Race(s) Recap Precap: Illinois Marathon Weekend

I’m attempting (again) to throw myself back into blogging. We’ll see how long this lasts.

This was my fifth year running races during the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon weekend. The race weekend includes everything from a 1K youth fun run up to marathon challenge (5K + full marathon). I did the half I-Challenge for the fourth time – 5K at 7:30am Friday night followed by the half marathon at 7am Saturday morning.

These races are my favorites, hands down. The races are just great – great course, great communication, great gear, great people – and it’s always wonderful to have an excuse to go back to C-U for a weekend. I get such a rush running through all of these places that are so familiar and so special to me. It’s no wonder that I’ve broken my own records in nearly every race nearly every year.

Despite running a ton of halfs, I’ve never really had a “race plan” or a race strategy. I generally plan to do what I’ve done before, and roll with what comes my way during the race. This was easier when I was racing more often – now I have to try to remember what it was that I did 6-12 months ago? and did that thing work? etc. These blog posts are part of my strategy for remembering.

The last two weeks of training

I faithfully followed a training program for the last few months – for the first time ever. I did the technical runs. I used pace alerts and my heart rate strap. I trained in all kinds of disgusting weather. I went in hoping to break 2 hours in the half – not a PR, but pretty dang good considering that I’m still not getting much sleep, still breastfeeding, and only really training during my lunch breaks plus a long run on the weekends.

I didn’t run much for the two weeks leading up to the races. This wasn’t on purpose – I had an unexpected trip come up about 10 days out, and running just didn’t fit in the agenda while I was there. I got in a 12 mile run the weekend before the races, but very little the week of. My last training run was a lousy 2.5 miles on the indoor track due to bad weather.

I’ve had persistent groin issues since my toddler was born (via c-section) in 2014. Perhaps that shouldn’t be a surprise considering that they cut through all the layers of my abdominal muscles – those enormous sheets of tissue that connect to many other major muscle groups. Anyway, that started acting up around the time I went out of town, and had me hobbling after every run for the two weeks leading up to the races. So that was a source of anxiety going into the weekend.

Nutrition

I feel like the clean-eating part leading up to races is actually harder than the tapering part. I’m terrible at following a specific diet. It bores me to death. My general plan is to cut dairy, fat, fried things, and fiber in the 2-3 days before a big race. Anything that might be hard to digest is out. In a vegetarian-mostly household, that tends to result in a lot of garbage carbs. This is something I need to change for future races!

My go-to pre-race meal place in Champaign has become Za’s. In fact, I’ve eaten there twice over the race weekend the last two years – dinner/dinner last year, and lunch/dinner this year. Their combo meal is an easy way to get exactly the veggies, protein, and carbs that I want, and nothing more. My pre-5K lunch was a salad with chicken, pasta with chicken, veggies, and marinara sauce, and garlic bread. My post-5K, pre-half dinner was pizza with veggies and no cheese, pasta with chicken, veggies, and marinara sauce, and garlic bread. Next time I’ll skip the pizza – it was too heavy on my stomach, and I regretted it all night.

Oh, and water. About 3-4 days out, I start hydrating like it’s my job. I don’t know exactly how much water I tend to drink, but I fill up two water bottles at a time, multiple times throughout the day. It’s a good idea, even if it means lots of pit stops in the days leading up to the race.

Travel

Our strategy the last two years has been to drive down to Champaign Thursday afternoon, giving us all of Friday to hit the race expo and do things around town. We made this decision last year due to rain in the forecast, but in general, I think it’s a much better idea than rushing down Friday and then trying to do things Saturday on race-trashed legs.

We stayed at a different hotel this year, which I hope we’ll be able to do in the future as well. For the price of a regular room at our normal spot, we got a suite at Country Inn and Suites – totally worth it with a toddler who goes to bed at 7. Other bonuses: better and more extensive breakfast options, and coffee and snacks (including fresh cookies) available around the clock. Don’t underestimate the importance of around the clock snacks when you’re running two races in 12ish hours.

In my next post, I’ll actually talk about the races. I promise.

I feel like my life is unduly influenced by two intractable circumstances: my commute and too many cats. Most nights I’m up 2-3 times because a cat wants out of my room, or because a fight is brewing in the hallway, or because someone is meowing for reasons unknown to all but the feline gods. They’re sweet and cute and loving, but they can’t seem to tolerate each other, and I wonder how long we can go on like this.

