Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Skier's Dream Weekend: 5 Reasons to Hit the Slopes

Park City turns 50 on Dec. 21. Happy Bday! Credit
The Christmas tree is decorated. Check. The holiday shopping is finished. Not quite. The gifts are all wrapped and sitting under the tree. Almost. Santa slides down the chimney Tuesday night, but I still have a lot to do before then. Where's my Christmas miracle, hehehe?

But pass up a weekend to ski? No way! And what a weekend it is for hitting the slopes. Here are five reasons we're itching to get out there before the holiday rush.

Park City
Big Sky isn't the only ski resort celebrating an anniversary this year. Park City Mountain Resort celebrates its golden 5-0 on Saturday, December 21, 50 years to the day that its lifts started spinning in 1963. The day will include an Opening Ceremony, birthday cupcakes, commemorative giveaways, a free concert by Robert Randolph and the Family Band, and a special 50th anniversary fireworks display. But even if you can't make it on Saturday, the celebrating will be happening throughout the season with more parties, giveaways and special events. For more details about Saturday's festivities, check out the event schedule.

Big Sky
What's not happening at Big Sky in December? The Montana resort has had something every weekend this month. First it was heavily discounted lift tickets. Then it was its 40th birthday party. And now Tony Horton, the trainer who became a household name thanks to creating the P90X workout, will be at the resort all weekend. The Master Fitness Trainer is an avid skier, and he'll be at Big Sky Resort's Wellness Studio for the second annual Tony Horton Weekend. The weekend is packed full with three days of workouts from Dec. 20-22, each lasting two hours, and a chance to meet Tony. Read more about it on Big Sky's event calendar.

Lake Louise
Searching for pow? You'll find it at Lake Louise Ski Resort in Alberta, Canada. It's been snowing at the resort for most of the week meaning there's more than a meter of snow base on most of the groomed runs. Hit up the back bowls and you'll find some deep pockets of windblown snow. And just in case you need a break from skiing, Lake Louise will be hosting its first FIS World Cup Boarder Cross race on Dec. 21.

For the last few winters, Keystone has erected a snow fort at the top of Dercum Mountain that provides climbing areas and tunnels for big and little kids to explore. Back for its fifth year, the Kidtopia Snowfort will open Dec. 21. Its unveiling kicks off the season's Kidtopia activities, which include fireworks, a cookie hour and the Ripperoo Village Parade.

Copper Mountain is starting Christmas a few days early by kicking off its 12 Days of Copper on Dec. 20. From December 20 to 31, you'll find plenty of holiday spirit around the resort from Santa Claus stopping in the village to deals and specials that'll make ladies dance and lords leap. Plus the snow continues to pile up, creating some of the best December conditions the mountain has seen in a few years.

Besides all of these events happening at resorts in North America, a week's worth of cold weather and a storm cycle have left plenty of fresh powder begging to be skied--and on terrain that is opening for the first time this season. Whistler-Blackcomb announced new terrain openings earlier this week. You know the ski season is off to a good start when Vail opens its back bowls before Christmas. But the conditions must be really good this season because it announced on Thursday that Blue Sky Basin would be opening for the weekend ahead.

Well, I'm sold. My skis are still in the car from last weekend. When do we leave?

Where are you taking tracks in the days ahead? What resorts have your favorite December powder stashes?

Photo grabbed from Rudi Riet, randomduck, via Flickr.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

6 Gifts for Athletes Who Have Everything

Credit: Alan Cleaver at Flickr
Forerunner? Got it. Triathlon backpack? Have it. New gear? Bought it the minute the old gear started showing wear and tear. Big-name race for next season? Already signed up.

Some people are strapped for cash around the holidays. Others are stumped when it comes to giving gifts to the people on their list who have it all, or buy it before you have a chance to gift it (I was accused of that last week). So stumped that you're still shopping for that special gift with less than a week's worth of shopping days left.

I'm currently in that category. My husband already gifted himself new skis (at least I helped with the ordering, that has to count for something.) I spilled the beans to my dad on some new Adidas shirts, shorts and pants perfect for a workout, and he sent my mom to buy them. Aside from some random stocking stuffer ideas I've had, I was screwed until I devised this list.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Fit-Gear: Orange Mud Transition & Seat Wrap Review

It zips, it clips, it's's the Transition & Seat Wrap
Genius, Orange Mud, Genius. You've made changing after a race loads easier by creating the Transition & Seat Wrap. No wardrobe malfunctions a la Janet Jackson. No slipping towels especially when you're bare under there. No waiting until you get home--even when it's 2.5 hours away--to swap out those damp, sweaty and stinky clothes.

And for anyone who cringes at the sight of damp car upholstery--aka, my mom--you'll appreciate the Seat Wrap component to Orange Mud's dual-purpose towel. It's large enough to completely cover the seat, and one end zips together to create a hood that slips over the seat back to prevent it from sliding when you sit down, a common problem of a basic towel. My mom can attest to that one: She'd have the car equipped with four dry towels, two each for my sister and I, so we'd have one to sit on and one to lean our backs against. I haven't told her about this towel yet, but I can already see her smiling. It's like the Orange Mud developer read her neat-freak brain.

