Weekend (run) and getaway to Chicago
This past weekend brought a much needed long weekend trip with friends Jeff and Liz to the windy city. I have never been to Chicago except to change planes for a layover. I have always loved flying into Chicago. You get a beautiful view of the city as you make the approach into Chicago O’hare with the obvious Hancock Building and Willis Tower (formally known as the Sears Tower) attempting to touch your plane with their white antenna tentacles at their summit. We had a few options to choose from in making our way downtown from the airport. We went with the GoExpress buses that run around the clock. They offer transport service at approximately 21.00 per person and pack you in with as many other travelers as possible. The buses were clean and the driver friendly. Our particular driver had an affection for the Rock’n Roll McDonald’s in downtown Chicago and we got the full story over the 40min drive about it’s history. I will not share my views on McDonald’s because I would not want to offend anyone but I am guessing that if you are reading a blog about running you probably don’t partake of the pink slime burgers very often or at all. Two other ways into the city are by taxi which will run you about 50.00 and by Metro or Rail. Both the Metro and Rail run you about 3.00 per person and yes that is correct 3 dollars. If we traveled back to Chicago that would probably be our choice of transportation since you can actually board the metro and rail inside the airport and it will drop you in downtown close to the Chicago Theatre. We chose that mode for our return trip to the airport, which was great because traffic we passed as we paralleled the highway out of town was backed up and we could have potentially missed our return flight home. One moment of caution, the metro smelled quite odoriferous, ok to put it bluntly it smelled like someone took a pee pretty much over the entire experience.
On to better thoughts. Once inside the city you are immediately struck by the beauty of the large buildings and the iconic symbols that are notorious with Chicago. After traveling up from North Carolina we thought “what the heck” we should get our Friday run out of the way since it was barely 9am when our Sheraton Hotel was gracious enough to let us check in early.
Now the great thing about this hotel was the location. Set along the riverside with easy access to the Lakefront trail and also one of the stops on the Chicago Trolley and Double Decker Bus. So we put on our run gear and hit the trail. Friday’s run was short but it gave us a taste of what was in store for Saturday’s long run. After the run we showered and headed into the city. Nicole had scored us some tickets for the trolley on Groupon and like previously mentioned, one of the stops was right outside the hotel. This trolley was a double decker bus with the top deck having no roof so it was great for sightseeing and taking pictures. The bus was also employed with a guide that would talk about interesting facts on buildings and the general history of Chicago. The trolley went to all the normal and prominent tourist locations and it was a hop on hop off arrangement with buses running about every 20mins. It was actually a nice option for sight-seeing.
However, f you are needing to get to a certain place in the city at a certain time then this is not the transportation for you unless you allot extra travel time. Also, there may still be walking involved to your final destination. The complete loop will take approximately 2 hours to complete from start to finish. One of the stops did bring us to local landmark and a great place to score a Chicago dog, Portillo’s. Chicago dog masterpieces are made with mustard, relish, freshly chopped onions, sliced red ripe tomatoes, kosher pickle and sport peppers piled onto a perfectly steamed poppy seed bun. Don’t ask for Ketchup because it has been rumored that they will make you dance for the condiment because it takes away from the flavor of the beef. Friday was a fairly early night since we had a long run the next day. After light appetizers and drinks with Jeff and Liz, we all made the call to retire for the evening with plans to run at 6am.
The alarm when you are on vacation is a cruel mistress. Like my favorite motivational video says “It’s 6am and your hand can’t make it to the alarm clock before the voices in your head start telling you …. (enter your own excuse here)” … I was excited to run this morning. It is not every morning I get to run with Nicole, Jeff and get the chance to meet new running friends, if not only for the moment in time we are all doing the same activity. I could look outside my hotel onto the trail and already see droves of runners hitting the trail in packs and I knew that had to be the Chicago Area Runners Association members. That got me pumped for the run. I had a 2 hour run on the docket, Nicole had 1:36mins and Jeff 2:10. Even at 6am there were a lot of runners and cyclists out on the trail. As Jeff and I would pass packs of runners, we would exchange pleasantries and with the simple “Good Morning” or “Good job runners” we would be our way. 30mins into the run, Jeff and I separated as I am training for a specific goal and he is training for a different goal (Ironman Florida) which requires an extremely different running pace. Nicole had her own pace she needed to keep to reach her goals so making much of her run alone time. Alone running did not stop me from chatting with runners as I passed by until it was more important to breath than to talk (we all know that feeling). This trail is spectacular. It is the site of the movie Spirit of the Marathon if I am not mistaken (and please someone correct me if I am wrong). It runs north to south along the water and passes by many of the landmarks. Buckingham Fountain, Solider Field, the aquarium, and the science center are just a couple locations I passed in my 2 hour out and back run. It has many water fountains along the way, actual bathrooms, and if that wasn’t enough, Fleet Feet (running store) had a manned table along the trail handing out free water and gatorade to everyone running! I only carried a hand held bottle and huma gels which was a great setup. A 2 hour run at home would have required a camelbak and still the possibility of running out of fluids. The 2 hours passed by way to quickly and before you knew it the run was over, very sad and I can feel all of you crying with me. 🙂
After a shower, Nicole and Jeff, which happen to be our travel guides had scoped out a trendy breakfast location and we set a course for a big breakfast. Yolk was the name of the establishment but Goliath or Green Giant would have been more fitting because the plates were filled with deliciousness and the portion could have fed a small family or one runner. Strangely enough, after two eggs, two pancakes, sausage, bacon and a slice of orange I was full. Ok, ok I was more than full, I was hurting and it tasted so good. No time for the rested, weary or bloated. We hit the city with a passion. If you can pick a Chicago landmark then we had to see it.
Jeff’s watch keeps track of steps and between the morning run and walking the city he almost hit 40,000 steps. According to a quick search on google, that is pretty close to 20miles! Afternoon or Beer ’30, whichever you prefer, brought us to a tour of the Lagunitas Brewery outside of town for a tasting of the local micro brew and a purchase of some for later consumption. That evening we hit a nice white table cloth dinner at Topolobampo, a restaurant known to the foodies out there like Nicole. The food was amazing and the service was top notch although the price was $$$$ in my opinion. Make reservations early if you know you are traveling to Chicago.
We were all exhausted from the day and were hopeful we could stay alive until the fireworks over Navy Pier that happen every Saturday night, but their was no chance. I think we were all asleep by 9:30p.
Sunday is always a sad day for our weekend getaways. This trip we stayed in town until a later flight in the afternoon. So we took our chances on the SkyDeck which is the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower. It is just a normal trip up to the 103rd floor on the elevator. But once there you can see breath taking views of the city North, South, East and West. What made this tower different was the glass boxes jettisoning out from the wall known as The Ledge. That’s right, you are 103 stories up in a glass box over the side of the building. I think my over whelming desire for preservation of self took over and I was actually nervous at first to step out onto the glass. Heading back down the elevator you almost got the feeling that you just escaped death and pulled one over on the grim reaper.
What better way to celebrate that accomplishment than, you guessed it, deep dish Chicago pizza. Once the pizza was over, so was our weekend and we parted ways with our friends until November. Pee drenched metro ride to the airport and a quick flight home and you are immediately in the reality that you are not independently wealthy and you have to work tomorrow….. Thanks for coming along our trip….