I wake up exhausted, rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, to face a day with 45-60 minutes of commuting on either side of a typical work day. I know this isn’t unreasonable for a city dweller, and that the commute is longer because of my move, but it is a constant source of frustration, though I’m doing my best to ameliorate it now that it’s consistently warm and pleasant enough to bike all or a portion of the 13 miles from home to work. Today I biked for 20 minutes, then took a train for 7 miles and 15 minutes, then biked the last half mile, arriving at work hungry and not inordinately disheveled, and in about the same amount of time that it would’ve taken me to get in my car, sit in traffic, then hunt for parking.

I’m tired all the time, and hungry all the time. My body will get used to this level of activity, but I don’t know if it will get used to the lack of sleep. What to do?

We spent a portion of last weekend in Champaign, walking around campus in the gathering dark, grabbing a drink at a favorite bar downtown, running to the car in the driving rain. Is the heavy nostalgia I feel when I’m there just a remnant of my previous life? Or should it be taken into consideration as we have these conversations about a future together, and where that might take place, and what factors are important to us as we speculate about decisions that are still a long way off? I know that that place is in my blood like no other, not even Chicago, but also that the world has moved on and I with it.

We sat on the lawn at Pritzker Pavilion Monday night with Carl and a bottle of wine and Middle Eastern take-out from a place in Hyde Park. Daniel Lanois opened with The Maker followed by The Messenger, and it was like all of the chattering, oblivious voices faded away and all that was there was me and the clouds and the silver beams overhead and his voice and my two best guys and the goosebumps on my arms and legs bared against the cool evening breeze. Summer in the city.

And don’t get me wrong, dear, in general I’m doing quite fine.

Right Now

Untitled

  1. Settled in a great new apartment in a great new neighborhood with a great new roommate.
  2. Spring and maybe summer have arrived in Chicago. On Tuesday, it was 85 and sunny for my post-work run.
  3. A couple of great overnights in Champaign, and vacation on the not-to-distant horizon.
  4. Lunchtime walks in beautiful places.
  5. Lots of demands at work, but most of them are interesting and stretch me in good ways.
  6. So much good music in the next two weeks: Zoe Keating, Emily Wells, Front 242 (DJ set), Colin Stetson, Four Tet (DJ set). And then Movement not long after.
  7. Back to back PRs in a set of races where I PR’d last year.
  8. A new relationship that isn’t really new at this point, but that continues to fill me with wonder and joy and peace.
  9. A battery of tests proving that I’m in excellent health.
  10. Horoscopes that tell me to follow my heart:

CAPRICORN (December 22-January 19): Despite everything I wrote to you last week about weighing self-gratification against fairness-to-others (which probably still requires some consideration), I can’t help but encourage you to veer slightly more in the direction of pursuing whatever the hell makes you happy. While it’s useful to reflect enough on your privilege relative to your friends or colleagues so you’re not blind to their potential responses, you can’t live a satisfying life by concentrating too much on assuaging others’ discontent. In fact, with multiple 5th-house planets now moving into a supportive trine to Pluto in your 1st, I’m sure you’re feeling pretty emboldened to make the personal most of any situation… and why the fuck not? These energies sure seem to be formally inviting you to intentionally put yourself at the unapologetic center of this week’s decision-making—and not just out of some future-minded commitment to ‘becoming your best self’, but in order to choose whatever will bring you immediate joy, creative fulfillment, and/or positive flirtatious attention. In closing, yes, I suppose I should reiterate the possibility that certain social allegiances could suffer tension, as envious or disapproving others react to seeing you so unapologetically serve your own pleasure. Maybe it’s because they’ve become too accustomed to you taking care of their needs first?

Burn It Up (or: April at the races)

5K Pigtails

My wide eyes tell you everything you need to know about how I was feeling before April’s races. Tired. Overwhelmed. Undertrained. In need of a hug, a pep talk, and a lucky charm.

Motivational Speech

I already told you about my race plan for the CB10. I stuck to it for the most part, though the sun didn’t cooperate with #14, and there were no space blankets (#18) on offer. Instead, I shaved five minutes off last year’s time, even with stopping for an Oreo and 2 oz of Yuengling, even with cold weather, even with the the wall I hit between 8.5 and 9, just like last year. Jeff brought us sweatshirts, and Tina’s friends provided a sun-drenched brunch. And I logged a new PR: 1:33:56. Two days later, I moved into my new apartment in Chicago.

Medals and Swag

A couple of weeks and a new job later, I drove down to Champaign for 24 hours of races – the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon weekend, with races ranging from a 1K fun run up to the full marathon. I was registered for the Half I-Challenge – a 5K Friday night, and the half marathon Saturday morning.

