Thursday, September 1, 2011

Race Recap: Chicago Triathlon

If you missed it, you can read about the pre-race disasters here.

Before the race we looked so happy and optimistic.

Believe me we weren't smiling after we were done.  P.s.  Doesn't everyone look so hott in a tri suit? Just kidding.  I feel mostly nekked.

So where was I? Ah yes, the start.  The line-up for the race started 20 minutes before our actual start time.  This is not so good for me because this is typically when I get nervous and being in that big crowd does not help.  So our wave group slowly inched forward towards the stairs to enter the water, all packed in like sardines.  At 8:24 we were told to get in the water and this caused major, major chaos.  Everyone, approximately 150 of us, were trying to tread water and get close to the front of the pack.  I absolutely hated this start and hate getting pushed around in the water.  Those two minutes seemed to last way longer, but we were finally off.  I stayed a little towards the back because I dislike the calamity of swimming in the pack.  The hardest part of open water swimming for me is finding my rhythm.  Usually I spend the first 1/3 of the swim with terrible technique and short and shallow breathing, which makes for a lot of energy wasted and not a lot of progress.  This swim I focused on finding that rhythm early and I think staying out of the pack helped.  The first 500 m still seemed to take forever, but I was still passing people.  It can be difficult to know how to pace yourself during long swims.  So I was trying to push it but make sure my breathing was steady.
It didn't help that I kept getting tangles of seaweed stuck on me.  Ewwwwwww.  Lake Michigan isn't exactly clean I guess.  One piece got stuck against my neck and I pulled that off then some got stuck in my watch band.  I don't even want to think about that.  I also had to combat the waves.  I heard someone say that they had been doing this triathlon for years and this was the choppiest they've ever seen the water.  Great.  I swallowed some water due to that little wave.  As I turned my head to breathe the wave swelled and it was bad.  I don't even want to know what's in that water.  I'm just trying not to thin about it.
At the end of the swim, I had to swim around a buoy and to a set of stairs where volunteers were stationed to help you get up the stairs.  They don't want you swimming in way hard and knocking your shins on the metal stairs.  After the stairs there was a 450 meter run to transition.  This can be quite a difficult task because after not standing for 30 minutes, standing up and running is difficult at best.  I always feel sort of wobbly.  It helps to kick a lot at the end of the swim portion to get some blood flowing back into your legs.  My overall swim time (including the 450 meter run) was 37:09.  I think my swim time itself was about 33 or 34 minutes.  Not as good as I wanted but with the choppy water I thought it wasn't bad.
Into transition to put socks on my dripping wet feet I went.  And I came out running with my bike.  The bike portion was interesting. We rode along Lake Shore Drive (LSD) and going north there was a strong headwind.  I felt like I was moving so slow.  The bike is notoriously my weakest leg and I never know how fast I should be going.  I think I just need to push it there more.  I was passing quite a few people but still getting passed quite a bit.  My front derailleur wasn't shifting into the smaller gear at all which was fine because the course was pretty much flat but it would have been helpful for the few hills.  Sometimes it was really hard to pass because other bikers would ride right next to someone going the same speed and I would have to slow down and move back to pass.  Frustrating.  The bike mostly went off without a hitch and I Gu'ed once at about 1 hr 40 minutes.  It was still gross.  But at least I don't gag now, right?
The end of the bike was interesting...We came down on the exit ramp and the dismount line sort of caught me by surprise.  It was right there and I was not expecting it.  So I hit the brakes and tried to dismount my bike but it turns out that my knee likes to give out after spending about 90 minutes on the bike.  Big surprise huh? So I crashed a little bit.   As in, I wiped out and fell on the ground.  Now, I didn't know it then but this is when my bike effectively broke.  Ugh.  That deserves a post of its own.  I jogged it back to transition for a total bike time of 1:23:11and an average speed of 18.2 mph.  Not bad.
I racked my bike back up and grabbed so more Gu and headed out of T2.  Of course, my legs felt like crap but I knew that if I could just keep running through about the first mile they would feel better.  So I kept running.  I made it through the first mile and drank some water and had another Gu at the first water station.  I wasn't making great time but I just kept running.  I hit mile 2 and 3 and then the turn around point.  I tried to pick up the pace but I was really running out of steam.  I had my last Gu at about mile 4 along with some water.  I took two 30 second walking breaks, one at about mile 4 and one around mile 5.  With about half a mile left I saw a girl holding a sign that said "Triathletes are sexy."  I laughed a bit so apparently I wasn't dead yet and I kept running.  I tried to run faster but I was seriously out of gas, my body had nothing left.  An uphill slope took us to the finish line and everyone was cheering and I just wanted to be done.  If felt so great to finish!  That's at the point where I think to myself "I love triathlons" where at every other point during the run I thought "I hate these things and I'm not doing another one."  It's like you forget about all the pain when you feel the glory of the finish.  Accomplishment. Celebration.  I love it.
My final time was 3:07:01.  I didn't quite reach my sub 3 hour goal but I'm pretty darn proud of that time.
Laura and I celebrated finishing by getting more free stuff and the best part was a cold towel.  Ahhhhhhh.  I was getting to the point of heat exhaustion and as I was running I kept getting goose bumps.  Not really a great sign.  So that cold towel felt like nirvana.  Then we got our post race meal of a hamburger with really gross fake cheese, cold breakfast potatoes, some nasty looking eggs and watermelon.  I skipped the eggs and could not eat the potatoes.  I just couldn't.  Bleh.  We gathered our stuff from transition and went back to enjoy our free post-race brewski.  First I had a Emmet's Pale Ale which was super hoppy and not to my liking.  So I got rid of that and instead went for the light lager which was much better.  Still not my favorite, but when Laura asked me what the flavor was, I responded with cold.  That's what is important in a beer after a hot race anyways.  Am I right?
After the beer, only one beer I might add, already feeling a bit tipsy, we went back to transition to pack up our gear.  This is when I realized that my poor bike was broken.  Rear derailleur is no longer attached to the frame.  I found a small nut in the grass but cannot find the matching screw.  Some nice guy helped me put the rear wheel back on so it's pinching the derailleur on as well so I can at least ride it back to my car.  Grrrr. I must have bad bike karma.  Of course traffic was a son of a bee sting on the way back home, but we finally made it.  Whereupon I jumped into the shower to get that scuzziness off me and then collapsed on the couch for most of the rest of the day.
And 3 days later, I still feel exhausted from that triathlon.
I love it, but I still hate it.  We have a love-hate relationship.
I am a triathlete!
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