Chicago Triathlon Race Report

Did you like the little preview I gave you yesterday? Sunday’s Chicago Triathlon was my first Olympic distance, and as ‘not too worried’ that I told myself I was leading up to it, it turned out that I was a bundle of nerves in between the “my friends left me” and the actual race start. 

Yesterday I wrote about the pre-race activities, including how I set up my transition.  I didn’t include exactly how bitchy some of the triathletes were, but I try to be positive. 

The Swim:

When it came time for me to start my triathlon, I got into my wetsuit and got in line with my wave for the Swim Start.  Green caps all the way!

2012-08-27 15.25.22

My nerves started to get the better of me again (once I’d left my friends at the CES tent), and I started doubting my swimming abilities… against the looks of the other people in green caps around me.  We kept moving along like lemmings being herded off the cliff, except we had to jump into the water.

2012-08-27 15.25.17

We tread water for 2 minutes or so before our wave was started, and I was off!  I actually realized (and this has happened for both of the other two tri’s I did this summer) that I need to place myself a bit more aggressively at the swim start, as I was trying to swim around people for the first bit of the swim. 


By the time we got around the first set of buoys and were heading north, I think I’d passed the slower of the green caps and began hitting the purple caps of the wave ahead of mine.  This kept going as we moved north, and eventually I began passing some yellow caps (2 waves before mine).  Now don’t get me wrong – I was also getting passed by white caps of swimmers behind me – the competitive 30-34 yo Males. These guys are fierce – one even swam over me.  Instinct pulled in and I covered my head to avoid the kick, and then (not that I’m proud) but I pulled on his leg to share my dissatisfaction.   He then kicked his way ahead. 

I was able to draft off of a white cap for a while until we turned into the finish.  After getting pulled out of the water, I then ran the 1/4 mile to get to transition (see the yellow path on the map).  Thankfully this was a carpeted path – and wet from the many waves before me – so it wasn’t hard to run barefoot on.  I saw many people leave shoes out here, but I don’t think that would have saved me much time.

Mike was there to cheer for me at the entrance to transition (“Swim In”), and then I had to find my bike! It’s now about 8:30 and fully sunny out, so very different than the 5:30 AM darkness when I’d last been there. I found my bike, made myself eat my Honey stinger waffle, put my sunglasses, gloves & helmet on, grabbed my bike & headed out for the bike ride.

The Bike Ride:

The bike is historically my weakest leg in triathlon, and my only goal for today was to not freak out, crash, or otherwise have major issues.  I made sure to keep my bike in the small chain ring (front) until after we’d cross the bridge, as recommended at the course talk.  I was clipped in, got my bearings, and then realized that while I’d set my Garmin to collect cadence information, that I’d forgotten to include that on my ‘multisport’ view. Oops.  I tried to constantly remember to keep my cadence up (in the 70-90 rpm) and shift gears when necessary to keep it around there. 

There were visual indicators on the course of the distance that we’d gone, and also of key areas to be aware of (rough patches in road).  I was cruising along, and was actually pretty amazed to be going as fast as I was.  I completed my first 18 miles in 60 minutes exactly! 


The other area that I was concerned about on the bike was the several U-turns that we had to accomplish – four in total. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t been slowing down when passing the Chicago Avenue intersection on LSD to get a better look at that intersection and opening. 

Luckily I completed all 4 U-turns without a problem!  I credit these successful turns to the following:  Slowing down majorly, and clipping out. I’m actually pretty proud as these were somewhat narrower than I’d visualized.

I also spent a good bit of time riding along, and also passing people!  (WTF? What is happening to me?!) The Chicago Triathlon bike course is a bit unique in how you ride & pass people.  Normally, you ride on the right and pass on the left side of the slower riders.  But because this bike course takes place on the 2 inner lanes of Lake Shore Drive (so that you can do these U-Turns), you ride on the left and pass on the right.  I thought I’d forget about this counter-intuitive part, but it wasn’t too hard to do.  I passed a lot of people, but only had to actually move into the right lane next to traffic once.

I slowed down a little toward the end, especially after passing what looked like a bad wipe out by a fit-looking triathlete being checked out by medical personnel.  I hope he’s ok – it didn’t look too good.

I headed off of Lake Shore Drive and into transition to start onto the run. 

The Run:

After swapping out my shoes, grabbing my visor/race belt combo, and then my Garmin, I headed out for the run.  My stomach didn’t feel to hot to start running, and I actually had that ‘legs like bricks’ feel. That’s actually funny as I hadn’t really had that feeling at all when training on my shorter distances, or even on the last brick workout I did with a longer distance bike ride (but potentially less intense). 

The side stitch didn’t seem to go away even as I willed it, and intensified whenever I tried to run faster.  So I was sticking around an 11:20 min/mile average.  After I passed the first mile, I forced myself to take an Accel Gel for sustenance, and kept trucking along.  I did a combination of run-walk, but still was feeling pretty crappy. 


After I hit the turnaround and decided I should push myself as hard as I could, I watched and saw that I could barely hit a 10:30 pace. It’s so funny, as this is usually my easy pace, to be running and watching this be as hard as I could go.  I didn’t really feel my legs being too dead at this point, but I did feel like I was at my cardio max.  

I ran into my friend Joanne, who wasn’t having the best time when I saw her.  I decided to stick with her for a few minutes to make sure she was OK, and this break actually seemed to help me.  My own heart rate lowered a bit, and I walked with her for a bit until I knew she’d be OK to finish the race.  When I started running again (with a little less than 2 miles to go), I was happy to see that I was finally able to push myself at a pace that I am a bit more proud of.  My last mile was in a 9-ish pace, and I had a final kick into the finish!


9 thoughts on “Chicago Triathlon Race Report

  1. kilax

    Awesome awesome race! You really kicked butt in the swim and bike (18mph?!) – maybe that is why you felt dead on your legs in the first part of your run until you got your second wind. You rock!

    That is nice that they carpet the transition from swim to bike. I was wondering about that!

    It would be so fun to watch this one year!

    1. Lauren Post author

      I was also thinking it might have been an ‘over-nutrition’ failure as I had these stomach cramp/ side stitches when I started my run. I didn’t have to ‘go’ but the side stitches were with me pretty much until I stopped for a few minutes. Its funny – my pace then increased by 2.5 minutes!

      If only I’d taken a break 3 miles earlier!!

  2. Pete B

    Nice job and great recap! I was able to watch the bikers on my run that morning along LSD. I am interested in doing my first Tri, maybe next year. I have to get a bike where I can “clip-in” as I’ve never ridden one before. Also, I need to figure out how to get a wetsuit for a day! Congrats..

    1. Lauren Post author

      Thanks! Don’t feel like you have to get a special bike, esp for just trying out triathlon. I actually got clip in pedals on my mountain bike last year when I did my first race. There were a ton of people out there Sunday with just toe cages & sneakers.

      You can rent a wetsuit from fleet feet I think. There were also a bunch of people without them, and I might not have used it for the shorter distance race.

    1. Lauren Post author

      I’m incredibly happy with my performance. I was strong on the swim despite my big nerves, and I did amazing on the bike. My overall time was less than I had been estimating (of 3.5 hours). I certainly have a lot to improve upon (such as how get out of transition quicker than it takes to paint toenails!, or pre-race nerves), and I do look forward to trying another Olympic distance next year.

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