Sunday, May 30, 2010

Kids Try Gear: The House of The Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

Tazer (9):

Main character: Matteo Alacrán

Supporting characters: El Patron, Maria, Celia, Chacho, Ton-Ton, Fidelito, and Tam Lin.

This story is about Matteo Alacrán the clone. He has exiting adventures and escapes. One of his escapes is from a medical facility where people are harvesting clones’ organs.

I would highly recommend this book. I liked it all except that there were no pictures. But, in great books like these it’s just an added bonus.

(Nancy Farmer, The house of the scorpion, NY: Simon Pulse, 2004).

Friday, May 28, 2010

Heart Smart Diabetes Kitchen Cookbook

As a great coincidence to my resolve to eat healthier and lose weight, I received a copy of the Heart-Smart Diabetes Cookbook: Fresh, Fast, and Flavorful Recipes Made with Canola Oil (Alexandria, VA: American Diabetes Association, 2009) to review. This cookbook was a joint effort by the American Diabetes Organization and CanolaInfo - 7 bloggers from the CanolaInfo team are preparing all 151 recipes and sharing their experiences on the CanolaInfo blog: check it out here.

The reasons why everyone should use canola oil as their fat of choice are simple:

· Canola oil has 0 trans fat and the least amount of saturated fat of any common cooking oil. In your daily diet, you should not consume trans fat and you should keep the amount of saturated fat low

· Canola oil is a great source of polyunsaturated fats, like omega-3, and monounsaturated fats, oleic acid (aka omega-9). Poly and monounsaturated fats are essential for good nutrition

· Canola oil has a high-smoke point, second only to peanut oil. This means that when you are frying or sautéing something, the oil won’t burn and you can also cook your food faster so it actually absorbs less fat.

· Canola oil is neutral in taste so it doesn’t mask the flavors of the food you are eating.

First off, this is a BEAUTIFUL cookbook, with amazingly tempting photos of gorgeously prepared food. Second, the recipes, which run the gamut from breakfast to dessert, and everything in between, are so simple, with everyday ingredients. This cookbook makes me want to eat healthy! My personal favorite recipes were Spiced Berry Sauce (mixed berries, canola oil, orange zest, cinnamon, vanilla, water) and Jicama + Sweet Lemon Salad (jicama, bell pepper, pineapple, cilantro, red onion, lemon zest + juice, canola oil, etc.).

The best news? CanolaInfo has agreed to give me a second copy of the cookbook and a calendar to give away on the blog. Look for the announcement in the next several weeks!

(Disclaimer: Outside PR sent me this product for free to review on my blog - courtesy of CanolaInfo. I did not pay for the item, receive payment, or agree to give it a positive review. Aside from information gleaned from marketing materials, the opinions are my own.)

Have a product you'd like reviewed? Contact me at

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Meet the new Chicago Triathlon Examiner (same as the old…)

Inspired by Andriana at Run4May, I applied and was accepted as the Chicago Triathlon Examiner! For writing about local Chicagoland triathlon news, I can expand my circle of influence and even get paid to do so (Examiners are paid according to traffic to their articles, # of articles written per week, etc). It will also make me add some focus to my writing, as I’m supposed to write just about things that relate to the Chicagoland triathlon community. Yesterday I posted about some indoor triathlon series that happen nearby. My next article will list some local triathlon clubs. Any ideas on what else a local triathlon insider should be writing about?

Another way for me to make money is to have you become an Examiner in your local area and reference me as the referring Examiner. Make sure you include my name and ID code (51149) in your application in the Referral Details. You must use the Were you referred here by a current Examiner? portion of the application and refer me by name, title or unique Examiner ID code (which is #51149). If you use me as a referral and are accepted as an Examiner, I will receive $50 - I’ll be glad to split the referral fee – when I receive the $50, I’ll send you a check for $25. It’s that easy!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

GoLite review

Several weeks ago, courtesy of GoLite and Outside PR, I received  a package of products to review. The products included the Wildwood Trail Shortsleeve 1/4-zip Run Top, the Rush daypack, and Mesh Cap. To try them out, I wore the Mesh Cap for the Indoor Triathlon I participated in (see earlier post) and also on my longer run this past Saturday, among other times.

For my long run, I headed over to the Greene Valley Nature Preserve, to run somewhere between 45 and 60 minutes. I wore all three products, both to see how they worked together and the fact that I looked a little bit like one of those cool ultrarunners (emphasis on little). I also wore a new pair of ultralight Gargoyles Striker sunglasses (review forthcoming), which really completed the ensemble.

A mile 1/2 or so into the run, I had a sharp back spasm, which quickly passed, but I nervously limited my run to the minimum 45 minutes. About 3 miles in I saw a deer on the trail, which, while not removing the tension in my back, cheered me up and I finished the run in a positive frame of mind.