Don't get me wrong, I love the Seat Wrap idea, too. But these days I'm rarely wearing my swimsuit home from the pool or beach, and if I am, I'm walking or riding my bike. I'm just digging the Transition component to the towel more. For a girl who lost her perfection at deck changes 15 years ago (dang, I'm getting old!), this is a welcome addition to my race-day backpack.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Fit-Gear: Ezeefit Ankle Booties Review

No blisters today: my foot is loving Ezeefitsports' Bootie.
To put it simply, I get a lot of foot blisters. Whether it's running shoes, cycling shoes, apr├Ęs-ski boots, or mary janes I'm wearing, I've managed to get blisters somewhere on my feet. In between the toes, on the toes, on the back of my name it, and I've most likely had a combo of band-aid and first-aid tape covering it. 

So when I heard about Ezeefit Sports' Anti-Friction Ankle Booties, which are said to help protect feet from rubbing and blisters, I was all for seeing if they'd banish my blisters for good. These ankle booties are form-fitting, soft (well, as much as neoprene and lycra can be), and said to be good for any sport where the footwear causes blisters. Plus they're not so thick that they feel weird underfoot--I went with the ultra-thin option, but they're also available in 2mm and 3mm thicknesses.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Trade a Turkey for a Lift Ticket

What would you do for a free lift ticket to the "Biggest Skiing in America?" Sing and dance? Dress in a costume that's worthy of winning any sort of contest? Camp out to be the first person in the lift line?

How about bringing a turkey? And no, not one that you have to go hunt in the wild. We're talking a frozen turkey, one you can grab at the grocery store before driving to Big Sky Resort in Montana.

If you're planning to ski at Big Sky on Friday, December 13, you don't need any fancy gimmicks to score a free day of skiing on the mountain. You just need a turkey or 20 cans of food to donate for Big Sky's 7th annual Turkey for a Ticket day, which is the largest one-day food drive benefiting Gallatin Valley Food Bank, Madison Valley Food Bank and the Big Sky Food Bank. In exchange for the food donated, participants receive a free lift ticket to Big Sky and businesses receive a lift ticket voucher for every 20 pounds of food donated.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What's the Deal with Brighton's Quad Wednesday?

Not every ski day has to break the bank if you don't have a season pass to that favorite mountain. Lift tickets might seem pricey during holiday prime times, but pick an off day to hit the mountain (powder flu, anyone?) and you don't need a season pass to feel like you're skiing for free. And it's even better when those ski deals coincide with cold weather and snow dumps.

Take last week where cold weather and snow falling across ski country made it hard to believe it was only the beginning of December. A season pass already feels like free skiing since you plunked down the big bucks earlier, and the more days you make it to the mountain, the less it'll cost you per day (or at least that's how this skier justifies a pass purchase). Big Sky Resort in Montana offered $20 lift tickets on December 6. Brighton Resort in Utah offered $20 lift tickets on December 4 provided you brought a gift for the charity it was supporting for the day (in this case, a toy valued at $10 or more for Toys for Tots). It's a deal Brighton likes to call Quad Wednesdays--and it happens on December 11 and 18, too.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Black Friday/Cyber Monday Sale for Skiers

Who doesn't love a good sale? Not me. And who doesn't love a sale that can spell more days skiing this winter? Not me again--I can't resist a good deal especially if it involves a powder day.

With snow in the forecast and plenty of ski resorts already open for the 2013-2014 season--and more are expected to open in the days to come--you'd be hard-pressed to pass up a deal that could save you some precious dollars on lift tickets. After all, money saved to get on the mountain means more days you can spend skiing it.

Liftopia, the largest online and mobile marketplace for lift tickets and other mountain activities, has just the deal for skiers and snowboarders this Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Starting Monday, Nov. 25, Liftopia is offering lift tickets as low as $5.99, or 78 percent off, at 119 resorts across the country. Forget dodging a fight for a big-screen TV or searching for the best merchandise sale online, these ski deals are too good to pass up.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Bar Method Class Just for Moms

Mommy gets a workout and sleeping tips for the kids. Credit
Seeing as how I'm not a mom, I can only assume that three things happen when you become one. 1.) You sacrifice sleep especially when baby won't sleep through the night. 2.) Finding time to exercise isn't as easy as it was before your baby's arrival (same with getting that pre-baby body back). 3.) You're ever so slowly losing some of your sanity. Am I close?

It's Nos. 1 and 2 that The Bar Method wants to address at a special class for moms on Wednesday, November 20. Trust me, you'll want to get a babysitter for this--or tell Dad he's got kid duty for the evening.

The Lakeview location in Chicago is calling moms, especially those with infants and toddlers, to work out at the barre then stay for a seminar on toddler sleep led by Rebecca Kempton, MD, who specializes in pediatric sleep consulting. Class starts at 6:45 p.m. and last an hour, then the 45-minute seminar will follow, and you'll be back home to check in on the kiddos as they drift off to sleep. At the seminar, Kempton will address nap requirements and transitions, how to handle night wakings, how to curb bedtime antics, and how to deal with super early wake times. Or bring your own sleep questions and scenarios for some guidance. You get a workout for the evening--and hang out with like-minded mommies--and you'll hopefully get a better night's sleep in the future. Win win!

To save yourself a spot at class, call the Lakeview studio at 773-935-2150.

Photo grabbed from Kekka via flickr.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Ski Free? Yes, Please!

First chair at Crested Butte, Nov. 2012. Credit: Nathan Bilow
Good news for skiers and snowboarders who want to hit the snow before Thanksgiving, especially those seeking to make tracks at Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Colorado. Not only is the resort opening in less than two weeks, but you won't have to pay a penny to ski those runs on opening day.

