Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Better Than Baseball: Freeing Is Believing

What's better than baseball, beer, and brats on Opening Day? Adding a little run to that season opening mix. No, it's not an April Fool's joke, only some creative planning that Chicago runners have come to expect when Nike is involved (remember Run Lucky and the Freedom Run?). Whether you've been looking forward to baseball's season to start or you just need a reason to run Friday morning, you're in luck.

NIKETOWN Chicago and Fleet Feet Chicago are teaming up once again to bring on the running fun.  This time it's all about Freeing Is Believing with the opportunity to test drive the latest Nike Free Run+ 2, get an early start to your Opening Day plans and run through the "baseball-inspired revelry of Wrigleyville." You don't need tickets to the home opener to get excited for the 162 games your favorite team, just your running buds. Right? I think so, especially since my favorite team is hundreds of miles away.

And it even seems like April 1's weather will be on their side--sorry, I'm remembering the snow that covered Chicago mere hours before the Lunar Eclipse run took off in December--with warmer temps and sunshine in the forecast. Granted you may not feel that warmth when the runs gets underway at 6:30 a.m.--7 a.m. if you're taking off from Fleet Feet--but do you really care when you're running? Not me, especially when I factor in the other bonuses that I wouldn't get if I ran alone. Running to a surprise Wrigleyville location, the chance to win prizes, a light breakfast and refreshments (but remember to bring your ID), gear check, and special T-shirts (while supplies last). And you can choose to run from three locations--Niketown, Fleet Feet Piper's Alley or Fleet Feet Lincoln Square--all based on your desired mileage for the morning and convenience.

Planning to run from NIKETOWN Chicago, at Erie and Michigan along the Magnificent Mile? You'll want to check in at 6:15 a.m. for a 6:30 a.m. departure. And expect to run roughly 6 miles.

Planning to run from Fleet Feet, either Piper's Alley (1620 N. Wells) or Lincoln Square (4762 N. Lincoln)? You can check in at both locations at 6:45 a.m. for a 7 a.m. departure. It's about a 4-mile run from Piper's Alley and a 3-mile run from Lincoln Square. For more info and to RSVP, visit this event page.

Consider it your excuse to skip out on work for the day and one that your boss can't blame completely on Opening Day. Even if you can't have a completely free day as Nike has deemed this April 1, the event should wrap up before you have to be at the office. And just think: your workout will be done before the baseball games even begin. I'll have to remind myself of that Friday morning when my alarm goes off and I want to hit snooze.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Trade Running Miles for Skiing?

I've had skiing on the brain way too much this season. Being that the sport burns calories and keeps me fit when I'm bundled head to toe back at home to counter that Chicago wind, I can't confess it's an unhealthy amount but it certainly is bordering on obsessive. But if the snow out west keeps up--another foot or more in some Colorado spots this morning--I honestly can't help myself. It's cold at home, and well, I just don't do cold. I skip runs on the Lakefront when I'm still wearing ski gloves, hats and heavy coats to move about town.

Yet I think I may have just helped my running, through skiing, mind you. But you'll have to click here to see what I mean--I explained it all at buzz.snow.com. It might not make me the fastest runner out there, but I’ll take it if it means I can spend my winters on skis—I’d rather skip layering to look like an armed robber anyway. Those quad burning ski days helped in my half marathon and I’m hoping they can pull me through a 26.2 miler in 20 days. Yes, Boston really is that close. And that could be just the excuse I need to ski again before season’s end. 

Photo grabbed from Vail's Facebook page.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Powder Day Play

There's no denying it: I wish I was skiing.

Who can blame me? My Facebook and Twitter feeds are loaded with snow reports, winter has returned to the Windy City in one of its ugliest possible forms (rain and gray skies), and my ski gear is still sitting in my living room, proof that I'm still hoping to make another trip back.

