Monday, July 14, 2014

Chicago ITU Sprint Race Report

Chicago ITU Sprint Triathlon: I am so glad that I went to race in Chicago, one of my favorite cities. This was such an amazingly well organized and cool event to be part of. Watching the elites race (holy smokes Gwen Jorgensen is a beast of a runner!) and being around thousands of other amazing athletes was so inspiring. My goal was to have fun, and I did! Finishing strong with a personal best was a very, very nice bonus!

Pre- Race Day: We had some awesome meals in Chicago (Beatrix was my favorite) and took the architectural boat tour on Friday afternoon, which I would highly recommend. I swam at the hotel pool on Thursday afternoon, which was awesome because one of the Australian elite para-triathletes was in there practicing his transitions. So cool to watch! I took Friday off, and did a quick swim and run Saturday morning (up to the famous Bean statue) and a check of my bike. I spent most of Saturday at the race site – getting registered, checking my bike, and watching the elite women. This was my first time packing my bike myself and taking it on the airplane. I’m happy to say that my bike made it to Chicago and that I didn’t break it in the process! I did visit the on-site bike mechanic (Element Multisport) and was really impressed with how thorough they were in making sure my bike was ready to ride, even though I only asked to pump up the tires.

Race Day:
My swim wave started at 12:30, so I had an unusually late start to the day. Unfortunately, the late start meant I missed out on watching Brent and Gary in their Olympic distance race. For fuel, I had a chocolate protein shake at 8 am, then steel cut oats with banana and almond butter and coffee at 8:30. I drank a bottle of Gatorade and probably 3-4 liters of water between when I woke up and the start of my race. TZone was open from 9:45-11:30 for the sprint, so I went over around 10:30 to get body marked and set up my transition area. By 11:20, I was at the swim start, trying to stay cool and hydrated. I waited until the last minute to put on my wetsuit, since it was well over 30 degrees. I managed to only rip my wetsuit 4 times trying to pull it onto my sweaty, sunscreen covered body… yikes!

Swim - Goal: 12:00, Actual: 11:30
My swim wave, the under-29 women, was probably one of the more competitive waves. We had a huge cadre of what seemed to be USA development program girls in our wave, and they were fast (and oh so young). I tried to position myself in the front, but ended up having to swim over of a few girls. I usually start out with a full out sprint to try to get as far away from the churn as possible, but I was not alone. I spent most of my swim locked stroke for stroke with 3 other girls. Instead of trying to get away from them though, I decided to stay, since I figured they would just end up drafting off of me if I tried to get ahead of them. It made for quite a chaotic swim and by the end my goggles were almost completely knocked off… which meant I totally ran over a poor guy in the wave ahead of me. Unfortunately I didn’t see him until I was swimming quite literally over top of him. I felt so bad, because he was clearly distressed already and then he was plowed over by four women. I’m sending an “I’m sorry” out to the universe for him.

T1: The transition zone was quite far and slightly uphill from the swim. With no wetsuit strippers, I waited until I was back at my bike to take my wetsuit off. Then I chugged some Gatorade before heading out with my bike. No real issues, but apparently I was considerably slower than most of the girls who finished ahead of me. Time: 4:21

Bike - Goal: 40:00, Actual: 35:29!!!!
I felt like I was flying!! The course was so cool, with nice wide sweeping u-turns (good because we had 6 on a 2 loop course). The best part was riding along Lower Wacker Drive, which you would recognize from movies like The Dark Knight. It was great because it is completely shaded, so was a nice reprieve from the heat! I had two girls from the US to chase for the whole ride. We took turns passing each other, and when they finished slightly ahead of me, I made it my goal to pass both of them in the run (and I did). Actually “racing” kept my mind off the heat and off of my legs. My proudest accomplishment is drinking four times during the ride, which has always made me nervous, but not drinking was not an option with the extreme heat and humidity. And I crushed my goal time. I couldn't figure out how to work my bike computer and had left my Garmin at the TZone, so I had no idea of my speed during the ride, but I did know that I felt great!

T2: Pretty uneventful, again a pretty decent run to the TZone from bike… now I understand why people leave their bike shoes on the bike and run barefoot. After putting on my running shoes, I took a big swig of the only cold water left. Rumor has it that we ran almost a quarter mile before we got to the start of the run after leaving transition. My Garmin had me at 5k well before the actual finish line, so that doesn’t surprise me. Time: 3:15

Run - Goal: 23:00, Actual: 24:09
The run was so hot, but so fun. I got to see my cheering squad a few times! Thank you Garry and Brent!! And I got to do my favorite things – cheer on my fellow runners and thank the volunteers. I have never been so grateful for the volunteers manning the aid stations! And I got to see tons of Canadians out on the course, so I tried to say hello and give some encouragement to all of them. Overall, the run was a little bit slower than I had hoped for, but still my fastest yet, in tough conditions.

Two big things have changed since my last race (the Early Bird) – my attitude and my confidence on the bike. A few wise people reminded me that all of this is about having fun first and foremost, and I went to Chicago with that as my primary goal. The race was definitely a success from the “having fun” standpoint! As for the bike, a huge thank you goes out to Dave for spending some time very patiently helping me work on my bike handling and for tweaking my bike setup! Another huge thank you goes out to Joe and my fellow HPSers for pushing me at track and out on the bike. You are all incredible athletes, and just trying to keep up with you has made me fitter. Another huge thank you goes to Gillian, for being a wise friend, reminding me to rest, and for sending me the “bee and racehorse” story to remind me to believe in myself and trust my training. Finally, it was so amazing to have my family in Chicago to support me and keep me calm in the days leading up to the race. Having them and Garry and Brent out there cheering on race day was so awesome and just the boost I needed to finish strong!

2/51 for Women 25-29, 20/341 for all women
Swim - 11:30
T1 - 04:21
Bike - 35:29
T2 - 03:15
Run - 24:09 
Final Time: 1:18.42

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