mudder.

    Wednesday, June 1, 2011

    My Running Story

    My favorite running picture
    Are you getting out and running in honor of National Running Day? I know I'll sound like a broken record once again, but I wish I could. But since I'm still waiting for this darn stress fracture to heal, I figured I'd do the next best thing: share my running story. I've provided plenty of snippets here and there at Fit-Ink, from race reports to random training stories, but did I ever say how I got started in the sport? I didn't think so. So at the risk, er full knowledge, of sounding like a weird, crazy fitness nut even more so than I'd like to think I project at Fit-Ink, here it goes.

    I know I'm weird and crazy when it comes to exercising and running. I embrace it some moments (like admitting that I probably would live at the gym or out on the Lakefront Path if I didn't have to work)  and deny it in others. But this time I'm going to open up and not be shy about it.

    I’ve run a marathon with improper training—I didn’t know it at the time because I was 20, running stupid and thinking I was invincible. Yeah, four-hour bike rides don’t substitute for long runs—and neither do the shoes purchased from DSW because of their color and price tag and not their fit and feel. I've joked many a time that I could write the book on how not to run a marathon because I've run it wrong at least as many, if not more, times than I've run it right.

    I’ve gone running at 1:30 in the morning when most of the world is asleep. Not once, but twice—and I enjoyed myself both times.

    I’m a creature of habit and have run the Chicago Marathon for the last 11 years, and this October will mark No. 12. I’m not going for any records but my own: keep running the marathon until I don’t live in Chicago anymore. Or at least that was my latest justification for why I’ve continued to sign up—after surpassing 10 Chicagos in a row and then running on 10-10-10.

    I’ve run a relay with 11 near-strangers, one of whom was Bart Yasso. That is, before we spent 30-plus hours together in a van. You can’t call yourselves strangers after traveling 200 miles in two days from Madison to Chicago by way of Milwaukee. In fact, that's how Liz and I met—it’s amazing what you can talk about and learn on these adventures. And well, we must have liked each other if we were still talking enough to plan training rides on the Lakefront for the rest of that summer.

    I will run even when I shouldn’t. Basically I’m in denial about injury and would like to think that the exercise would help, not hurt, it. As a result I’d walk the remainder of a race—Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach and Boston Marathon, you know I’m talking to you—than bow out. Case in point: the stress fracture in my tibia that I’m supposed to be recovering from (i.e. no running, boo!) and whine about often. If you see me at a fun run decked out in my running gear, kindly remind me to stay on the sidelines until further notice.

    I have more running shoes and workout gear than I know what to do with--and more running shoes than dress-up shoes. Call me a hoarder, label me a pack rat, but I still have my first marathon shoes along with some later editions. Some I don't want to part with but others I've given alternate uses at the gym, riding my bike on the Lakefront Path or reserving for a painting project that's never going to happen--I know I really should just donate them to the bins that beg for shoe donations at my local running store. As for race shirts? I've reserved some tees to be sewn into a quilt, but that action didn't even come close to freeing up T-shirt space. See what I mean about collecting?

    There’s probably more to my story than that--in fact, I know there is--but it’s all I can come up with for now. Besides, if I confessed my entire running story right now, there would be nothing to read later. And who would want that? But one more confession before I go that's only mildly related: You could call me a foodie with a running problem. I got into journalism because I wanted to be a food critic. Guess I went wrong somewhere along the line and I embraced the active life over the culinary one. But I wouldn’t trade it for a second.

    Note: a version of this story originally appeared at FFCheer.


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