Saturday, August 27, 2011

Fit-Pic: A Tri-ing Inspiration

Chicago's Monroe Harbor really looks like that come race weekend for the Life Time Chicago Triathlon. Don't believe me? Check it out for yourself on Sunday, August 28, when the triathletes hit the water starting at 6 a.m. (sprint wave) and running until about 11:30 a.m. when the pros take off.

Nearly 10,000 people from every state and from a few countries around the world will jump into Lake Michigan, colorful swim caps and all. They'll swim about a mile in Monroe Harbor, take a quarter-mile barefoot jog up the path to their bikes (seriously, it's the most painful part of the entire day) and then spin onto Lake Shore Drive for a scenic cycling tour that only happens on two other occasions during the year (and you're usually going far slower than you get to at this race). After two loops on Lake Shore Drive between Harbor Point and Foster Avenue, competitors enter the final leg of their journey: running, jogging, shuffling or walking south on the lakefront and through the Museum Campus, winding back to Grant Park to hear the cheers of hundreds of spectators as they cross the finish line on Columbus. To think that this race is 29 years in the running--and one of the world's largest. Spectators and triathlon fans can watch amateur, elite and professional triathletes from around the world competing in this fifth race of the Toyota Cup series.

And who knows? You just might get so energized that you'll be fueled to do it next year. I know that's how I felt when I watched my first one, shuffling between the swim start and exit and the finish line, hauling a heavy bag and carrying my arm in a sling. I needed that broken collarbone to heal first, but I knew I'd be out there the next year--and sure enough, I was. The funny thing though is that for many it's the last race of the season. For me, it'll be my first. Gotta dust off the cobwebs at some point, right? I'll be doing that tonight when I dig for my aero bottle.

Photo courtesy of Life Time Chicago Triathlon.

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Perk of Winning a Race

Levi Leipheimer at the 2011 Tour de France
Win a race, receive a ski pass? Oh, to be Levi Leipheimer of Team Radio Shack who won yesterday's time trial through Vail, Colo., at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. Not only did he win the 10-mile course that rode through town and up Vail Pass (ouch!), but in doing so he won himself a lifetime ski pass to Vail and Beaver Creek resorts. Lucky! It turns out he'll probably be putting that pass to good use too: Leipheimer was a ski racer who took up cycling to train in the off-season, according to For the cycling-related standings--I can't forget about those even though the ski pass was my favorite part--Leipheimer earned back the yellow jersey and kept the green one.

And to think that I thought it was cool to win a $250 gift certificate to a running store, a plaque and random Children's Memorial Hospital swag at the only race I have won and probably will ever win, a Father's Day 5K that benefited CMH and ran through Chicago's Loop. Ah, to be a professional--and be really good at it.

Photo grabbed from Petit Brun at

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Disco Fever

Platform shoes, jumpsuits, bell bottoms, big wigs, disco balls. What's your best John Travolta impersonation? If it involves any of these--and even if it doesn't but you love the 1970s, disco or running--you'll want to make your way to Lincoln Park's Diversey Harbor on Saturday morning for the Disco Dash 5K.

But what makes this race extra special is its reason for existence, a.k.a. its beneficiary The Peapod Project, which provides special memory keepsake packages for families at Children's Memorial Hospital who are about to lose a young child. The Peapod Project was founded by Ted and Annette Stenstrom who lost their little girl Moreland Grace, affectionately known as Gigi, when she was only 16 days old due to complications from her inability to breathe on her own. In those 16 days, the Stenstroms tried to pack in as many memories as they could so Gigi wouldn't be forgotten. They took photos, introduced her to friends and family, made footprints and handprints, all those memories that get packed away in a baby book. Knowing that they weren't alone in a loss of this magnitude, they created this program that would essentially provide these memory-making moments to other families.

So if you want to run, support a cause that's a little different from the other charities you've likely been asked to fundraise for this summer (nothing against them), or just party in the park, you'll want to come out to Disco Dash. The race starts at 9 a.m., but the fun keeps going until 3 p.m. with music, refreshments, a raffle and more. Definitely not a bad way to spend a Saturday whether you're alone or looking for a reason to be outside with the family.

Want to learn more about this event? Check it all out at the Disco Dash website--and then get running.

Photo grabbed from Disco Dash.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Apps Addiction

Confession: I haven’t opened the EpicMix app on my phone since April when I closed out my season at Vail. I tried to collect any final pins and ride at least as many lifts as the day before. Then I took one last look at my vertical and points accrued and said good-bye until next season. I was least until the final chair in part because I subconsciously equated with more chairs and more vertical with a greater calorie burn at the end of the day. My legs were burning after all.