Wait what? Yep, you read that correctly (I blinked twice too). When Crested Butte's lifts start turning on November 27 for its 53rd season, you can ski free for the day, no strings attached. Crested Butte started this tradition two seasons ago and had to bring it back for a third.

“With Ski Free being such a tradition here in Crested Butte and the excitement that it brings to the mountain on opening day, we wanted to offer the promotion again this year,” says Scott Clarkson, vice president of marketing and sales for the resort. “It is a great opportunity for guests and community members to get a few runs in early season, at no charge, making it an awesome day for all!”

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Boys at the Barre

Guys, this one’s for you.

You could go for a run before Sunday’s Bears game and all the watching, eating and drinking that ensues. But if you really want an hour of exercise that strengthens some of the deepest muscles in your arms, legs and core, you don’t want to lace up the running shoes. You want to stop at the socks, which are all you need for a workout at The Bar Method.

The Bar Method’s Lakeview location, at 3144 N. Sheffield, is hosting a class geared toward guys on Sunday, November 10. Guys will find a class just for them starting at 10:45 a.m. and taught by Tiffany Reeves. The regular Mixed class will be offered at the same time and childcare will be available so both parents can take class.

The hour-long session might not be as sweat-inducing as that run, but it's certainly more leg quivering. Take me whose legs were shaking so much during a plie-like move that I thought the entire room could hear them flapping. Swapping a run, or another cardio-blaster, for The Bar Method is so worth it. Men who have tried The Bar Method find it challenging and realize that it takes muscular ability, strength and coordination. They soon learn that The Bar Method's body sculpting exercises help their endurance training and flexibility and make their cores stronger.

Your legs might shake and burn, and you might start to sweat, but those are signs that you're reshaping your body. And then maybe you can justify vegging out to watch the big game. After all, sitting is good when you can barely move post workout.

For more information about The Bar Method, check out its website.

Photo courtesy of The Bar Method.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Daily Feed: Sites We're Searching 10/16

Running feet
Credit: Danielle Walquist Lynch at flickr
Maybe it's the weather--it went from sunny to dreary and grey. Maybe it's the marathon I'm recovering from--legs are fine, brain is fried. As a result, I seem to only have the energy to sleep, stare blankly at the TV and click links online. Here's what I've been reading in the last 24 hours:

Who doesn't love a feel-good story? Maybe this one about the Chicago Marathon's final finisher will melt your heart. Thanks ABC Local, you won me over.

No wonder I'm always so tired after the Recruit class's warm-up. It mirrors the moves featured in Health Central's The 7-Minute Workout, which could be comparable to hours of moderate activity.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Five Ways to Recover from the 2013 Chicago Marathon

You're chafed. You have blisters in places you didn't think could get them when you run. You're voraciously eating everything in sight. You need an extra five minutes to stand up and hobble to the door and you dread the stairs. Congratulations, you just ran a marathon!

Just like that, the 2013 Bank of America Chicago Marathon has come and gone. The crisp bib you received less than 72 hours ago is a crumpled mess. The last finisher crossed the finish line while you were sleeping. And you can't use the I'm-training-for-a-marathon excuse when you have to bow out of Friday night social events. But before you completely put 2013's marathon to bed and get back to the daily grind, you hopefully took today off to recuperate. Here are our marathon recovery picks.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Who We'll Be Watching at the 2013 Ironman World Championship

Credit: Marian Doss at flickr
Forget college football Saturday. October 12 is all about Ironman, at least if you’re an endurance athlete…or know one. The best of triathlon’s best are in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, for the 2013 GoPro Ironman World Championship where professional triathletes and qualifying age-groupers will swim 2.4 miles from Dig Me Beach, bike 112 miles on the Queen K, and run 26.2 miles to finish on Ali'i Drive. You’re not thinking about your alma mater winning a football game (Go NU!), you’re wondering who will be crowned Ironman World Champion, and you’re cheering for your friends, family, coaches and training buddies.

I'm supposed to be gearing up for a Sunday marathon, yet I'm completely guilty of watching more videos, reading more tweets and staring at more paradise pictures about the Ironman than the Chicago Marathon. Maybe it's because I'm so used to running Chicago and my only chance of competing in Kona is to luck into a lottery slot (or hope that I have the race of my life and everyone else flops). All I know is that when the cannon goes off at 12 p.m. Chicago time, 7 a.m. Hawaii time, I'll be on my computer following some of these Ironman triathletes with Windy City connections.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

#TBT Chicago Marathon 2000 to 2005

There’s something special about running the Chicago Marathon. The fall weather that can swing warm or cold. The spectators, your neighbors, cheering every step of the 26.2 miles. The magic of running on home turf—or maybe it’s just the running in general. I should know—I’ve run the race 13 times (14 come Sunday). What was a one-and-done turned into a yearly ritual that I thought I’d stop after five, then 10. But I've hit those and I'm still running, so maybe 15 is my magic number (but can you really stop a streak?).
It’s the course, the crowds and good ol’ Chicago that bring me back again and again, even if I get less fired up to race almost every time I toe the line. The flipside: fewer nerves. Plus a lot of finisher medals and tours of Chicago neighborhoods I only run through once a year. And a scrapbook of photos mostly of what I missed while I was running, like Paula Radcliffe’s world record performance in 2002, the crazy costumed runners who are faster than me, and the wheelchair and elite leaders.
Call it an effort to fire myself up for Sunday’s race, a “throw back Thursday,” or a trip down memory lane, I dug through the photo archives (confession: I begged my mom to do it) for this collection of Chicago marathons past.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Chicago Marathon 2013: Five Athletes to Watch

With a field of 45,000 runners, the Bank of America Chicago Marathon is one of the world's largest races. You don't need a qualifying time to enter, only fast fingers when registration opens. You get to run through a world-class city and see neighborhoods tour buses sometimes skip over. You have a course that's known for being flat, fast and PR-producing.

