Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Shuffle On, Chicago

I've registered for three races in Chicago. In 2011 I registered for the Hot Chocolate 15k, and I ended up having hernia surgery. I cheered my friend on during the race and shopped a lot. In 2013 I registered for the Soldier Field 10 miler, and we were matched with a birthmother who was due that weekend (the situation did not work out). Seemed like a good idea at the time to cancel the trip. 

My husband was asked to be on a panel at an event in Chicago, so we decided to head to Chicago for a babyless weekend of fun and frivolity. On Friday evening we dropped our little dude off at Grandma's and flew to Chicago from Detroit. It was after 9 pm central time when we arrived. As we were in the plane I said to my husband, "As soon as we get there we're going to..." and at the time I said "drink" he said "sleep". Needless to say I won.

We dropped bags at the hotel and got a (very) late dinner at Miller's Pub near our hotel. Fried cheese curds and a burger at 11 pm is always a good decision. We headed back to the hotel just after midnight and crashed. I woke up at 8 am marveling that I'd slept that late. We were planning to go for a run, but we woke up to cold weather and snow flurries and decided that vacation would be enjoyed more by a slower start to the day.

First stop of the morning was McCormick Place to pick up my packet for the Shamrock Shuffle. The shuffle is one of those races I've always wanted to do. It's an 8k (just under five miles), so it's a weird distance. I'd heard it was fun and seemed like it would be. When I discovered it was the weekend we were going to be in Chicago I had to do it. 

For a really large race (over 30,000 people) the expo ran seamlessly. I picked up my packet and adorable Nike race shirt quickly. We browsed the expo for a bit and then headed closer to our hotel for brunch.

We discovered a movie was being filmed right by our hotel. This movie set, Office Christmas Party starring Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman, resulted in closed streets and Christmas decorations all over the block around our hotel. We settled into The Marq for lunch with a front row seat to the movie festivities. We watched a line of cars drive forward and reverse backward over and over again. I've never given much thought to how tedious filming a movie could be, and it was fascinating to see.  

Hanging out on the movie set near our htoel
Lunch and cocktails were great, and after a few hours we decided to walk around the city. The snow flurries from earlier in the day turned into a full snow squall with bitter winds. We quickly decided to head back to our hotel bar for more day drinking and less winter. 

In the late afternoon we headed to Logan Square to meet friends at Scofflaw, a gin bar. One either loves or hates gin, and fortunately I'm in the former category. We had cocktails and snacks before I decided I needed real food to 1) soak up the booze and 2) have any chance of a productive race in the morning.

We headed down the street to Ugo's for dinner. Their drink special, "Ham on Hamm's" featured a shot of Evan Williams and prosciutto perched on a can of Hamm's beer. My husband and our friend thought this seemed like a great idea at the time (it wasn't). The result was my laughing the hardest I have in a very long time. After 11 hours of fun and frivolity I had to call it a night or risk being a zombie the next day.

Race day started the way race day always starts: too early. I pulled on my running clothes and headed next door to Starbucks to get the day started appropriately. As I headed back to the hotel with my venti cappuccino and oatmeal there was a group of runners heading to the race (about 90 minutes before it started). I used to do that: get to races really early. Then I realized I would just end up standing in the cold being miserable, so now I make it a point to wait a little longer. Plus the espresso is necessary for my physical and mental well being.

It was only a 15 minute walk from our hotel to the race start behind the Art Institute of Chicago in Grant Park. We joined the throng of runners walking toward the start, and I felt my heart growing full. I love racing, and this is only the second race I've done this year. I've missed it.

Race day never gets old!

A gorgeous day.
I headed into my coral and chatted with some other runners for about 15 minutes until we started. The race start was full, loud and energetic. I crossed the start line fast with a smile on my face and headed out into the streets of one of my favorite cities. I loved the course. It was fun to run through the downtown streets and hear all the spectators and music along the way. It was the perfect distance to feel like you've accomplished something but not feel too exhausted afterward. 

I was all smiles the entire race.
I assumed with my 5k speed training I'd be faster, but I'm pretty sure that drinking a lot the day before isn't the best pre-race plan. I finished in 41:31 with a pace of 8:22/mile. It certainly wasn't my fastest run (I've run half marathons that fast), but it was so fun.


After a shower we were off to explore downtown Chicago. We grabbed breakfast before walking around and exploring some of the stores. One of my favorite stores is the Chicago Architecture Foundation Shop, so that was our first stop of the day.

Obligatory Chicago tourist shot. Millennium Park is always amazing.
We wandered down Michigan Avenue while I tapped into my inner Carrie Bradshaw to try on some unique outfits (none of which I was brave enough to purchase). Mid-afternoon we headed to Old Town to meet our friends at Woodie's. I'd never been to the neighborhood and immediately loved the busy yet quaint street. We took advantage of Woodie's bloody mary special and later their Fireball shot special. Why not on a Sunday?


After cocktails we explored Wells Street including Judy Maxwell Home, a very fun store owned by actress Joan Cusack. After spending too much we ambled a few blocks to our friend's condo where the rooftop deck offered spectacular views of the Chicago skyline. 

This city, this view, this man. Perfect.
The apex of Sunday was at the Purple Pig, one of my favorite restaurants ever. My husband is generally not a fan of small plates, so I was thrilled to get him there. Their wine list is phenomenal, and I finished a beautiful day with a perfect Pinot Noir.

We were in bed by 10 which was fortunate because I had a flight leaving at just before 7 am. I originally had a meeting on Monday that I needed to attend, and I scheduled an early flight to be back for it. It was rescheduled, and I decided to keep the flight in order to get home early and get some work done.

When my alarm went off really early on Monday morning I was so sad to leave Chicago even though I was happy to snuggle with my son. My body was also surprisingly sore for a relatively short run. I am going to be in trouble running a half marathon in a few weeks.

The weekend was nearly flawless. I got all of my favorite things in two days: a fun race, my big city fix, delicious food and cocktails and time with my favorite guy. It was exactly the reset I needed, and my mental well being thanks me for it. My therapist was right - I do need to play more. I guess that means I need to start planning our next trip. Doctor's orders. 

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