But that was four months ago. That’s not to say that I’ve been sitting on the sofa, tanning on the beach, dining at the food fests and letting summer get the best of the fitness gains I made on the mountain over the winter. It’s all about prepping for the next season so we can rock it even harder than the last. Right? So while EpicMix takes a much-needed vacation, my attention falls to the other apps on my iPhone: the fitness-focused ones that can keep me in shape when I can’t ski 12 runs or log 20,000 feet of vertical in a day. The ones that can suggest new workouts I could never concoct on my own. The ones that are almost as good as working alongside a personal trainer because they provide real-time feedback.

The only problem is there are thousands of apps fitting that description. Take one look in the iTunes store and it's overwhelming (I know--I was researching apps for a magazine story two months ago and nearly got lost). So I took the guesswork out at where you can read about seven apps that'll keep you motivated to exercise even when you don't have a trainer pushing you through that last rep.

What fitness apps do you have in your cache?

Photo grabbed from marc.flores at flickr.

Friday, August 19, 2011

How to navigate your workouts around Chicago's Air and Water Show

This is Friday's traffic--and it's blurry. It only gets worse.
I'd be putting it mildly if I said I disliked my fine city's Air and Water Show weekend. I hate it. But I don't hate it for what might be considered more normal reasons like it's crowded, it's hot and I'm not into planes (I do like the tricks and stadium fly-bys). I hate it because it alters my weekend exercise routine on the Lakefront--and it starts on Thursday when the tents start popping up. I learned my lesson last year when trying to finish my brick workout and had to abort my run north because I simply had nowhere to go that wasn't fenced off.

Forget biking: I'd either be pedaling at a snail's pace, walking my bike or riding circles around the Path's southern half. Instead I'll be packing up the car to drive out to Madison's hills. I know the course (I'd go to Barrington if I was better versed on the route), it's tough and I can reward myself with custard. Swimming: I doubt I'd find a place to lock my bike if I didn't go before the masses assembled. And if it's hot, I can only imagine people wading in our lap lake. While there are no guarantees that I'll rise early to beat those crowds (I've failed every other time I've tried to swim calm waters and pristine conditions), I at least made sure my mileage got done today. Then I know I can relax a little if I miss Saturday and Sunday and pick right back up again on Monday. Running: Even Fleet Feet had to change up the location of their hydration stations to accommodate the show and I'm not even going to get started on the crowds throwing me for a loop. As for a solution, I'm telling myself it's a good time to rest my legs. I'm not even close to 100 percent strong on my running legs just yet so I know skipping is better than slogging through. Marathon runners, I'm sorry if you have to run even earlier in the morning to avoid any potential mayhem. I'd say hope for rain, but I bet air show watchers come out anyway--the only thing rain stops is the show as I learned three years ago while viewing snippets from my living room.

But this routine-altering weekend doesn't have to be the end of the world as there are plenty of ways to avoid its craziness. Go early, go late--the show runs 10 am to 3 pm. Run elsewhere. Find a race out of town. And I could go on...

If the Lakefront is your running route, how did you switch up your workout to deal with the aerial entertainment (besides pray for rain)?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Hike Me: Top Trails Near Vail and Beaver Creek

After spending nearly two weeks hiking in the Canadian Rockies, my office back at home feels like a hell hole. It's summer. It's sunny. It's warm. I know that these days will be gone all too quickly and I'll be regretting not spending more time outside when I wanted to. And I know that I'd easily trade a desk day for a hiking one. I might not be able to make it back to Canada anytime soon--and judging by some of the weather we had while we were there, cold and rain while a heat wave hit Chicago, I'm not sure I'd beg to return right away--but I can keep my eye on pursuits a little closer to home. OK, not so close since they're in Colorado, but at least if I go to the state that I hope to call home, eventually, I don't have to bring my passport and convert kilometers and Canadian dollars.

When my husband and I plan out forays out into the forest, we're all about tracking down some of the hardest. For him, I don't know what the reward is unless it's seeing how much he can tire me out. For me, I feel like I earned my ice cream sundae (hey, a girl's gotta splurge every now and then) after the loop back to the trailhead, tackling the tough stuff.

As for the latest adventures, research sent me scouring the trail maps in and around Vail and Beaver Creek. You've already got altitude, but throw in some summits to 12,000, 13,000 and 14,000 feet, and some heavy mileage underfoot and you've got a difficult day hike. And I have yet to find a spot outside Colorado that takes me on a bigger challenge--but do tell if you know of one. Just where in, about and around Vail and Beaver Creek should you hike? Take a look at these top hikes as recommended in part by Nathan Goldberg who heads up the Beaver Creek Hiking Center. The extra cool factor: even when you don't have a partner in crime ready to take those challenges with you, you can find a hike happening with BCHC and get going with a guide. I might have to keep that in mind though as an opportunity to bow out when injury holds me back--it might save my husband from hearing me whine about my aches and pains.