This year when the 36th running of the Chicago Marathon gets underway on Sunday, October 13, there are more than a handful of elites to keep your eyes on over the 26.2 miles. Sure, each runner has a story for why he or she is running, and here are five that you might find interesting.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Daily Feed: Sites We're Searching 10/2

Boulder Bike Blenders
Smoothie goodness, yum! Credit
You know those days where you just want to kick back, relax, and read? Yeah, I'm having one of those days, and I'm totally blaming it on travel and taper.  But hey, at least I'm getting some good reads out of it. And it's keeping my mind off the impending marathon that everyone else is talking about and I prefer not to stress over until I have that race bib in my hand.

Here are some of those reads I couldn't get enough of.

  • How many cups of Gatorade are sipped at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon? How many states and countries are represented? What's the average age of these marathon runners? Crain's takes a by-the-numbers look at this race that's less than two weeks away. (Note: you might need to register to read the full rundown).
  • That once-in-a-hundred-years flood that roared through Boulder, Colo, and the surrounding area a few weeks ago did more than ruin houses and businesses, displace residents, close some roads, cancel some events, and spur valiant volunteer efforts. It destroyed some of the city's popular cycling routes like Jamestown and Left Hand Canyon (routes I rode three years ago at triathlon camp). This Bicycling post can show you what's still open and what's gone.
  • It hasn't even been 48 hours since the federal government shut down, yet it's affecting people in a way that no one probably saw coming. Like running and racing as Runner's World pointed out.
  • I have a streak of running the Chicago Marathon 13 years in a row (14 if I can make it across the finish line on October 13). But that's one day out of the year, not the 365 that some streakers have under their belts. Kudos to Tim Cigelske for running and drinking a beer every day for three years--I couldn't do it.

What links have you been loving? Share them with us!

Photo grabbed from Richard Masoner/Cyclicious at flickr.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Fit-Pic: One Chilly TriRock Morning

Funny how Midwest weather works. The last time I was in Lake Geneva for a triathlon we were having one of the warmest days of the year. The temperature soared into the 90s--oddly enough warm turned out to be a theme for most of the triathlons I did this season. That was June 23.

Not even three months later, the weather did a complete 180. Forget trying to figure out how you were going to stay cool on the bike and the run, at TriRock Lake Geneva, we were bundled in winter clothes (hats and gloves included) and wondering how cold we might get on the bike.

When I parked my car in Williams Bay, the car thermometer read 36 degrees--and that was five degrees warmer than it had been when I woke up. I had nearly convinced myself to bag the race and return to my warm hotel room while I prepped my bike. A 6:30 a.m. start--and I was in the third wave, not third to last, which was the case at two other races--would be COLD...and dark. The redeeming factor was the announcement I heard as I walked to transition: Start time was postponed until 7:15 a.m. That was partially because it was cold, especially out on the bike course away from the lake, but mostly because Geneva Lake was covered in fog. You couldn't see the swim course and race officials were waiting for the fog to lift before they allowed a bunch of triathletes to navigate the water.

As for the race itself, I'll save that for another day. Time for bed...there's another race in the morning.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Get Yer Tri Gear to Lake Geneva for TriRock

TriRock heads to Lake Geneva Sept. 14
Just because the Life Time Tri Chicago is over doesn’t mean Chicago’s tri season is done until next year. While Ironman Wisconsin draws tons of Chicago area triathletes this weekend, there’s still another race on tap for next weekend. And it’s in one of the most beautiful resort areas just a stone’s throw from Chicago.

That resort town is Lake Geneva. That race is TriRock, a newer race to the area that in a way replaces the Lake Geneva triathlon series that used to happen the same weekend as Ironman Wisconsin (Ironman spectators were known to race in Lake Geneva and then drive to Madison to cheer). The race’s date is Saturday, September 14, and Sunday happens to be the final day of online registration before packet pickup on Thursday.

Whether your triathlon season got a late start or you’re ready to take a dip in the sport after watching #ChiTri or #IMWI, Lake Geneva is the place to be. The swim won’t be as thrashing as Chicago (sorry Chicago, but your swim is chaotic), and it takes place in the calmer, quieter lake area of Williams Bay. The bike promises some hills you can’t get downtown—yes, Lake Geneva is hilly but not as crazy as say Madison. The run offers beautiful scenery to help the miles fly by (I've run far more than planned on more than one occasion in Lake Geneva). And like any CGI race, who bring the Rock 'n' Roll races to cities across the country, there's one festive finish line. But better yet: You're getting another triathlon under your belt before calling it quits for the year.  OK, so maybe that's my justification for keeping my triathlon season going until it's nearly fall...without having to leave the Midwest.