My feelings for Champaign are complicated, as I’ve explored here before. It felt like home from the time that I first moved there, and no place has quite replaced it in my heart. Between the race expo and the 5K, I went to Kopi and worked on my laptop at one of the small tables just like I did for years and years, with the same people ordering the same drinks as they have for years and years, and the same music on the stereo as has been playing for years and years.

When I moved to Champaign, it was on the heels of the end of my first marriage. I was alone for the first time in my adult life, making choices that would establish my new life independent of the person on whom I’d based my world. It was scary and overwhelming, but also so full of possibility. It got easier than in those first days, and what made it easier – and what made Champaign feel like home – were those anchors – like Kopi, like the regular customers, like the park at night, like the family of friends that surrounded me.

I mention this because when I queued up for the 5K in the cold and the wind, totally alone in the crowd of thousands south of campus, I looked to my right and saw one of my favorite regulars from the years I worked at Aroma. I don’t know his name or anything about him beyond his regular order – a small coffee and a brownie – but every time he came in, he made me smile and think of my dad. I have no idea if he remembered me – hell, I lost him in the crowd almost as soon as I spotted him – but it was a moment of grace, and gave me energy for the cold, rainy, windy race ahead.

5K PR!

We went down First past the Stadium, turned right on Green, and then up Sixth, where I blew a kiss in the direction of GSLIS. The rain started as we turned right to head past the art museum, but it hardly mattered at that point. Down into Memorial Stadium and onto the field, where Jill spotted me and yelled out a cheer that pushed me to the finish line with my last burst of energy. Another PR, this one by 20 seconds: 25:58.

Dinner with Erin and Jadon, one of the last of my GSLIS crew still left in town. We had pizza – maybe not the best race fuel, but damn, was it delicious – and I slept fitfully on their very comfortable couch, concerned about oversleeping, concerned about the race, concerned about the weather, concerned about everything.

Up at 5, and out the door by 5:30 because I was anxious about road closures for the race. I sat in my car and listened to music and blasted the heat and prayed for the rain to stop. I dug out a permanent marker and wrote Keem’s cheer on my hand: YOU’RE DOING IT. I stretched at Assembly Hall, then hopped in ahead of my designated wave, hoping to pace at 9:15 and beat my Detroit time.

I can’t really explain the race – I couldn’t then, and I can’t really now, a few weeks later. The course was easier but the run more demanding than in Detroit in October. It was cold and windy. It never seemed to end. We ran through campus, past Hendrick House, where Mark lived for years. Maybe I took too much water. Maybe I didn’t have enough water. My nose wouldn’t stop running, but my legs felt like a million bucks. We pushed on through Urbana, passing the street where Amy and Adam lived, past the turn to go to Sarah and Hannah’s house. We hit the edge of town, turned south, and ran through Meadowbrook Park. I hung with a couple of guys, laughed as others challenged each other and ran off the edge of the path to get around slower runners. I felt strong and steady. I had no problem hitting my pace.

We turned north to head back toward campus, and I hit a wall. 10.5 miles and I felt like I couldn’t possibly go any further – and then, on the sidewalk, just walking, not paying attention to the race, I saw Rick Powers. I used to see him occasionally when I was dating Shawn and going to English department events – and then once in a while around town – but hadn’t seen him in years. That little burst of happiness helped, though not enough to get me through the side cramp a mile later, or the complete and total exhaustion to come. The latter would come in the form of two marathoners who came up beside me near the Meat Science lab and stayed with me for a few blocks, encouraging me about my time, telling me that I was lucky that I was almost done.

A hairpin turn, and around the corner into the Stadium. I looked down at my watch, and poured everything I had into the last minutes. As in the Cherry Blossom race, I repeated over and over: All the pain. All the sadness. All the hurt. Burn it up. Use it as fuel.

I crossed the finish line, hit the stop button, and saw this:

Half Marathon PR
Under two hours. 1:59:09. A PR by almost six minutes. I got my medals, sat down, and immediately lost it, crying hard enough that another runner came over to check on me. No, I didn’t need help – I was just overwhelmed. Overwhelmed to finish, much less PR, much less break two hours. So very thankful for every person and emotion and thing that had carried me through the miles and through the last few months. So very much, all in those miles, in those medals, in my aching body and heart.

I fucking did it.

Friend Feature: Chris M.

So hey, it’s his birthday, so let’s all celebrate Chris! Happy birthday, Chris!

