Spectator Recap: Chicago Marathon

It isn’t very often that I’m a spectator at a race, as I’ve mentioned previously, I love to race and I try to do it often, just because I love being around all the people, and the excitement that goes along with it.  On Oct 12, I had the pleasure of spectating the Chicago Marathon and supporting Sean.  I’ll admit, and I’m pretty sure he said something about it too, I wasn’t sure how it was going to be, if I was going to be jealous/envious that I didn’t get to run the race too or if I’d be totally cool just watching and supporting him.

Well long story short, I had a blast spectating the race!! It was a great race for spectators and really easy to get around the city.

So after carb-loading at Quartino on Saturday night we went back to our hotel and I looked thru the participant guide to see what time the race actually started, what time you needed to be at the corrals, etc.  I told Sean we should leave the hotel, which was about 2 miles from the start line around 6:00am and since he said he only needed 30 minutes to get ready, I set my alarm for 5:15a thinking we could snooze once, maybe twice ;). He on the other hand, set his alarm for 5a, 5:15a, 5:30a and finally for 6a.  He tends to run a bit late, lol.

My alarm went off at 5:15a and I got up, got changed and then dragged him out of bed.  It was only 46 degrees out so I layered up, 2 long sleeve shirts, my black lululemon scuba hoodie, a rain/wind breaker, my warmest wunder unders and my vinyasa scarf (pretty much head to toe Lululemon) and my Newton Running Fate shoes.  Oh and not to forget, my lulu running gloves.  I was ready and going to be warm, having grown up in the Midwest, I know what that cold feels like, and it can be bad, especially when you are used to the 90+ degree Phoenix temps.

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It took Sean a bit longer to wake up and get ready, but we were out the door by about 6:30ish and on our way to the start line in Millennium Park.  It was pretty chilly out, only about 46 degrees with the sun was coming out by the time we got there.  I kept him company for a while before it was time for him to go to his corral.  After giving him one last kiss for good luck, I headed up to where I could see the beginning of the race.

Sunrise, Bean, Chicago Marathon, 2014
The Bean and the City at Sunrise 🙂

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Sean before the start
Sean before the start

I was looking for mile 1 but I saw a bunch of people on a bridge not too far from the end of the park so I got set up there and waited to see the race start.  And prayed I didn’t drop my new iPhone 6 that I didn’t have a case for yet.

They start the wheel chair athletes first, then the hand crank, then and I’ve never seen the start of a major race, so I didn’t know they did this, but the athletes with prosthesis or that are blind, with guides, came next and then came a few trucks with cameramen, a timer and the elite men.  It was really quite awesome to see them go out.  I stayed there for a few more minutes, waiting to see few elite women and then I decided to head out to the next spot.

Elite Men, Chicago Marathon, 2014
Elite Men at the start
Elite Start, Chicago Marathon, 2014
Elite Start – there are a few elite women in here 🙂

I wasn’t quite sure where I was going, but I headed up Michigan Ave and started running following some other people, it was quite exhilarating as we ran down Michigan Ave – why exactly we were running, I wasn’t quite sure – lol, but I got found a spot where I was able to see Sean, maybe around mile 2?  After I saw him, I started running again and made it to a water stop, around mile 3 I believe, where I was able to see the elite men go past.  I got this awesome photo where if you zoom in, you can see one of the water bottles dropping with liquid coming out – it was kinda cool I thought.

Elite Men, Chicago Marathon, 2014
Elite Men coming thru – see the bottle falling in the middle?

A few minutes later, I saw the elite women come thru, at this point, which was way early in the race, American Amy Hastings was the lead woman, she ended up finishing 5th woman.  I got another photo later with Rita Jetpoo and some of the other elite women in it too.  This was super exciting to see.

Amy Hastings, Chicago Marathon, 2014
Amy Hastings has an early lead – mile 3ish
Elite Women, Runners, Chicago Marathon, 2014
The Elite Women at mi 3ish

I stayed here for a while and tried to find Sean, but they split the course at this point and I must have missed him go by.  So I got out my handy dandy spectator map that I got at the expo, which was awesome!  I used it numerous times to figure out where to go next and it was great because they had the directions on which trains to take and where to go from each of them.  As well as a map with all the trains on it so you could figure out where to change trains, etc.