Photo grabbed from Beaver Creek and Vail Resorts.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Daily Feed: Sites We're Surfing 8/4

Hope as I may that August would run a little slower than June and July, this week has been flying by. Thursday? Already? Time does fly, and always when I'm not expecting it. Maybe that's because I was reading a little too much online when I should have been writing, coaching, swimming, yogaing or cooking (I still have a refrigerator full of farmer's market veggies!). Here's what I've stumbled upon:
  • Are FiveFingers so mainstream that the Army needed to ban them? --Gear Junkie
  • First day of my hiking trip and I got a blister. I could have used this Core Performance guide to care for it, but now it's filed away for next time.
  • Maybe I would have been more gung-ho about traveling to Alaska instead of Banff had I read Skinet's feature about skiing then salmon fishing. I can handle cold weather when I can ski.
  • I may have only been a teenager when I last traveled to Italy but if I could go back, I think I'd have to try the cycling y comida option. And hope that the former pro's cycling skills rubbed off on me.
  • Popping a pill might not be the best solution for beating your injury. SELF explains why and when to pick up the Advil.
  • Take the guesswork out of training for the Men's Health Urbanathlon--if you've got an Equinox near you, you can train with them. Sweet!
  • Chris Carmichael read my mind: how to train for climbs when you lack hills.
Photo grabbed from spaceamoeba at

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

When the Pro Cyclists Ride Colorado...

Who hasn't had dreams or aspirations of being a professional athlete? Certainly not me, and I'm dating myself back to the 1992 Barcelona Olympics where I wished I could be like Summer Sanders or Janet Evans. I know, however, that I'll never be even remotely good enough to be at their caliber among the swimming set or the next Lindsey Vonn or Chrissie Wellington (do any of us stand a chance at that?). But that's never to say that I can't train like them...or try.

Riding along that theme comes my latest training mission: surviving the cycling routes of the pros. Well, not exactly. I'm certifiably scared of the Tour de France's cobblestones, descents and gut-wrenching climbs--and that's from watching it on TV. I'll second guess myself on pretty much any terrain involving me and a bike--oh and I'll do the worst thing possible and ride the brake. But yet, I'm still fascinated by the major events among world class cycling that are cropping up on American soil.

First it was the Amgen Tour of California, thanks in part to Vision Quest promoting its camp with a ride on the course and a time trial that you could race from the trainers in Chicago. And now it's the resurrection of an old Colorado mainstay that's being taken to a new level with the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. Call it my love and familiarity of Colorado, or blame it on summer when I try to spend significantly more time on my bike, but I'm literally drooling over this event which runs from August 22 to 28 and covers roughly 600 miles of Colorado terrain. It also doesn't help that the top three finishers at last month's Tour de France, Cadel Evans, Andy Schleck and Frank Schleck, recently joined the field. Makes it a little more exciting, don't you think?

But here's my favorite part. Just like plenty of other professional races, you can sample the race stages before the big dogs come to town. Need suggestions for how to do it? That's exactly what I took a look at for when I hunted down some recommended road rides that would burn plenty of calories, get you riding portions that the pros will cover, and offer challenges that will even get chills running up some pros' backs. Maybe not Lance Armstrong since he rides Colorado all the time, but he's retired so he doesn't count. As for me, check out stage 5 and then Rabbit Ears Pass or stage 3's time trial at Vail Pass. Shivering yet?

Photo grabbed from

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Smoked at the Beach Palooza Finish Line

What do you do after you cross the finish line of a race? There's post-race drinking. Post-race get-me-back-home-as-soon-as-possible. Post-race clothing change. Post-race massage. Post-race refueling--my personal fave, especially after a marathon. But I spotted a new--and unfortunately quite disgusting in my opinion--one over the weekend: post-race smoking.

Seriously? You just ran 3.1 miles, hopped over and through obstacles, trudged through the sand and an arctic pool now turned lukewarm from the heat, and crossed the finish line at the hot-as-Hades Chicago Beach Palooza, and you're going to light a cig? What could be more awful tasting--and worse for the lungs already recovering from the "trauma" of a hot and heated run--than taking a drag?

