The few weeks leading up to the Chicago Triathlon went pretty fast. I was coming off of a 2nd overall finish at Steelhead 70.3, I started preseason for soccer, and I was getting in the mode to get back to teaching. The summer was officially over but I took it all in stride. The big question I got a lot of the time from friends and family was “do you feel pressure to repeat”? That question always confused me a bit because even though I won last year and had some good results this year, winning a race overall is still something I am getting used to. But my answer was “not really”. But in reality I felt a bit of pressure. After winning last year my school district got wind of it and honored me at a school board meeting so my co-workers were now behind me! So that meant that I WANTED to win. But I also knew that, like with all races, I do not know who is racing the race so my goal was to race hard and put myself in good position to win the race. If it happened and I won, great!, but if I wasn’t able to pull if off I would be ok with it as long as I left it all out on the course.
Race morning went well, woke up even earlier than normal for my 6:04 start time but I never really sleep well the night before a race because I am always worried that my alarm, well 4 different alarms, won’t go off or I will forget something, or my car won’t work. Got to the race early to set up transition then headed to the swim start with my wife. We waited, and waited, and waited. The weather was nice and the biggest question I had was which goggles to wear…mirrored or a slight tint?! If you were wondering I went slight tint since the sun wasn’t up yet and I would not be looking into the sun. I think I made a good decision on that one…
The Chicago Triathlon is HUGE so starting in the “Premier” wave is great because we get to start in the second wave and basically have the course open on the bike…but not so much on the swim! The swim starts with an out and back but when you turn back there are only buoys separating the out section to the back section. So if you, or other swimmers, are not sighting the best or not paying attention it is not out of the question to run into someone going the opposite direction as you. And that almost happened a few times. Made it out of the water in 22:01 which was ok for me but wish I could’ve broken 22 minutes. Started the nice LONG run to transition and got my Wattie Ink kit zipped up and tried to go as fast and comfortable as I could.
Got on the bike and started to push immediately. The course was nice and open and the ride on Lake Shore Drive was smooth for the most part because they repaved last year. But once we got down to Lower Wacker and the likes it got rough. The combo of going from sunlight to dark made seeing the potholes, even though they were marked, hard to see. At one point I started riding with another rider and we were taking turns up front which is always a nice break. Pushed a few more miles then I went into a turn and boom! My basebar slipped straight down so that my extensions were pointing to the ground. I was pretty annoyed but also happy that I didn’t crash! I had to stop for a few seconds to fix them which meant I lost the guy I was riding with. Once I got them fixed I wanted to push and see if I could catch back up. Ended up making my way back up to catch one rider but the guy I was riding with was about 45 seconds ahead heading into T2 where I had another adventure!
Because my basebar slipped and my not so perfect fix didn’t get them straight I dismounted but the combo of sweat and a slight angle of the bar caused me to slip off and land HARD on my toes. I saved myself from falling but had a volunteer yell that my shoe came off me pedal. So I put my bike down, got the shoe, got my bike, then ran to transition to get ready to run. My immediate thought was my toe was going to be all nasty and bloody from the slip. Thankfully no blood but I did something bad to that toe because it is still swollen and bothering me today!
I headed out on the run and my dad told me I was about 45 seconds back to first. I pushed the pace early to try to close that gap as fast as I could but also pushed it to get a gap on anyone behind me. I knew there were a few people close so I wanted to put some more time in to them early in the run if I could. After about a half mile I could see the leader up ahead and knew that I would pass him shortly. But I wanted to make sure I was racing my race and kept pushing because I had no idea who was behind me and how close people were. Made the pass and now I had my own lead cyclist! It is always a cool feeling having someone lead you out.
But on I went. I felt I was pushing hard but my pace was not where I wanted it to be. It was kind of disappointing but I knew I was giving it all I had so I wasn’t really worrying about pace. I got to the half turn around and saw I had a nice little gap. I so badly wanted to ease up a bit but I also wanted to run faster and get this race over with! Once I got to the mile mark I figured I had it in the bag so I started singing Drake “Back to Back” in my head for a few seconds. Then the pain came back! Got to the final 200 meters and had the finish area to myself. I saw my wife and mom and waved at them. Zipped up my kit and pushed on through. I grabbed the finisher banner and was ecstatic to repeat. Even though this race does not have a pro race it is still really cool to say I am a 2x winner of the Chicago Triathlon!
The only bad to come from that race was my toe is still not right. But whatever. Happy to end my triathlon season with a win and now time to get ready for the Chicago Marathon in a few weeks!