The final chance to register online for TriRock Lake Geneva is Sunday, September 8. If you use the code LGTOWEL, you'll receive a free triathlete tri towel with your registration. Or register at one of the packet pick-ups before race day: Fleet Feet Sports Old Town on Sept. 12 from 10am - 8pm, or in Williams Bay on Sept. 13 from 2pm - 8pm. But don't wait until race morning to decide because there is no race day registration.

For more details about the triathlon or to register, check out

Photo courtesy of the Competitor Group and TriRock Lake Geneva.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Fit-Pic: 2013 Life Time Tri Chicago

You know it's Chicago Triathlon weekend when the Lakefront Path is virtually blocked off from Randolph to almost Monroe to fence the grassy area across from Columbia Yacht Club. It's all to arrange the bike racks for the 47 waves of amateur athletes and the two waves of professionals. The crazy part is that even with all of those racks, the bikes are still crammed in there--in fact, it wouldn't be a triathlon if that wasn't the case.  See?

What makes the Life Time Tri Chicago (sorry still getting used to calling it that after I've known it as Mrs. T's, Accenture, and the plain old Chicago Triathlon for years) truly special is not only its size--it received the title of world's largest triathlon a few years ago--but its spectator friendly course. OK, so you can't watch much of the bike if you're also trying to watch the swim and run (trust me, I've tried). But at the intersection of Monroe and the Lakefront, spectators can watch runners on one path and swimmers sprinting out of the water and heading toward transition on the other. And that's all with a view of the Windy City's skyscrapers.

Were you out watching the triathlon earlier today? I was racing, but I'm saving that race report for another day. I'm still recovering from my 4am wake up call.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Meet Chicago Triathlete Jim Bey

Jim Bey at Ironman Florida 1999

I'm a big race fan. Not always completing them myself (I'm still the girl who can't sleep the night before a triathlon) or being a good cheerleader at them, but I love learning what drives others to toe the line. With the Life Time Chicago Triathlon this weekend, it only seemed fitting that I share some stories from triathletes who'll be competing. That said, meet Jim Bey.

Based on race times alone, Jim Bey, a 47-year-old triathlete from Naperville, seems like your average age-grouper. Sure, he has a speedy swim time thanks to his days as a collegiate swimmer, but he's comparable to the rest of the field on the bike and run. And he's fast enough to qualify for the USA Triathlon Nationals, which he competed in two weeks ago.

But Bey's road to the start line is a little different from most of the men he's racing against. For starters, he's lucky to be competing at all. Bey broke both of his legs and sustained other injuries in a serious car accident nearly 20 years ago. The driver of the vehicle died when the car hit a pole; Bey was fortunate enough to land himself in the hospital for a few months. Sure, it wasn't an easy recovery, but Bey was determined to walk again.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Triathlon Tips: How to Survive the Race

It doesn’t matter how many triathlons I’ve done—and I’ve lost track of the number—but I still get race-day jitters. Make that race weekend jitters. I start to fear flatting on the bike, swimming through the crowds (I once got strangled by a fellow swimmer and pushed far under water by another), and running with not enough miles or bricks on my legs…as I’m packing my transition bag. The deer in headlights look? That’s totally me come race morning where I’m surprised I have it together enough to set up my transition gear and not forget anything.

But as scared, nervous and maybe even confused as I may have been before those triathlons, I’ve survived every one of them. Certainly not all gracefully as I’ve been kicked more times than I’d care to count in the swim, got that flat tire on the bike not once but twice, and felt my legs literally run out of juice when there were miles to go before the finish line. The battle wounds (I kid) may have healed but I still have the finisher medals, the materialistic proof that I survived.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Fit-Pic: Elvis is Alive

August in Chicago can mean a lot of things. Lollapalooza. The Air and Water Show. The Chicago Triathlon. And tonight it meant the 16th running of an August classic: Fleet Feet Chicago's Elvis is Alive 5K. Call it a chance to put on your blue suede shoes, grow out your sideburns, poof your pompadour, and pull on your Elvis-inspired jumpsuits to party like you're in Vegas and run.

"One for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, now go cat go!" Joe "Elvis" Tirrito, the star of the post-race Elvis tribute performance, blasted the start horn, and runners, all-Elvis dressed first, sprinted down the path in Lincoln Park.

Not all Elvis-dressed runners started at the front of the pack, like this duo back where a friend and I were running. But hey, we all earned our peanut butter and banana sandwiches at the finish line.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Top 10 Songs to Sweat to August 2013

Long hours on the bike trainer. Weekends spent running. Intervals that you just have to blast out a couple times a week. We get it: Summer is for sweating. But come August, that playlist you've been listening to for a while is probably starting to feel old, really old. And maybe you're thinking you'd rather trade time hanging on a boat with friends than having to listen to Ke$ha's C'Mon one more time.

Once again, Run Hundred comes to the rescue with its monthly top 10 list. Votes on the site determined  this list dominated by pop music--and fast beats with nothing below 109 beats per minute. I'm seeing some serious speed gushing through my veins when I push play. And I'm already recognizing some of my radio favorites. Maybe there's a song in the bunch that'll make you want to bust out your running shoes or go RPM crazy on the bike.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

What To Do This Weekend: Races, Sailing and Volleyball

Match Cup racing after a workout? Yes, please!
Whether you’re still recovering from Lollapalooza last weekend or you’re gearing up for the Air and Water Show next weekend, you still have to face this weekend, the one that’s in between those summer highlights. And if you’re like me, you're probably trying to have as active a weekend as possible this weekend since you know you'll have to flee town to run and bike when the Lakefront Path virtually shuts down to those of us who like to play on it. It's not about how to survive those outdoor entertainments—it's figuring out where you can race and train when you can't hit those regular spots, or fight pedestrian traffic to get there.

