Wednesday, August 5, 2009


I have only been to Chicago one time, and it was in January. Needless to say, I froze my buns off. This time it was a little different, but only on Sunday. First off, my flight was delayed leaving Atlanta. I have never been so happy to hear that my flight was delayed, as I would have missed it otherwise. Once I got to Midway, my bags took FOREVER, which put me right in the middle of rush hour traffic. Overhearing someone talk about how long it was going to take to drive into the city, I opted to try and be a "city girl" (or imitate one as best as I could) and take the "L" train. It may be the "T", the "Tube", "Marta", "Metra"..who knows. It was a train, and it went underground, and it was scary. I hate subways and trains, and have learned they are not for me. (I much prefer to travel in style with my parents, ha, ha). I was lugging a 50lb bag that USED to be my favorite bag-large duffel on wheels, with an extra long handle that pulled out from under it that was perfect for my extra long monkey arms. Mistake #1. The lady told me to take the "Orange line" to get to the Fairmont hotel. She failed to mention coming from Midway I needed to get OFF the orange line, get on the brown line (or some other color..I am trying to block out the entire experience of getting to my hotel, so the details have started to fade away), then get BACK on the orange line...or I'd get stuck on the loop...which is exactly what I did. As I am sitting in the seat, looking at the map, I slowly realized I was going to go in a square around downtown..when I would have been THE NEXT STOP if the train didn't turn (hence, the changing of the trains I was supposed to do). So, I take a little extra ride around the city in the nasty train, where I am guarding my purse with both arms, have my sleeves covering my jewelry and am just trying to stare at the ground. I finally get to my stop, and ask the oh so nice man with no teeth working the subway station how to get to the Fairmont. Apparently his Fairmont is different than the one I was staying at, because he told me to go to Lake St., then to Michigan Ave, up 3 blocks...and that's where he lost me. On a different note, I am not sure what people with disabilities do in this city-there are NO elevators. Every train station was nothing but steps. By the end of the weekend I felt like I should file a formal complaint, as I am now a member of the Americans with Disabilities group after hurting my back lugging 50 lb suitcases up and down 3 flights of old, shaky stairs. Back to heading to the hotel. So I head down the steps, with my bag bouncing one step at a time. Then I hear it. The god awful sound of something cracking. Yup, wheel broke, so the entire bottom right corner of my bag is caving in. I started up the block to Lake, literally sliding this bag along the cement...sure it was going to rip open and all of my stuff would be all over the streets of downtown Chicago. Get to Lake St, make the right, go down a block to Michigan..still with the gimp bag behind me in one hand, and my rolling computer bag that was filled to the top in the other. At one point I had to turn around and pull the bags and walk backwards, because it was starting to feel like my shoulder was getting pulled out of the joint. I get to Michigan Ave, and turn left and started heading the three blocks, those not from Chicago may not be aware, but Michigan Ave is like Atlanta's"Peachtree Street"..LA's "Robertson Blvd", NYC's "5th Ave"...its busy, its packed, and there are people everywhere. I am walking BACKWARDS, dragging a huge bag on the ground that is caving in one one side and making a nails on a chalkboard sound, and just trying to find some humor in all the people staring at me. I get up 3 blocks and ask another sketchy looking person where the Fairmont is. No clue. So I call them from my phone, and give the lady the intersection I was at...and of course, I was no where near where I needed to be. I had to back track 3 blocks, then cross the street, go up 3 flights of stairs, go to the next light, make a left, and the hotel should be on the left. Seriously? You've got to be kidding me. I went to Australia alone when I was 23, and I cannot even navigate around a major US city by myself? Ugh.
Seeing the sign of the Fairmont is only what I can imagine seeing the gates of Heaven will be like. It was like I had reached the Holy Land. ;-) So, I get to the hotel, meet up with Erin Melick for a drink, and we head out to dinner. After dinner we decided to check out the local "scene" and it was insane. Apparently no one wears jeans in this town. I had on a sundress and an Under Armour (see previous blog for my die hard love for all that is Under Armour) fleece (it was COLD) and flip flops. The bar we were at was packed, and all the girls had micro minidresses on, super high heels, and they were just dressed UP. In the bars in Atlanta, the girls wear expensive jeans, cute tops, and fancy heels. I do not think there was a single pair of jeans on a girl in the entire bar. Erin and I just thought that was weird. I am sure if they didn't even wear jeans, they loved my UA fleece. It is quite chic, in my opinion.
So we left there and started headed back, and Erin and I started talking about how we prefer "dive bars" where you just go in and have a good time, and you don't care what you have on, or if your hair and make up are done. Just as we say that, we pass what is sure to be the worlds best description of a "dive bar"...and as equally disgusting and dirty as the train. The door was a simple door, with a piece of construction paper on it that said "come in", under scaffolding on a super shady corner next towhat appeared to be a very popular 7-11. We looked at each other and decided we had to check it out. They had been open 30 years, and were still "cash only". Erin and I took a seat at the bar, and the older lady bartending was very proud to say she had been bartending there over 20 years. Luck of all luck, we end up next to the 23 year old nephew of the owner...and we know that because he told us no less than 20 times. He must have said "so what are you ladies doing tomorrow night?" 15 times. He invited us to a "hotel party", then, and I quote, "a kegger", and last, but certainly not least, a party he had saved up all summer for, that he was hosting the following night. Funny, becuase he had all these "amazing" options, yet was sitting as this nasty bar, alone. He asked our ages and when we told him he goes "wow. I thought girls your age are usually at Home Depot, bed bath and beyond, or home watching CSI on a Friday night...not out at a bar, having a good time". Nice one, guy. We asked him if he had graduated college yet (he said he "went" to U of I) and he said "No, not yet. I'm kinda doing a victory lap...again" (meaning he was about to start year 6). As Erin is sipping the worlds smallest vodka soda and I am trying to explain to this guy we aren't interested in his "kegger", this little man comes up and taps me on the shoulder and says "I play this song for you". He had very broken English and was probably 5'3...and when I turned around he was sitting on a bar stool right behind us, just staring at us. The song was a Dave Matthews song I had never heard, and as soon as it was over, he left. Weird.
So then two huge men came up and asked if they could take their picture with us. They completely grossed me out and I found one to be actually quite frightening. We gave the bartender my camera and he bent down and put his arm around me and I think I just about jumped out of my skin. As we were leaving they were outside, and he was VERY proud of his convertible Thunderbird, that was "sittin' on 22's" and asked if I would take a picture with his "ride". Erin jumped on this one and grabbed my camera and quickly got on his side, with "yea, Allison, pose next to the car". I tried to get the picture taken from behind the car, but ended up having to stand in front in order for them to let us say goodbye and go home. Just like on the subway, I had my sleeves down to my fingertips, my purse UNDER my UA fleece, and my arms double crossed in front of me to hide any and all things valuable. The walk back to the hotel was long and not the first thing that comes to mind when I think of "safety first".