And if I could--time and money-wise--there's one spot I'd be sure to hit up at Keystone. Its backcountry. If I thought the conditions were good last year for my backcountry adventure with the Keystone Adventure Tours, they could only be as good or better this year thanks to all the snow that keeps falling. Whatever the case may be, it's an unparalleled adventure that should land on everyone's must-ski list. To see why, you'll want to check out this post from buzz.snow.com.

Then maybe you'll feel blue like me...thousands of miles away and the slimmest margin imaginable to see that snowcat and ski its terrain before next season. But I'll stop my whining.

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Playlist to Remember

It's been a long time since I updated my running playlist. And when I write long, I really do mean long. We're talking eons in the music world, with some of my tunes going as far back as the 2007 Boston Marathon, when I started running with this particular iPod, a nano that would be considered ancient by Apple with its 1 GB of storage space and lack of fun colors. Yet, as much as I want to update this playlist with some current 2011 Grammy nominees, it still manages to surprise me when I'm racing. Not with an I'm-so-sick-of-this-song feeling, but with a Thank-goodness-this-tune-came-now sentiment. It definitely helps to set the iPod on shuffle so I never know what's next, but what's even better is when the shuffle is so on target with my mood that I don't have to skip a beat.

Take yesterday, during my soaker of a March Madness half marathon. Those songs came in just the right spot, as if I arranged the playlist based on where I'd need a pick-me-up, how I wanted to start and end the race, and where I'd be climbing hills. Now I can't say I'd recommend this playlist for everyone since it's pretty obvious that we all have different music likes, especially when running, but this one was pretty darn good for my mood. So good I might have to keep it in the queue for my next half marathon. Here's what I got: 
  1. Lazy Eye by Silversun Pickups. This turned out to be a good choice to start the race, and just loud enough to still hear the gun go off. 
  2. 1985 by Bowling For Soup
  3. One with Mary J. Blige and U2
  4. Spaceman by The Killers. There's something about the beats in this song that add a spring to my step. It happened at Grandma's Marathon and it repeated at March Madness.
  5. Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) by Bruce Springsteen
  6. The Best Thing by Boom Crash Opera. My version is so old--from the soundtrack from the 1991 movie Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead--and different from what you'd find on iTunes today that I don't think I'd add it to my running list without my faster-paced rendition.
  7. Memory by Sugarcult
  8. Basket Case by Green Day
  9. Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd
  10. Hey Julie by Fountains of Wayne
  11. Oh! Gravity by Switchfoot
  12. The Sound of Settling by Death Cab for Cutie
  13. Foundations by Kate Nash
  14. When You Were Young by The Killers
  15. Sometime Around Midnight by The Airborne Toxic Event
  16. Walking on a Dream by Empire of the Sun. One of the few updates to my playlist that couldn't have come at a better time, as I was running up a hill.
  17. Shake It by Metro Station
  18. Ants Marching by Dave Matthews Band
  19. Welcome to Paradise by Green Day
  20. Feel Like Rain by Motion City Soundtrack. I was practically waiting for this song to ring through my ears because of the shower we were running through.
  21. I Still Remember by Bloc Party
  22. The Great Escape by Boys Like Girls
  23. Keep the Car Running by The Arcade Fire
  24. Amsterdam by Guster
  25. City of Blinding Lights by U2
  26. Young Folks by Peter Bjorn and John
What songs do you love to listen to when you're racing? Did any of them land on my list?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

