I’m still on a high after finishing the Chicago Triathlon this Sunday. I had a great race experience. After debating the entire summer whether or not to go through with the race, I’m glad I decided to go for it. Here’s a breakdown of my race day!
Transition area: It was not as intimidating as the course talk made it out to be. It was big, for sure – but I never felt crowded. Arriving early and having enough time to get acclimated was the best thing I could have done. My rack was positioned so that it was easy to access, although transition does look different at 4:30am than after the sun rises. After I returned from the bike, I walked right passed my spot on my rack. It took me about a minute to get my bearings!
The swim (.5 mile): The race started promptly at 6am. I was able to watch the first few waves of 50 or more swimmers enter the water and take off. You start the race by walking down a few temporary stairs and jumping feet first into Lake Michigan.
There is no other way to enter! I felt surprising calm after taking the plunge and wading to the back and outside of the pack to await the horn. We got about 90 seconds to tread water before our wave start. The water is about 8 feet deep so you cannot touch the bottom of the lake at any time, which was a first for me. But my wet suit made it pretty easy. I could sit back as though I was in a chair, float and relax to catch my breath. I did that throughout the swim. There were lifeguard boats positioned along the route. I thought I would have to stop and hang onto a boat every so often, but I never once had to do that. I never felt crowded in the lake. I got hit by other swimmers a few times, but that was expected. Most people hit you, then change course to avoid hitting you again. Swimmers did start to get a little aggressive towards the very end, where we bottlenecked to get to the stairs to exit. One person did grab my ankle, and I politely kicked them off and kept it moving.
When I got out of the water I was in a really good mood because the swim went so well for me. But for some, it didn't go so great. There were people absolutely freaking out in the lake. I heard people hyperventilating and asking for help, many were pulled onto the boats by the lifeguards. It was a bit crazy. During one of my sitting breaks a lifeguard asked if I was o.k. to which I replied, “Yep, just taking a break!” I thought to myself, "Don’t even think about trying to pull me out of this water!"
The bike (14 miles): The out and back course on Lake Shore Drive starts with a steep climb up an on-ramp and a bumpy ride over a raggedy bridge. About two miles in my gears started to act weird. At one point I had no gears at all. I pedaled for a while and the gear popped back, then I decided not to shift any more for fear of popping off the chain completely. So some hills were a little tough because I could not down shift. I never once saw a SAG vehicle. I saw maybe five bike marshals who were pulled over on the median – as if bikers in trouble were supposed to come to them. I’m so happy my bike did not give me any more trouble because I’m sure I would have been waiting a while for help. Despite the extra wear on my legs, I enjoyed the bike. There were beautiful sunrise views of the lake and the city along the way.
The run (3.1 miles): The last leg went really fast. I had run most of the course in other races, so I knew where to expect the hills. I practiced 5:1 intervals most of the way. I saved my energy for the very last hill and sprinted all the way to the finish line. My friends were there to cheer me to the finish.
Overall it was a great race! I finished 8 minutes over my projected time, but I was so happy with how everything went, I didn’t mind.
Post-race: Right after I crossed the finish line, I was randomly asked to give an interview for Life Time Fitness about my experience with the race.
I had such glowing things to say about the organization, the route, and the volunteers; I’m sure they have lots of great sound bites to promote the next race!
The medal is pretty awesome, as you can tell by my intense inspection.
It has a magnetic back and it doubles as a bottle opener! My open-water swim training friend Tracy and I enjoyed a burger and some beers.
Besides having the port-a-potty door opened on me by a man while I was using it – it was a nice post-race celebration. I’m a little sad this is nearly the end of the triathlon racing season in the Midwest. I sense a triathlon road trip in my future!