Lucky for us, this weekend holds plenty of activities to keep us from sleeping through it or feeling like we’re missing out on summer's finest activities. And that's just Chicago, where my one-track mind is focused at the moment. Here are some ideas to get you thinking about sports this weekend:

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Meet Dean Karnazes, the Ultramarathon Man

Karnazes, right, ran the 2009 Chicago Marathon twice!

 In the running community, Dean Karnazes, the self-titled ultra-marathon man who’s run countless miles and long-distance races, is a popular guy. So popular among Chicagoans that when they hear he’s coming to the Windy City, they flock to meet him. Karnazes currently is touring the country and spreading the word about The North Face Endurance Challenge Series, which hosts trail races of varying distances including one in Wisconsin in September.

Last night, Running Away Multisport hosted Karnazes at their Chicago store at 2219 N. Clybourn. It was a packed house with Karnazes running three to five miles with the group and then answering questions about running, ultramarathons and more.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Fit-Pic: After the Rock 'N' Roll Chicago Half Marathon

The VIP tent at today's Rock 'N' Roll Chicago Half Marathon never disappoints. Last year, I got to chat with Dr. Andy Baldwin after he left me in the dust at mile 2. And look who we ran into this year: Danni, Francelina and Jeff from season 14 of The Biggest Loser. Danni finished the race in 1:53 and Francelina finished in 2:42, but they don't even look tired. Neither does my friend (in green) who ran her first half marathon. I guess Danni can't be tired...she still has 13.1 more miles to prepare for when she runs the Chicago Marathon in October.

Friday, July 19, 2013

A Rock 'n' Roll Running Giveaway

The best things in life are free, right? So how's this for a Friday freebie: a race giveaway!

Yes, you read that correctly, we're giving away an entry to Sunday's Rock 'n' Roll Chicago Half Marathon that includes a pretty awesome VIP package that turns a race morning into a race weekend.

Our friends at Team Refuel have offered up these sweet VIP perks that include:

  • A half marathon entry, which would currently cost $150 at the expo. If you want less mileage, there's a 5K mini marathon ($50 at expo, if available).
  • A REFUEL visor
  • Entry to a pre-race cocktail party that's tonight at theWit hotel's ROOF bar. 
  • Access to the VIP area at Sunday's race. Grant Park will be buzzing with runners, but with this pass, you can avoid most of the craziness. The tent has chairs, snacks, drinks, a place to stash your gear (I swear it had one last year), and it's a great place to watch the post-race concert. 

OK, OK, so this is an extension of yesterday's giveaway, but no one entered (where is everyone? too last minute? too hot from these temperatures to think about racing a run?) and we wanted to extend the giveaway for a few more hours.

To enter: leave us a comment saying you want to be entered in this giveaway. If you're the solo commenter, congrats, you win, otherwise we'll choose a winner at random later today. And if you have trouble commenting, just email us at But we'll have to cut this off pretty soon to make sure you can get registered to run (as in, the first person who comments WINS).

Who's ready for an awesome weekend of running after this heat wave supposedly vanishes?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Win a Run Rock 'n' Roll Chicago VIP Package

You could run under this rocker at Sunday's race.
Who's racing this weekend? There's the Ironman 70.3 in Racine, the half Ironman distance and sprint distance triathlons in Door County, Wis., the Muddy Buddy, the Rock 'n' Roll Chicago Half Marathon. If you're signed up for one of these, you couldn't have asked for better summer racing weather with a forecast showing cooler temperatures and sunny days. But you also probably registered, suspecting you might have a hot day to contend with. Lucky you for taking that risk.

Remember how hot and humid it was last year? Yeah, me and my heat-induced puffy fingers do. And I suffered through two too many runs in 90 degree temperatures (Really? At 6:30 p.m.?) earlier this week and don't dare go for a third today. So registering for races that occur during weeks that are historically hot, isn't exactly my MO. Unless I have a specific reason, like doing Racine last year to get a half Ironman under my belt before Ironman Wisconsin or running Rock 'n' Roll to meet Dr. Andy Baldwin (which turned into more of a chase), I'm going to wait on registering until the weather turns. If it doesn't, which is usually the case, I'm out. But if it does, I'm paying a pretty expensive registration fee. Darn you, weather.

My friends at Team Refuel were already kind enough to give me an entry to this Sunday's Rock 'n' Roll Chicago Half Marathon, so I can run on what's sounding like a perfect summer morning. And the good news for one lucky Fit-Ink reader is that you can run, too. We're giving away a VIP entry to this race on July 21 plus some other cool perks thanks to Team Refuel! Yes, it's last minute, but if you've been training for the Chicago Marathon or another long-distance race, you're already logging that mileage.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Go, Go Gadget! An Activity Tracker Guide

Basic sketches for the pedometer appear in Leonardo Da Vinci’s work from the 15th century. Fortunately, design and technology have come a long way since then. Today’s activity trackers offer far more than the counting of steps, and they’re no longer clunky, pager-like devices that you have to clip to your belt. They’re wearable technology: light, sleek, and ultra portable. But with so many options available, finding the best tracker for your needs can be tricky. To save you time reading lots of product reviews, here’s a brief guide to the best activity trackers.