How to Get Your Green On...in Ski Country

Wear green, eat green, drink green, see green (the dyeing of the Chicago River). Those are four simple shout-outs to St. Patrick's Day--add in a few "Kiss Me I'm Irish" stickers and some corned beef and cabbage and you're all set. Now many people might stop there, but I have another green thought on my mind that's just as prevalent as these others. Can I be green with envy? Not because I'm not Irish (not a lick), nor because there's no pot o' gold waiting at the end of my rainbow, not even a box of Lucky Charms. Instead it's because I left the snowy mountains before the St. Patty's celebrating began and I missed the at-home celebrating, the green river and the parade, that happened while I was skiing. But if I could be back skiing right now, here's how I'd want to bring out my green.
  1. Ski a green run. Yes, totally obvious since those green circles can easily be had at just about any mountain, except Mt. Bohemia in Michigan's Upper Peninsula where you won't find anything less than black. But here's a challenge: can you name a green run that has an St. Patty's-themed name? Props if you can...my quick scan of some trail maps didn't turn up any Shamrocks, Dublins, Leprechauns or Emeralds like Al Roker's weather forecast did this morning.
  2. Drink Guinness at apr├Ęs. You know you can have a Snake River brew or a Fat Tire practically any time you want so why not switch it up and toast with this Irish beer. A little known fact: you'll even be saving on calories.
  3. Score a Pot O' Gold. If you're toying around at one of the five Vail Resorts linked to EpicMix--Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Heavenly, Keystone, Vail--all you have to do is check in with your pass or Peaks card and you'll find a Pot 'O Gold pin in your EpicMix. Following the tradition of receiving pins for Martin Luther King Day and Valentine's Day, anyone who hits the mountain on March 17 will be a virtual winner.
  4. Look out for Leprechauns. Rumor has it that leprechauns were lurking around Heavenly, and not at its base areas but on the snow. Don't believe me? Read all about it here.
  5. Wear green. The obvious answer to getting your green on, but when you have to think winter gear, it can be a little harder to do since it requires more than tracking down a green tee. But it can't be that hard to track down a green jacket, right? There's one hanging in my husband's closest that I would have made him use today if we could be out there. As for me, can I count my green Rossignols? Either that or I'd don my kelly green hoodie.
  6. Snag a Shamrock Sticker. I've been eyeing these stickers for years, first catching a glimpse of one stuck to a helmet and most recently to a pair of skis. Not only is it cute, but tack it to your skis and you may have just thwarted theft.
  7. Chow Cookies. OK, so cookies don't have much to do with Irish tradition unless you use green food coloring and a shamrock-shaped cookie cutter, but if a ski spot is offering cookies for free wouldn't you eat them regardless? Healthy eats aside, I like my sugar on a snow day, especially when I can snag it and keep on skiing. Vail and Breckenridge posted to their Facebook pages this morning that they'd be out on cookie patrol with a green theme, meanwhile Beaver Creek always serves up the chocolate chip variety at 3 p.m. at the Centennial base. Yum!
  8. Hit the Green State: Vermont. Yes, that's right. The state that's known for its maple syrup (not green, obviously) also boasts a green license plate--or did the last time I played the license plate game on a road trip--with its motto the Green Mountain state. You can ski this mountain range by taking to the slopes at Killington or Jay Peak.
Whatever your St. Patrick's Day fancy and your method of mass destruction, here's one tip for the road. Add a Zym tablet to your water and sip it before you conk out for the night--it's been known to be a hangover cure-all. Your body will thank you tomorrow when it's ready to ski and ride, even more snow if the predicted storms leave fresh powder in their wake. That's one day you wouldn't want to be stuck in bed.


Photo grabbed from Vail's Facebook page.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ski Spa Not Just for Non-Skiers

Spa days--massage spa days--are a bit of a foreign concept at my house. You could almost say I go by that motto: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." That is, unless I'm writhing in pain, to the point where a training session is hindered or my race pace slows to a walk. But one way I found to alleviate those pains, and reset my muscles, posture and alignment was through massage.

Now I could go on for days recounting massage's saving graces during triathlon and run season, but I'd probably start to sound just like any other battered athlete who went out for one too many training sessions without recovering. However, it was that mentality--the go, go, go until your legs fall off--and a few generous gifts from some ski resort visits that made me fully comprehend that relationship between ski and spa.

Sure, the first thought is the spa exists at the ski resort for the guests in your party who will never make it onto the slopes regardless of your cajoling. While you're out skiing, they can live it up indoors with a massage, a facial, some aromatherapy, maybe even a dip in the hot tub followed by a steam bath. But I explored the other side of massage, its benefits for tired ski legs, in my latest post at buzz.snow.com.

