I Love Chicago! Travel Suggestions From My Urbanathlon Visit

October 17, 2011 · 9 comments

As a Bostonian, people have always suggested that I would fall in love with Chicago.  I am happy to admit that all those people were right.  Chicago is a beautiful, clean city with amazing restaurants, parks and bars.  I travelled to the windy city for the Men’s Health Urbanathlon.  It was held Saturday, October 15th and was going to be the farthest distance and most challenging race for me to date, 10 miles with challenging obstacles scattered throughout.

I arrived late Friday afternoon and headed straight to the Hard Rock hotel where registration was being held and I was staying.

  Afterwards, it was time for some carbo loading.  I rarely eat pasta so I was happy to indulge.  The whole “all you can eat pasta” the night before a big race is not what you want to do.  You are actually suppose to up your carbs 3-2 days before the event.  I did so by having oatmeal instead of my protein pancake for breakfast and adding quinoa to my salads at lunch.  I wrote about the carbo myth on Crushing The Course last week along with other pre-race meals tips that I tried to implement.

I went to Prosecco which was phenomenal.  We started with the Beef Carpacio which had the best balsamic glaze. I wish there had been more.  For my meal I had the Melanzana Griglia e Forno aka Grilled eggplant, fresh mozzarella and smoked caciocavallo, tomato sauce.  It was basically non-breaded grilled eggplant parmesan.  I probably should have avoided such a cheesy dish but oh well.  I wanted pasta so I got a side of a rigatoni which came in a light tomato cream sauce that was to die for!  Again, probably should have avoided a creamy based sauce but it was still very light.  The highlight I should note was the free glass of Prosecco at the beginning of the meal.  I wasn’t planning to drink but had to oblige.

Afterwards, we visited The Kerryman.  Roomie had a drink and I had a decaf coffee.  I felt so cool.  This bar had a fun sports atmosphere and wish I could have stayed longer.  I went home at 10 pm to get some much needed shut eye before the race.  My alarm was set to go off at 6 am and I know I need my sleep.

Before going to sleep I put out my clothes for the next day and prepared my breakfast.  I brought a bowl of oatmeal with 1/2 tablespoon of chia seeds in plastic tupperwear.  I ran the in-room Keurig with just water and added it to the oatmeal. I put on the lid and went to bed. 

When I woke up, I had a glass of a water and cup of coffee along with my oatmeal and headed over the starting line.  It was chilly!  I did not feel nervous though, which was surprising to me.  I wrote on CTC a ton about race anxiety and I think it helped calm my nerves.  While I used to interpret anxiety as a sign of jell-o legs and nausea at the finish line, I now took the jitters as excitement and preparedness.  It was bodies was of giving me a boost of energy and saying, “You are going to crush it!”

I’m saving the recap for tomorrow but I will tell you that I finished in 1 hour 29 minutes!  I finished 41 out 601 women, 10th in my age division and 762 out of 3000 finishers.  I thought there were 5,000 people who were running so I’m not sure what happened to the other 2,000 people.  I felt so good, and so strong. I could not have been happier with how I did.  The training really paid off and I am just still so elated with my finish.

After the race, we hung out for some live music, beer, food, and mingling with the other racers.  I would post pictures but my camera is in a bag that the hotel lost yesterday… Since our flight was not until 6 pm, we did some sight seeing around the city after checking out.  My grey Gatorade Lululemon bowling bag was handed off to the wrong person/group.

After partying for a bit, after all I deserved it, we went on a river/lake tour of the city through Wendella Boat Tours.  The tour was interesting and very informative.  I had no idea how cool the architecture was in Chicago.    The weather was perfect.  How hilarious is my hair in the photo above!?

The buildings really are all gorgeous and detailed.  The added history was fascinating.  I highly recommend going on an architecture tour if you visit Chicago.  Afterwards, roomie and I (yes, roomie got to come along) did some sightseeing in Millenium Park, including the obligatory bean.

After the bean, we went to have a drink at The Public House.  I love this place!  The booths looked like they all had beer taps on them.  Wether they do or do not, I really don’t know but it looked cool.  The place was PACKED with college sports fans.  Although Boston is a sports town, we do not have a huge population of big football university alumna.  Many went to small private colleges or go to the games themselves since they are close by like BC or are not even on TV usually like Harvard. I love this about Chicago.

We went to dinner at Frontera Grill.  It’s very popular and owned by someone named Rick Bayless (who I have never heard of but apparently is a famous chef).  The wait was 2 and a half hours!  You can’t make a reservation either.  Crazy!  We decided to hang out by the bar and snag two seats after only waiting for 30 minutes.  I love eating at the bar.  The food is the same and your drink is always filled.  The food was outstanding.  We shared a few things to start including the chicken taquitos, Flautas de Chivo, chips and salsa, and chicken mole enchiladas.  The mole was unbelievable.  It was so good!  The only thing I did not like was the tortilla chips.  They tasted identical to Fritos.  Identical.

This post is getting long so I’m going to save Part II for later, and maybe my camera will show up!

Question of The Day:  Have you ever visited Chicago or a city that you loved as much as your hometown? Did you move there, did it make you want to move there or do you enjoy just visiting?

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Hanna October 17, 2011 at 3:51 pm

hehe, Rick Bayless is indeed a famous Chicagoan chef; he won Top Chef Masters :) Glad you enjoyed Chicago and great job on that finish!

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2 Sarah October 17, 2011 at 5:36 pm

That makes sense! I know the chefs in Boston who have been on that show but not other cities :) hehe. It was sooo good!

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3 Marla-Deen October 17, 2011 at 5:22 pm

Good for you!! What a great finish and weekend. So glad you weren’t nervous . . . that’s always half the battle!

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4 Sarah October 17, 2011 at 5:36 pm

Thanks Marla – yes it is! I was shocked I was not too nervous.

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5 Jen@FoodFamilyFitness October 17, 2011 at 6:55 pm

Bummer on your bag, I hope it’s returned to you quickly!
Awesome job on the run!!!!

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6 Kelli October 18, 2011 at 2:41 am

How funny, I live in Chicago and absolutely love Boston. I’ve been there several times and it’s the only city I’ve ever been other than Chicago that I feel I could live in. But…I don’t think I could ever leave Chicago. I work right on the river where the architecture cruise runs, across from the Merchandise Mart. Glad you liked Chicago!

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7 Meg October 18, 2011 at 3:08 am

Just found your blog and love it :D I have only been to Chicago for a single night but would love to go back!!!!

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8 Viviana October 18, 2011 at 5:34 pm

Would love to go to Chicago but this Cali girl could never leave Southern California weather, LOL

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9 Amanda October 18, 2011 at 8:49 pm

Love, love, love your black/hot pink leggings in the race photo! Where are they from?

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