I knew going into this race that it probably wouldn’t be my best race ever. I spent the majority of the 2 weeks prior in Europe for work and my workouts were limited. I had access to a stationary bike the first week, but did zero rides the second week and I only managed one swim the whole trip. But despite all of that, I knew that the race would be a good indicator of my fitness level to see where I am at with no taper and less than stellar preparation.
I did have 2 goals for the race: First, I wanted to improve my transition times from last August and second, I wanted to run well. I have had some really great speed workouts lately and I thought there was even a chance I could PR the 10k. I *knew* the bike would be slow because of the many u-turns and tight spaces, but I was okay with that. I planned to be conservative and not take any risks that could cause an accident.
How did I do? Well I completely surprised myself…but not in the “OMG I accidentally PR’d” kind of way.
I woke up around 7, happy to finally sleep until a reasonable time (hello jetlag) instead of being up at 4 a.m., and headed out right away for my shake-out ride to bike check-in. I rode about 6 miles, got my packet and dropped my bike in transition. When I got home, I went straight to the pool and did a full swim workout (2400 yards). Since I wasn’t tapering anyway, I really wanted to log some more time in pool after missing so many workouts. After the swim, it was time for a very important event.
We ran about 3 miles total at a very slow pace, but it was HOT. I only drank 2 beers, but finished the run by sharing a massive plate of pork covered fries with Jenny, Manny and CT. Maybe not the best pre-race meal?
After I left the crew, I headed over to Belmont Harbor to meet Brad where he was hanging with a group of his high school friends on a boat. We played a hilarious game of Cards Against Humanity, but were home in bed by 9:30.
I debated back and forth for days on what I should do on race morning. Transition closed at 5:45, but my race start wasn’t until 9:45. Ultimately I decided to get up at 4 and drive down to set up transition then go home and get some more sleep. This worked out perfectly. I was back in bed by 5:15 and slept for 2 hours before having a leisurely breakfast at home then taking the L downtown to the start. I had plenty of time and even got to chat with my Nuun friends for a bit before heading to the swim staging area.
Right before the start I ran into my friend Katy who had several friends racing in my age group.
The race director gave us a few minutes before the start to get in the water and swim around to get acclimated. The lake was 66*, which was shocking at first, but even in my sleeveless wetsuit was fine after a few minutes. After treading water and chatting nervously for a few minutes, the countdown started and we were off.
We swam north for about 400 meters (my guess) before turning back south all the way to the finish. I got out front with the lead group right away and tried to grab some feet to draft. Unfortunately the fast feet sped off quickly and no one settled in around me. I was squarely in 5th place within 200 meters of the start, with no one even close to me for the rest of the swim. I tried to control my effort and get into a smooth rhythm, but I just never really found it. Similar to Nationals last year, I was breathing way too often and felt sloppy. There were a few short periods where I settled into a strong, controlled pull, but as soon as it was there, it was gone again.
Some days the orange buoys come to you faster than you think they should and some days you pull and pull and they never seem to get closer. Today was definitely the latter
1500 m: 25:53, 1:35/100 yd (5/80 AG)
Bike to Swim
The volunteers were great in pulling me up the slippery ramp from the swim, but then I was on my own for a long run (400+ m) into transition. My bike was right inside the swim-in and I was thankful for the quick rest to get my gear on. It had rained in the morning so it took some finagling to get all of the trash bags off that I used to cover everything, but I felt like I moved pretty quickly. Once I got my bike, I had another 0.16 mile run (according to Garmin) to get to bike-out.
T1: 4:17 (goal #1: fail…but let’s blame that on 0.3+ mi of running!)
When I first hopped on the bike, I struggled for almost a half mile to get my feet clipped in (thanks to new cleats). Once I got settled, I focused on pushing as heavy a gear as I could but still holding 90ish rpm. This is a good way for me to stay focused and on top of my effort in races and not think too much about how far I have been/have left.
