OK, first of all I must say this. I have been a bad, bad, bad blogger of late. Well, maybe not bad just very delinquent. It's not that I haven't had anything to post, it just seems that time is somewhat of a limited commodity lately. I have wanted to post pictures of the girls - Charlotte's birthday party, Isabelle starting 3rd grade, Charlotte starting Kindergarten. There are some fun training stories and pictures to share too. Interesting thoughts and observations. But, I just can't seem to find the time. Or when I do find the time, I would much rather spend it on the couch in the fetal position and licking my "wounds" from the training that has been going on. See, there's another subject to post.....my "entry" into Ironman training.
But, as usual, I digress. There is a specific topic to this post!! After Boulder Peak in July and after I made the decision to NOT go to Budapest, I wanted to race another "big" triathlon. One with good/great competition, a cool location, and a different type of course (for me). I came up with the Chicago Triathlon. It is big, that's for sure....about 8000 athletes! And, there was an elite age group wave. I know, I know, I said I would never race elite again (I am far too old to be racing against women half my age) but with elite age groups..... it sounded like my cup of tea. I can do that! I emailed the race management company and begged them to let me in and sure enough they let me.
So last Friday, I packed up my bike and gear and headed to the windy city of Chicago. It was really quite cool. The last time I had been in Chicago it had been on a business trip years and years and years ago. I had never been a tourist in Chicago and I was excited to see the city! I booked a hotel not really having any clue where it was and it turned out to be right off the Magnificent Mile and a couple of blocks from the Navy Pier. Oh, and about a mile from the race site. It was perfect! I spent Friday walking around and ended up seeing a movie too. As soon as I checked into my room, I built up my bike, put on the race wheels that PIC let me borrow for the race, and rode down to the expo to check things out.
The race expo was nuts. It was huge and there were mass amounts of people (yeah, 8000 people needed to pick up their packets!) and booths and general craziness. I found the bike mechanics and had them check Newt out and all was good. But it was almost too crazy to have my bike in there. I'm not good with packed expos.....a tad bit claustrophobic.... and it really tested me to stay there and stay calm. I picked up my packet and decided to listen to the "required" race talk since I hadn't raced this before. Glad I stayed because I found out the water was 74 degrees and the bike course was riddled with potholes and seams that could eat a bicyclist alive! But, what I am going to do with 74 degree water? 70 is too warm for me in my wetsuit. And I don't have a swimskin or a sleeveless wetsuit. Crapola.... I put the call out on Twitter to see if anyone had any leads and there were possibilities but nothing worked out. So, I made the call. No wetsuit for me.
Saturday, a Team Trakkers friend, Megan, came into town and we got to hang out together - very nice. Especially because she volunteered to be race sherpa!! I can't thank her enough for this, it was so nice to have her there!
Ok, on to the race!
For a race this size, it was surprisingly (or maybe not) well organized. Transition opened at 4:15 and I got there around 5:15 (after getting lost with Sherpa Megan in the underground maze of downtown Chicago - what is that all about???). It was chaos. But not really. There were tons of body markers and I got through that just fine. I got into transition just fine. I found my rack just fine and prepared as I normally do. The only glitch was that the bike mechanics (I was counting on them for tire pumping) had a couple of guys NOT show up and the line there was huge. Hmmmmm. Shouldn't be a problem right? I mean, there are 8000 people here, someone is bound to have a pump. Right? Yeah. No. I couldn't believe there was no pump for me to borrow. Unbelievable. But I made one more pass on my huge wave rack and found a woman who was somewhat reluctant to let me use it. Whatever. Phew. Tires pumped and out of transition by the time it closed at 5:45. Problem was, my wave wasn't until 7:32. The sprint waves went first, a little break, and then the Oly started at 7:28. But, the race started right on time at 6:00. Impressive.
Megan and I found a place to sit and watch the sunrise and I found porta-pottys without a line (yes, another surprise). It was relaxing and kind of fun to watch all of the action. I started my warm-up around 6:30 and got into the start corral around 7:00. I noticed right off that I was one of the few that decided to forgo the wetsuit. I was really doubting my decision but the water was still 73 degrees (dropped a degree from friday)! The majority of my wave had wetsuits - full sleeve and sleeveless. Crap, what am I doing? I gave up the buoyancy of my full sleeve because I was going to overheat and get dehydrated? Seemed like a stupid reason at this point in time.
So, I started freaked out. There was no warm-up, they just put you in the water right before the horn went off and that was it. I was looking around at the competition (the wave had all of the elites, not just my age group, and men too) and everyone looked fast and good and really aggressive. We got in and as I jumped in the coolness of the water without the wetsuit took my breath away for just a moment. Oh, this was a bad idea. And before I knew it, I had lined up against the buoy line and was 3-4 deep from the front. I couldn't help but remember the start at Knoxville and the craziness of that. I didn't want to get kicked. I didn't want to get hit. But the horn went off and sure enough that is what happened. And sure enough, because I wasn't on the front, I missed the first group. I was boxed in. There just wasn't that much room - the swim course was between the seawall and the buoy line and it was fairly small. I fought for position for the first half of the swim and finally had "clear" water ahead of me. There was also a fair amount of chop - which I kinda liked. But coming out of the water I looked at my watch, just under 24 minutes. Really? My time also included the 450 meter run-up to transition so....
