I don’t even know where to start this recap, so I guess I’ll start on the plane….
Umm.. when did he get so big?
After an uneventful flight, we arrived in Chicago Thursday morning and our adventure began!
We decided the kids would LOVE taking the train into the city from Midway, so that’s the route we took.
That’s pretty much the dumbest thing you’ve ever done, mom.
Mom, you are an idiot.
In theory it was a great idea, but in execution it really wasn’t. The biggest problem (and there were several) was Livie’s fear of falling through “cracks” (she is pretty slight, but I kept assuring her she would be OK — no dice). It was stressful getting on and off the trains because I constantly had this fear that someone was going to get caught on it. Thankfully, our trip was uneventful and we ended up on State and Chicago without a scratch (albeit, a little disorientated). We quickly learned that while Chicago is a BIG city, it is an amazingly nice city. Just looking confused got us clear directions on how to walk to our hotel.
Speaking of hotels, when I originally booked the hotel, we planned on flying in on Friday. Well, flights were SO much less expensive on Thursday – it was silly to wait a day (this includes the money we spent on food and hotel – flights out of MCO on Friday were hella expensive!). That meant that we were hotel-less and the other hotel we booked wanted $100 more for that night — so I booked a room at The Whitehall Hotel on Hotwire.
While, the Whitehall was slightly smaller, it was a really, REALLY cute boutique hotel – and I highly recommend it (especially if you book from Hotwire – it’s a 3.5 star in the Magnificent Mile area for $135). Again, the midwest hospitality was amazing. Since it was more ritzy area (the Four Seasons is across the street) and I had three kids in tow, I was expecting a less accommodating atmosphere — not so! Plus, they let us check in early. Yay!
This meant we got to explore the city and grab a late lunch. We stopped at the first burger place we saw – Epic Burger. Oh man, that was a good burger. After that we did a little shopping. I left my jacket on my kitchen island (WHICH IS THE BEST PLACE FOR IT TO BE) and I needed to pick up a pair of black Nike Rival shorts that I had been unable to find anywhere in Orlando (Macy’s and Niketown came to our rescue).
We also stopped by the Lego Store, the American Girl Store, and Garett’s. Nobody does popcorn better.
We then went back to the hotel to “rest” (FYI -you don’t really rest when you are “vacationing” with three kids). The resting was really necessary. E came down with a croupy cough the night before (I’ve now diagnosed him as having spasmodic croup. It’s great.) and I woke up with a sore throat, so things were really going downhill fast. I somehow scored a mini nap (while the kids ran around the hotel room half dressed/watched the TV show we never let them watch – Spongebob) and it helped, slightly.
We were pretty clueless where to eat for dinner (you’d think since we had about 8 months to plan this trip, I would have researched, but no), so we walked around in circles for about an hour. This was a really, really great idea pre-marathon, by the way. After much consideration, we ended up on Michigan Ave (again) and ate at Gino’s East.
In case you forgot what pizza looks like. I know, I should be a food blogger with these mad photo skillz.
My coworker recommended the place and when in Chicago — you need to eat as much deep dish pizza as possible, right? Truthfully, I didn’t love it. I mean, by all means I ATE it, but it had a cornmealy like crust that just didn’t do it for me – pizza-wise. While we were there, L fell asleep at the table which has NEVER happened before – especially at a pizza place.
This is frameable, right?
Needless to say, nobody had ANY problem going to sleep that night. Too bad, wake up was so early…
Yes, my days in Chicago started between 5:30 and 6:15. Aren’t you jealous? It wasn’t just one kid who would wake up – it was ALL of them.
So, yeah. Friday we woke up and took our time getting ready. Instead of finding a breakfast place, we just hit up Starbucks because it was a block away. When we arrived, I stood next to Colin Farrell for about 5 minutes without even realizing it. Yes, the actor Colin Farrell was standing next to me, while I was trying to get my Starbucks App to load on my phone. Truthfully, I would not have even known he was there if the Starbucks employees hadn’t said anything. To make matters worse, he walked by AGAIN as I was grabbing napkins for the kids – and I missed him. It just wasn’t meant to be.
After breakfast, we packed up and walked to our next hotel – Springhill Suites – in the North River area. Paula and her hubs had checked in the day before, so it was nice to be in the same location as them. Since we got there so early, I didn’t expect them to have our room ready yet – but they did! So we dropped everything off and headed over to the Lincoln Park Zoo, which was fun and free.
Around 3 we headed back and got read for dinner — where I met some of my favorite ladies at Lou Malnati’s.
Paula grew up in Chicago and this place was (is?) her jam – so obviously we had to go.
I’m still a bigger fan of NY style pizza, but out of all of the kinda we tried – Lou’s was my fav. I’d go back. L stayed awake this time AND rekindled her love of Melissa.