Going into Lower Wacker (think a VERY long tunnel or underpass) was dark and a little strange on the first loop, but by the time I hit it the second time, I felt more confident and knew where the majority of the rough patches in the road were. I would pull my sunglasses down for a few minutes going in, then slide them back up once my eyes adjusted. My Garmin lost signal immediately after hitting the Lower Wacker portion so I never knew my pace. It wasn’t until the start of the 4th loop that I did some math and realized how well I was riding. I tried not to get too far ahead of myself and told myself to focus on the final lap so nothing stupid happened.
Overall, I was shocked at how open the roads were throughout the bike. I never felt crowded and even the turns weren’t too much of a cluster. As much anxiety as I had about the u-turns on the course, I have to admit, it wasn’t THAT bad. I took them relatively slow (hence sitting up in all the pictures), but then tried to push hard to pick back up on the other side. I am really, really happy with the outcome of the bike.
From the pics it appears that I was never riding in aero, but the camera men were all set-up at the u-turn on Congress or on the turns into and out of it. In fact, I felt like I stayed in aero more this race than I ever have since it was so flat!
24.8 miles: 1:04:06, 23.3 mph (11/80 AG)
Bike to Run
Once we dismounted, we had to run all the way around transition to enter on the far end. Running in bike shoes isn’t the greatest, but I think I prefer that to being barefoot. Despite another long run with the bike, I feel pretty good about this transition. I felt like I was quick to get my shoes changed and move on.
T2: 2:54 (This includes another 0.3 miles of running through transition!)
I felt really good in the first half mile of the run. It usually takes me that long to get my legs underneath me and feel “normal” running, but I felt strong right away. Unfortunately, the feeling didn’t last long.
My plan was to hold a 7:00 pace for the first half and then see how I felt. Toward the end of the first mile, my pace was already slipping to 7:20 and by the 2nd mile, I had an incredibly sharp cramp in my side. Breathing through it didn’t help at all and I considered just walking it out. But I knew that walking was a dangerous luxury and eventually pinching it and massaging it worked. By the halfway point it was gone, but my pace had dropped well above 8:00 and I think I kind of gave in mentally.
Miles 1 & 2: 7:26, 8:07
I did pick things up a little in the 3rd mile (Mile 3: 7:51) but by the time I finished the 2nd loop and started on the 3rd (and final) loop, I was deep into the pain cave. The sun felt like it was baking me and I was SO THIRSTY. I was grabbing two cups of water at the two stops on each loop: one to drink and one to dump on my head, but toward the end, I drank them both and still felt thirsty. I got a boost everytime I got some water in me and that makes me wish I had carried a bottle, which I normally wouldn’t even consider for a 10k.
Miles 4 & 5: 8:10, 8:11
In the last 400 m, my stomach started cramping and I headed straight for a porta-potty immediately after crossing the finish line.
Mile 6: 8:06
There is no doubt that I was dehydrated and it caused some GI distress. I am just very thankful that it didn’t come on until the very end so it didn’t make the run even worse.
10k: 47:47; 7:42 avg.* (14/80 Age Group)
*My Garmin (and others) had the run course a little short. Mine showed 6.0, but two others I talked to both had 6.09. According to my Garmin, avg. pace was 7:58.
Overall ITU Chicago Olympic Distance Time: 1:24:54 (9th Place Age Group)
Overall I am pretty happy with the race. I am ELATED about my bike time (and still not convinced the course wasn’t short?!), but I definitely have some work to do on the swim and running off the bike. Admittedly I have only done 1 brick workout leading up to this race, so I am not sure why I expected so much more on the run. I do have a feeling that the side cramp and feeling out of gas on the run was probably also related to poor pre-race prep and general fatigue from travel, etc. I haven’t felt that bad on a run off of the bike since my first Olympic Distance Race in 2011 and I really, really hope that I can pull off a better performance in 6 weeks at Nationals.
My expectations for the race itself were definitely exceeded. The communications leading up and the people that were on-site seemed to be lacking in information, but I am pretty impressed that the organizers pulled off a seemingly successful event on the first time in what was a surely a limited geographic area granted by the city.