For those who are on the go
If you’re always on the move balancing work, home, and travel, an added personal device is the last thing you need, right? Maybe not. Some companies have designed activity trackers to suit the needs of the busiest user. For an activity tracker you can carry without worrying that it’ll get damaged or lost, a wrist based device is your best option. The Fitbit Flex and Jawbone UP are two activity trackers that come in a sleek bracelet form. However, there are some notable differences between the two.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Fit-Pic: Yoga at Oak Street Beach

Ah summer in Chicago. Warm days and nights, clear skies, refreshing breezes, a cooling lake that's not as frigid as it usually is. And then there are the activities that happen on said lakefront at any given time. Running, cycling, inline skating, beach volleyball, swimming (OK, so that's in the water), or as tonight would have it: yoga.

Oak Street Beach, technically the Levy Restaurants' food and drink outpost any Chicagoan would recognize at the south end of that beach, was the site of this semi-sweaty session--I broke into a sweat though I don't know if everyone did--of sun salutations, stretches and asanas led by Equinox instructor Stacy Levy Mann. What's not to love about staring at Lake Michigan and having the city's skyscrapers rising up behind you while working out? I loved it-- and I can't wait to get back next week.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Surf, Sand and Yoga

How's that for a workout view?
Running on the sand feels about 10 times harder than it does on the pavement or trail. A beach boot camp seems about 10 times more difficult than it does at the gym—maybe it was all the sprinting? I can only imagine that doing yoga on the beach would be more challenging, in a good way, than it is in the studio—even if it’s a heated room and I’m dripping sweat all over my mat. You have the sand’s uneven surface that even a yoga mat can’t completely flatten out to challenge your balance. You have the sun radiating its summer heat to challenge your temperature acclimation. You have the wind’s cool breezes and the city’s humidity to mess with your body’s cooling system. You have the yoga itself to challenge your mind-body connection and any uber-tight muscles.

There will be plenty of yogis taking their practice to Chicago’s Oak Street Beach this month. Every Tuesday (except for July 2), Equinox is bringing yoga to the beach for ‘Find Your Chi,” a four-week series of exclusive yoga classes. These sweat sessions happen from 6:15 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. at Oak Street Beach Food + Drink (1001 North Lake Shore Drive), the city’s go-to beach bar that’s just steps from Lake Michigan, and are led by Equinox instructor Stacy Levy Mann.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Top 10 Songs to Sweat to: July 2013

What's blasting through your headphones this month? Whether you're running, cycling, hitting the beach, or tearing up in the gym to shed that winter layer and get more bikini ready (yeah, I'm still working on mine even if it is almost the 4th of July), you know you need some tunes to power that sweat session.

And to keep that playlist from hitting repeat more times than you'd like, Run Hundred recently unveiled its top 10 songs for July based on votes received on the site. You'll find a lot of fast beats, remixes and hits you might not be able to get enough of when you hear them on the radio. Here are this month's hits:

Want more workout songs for your playlist? Check out the free database at where you can browse song selections by genre, tempo and era to find music that's best suited for your workout.

What songs are currently on your playlist that you can't stop listening to?

Monday, July 1, 2013

What's The Run Project All About?

We run to stay in shape. We run to lose weight. We run to push ourselves to our mental and physical maximums. We run raise funds for a cause. We run to support someone else or someone who can't. We all have our different reasons for running, right? And if we all had to answer a question as simple as "Why do you run?" we'd hear several different answers.

If you ask Jon Rankin, an elite runner who made the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team as an alternate in the 1500-meter run, that question, he'd likely say that he's running to save the world. He'd also probably tell you that he runs to beat his kidney disease and that running saved his life after he was diagnosed with a terminal kidney disease; that diagnosis gave his running a different purpose. Rankin and Benjamin Auerbach are co-founders of The Run Project, a company that started all because of a 2011 conversation the duo had about how running could save the world. The sport can save those who run, or runners can save others by lacing up their shoes for a charitable cause.

The Run Project is the online community for sharing those stories. As its site says, The Run Project is "home of the 60-second running story." The idea is to create one-minute videos as a way to connect runners, the charities and causes they run and fundraise for, and donors. And those videos can also serve as inspiration, help find causes worth supporting, connect runners and their stories, and aid in using running to save the world. Cool stuff, right?

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Win a Summer Running Kit!

Just one of the items in the Ultimate Running Kit.
Now I know why I avoid gear-focused websites like Gear Junkie and The Gear Institute. One visit to Gear Patrol this morning (how have I not stumbled upon it before?) and I'm lusting over sunglasses, shoes and compression socks. What's worse is that Gear Patrol's ultimate summer running kit, complete with a head-to-toe look and all the running accessories one could need, isn't even designed for me, a female runner. It features the best performance gear of the season for guys--it's the gear the guys behind the site are wearing.

But even so, this gear-obsessed gal wants it anyway. Like the 110% compression socks, the Oakley sunglasses, the Timex Ironman trainer, the Ultimate Direction hydration vest, the Strava app--and I'd take the New Balance clothing and K-Swiss shoes if I could get the female version. Good news for me and other gear-obsessed runners out there: We have a chance to win it!

110%, the company that makes the Overdrive Compression Sox featured in the kit, is giving away the items curated by Gear Patrol to one lucky winner. All you have to do is enter here. And even if you don't win the grand prize, 10 entrants can score 110%'s Overdrive Sox, a recovery tool that's great for when you "want to boost circulation and muscle repair," according to Gear Patrol. I'm sold on the Overdrive alone--compression socks are paired with sleeves that can hold ice inserts in all the key spots, arch, toes, ankle, calf and shin.

