I cannot believe Chicago was almost 4 weeks ago – it feels much longer than that. This recap will be one of my lengthier ones and will be broken up into two parts (I know my 2014 NYC Marathon recap was longggg with three posts hehe). Again, thank you all for all your support the past 5-6 months! Okay…onto the recap! WARNING: PICTURE HEAVY.
Image: Chicago Marathon
Speaking of NYC, let’s rewind a little bit. Prior to the 2014 NYC Marathon (which was my #2), I really thought it would my last marathon ever (haha…oh we all say that). I slowly quickly changed my mind – there was so much room for improvement. I officially caught the marathon bug! In January, I decided Chicago would be marathon #3 – the course would be ideal for a PR, it was a marathon major (I enjoyed NYC so much), and a city I had yet to explore! I was delighted when I was accepted through the lottery.
Compared to last year, I was a packing disaster. When prepping for NYC I had a dedicated space in my room to accumulate and organize my belongings for marathon weekend…this year…not so much! My room looked like a running store threw up in it! Thank goodness I had my packing list. On Thursday I went home after work and started to pack. I was a bit overwhelmed, I still had laundry to do and it was getting late. Because our 6AM flight was leaving out of BWI, I planned on sleeping at my parent’s house since they live about 30 minutes from the airport. The clock was ticking and I was dilly dallying, so I decided to throw stuff everything I wanted to bring into my suitcase and would organize my belongings at my parent’s house. Thanks to my mom she purchased some gallon zip lock bags that I forgot to buy (I like to separate my fuel, electronics and accessories into them).
I did laundry, took a bath (which I do not get to do at my apartment), and finished packing close to 11-12AM. My mom said we had a 3:30AM wake up call. What what?! We arrived at BWI and checked my suitcase (no worries – all my running gear was in my carry on). The lines weren’t very long at 4:30AM, but I had TSA pre-check so it made going through security a breeze. There were no delays and we arrived at Chicago Midway around 7AM CT. My suitcase was the second one off the baggage claim – what a great start to the weekend.
Tired and a little hungry (ok that was more me), we made our way to the L (super easy to get there from the airport terminal). We purchased a 3 day Ventra Card pass for our party (me, mom, my sister Beverley, and Cliff) for $20/pass. In hindsight, I probably could have gotten by with a 1 day Ventra Card pass for $10, but we didn’t know. It was definitely money well spent for my runtourage. I loved that it said Bank of America Chicago Marathon on it – definitely a keeper.
My mom/sister’s hotel was in the Financial District right off the Loop on the Orange Line. They were staying at the Buckingham Athletic Club Hotel – which is about a half of mile from Grant Park (the start/finish area of the marathon). When my mom found the hotel, it was the last one available for that weekend. I am not surprised why – the room was huge with some awesome views! PS – It is a little tricky to find as it primarily houses the Chicago Stock Exchange.
They let us check in at 8:00AM (two years in a row – how lucky) and we dropped off our luggage before heading to the expo. After some crowdsourcing (thanks all), I learned the closet stop to the convention center was still a bit of a walk, so I decided to call an Uber.
The Chicago Marathon Expo is held at the huge McCormick Place Convention Center. The building itself is beautiful. Race organizers offered shuttles from various points in the city, but I know those could take time (and I heard later in the day there were long waits). The Uber was pretty inexpensive and we had a little mini tour of the city. I wanted to pick up my bib Friday morning to avoid the crowds and arrived shortly after 9:00AM (when it opened).
When we walked in there was no line! I was given a free poster and directed to the first set of kiosks. The volunteers scanned my confirmation card (it was snail mailed) and told me to go to pick up area #32.
I headed to that table and the volunteer said “here you go, Jennifer” and handed me my bib. How cool was that?! When the first volunteer scanned my bib, it sent an alert to the second volunteer. I imagine that may have not occurred later on in day with more people coming through. After picking up my bib, we were directed to the main area for shirt pickup.
Prior to my trip, I read recaps that the expo was huge, it was! I think they had the same number of vendors as New York (but less than Boston – I visited during the B.A.A 5K), but it was definitely more spread out and very comfortable to walk around. Since we had to pass all the vendors before reaching the shirt pickup, I decided to scope out the Chicago branded gear at those booths so I could compare them to Nike’s Official Merchandise (which was located in the center of the expo – I thought that was nice. In NYC I went through the official merchandise store at Asics and didn’t realize other vendors had cool NYC gear).
This was my mom’s first “big expo” – I think she was in awe of all the vendors and free stuff. I picked up my shirt and the medium was too small. Doh! Luckily they had a shirt exchange and I traded it in for a larger size. It is nice they were gender specific, but I was not too fond of the color combination (I was dreaming of a nice red white and blue). Below is a pic of Nike’s Official Merchandise Store – women’s gear on one side and men’s gear on the other.
There were plenty of signs for some fun photo opts.
I left my mark on the #OWN CHICAGO sign – which was placed out on the marathon course.
