A Simple Running Log

September 22, 2015

Training for 9/22/15

Filed under: Uncategorized — aschmid3 @ 2:16 pm

I’m back from an awesome trip to Chicago! We successfully checked off NASCAR track No. 12 of 23 on our list, and saw a lot of what turned out to be a really cool city.

Thursday morning, I was packed and ready to go, waiting for Mike to pick me up between 3:45 and 4:00 to head to the airport. 4:00 came and went, and no Mike. It turned out he’d fallen asleep watching “Days of Thunder” the night before, before he set his alarm or packed. So I drove to his house while he threw all his stuff in a bag, and we were on our way by 4:30, still plenty of time to get to BWI for our 7:15 flight.

Then, about halfway between Denton and Route 50, his truck shuddered to a halt. I mean, total stop on the side of the road, warning indicators lighting up the dash, weird humming noise coming from the transmission. I thought we were toast. Much to my surprise, the thing started right back up again. Even though he said the truck had never done that before, Mike seemed not the least bit worried by it, and we continued on our way.

That was the last hiccup on the trip to Chicago, fortunately. The flight was fine, except for the hardest landing I’ve ever felt, and we picked up our rental car and drove it right into the heart of downtown Chicago, where Clark already had a room at the Palmer House.

The Palmer House is owned by Hilton now, but it turned out to be a significant part of Chicago’s history. I got my first clue when I started reading “Devil in the White City,” about the 1893 World’s Fair held in the city, and it mentioned the Palmer House was one of the hotels to which messenger boys ran first to spread the news when the telegraph came over the line announcing Chicago had won the bid to hold the fair over New York City.

Palmer House entrance on Monroe Street.

Palmer House entrance on Monroe Street.

This place was a wedding gift from Potter Palmer to his new bride, Bertha. It was finished in Sept. 1871 — just in time to burn to the ground in the Great Fire a few weeks later. D’oh! Luckily, the drawings were saved by the architect, who thought to bury them in the sand in the basement before he ran from the burning hotel. It was immediately rebuilt with fireproof materials instead of wood. It’s been rebuilt and remodeled a couple of times since then, as the city grew.

Bertha Palmer had a big say in the hotel’s interior design. She was a fan of French Impressionism, so she chose a lot of examples of those artists’ works. She also wanted to impart a sense of romanticism to the hotel’s guests. Anyway, this is what she came up with:

Peacock Door just inside the Monroe Street entrance.

Peacock Door just inside the Monroe Street entrance.

Staircase leading from the street level to the lobby.

Staircase leading from the street level to the lobby.

The lobby.

The lobby.

Yeah, we didn’t pay for this haha. Clark’s work did, since he was out in Chicago initially for that trade show. If it’d been on our dime, we’d have been in a Holiday Inn or something as usual.

As soon as we’d gotten settled in the room, I went out for a short run. The streets were packed. In addition to the usual crowds, there were a ton of triathletes in town for a world championship triathlon that finished right in Grant Park, near our hotel. A few other countries’ teams were staying in our hotel too. We saw people wheeling their fancy racing bikes through the lobby and hallways all weekend.

it wasn’t a very pleasant run as far as the actual running part went — I was tired and it was noon on a warm day by that point — but the scenery along the Lakefront Trail was beautiful. I ran by a bunch of yachts and then followed the river walk along the Chicago River for a ways. My Garmin’s signal was messing up because of the buildings (it claimed I ran back-to-back 5:24 miles) but I think I ran about five miles.

After I cleaned up, Mike and I walked to America’s Dog to get our first authentic Chicago hot dog, with mustard, relish, onions, sliced tomatoes, sport peppers, a pickle spear and, most importantly, NO KETCHUP.

chicago dog

We wandered around some parks near our hotel and got a beer. Soon Clark got back from the trade show, and we met up with him and his coworkers to go to a fancy dinner at Carmine’s. I don’t even want to think about what that tab came to. There were seven of us, and I know my filet mignon alone cost $49 (it was REALLY good though.) Bottles of wine just kept showing up on the table, $80 a pop. Once again, it was being paid for by Clark’s employer, so who cares!

By 9 p.m., I was stuffed full of steak, cannoli and wine and completely exhausted. Clark and I headed back to the hotel, while Mike stayed out with Clark’s coworkers, who got him hooked on saying “kid” at the end of every sentence. It might not sound annoying, but try hearing it repeatedly for days. It gets real annoying, real quick.

Friday morning, Clark went back to the trade show for the last day, so Mike and I got breakfast at this cafe called Wildberry. I had some amazing pumpkin spice pancakes. Mike said his corned beef hash was “Waffle House good” haha. I think that’s supposed to be a compliment.

After breakfast, I went out for another run. I had a long run on the schedule, but that did not happen. I just did another painfully slow five miles along the Lakefront Trail, where I nearly got run over by approximately 15,000 triathletes out training on their bikes.