I need to put a big heart around this picture.
We crashed super early that night – like I was asleep by 8:30 early and it was wonderful. Everyone says that the night before the marathon is MOST important when it comes to sleep and I think they might be on to something…
We decided to go to the expo on Saturday because I think I would have had a full blown anxiety attack if we had gone any earlier. Paula and I met up with Melissa and her most adorable parents (who the kids adopted immediately as honorary grandparents) at Niketown and took the free shuttle over to the McCormick Center. It had all of the potential to be a clusterf*ck, but it everything actually went very smoothly.
Picking up our bibs was a piece of cake (I just pulled up the QR code on my phone) – as was getting our shirts.
Let’s just gloss over it being an odd number.
Then we were off to walk around in the expo. I’ve been to big expos before, but this was one was nice and spread out — which I greatly appreciated. Especially as the thousands of people started rolling in.
Glad we missed this crowd…
My biggest concern was finding the RMHC booth, so I could pick up wrist bands for my tent and meet the team coordinator. Oh, and this guy…
There was one SMALL thing that pissed me off… I went to sign up for the 4:10 pace group ONLY for the pace tattoo (because everyone told me that’s what I should do – and I REALLY wanted a pace tattoo). I waited in line for about 15 minutes, and when I reached the front — they didn’t have any tattoos. What the heck?? In the end, it wouldn’t have mattered anyway, but I wasted a lot of time standing there.
I did write my name on the Nike wall though…
Before we left we took a few bib pictures — and then headed back before going to lunch.
Lunch was another tough decision. We thought about going to Portillo’s with Paula… but I didn’t really feel like a hot dog or a burger. So we walked around in circles (are you sensing a pattern?). We ended up at Public House where I ordered street tacos (SO GOOD) and a beer (yes, I had a beer the day before I ran a marathon), while the kids had fanci mac n cheese.
Goose Island something or other that had to do with October and pumpkin.
It was a good choice.
After lunch, we headed back to the hotel to relax. Actually, I tried to keep off my feet as much as possible for the rest of the afternoon. Amazingly, everyone cooperated (and E even took a long nap!).
Around 5 we headed out again to dinner with my charity. It was not only a great meal…
But there were tons of inspirational and motivational speeches to get us pumped for the race. One of those speeches played in my head the entire race, but more on that in a little bit.
When we got back, I got everything ready for the morning, finished up my playlist, and then attempted to go to sleep.
I slept like crap (does anyone REALLY sleep great the night before a marathon??), but at least there was a little sleep?
Sunday – RACE DAY!!!
I set my alarm for 4:55, and after a night of alarms, yelling, and honking (preparing for marathon spectating?), I barely slept – yet I was completely wired by the time it went off. I got up and tried to get ready quietly, which is REAAAAALLLLY hard to do when you are sharing a hotel room with four other people. I almost got away with it, but right as I was leaving my party people woke up. Sorry, Dan.
I was trying to make it to my charity tent by 6:15 for a team picture – so I grabbed a cup of coffee in the lobby for a few minutes where I saw Veronica, the woman who stocks and cleans breakfast at the hotel.
Man, she rocks.
I finally headed out around 5:454 — in the wrong direction. Yes, I am smart.
Thankfully, I realized it before I walked out of Chicago – although I was pretty sure I was going to miss the team picture. I made it to Millenium Park – Gate 1 – by 6:20 and was dismayed by the crowd. Thankfully, it moved quickly (although, security was tight!) and then immediately found my charity tent (we were in a SWEET location – just after Gate 1). I made it in time for my picture!! I also ran into Krissy as she was running out of the tent into her (speedy) corral.
After the picture, I grabbed a space blanket, ate a banana, tried to get warm (it was NOT happening, I was shivering – and my teeth were chattering) and then used the porta potty (we had our own!) – before heading out to find Paula.
Cold. Nervous. Still in denial.
On the way out, I spotted the men’s porta potties. Hee.
Paula was convinced we weren’t going to find each other, but good thing we had very clear texts to each other so we could figure it out…
Thankfully, we did reunite and found a spot in our Corral to hang out.
We had about 20 minutes to freak out, take selfies, and talk about Paula’s poop. You know, the usual.
Up until the point where we moved forward in the corral I was pretty much in denial that I was about to run 26.2 miles. When the moment of reality hit though, I did not freak out or think about how many miles it was — but instead, a felt a sense of calm and then excitement. That’s when you KNOW it’s going to be good race… am I right?
So let’s get into the details (that I remember)…
FINALLY — THE START!! I love everything about this picture.