We continued exploring the expo (I think there were 10 rows) – there were some fun booths. Here is my mom at the Adidas display. She stepped on pad and the little white orbs (?) would move in sync with her step. Video to come!
More cool signage! I was a little bummed I missed the area where I could scan my bib and “Jennifer Owns Chicago” was displayed on the board. Next time!
Some fun at the New Balance booth. I felt like Flava Flav….but not really haha.
Below was my final haul: I made sure to stop by Nuun table so I could get the Chicago water bottle (love them), a blue Nike hat, Nike shirt (resembles the Chicago flag),a Nike pullover and of course the red race shirt. My mom got me the blue “Run Chicago Many Magnificent Miles” shirt and she made a few purchases of her own 🙂 I also picked up a few goodies for Cliff and my sister.
After 2.5 hours at the expo it was getting a little crowded. I texted Kathleen (who won her entry through a TAG Heuer contest when she didn’t get in through the lottery) and she was finishing up as well. It is fun how blogging has introduced me to new friends – I met Kathleen through Kathryn during Shamrock weekend. Kathryn and Kathleen went to high school together!
Afterwards we headed to nearby Chinatown for some lunch at Phoenix Restaurant. I liked that I got a preview of Chinatown as this neighborhood is part of the marathon course.
Following lunch we parted ways and I picked up my luggage at my mom’s hotel so I could check in at the Tremont Chicago Hotel at the Magnificent Mile. This hotel is located across the street from the 360 Chicago Building (formerly the Hancock Building) in the River North neighborhood (about 1.5 miles north of Grant Park). It was much smaller than my mom’s hotel, but it was clean and in a good location. I read this hotel was undergoing renovations because it was purchased by Starwood within the past couple of years. If you are a Preferred Member, request the Starwood floor as those rooms have been renovated (except for the bathroom – which were a little dated, but still a good size). We took a quick cat nap and explored Michigan Avenue all the way down to Grant Park.
Thanks to Deb’s recent visit to Chicago and her subsequent blog post, we stopped by Garrett for their Garrett Mix (salty and sweet). Like Deb said, it was good but super rich. If you came back on Sunday with your marathon medal they gave you a small bag (more than enough).
After visiting the Bean, my mom went back to her hotel – she was going to wait for my sister to arrive and I was going to meet my friend/teammate Emily for a Oiselle dinner at Spaccanapoli Pizzeria. It was so nice to meet the other birds. IL leads – thanks for a great marathon weekend (especially at Mile 17) and thanks to Beth for the pic! Also thanks to Erin for all her Chicago recommendations!
I went back to the hotel after dinner and waited for Cliff to arrive – poor guy, his flight was delayed so many times I lost count. He spent almost 8 hours+ at DCA and arrived at the hotel close to 2:30AM! The next day we woke up early for an architectural boat tour (what a trooper). Cliff and I picked up some goodies from Wow Bao before meeting my mom and sis at Navy Pier.
Woops..we should have gotten there earlier as a long line was already forming to board the boat. The tour was fun and a good way to stay off my feet for a couple hours! We used Shoreline Sightseeing, but my friends highly recommend Chicago’s First Lady and Wendella – if I go back to Chicago I would like to try those (Cliff has gone on a Wendella tour before as well – he said both were good as the different tour guides had their own stories and voice).
So beautiful! We ran over a few of these during the marathon.
One of my favorite buildings/parking garages. It reminded me of something you would see in the Jetsons or Star Wars.
Selfie with Beverley and my mom.
What to do post boat tour? Lunch at Giordano’s. I had no idea it took 45 minutes to cook a deep dish pizza. We opted for one of their basic options that they churn out in 15-20 minutes…it was good! I love this picture of my mom gazing at the pizza.
After lunch Cliff and and I walked towards Grant Park while my mom and sister continued exploring Navy Pier.
You’re Fired! Did you get it? (Hint: See the building behind me). We followed the Riverwalk towards Cloud Gate aka the Bean – it was crowded! To avoid the crowds I would recommend going there for an early morning shake out run (it was the perfect distance to/from my hotel – 3 miles).
We went back to our hotel for a nap before meeting my mom and sis at the 360 Chicago Building. I underestimated how long it would take us to get to the top of the building – we had to wait in line for almost 20-30 minutes (I guess everyone had the same idea). The view was pretty spectacular.
Since it took longer than expected, I canceled my dinner reservations at Rosebud, I didn’t want us to feel rushed and there was the trusty Cheesecake Factory downstairs. Below is a cute pic of Cliff and my mom on Tilt, which extends out from the building. I’m working on a video, so you’ll also see footage of that.
We arrived at the Cheesecake Factory around 6:30PM and snagged a table by the bar (super lucky). I had the skinny chicken pasta and bread, no room for dessert for this girl. After dinner we went back to the hotel where I laid out my gear, charged my shuffle/watch, and finalized my meet up plan with Kristina. I went to sleep around 9:00-9:30PM…dreaming of a marathon PR, right? I wish!
Next time: 2015 Chicago Marathon Race Recap II …the actual marathon!
What do you like best about Chicago?
Have you been on a boat tour before?