Saturday, April 27, 2013

Rappelling for a Reason

Climb to the top of the Hancock? Check. Scale to the top of the Aon Center? Check. Run across the 50-yard line at Soldier Field or around the warning track at U.S. Cellular? Been there, done that. Rappel down the side of one of Chicago’s skyscrapers? That’s a new one—even for me (and I still have to get my rear over to Willis Tower, too).

But it’s an adventure that could be crossed off the bucket list next weekend. That is, if you’re one of the 80 or so participants daring to take the Skyline Plunge. Dubbed Illinois’ first urban rappel, this daring challenge happens May 5 at theWit Hotel and benefits the Respiratory Health Association. RHA hosts some other exciting events—well, if tired legs and heavy breathing count—like the Hustle Up the Hancock and the CowaLUNGa bike tour to raise funds and awareness about lung disease, but the Plunge might take adventure to another level.

Plunge participants rappel 27 stories down the hotel’s signature lightning bolt, 278 feet above State Street. Talk about a Cinco de Mayo to remember—don’t bragging rights, the adrenaline rush and the once-in-a-lifetime experience win over a few Coronas and some guacamole? I’d say sign me up even if I didn’t have relatives with lung disease and a grandma who fought through asthma. And hopefully those family members would pitch in for the fundraising, $150 entry fee plus a $1,000 pledge commitment, that should raise $85,000 for the Respiratory Health Association.

Ready to tackle this adventure? There are still a few spots left for the sixth Skyline Plunge (contact RHA immediately if you want one), or you can always wait for No. 7, held in the fall. For more details on the Skyline Plunge, check out And if you need more convincing, just check out these pictures from last year--the smiles tell all!

Photo courtesy of the Respiratory Health Association.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Still More Snow: Get Skiing This Weekend

Ah yes, that was Vail on Sunday after 13" fell.

I'm supposed to be done thinking skiing for a while. That's what I told myself Sunday as we packed our gear into the car after a week up in the Colorado mountains.

Sunday was Vail's final day of the season. I earned my Last Call pin. I dodged the crowd at the summit (or tried: the Chair 4 at 4 party, or whatever it's unofficially called, only got bigger as the day wore on). I lucked into a stash of freebies at the Mountain Plaza base (yes, I'll play plinko and collect raffle tickets until I win). I got on the mountain earlier to ski the fresh pow that likes to drop before closing day (same thing happened in 2011 and 2012). I skied most of the runs I'd want to hit before closing out the year.

But the ski season's not over yet. Sure, I knew I could still ski other Colorado spots like Arapahoe Basin and Winter Park, except usually by mid-April you're looking at slushy conditions, terrain closings, and more tanning than skiing. I already have one crazy looking goggle tan, and I already skied on dry slopes last April when it didn't decide to snow at Vail until April 15.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Buy Now, Ski Later: A Guide to the West's 2013-2014 Season Passes

Vail's Epic Pass

I have skiing on the brain. Let’s just say that a week in the mountains will do that to you, especially when you’ve had some of the best snow conditions you can recall (2011 may have been better but that feels like ages ago and any skier can remember the season that wasn’t last year). It's mindless exercise, it burns tons of calories, and it counts as cross-training toward all the cycling and running I'm not doing because I'm skiing. 

But there's one problem: The 2012-2013 ski season is coming to close. Some resorts have already closed, some are about to close this weekend (sob!), and not too many will be open after April 21. How did April arrive so quickly? My only answer to that is time flies when you're having fun. 

Just because you're about to put the skis in storage for a few months, it doesn't mean thinking skiing comes to a halt, too. It means it's time to start thinking about next season, and what season pass to buy if you're like me and need as much time as you can manage in the mountains, hitting up the white stuff. 

Before you miss out on the best of the pass perks, here's a look at the season passes you might want to consider purchasing if you're a regular at ski resorts in Colorado, Montana, Utah and the Lake Tahoe region.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Sock Savings

You'd think that after running for more than a decade I'd have all the clothing and gear dialed in. But I'm far from it. One area where I fall short: socks.

They're recognized as an essential footwear component for the serious athlete by the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine, and I know I can't run without them (I've tried but something about bare feet in my shoes only works for walking down the hall to take the garbage out). The wrong sock--or an old sock as I learned at one marathon--can spell failure, blisters and discomfort. The right pair can mean success whether it's a fast time or freeing yourself from blisters.

And while I'd like to think that I've found the perfect pair of running socks, for now, I'm always mixing them up. What worked for one or two races, even if they're the same distance, doesn't always work for the next (and I end up with feet full of blisters). But I really don't need a drawer full of almost-perfect socks, nor do I want to buy socks as often as I buy Shot Bloks.

If there were a sock exchange program I could buy into (try a sock, send it back if it doesn't work, experiment with different brands and styles), I'd be the first to sign up. Until then, I'll try all the free socks I can get my feet into. Like Swiftwick, the company that is giving away pairs of high-performance compression socks. Runners and athletes can score this deal by downloading a coupon and cashing it in at participating Fleet Feet Sports and Runner's High 'n Tri stores.

Swiftwick wants runners and athletes to see the benefits of compression socks first-hand, and the coupon will get you either a free pair or buy-one-get-one free. Their socks offer a patented moisture management feature, a sculptured footbed for maximum comfort and no blisters, and graduated compression, all of which can extend your endurance and performance. The Sustain model is earth-friendly, made from post-industrial recycled nylon (I'm all for reducing carbon footprints especially when it's through something as unintentional as running gear). And my personal favorite: These socks don't stretch all the way up your calves like some socks that bear the "compression" label. I'm all for the calf adornment, especially if it's a cold day, but I'm an ankle-baring runner more than anything.

But like all good things, this deal comes to an end on April 19. Perfect timing for next race isn't until the end of the month, and my regular race socks are starting to show some wear and tear.

Do you have a favorite pair of running socks? Have you tried Swiftwick socks? 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Top Workout Songs to Sweat to: April 2013

Another month, another set of workout songs. Hey, I'm not complaining. It's spring, it's running season, and it's less than two months until beach season so I'll sweat to anything that has a beat and makes me look less like a beached whale when I hit the sand come Memorial Day.

Run Hundred comes to the rescue again with its workout playlist for April. And from the looks of it, these 10 hits are fast-paced. I guess that means we all want to get moving this month? Here's Run Hundred's list.

Want more songs for your workout playlist. Check out the free database at where visitors can browse the song selections by genre, tempo and era. And then stay tuned next month to check out the new hits. What's blasting through your headphones during a workout? 

Photo grabbed from pasukaru76 at flickr.


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