Monday, August 29, 2011

Chicago Triathlon Recap

If you have never witnessed the Chicago Triathlon, it is quite an experience.  This year, almost 10,000 (!!) athletes participated in the event.   Beginning at 6 am, every 4 minutes until 10 am, over 100 athletes embark on their triathlon adventure.   What this equals is a constant flow of swimmers, bikers, runners and exuberant spectators throughout the morning.  It is one of my favorite days of the year.

My day began with the alarm going off at 4 am.  By 4:20 I was on my bike headed to transition.  A quick transition setup and then off to get myself together before my 6:20 am start.  I would have preferred a little later start but at least I did not have much time to let my nerves get the best of me.   After waiting in line for the port-a-potties (twice!) it was time to get my wetsuit on and go.

The forecast for the day was stellar- clear with a high of about 78 degrees.  What I was not prepared for was the wind.  Even with the swim taking place in a protected harbor, it was VERY choppy.  Sighting and breathing was difficult because of the waves and I ran into dozens of people over the course of the half mile swim.  I have never seen so many people treading and holding on to the wall, but these conditions were rough.  Finishing the swim was a huge relief, until I had to get out and run the quarter mile to transition and then UP a hill to my bike.  I had to catch my breath as I got my bike gear on, but I was feeling good.

The wind was coming from the North so our ride towards Foster on Lakeshore Drive was hard work.  I think everyone was thinking the same thing- "I can't wait to turn around!"   And turning around was glorious!  Everyone was flying back towards the city and the second half of the bike and the time zoomed by.  Before I knew it I was heading down the ramp and into T2.

As I was heading out for the run I knew I was doing pretty well and was hoping to break 23:00 for the 5K.  I heard my name lots of times (thanks spectators!) during that first mile and was eagerly awaiting the first mile marker to check my time.  However, I never saw it!  What?  I paid $172 for this race and there are no mile markers!?!  Not fair!  So, I just kept on going as fast as I could and finished with a final time of 1:22.05 ( and a 5K time just over 23).

A plus of starting in one of the first waves- no line for massage!  Yippee!  I got a little massage and chatted with an old friend and there was hardly anyone in the finishers area. By 8 am I had raced, had a massage and was headed back to the starting area to cheer on some other racers.  I spent some time cheering, got some snacks, went back to the finish for awards (2nd in age group, 5th overall!), got my bike out of transition, ate some more snacks, and before I knew it, it was 1:30 pm and I was cheering the male pro athletes across the finish line.  What a day!

Surprisingly, this year's race seemed to be significantly slower than last year's.  In 2010 it was a lot warmer, but I think the wind had a pretty profund effect on yesterday's times, especially the sprint times which were not effected so much by the heat last year.  In general, winning times were about 4 minutes slower in the sprint, and 7 minute in the olympic distance. 

I have a love/hate relationship with this race.  I go back and forth between thinking it is the best thing ever and a huge cluster that I should avoid.  Stay tuned this week for my Top 10 pros/cons of Chicago Tri.  Maybe it will help you decide if you should race next year!

Congrats to all of yesterday's finishers!

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