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GoLite is a company that espouses the less is more philosophy, especially when playing outdoors. They are also interested in sustainability, which they accomplish by using less material and monitoring their operations, eliminating waste where possible.

Meaning of Lite

It started with a simple idea.
That experiencing nature would be better with less.
Less weight, less fuss, less waste....more fun.

It's a philosophy that drives us to make simple,
beautiful high performance gear that's
light on the planet.

Because, like you, we are athletes who thrive
on the trail.

Here's the thing about GoLite products: they are light. Not just lighter than some other stuff, not just light as in not heavy, but LIGHT! So light that they basically disappear and you forget your wearing anything (sort of like barefoot running but clothing-wise). This is probably the last step before running naked. :)

Wildwood Trail Shortsleeve 1/4-zip Run Top: A 1/4-zip run top featuring venting control, an athletic cut that moves with the body, UPF 50+ and lightweight, quick drying fabrics. This shirt is so comfy, so light, so well-made that even a heavy sweater like myself basically couldn't feel it. The 1/4 zip came in handy as I started to heat up. There's also a back zipper pocket in the lumbar region - not sure what the intent of it is; I suppose you could put in a light rain jacket or map in there. Cons: only one problem that I found (and it's not a flaw in the product) - this shirt is clingy and revealing in a way that is not altogether flattering to a fat guy like myself. On the other hand, once I'm fit, everyone will know it! :)

Rush: We’ve redesigned our favorite to be an even better jack of all trades. The fully customizable 2010 Rush does triple duty as a super-stable trail running pack, dialed mountain biking pack and great day hiking pack. I normally don't run with a pack, so I added my waterbottle into the back center pocket (good balance!), my phone , id + credit card into a belt pocket, my keys into the other belt pocket, and threw in a lightweight jacket into the main compartment. Not sure what else I would ever bring on a run, except maybe a snack. The pack performed admirably, with lots of adjustability and felt light, even with all my stuff. It's also set up to accept a hydration bladder and has routing for the hose, which is a great extra. Great reflective trim as well. Cons: As with most packs, the lower back gets extremely sweaty - not sure if anyone will ever solve that problem, as moving the pack away from the lower back increases sway and decreases balance.
Mesh Cap: Keep cool no matter the distance endurance cap. I love this cap! I'm a cap guy, as long they are light and comfortable and don't make me feel like I've got something heavy on my head; actually I prefer visors, since they have so much more breathability. When you produce as much heat as I do, air movement is muy importanté. I would wear this hat in place of a visor at any time, it's that light and comfortable. Here's a picture of me riding to my age division second-place (of 3 competitors!) at the Indoor Triathlon:

Products I covet: Mesa Trail 5" Run Short, Visor, TraveLite Wheeled Carry-On in Coriander.

Strangest Product: Biodegradable Sport Bottles. Hmmmm...

If you have a product you’d like reviewed, contact me at

(Disclaimer: Outside PR sent me this product for free to review on my blog - courtesy of GoLite. I did not pay for the item, receive payment, or agree to give it a positive review. Aside from information gleaned from the company website, the opinions are my own.)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bigfoot Triathlon: Course Video

When I last went to the Bigfoot Triathlon website, they had added a cool new feature, a video of Zumtri's tracking capability of the Bigfoot course. With it, you can enter a bib number and follow an athlete during the swim, bike, and run portions of the race. It also looks like you can enter friends or competitors and watch a virtual race as well. Very neat!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Bowerman and the men of Oregon: the story of Oregon's legendary coach and Nike's cofounder

I recently read Kenny Moore's  Bowerman and the men of Oregon: the story of Oregon's legendary coach and Nike's cofounder (Emmaus, PA: Rodale, 2006). What a fantastic book! This is a well-researched, exhaustive study of the famed Oregon coach. Moore goes way back to Bowerman's ancestors in their Conestoga wagons heading West and finding their place in this new land. Following the ancestral trail through his early life, military service, and eventual career at the University, Moore weaves personal anecdotes, current events, and some psychology to write a compelling biography.

The most poignant part of this book for me? The litany of great runners, world champions and record holders, most of whom I've never heard of. Fame is fleeting. As Bowerman himself said, "...that victory is sweet, but you wake up the next morning and it has flown."

Friday, May 21, 2010

Bike saddles - group review?

(Image taken from

So I was thinking it would be fun to find 5 other bloggers to do a bike saddle review. The way it would work is that we would each ride a saddle for 3 weeks, then send it on to the next person, who would ride it for 3 weeks, send it on, and so on, and so on. At the end of 6 months, we would have all ridden the 6 saddles and would review them on our blogs, linking to the other 6 blogs as well. This would (could?) be fun, would give us access to 5 new saddles to try, and would give us some links on other blogs.

Some of the organizational things I'm grappling with are whether to have it males only or also include females, have similar or dissimilar sized riders, restrict it to road bikes or allow tri bikes as well, when to do it (I'm thinking October - March, probably most people's off season), and whether anyone else actually likes this idea. I suppose I'll find out soon enough.