Chicago Marathon, 2014, Spectator Guide

The spectator train stops - great resource
The spectator train stops – great resource

I went to go towards mile 7 but by the time I was waiting for the L, I got an alert that Sean had passed the 10k mark so there was no way I was going to see him there.  So I thought, let’s go to mile 16, well I headed that way only to have him pass the half point as I was on my way, so I just headed to mile 20 which was actually really close to the place we had lunch the day before – crazy, huh.

View of a water stop from the train
View of a water stop from the train

I got to mile 20.5 about 40 minutes before he came past so I was cheering along with a bunch of other spectators.  It was really cool to see the faster runners, most of which don’t look like they are going that fast suprisingly, I saw the 3 hr pace group come by and even some of them walk from time to time 🙂 lol.

Sean at mi 20.5 IMG_9336

I was across the street as they came up a hill looking for Sean’s pink hat.  I saw a guy dressed as big bird, who I had seen ahead of Sean earlier so I knew he was coming soon.  I managed to get some good profile shots of him as he passed me.  Then I raced back to the train, which was literally across the street, and headed to the finish line.   They don’t let spectators at the actual finish line, but Bank of America had a great cheer zone set up around mile 26 so I found a spot and waited.  As it got closer to the time when he would be finishing, I headed a little further up so I could see better and try to get some photos.  I was actually able to get some decent photos of him finishing.

Sean at the the final turn mile 26 - BOA Cheer Zone
Sean at the the final turn mile 26 – BOA Cheer Zone

Then I started walking to the other side of the park so I could meet him at the family reunion section.  It was a bit of walk up Michigan Ave to where the entrance was and then they were wanding everyone and looking in purses, bags.  I totally understand the security and all, but the guy who was in the line I was at, was not happy to be there, and he was quite rude when telling you what to do.  As I was getting thru, I actually said, that they should have signs telling us what to do.  And really they should have, it would have made it all go so much faster and more efficiently.  I know they did that at the Cardinals game I went to a few months ago and they were making it really clear what you needed to do & I thought there was a sign.  But regardless, I finally got in and then there weren’t any signs as to where to go, it didn’t seem like there were many people around either, which seemed weird since there were lines of people trying to get inside.

Finally, I turned the corner and saw a ton of people heading into this one section so I followed them and I could see the letters for the family reunion section.  It was again a bit weird because the letters didn’t seem to be set up in alphabetical order, they were just kinda placed willy nilly or so it seemed.  Finally I found the M/N sign and headed over, hoping that Sean wasn’t over there waiting for me.  Fortunately, I got there first, by probably a minute or 2, I was just getting ready to take off a few layers when I saw him.  He did amazing!! Finishing in 3:46, which is super awesome considering he thought his feet/legs were only at about 70% after having run over 500 miles within the last 5 weeks (He did the Tahoe 200, Kodiak 100 & then the Cuyamaca 100k within the month prior to Chicago).

Sean at the finish
Sean at the finish

I’m super proud of him and all the racers out there.  I had a fabulous time spectating and I look forward to doing it at another race in the future :).

Food Tour: Chicago

I love food. And this makes trying to eat clean all the time, really difficult.  I like to try new things and it’s hard to restrict yourself especially when you are in a new place and doing a lot of walking and other exercise.  So, I do my best to add in a salad with each meal, no soda and no alcohol and lots of walking so I feel good about what I’ve eaten.

Sean & I arrived in Chicago Friday afternoon after both of our flights being delayed.  We took the L to downtown, checked into our hotel and then relaxed a bit before heading out for dinner.  It was about 9pm after we did our run, got changed, etc. so we asked the front desk for some recommendations for good, Chicago food that didn’t require us to be dressed up – lol.

Stop #1: Lou Malnati’s

We ended up at Lou Malnati’s off of State St.  When we arrived, they said there was a 45 min wait so we put our name on the list, gave my cell phone number for the text alert and then went to see if there was anything else near by with a shorter wait.  But to our surprise it only took about 10 minutes for our table to come up so in we went.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but this is the Flagship location for them which is probably one of many reasons why they were so busy at that time of night.  Both of us love pizza so we wanted to have try the signature deep dish, but it takes a bit to prepare, so we started out with a Malnati’s Salad, which is Romaine lettuce, tomatoes, black olives, mushrooms, Volpi salami bits and gorgonzola cheese with our Sweet Vinaigrette and romano cheese.  We 86’d the black olives and tried to have the cheese on the side, but our server forgot that gorgonzola was a cheese, oops.

