Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Chicago Triathlon Race Report

2008 Chicago Triathlon Race Report - Aug 24 2008

Going into this race, I knew that I hadn't put the effort into it this year like I had in the year prior - my training schedule in 2007 was entirely focused on this race, with bike races as secondary. When planning this year out, I really thought that I'd be able to "do it all", mixing triathlons in with a full schedule of road races and crits... not so much. Over the winter I became much more comfortable in the water - a requirement for a race like Escape from Alcatraz. I hadn't been on a strict training regimen since June, so I knew that I would be "coasting" on residual swimming fitness since I'd only been in the pool a max of once a week for the last few months.

Tracy arrived just in time for me to hand off my flip flops and get lined up - I had tucked a GU into the ankle of my wetsuit but by the time I zipped up it was nowhere to be found. Great. Looking around, I noticed that the wave was MUCH bigger than it had been in years past... all Men's Clydesdales were starting in Wave 27. Great. We started getting into the water and I positioned myself in the middle, only having to tread water for about 30 seconds before we were off. I started my Garmin and flattened out into the water.

oblivious me.

For as many guys as there were in the wave, the beginning of the swim wasn't too bad. I quickly made my way up to the front third of the wave, only having to swim over the top of two or three people to get there. About 300 yards out my goggles fogged to the point where I couldn't see a thing, so I moved over to the seawall where I could lick the lenses - this did the trick and I was fine for the remainder of the swim. We were at the Shedd Aquarium before I knew it, while turning around the buoy I peeked back and realized that I was pulling most of the group - there weren't too many pink caps ahead of me! I stuck it out for another 200-300 yards and started feigning fatigue - no point in letting these suckers draft me for the entire swim - it was their turn to do some work. It only took a few "soft" strokes in the water to be passed, at which time I promptly jumped into the leader's wake and matched his rhythm. With 100yd to go, I kicked into high gear and oxygen debt, even managing to breathe bilaterally in order to get out of the water as quickly as possible.

The run from the water always sucks. My first year I did it without stashing shoes. Mistake. I had my shoes in a good spot this year, so I stopped to put them on, along with my xXx jersey that I had laid on top of them. I fiddled with getting my Garmin onto my wrist, something I shouldn't have wasted time with since it was going to be clipped onto the bike anyways... but who's thinking logically during T1 anyways? Tracy was right there to lend support - I don't know if she was talking to me, yelling, screaming, or had signs - I knew she was there but was so "in the zone" that the world was on mute.

this run always sucks.

I got to transition and my bike with ease - I had prewalked it and knew exactly where I was going. Not many of my wave's bikes were gone and for that I was thrilled and thankful... I've not had that happen before since my swim has always sucked. I put on my socks and shoes, donned my helmet and rolled out, putting my gloves on while maneuvering the bike with the other hand (that's really hard to do, by the way).

Starting out onto the bike course I knew my legs just weren't in prime shape - they felt sluggish even when I passed through the Oak Street Chicane. Sunday's headwind certainly wasn't helping, I could barely maintain 19 mph regardless of how I positioned myself. Encouraged by the spaceship sounds of my borrowed Zipp 606's (thanks, Mission Bay!) I tried my best to put the hammer down and get myself up to Foster Ave for the turn back south, figuring I could make up the lost time on the southbound stretches. Once turned south, I found that the pavement was somehow in WORSE condition than it was for Bike the Drive. Great. Tanks to Da Mare for dat won. Hizzoner could have had CDOT put some effort into Lake Shore Drive, especially since this will likely be the Olympic Triathlon course if/when Chicago 2016 happens and the IOC was likely watching this event. Potholes, cracks, rough patches... and a BIG ASS HOLE FULL OF SAND awaited us on the southbound stretch. I managed to recognize the inconsistent pavement far enough in advance to avoid most of it, but it was hard to find a rhythm when constantly swerving to avoid people/holes/aero drink sponges/water bottles. Southbound, the wind helped a great deal but it just wasn't enough for me to average the 40km/h I needed to come in at an hour for the bike leg. As I passed Chicago Ave on the way to T2 I ate another GU to prepare for the run. While coming down the suicide ramp before dismount, I heard a bunch of people yell out for me - I presumed these were xXxers who saw me coming down the ramp (I had my team jersey on).

"suicide" u-turn onto lower randolph

Transition still wasn't terribly busy... and there were few bikes on my wave's rack. I still wasn't going to celebrate too much as the run is BY FAR my weakest event. I took off my helmet, threw on my shoes and grabbed my crack pack (Enervitene) as I was already feeling that I'd need it just to get through the run. I headed out with apprehension - on last year's run I experienced some of the worst foot pain I've ever had... it felt like a needle being shoved through the ball of my foot... pretty sweet. Around Mile 2 the pain kicked in, both feet this time but the left foot being far worse than the right. As last year, if I alternated between running and walking and stayed in the gravel/grass I knew I'd make it. Keeping in mind that I was targeting 2:45, I had started on pace to hit that number but having to walk some would prevent me from achieving that goal - the pain was sufficient that I didnt' care. I found another guy who I had started the race with while running, he was having problems with chest congestion and just couldn't get enough air. We leapfrogged each other doing the walk/run drill until around mile 3 we started to encourage one another to get moving. I knew that I had to beat last year's time... I had a fever, and the only prescription was to HTFU and more cowbell. Someone was ringing it, because I came out of the LSD tunnel with some energy for the last 200m and finished strong.

Overall, I managed to place three full minutes faster than last year at 2:56, also first in my Division - Men 250+ Lb Under 39y/o. I'll take that.

first in my division. didn't know it at the time.

Here's my splits from the past 3 years (click to embiggen).

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