ISM Saddles have already said no to providing a saddle, but did offer a 20% discount if they were included in the review. Maybe someone already has one or maybe rent one for 6 months? Koobi and Cobb are hesitant, but are possibilities. I own a Profile Tri-Strike and a Bontrager Race Lux, so can offer those up. I've contacted Selle SMP as well, but am not holding my breath.

So what do you think? Interested? Comments? Ideas? Anything besides saddles we could do as a group?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Camping + Triathlon

I'm getting kind of excited about my races this season, not just because I feel I'm ready (I am definitely not), but somehow, both races I signed up for have become camping trips as well. I've always enjoyed camping, but don't do enough of it, and now I'm enamored with triathlons, but don't do enough of it, so this combination promises a rare treat.

For the Bigfoot Triathlon in Lake Geneva, WI, the camping will take place at a state campground and some of the run (and bike?) route will actually pass through it. How cool is that?

For The Lake Carroll Triathlon, the camping will be in the lake association's private campground, close to, but not on (as far as I know) the race course.

Here's the only catch. While I'd love to bring my family along, the timing is tricky. Bigfoot, on June 27th, is approximately one month before the due date of our 4th (yippee!), while Lake Carroll, September 19th), is 2 months after the due date. Our older children are 7 and 9, which I feel is old enough to camp with me and then occupy themselves for the several hours it will take me to finish these Sprint triathlons. My wife is not so sure. So, it remains up in the air. I know I'm camping.

I know Wildflower in California is a camping triathlon. Anybody know any others out there? Could make for a cool circuit!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Ride of Silence

When I saw this over at TriDiesel, I had to repost it.

Tonight we number many but ride as one
In honor of those not with us, friends, mothers, fathers, sisters, sons
With helmets on tight and heads down low,
We ride in silence, cautious and slow
The wheels start spinning in the lead pack
But tonight we ride and no one attacks
The dark sunglasses cover our tears
Remembering those we held so dear
Tonight's ride is to make others aware
The road is there for all to share
To those not with us or by our side,
May God be your partner on your final ride

- Mike Murgas

The Ride of Silence
DATE: May 19, 2010
TIME: 7:00 pm
WHERE: Hundreds of locations world wide, click HERE to see an location near you
Join cyclists worldwide in a silent slow-paced ride (max. 12 mph/20 kph) in honor of those who have been injured or killed while cycling on public roadways.

To HONOR those who have been injured or killed
To RAISE AWARENESS that we are here
To ask that we all SHARE THE ROAD

On May 19, 2010, at 7:00 PM, the Ride of Silence will begin in North America and roll across the globe. Cyclists will take to the roads in a silent procession to honor cyclists who have been killed or injured while cycling on public roadways. Although cyclists have a legal right to share the road with motorists, the motoring public often isn't aware of these rights, and sometimes not aware of the cyclists themselves.

In 2003, Chris Phelan organized the first Ride of Silence in Dallas after endurance cyclist Larry Schwartz was hit by the mirror of a passing bus and was killed.

The Ride of Silence is a free ride that asks its cyclists to ride no faster than 12 mph and remain silent during the ride. There are no sponsors and no registration fees. The ride, which is held during National Bike Month, aims to raise the awareness of motorists, police and city officials that cyclists have a legal right to the public roadways. The ride is also a chance to show respect for those who have been killed or injured.

Please consider posting this on your blog.

One Simple Thing

I was perusing the October 2009 issue of Runner’s World and came across an article entitled “6 Secrets Of Highly Successful Runners,” by Sarah Lorge Butler. Her question: What really improves running performance? Her answer: Intense training sessions – as long as you do them right.

It got me thinking about how many different ways there are to improve performance. Everywhere you turn, someone has an opinion/suggestion/miracle. Tempo runs, intervals, hill repeats, long slow distance, open water swimming, drills, recovery, rest, nutrition, supplements, gear, etc. How to winnow the chaff and glean the nuggets of gold (to mix metaphors or something)?

This is the first season in many many many years that I am training consistently. The training I chose to improve both my fitness and performance was based on a 3 day a week program for running, biking, and swimming (though my swimming averages out o 0, probably). I basically do a tempo day, an interval/skill day, and a LSD day for the disciplines. I think it’s working. Though not race-tested, I feel more fit, can run/bike further, and my pace per mile is coming down. What’s next?

As someone who has a family, works, and is both somewhat lazy and a procrastinator, the amount of training will not increase markedly (though it will have to if I actually want to complete an Ironman distance triathlon by my 50th birthday). What would be One Simple Thing I could do to improve my performance?