Well, the good thing about no wetsuit is that there is really nothing to do in transition but throw your goggles down and put on your helmet and glasses. And get outta there. But, remember, this transition area is HUGE! There were trees and their leaves to avoid running out....
Onto the bike. I was worried about this course after the talk on Friday... they said they weren't going to mark the potholes and bumps and the whole seam thing was troubling as well. Fortunately, they did mark the big bumps and potholes. Phew. The course was 2 loops and the first loop only had the first 2 waves and the stragglers from the sprint so it wasn't too crowded. The course took the inside 2 lanes of Lake Shore Drive in both directions so you were supposed to pass on the right rather than the left. Which I mostly did but some people were riding on the right...and it was somewhat confusing. I immediately started passing people in my wave, men and women. Got caught up in a couple games of cat and mouse (with men surprise surprise) but I was just trying to go as hard as I could. My legs were complaining loudly but my mantra is embrace the pain...and so that is what I tried to do. I just wanted to push through it.
Rather than ages being marked on our calves, the wave numbers were marked....I was in wave 21. And that is what I kept passing, wave 20s and 21s. I felt strong but not quite good. And I was all over drinking my EFS - I actually finished an entire bottle on the bike. I started the second lap and my legs finally figured out that I was ignoring them so they shut up and so I pushed more. I didn't know what my heart rate was but I didn't really feel like I was breathing that hard yet. Only 2 men passed me on the bike! As I headed around the final turnaround into the last stretch I saw a woman ahead of me who I will call Missy Long Legs and had a 21 on her calf. At this point I just got angry. I couldn't believe all the men and women who got ahead of me in the swim. I was pissed off. So I put a target on Missy Long Legs and set about passing her with a vengence. I really started working and passed her soundly. She clearly didn't like that and passed me back several minutes later. Uh, no way Missy. Oh no you didn't.....You beat me in the swim and that is all I'm going to take from you. I passed her again and that was it. I just figured with legs like she had I would see her on the run but I didn't care, I got her on the bike.
Because I didn't know the course and because there was really no way to scout the bike beforehand, the end came up quickly and I didn't have time to get my feet out of my shoes so I ran into transition with my shoes on. No biggie.
Ave. MPH: 22.8
Man, that's a long run into transition but I got in and out as quickly as possible.
This was the big question mark for me. Could I run? Could I run kind of fast? Would I have to walk? Would I have to DNF? My foot isn't quite healed up yet so I was under specific instructions from my coach to haul ass (my words not his) in the swim and bike and be careful on the run. If I felt any pain, I was to hold back and not risk injuring it further. I exited T2 and felt pretty good. So, I went with the pace. I knew it was fairly quick but I had no idea if I could hold it seeing as how I haven't run more than 4 miles in the past month. But I felt light on my feet and I really didn't want Missy to catch me. It was so strange and kind of cool to run past the swim start when so many athletes hadn't yet started their race and I just had 5 more miles to go! And these people were cheering for me - it was awesome.
I drank water at every aid station and put some on my head. It was hot and humid but I hadn't noticed it too much at that point but I knew it was only a matter of time before I got really warm. Mile 2 came and went without much issue, I felt some discomfort with my foot but it was pretty low. Mile 3 passed and then the turnaround. The run course was spectacular - along the path next to the lake, by Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum and the stadium (da bears). When you turned around all you could see was the Chicago skyline. Way cool. Since it was an out and back I was trying to figure out where I was overall and in my age group. I thought I was about 2nd or 3rd in my age group and no clue overall, race brain just doesn't work that well for me.
My foot? Well, I could read the email from Coach in my head and I just kept asking myself, should I back off? And I did....sort of. But I knew I was going to pay for the effort on the run after. But I also knew I didn't want any woman passing me on the run. I knew I had a minute on the next girl and I just told myself to keep with the current pace and I would be fine. It really started to get warm and I felt like I was melting a bit. My foot was bothering me a bit more than I care to admit and I could feel the lack of run training in my legs around mile 4.5. I passed a couple of guys that had passed me earlier on and I had a bogie for the last mile, I really wanted to catch him...and I did....but with a quarter mile left he pulled away and I couldn't keep up.
I finished with a smile on my face - that was a fun race (except for the swim:)!
I still figured I was 2nd or 3rd in my age group but I had to wait around for awards to find out! When they finally announced my age group....much to my surprise....I was first!!!!
1st Elite Age Group 40-49
12th Overall (Elite and Age Group)