Chicago!

Woo!  It’s been a week since I’ve run, and only a few days since returning from our first trip to Chi-Town.  I haven’t been in an airport or hotel since Wednesday, which is a relief in itself (traveling on back-to-back weekends + work is exhausting).

We took the first flight out for Chicago on Thursday morning, and on the connecting flight from Atlanta to Midway, I was surrounded by people either running in the marathon or people meeting friends/family who were running in the marathon.  The guy sitting next to me on the plane told me about watching his wife run last year and gave me the name of a pizza place to hit (“for after the run”).  I’m not going to talk about how we landed (or how, as I was waiting for Ryan to get off the plane, the pilots taking over the plane for the next flight asked me about the landing.  enough said.  that should give you a clue).

Taking the train into the city and finding our hotel was easy enough, I wasn’t too hungry for lunch, but Ryan was starved and a Chipolte was just around the corner from the hotel.  Sort of.  It was just around the corner, but somehow we were on a street above a street.  We, along with the rest of Chicagoans, found Chipolte, and split a burrito.  it was ok (chain food never tastes good in other cities, which is way you’re supposed to only eat at non-chain restaurants!  But I digress…

We eventually made it to one of the shuttle busses that was taking people to the expo and back.  The expo space was HUGE.  There was no line to get my packet, no line to grab my t-shift (hello for women’s sizes!!!), and nobody to bump into (the Marine Marathon expo space is much tighter and you’re constantly bumping into people).  I was able to find Gu in my favorite flavor (lime-the running shop back home was out), a new headband (imitation n0-name brand….I couldn’t find the brand that I liked, and since I misplaced my headband with all of the traveling & cut my hair so short, I really did need a new headband), and of course, an overpriced chicago marathon jacket.  It’s become a tradition that I buy a jacket for each marathon (I get more wear out of jackets than t-shirts).

We eventually made it back to our hotel, looked through the goodie bag (it was super lame: advertisements/fliers, dishwasher soap, and a tiny cliff bar-that was actually really good).

We studied the bus system, found a place for dinner, and were on our way, but not before spying two men walking together, one with a stylishly-simple brown paper bag from a place called Sprinkles Cupcakes.  Do you not know that I LOVE cupcakes?  and can’t stand BAD cupcakes?  Important fact, but moving on, we had dinner at this gem of a restaurant named LeColonial.  It boasts itself of being a “french-vietnamese” restaurant, but I think it was more a vietnamese restaurant with a french flare to the presentation and restaurant design.  It. was. so. delicious.  (kudos to the atmosphere, too).  We started with ‘goi cuon ga,’ or, “Soft salad rolls of grilled chicken, cucumber, basil, mint, cilantro, bean sprouts, rice vermicelli, & crispy rice paper with coconut plum dipping sauce”

Heaven.  Then for dinner I ordered ‘bun thit nuong’ which is: “Thinly sliced Barbecued pork, served warm, over angel-hair noodles, with mesclun greens, lime garlic fish sauce & peanuts.”  I was a bit nervous about the barbecued pork aspect (sometimes my stomach doesn’t like barbecued pork), but oh my goodness, my mouth and tastebuds were overjoyed at how incredibly tender and flavorful the meat tasted.

Only regret for that evening?  No pictures of the food (or the restaurant).  I felt like I might be shunned….Moving on….

We walked around a bit after dinner and found ourselves in front of the cupcake shop, Sprinkles.  The place was tiny and simple (already a good sign).  The different cupcake flavors were named based  on the type of cupcake.  (I know that sounds obvious, but after discovering what I thought was a great cupcake shop in Delaware, I soon realized was really a dud:  those cupcakes were either vanilla or chocolate with FLAVORED icing.)  I chose the pumpkin cupcake, Ryan played it safe with the vanilla cupcake with chocolate sprinkles.  It was like a food orgy in my mouth.  My mouth was already in ecstasy from dinner, and then the pumpkin cupcake was so moist, so delicious.  Sprinkles, I love you.

Sprinkles has ruined me for all other cupcakes. Or perhaps saved me.

The next day we went up to Ann Sather  for breakfast and had a ridiculously large breakfat breakfast.  My omelette came with two sides: I chose the 2 cinnamon rolls thinking that would count as two sides, but in fact it only counted as one side, so I added the tomatoes.  to be healthy.

We walked a bit, but it was still early for shops to be open so we hopped on the bus and made our way over to the Lincoln Park Zoo.  I can’t get over that you can just be walking around homes and stores one minute and in the zoo the next.  Without having to pay any admission either!  I’m not sure which part of the zoo was our favorite:  the hippo blowing bubbles, the monkeys playing, or the meerkats posing for photos.  Either way, it was a perfect day for the zoo

.

The rest of the day involved walking around, walking into and quickly out of Navy Pier (way too touristy for us-we wanted lunch, but not anything they had to offer-we instead got a basic and cheap hotdog instead.  don’t judge but, it was what I was craving).

Before we left for Chicago I had asked  Susan at Nurse on the Run for some dinner suggestions and she suggested Mia Franchesca.  Our dinner reservations were set, and while we were initially one of the only tables seated, by the time we left there were people waiting outside on the street for a table.  In other words, it was delicious, and I wish we had time to hit it up a second night so I could try another of there dishes (everything looked good…but I ordered just a basic pasta dish-I had to east at least ONE good pre-marathon meal that day).  I was craving dessert or at the very least a cappucino afterwords, but didn’t want to stay up all night since it was Marathon Eve.  The rest of the night was pretty boring:  finding a grocery store to find some balloons for Ryan to hold during the race (so I could spot him on the course as I ran), a bus ride home, and Ryan planning his route to spot me on the course.

I think I finally fell asleep around 11ish, woke up at 2, 4, and finally 6.

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