Mine is actually easy. Not that it’s simple or easy , but if I lost all my excess weight (roughly 40-50 pounds), everything would improve. My health, fitness, endurance, and performance, the whole kit and caboodle. With my recent health scare (see earlier post), I’m working on the nutrition part. In several weeks, I’ll find out if giving up red meat, bread products, and taking red rice yeast are enough to: lose weight, lower my cholesterol, and give me a clean(er) bill of health.

What’s your Simple Thing? What could you do to improve performance?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Free Yourself (and the shirt will follow)

That's me rockin' a shirt from Sìoda TriSports in Huntington Beach, CA. (Actually, I'm not sure I'm still capable of rockin' a teeshirt, but a man can dream, right?) This shirt was sent to me by Patrick Mahoney, who writes The Road - A Multisport Blog. I was first drawn to Patrick's blog since he is a multisport athlete living and training in Huntington Beach, where I grew up. It's cool to read about him swimming, biking and running there, and I can picture so many of those places and grow teary-eyed and melancholy as  I bemoan my lost youth (well, not really, but I do envy him and his son Ian, because it is a great place to live and a better place to grow up).

Patrick and I have a lot of the same interests and experiences, which makes it even more interesting for me to see what he writes. We've both worked in the music industry, been in bands, climbed mountains, and now, train for triathlons (though he's clearly superior to me in all that entails).

Plus, he's an award-winning author/athlete. Just this past weekend, he won Dipshit of the Day Award at the Encinitas Triathlon! Even with that, you can tell he's just a hard-working, humble family man who has great triathlon gear and lives where the living is good.

If you're not following Patrick yet, hop over to his blog and start reading. As luck would have it, his post today is a follow-up to his current teeshirt giveaway, so get yours while the getting's good.

(Maybe Patrick will tell us what Sìoda TriSports means, either here in a comment or on his blog. Inquiring minds want to know!)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Gu Giveaway Winner!

Several weeks ago, I was fortunate to receive some Gu Energy products to review, courtesy of Gu Energy Labs and Outside PR. To celebrate and share the wealth, a selection was retained, to give away via a weeklong contest. The contest ended Saturday at midnight.

Yesterday I chose a winner using - I counted 37 comments (thanks all!), and the winner is............comment 34. Comment 34 was left by Andriana, who writes the blog Run4May, which is a well-written blog, supports a great cause (cure for Kawasaki's Disease), and is one you should definitely follow, if you aren't already. Andriana, shoot me an email with your address and I will get you your Gu out you immediately.

June giveaway - something from Ryders Eyewear, RoadID, or..... Stay tuned!

Do you have a product you would like reviewed? Contact me at

Kids Try Gear: Pierce Downer 1-Mile Fun Run/Walk 05/13/2010

Tazer (9):

In the morning, we thought it was going to storm. We were wrong. After school it was warm and sunny. It took about 10-15 minutes before we could start the race. Lots of different people participated. I started too fast, but still beat my friends to the line. I thought the course was very hilly. We had lots of people cheering us on. After the race we got water bottles and the after race snacks were good. I would have liked a large clock so we could see our time at the finish. I would recommend this race.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Pierce Downer 1 Mile Fun Run/Walk 05/13/2010

My wife, with the other members of the Healthy Kids Committee, organized a 1 Mile Fun Run/Walk, to advocate for healthy families in our community. The day started off cold, rainy, windy and, oh yes, thunder and lightning. Not auspicious for the inaugural running, but by early afternoon, the sun peeked out and eventually burned off all traces of the storm (see photo above!) :).

Thanks to Road ID, Dominick's, Great American Bagel Company, and Jewel-Osco, the racers got bibs, water, bananas, and bagels. I was teleworking from home, so couldn't attend (plus, our 3 year old slept the afternoon away!), but I heard the race went wonderfully, with a few minor snags.

The preparation was half the fun. We put safety pins on all the bibs:

(thanks Road ID!)

got the water and bananas ready to go:

(thanks Dominick's!)

and sliced the bagels:

(thanks Great American Bagel Company!)

The kids had a great time, over 200 people participated, and the email reviews/responses have been uniformly positive. We're looking forward to planning next years!

Almost forgot to mention that my wife told me that the "winner" of the 1 Mile run was a 6th grader, who ran it in 5:45 - holy cow, that's fast!

Even though it seems daunting, race planning isn't that difficult, so I'm thinking of giving it a go. Of course this one was a little bit easier because the logistics were simpler (no porta-potties, no insurance), because it was done as a school event, but I think, with a little planning, it might be fun. Though it's not really in my character, I'm becoming more comfortable asking companies to give stuff. That will definitely help! Anyone else out there have any experience as a race director? What were the first steps?