Here’s Chris being awesome!

Also here!

Are you getting the idea? Chris is awesome. And the world knows it. But even better? His wife and kid know it. Colin might not know it, though.

Untitled

I met Chris through his wife Angie, a classmate and friend at GSLIS. I can’t remember who invited whom to a thing first, but I know that they were at a party that I threw in the spring of 2005, and that by that fall, we were moving in the same tightly-knit social circles. Over the years, I’ve been consistently impressed by the ways that Chris and Angie work together so that they can, in many ways, have it all. Which isn’t to say that they’re perfect people or have a perfect relationship – but that over the years, they have done a pretty damned good job of figuring out how to love and support each other in being the (very different kinds of) rockstars that they are.

Chris and I had a conversation about Champaign last summer – how good it was, how it was good fit for both of us, how we both miss it. My nostalgia for that time in my life is wrapped up in so many things, and I felt that he put the same feeling very well – that it’s helpful to remember that those were good years, and would have been good years wherever we were – that very little of it is particular to the place, which to some extent alleviates the feelings of homesickness for a home that no longer exists.

Essential friend data:
Met: at a party at my house through his wife and my friend Angie
Years known: ~7

Things I Miss About Champaign

I’ve been meaning to make this list for a long time, but Gemma’s recent photos have pushed me to actually writing it up.  My feelings for Champaign are all wrapped up in my grad school experience, my first really fulfilling (and challenging) professional job, and a prolonged period of personal growth and experimentation between the end of my marriage and the beginning of my relationship with Shane – so lots of complicated, complicating things factor into my relationship with that little city in the corn.

