Well I did it friends! I completed my first triathlon and what a weekend it was. This was an awesome experience and I hope it inspires you to Try-A-Tri and see if it something that you would fall in love with like I did. Here is how race weekend went…
SATURDAY – PRE-RACE EXPO
Since I was doing the Sprint, my girlfriend and I needed to head downtown to get my packet (REQUIRED) and the Chicago Triathlon organizers had an “early check in” where we could rack our bikes early which will save a ton of time figuring out where I needed to head to during T1 (Transition 1 – SWIM TO BIKE). We took the train down and with my Tri-Bike in tow, we headed to the Expo, went through the required safety briefing, picked up packet, bib/bike/helmet numbers and racked the bike. Quick note on the Expo: The vendors had so much stuff from car bike racks, to wet suits, to transition bags, to medal holders to.. well you name it… Everything Triathlon! It was all setup very nicely.
SUNDAY – RACE DAY!
We woke up at 5 AM to get ready, double check I had everything for my transitions. I was wave 40 of the race and my race time was 9:19 AM so I had quite a bit of time to prepare and get ready for the race. We had pre-paid for parking so we parked really close to the event. With gear in hand, we head towards T1 where I had a two hour window to get my transition area setup. It didn’t take too long, I just needed to get my towel down, running shoes and everything else I was going to need for my bike and run portion. I had my bike kit on so all I had to do was pull my wet suit on and jump into Lake Michigan come race time. They gave us a pre-race gear bag to put flip flops, and anything else we wanted to check just before race time which was very nice so I didn’t have to walk around with bare feet for an hour or so and we could pick it up right after we finish. At this point I started getting excited for the start. My girlfriend and I decided where we both would be during the swim as I KNEW this was going to be difficult for me as I am not a strong swimmer. I decided I would swim near the middle of the pack and my girlfriend would walk along the sea wall spotting me. She told me to endure the swim, CRUSH the bike and get through the run… so that was the plan… It was time to head down to the starting point and get in the water.
READY, SET, GO!
9:17 AM – We are directed to get into the water and get ready. They would count down our wave and sound the horn. As I stepped down the metal steps into the 72.2 degree water, it took my breath away a little and I only had a few seconds to gain my composure and control my breathing as I let water into my wet suit, it was chilly but I got used to it fairly quickly. As the countdown was getting closer, I started getting focused. 9:19 comes along and the HORN SOUNDS and we are off! The strong swimmers fly past me and about oh… 20 seconds into the swim I was gassed. I knew I was going to have a very long .47 mile swim so I did the freestyle, then the backstroke and then to side stroke and eventually doggy paddling. Yeah, it was rugged but I stayed the course. I felt bad for a few folks who either panicked or just didn’t want to endure the water anymore and quit. A number of others were floating on the kayaks to catch their breath but I told myself just keep swimming and I did. During the swim I could see and hear my girlfriend cheering me on. It was very uplifting as this part of the race was a mental challenge. Your body wants to quit and get out but you know if you get through this, you will be one step closer to finishing. I finally could see the swim exit which gave me a bit of a boost. As we got closer to the exit, the waves kicked up a bit and I just rode them a little like when we are snorkeling in the Caribbean which made me smile. I finished the swim in 27:13. I won’t mention where I was placed amongst my fellow age groupers.
TIME TO BIKE!
Here is where I can make up time from that challenging swim. I had it in my head I was going to push as hard as I can on the bike and i was feeling really good even after that swim. Out of the water, I had to run 500 meters to get ready for the bike. I get to transition and it was chaos but I knew where I needed to go and get ready. I mount my GoPro, put on my helmet, get my shoes on and head out to the bike course. Our course was up and back on Lake Shore Drive (15 miles). I knew it was going to be fast. There were a number of up and downs in terms of the elevation due to the overpasses but I started passing so many people it just boosted me to keep going! There were only a handful of folks passing me and these were either teams or people who were seasoned in triathlons. My bike was completed in 46:20 (323rd out of 2289 competitors) – Not bad for my first triathlon.
(Here is the raw video of my entire ride. I suggest playing some background music if you watch the whole thing.)
TIME TO RUN!
Now that the bike portion is over, it is time to run. Running off the bike is an interesting feeling as the blood flow needs to change so it is important to start out steady and run tall! I did a bit of jogging, walking as this was a WHOLE NEW feeling for me but I was feeling better and better as i got close to the finish line. In T2 (Transition 2 – BIKE TO RUN) I took a bit longer than I should have but I wanted to get socks on and get my breath, again realizing I need to continue my training to get my body used to all this but still loving the experience! I get my shoes on and head out to the course. Again, my fantastic girlfriend decided to run/chase me along the course as it is quite open for spectators which was nice cause she would ask me about my pain, how I was feeling and continue to cheer me on. I told her about the bike and I couldn’t wait to show her when we got home… anyway, back to the running. Our run went down the shoreline and past the museums and back then up to the finish line. So many spectators out there cheering everyone on and seeing so many people from ages of 16 to 81 it was AWESOME and very inspiring. As I got closer to the finish, the race guards, other runners and spectators were getting louder and coaching us along. I could hear the announcer so I knew I was getting close and I found some energy from that and kicked my way to crossing the finish line. I was overwhelmed with emotion and happiness that I just did something I never thought I would do… and let me tell you… I AM HOOKED! This is an awesome sport and I encourage ALL of you to do a supersprint or a sprint just once so you too can experience this great sport. You will love the achievement you will feel when you cross that finish line!
I did it! I started at 9:19 and crossed the finish line 2 hours and 17 minutes later. I can’t wait for the next one and all the training I will have to do. I am determined and WILL cross that finish line in Kona Hawaii 5 years from now. Thank you all for supporting me through this journey!
HUGE thank you to my Mom and my Girlfriend for your support, love and coaching. I love you with all of my heart!