If you haven't already, check out this month's giveaway at

My son Teo has posted a short review of the race at - check it out and become a follower!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

New Pseudo-blog

I don't like Google Reader and wasn't overly enthused with the blog reader here in Blogger either, so I created a pseudo-blog, Multisport Blogs so that I would have a clean, simple way to follow all my favorite sites dealing with triathlon, running, cycling, and endurance. I don't follow any swimming blogs, not sure why. Check it out at and let me know what you think. Let me know if you don't see your blog there, I'll be happy to add it. Cheers!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

On Finishing a Workout

"Yes, there are occasions when I feel as though I can run forever, or a yoga practice that just seems to come to me, but those are relatively rare. Intellectually, I may know that I'll almost always complete either activity, but emotionally, there is almost always some element of doubt, of the need to prove it to myself. And there is always another mile or a faster mile, or a new posture or a better posture."

From The vegan monologues: collected essays by Ben A. Shaberman (Baltimore, MD : Apprentice House, 2009).

This is so much how I feel. When I lace up my shoes or get ready for another type of workout, I'm pretty sure I'll be able to accomplish what I'm setting out to do, but there is always the memory of painful, incomplete efforts. How lucky I am to be able to get out there and try, rather than be living a subsistence existence, wondering if I'll survive the day as opposed to survive a workout. How do you overcome your doubts?

For more on Ben, visit

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Xoco, Chicago, IL

(Photo taken from the website

Xoco is…hold your breath…a fast food place. I know, I know, I was kind of shocked. All of Chicago and apparently much of the foodie world were all aTwitter in September 2009 over the opening of Rick and Deann Bayless’ new street food joint. I was a little surprised to walk into a Chipotle. Hey, it’s nice, but it doesn’t give off the vibe of authenticity I was expecting. Looks clean, decent art, open food prep area, don’t get me wrong, this is not your typical Jack-in-the-Box, but it doesn’t look all that different from any other chain (perhaps that’s the plan?).

View Larger Map

Now, the food – according to the Baylesses, Xoco (meaning “Little Sister” to Frontera and Topolobampo) “proffers contemporary expressions of Mexico’s most beloved street food and snacks: hot-from-the-fryer churros and flaky empanadas; frothy Mexican hot chocolate (ground from Mexican cacao beans right in our front window!); warm, crusty tortas (Mexican submarine sandwiches); and made-to-order caldos (meal-in-a-bowl soups) that feature everything from roasted vegetables to seafood to pork belly.” Shooting high, promising the world, but does it deliver? First of all, I can’t imagine getting the Woodland Mushroom Torta (Wood-roasted garlic mushrooms, Prairie Fruits Farm goat cheese, black beans, wild arugula, 3-chile salsa) on the street in Mexico, anywhere. Is it good? Absolutely! Pricey? Somewhat. “Big, bold Mexican marketplace flavors?” Not so much. I’d prefer it much spicier or with stronger flavors at least. You tell me garlic mushrooms? Let me taste that garlic! My buddy had the XOCO Salad (wood-grilled chicken, marinated black beans, arugula, romaine, crispy tortilla threads, avocado-lime dressing), which he enjoyed, but thought it lacked tomatoes. I had the above-mentioned torta and also a Bean-To-Cup Chocolate (fresh-roasted cacao beans ground on premises), the Almendrado: chocolate shot + almond milk – that was really good.

Here’s the test: Would I go back? Yes. While not inexpensive, and definitely not street food in vibe or preparation, the meal was simple, quickly made, and tasted fresh and healthy, which is definitely not fast food.

More from the web: or

Have you eaten at this restaurant? Leave a comment and let everyone know how you liked it. Or leave me a comment on whether this was a useful review.

Xoco on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 10, 2010

Gu #Giveaway!

I recently reviewed a plethora of Gu performance products with my family and saved some of the items I was sent so that I could give them away through this blog. This giveaway is courtesy of the fine folks at Gu Energy Labs and Outside PR. One lucky winner will be sent a selection of Gu products pictured above: Energy Gels, Electrolyte Brew, Recovery Brew, and Chomps.

For entry to the contest:

1. Follow this blog (I follow back). Leave a comment below.
2. Post a comment on the Gu products review I posted.
3. Twitter or link to this giveaway on your blog. Comment below with link or Twitter ID.

Giveaway will run through 11:59 PM (CST), May 15th, 2010. Winner will be chosen via
Good luck!

(Do you have a product you'd like reviewed? Contact me at!)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

278 + 216

Two numbers that have to change: 278 is my total cholesterol, while 216 is my approximate current weight. The numbers I’d like to see are 150 and 165, respectively.

I once wrote that “There Is No Fitness Fairy,” but I didn’t really believe it. A part of me honestly believed I could half-ass my way through life and look like Rich Roll, but honestly, right now it’s more like Bob Roll (nothing personal, Bobke!).I thought that with more consistent exercise and minor diet modifications, I could be healthier, and I am, but it’s not enough.

Tomorrow, I am embarking on a new journey, a more radical transformation of myself. There will be mileposts along the way, measurements taken, steps forward. After one year, give or take, I would like to meet my goal numbers above. 128 points lower in total cholesterol, 51 pounds lighter – 2.5 points, 1 pound per week.

