Tuesday, July 18, 2017

How Slow Can you Go?

This year my blog has been less about running and cities and more about Crohn's and mommyhood. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing, but it has meant I'm off my game a bit. Given my extreme focus on both running and cities over the last few years, it was probably good to take a break; gain a little perspective. My break wasn't intentional, but I finally got to the place where I realized it was necessary. Now I'm slowly getting back into running, and I really had no idea just how slow the process would be. I've been working out a lot over the last eight months, but it's been a lot of yoga and cross training. Running is a different animal, and I was kidding myself to think I could simply jump right back into it. Falling in love again with my favorite cities, however, remains really easy.

Last week my husband had a conference in Chicago, so I decided to join for a few days. In my last job I traveled overnight relatively frequently, but the last year I've been home quite a bit. I've gotten used to being home all the time with our small human, so leaving him for three nights left me feeling pretty vulnerable even though he loves being at Grandma's house. It was made easier by the fact that I love Chicago (it's my third favorite city after the two Portlands, Maine and Oregon, tie for first). I also decided to register for a 5k and run every day I was there. No excuses. I was looking for me again.

We flew out of Detroit's Metro airport late on Wednesday evening after a several hour delay. We spent the time drinking cocktails and then drank more when upgraded to first class. I slept until 7:45 local time on Thursday morning (I never sleep that late) and felt like myself again getting up to go for a run. I walked out the door and into a wall of humidity. It was nearly 90 degrees and nearly 100 percent humidity, but I didn't let that stop me. I ran onto the river trail and admired the quaint restaurants along the river. I turned onto the trail near the marina and enjoyed the view. It was muggy, but it was a gorgeous morning for a run.

A beautiful view on a muggy morning
My husband and I walked to breakfast at Yolk where I had the best corned beef hash I've ever eaten. It was necessary to replace all those calories I burned running in humidity. As we walked back I was reminded why I love Chicago so much. Despite it being the nation's third largest city, it feels intimate. I told my husband, "I love it here. A good city should feel like it's giving you a hug." Three to four lanes of traffic are framed by large buildings and charming storefronts. Chicago feels like an old lover. 

I shopped a lot of the day before we met friends for drinks at Three Dots and a Dash, an underground tiki bar. It was weird and amazing. We followed it with more drinks at Untitled (I highly recommend The First Word) before dinner at Siena Tavern


The next morning I hit the streets to run off the cocktail induced cobwebs. I ran down Michigan Avenue to Millennium Park and Grant Park, two of my favorite places in the city. I ran by the infamous Cloud Gate statue (aka the Bean), as always awed by the way this fantastic piece of art engages the community - both residents and visitors. 

My husband ended up busy for lunch, so I read a book and enjoyed a pastrami sandwich and Sauvignon Blanc at SideDoor a block from the hotel. The sandwich and wine were both phenomenal. My husband was finished shortly after my late lunch, so we ventured to the Tortoise Supper Club where I decided it would be a great idea to switch to champagne. We had fun bartenders and were later joined by several friends. It was pretty easy to fall in love with Chicago again. 

Afternoon cocktail selfies at the Tortoise Supper Club
We headed to Navy Pier for my husband's work reception and then ambled through Exhibitionism, a great Rolling Stones exhibit the company my husband works for is sponsoring. Our final evening in Chicago concluded with dinner at Riva on Navy Pier. As we walked the mile back to the hotel (naturally I was in four inch wedges), I found myself wavering on running the 5k in the morning. It wasn't necessary right? 


I rallied, waking up at 5:45 am to prep for the race. I had yogurt and a cappuccino in the hotel lobby and then walked 1.5 miles to Grant Park to join thousands of others running the Rock 'n Roll 5k. Much like the week before I ran in hot weather with very little shade. The view, however, was amazing. At different points we looked at the marina with Navy Pier in the background. The city skyline stood at attention behind the entire race. And I moved at a snail's pace. Last year I set my PR at 23:04. On Saturday I ran 29 minutes even, my slowest 5k in years. The worst part was that I had very little left. I comforted myself a bit by the narrow path and large crowd, making it hard to break away and get much faster. But really my body is learning to trust itself again, and I'm going to be slow for a while. 

Pre-race with the Willis Tower in the background

Post race at the Bean
A few hours later I was upgraded to first class again, and I sat reading and drinking a cocktail in first class reflecting on how much I felt like me again. I missed our son madly, but I loved having time alone with his dad. I loved exploring one of my favorite cities and running even if I was slower than I'm used to. I've missed myself. It's nice to be back. 

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