  1. Riding my bike down University towards GSLIS early in the morning in the summer – empty roads and the sun coming up through the trees.  A 7 minute commute on a good day.  And then the long months when I couldn’t ride because my arm was in a cast.
  2. West Side Park.  Living across from West Side Park.  Walking home through West Side Park after a long shift at Aroma or a movie at the Art or a too-late night at Mike & Molly’s.
  3. Coffee and sandwiches at Paradiso.  Consistently good music on the stereo.  The smoking section at Paradiso, barely partitioned off by a row of ficus trees.  Books or homework on the “patio”.  Paradiso’s perfect imperfectness.
  4. Living near downtown Champaign, where I never paid more than $500 for a one bedroom apartment, and even that included utilities.  My first solo apartment directly across from the park.  My studio apartment that never really got above 50 degrees in the winter, but that in the summer offered the most fabulous porch for parties.  The apartment with the Wild Things on the wall and the yellow kitchen.  Our last place on Clark, where we rented the entire ground floor for around $750, planted our first garden, spent $300+ on heat in the winter, and enjoyed the mixed blessing of a screened-in entryway – great for cats in the sun, not great for cats escaping.
  5. Saturday mornings at the Urbana farmers’ market, bringing home things I didn’t recognize and that would eventually go bad in the fridge. Splurging on fancy cheese, meat, and a croissant from Art Mart.  Riding our bikes to the market and bringing a dedicated backpack for watermelon or canteloupe.
  6. Friday afternoon Revolution Lunch at Jerusalem Restaurant with my favorite nutters.  The food was fine, but the company was effing crazy.  I’m glad to hear that it hasn’t changed.
  7. French toast at Sam’s, where Shane and I went for breakfast one of the first times he spent the night.  We drew maps of our hometowns on the rectangular napkins.  In case you ever forget, the special is at the top.
  8. Late nights studying at Merry Ann’s with Sarah and Nicole, drinking TERRIBLE coffee and eating fries and goofing around with the servers.  Going to Merry Ann’s at bar time, ordering a grilled cheese sandwich, and being in and out in under 10 minutes.  Greg and I standing on the booth and singing happy birthday to Mark, who brought us screwdrivers mixed in the back.  Hanging out with Shane for the first time after Carl and I had gone to see 2046, all three of us wasted but on totally different things (exhaustion, alcohol, an emotionally weighty movie).  Many many plates of fries before Subversion.
  9. Boltini bingo.  We went almost every week the last summer we lived there, but I didn’t win ANYTHING until my very last card on my very last bingo.  Marv gave me his oversized clapper, which I kept until we moved to Michigan.
  10. AromaWorking at Aroma.  Drinking mojitos outside Aroma in the spring of 2003.  Working 20 hour days (Aroma + Carle) in the fall of 2004 when it was easier to not sleep than to deal with my heartbreak.  10 hour kitchen shifts with all New Order all the time, getting fake engaged to Sam, smoking out front with Carl and Erich and Leah in the summer.  Ryan’s shark mug and Dave catching flies out the air.  Flirting with customers who became friends.  Coffee grounds permanently under my fingernails.  A good place and a good time, though definitely not the best coffee in the world.
  11. Symposium at the Esquire, and the Esquire in general.  For at least the first year after we left Champaign, I would often sigh and say that I just wanted to go the Esquire for dinner – cheap beer, cheap bar food, endless bowls of peanuts.  Always the same, never disappointing – just a solid townie bar.
  12. The Blind Pig in the winter of 2004-2005.  Holding hands with Carl on my 25th birthday.  A snowball fight in the middle of the night in the middle of Walnut Street.  It’s still a great bar, and I know Shane misses it greatly, but (oh this is so hipster) I stopped truly loving it when the sign went up.
  13. Swimming laps in the outside pool at IMPE in the summer of 2005.  I had started exercising that spring, but realized after my first botched length that Curves had nothing on laps in the 50 meter pool.  Sunshine, chlorine, hard work, bliss.
  14. Sunday nights at Bentley’s – our Local Neighborhood Bar – with the GSLIS crew.  Beth’s Bloody Marys and Blue Moons adorned with loads of snacks.  So many games of Bohnanza that we bought a second copy – one for the bar, another for occasions when we were less likely to spill drinks.  Planning our first Bonnaroo, celebrating our first NYE, eating a whole lot of miniature pizzas.
  15. Gyne instruction totally changed my understanding of my own body, and of the range of what constitutes ‘normal’.  I am so thankful for having the opportunity to work with such a remarkable group of women and to become empowered to advocate for my own health.  In the years since, a number of friends have felt comfortable asking me about gyne health stuff because they knew I had this experience and was willing to talk about it openly.  What a remarkable gift.
  16. Porch parties at my place on Springfield.  There weren’t many of them, but oh, they were wonderful.
  17. So much enduring love for Cafe Kopi.  I can’t believe I lived in Champaign almost a year before I found it, and can’t believe I haven’t found a comparable spot since.  Actually, I can believe it.  Kopi has something really special going on.  The coffee and food aren’t remarkable, but they’re solidly good, as are the staff and the ambiance.  I spent way too many nights doing my grad school reading over their cafe miels and tuna salad salads – and swatting away the ever-present flies on the patio.  Those things will survive the apocalypse, I swear.
  18. Mike & Molly’s may be my most favorite bar ever.  Shane preferred the Blind Pig, but my heart belongs to M&M.  Lots of nights reading with a beer, hanging out with townie friends, dancing to music played in the loft by friends.  Someone – Tim? Steve? – trying to explain darts to me.  The chalkboard in the bathroom.  Knowing that I was a regular when I forgot my ID and the bartender vouched for me to the doorman.  The bar’s vignette in Tell Me Do You Miss Me.  Carl arranging for my induction into Pi Omega Omega on my next-to-last night in town.
  19. Nox/Subversion and the year that saw me on the dance floor almost every week.  I told Shane recently that I missed out on being a raver girl because I didn’t live in a big city in my early 20s.  Instead, I had Tuesday nights at the High Dive with Emily and Jim playing the music I always wanted to listen to but didn’t know how to discover on my own.  Saturday nights with Tim in the booth and reciprocal pants protection with Shane and Karin.  Meeting Brian and Ben and Kristina and so many others.  Dancing when I was sick, dancing when my heart was breaking, dancing when I’d had too much to drink, dancing on the patio in the pouring rain.
  20. And then there’s everything about GSLIS: getting my job, making my friends, meeting Shane, finding a career path, getting a real job, discovering and falling in love with and then hating and then loving research.  All the wonderful, remarkable, challenging, and exceptional people who over the years became friends, colleagues, trusted associates, and family.  I can’t even begin to articulate the ways that this school changed my life.

Ultimately, though, what I miss is being able to walk everywhere – and the fact that wherever I went, I would run into someone I knew.  Hell, it’s been four years and that is still often the case.  And it goes without saying that the people and relationships made Champaign my home, but there are far too many of them to list here.

All My Friends

I loved LCD Soundsystem before Sound of Silver, but I don’t know that I have words for the weight of this song hitting me as I drove through the mountains into Virginia in September of 2007.

So many aspects of a life I loved left behind. So many goodbyes. And no better way to do it than with New Order, Tim in the booth, DocD and the symposium crew on the dance floor. I stopped at a hotel two hours out, too tired and blurry-eyed to drive safely, and checked in via chat with a party that I was missing, with friends I’d seen that morning but already missed.