I have spent the last week contemplating my options, eating many Last Suppers (saying goodbye to my favorite foods), and preparing for some major life changes. Injuries to my lower leg and foot have necessitated recovery time, which is appropriate, considering tomorrow will be a new beginning.

Short-term plans: I will start taking red yeast rice to assist in lowering the bad cholesterol (LDL); there are some nay-sayers regarding this supplement, but I have tried it in the past and it worked for me then, so I’m willing to try it now. I will also overhaul my diet by cutting out all red meat as well as processed food. These two actions will improve my cholesterol and also help me lose weight, which should further lower the cholesterol number. Positive side effects will include better overall health, increased athletic success, and, hopefully, a father and husband who will be around longer to take care of my family.

Long-term plans: Along the way, I will repeat tests that will let me know how effective my changes are in achieving my goals. If they are successful, and I am sure they will be, I will consider reintroducing some of the banned foods, should I still desire them. After calculating their impact on my health, I will reject them again or use them in moderation, periodically testing and reevaluating. When I was younger, I vacillated between vegetarianism and veganism, and they are definitely options again. With a wife and 3 children (+1 on the way), I don’t want to impose my requirements on them, so veganism, while appealing, might be difficult to do just for myself without making my life difficult for them.

If you are squeamish, or small children are reading over your shoulder, please stop now. Do not scroll down, do not look at the pictures below. Come back in a year and see the “After” photos.

(and yes, I DO like to wear dark socks, even with shorts)

Oh and by the way, Happy Mother’s Day! Thank your mom, your wife, or a random woman on the street, for bringing life into this world and nurturing it safely through to adulthood. Gentlemen, they couldn’t do it without us, though with time, I’m sure they’d figure it out.

Friday, May 7, 2010

6 Commandments for Cyclists

Following on yesterday’s post, here are Lawrence Ulrich’s 6 commandments for cyclists:
  1. Don’t drink and ride. No brainer right? Turns out, in 2006, in 24% of fatal injuries, cyclists were legally impaired.
  2. Ride single file when possible.
  3. Use hand signals to indicate intentions.
  4. Make eye contact with drivers.
  5. Follow the law. This makes you completely part of the system, lessens conflict, and earns respect of drivers.
  6. Wear a helmet! 9 of 10 cyclists killed in 2008 were not wearing a helmet. Helmets can’t prevent accidents, but they might help you survive one.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

How to Drive Around Cyclists

In the June 2010 Issue of Bicycling Magazine, Lawrence Ulrich writes several simple tips for drivers that will make sharing the road safer for everyone. Here they are:

Slow passing saves lives.

Show the Way – give cyclists ample space and the vehicles following you will do the same.

Give them a yard – 3 feet is the minimum distance in many states.

Shut up already – texting and talking on a cell-phone (hands-free or otherwise) results in a 37% drop in activity of the parietal lobe, the brain’s region tied to driving

Use No-Passing Zones Wisely – Every state has some version of an obstruction law that allows vehicles to cross double yellow lines to get around slow-moving obstacles.

Count to Two – though the 2-second follow rule might seem antiquated with improvements of brakes, it takes .75 seconds to recognize the stopping situation, .75 seconds to hit the brakes, which leaves only .5 seconds of actual braking.

Be aware of Danger Zones – 38% of 2008 cycling fatalities took place at intersections.

Tomorrow I’ll post his 6 Cyclists’ Commandments.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Ceres Café, Chicago, IL

Ceres Café is located in The Chicago Board of Trade Building and is a full service restaurant featuring breakfast, lunch and dinner, along with cocktails. 3 generations have provided only the finest quality homemade soups, 10 different types of salads, 32 different sandwiches, fish, and allow you to design your own breakfast.

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From Wikipedia (

"Since 1930, the Chicago Board of Trade has been operating out of 141 West Jackson Boulevard, Chicago. It is housed in a building designed by architects Holabird & Root that is 605 feet (184 m) tall, the tallest in Chicago until the Richard J. Daley Center superseded it in 1965. This Art Deco building incorporates sculptural work by Alvin Meyer and is capped by a 31 foot (9.5 m) tall statue of the Roman goddess Ceres in reference to the exchange's heritage as a commodity market. Ceres is faceless because its sculptor, John Storrs, believed that the forty-five story building would be sufficiently taller than any other nearby structure and as a result that no one would be able to see the sculpture's face anyway.

On May 4, 1977, the Chicago Board of Trade Building was designated a Chicago Landmark. The building is now a National Historic Landmark. Today the Board of Trade Building is closely joined by numerous skyscrapers in the heart of Chicago's busy Loop commercial neighborhood."

