Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Chicago Lakefront Trail

I'm in Chicago this week for business which means I get to explore running in a new city. I've been to Chicago quite a few times in the past but I've never run on the Lakefront trail. Most recently, I came here in February and I just didn't feel like packing all the layers and gloves and hats, etc. required to run outside. I resorted to the treadmill. And in my previous trips here, I stayed just outside of the city and wasn't close enough to the trail.

I didn't know much about the Lakefront Trail prior to this trip other than that it existed and it was a path for running, walking and cycling along the lake. Some things that I was curious about that I eventually discovered:

I took this photo from inside of a cab

  • There are plenty of water fountains along this trail
  • I didn't notice any bathrooms
  • The part that I ran on was concrete as opposed to asphalt, so it's not ideal
  • However, part of the trail has a gravel-like side area that you can run on that's softer
  • If you are in Downtown Chicago, you have to find stairs or an elevator down to get to the lake level
  • The trail had quite a few people on it, but wasn't nearly as crowded as the Embarcadero in San Francisco.
  • If you start in Downtown Chicago and go south, are there are some trees and shading. If you go north, there are no trees whatsoever. 
  • The trail has mile markers, and half mile markers.

Much to my surprise and dismay, it's warmer here in Chicago than it is back home in the DC area. At least in the mornings. On Monday morning it was 79 degrees at 6:00am and yesterday it was 82. With the humidity, the "real feel" yesterday was 86 as I started my run. The only saving grace was the breeze, which felt good on my face.

Monday: 9.2 miles (easy)
So, how did my runs go? On Monday morning, I set out for 9 miles. I looked at a map and figured I just needed to turn right from my hotel and go straight and I'd hit the Lakefront in less than a mile. That was kind of true, only I hit dead ends, twice. I was too high up and the water was below me. I finally asked a woman walking her dog how to get down to the lakefront and she pointed out an elevator. So, another first for me, I have an elevator ride during my run. 

I decided to go south, which was a good decision because I later learned that there are no trees or any kind of shading in the other direction. I had my trusty heart rate monitor with me, so I just made sure to keep it in zone 2, no matter how slow that was. I think I am finally starting to come back from that darn illness so my paces weren't as ridiculously slow as they have been for the past two weeks, considering the 79-degree heat. I filled up my water bottle a few times during the run and I had pre-hydrated the day before so I felt pretty good throughout the whole thing. The total run ended up being 9.2 miles, and I really enjoyed it. One of the best parts about the run was when I turned around and got a great view of the city with the lake. So beautiful and amazing!

Tuesday: 7.3 miles (moderate)
Yesterday morning, the plan was to try to incorporate some kind of speedwork in lieu of the hill workout I would otherwise be doing back home. Well, it was a "real feel" of 86, so I didn't do the speedwork exactly as planned. I started out running with two guys from my company. Once we got to the Lakefront, one of the guys (who is an Olympic class runner with a marathon PR of 2:20) ran ahead of me and the other guy, so the two of us continued on at around an 8:30 pace. 

This was too fast to be a warmup, but too slow to be considered a tempo run (which I am planning for Friday), but I just went with it because it was nice having someone to talk to. He turned around after 2.5 miles, and I continued on. I figured I would just slow down and make this an easy run but it was really hard to do that once I had established a cadence at the faster pace. I slowed down slightly, but not to the point of it being a truly easy run. So, I'm going to log this as a marathon pace run on the books! Keeping in mind, if it hadn't been so hot, the pace would have been easy, but I usually slow down abut 30-45 seconds per mile when it's this hot.

I got back to my hotel and was just dripping with sweat. I got out of the shower and was still sweating, and my face was still bright red. I tried drying my hair after the shower and I just kept sweating. Not the greatest for having to give a presentation in front of 30 people!

Today is a scheduled rest day (although I did lift weights in the hotel fitness center), and tomorrow I plan to run about 7-8 miles on the trail again. Friday I will be back home on the track with my teammates for a tempo run.

Other Chicago Things
I took this photo from the top of the Willis Tower
The meetings that I am attending are taking place in the Wills Tower (formerly the Sears Tower). It's the second tallest building in the world, depending on which standard of height you are using. Apparently their are four different definitions of height when it comes to buildings. After we were done with work, all 30 of us went to the top of this building and looked out. It was incredible. It was 110 stories up, and I have to admit it was a bit scary being that high at first.

My hotel is situated very close to the Magnificent Mile. When I got in on Sunday night, I tried to explore to see what was so Magnificent about it, but I didn't find any shops or anything. I later learned that I was looking down the wrong street. I'll have some time tomorrow before my flight leaves to check it out!

It's been a great trip so far. I've enjoyed meeting many of my co-workers in person who I previously only knew from conference calls and emails. I also gave a presentation to the group which went well and received many compliments afterwards. Having only been with this company for six months, the positive reinforcement is nice!

Anyway, if you ever come to Chicago, I highly recommend the Lakefront trail as a scenic, safe place to run!


  1. I agree! I LOVE running along the Chicago lakefront! :-)

    I did not know you were in town. I think I read that you're leaving tomorrow? What time? Would love to meet up with you for a drink or so.

  2. Nike town Chicago is pretty cool, but be forewarned: all of those Michigan Ave shops close earlier than you'd expect!

  3. I've only visited Chicago when I went for the marathon. It's a great city! I really enjoyed running on the Lakefront, too. I'm hoping to go back for the Half Marathon one summer so that I can sight-see more.

    One of the things I love about traveling is going on "exploring runs." You get a whole different view of a city that way.

    I hope you enjoy the rest of your trip and kuddos on your professional successes! :)

  4. runnerandteacher-- I am leaving tomorrow and tonight I have a work dinner! It would have been great to meet up. Hopefully next time!

  5. Looks like you had a great trip and was still able to get all your runs in!

  6. Sounds fun, getting to explore a new city like Chicago! Smart thinking to run on the gravel on the side, I do that around here all the time.

  7. I'm planning on a 16 mile run on the lakefront on Saturday, Aug. 25th, and I'm a little worried about hydration. I plan on simply carrying my water bottle throughout the run, but any other tips and suggestions you have would be great.

  8. Mark, there are plenty of water fountains. Be sure to stop and fill your bottlenat least twice. Also, be sure to drink plenty of water the day before. You will really enjoy this run!