As the sun came up and I merged onto the Beltway, I turned the stereo in our new car way, way up and just let it all wash over me. All the sadness. All the longing. All the uncertainty. All the love.

0523 Radio Maria Love


photo by inhisgrace

Before heading home (arriving just in time for LOST), we had brunch with Molly and Jenn (and then drinks with Carl and Kayla) at Radio Maria, another downtown establishment with no clear replacement.  Radio was one of a couple of special occasion places for us – birthday dinners, happy hours, brunch with out of town visitors – but too expensive for regular dining.

It struck me this morning that Radio was particularly illustrative of the difference between the restaurant scenes of Champaign and A2. Our brunch this morning ran us about $35 – two entrees in the $8-12 range, a (bottomless) Mexican coffee, a fancy beer for Shane, and a 20% tip. When we lived in Champaign, this would have been an indulgence – something we could afford to do once in a while. When we moved to DC, we came to expect to spend at least this much when we went out as a byproduct of living in a big city.

When we moved to A2, we were surprised that the expenses related to going out haven’t gone down significantly. When we’re in town, we rarely go out for anything more than fast food, grocery store take out, or a quick lunch because when we do, two drinks and a meal run us $30 or more. I’m of the opinion that good food is worth good money – but I also feel pinched by the prices in A2 when I know that comparably good, if not better, food costs a lot less in comparable cities.

But back to breakfast! I had a hard time picking out of all the fantastic options, but went with the very filling Vegetarian Masa Boat – a cornmeal “boat” with soft chevre, scrambled eggs and veg, black beans, chipotle salsa, and warmed tortillas. Shane had a pulled pork torta in a really interesting and sweet barbecue sauce. There were at least half a dozen other things I would’ve liked to eat – and that’s without touching the tapas menu or the fantastic beer list.

Oh, Radio.  We’ll be back, I promise.  Shane might even eat another tiny burger.

0522 Ode to Sam’s French Toast

There are many Champaign institutions for which we’ve found acceptable substitutes.  OK, maybe not many.  A few.  Having Buzz down the street made up for the lack of Cafe Miels from Kopi.  The fried stuff and beer at the Galaxy Hut more than made up for the loss of fried stuff and beer at the Esquire, though they’re totally different animals. But there’s no replacing this:


Sam’s French toast, originally uploaded by Tiger_Bee.

Sam’s French toast is the stuff of dreams.  It’s basically the perfect diner breakfast.  I know that by saying this, I’m risking losing some of my local food cred. But Sam’s French toast is amazing.  And there’s no replacement.

You’d think that some other diner would be able to figure this stuff out.  I mean, take a couple of slices of white bread – the more commercial and generic, the better.  Dip them in pancake batter – probably batter made from a box mix that can be bought in bulk at GFS.  Slap it on the griddle until it’s toasted golden, then top with cinnamon sugar and a small lake of imitation maple syrup.

You wouldn’t think it’d be that hard to duplicate.  You probably also wouldn’t think it’d be so damned good that this weekend I tried to write a song about it to the tune of Julia.  But seriously, guys, this is the best French toast on the planet.

0521 Champaign Bars

Oh Champaign, I have missed you.  And you apparently have missed me, as within five minutes of parking our car, I saw someone I knew from my Aroma days.

We were in town for Darren and Hannah’s wedding – Shane’s first trip back since we moved in 2007 – and kicked off our trip with a visit to the Esquire.  $5 for a pitcher of PBR!  It’s not good beer, but it is exceptionally cheap beer, and we split it while catching up with people at Symposium.  Some things never change – if it’s a warm summer night, GSLIS folks will be found on a patio, and DocD will be alternating between coffee and white wine.

Blind Pig Brewery
photo by HorsePunchKid

With our alcohol blankets firmly in place, we wandered over to the Piglet, the new Blind Pig brewery.  The original Blind Pig was voted one of the top 50 places to drink beer in the country, so we had high hopes.  I really enjoyed my cider, while Shane was less satisfied with his APA – good, but nothing to write home about.  The new space is great, though, and if we were still in town, I could see us hanging out there all the time.

And then….the diner.  The first place we hung out, and the last place we hung out before we started dating:

shane, e & camera

There were no diner stacks tonight – or hangover horseshoes.  Just good old diner fare and the bondage toilet:

Bondage toilet in bathroom at the Merry Ann's Diner in downtown Champaign
photo by benchilada

Like I said, some things never change.