That afternoon, Mike and I took a boat tour of Chicago’s architecture. The tour took us along all three branches of the Chicago River, while the guide told us about the buildings along it, all built out of fireproof materials after the Great Fire wiped out four square miles of the city. It was really interesting.

Willis Tower from the river.

Willis Tower from the river.

Enormous Marshall Field and Company building, which takes up an entire block.

Enormous Marshall Field and Company building, which takes up an entire block.

Skyline from where the river meets the lake.

Skyline from where the river meets the lake.

We got back from the tour just before Clark got back from the end of his trade show. As soon as he made it back, we all went to Pizano’s to get something else you just have to eat when you’re in Chicago:

deep dish

Deep dish! The three of us polished off this sucker, which seemed to impress our waiter. No one needed dinner that night!

We wound up staying in Friday night. We were all tired, and it started pouring rain after we got back from the pizza place anyway.

Saturday morning, I went on a running tour of the city with the appropriately named Chicago Running Tours. The particular tour I picked out highlighted tragic events, because I love stuff like that, though my tour guide had plenty of info on some of the non-tragic sites we ran past as well.

Since I was the only person who’d signed up for the tour that morning, the tour guide met me at the hotel, which also happened to be a stop on the tour. He told me about how Bertha Palmer had one of the hotel’s chefs invent the fudge brownie, a dessert that could be easily included in boxed lunches, for the World’s Fair.

From the hotel, we went to the usual starting place of the tour, the Cloud Gate sculpture, more commonly known as “The Bean,” in Millenium Park. The tour included complimentary pictures, like this one of me running in front of The Bean:

the bean

Other highlights along the tour:

Route 66 beginning

The beginning of Route 66. I’ve already been to the other end in Santa Monica.

Running down Route 66

Running down Route 66.

Willis tower

One of those buildings to the immediate right of the Willis Tower, in the background, was the site of a dirigible crash in July 1919 that killed a crew member and two passengers, as well as 10 people inside the bank whose roof it fell through.

Death Alley

Running through “Death Alley,” where hundreds of people died because of a fire in the Iroquois Theater, to the right, during a matinee performance Dec. 30, 1903. An arc light caught a curtain on fire, and more than 600 people died.

Chicago marquee

In front of the Chicago marquee.

Eastland disaster

Site on the Chicago River where the Eastland, an ocean liner, tipped over while being loaded with passengers. Part of the problem was the recent addition of a bunch of lifeboats in response to the sinking of the Titanic just a few months earlier. They made the ship too top heavy. In the end, 844 people were dead.

It was a fun way to see more of the city.

That afternoon, Mike, Clark and I went to Wrigley Field, where they were playing the St. Louis Cardinals. Clark wanted to go simply because it’s the second-oldest baseball stadium in the U.S. The fact they were playing a rival in an important game close to the end of the regular season was just an added bonus.

View from our seats.

View from our seats.



Packed stands.

Packed stands.

In front of the stadium.

In front of the stadium.

After the game (which the Cubs won), we went to a bar called Sheffield’s for a few more beers, and then to Al’s for the third thing we absolutely had to eat in Chicago, an Italian beef sandwich, “dipped”:

als hot beef

And then Clark continued a series he started in Seattle, titled “Clark on a bike (rack)”:

clark on a bike rack

We tried to go up in the Willis Tower next, but the line was really long, so we decided to try to come back early Monday morning to beat the crowds.

I never really got hungry again after that Italian beef sandwich (Chicago’s staples all really filled me up), but Saturday was Clark’s and my sixth anniversary, so we all went to The Gage to celebrate. I had to get the bison tartare, which was incredible, and then eat a salad, probably my first vegetable since I’d been in the city that wasn’t a condiment on processed meat haha.

Then Clark and I toasted our anniversary with some nice bubbly:

clark and me anniversary

Cheers to six years! I can’t believe it’s already been that long. Time flies when you’re having fun!

Sunday was the whole reason we were in Chicago — the NASCAR race!

We left the hotel around 10 a.m. for the hour drive to the track, in Joliet, south of the city. We stopped at a Walmart to get food and beer, and then a Menards to get three coolers small enough to fit the size allowed inside the track. As we were rolling along in line to get parked at the track, we were thinking we had about two and a half hours to tailgate before the race started, until it dawned on us the 3 p.m. start time was EST. Which meant the race really started at 2 p.m. our time, thus shaving an hour off our time to sit outside in the parking lot and drink what we’d bought that was in glass bottles. Smooth.

clark and mike before race

Classic Clark-at-the-race look.

Our seats were just before the start-finish line, about halfway up the grandstands, which gave us a good view of the whole track. Just before the race started, we got someone sitting behind us to get a picture:

three idiots in chicago

And then the field rolled out and they were off!

coming to green flag

Coming to the green flag.