(Photo by Alvin Meyer)

I only have gone to Ceres for lunch. It’s close to our office and my coworkers and I often go Wednesdays for their Mexican Tortilla Soup special. The soup is amazingly good, rumor has it that it is the leftovers from Tuesday’s enchilada special, in any case it is well-worth searching out. I’ve also had the Southwest Salad, which is large, yummy, and full of good-tasting stuff. Heard good stuff about the Spinach Italiano and the Fish Tacos (which I don’t eat, since I don’t eat fish and it might be a special because I don’t see it on the menu). One complaint I have is that some of the appetizers are only available after 2:00 PM, so you can’t have the southwest eggrolls with your tortilla soup. Bummer.

I’ve never been at night, but my coworkers often hold their Thirsty Thursday there after work. Apparently, the drinks are lethal, cheap, and accompanied by some really good popcorn.

Ceres Café is recommended by me as a good, decently-priced, place for lunch, if you’re in the mood for a non-touristy place with (sometimes) entertaining waitresses.

Have you eaten at this restaurant? Leave a comment and let everyone know how you liked it. Or leave me a comment on whether this was a useful review.

Ceres Cafe on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Kids Try Gear: Gu Review!

Kids Try Gear: Gu Review! Check out what my kids thought of the products we got from Gu Energy Labs, courtesy of Outside PR.

Kids Try Gear: Gu Review!

(What we received from Gu and Outside PR) 

(What we purchased to increase flavor choices)

(*Parental Note: The Gu products tested were sent to me, Kovas, for review, courtesy of Gu Energy Labs and Outside PR. Thanks to their generosity, we were able to sample these as a family. You can read my review at I will be giving away a sample of Gu products next week on my blog, so return Monday, May 10th for entry details. Please note: some Gu products contain caffeine, milk, or soy products. Each person, especially children, reacts differently to these substances. Use caution if you think your child may react adversely to any of the above.)

Tazer (9):

First we took a plate and 3 cups and laid them out. Next we tasted 3 power drinks: Electrolyte Brew Raspberry (for before exercise), Electrolyte Lemon Lime (also for before exercise), and Recovery Brew Orange-Pineapple (for after exercise). My favorite was Gu Recovery Brew Orange Pineapple.

After that we tasted Chomps. First we tasted Cranberry Apple (caffeineated). Next we tasted Strawberry (caffeineated). Then we tasted Orange (non-caffeineated). And last we tasted Blueberry-Pomegranate (also non-caffeineated).

Last of all we tried the gels! First we tried Gu Energy Gel Vanilla (caffeineated). Yum! Second we tried Jet Blackberry (2 x the caffeine). Yuck! Third we tried Tri-Berry (caffeineated). It was okay, but not the best. Fourth, the Mint Chocolate (no caffeine added).  Awesome! Fifth, Chocolate Outrage (caffeineated).  Awesome! Last of all...Strawberry-Banana (non-caffeineated). My favorites were the Chocolate Outrage and Mint Chocolate.

Guy-guy (7):

First our dad put three cups in front of us. Then he poured in some Raspberry Electrolyte Brew. Before I tasted it, I smelled it - it smelled good! Next he put in some Electrolyte Brew Lemon Lime in the second cup and a Recovery Brew called Orange Pineapple. The Lemon Lime tasted a bit sour and the Orange Pineapple tasted kind of weird but all of them tasted good.

Then our dad put a plate  in front of us. Then he put a Cranberry Apple Chomp in front of us. We tasted the Chomp and it was very good but it was not my favorite one. Then he put a Strawberry Chomp in front of us. I smelled it, it smelled great! Then he gave us an Orange Chomp. It was the best I had had so far for the Chomps. Then he gave us a Blueberry Pomegranate Chomp, but it did not have a blueberry taste; it only had a pomegranate taste.

Then he asked us to move our Chomps to the side and he put a Vanilla Gel on our plates. You could not taste very much vanilla. Then he put in a Jet Blackberry. It was sour; I didn't like that one very much. Then he put in a Tri-Berry, but it did not taste like a berry. Next he put in Chocolate Outrage which tasted AWESOME to me. Finally he put in a Strawberry-Banana gel and I think that was my favorite!

If you have a product you’d like reviewed, contact us at

Gu Review

Through the good graces of Outside PR and Gu Energy, I received a package of their products to test out and review (and give away!). Here is what I got:

Here is what we bought to expand the selection:

Based in Berkeley, CA, Gu is, in their own words: “a talented crew of athletes, scientists, production superstars and don’t-judge-me-by-my-flip-flops business aces who share a common inspiration: to deliver the best sports nutrition on the planet into the hands – and mouths – of deserving athletes everywhere!” Gu makes the following products: Roctane Ultra Endurance Gel, Energy Gel, Brew (Electrolyte and Recovery), and Chomps. I received a sample of all of the products except the Roctane.

Apart from the secret recipe, here are some of the items you might find in a Gu product: mix of complex and simple carbohydrates, histidine, potassium citrate, sodium citrate, and citric acid, branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) leucine, valine and isoleucine, amino acid complex Ornithine Alpha-Ketoglutarate (OKG), Antioxidant vitamins C & E, vital electrolytes, sodium and potassium. Suffice it to say, they’re healthier than eating a bunch of gummy bears and then going out to run, swim, or ride.