We also ordered The “Lou” for our pizza.  It’s a spinach mix, mushrooms, roma tomatoes covered in cheese.  We both love veggies so this was a perfect fit for us. We got the small size, which was 4 pieces, just big enough for us.  The crust was pretty good, I’m really picky about good pizza crust and I’m not normally a fan of deep dish because the crust is either too doughy or too crispy.  This one was good, a little too crisp for me in the spots that didn’t have toppings, but overall it was good.

Lastly, because it’s not a meal without dessert, we got the Chocolate Chip Pizza.  The cookie portion was really good, but in my opinion there was a little too much ice cream and whipped cream, it kind of took away from the cookie.

Lou Malnati's, Chicago, The Lou, Deep Dish Pizza, Chocolate Chip Cookie Pizza, Malnati Salad

Stop #2 – Pleasant House Bakery

After running to the Chicago Marathon expo to pick up Sean’s packet, we were only a few miles from Pleasant House so I asked really nicely if he would walk over there with me.  It was about a 3 mile walk, oops, but it turns out that we walked a few miles of the race, around mile 20.5 or so.  I found Pleasant House online looking for inexpensive healthy eats online and they came up for their kale & mushroom pie.  They hand make their pies and grow as much produce as possible at their farm, which was really cool to me.  It’s definitely a hole in the wall, we literally almost walked right by, because we couldn’t tell #1 if they were open and #2 where the front door was.

They have had a ton of press, but it was not super busy when we were there, it felt really homey.  You order your food at the counter, they have a chalkboard menu and a special of the day, along with a few house made sodas available for order.  We ordered 2 “Royal Pies”, the Kale & Mushroom, since that’s why we wanted to go there to begin with, and then I asked what she would recommend and she said that the Steak & Ale was their biggest seller, so we tried that too.  We also got a Pleasant Farms Salad and I initially ordered water, but then saw a sign for a Ginger Fizz, their home made, real ginger ale, Sean got a root beer, but it wasn’t house made.

The pies, were so good, the crust was soft but flakey, not soggy at all as some pies can be.  The Steak & Ale was a super yummy, it tasted almost like sloppy joes, I guess would be the closest thing I can think of.  The kale & mushroom was a bit more like a thick mushroom soup.

Now the Ginger Fizz, they had it on tap so they put some in a glass, but the fizz was so much, that they had to let it sit for a few minutes before they could continue to fill up the glass.  I think it took about 10 minutes for it to be ready.  But it was so worth it.  It wasn’t sweet at all, but you definitely got the real ginger zing that is so good.

You bus your own tables here and they will bring the food to you.  It was definitely worth the walk and we didn’t feel overly full afterwards either.  At $7.95 each for the pies and salad, I felt like that was a decent amount of food for not a lot of money.

Pleasant House Bakery, Chicago, Royal Pie, Kale & Mushroom, Steak & Ale, Ginger Fizz, Pleasant Farms Salad

Stop #3 Glazed and Infused

We just happened to see this little donut shop as we were walking back to the hotel after snacking at Pleasant House.  It was around 4:30pm give or take, so they didn’t have their full selection, Sean really wanted to try the maple bacon, but they were out.  So I had a glazed seedling apple cider and he had a chocolate with chocolate curls.  I ate my whole donut that evening, while Sean ate half then and the other half before the marathon.

The donuts are $3 each but decently sized.  I didn’t feel like mine was overly sweet even with the glaze.

Glazed & Infused, donuts, chocolate, apple cider, chicago

Stop #4 Quartino

We were a bit late, yet again on our way out to dinner, so after searching yelp & open table to see what was available.  Well not much at that time, big surprise, Saturday night in the city, the day before the marathon.  Oops.  So we started walking up State St to see what was available and we crossed the street at Quartino and asked to see if there was any space, well they were able to seat us outside.  It wasn’t horribly cold, although it wasn’t warm either, but it was open so we said sure.  As they were seating us, I noticed that they were cleaning off another table that was a bit more sheltered by the building so I asked if we could have that table, which was perfect.  It made it a lot warmer than if we were out in the open, because they didn’t have heaters out there, which was a bit odd, but ok.