OK, so our odds can't be great for winning the grand prize (I swear I never win anything involving chance), but the chance of winning is still too good to pass up. Right? Enter to win by clicking here.  

Photo grabbed from 110%.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Stop and Shred on Chicago's North Shore

Oh you North Shore ladies (and guys, too!) are so lucky! You have yards, awesome architecture, bike paths that aren't so packed with people you could easily hit someone, and massively sized gyms (OK, downtown Chicago's not too bad on that one but you won't find a Life Time). And starting today when the doors open at 300 South Happ Road in Northfield, just off I-94, you'll even have an awesome spot to exercise that's become a favorite among the downtown dwellers.

Opening today, June 28, is a third outpost--and first outside the city limits--of Shred415, a kick-butt workout if I've ever seen one. You hit the awesome Woodway treadmills (I'll save that for another discussion) to run for 15 minutes--or walk or jog if you can't move your legs faster or have an injury. You hit the floor for strength and core training for the next 15. You run again, pushing pace and incline, for another 15. You hit the floor again for the final 15 minutes of class, hoping that your boy doesn't give out in the process. There's a reason I named it one of the toughest workouts in Chicago--for guys. I live right around the corner from Shred's Old Town location, yet I think part of the reason I don't visit more often, in addition to traveling and being injury prone lately, is that I'm tired, torched and twitching--well, my muscles are. But wait, those are my usual signs of a good workout, so my justifications for not going are null and void.

When you think about Shred415 is a dream workout even if you don't consider yourself a hardcore athlete. It's there when it's raining or cold or so hot that you can't bear the thought of running outside. It's there when you only have an hour of "me" time and need a workout that'll shed pounds...and fast. It's there when you don't want to head all the way into Chicago--the city is so far away, this coming from a girl who lived in Evanston for five years--for a fitness fix. Now hopefully you'll get hooked before the classes get so crowded you're wait-listed.

Have you tried a Shred415 workout? What'd you think?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Run on Vail's Trails

I'm no stranger to running around Vail, Colo. Thanks to an unseasonably warm winter in 2012, I ran almost as much as I skied that April, exploring the path along Gore Creek and checking out some hiking trails on the north side of I-70.

But there's way more to running Vail that just the route I took from West Vail into Vail Village. That's child's play compared to the trails that are covered with snow most times I'm at the mountain--the ones that are open for hiking, biking and trail running in the summer months. Try running those and you're dodging tree roots, creating dust clouds, killing your quads on the downhills and catching your breath on the uphills.

Had I known that before running the 10K Spring Runoff at the GoPro Mountain Games in Vail last weekend, I may have reconsidered registering. I would have been better suited for the Vail Pass Half Marathon, which was basically 13.5 miles entirely uphill, even though I could barely run 10 miles two weekends ago. But the scenery in the mountains makes any trail run worth it, even if you're sucking wind like me (those Colorado trail runners can RUN!). These pictures are only part of the race's excitement--I'll have to capture the rest when I'm hiking because I made the wise choice to run light.

The 10K Spring Runoff started in the heart of Vail Village (and wouldn't you know, the exact spot where I had stopped documenting my last Vail run) and headed east toward the Golden Peak base.

If you look really close, you can see me in the blue tank top, sporting my media team gear since I couldn't run with them Saturday night at the Balmoral 5K.

This is the Golden Peak ski area and those huge mounds of snow were even larger during the ski season when they were making snow and filling the terrain park. If you squint (or click on the image to make it a little bigger) you can see three runners beneath the right snow lump. On the left is the tunnel under the skiable terrain that we ran through near the start of the run to reach an uphill climb and then we ran through it again near the race's end. And that uphill climb? You can see it by the clump of trees on the right--and it doesn't look, or ski, nearly as steep as it felt climbing up.

That tunnel I was referring to? It's just behind those trees. And again, if you squint you can see some of the trail speedsters (not me) about to run under the Riva Bahn chair lift.

Some of the pretty mountainside and real estate that I don't remember seeing in the race's final mile (I'll blame it on being too focused running toward the finish line). You can barely see me, but I'm slowly but surely running down the dirt path.

More of that pretty mountainside I was talking about, and some of those speedier runners making the final stretch of dirt look easy.

 Phew, I finished! Heat, winding trail, dizzying downhills and all.

The trail's aftermath: dirty legs. Check out that awesome sock line!

Have you run the trails on Vail mountain? Which ones are your favorite? Did you run the 10K Spring Runoff? You probably finished faster than me!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Fit-Pic: The Mountain Games 10K Spring Run-Off

It could be muddy, it could be snowy, it could be wet. Anything goes at the 10K Spring Runoff at the GoPro Mountain Games at Vail. That also applies to the course's design, which wrapped up, down and across the lower half of Vail Mountain.

Whether you're sloshing through mud and wearing warm layers or you're brushing dust from your eyes and sweating from the start, this race has one constant. It sure is picturesque.

And I thought the Vail Pass Half Marathon had a pretty course, judging from the mile I walked along it. Less mileage doesn't compromise the views, nor is it much easier on the lungs (that's my argument anyway since I ran the 10K and my husband ran the half). Stay tuned for more on these races, I'm still catching my breath and adjusting to the altitude.


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