The Chicago Triathlon was my first tri ever. I did it at age 10 and then it was my first adult race in 2005 improving my time every year in the Olympic distance. 2010 was my first year taking the elite amateur win only to have it taken away due to penalties. The 6 minutes of penalties awarded bumped me down to 2nd place, therefore I had to come back to redeem myself this year. It was definitely worth the trip. (It also worked out that I had another race and a wedding the following weekends in Chicago)
They reduced the men’s elite wave qualifying time to 2:10 this year which was huge. It limited the elite amateur field to 1 co-ed wave and I was hoping it would prevent some blocking and drafting on the bike course.
We awoke to record winds on race day this year. The Chicago tri is notorious for a windy bike course on Lakeshore Drive. I have never experienced such a wavy challenging swim here though. I took some advice from former teammate Brian Fort starting closer to the sea wall in an attempt to avoid the battle zone towards the center at the start. I did just that and swam out ahead of the pack with a few men. We were swimming with the current ¼ mile out until the 180 degree turn around. Once we made that turn, BAM there’s the head wind. I used this to my advantage trying not to battle the water but to swim through it and breathe between high waves. The wind was pushing me out away from the sea wall which I later found was much calmer. I ended up as far out as the lifeboats, I had to play defense to avoid getting slapped by oars from the lifeguards trying to control the swimmers going off course.
Another girl swam next to me the 2nd half of the swim, she was not staying in her space and knocking me with every stroke. I assumed this was my friend Chris Wickard, I made a mental note to have a word with her post race as this behavior was unacceptable. As I finally exited the water I realized it was not Chris swimming with me, good thing :) I glanced at my watch and was shocked at how slow my split was.
Swim : 25.20
As I ran the ½ mile into transition I realized I had still made up a lot of time on other racers. I continued running through the super huge transition housing 8K bikes.
Heading out on the bike we rode North on Lakeshore Drive into direct headwinds. I struggled through some men carefully making each and every pass to avoid repeat penalties from last year. Riding with the motorcycle next to me the entire time made it easy to remember I was out on close watch.
As we made the turn heading south I took advantage of the tail winds. You can never make up the time lost riding into headwinds but you can utilize them and even give your legs a break while moving forward at record pace.
Entering into the 1st loop turn around they did not have the cones arranged for riders to make the 2nd loop turn yet. (all waves before mine were sprint distances and only 1 loop on the bike) Luckily I knew the course and had to make my turn riding over a cone or two.
They close off the inside lanes of Lakeshore Drive, therefore you must ride on the left and pass on the right. Every year this confuses racers who end up riding on the right. I wasn’t about to take the risk of another penalty so during my 2nd and much more crowded loop I continued passing on the right forcing me to ride into the outside lane with traffic. I came in off the bike with a slower bike split than expected but was still riding away from my competition.
Entering back into transition I found my bike right away but dropped my visor while exiting. I decided to leave it and continue on. I ran through the crowds of old friends who made it down to cheer. I ran a steady pace the first few miles but when my lead bicycle rider told me I was up over 5 minutes from the 2nd woman I slowed down my pace. I decided to save my legs for HyVee which was the following weekend. I ran the back half of the course fairly easy. My bum foot bothered my stride but no more than any other races this season.
This was not a PR for this race although I was content with my performance factoring in the strong winds and I did get my race revenge from 2010. I also had a great time celebrating and visiting with old Chicago friends.
Bo Parish and I at the finish line. He took his age group win…although he’s kind of a sandbagger and should have raced elite :)