Quartino serves most of their entrees in a tapas style so they are small and perfect for sharing.  They also bring the food out as soon as it is ready so they definitely recommend sharing.  We were pretty hungry and Sean wanted to do a bit of carb loading 🙂 so we tried the following.

A spinach salad (I love spinach and I really dislike iceberg lettuce which is used a lot in regular salads), it had pear, walnuts and it said ricotta, but it tasted more like a parmesan.

Margherita Pizza – basic but my fav 🙂 Mozzarella, Tomato Sauce, & Sweet Basil

My absolute favorite of all our tastes was the Tagliatelle alla Bolognese which is just a traditional meat sauce, but it tasted just like in Italy, light and no overly seasoned.

We also tried the gnocchi which was in a pesto sauce, we think there might have been a bit of asparagus in the pesto as well which is a little different.

Our least favorite entree was a Rigatoni with Tuscan Kale, Roasted Butternut Squash, House-Made Pancetta, & Ricotta Salata – it wasn’t bad, just I’m not a huge fan of the butternut squash so that might have been a part of it.  Or maybe we were so full from all the other things we ate lol.

Even though we had to eat outside, I would totally go back to Quartino again, and from the number of people with reservations and waiting for tables, it definitely was a hot place.

Quartino, Chicago, Spinach Salad, Gnocchi, Pesto, Tagliatelle Bolognese, Margarita Pizza, Rigatoni

Stop #5 Portillo’s Hot Dogs

We didn’t get breakfast on Sunday morning because of the race.  I didn’t even have a chance to get coffee as I raced from spot to spot to try to see Sean so we decided to hit up a spot that my Chicago friends told me about.

This definitely seemed like the place to be after the race, there were tons of runners with their medals & bibs on.  I got in line to get a hot dog & an Italian beef while Sean got us a salad.  He got the salad in like 2 minutes, it took me almost 40 minutes to get my order.  I’m thinking that was the Italian beef that took so long…

But once we finally got our order, the hot dog was totally worth the wait!  It was amazing!  I don’t eat hot dogs often (just at the ballpark) but this was a great one.  We got the jumbo dog with everything but onions, which means it had mustard, relish, tomato, a kosher pickle and peppers like the ones you can get at steak and shake lol except fresh.  It was amazing.

The Italian beef was good, but way too much beef for us, I ate half of the sandwich, and I thought that was more than plenty.  The salad was good too, although we should have gotten the dressing on the side because it was way over dressed.

Next time, hot dogs & salad only :).

Portillo's, Chicago, Hot Dog, Italian Beef, Spinach Salad

Stop #6 Magnolia Bakery

This wasn’t planned but we happened to see it on our way to the Bean and since I had a Magnolia Bakery cupcake after running NYC Marathon last year, we figured we should have one here too to commemorate Sean’s race too.

I had an apple cider cupcake and he had pumpkin with cream cheese frosting.  I said this and it’s going to sound funny, but I really enjoyed my cupcake, the cake was really flavorful, the icing wasn’t super sugary and was really light.  I would have loved it if I hadn’t tasted the pumpkin one.  The cream cheese frosting was AMAZING!! It really made that cupcake, so flavorful and rich.

You can never go wrong with cupcakes :).

Magnolia Bakery, Cupcakes, Pumpkin, cream cheese frosting, apple cider

Stop 7: Sushi Taiyo

We weren’t sure what we wanted for dinner but as we walked back to the hotel, it was starting to rain and we decided to just get some sushi because it was easy and the restaurant wasn’t overly packed, although it really filled up after we got there.

We had 2 different salads, a Ginger Salad & a Seaweed salad, both of which were great, the ginger salad was huge!! Way bigger than I was expecting.  And then we had 2 rolls, one, my favorite, soft shell crab and then a Honey roll which is albacore, cucumber and sesame honey sauce rolled in tempura crumbs.

