I really enjoy reading other people’s race reports. But I’m so bad at writing my own. Here it is almost a month later and I’m finally getting around to starting my report for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon.
It was a very quick trip to Chicago for me. I flew out Friday after work and arrived sometime after 11pm. Instead of renting a car, I took a taxi to the hotel. I stayed at the Congress Plaza Hotel because it was right across from the start/finish in Grant Park and I got a great rate. There are a lot of bad reviews about this hotel online, so I had very low expectations going in and was pleasantly surprised. I think I managed to get to bed by 1am Friday night.
My only real gripe about the hotel is that the curtains didn’t fully block the light coming in from the window. I tried to sleep in as late as possible on Saturday morning, but eventually gave up because it was too bright. Time to start my day… On the way to brunch, I walked through Grant Park and saw workers preparing for the race. It was a funny contrast to see the pretty gardens and then rows and rows of port-a-potties lined up.
I have a college friend who lives in Chicago who’s a foodie and she recommended some great restaurants for the weekend. My first destination of the day was the Bongo Room. After reading reviews online, I had pretty much already decided that I was going to try the Chocolate Tower French Toast. Here’s the description from the menu: bittersweet chocolate chunk bread stuffed with maple mascarpone, banana creme brulee sauce, bananas & shaved chocolate. It was as sweet and delicious as it looks and sounds. A main course and dessert all rolled into one. And this was only a half order. (I think the full order comes with three slices of bread.)
After brunch it was time to head over to the Expo at McCormick Place. On the way I walked past the Field Museum and Soldier Field. I enjoyed seeing the architecture of the buildings because we don’t really have anything like that here in Phoenix (that I know of). I also liked the look of this random building that I saw.
The interior of McCormick Place looked sort of like an airport to me. It was about as confusing as one too. To get to the hall where the Expo was located, I had to go up like three flights of stairs, then down one flight. At least they had signs pointing me in the right direction.
There was basically no wait to get my race packet, shirt, and goody bag.
I also bought another race pin and t-shirt. I liked how the shirt had the little 13.1 on the back
The Expo seemed a bit small compared to Arizona and Seattle. I guess it was probably because this was just a half marathon instead of a full and half. I didn’t really get any good freebies at the Expo, but I didn’t mind too much because I didn’t have that much extra room in my little carry-on suitcase anyway.
The highlights of the Expo were:
- Getting a poster and a pretty pink tiara from the Disney booth.
- Talking to the Nuun representative who was very nice and answered a gazillion questions for me. I bought a tube of orange ginger Nuun.
- My mock Runner’s World cover from the Nissan booth. At first I was hesitant to have my photo taken, but it ended up being really fun.
After the Expo I walked over to Chinatown.
I picked up some of my favorite Chinese pastries. At the top left is a wintermelon pastry, also known as a sweetheart cake. The top right is a cocktail bun, sometimes called a coconut bun because of the filling. These are my favorite pastries and I actually got four of them to bring home with me. The bottom right is a pineapple bun. It doesn’t have any pineapple flavor, the name is because the topping resembles a pineapple. The bottom left is a fried taro turnover. (I took a bite before I decided to take a photo.) These are normally found at dim sum, but I rarely get to order them since Troy doesn’t like them and they come in threes. Everything but the fried taro, I packed into a tin to take back to Phoenix with me.
I took a train from Chinatown back to the hotel, rested for a bit, then set out again for dinner. On the way I stopped at the Threadless retail store. I’ve been eying the t-shirts on Threadless for awhile, but was hesitant to buy one without knowing how it would fit. It’s not a perfect fit, but I decided to get this Alphabet Zoo shirt anyway for just $12.
I met my friends at the Crepes and Coffee Palace. It’s been about four years since I’ve seen them and it was great having the opportunity to catch up on all the happenings since college. Of course we all had crepes for dinner. I ordered the savory special of the day: arugula, avocado, anise seed, caramelized onions, dried figs, grape seed oil, smoked salmon, and aged balsamic vinegar. It was a gigantic crepe. I wasn’t going to take a photo until my friend pulled out her camera, so then I did too.
We lingered over dinner for awhile until I reluctantly decided it was time for me to head back to the hotel to try and get some rest before the race the next day.