I don't get it. Maybe it's because I'm not a smoker. Or maybe it's because my out-of-running-shape body could barely handle the cross-country 5K--and hoisting myself up and over some of those obstacles--in the heat. Maybe it's because I was huffing and puffing at the finish line and all I wanted was to gulp all the water I could grab from the volunteer. Or maybe it's because she really wanted to live up to that "freakishly amazing" title on her tank top. Yeah, running with lungs full of tar would be freakish, but maybe not so amazing--or awesome.

Note: I'm only slowly easing back into running but I'm digging these 5Ks where I tote my camera. If I can't run fast or as well as I'd like, at least I can capture some pretty random memories (like this one).

Monday, August 1, 2011

8 Event August: Week 1

What the heck happened July? I swear I couldn't tell you what exactly happened between the Fourth of July and today aside from turning off and dropping out--almost completely--for a little Canadian Rockies hiking. But before the eighth month of the year escapes me as quickly as the sixth and seventh months did, I wanted to attempt start August better than I did June and July. Goal: putting events on the calendar so I don't regret missing a 5K, adventure race, kayak relay or triathlon when I'm curling up under a blanket, yanking on my hat and gloves, and retreating to my favorite comfort foods when the cold hits us all too soon.

Ah, August. The eighth month of the year. The month without a major holiday that we all take a break to celebrate (unless you count weddings like the one I'll be missing this weekend). The month with the number that the Chinese consider lucky--a random bit of trivia drilled into my brain when Beijing hosted the Summer Olympics in 2008. Sticking with that eight theme, here are eight events to keep you occupied for the week.
  1. Josh Cox runs the Capital. Join the American record holder in the 50K and Michael Wardian, another speedster, at Pacers Logan Circle tonight at 6 p.m. for a Q&A, run and brews. Granted I'd have to hop a plane right now to make that happen--and wish that my legs could handle the distance--but I thought of my D.C. friends and relatives when I found this flyer.
  2. Vision Quest and Well Fit ride the Ironman Wisconsin course. Who needs a little pre-race prep on the IM Moo bike course? Sign up for these rides--VQ's there on Saturday and Well Fit's there on Sunday--and you'll get SAG support, refueling stops and plenty of pacers to keep you on target for your race day goals. The sad part? These are the last rides VQ and Well Fit are hosting on the course for the season. Let's just hope W-DOT doesn't tear up a road the night before.
  3. Centurion Wisconsin. Not too far from the above rides' starting point, you'll find Centurion cyclists racing Wisconsin's hills on Sunday, Aug. 7. Ride 25 miles (Saturday), ride 50, or ride 100--this course is guaranteed to give you bragging rights among your cycling friends. And some bulging quad muscles. Read more about it in Chicago Athlete's digital issue.
  4. CNN's Fit Nation takes on the Nautica New York Triathlon. Six individuals are about to become full-fledged triathletes and compete alongside Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who hosts Sanjay Gupta, MD every Saturday morning on CNN. Whether you've been following their stories or you're new to the fold, you'll want to tune in this weekend for the live coverage. Trust me: conversations with Kas Seerla and Kendrick Henley got me cheering already. Anyone racing?
  5. Terrapin 5K. Store a pint of Cherry Garcia in the freezer for a treat after this Grateful Dead-themed running race that Liz called the happiest happy hour Chicago offers. Running, beer, pizza, music, a summer night? Yeah, sounds like a winner to me too, especially when I factor in the tie-dyed race tee.
  6. Evergreen Town Race. When don't I have Colorado on my mind? Probably never. So when I stumbled upon this August 7 5K and 10K through the town where my friend lives, my eyes perked up. Plus its description as a fast course leaves me begging to see how that could happen in the Rockies where you're almost always guaranteed some form of altitude training. Or so I thought.
  7. The Champions Run. I'm dreaming if I think I could get to Colorado for Sunday (my dad's birthday is Friday and I'll be lucky if I can surprise him, and that's miles from Evergreen). But here's a 5K/10K option that's a little closer to home. With predicted temps cooler the city has seen in weeks--and no rain--it almost seems like you have to skip sleeping in to see how your speedwork is paying off.
  8. Ironman Boulder 70.3. It's tough enough to swim 1.2 miles, bike 56 miles and run 13.1 miles. Try doing it at higher elevation, say 5,400-ish feet above sea level, like the competitors who'll be racing this half Ironman. My lungs are already panicking, but good luck to the competitors--I'll be tracking from my computer.
What events are going on in your neighborhood for the week? What's on your race or training calendar for the rest of the month? Help a Midwest-minded girl out. I'll be sharing eight more events next week, and the next, and the next, but share your local happenings in the comments section and you might just see it in a future listing.

Photo grabbed from


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