Everything was great, it felt good to eat a lot of veggies but nothing super special.  That came next 😉

Sushi Taiyo, Chicago, Ginger Salad, Seaweed Salad, Honey Roll, Spider Roll

Stop 8: Pierrot Gourmet at the Peninsula Hotel

Pierrot Gourmet ended up being our last stop on the food tour.  After finishing our sushi & salad we yelped for a place to go for dessert and this came up.  Since we both love creme brulee we thought it would be perfect.  We got there about 20 minutes before they closed, walked in and saw so many amazing looking desserts.  It was a hard decision but we decided on the following:

A vanilla bean creme brulee with fresh berries, a fruit tarte with an almond frangipane and carmelized fruit and I choose 2 macaroons, Caramel Fleur Du Sel & Strawberry Mascarpone but the server brought the caramel, a nutella and an almond one – he did end up bringing the strawberry one but we ended up with a few extra.

Of the desserts, the creme brulee was by far the best, although it did have a stronger egg taste to it.  The macaroons were super soft, but they were also super sweet, I had one bite of each to try them but didn’t go back for seconds on any of them.

A great way to end our food tour.

Pierrot Gourmet, Chicago, The Penisula, Macaroons, Cappucino, Fruit Tarte, Creme Brulee, Dessert

I would recommend any of these restaurants, especially Quartino and Portillo’s for the Hot Dogs.  We had a great time eating our way thru Chicago and I can’t wait until our next vacation to see what new things we can try. Buon Appetito!

Race Recap: Esprit de She Run: Mesa 10K

It’s not often that you get to run a race on a weekday, but Esprit de She gives you the opportunity to do a 5K or 10K for “happy hour”. So last Thursday, I took a little 40 min drive down to Mesa Riverview Park to run the 10K.

I ran this race last year, the first year for the race, when it was in Tempe. When I first looked at signing up, the race still showed being in Tempe, however as we got closer to the race, maybe six weeks prior, they changed the location to Mesa.

I really enjoyed this race last year, even though the course was a bit short, so I had it on my schedule to run again for most of the year, although I did not sign up officially until last month, so I paid $50 plus the whatever the fee was, somewhere around $5 I think.  Also, if you remember from earlier this year, I did my first duathlon with Esprit de She in Tempe as well, so I am familiar with and like the brand.  You can read that recap here.

I had the opportunity to pick up my packet at the Athleta store at Kierland in Scottsdale on Tuesday, which was nice since, the actual race location is a bit far from my house.  It was quick and easy, all I did was give my name and then they asked what size shirt I wanted and told me if I was going to use the drink coupons to bring my id and I was on my way.  If you weren’t able to make it to the store, they did have a nice packet – pickup and gear check at the race.

Esprit de She, Run, Mesa,  5k, 10K, race day packet pick-up Esprit de She Run Mesa Gear Check

The race bag included, a re-usable Athleta bag, an Esprit de She Tank, a Luna bar, a few chewable Smarty Pants vitamin packets & on the bib was a 20% off coupon for Athleta & 2 drink coupons for after the race.

Esprit de She, Mesa, Run, 5k,10k, Race Swag

Come race day, I had a nice lunch, of honey seared chicken with brown rice from Pei Wei and lots of water. Night races aren’t always the easiest to fuel for, but since I have been running more at night lately, I felt ok have a big lunch and then just ate half of a Go Macro cashew butter bar on my way to the race.

Like I said earlier, the actual race location was about 40 minutes from where I live. It’s not a horrible drive, but there is a lot of traffic on that route. With the race starting at 7pm, I left my house around 5:30/45 and got down there a little before 6:30ish just when I wanted to. I was a little nervous about the race, which is pretty common for me, but especially since it was a bit warmer than I would have liked.

When I got to the race location, I got in line to use the port-a-potties, the line wasn’t too too bad. Then I walked around just a bit to see the expo area & there was a pretty fountain near by too.

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The fountain at the Mesa Riverview Park, so much nicer in person
The fountain at the Mesa Riverview Park, so much nicer in person

Then it was time to line up for the race. They started with the 10K runners at 7pm and then the 5K runners at 7:05. The race was one 5K loop that the 10k runners would do twice.

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We listened to the national anthem & some announcements before starting the race. I had a fellow runner take my photo and then we were off!

