Thursday, September 6, 2012

Sweet Home Chicago

Hello, friends! I hope you are staying cool!  Oh my goodness there are so many great things to talk about in regards to my trip back home.  For a recap of the race set-up, check out my previous entry.

My Best Friend's Birthday

Most people may not realize it...but in my business, holidays are luxuries.  Especially if you are young in the business.  While I love my job I have to often sacrifice time with friends and family so I cherish my time at home.  I felt so blessed to be able to celebrate my best friend Shauna's birthday with her in person.  Shauna and I have been best friends since we were 2.  We are basically sisters.  Like my family, she supports what I do but misses having me at home.  We had a great time having lunch together, getting mani/pedi's, going out to dinner and hitting the town.  Unlike Shauna and all of her friends I stayed sober due to my race being only a few days away.  You need to hydrate...not dehydrate!
Chicago secret: One of the best views of the city can be seen from the women's bathroom of the "Signature Room" located on the 95th floor of the John Hancock building.

The Expo

The race meeting I did not stay and listen to.
Saturday morning Shauna's husband, Bob, drove me to pick up my registration packet at the Chicago Hilton.  Bob and I worked out a plan where I would run inside and grab the packet while he waited outside.  I thought it would take 10 minutes at most.  Boy, was I wrong!  This wasn't just a packet pick was an EXPO!  The Expo covered 3 large rooms in the lower level of the Hilton.  I wandered through the maze of vendors, took free samples and as expected, got distracted.  My distraction led me to a highly discounted brand new TRI top that I wore to the race! Woo hoo!  I finally got my packet and tattooed up with my race number.  I realized there was a race meeting. I should have stopped and listened but Bob had been already waiting in the car for 45 minutes! I felt terrible so I left and banked on the information provided online.  Future notes to self: 1. Allow for PLENTY of time at the expo! 2. Don't skip the race meeting (you idiot!).

'Twas the Night Before TRI

That night my mother prepared a beautiful pre-race dinner of chicken kabobs and pasta coated with homemade pesto.  My mom is a great cook!  Going to bed before 10pm is always a challenge for this night owl.  So going to bed at 8pm with pre-race anxiety was a huge chore.  I kept tossing and turning.  Needless to say, it was not a restful night sleep.  My alarm went off at 3:30 and my dad, brother and I jumped in the Sutton family minivan and headed to Chicago!  My dad dropped me and my brother, Craig off and I headed towards transition.
"Goodbye, Dad! See you at the finish line!"

Hot Mess of Bikes

Spotting Device #1
Spotting Device #2
Practice Transitions!
Oh my goodness there were SOOOO many bikes.  I later found out there were nearly 10,000 bikes in transition.  Holy smokes!  This turned my transitions into potential scavenger hunts for my stuff!  I found a small spot for Clark Kent (my bike) and used Coach Ryan's advice to use my hot pink swim cap as a bike locator.  I placed it on the aerobars and it payed off later.  Future note to self: Get a big balloon for large transitions!  Since there are so many bikes, you are allowed to used trinkets such as balloons to help find your bike.  Thankfully someone in the row across from me had fake white flowers sticking up on their rack so I could spot it from far away and know my bike was in the row across the aisle.  This REALLY helped me out.  After I set up my bike I practiced running each of my transitions to make sure I knew the clearest path.  Preparing transitions is the easiest way to cut down time with minimal effort.

Sister-Brother Bonding

Since nearly 10,000 people participated in the Chicago Sprint and International distance Triathlons there were more than 50 swim waves!  The Sprint triathlon started the race at 6am.  The International waves started sometime around 7 or 7:30 divided in waves by age groups.  My wave did not go until 8:06.  Therefore I had nearly 2 hours to wait around!  Thankfully my brother, Craig volunteered to do this with me.  I felt blessed to have this time with my little brother.  We are not good at the whole phone thing so I cherish our small times hanging out now.  We watched the first swim waves and cringed at the number of poor swimmers.  Several swimmers freaked out and grabbed onto the lifeguard boats or climbed out of the water all together.  I am happy that swimming is my strong suit.

Beautiful Chicago sunrise

The Swim

Around 7:45 I started the challenging task of wiggling into my wetsuit.  It feels like spanx for your entire body!  You have to put on body-glide around your neck and shoulders to prevent chaffing.  One time I forgot and it looked like I had a big curling iron burn on my neck!  We lined up according to wave and waited for our time to jump into the water.  This swim had a deep-water start, meaning we treaded for about a minute before the gun went off.  I yelled to my wave, "Good luck everyone! Have fun!" but there wasn't much of a response.  Likely because most people take themselves too seriously or have a deep fear of the swim.  I wave one last time to my brother, check my googles and...

BOOM! The gun goes off and I start flying.  A beginner mistake is to sprint right off the bat so I tried to get a good pace early on.  Surprisingly, I felt very comfortable, collected and calm.  I made sure to play songs in my head to keep me going.  Unfortunately I ended up sandwiched between 2 people for a greater part of the swim.  In my head I thought, "I don't think so, b*tch!"  Guess that's my competitive side coming out!  The best part of the swim by far had to be the fact that I could hear my brother screaming.  He could actually walk along the seawall and follow me for almost the entire second half of the swim!  All I heard was "RAHHHhhhhHHHHHHH!"...but I guess he was yelling "GOOOO!".  I usually breathe to my right side but I breathed to my left side a few times to see him.  It was hilarious.  He was really into it!  His cheering really helped me stay strong and swim fast!  At the end of the swim there were underwater bleachers to help us climb out.  I ran out of the water and started the 500 meter run to the transition area.