Taking the green flag.

Taking the green flag.

The stands were packed, but it only holds 75,000. Dover, on the other hand, which is a half-mile shorter, can seat 95,500, and that’s after stands that held about another 40,000 were removed when ticket sales started lagging.

Anyway, the first half of the race was a bit of a snooze, as the field was spread out and there wasn’t a whole lot of racing going on. Clark and I went out to the souvenir haulers — wait, I mean the big outdoor temporary tent that has replaced all the individual haulers — so I could get a track T-shirt. We got back just in time to see Kevin Harvick cut down a tire and hit the wall… after contact on a restart with Jimmie stupid Johnson of all people.

That sucked, because Harvick wound up 42nd in the first race of the Chase, but the rest of the race was pretty exciting to watch. At one point, Jeff Gordon was leading:

gordon leading

Clark was saying how if he won, which would immediately advance him to the next round of the Chase, we had to go to the Charlotte race in the next round. It was looking like there was a good shot we were going to be making travel plans for Charlotte.

Then Kurt Busch got out in front. Gordon was running second, when they had one last caution. We thought this was his chance to take a run at Busch for the win, but Gordon wound up having a terrible restart and falling all the way back to 14th. Womp womp.

Oh well. Even though neither of our drivers finished well, we had a good time. Chicagoland Speedway was a nice track.

speedway column

Traffic was a bit of a pain in the butt getting out, but we eventually made it back to the city. Clark and I took a long walk to a place called Au Cheval, which has been named by a couple of different outlets as having the best burger in America. Not just Chicago, but the whole damn country. I wound up having to get half of mine boxed up to go, but the half I did manage to eat was delicious! And I ate the rest the next day. It was still good cold.

Monday, we had all day to kill before our late flight, so we did some more touristy stuff. We started at the Willis Tower, where we were in line for the Skydeck on the 103rd floor when it opened.

View from the top.

View from the top.

I’ve been up there once before, but they didn’t have the Ledge yet, a glass-bottomed box hanging over the city, 1,400 ft. below.

clarks and my feet

clark and me willis tower

I'm floating!

I’m floating!

Then Mike jumped on the floor of the ledge while I was still standing on it, and I swear my heart dropped right into my stomach. Do not jump on the sheet of glass holding you that high in the air!

We walked along the Magnificent Mile, Chicago’s version of Rodeo Drive, and the Navy Pier, where we rode the Ferris wheel that’s about to be shut down this coming Sunday, to be completely replaced.

ferris wheel

Souvenir photo taken before we got on it.

Souvenir photo taken before we got on it.

View from the top.

View from another top.

clark and me ferris wheel

Since Mike had already scared the shit out of me on the ledge at the Willis Tower, he was nice and did not violently rock our (not completely enclosed) car on the Ferris wheel.

We walked all the way to the end of the pier, where we hung out with Bob Hope.

Mike picked his nose.

Mike picked his nose.

I just had a beer with him.

I just had a beer with him.

Yet another shot of the Chicago skyline, from the end of the pier.

Yet another shot of the Chicago skyline, from the end of the pier.

After one last drink at Miller’s Pub near the hotel, we loaded up the rental car and drove south to Jackson Park, site of the 1893 World’s Fair.

I’d finished “Devil in the White City” by then, which, besides the history of the fair itself and the lasting effects it had on not only Chicago but the entire U.S., also detailed a charming local psychopath’s use of the fair to lure in victims to a hotel he built nearby for tourists. His hotel and most of the fair buildings are long gone, but there is one building remaining. It was the Fine Arts building during the fair. Now it’s a science museum.

worlds fair building

And this wasn’t even one of the big buildings.

Our last stop was the main entrance for the Chicago Union Stock Yards, the only thing remaining of what was, for more than a century, an enormous slaughterhouse and meat processing facility.

stock yards entrance

The stockyards opened on Christmas Day 1865. At its peak, it covered one square mile of land, employed 40,000 people and produced 82 percent of the meat consumed in the U.S.

In 1906, Upton Sinclair wrote “The Jungle.” He meant to expose the awful working conditions in the stockyards, but most people who read it weren’t so much horrified for the employees, but rather to read what was being rolled into the meat they were eating. That book led to the formation of the Food and Drug Administration.

The stockyards were closed in 1971, after improved federal highways led to the decentralization of the meatpacking industry. All the big companies moved their facilities out to rural areas. This gate was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1972.

stock yards entrance sherman

Sherman the bull.

And that was our trip. We dropped off the rental and flew back to Baltimore. It was almost 2 a.m. when we finally got home.

I had my usual Tuesday morning meeting first thing today. No, I did not get up in time to run before it, and I don’t know how much of a chance there is I will when I get home. But after today, no more slacking! Time to get back to it.


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