Start – 5K
I knew Dan was at the the 5K mark, so as I said goodbye to P at the start line – I concentrated my thoughts on two things… not running too fast and being able to see my family in just a few miles. I did really, really well with the thinking about my family, and I *think* I did OK with keeping it slow. As I expected, my Garmin totally freaked out and I couldn’t really tell how fast I was going at all. I thought that would get better, but I was wrong. Very, very wrong.
What I mostly remember from those first miles is trying to find my pace and a comfortable breathing pattern. That was definitely easier said than done! I’m glad we started in an area I was familiar with though, because I knew exactly where to look for Dan and the kids! And when I saw them, Dan and B looked excited, L was crying, and E was sleeping. That pretty much sums up my family. Sadly, it was the only time I would see them.
5K – 13.1
After seeing Dan, I was AMPED! Life was good, the sun was shining, the crowd was INSANE, and I felt amazing. I was really bad at remembering to take a Gu, but I’m pretty sure I took one at Mile 5 (mile marker – not what my watch said) and mile 10. I loved running through Old Town, Lincoln Park, Greektown, and ESPECIALLY Boystown. There were a million signs (and one man holding a broom), several church choirs, and, of course, Elvis. Chicago is SO much fun! This was definitely my favorite part of the race – I could NOT stop smiling.
Dan had initially texted that he was at mile 13, but then corrected it to mile 12. I texted him back (yes, while running) when I turns onto to Wells. Unfortunately, he had positioned himself near a water station and water stations were a mess of people, so I completely missed them. While I was looking for them though, I did see Paula’s hubs — who I didn’t even realize was going to be spectating, so that was fun!
As we ran back into the city, I checked my Garmin (that I all but gave up on). It had at mile 14 when we were about to hit 13.1, so I knew it was a lost cause for mileage – but the at least the time was right! I hit the 13.1 mat at 2:06:23 – which was EXACTLY where I wanted to be at this point of the race.
13.1 – 20
At the dinner the night before, our organizer – Renee – shared the advice she received before she ran her first marathon earlier this year: Run the first ten miles with your head (start slow, run smart, don’t do anything bold), run the second ten miles with your legs (run hard, this is what you trained for all summer!), and run the last 6.2 miles with your heart (remember why you’re running and who you are running for). This played out in my head frequently, but really the “run the second 10 miles with your legs” stuck with me in particular. Since I couldn’t gauge my pace (my Garmin was telling me I was running an 8:45 pace), I constantly just kept telling myself to suck it up. I really did pick up the pace starting around mile 10 and continued to pick up speed until about mile 20-21. I told myself that I ran fast until Mile 20, I would not only PR, but I would beat my time. It seemed implausible, but it continued to give me that kick I needed. Me competitive?
I’m not going to lie – miles 16-20 were the hardest. The course isn’t AS exciting and there are less spectators. There were also a few times when the crowds were HUGE to a point that it was causing a bottleneck (Little Italy LOVES runners). Water stops also because frustrating during these miles. Since I was wearing my vest, I would stay in the center to run through – but people just started stopping anywhere and everywhere and I also kept tripping on cups. Eh, all minor in retrospect and nothing that greatly impacted my run. I just kept going!
Oh, and speaking of spectators – at Mile 17 I saw Kelly! I really wasn’t expecting to see her and was just so excited I started failing my arms at her. I think she was equally as surprised to see me!
As far as fuel went, I took 2 more Gu’s at miles 14 and 19. I think. I had a 5th one in the pack of my vest (because that’s the best place for it), and I’m kind of kicking myself for not putting in my front pouch with the other four, because after taking my last Gu at mile 19 I thought to myself, “Oh, man – 7 more miles… I hope I don’t bonk.”
Miles 20 – 26.2
Ahhh, the homestretch. I did a “body check-in” around mile 21-22 and I was completely surprised that my feet did not hurt and that my legs were only mildly fatigued. Compared to Savannah, this was a complete 180. I remember texting Dan at mile 20-21 in Savannah with obscenities. This time I texted him and Kate with just “20!” That’s pretty much how I felt.
Around mile 21, I realized that I was going to have to grab a banana at the next fuel stop and also chug a glass of water. I had Emergen C in my vest (that’s what I usually drink) and I wasn’t quenching my thirst. So, at the next banana stop (mile 22, I think?) I pulled off, grabbed a banana and walked while I ate it. It was the first time I walked and I immediately regretted it – because of how hard it was to start up again. I walked one more time when I grabbed some water. Some people are gifted and can chug water and run at the same time. Not me. (I guess my gift is running and texting)
After that stop, I told myself NO MORE STOPPING. My brain really wanted to stop at Mile 24. And again at Mile 25. Instead, I remembered who I was running for. Every name on my shoes. Every family that RMHC supports. Beer. Burgers. Wine. Seeing Dan and the kids.
In Chinatown…still kinda smiling.
