I just returned from the Windy City. Yes, I know it is called that because of the POLITICS but this past weekend, I think it was called that because of the wind. I can take tough conditions…well, I try my best to suck it up and be mentally tougher than anyone else there…but wind can be so defeating!
I arrived Friday, Southwest Airlines on a direct flight. I even snuck by with only a $25 bike fee; FYI, Southwest is the way to go with bikes. I built the bike first thing and hit up a nice easy 30 minute run over to Lake Shore Drive, which I was familiar with from last year. It was extremely muggy but I got rained on which felt GREAT! I then hopped on the ‘Brown Line’ (chicago-train-talk) and met my friend Jen at the Expo to get our race bags, which we tried to do quickly. Those Expos can really suck the energy right out of your legs! We hit up a nice little italian place with her boyfriend Zach and were back to her place early. Saturday I took the day off, mostly due to the circumstances. She lives in Lincoln Park, not the best place for riding; so I just slept in, went out to brunch with our friend Noelle and really sat around all day. It was nice but boy did I feel LAZY by the time Saturday night rolled around! Good and ready to race (…kind of…).
This race is unique in a few ways. 1) It is the largest triathlon in the world, I believe, at ~8700 entrants! They start waves at 6:00 AM, but unlike many non-drafting races 2) The pros do not go off until 11:00. This is nice in theory (sleep in, not have to go to bed nervous, do not have to wake up to cram food in at 4:00 AM) but the waiting is AWFUL! I was up at 6:30 automatically, and I just ate breakfast and killed time until I left Jens condo at about 9:15. I am sure that they do this because it allows for more spectators to be out (as most Chicago-ans are probably up and about by 11:00 on Sunday) but I have to say, I definitely favor the 6:30 or 7:00 am start…less time to get nervous, the gun goes off before you actually wake up fully. It’s great.
**NEWS FLASH**: My mom called me on Saturday night at 10:00 estatic about the fish she caught at their lake (pond?) in Southern Indiana…can’t you just HEAR the excitement in that smile??? That fish makes her look miniature….
…OK back to the race now…
So; Sunday morning finally arrived and I got to the transition area at about 9:45, with 1 hr 15 min to spare before start. I had ridden my bike from Jen’s apartment which was about 3 miles; more warmup than I do usually! Then factor in the 1/2 mile walk to the swim start and wow, I was good and warm. It was really fun to see Jen, her boyfriend Zach and a few other friends prior to the start. Soon enough we were treading water, waiting for the gun and off right as scheduled, 11:04! I made a HUGE improvement on last years swim…I got buried behind the lead ‘row’ last year, as we only have about a 25-yard distance between a rope and the wall. So, if you are not up front, you are BEHIND or jockeying for position. I stayed up front until our first turn buoy, when we headed back in the opposite direction and into a decent current. No wonder it took 2x as long to get back to the swim start (which we passed and had another 10 minutes or so to go). I lost the lead pack but I felt very strong and was only about 20 seconds behind. I tried a few times to bridge the gap to no avail; which was ok, I did see a very pretty large fish swimming below (at which point I said, “Focus, Kelly!”). I exited the swim in a decent position and began the 1/4 mile run to T1.
No beating around the bush here, the bike just sucked. I felt very flat. Lately having been working a lot on my cycling, I have been feeling so strong and looking forward to the bike, especially only 25 miles (instead of 56!). However today, I just had a lot of trouble ‘getting going’. As we headed down Lake Shore Drive (away from transition) we faced a very tough head wind. I had trouble being very positive but I tried the saying, “It’s SUPPOSED to be hard!” I think it worked well, because I kept my head in the game and tried to keep pushing when I saw my power (on my SRM) start to drop. Soon enough (after 2 loops up and down Lake Shore Drive) I was nearing transition and thinking about the run; wondering how many people I had to try to run down…
I had a lovely transition, as I dismounted my bike (feeling very swift; I cannot say much about my mounts, but my dismounts are good!) I then proceeded to drop my bike, watching the left side of it go crashing into the ground. Spectators watched, I said “Shit” and simply got back to work…thinking ‘at least I wasn’t on it…’. I knew I had serious ground to make up so after mounting the bike I was off quick on the run. I definitely felt tired, but I felt strong. You run on grass for a good 1/2 mile or so out of transition here and then onto a running path for the remainder of the 10k. I passed one girl pretty quickly and had moved into 9th. Ah…good but definitely not what I came here to do. I could not see anyone else yet but tried to just run as hard as my little legs would carry me. At the turnaround, I saw Amanda Stevens and Jillian Peterson a bit ahead of me…quick assessment: Both strong girls; Jillian a great runner, Amanda put up a solid result at Timberman one week prior…then I realized of course this does not matter! Just keep running and try to catch them.
There is a point in every race, usually on the run, where I want to just go FASTER…but I know that there is a ‘maximal speed’ so to speak…I had checked a few mile splits and seen 5:50+’s and knew that was probably close to my high end. At mile 4, it started to feel a bit tougher, so despite wanting to catch them NOW I tried to be smart and say “Keep on this pace and if you catch them you do…” I passed Amanda and she gave me some nice words of encouragement. I was able to pass Jillian at about mile 5 or a bit beyond, but I knew I had to keep the hammer down as she is a tough one. I held pace until about 1/2 mile to go then just gave it all I had. I saw the finish (AH! The best feeling!) and just tried to lay it all out there.
I crossed the line in 7th place. I had come here to get top 5 or 6 (well to win, but realistically based on the field to be Top 5). I am a bit disappointed in my lack-luster bike split but all things considered, very pleased with the end result. I get a double-whammy when coming here, I am able to re-connect with so many Illinois swimmer friends as well as get in a very quality race. I know that this race is huge, and I know the city comes with a few more headaches. but they do a very good job and I recommend this to anyone who has considered doing it before! Anita Kalhan coordinates the pros and she does a great job. I was able to enjoy a cookout with Jen and Zach that afternoon, followed by some margaritas with my friend Noelle and her parents that evening.
To wrap things up; I have to admit I was a bit nervous before the start. Some of the women that come here are the ‘real deal’…yes, I consider myself to be part of this group but I don’t know if you ever really ‘feel’ that until you have laid down the consistently TOP results that some top pros at Chicago have behind their names. That being said, I LOVE to compete against the best. I absolutely love it…I can come out of this race and see on paper, fair and square, where my weaknesses are and what is required of me to be in those top 3 places. Do not ever be afraid to jump into a competition or a situation where you may feel intimidated or over-shadowed. Admit the fears, then face them. And realize that your self-worth is not what is on the line. But when it comes down to it, we are all human and anyone can be on their game on any day. Take the chance, give it your all and learn from the experience! While the challenge may seem scary, I guarantee you that you’ll come out stronger, more confident in your abilities and having learned something.
Thank you for reading! Next up is The Austin Triathlon this Monday, on Labor Day…wish me luck. 🙂
Oh, and by the way, my dad is showing off the SECOND one she caught; a 5-lb 22-inch catfish…but he is not as cute as the bass, catfish are scary looking creatures…