I used one of their Energy Gels before my Indoor Triathlon several weeks ago (read more here Did Gu help me win 2nd in my age group? Possibly; while I can’t point directly to the Energy Gel as the sole source of my almost complete domination (well, complete participation!), I definitely had energy throughout the entire race, which lasted for 75 minutes including transitions.

On Saturday, I sat down with my family (wife, 9 year old son, 7 year old daughter, 3 year old son) and we had a Gu tasting party. The great thing was how much our preferences differed, though we did agree on a few things. My kids will be finishing up their write-up and posting it soon on their blog, Kids Try Gear.

Here are shots of the Brews, Chomps, and Gels laid out for tasting (my, aren’t we scientific?):

Tasting Abbreviations: GF + DF = Gluten Free and Dairy Free; C = Caffeine, NC = No Caffeine, NCA = No Caffeine Added

My opinion (products in order of preference in each category):

Gu Brews – first off, these had a great smell, as did all the products. The other thing that surprised me in a great way was that these were not sticky sweet cloying energy drinks, but rather clean and fresh tasting – loved them!:

Electrolyte Lemon Lime (GF + DF): nice basic flavor, familiar to anyone who has had an energy drink before, but again, clean and crisp;
Electrolyte Raspberry (GF + DF): not being a fan of raspberry in general (though it tastes good as a syrup on cheesecake!), this was saved by the fact that it wasn’t overly strongly-flavored or sweet;
Recovery Orange Pineapple (Contains Milk and Soy): my favorite of the brews, slightly thicker texture, reminiscent of an old favorite, Orange Julius. :)

Gu Chomps – not to sweet, good fruit flavor overall, kind of similar in color (except Orange) and came out of pack sticky; not sure what could be done about that:

Strawberry (C): subtle, true fruit flavor;
Cranberry Apple (C): tart;
Blueberry Pomegranate (NC): sweeter, neither fruit comes through, more pomegranate than blueberry;
Orange (NC): much sweeter, more artificial flavor.

Gu Energy Gels:

Chocolate Outrage (C): great, authentic chocolate favor;
Vanilla Bean (C): sweet but not cloying;
Strawberry Banana (NC): sweetest of the bunch, great flavor;
Mint Chocolate (NCA): tastes like xmas or the mints at some hotels;
Tri-Berry (C): couldn’t pick out specific berry flavors, but yummy nonetheless;
Jet Blackberry (2x C): the only one I didn’t like, seemed more chemically flavored, maybe the double caffeine?

Since taste is VERY subjective, I cannot say that any of the flavors are not good. However, I personally would not purchase the Jet Blackberry, as it really did not have a natural taste to me – on the other hand, it might be the best thing ever for you. Try them all and let your taste buds guide you.

If you want to give them a try, they have a Performance Energy Sampler that can be purchased through their website. The Performance Energy Sampler has everything you need to get serious about your endurance nutrition. The Sampler box includes: 9 GU Energy Gels - includes each flavor of the workhorse of endurance nutrition, 3 Roctane Gels - when you really need to dig deep on that long training run, ride or race, 2 Chomps Packets - mix things up a bit with this delicious and chewable form of energy, 2 GU Electrolyte Brew Packets - a great tasting, balanced electrolyte mix to improve hydration, and 1 GU Recovery Brew Packet - use after workouts to recover faster and perform better the next time out.The Sampler includes details on each product and ideas for using them together to achieve your goals. Purchase from their website at

Here is what we’re giving away next week:

Stay tuned!

If you have a product you’d like reviewed, contact me at

(Disclaimer: Outside PR sent me this product for free to review on my blog - courtesy of Gu energy. I did not pay for the item, receive payment, or agree to give it a positive review. Aside from information gleaned from the company website, the opinions are my own.)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Known PRs and the Dreams to come

Just added a sidebar to keep track of my PRs. We had shared them on DailyMile, so I thought it would be nice to have them on the blog as well. I didn't put down my 1995 Chicago Marathon time of 3:39, because, honestly, I can't remember the exact time or if it's even correct and don't want to count it. Oddly enough, in this day and age of open information, I cannot find results for that race. If anyone knows where I could find official results of the 1995 Chicago Marathon, I would be deeply grateful. I also didn't put down my 2009 Naperville Sprint Triathlon results, as the swim portion is quite a bit shorter (400 yards vs 750) than a typical Sprint. I have 2 Sprints planned for this season (Bigfoot and Lake Carroll), so will definitely have a PR established and a goal to beat.

Running, Skiing, and Endurance Sports -

REI: Gear for the Great Outdoors

UnderArmour - I WILL

Outdoor DIVAS - Adventure Gear for Active Women