I kept going. I got photographed multiple times wiping my nose. I passed the dribbling dude. I wanted to punch everyone at screaming “You’re almost done!” standing by the 800m sign (You guys realize that’s a half a mile, right??).
Finally, I hit the hill. The hill that everyone tells you about, but you completely forget about until you’re running up it thinking “WHHHYYYYYY?” There were a lot of people walking up this hill though and it was an EXCELLENT way to feel amazing about passing dozens of people at the end.
Going up “the hill.” I look confused. Maybe just confused at why there were so many people walking – THIS IS THE END!!
And then there it was…the finish line. And I picked it up and high-tailed it (downhill – can’t complain about that!) to the finish.
And then, just like that, it was over.
As we walked down the finisher’s chute, I checked my time and I have to say I was in disbelief. I thought 4:15 was a serious pipe dream — and I completely smashed it. Woah.
Stats are fun! Especially since my Garmin said I ran something like 28.64 miles.
After, what felt like the longest walk – I grabbed water and a beer (Goose Island 312 is the BEST post-race beer!!!) and then got completely lost. Actually, for once I knew where I was – but I had NO idea how to get to my charity tent. Then like the idiot I am, I went the long way to get there (which also meant I had to chug my beer). Good news though… I finally made it. AND I got to high five Ronald on the red carpet.
Clearly, I had chugged a beer before taking this picture.
Unfortunately, my family was a little lost (they too ended up going the long way to come find me), but eventually we DID reunite. And eat and drink while icing my legs. I also got a free massage (BEST IDEA EVER), before finally heading back to the hotel for the longest, hottest shower ever.
I did TRY to nap after my shower (kids were even being super quiet/napping), but I was too amped, so I relaxed instead – and made plans to celebrate with Paula and Melissa.
We ended up at Rock Bottom where we drank beer, ate food (I got a burger with cheddar, a fried egg, bacon, and a hashbrown — that’s what you call a celebratory burger!) and of course, wore our medals.
PR City up in this joint!!
The three of us drove everyone crazy as we rehashed our favorite parts of the race. There were many.
Oh, and L pretty much attached herself to Melissa’s family…
After dinner, Dan was a saint and took the kids back to the hotel while I continued the celebration with Paula. Seriously, Dan deserves a medal for being the awesomest supporter in the world. Not only did he navigate the marathon and Chicago by himself with the kids, but he made sure I rested and ate enough and all that jazz all weekend. I could not have done this race without his support!!
Now, I wish I could I stayed out super later and partier with Paula and her hubs, but we had a beer and a shot and then went back to the hotel before 11 because we were exhausted. Everyone was sleeping when I got back (it was like a reverse of the morning), but thankfully this time I didn’t wake anyone up. And you better believe I passed out within 5 seconds of my head hitting the pillow.
I woke up to this adorable face…
I was sore, but not THAT sore. I think the massage helped A LOT, as well as all the additional walking that I did. We had a lot of the city we wanted to visit and we weren’t going to let my sore legs stop us!
After breakfast at the hotel, we packed up and checked out. Our flight was at 6 that night, so we stored it with the valet while we continued our vacation. First we stopped by Niketown so I could buy a finisher’s t-shirt.
After that we walked over to Randolph and Wells to meet Kelly!
We had been talking about meeting up for months and unfortunately we didn’t get to meet sooner in the week because she was traveling. However, she met us for lunch on her work break at Roti (Ummm, we need a Roti in Orlando! It’s like Chipotle but Mediterranean food). It was so nice meeting her in person.
After lunch, we headed out to see The Bean and Buckingham Fountain — and of course, it started raining. I’m just glad the rain held off — all week it said it was supposed to rain the day of the marathon instead. Despite the rain, made it to Millenium Park and did the touristy thing…
After all of this walking, we were exhausted ((OK, maybe it was just me). We made a pit stop at Trader Joes for snacks and then went back to the hotel. The kids did a little homework and we picked our luggage. Before we knew it we were ubering to the airport and just like that our magical Chicago adventure was over. Of course, there WAS a little excitement in the airplane (over the car seat — I stood my ground for E’s safety), but after that subsided, the trip ended much like it began…
I have all kinds of thoughts on both running for RHMC and how I took 20 minutes off my PR, so those will be separate posts.
In short, the trip was fun, exhausting, and in the end exhilarating. Traveling with my kids always makes me think twice about traveling with kids — but I’m always happy they joined us. They are great travelers and constantly surprise me with their viewpoints on things. Maybe next time they will learn to sleep in a little?
As for the marathon — oh man, I have the Chicago post-marathon blues SO BAD. I wish I had been better about taking pictures, because I feel like there is already so much stuff that I have forgotten! I am so very ready to sign up and race it again next year. Anyone want to join me? 😉 Yep, Chicago could truly be THE BEST RACE EVER.