Where do I begin? Chicago has been a race destination city on on my radar for a long time. I toyed with the possibility of making RnRCHI a reality and it irked Paula to no end that I was being so wishy washy about booking it. So I did.
I did my research and discovered that Chi-Town was not a cheap place to stay. Well at least in the downtown area where the major race hotels were located. After finally swallowing that pill of a flight and hotel, I was all set to plan.
I learned from running friends that the weather in July can get, let's just say, a little sticky. I landed on Friday around lunch time and immediately felt the humidity as I left the airport to board the train into the city.
I was so relieved to find coffee after the flight to Chicago. A nice veteran police officer told me that in his 30 years of service, no one has ever said anything about bringing coffee onto the "L." All good.
After a short walk from the train station, I arrived at the hotel. They had a room available a couple of hours before check in (SCORE!) so I was able to settle in and make the train ride to the expo with plenty of time to sightsee. Not before I unpacked my bag and discovered this though:
Paula always hides a well wishing, motivational note when I travel. She always thinks of the little things.
Finally got to meet @sas_rubel IRL! Woot!
I love riding trains but nothing beats walking around a city to explore. I love that there are many bridges that cross the river and you get views like this:
I ate at Portillos and had a Chicago style hot dog that first night I was there. It was truly delish.
I spent the rest of the night getting my flatrunner pic ready and studying up on the 5k race the next day.
I woke up Saturday morning and as I walked to the start line I realized two things: 1) how freakin' humid it felt to me and 2) I don't have any water to drink and wash my bar down with! I bought a bottle of water from the trusty Dunkin' Donuts nearby.
We started the 5k and I honestly didn't have a formal race plan for any of the races the entire weekend. Maybe it was because everyone else had their eyes on "racing" the 5k, setting PRs, etc. that I found myself running at a quicker pace also. I tried not to look at my watch during the race and it felt quite weird to not know where my pace was or what mile I was in. I remember seeing the mile 2 marker and thinking to myself, "I'm going pretty quick, can I hold on to this for 1.1 more miles?" I kept my pace and never found myself wanting to slow down much. I was happy with the result.
After recovering in the park for a few, I walked back to the hotel to get cleaned up. I took the trek to the Navy Pier to sightsee. I picked up a bag of Garrett's Popcorn which was uber delish and took another medal pic with the 100th Anniversary Ferris Wheel at the Pier.
We all met at the Cloud Gate, also known as, "The Bean." I was a bit worried - because it was super crowded, and it's a major tourist attraction - that we wouldn't find anyone or that people would show up but leave after not connecting with others. Boy was I wrong! The turnout was AMAZING and even in the humidity (locals say it wasn't that bad) we all had a blast meeting and greeting with each other.
After the meet up, most of us went our separate ways, likely headed somewhere to eat. Chicago has tons of options for foodies but a few of us had been majorly craving deep dish pizza. We headed to a well known spot, Lou Malnati's for dinner. We waited a long time for pizza and Auggie threatened to leave before dinner was even served?! Say what? Luckily he was able to stay and eat but had to leave right after we finished eating. We strolled back to our respective hotels, bellies full of amazing pizza.
Still feeling happy and full of pizza, I prepared for the race in the morning before going to bed. It was such a fun (yet exhausting) day and I was actually a little beat up from the race and walking all over the city. Because of the fastish pace of the 5k, I told myself to take it easy for the Half in the morning. I'm glad that I did.
I woke up, again to a lot of humidity but there was a bit more cloud cover than Saturday. I made the walk to the Bean to meet up with more crew but I guess I was a bit early so i took a pre-race selfie and walked over to the corrals. We finally met up and decided that corral 4 was the place to start that morning. We wished each other good luck and were off.
A few of us stuck together, a couple stayed back a bit and we all finally settled on our race pace for the day. Richard broke off after a few miles with the group and that left me with awesome running buddies, Julie and Karla. These two are amazing runners and are great company to have on a 13.1 mile jaunt through a major city. We ran at a good pace, conversational even. But once Karla's GPS was off by almost a mile, we threw our hands up and gave up on trying to do math. From then on we enjoyed every mile.
We all sprinted towards the finish line and completed the race strong. Not long after, a quick heavy storm passed through and we all got soaked! It was a small price to pay - outweighed by all the fun we had out there.
The weekend ended with a long flight home. I missed the boys so much and got in late that night to a house full of sleeping kids. I couldn't wait to tell them how my weekend went. I did so much these past few days and consider myself crazy lucky to have the opportunity to experience it.
What's your favorite thing to do in a new city? Sightsee, eat all the food, etc.?