I know I could use some of that rejuvenation right now. My right quad was screaming at me on Monday when I tried to squeeze in as many runs as I could before the lifts closed. Do you know the feeling?


Photo grabbed from dreamstime.com.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Fit-Pic: Gone Skiing

If you're wondering why the blogging has been a little light, blame it on my skiing addiction. It's gone from healthy to dangerous, thanks to the lack of snow at home (I only snowshoe-d once) and the multiple visits to hard-core mountains this winter. And here's proof from my latest adventure--Vail's Back Bowls (above) and the view from Keystone's Outback (below).  On a clear day you can look straight at Breckenridge from this Keystone peak.

Wouldn't you like these views in your backyard? I know I would. Reality is going to sit in too soon, too soon. But I'll savor this for now, burning through the back bowls and carving the corduroy.


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Triathlon With An Awesome Incentive Prize

The clocks might be ready to spring forward, the temperatures dancing at higher levels and the sun starting to shine for more days in a row. But as much as we think spring is around the corner, in those parts of the country waiting for winter's end, it doesn't mean we're ready for full-on race mode, especially when it comes to triathlon. Unless you're part of Open Water Chicago, where the water and weather temperatures never seem to deter anyone from taking a Lake Michigan swim, chances are you won't be doing much outdoor activity except for running until spring really has sprung--maybe even summer. Whether you have an early season race--St. Anthony's, Ironman 70.3 California, REV3 Knoxville or any others--or simply want to keep your training in check, you can still get into race mode before the ground completely thaws. How? With an indoor triathlon, where you'll swim, bike and run for either a set time or a set distance, depending on the race. And the latest and greatest indoor tri to hit the scenes is through Equinox Fitness Clubs.

Equinox's indoor triathlon hits Chicago next weekend, on Saturday, March 19, at its locations at 900 N. Michigan and Highland Park. It's also happening at other Equinox clubs around the country on the same day, with New York even hosting an event on Saturday, March 12. If you're planning to participate in Chicago, you won't have to wake up early for this race and then sit around for hours in a transition area--the race waves start at 3 p.m. and run to 4:45 p.m. Here's why triathletes should enter, especially if there's nothing on the calendar for March 19:
  • Race registration only costs $25. That's less than any outdoor race which can easily run over $100.
  • That registration fee goes completely to The Heroes Project, a charity that was started by Equinox member Tim Wayne Medvitz to help injured soldiers rehabilitate their bodies, reinvigorate their spirit and reclaim their independence, all by training to climb the world's most spectacular mountains.
  • The race distance is almost the same distance you'd cover in a sprint triathlon. You'll swim 500 yards in the pool, then hit 10 miles on the stationary bike, and wrap everything up with a 3.1-mile run.
  • You don't need to be a seasoned triathlete to try this race. Indoor tris are a great way to test your triathlon waters and see if you even like the sport before committing time and money to training and gear. 
  • The afternoon race start let's you sleep in on a Saturday--in Chicago, anyway.
  • And my personal favorite: if you're a top finisher, you score big with a race entry into the hard to enter Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon in San Francisco. The details: the 75 top finishers are each guaranteed one of the 2,000 registrant spots available for the Alcatraz event. And the 25 Equinox employees who place highest in the indoor tri will also be offered Alcatraz invites.
Talk about a great goal to shoot for, especially if you're fast at shorter distances. Tons of people enroll in the lottery for that tri and tons are shut out, and now you have a chance to get in. And race at the same time.

Who's up for participating? Check with your local club for schedules and available spots before it's too late.

Photo grabbed from iloveagrigento.it at flickr.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Ski Off Those Fat Tuesday Foods

What's better than Mardi Gras in New Orleans? Mardi Gras in Colorado, like CarniVail that started with a crawfish boil on Sunday. You can ski all day, party all night, and not feel excessively guilty for having one too many hurricanes, cups of gumbo, slices of king cake, or my personal weakness, paczki, a Polish form of the American doughnut.

