Posted by: Liz | January 1, 2009

North Branch Trail

Honestly, I’ve never run the North Branch trail though I have biked it several times. The name refers to the north branch of the Chicago River which you won’t often see from the trail. You will see water at the Skokie Lagoons near the north section. This trail is equally as great for biking, walking or running-though you’ll have to bring your own water as there is a serious lack of fountains. For running–just keep your eyes open for speeding super bikers racing around the curves. The course is long, starting at Caldwell and Devon in Northwest Chicago and heading all the way up to the Chicago Botanical Gardens. This trip is about 15 miles one way and 30 to get you back. If you need MORE distance, it links up with other Chicago bike trails in the city.

North Branch Trailhead -- that's my bike on the side.

North Branch Trailhead -- that's my bike on the side.

You’ll find this trail flat, well maintained, heavily used and really beautiful. To make a day of it, stop at the Botanical Gardens for a stroll or lunch. It’s free to get in and there is a cafeteria style cafe with a nice outdoor deck.

North Branch path

Wildlife is also abundant in these forest preserves. You’ll have to work hard NOT to see a deer along your run. During my last ride there, a doe popped out of the forest and ran in front of me ON THE TRAIL for a few seconds. I hopped off my bike and could find its deer family camouflaged in the woods.

Autumn in the North Branch Trail

Posted by: Liz | December 28, 2008

Salt Creek Trail

Early on November 30th, 2008 I drove out to the Salt Creek Brookfield Zoo entrance. The air was a brisk 34 degrees–but I was bundled with a goal to complete a 13-14 mile run.

The Salt Creek Trail is part of a larger system that I haven’t quite figured out yet, but this paved branch starts at Brookfield Zoo and snakes west and south to the Tri-State Tollway and Odgen Ave. This branch extends 7 miles out and back along the Salt Creek through wooded areas for a 14 mile total distance. There are very few road crossings and populated areas along the route. The trail, on the other hand, seems to be heavily used by bikers and walkers.

Salt Creek Map

I had a great ‘out’ trail those first 7 miles. Then, as no fault to the trail, the weather turned to gusty, snowy, blustery conditions. That last 7 miles back were pretty miserable being pelted with the icy snow. I ran as fast as I could just to get back to my car!! Once back to the parking lot, shivering and with soggy feet, I still compulsively ran up and down the parking lot to get an even mile number on my Forerunner watch (I’m sure you’ve done it too, right?) Others warming up in the parking lot must have thought me crazy.

Entering my car with my GPS safely on the 14.0 mile mark, I turned the heat up full-bore and searched for a nearby coffee shop using my G1 google browser phone. Unfamiliar with the area, I finally just got my soggy butt home for some tea and a hot shower.

All in all, this is a nice trail–though my experience was not great due to the weather. I did run across a pack (?) of deer (like 9 of them laying around!) in the first half of the run. I prefer loops over out and back trails, but I’ll still be re-exploring this trail, when it’s warmer! (Pictures to come–I just don’t have my USB on me!)

Posted by: Liz | December 27, 2008

Waterfall Glen

Waterfall Glen. Darien, IL

I ran Waterfall Glen 11/17/2008 when the last of the autumn leaves were falling and the weather was quite chilly. The week before I had been at Busse Woods and the colors were still bright, but this weekend was still and gray.
Waterfall Glen is a 9.5 mile loop of perfectly packed crushed limestone with some rolling hills circling around Argonne National Laboratory. Roller -skiing seems to be really big out here. I had never actually seen this before and hardly doubt I could ever be coordinated enough to stay upright. During the winter, I imagine cross-country skiing is the sport of choice. Along the way I also ran past bikers, walkers and other runners.

A winding path through Waterfall Glen

A winding path through Waterfall Glen

The loop’s scenery is varied with sheltered wooded areas, prairies, creeks and, of course, a waterfall. You’ll have to slow down a little at the 4 or 5 miles point o see the man-made waterfall. A lady and her dog climbed down the steep ravine to get a better view. I was too interested in keeping up my heart rate to get much side exploring done–my loss.

By highway, this is not as far as you would think. I will be back for more of this run!

A creek that runs through the first mile of Waterfall Glen

A creek that runs through the first mile of Waterfall Glen

Map of Waterfall Glen path

Map of Waterfall Glen path

Posted by: Liz | December 27, 2008

Busse Woods

Map of Busse Woods Trail

I tried out the Busse Woods route 11/11/2008.

It was already pretty cold and my hands were freezing for the first part of the run. (I most certainly need better gloves!) I read that Busse is the largest lake in Cook County. It’s strange shape makes for nice vistas along the run. At times it’s hard to believe you are less than a mile from the giant Woodfield Mall.

The main trail loop is 7.7 miles of paved blacktop good for running and biking. You can easily add on a few miles by getting sidetracked on a side path. I ran a few miles on the black spur to run 10 miles. I saw several people twice, who must have been doubling up the loop.

Parts of this path edge into Elk Grove Village where there are *actual elk*– who knew?!? Running through a wooded section of the trail, I came upon this sign saying ‘Please DO NOT FEED THE ELK’. I slowed down and snooped around and sure enough, there are elk in a sanctuary.

dontfeedelk

This particular elk came up pretty close and did not seem to enjoy my presence and made some noise.

elk

There were also deer and some of the areas were still holding on to their fall colors. This trail is easy to get to, super flat, and simply an enjoyable run.

deer

autumn-bridge

prairie

Posted by: Liz | December 19, 2008

Welcome to ‘Running Around Chicago’!

Finishing the Grand Rapids Marathon

Seven months ago, I started running to lose a few pounds and get fit. My goal was to run Chicago’s Bank of America half marathon on September 14th. Surprisingly, since I’d never been much of a ‘sporty’ person, I really enjoyed running and quickly edged up my weekly milage. I ran my first race in mid July at the Fleet Feet Women’s 10K and was happy with a 59 minute finish. I followed up with the Chicago Distance Classic on August 10th (2:04) and then got to my initial goal race on a blustery rainy Hyde Park morning (1:53). Somewhere along the way, I decided to train for a marathon. Chicago had long been filled, so I signed up for the Grand Rapids Metro Health Marathon, which was a great first marathon (4:16).

Meanwhile, training has given me the opportunity to get out and about Chicago on the lakefront and in forest preserves where I may not have spent time otherwise. I decided to start this blog to share these experiences–and maybe here some of yours!

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