The Bike

Time to treasure hunt! The game is find the bike!  I ran into the transition and followed the path I practiced in the dark at 5:30 in the morning.  Thankfully, I spot my bike with ease but struggled for a moment to get my wetsuit off.  I run my bike to the mount line and we're off!
Superman is flying!

The bike route was a hot mess.  We were supposed to ride on the left and pass on the right...European style.  It's almost always the opposite in races and apparently this confused other riders because many slow riders were on the right!  In triathlon you must keep 3 bike distances between you and the person in front.  If you want to pass, you have 15 seconds to move ahead and then the biker behind you has to drop back 3 bike lengths.  If a race official catches you breaking the rules, you can get a penalty and time will be added.  I doubt there were many penalties because everyone seemed to be breaking the rules.

Since running is my worst out of the three, I decide to push myself on the bike.  I started out FAST.  I was averaging 20-22 mph.  That's insane for me!  The course wasn't bad.  The hardest parts besides dodging confused cyclists were the turnarounds.  The turnarounds for the loop (2) were very narrow.  I bet there were a few wrecks.  The winds were light for the first half but then started really gusting out of the south for the second loop of the race.  Thankfully Clark Kent is very aerodynamic and smoked out the competition! Thanks, Pro Bike!

The Run

I need to stop doing these T-Rex arms.

I dismounted, ran Superman back to my transition spot, took off my sunglasses and helmet, changed shoes, put on my race belt, grabbed my visor and ran out of transition.  I could tell in the first few minutes that my legs were fatigued and the run wasn't going to be easy.  Thankfully I had a wonderful surprise of my friend Lacey and my Dad cheering me on for the first few steps of the run course!  It lifted my spirits!

We had a very scenic running route of Lake Michigan, the Field Museum and Soldier Field.  About 3 miles into the run I found another girl around my age with a similar pace.  I said, "You're my pace buddy!" and she said, "I'm just trying to finish!"  She was no Joleen Chaney but she certainly kept me running at a decent pace.  During mile 5 it started to rain!  God is good.  The rain cooled us off a bit and THANK GOD it didn't rain during the bike course.  That could have been disastrous with all of the already confused cyclists.  At mile 6 I spotted Shauna and Bob!  That lifted my spirits...only a quarter of a mile to go! I wanted to push but I was dying.  I rounded what seemed to be the longest curve ever to see the Finish line.  I started sprinting and spotted my entire family to the left.  What a special moment!  I sprinted through the finish line!

The Finish

I crossed the finish line in 2:55! Better than I thought!


Age: 28 Gender: F
Clock Time02:55:53
Overall Place988 / 2960
Gender Place160 / 879
Division Place40 / 229
I even surprised myself by finishing 40th out of 229 ladies in my age group 25-29!  I swam nearly a mile and ran from the water to transition (500 meters) in 33 minutes! I'm very happy with my swim time.  My transition could have been a bit faster had I got my wetsuit off on the first try!  It's hard to gauge transition times since I had to run through a large transition area!  I am super excited about my bike time! I biked about 25 miles in 1:18 and averaged 19 mph!  My run is where I tanked in comparison to other triathletes.  This is no surprise since I am by no means a runner and pushed myself on the swim and bike.  That being said, I'm still happy with a total 10k time under an hour and an average pace of 9:30!

Overall I accomplished my goal to race at home and show my family and friends why I've fallen in love with the sport of triathlon.  I'd like to thank my friends and family for their complete support and encouraging cheers and smiles.  Despite the fact the skies opened up after I crossed the finish line everyone still had smiles from ear to ear after the race.  I am blessed!

I'd encourage my fellow triathletes to try this race.  You may not PR but it's a truly unique experience to  swim in Lake Michigan, ride up and down Lake Shore Drive and run past Chicago icons in the largest triathlon in the world!  Plus, they have a free APP for your phone!  It shows the course maps and you can track race participants by entering in their bib number.  How cool is that?!

Will I do it again?  Perhaps down the road!  I'd like to try new races in different cities in the next few years.

Time To Relax!

Shortly after crossing the finish line, I gathered my bike and belongings in the transition area in the pouring rain and we all headed home.  On the way we picked up Chicago hotdogs from Portillos!  Later that night we had Chicago pizza from Lou Malnatis!  Treat yo self!

I spent the next days catching up with family, eating great food, drinking good beer and shopping!  Needless to say, I had a great time back home!

Well friends, thanks for taking the time to read this novel of a post!  Now I have to get ready for my next big race...the REDMAN Half Ironman Triathlon Round 2!  It's only 15 days away!  Stay tuned for more details and have a great week!
I must-ache you a question!

1 comment:

  1. What an amazing experience!! And I can't believe after you did that you were running with us the next Saturday with Landrunners!

    I'll be cheering you on at Redman from the Landrunners water stop.

    Oh, I'm the guy you grabbed for directions on the Saturday run! Hope to see you again.