Unfortunate or not, I grew up on these suckers, a once-a-year treat that came every Fat Tuesday to celebrate Polish heritage and Midwest tradition, and then had to figure out how to fitness fix that bad choice the following day. Burning off those calories--paczki can have 600-800 calories each depending on the ingredients--was somewhat easy as a kid who was busy swimming hours a day, but not so much now. Sitting at a desk, other priorities, you name it, and those calories are packing on instead of falling off. Unless of course I'm skiing--or running a marathon, or cycling a century.

Being that I have skiing on my mind--can I help it after being in the mountains 48 hours ago?--and it's Fat Tuesday, I combined the two for this latest installation at buzz.snow.com. Can you guess how many vertical feet you have to ski to burn off a paczki? Some calculations, measurements and a little EpicMix can help eliminate the guesswork. Perfect for the powder--and pin earning opportunities--tomorrow, right? Yeah, I think I'd opt for big mountain over Big Easy.


Photo grabbed from buzz.snow.com.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Fit-Pic: Skiing Through Snow


If you've been following this blog, especially the Fit-Pics, then you may have noticed the powder shots I've posted this winter. The only problem with those past images is that they weren't mine--they showed others hitting the freshies at the ski resorts as I sat at home on the computer. So this is one of mine, shot yesterday in Mongolia Bowl at Vail. It started snowing hard around the lunch hour, which seemed to empty out the mountain--no lift lines, hardly any skiers on the runs but plenty of places to ski. We made fresh tracks out there on Bolshoi Ballroom...not once, but twice, until the lift closed and we couldn't head back there again. Ah, powder! We were hoping to get some this trip and we finally did.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

2011 Chicago Marathon closes general registration

OK, so I was a off by a few hours. I woke up this morning, checked my e-mail and then read a headline in my inbox about the 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon setting a new record. I don't even need to read the start of the news release to know what that means. The 34th annual Bank of America Chicago Marathon's 45,000 spots available for registration filled early this morning, only 31 days after registration opened. That smashes the old record reached last year when the race filled in 58 days (I hope I'm right on that number, if not I'll change it).

But that's not all the news for the day. Race organizers announced that the 2010 race raised $12 million for local and global charities, also a new record. "We are no strangers to records at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon where numerous world class athletic performances were achieved over the years; but these two records are truly meaningful as they speak to the enthusiasm from runners around the world who want to be a part of our event and the thousands who use the race to make a difference in their communities," said Bank of America Chicago and Illinois Market President Tim Maloney.

Didn't register in time but still want to participate? You can still gain entry through the marathon's charity program. Several of the race-associated charities still have spots available for the race in exchange for fundraising. Check the charity section of the race website for more details. Or if that's not an option, stay tuned for other fall marathons to run--they may not be in the Windy City, but they'll get you to accomplish those marathon dreams.

So who's with me on October 9 and ready to run 26.2 miles through the streets of Chicago?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Prediction Day: Chicago Marathon might close today

If you were thinking about signing up for the 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon, you might want to hurry and sign up. Running Away Multisport predicted last week that the race would close today, March 2, and the Chicago Marathon organizers sent out an email with a notice that only 5,000 spots were left as of February 28. Make that 4,999 or less as I took one of them yesterday morning. Remember the 2011 race is Sunday, October 9, and you still have more than 200 days to train--220 to be exact. Plenty of time for anyone looking to run their first or their 14th marathon. Register now before it's too late.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Core Meets Moguls

I got more than I bargained for at this year’s Talons Challenge at Beaver Creek. Not only did I score Talons street cred by completing the 13 bump runs flanking Grouse Mountain, but I also gave my body one heck of a quad-burning, core-channeling workout. How’d it happen? Hitting those moguls all day.

Now I know skiing all day burns massive calories—why else would I reward myself with a brat and beer and still be starving for dinner? But until now, it didn’t click that my running muscles were working in overdrive when I hit the mountain. That's good news for this runner who's skiing instead of churning out miles to prep for the Boston Marathon. Check out this workout I'm getting on the mountain at buzz.snow.com

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