So, onto Saturday. Erin Straight got there bright and early, and we had a great day at Wriggleyville, eating at Gino's authentic Chicago pizza (which was bizarre looking and not at all what I expected), the race expo, an architectural boat tour, and then we walked the miracle mile. It was FREEZING cold, so we had to run into a souvenir shop before the boat tour and we all got the ugliest Chicago sweatshirts...not on purpose-everything in the store was god awful ugly. If there was a cute option, we would have gone with it, but they were all pretty heinous. But, they kept us warm, or at least warmer than we were before we had them, so mission accomplished. Erin got her daughter a princess dress and I ran into Macy's to get a replacement bag for the trip home...I was not going to lug my broken luggage all the way back. We found a very cool 80's restaurant/bar to have dinner at, and they played all 80's big hair band music, and all the decorations were pictures from tv shows/movies from the 80s. The food was great, but we were beyond exhausted, our backs hurt and our feet were tired and sore from walking literally all day long. WE finally got back to the hotel at 10:30, and got to bed sometime around midnight, only to take up around 4:30.

Race day was beautiful and much warmer than the day before. The course was GORGEOUS, and ran all along the lake and had beautiful views of the Chicago skyline the entire second half. The first half was all through downtown, which was also very cool. This was the first race I ran in my vibrams, which was awesome, except for the drawbridges (which there were a ton of)...the 10 feet where the bridge comes together was spiked and killed my feet. Luckily I am a quick learner, and after the second one when I saw one coming up I jumped up on the sidewalk for the 10 feet, and then back into the street after we passed over it. Erin M was a "roadie" (volunteer) and Erin S was a track star. It was her first half, and she absolutely rocked it. The course ended up being 13.64 miles long, and for that distance I got a 2:01:22 and she got a 1:55:12, but I set my Garmin to tell me the time at 13.1 and I was a 1:56:28 and she was a 1:50. That girl is a natural athlete, and was on a mission to break 2 hours, which she did easily.

We had a great time at the post race expo, and met some really nice people (see blog about "why I run", as this was a perfect example). I exchanged some emails today with a very nice girl we met afterwards, and we met a guy who offered to take our picture, and then ended up insisting on taking about 20 to capture all the different views. Grant Park and Millennium Park were BEAUTIFUL and it was amazing to see parks like that the downtown of a city. They had a tent for kids to come make arts and crafts, bike rentals, everything. It really did live up to everything people had said about was an amazing place in the summertime.

We headed back to the hotel, showered, changed, and then started back towards the arch nemisis of the weekend. Once again we had to carry our bags up three flights of steps, fight the turnstile to get me AND my bag through on one "pass", and wrestle our way back to the airport. It was a quick goodbye for everyone, as all of our flights were boarding by the time we made it through the airport. My flight ended up delayed, and then Delta decided to board in "free service" mode, which I had never heard of before. Basically, it was every man for him or herself, with no seat assignments. As luck would have it, I was next to the worlds most annoying mom and her two year old. She spoke so loud people 10 rows up were turning and looking at her, and everything was in the 3rd person. "Does Eliza want some juice?" "Does Eliza want some play dough?" Now "Eliza" was not a baby...she was probably a little over 2, which I found odd that the mom spoke to her that way. We finally boarded, pushed back and OF COURSE, the captain came on and said we were delayed an hour. Then after an hour, another hour. What was supposed to get me home by 4:30 ended up getting me home around 9 pm sunday night, with a final to study for for Monday.

Even with the subway/train ride, the sketchy people at the bar, and the hellacious flight home, it was a great weekend in Chi-town. The Burbage/Straight duo rides again!


Clynton said...

Conratulations on a great race. So cool that you ran the race in your Vibram Five Fingers, too. I can't wait until I can resume my training for a half marathon (was supposed to do SF Half, but herniated disc stopped that!). Oh, awesome shot of you in your FF post race!

NY Wolve said...

Great time in Chicago ans sounds like a fun race too. I hate it when Garmin has racecourse longer than distance -- usually becuase I haven't run the corners tight enough. Sounds like a great weekend.

Morgan said...

YOu had one heck of a crazy experience up in Chi-town! Congrats on the run race though!!!

liz said...

Sounds like you had a very interesting

I've never ran the Hamptons half, but I'm sure we get to run past at least 1 or 2 mansions :)

I've done the Montauk Century ride a few times and you get to go by some amazing it!!