Esprit de She, Mesa, Arizona,

Not too far after starting was a water station, which seemed a bit early in the race, but considering we were going to be running 2 loops it was a decent location.  We never actually went out on the main roads, it all took place on the parking lot roads near the Cubs spring training stadium and then thru the park.  In the first mile, we went out, did a turn around and then came back towards the start line, eventually hitting another area where you do a turn around before going onto the grass for a about a quarter mile.  After the grassy section, we came back by the start/finish line, but not yet, we still had to go around a little lake and past the fountain before coming back around by the start/finish line.

Since I was doing the 10k, we had to do 2 loops, when I started my 2nd loop, I checked my watch as I passed thru and it showed 2.9 miles and around 24 or so minutes which was a bit disappointing.  Last year the course was short too, I was hoping that this year it would be closer, but it wasn’t. 🙁

After starting the second loop, I had a Burnt Toast Moment when I started to get a little pain in my chest area.  I could also tell my heart rate was a bit too high, so I walked for a little bit before starting back up again.  I think that the Pei Wei, which I never eat before a run, was not the best choice for a pre fast race meal, giving me a little heart burn. Oops, lesson learned.

During the first 5k
During the first 5k

I slowed down a little bit, I had run the first 3 miles, really fast, for me – around 25 mins so I was ok with slowing a bit.  I think I walked about 3 times total in the race, while I do run more straight, I still have the Galloway run/walk mentality and I really don’t mind taking a minute or two here and there to recover.

At races and really in general when I’m not running on the sidewalk or trail, I like to run on the curb, or on the painted line on the road, somehow it helps me to stay focused, maybe a throw back to my Galloway days, when I was trying to stay to the side so I didn’t disturb anyone when starting the walk interval.  So I focused on staying on the curb and just starting passing people one by one.  By this time those that I passed were mostly slower & walking 5k’ers which is always kinda weird.  While I felt a little bad about passing the slower 5k run/walkers, it was nice having them out there so I did have people to pass and interact with.

Almost at the finish line, and I actually have a great photo!!
Almost at the finish line, and I actually have a great photo!!

I speeded up as I neared the finish line, crossing the finish line at 51:25, which if it had been the full course would have been a 2.5 min PR in this distance with a big 5k PR as well.  After I crossed the finish line, they gave me a bottle of water and a bottle of Aspire sports drink but I seriously thought I was going to be sick so I took a few deep breaths and sat down just past the finish line to calm down.  I hate feeling like I’m going to throw up and this is the second or third time I’ve felt like that after finishing a race, which apparently, according to my coach is how you are supposed to feel, because it means you ran hard.  Not sure how I feel about that.  Anyone who knows me well, knows, and I’m sure no one likes getting sick, but I have a huge phobia of it and can not even hear someone else getting sick or I feel like I am too, even if I felt perfect before.  But anyways, I drank some water and rested for a minute before heading over to the post race festivities.

At the Finish - Esprit de She Mesa 10k IMG_9198

I really like the women’s races, specifically Esprit de She, for all the cool stuff that they do after the race.  I wasn’t able to participate in a lot of the activities because I had a decent drive and an early morning the next day, but they had a pampering area, a DJ with a little area for dancing, lots of booths with wine and other types of alcoholic beverages, which I did not partake in, for several reasons, #1 – I don’t really drink when marathon training, #2 and most important – I do not drink and then drive and since I was by myself and had quite a drive, that wasn’t going to happen.  I did get a plant from the plant station, which was really cool and some yogurt from Dannon.  They also had a nice area with the Esprit de She logo’d product, which looked really nice and like something I would wear on a regular basis.

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All in all this was a great race.  I really enjoyed it and I’m glad that I did it again this year.  My only complaint is that the course was .4 miles short. I know all about the tangent running and how most of the time you run long, but this was ridiculously short and I was not the only person who noticed.  If I had been over, I wouldn’t have had an issue, because it is much more common to be a little over, but being almost a half mile short?  I’m disappointed because it will now show up on athlinks as a PR but it’s not a real PR.  I will look forward to actually achieving this time on a certified course :).

But even with that little burnt toast moment, I would totally do another Esprit de She event and I look forward to next year!