My final triathlon race of 2018 has come and gone already. Last Sunday I finished the Chicago Triathlon International Distance, albeit a shortened run due to the heat and humidity. Two days later and I’m still recovering with some sore muscles but I still had a great time at the race. A little background leading up to this race: I was out of town for a work conference two weeks ago and didn’t get much training in and I did a few short runs and bike rides during my taper week. I kept watching the weather and checking the temperatures in Lake Michigan because I was hoping I could wear my wetsuit since it was a long swim. The forecast kept changing but the water temps kept dropping. I went to Chicago on Friday to attend the expo, athlete briefing and get my packet, so that included a lot of walking. At the briefing, they said the EAS alert was going to start off at Yellow but possibly move to Red depending on the heat and humidity. I rested on Saturday and went to bed around 9pm knowing I had to get up before 3am since I didn’t do the optional bike racking on Saturday.
The Morning Of
I had my stuff packed and ready to go on Saturday, so I woke up around 2:30am Sunday morning to eat, get dressed, and get everything in my car. My wife came with me and we left the house around 3:30am knowing we had a 45 minute drive to get downtown. I parked in a lot I usually use, which wasn’t far from the finish line, but it was easily over a mile to the transition area. We walked my bike and my bags there. I must say, this was a very well organized event for being the largest triathlon in the country. The bike racks were a little tight, but there were close to 10,000 athletes. The official water temperature was 70 degrees, which meant it was wetsuit legal for everyone. I could finally wear my new Roka Mavericks Pro II Sleveless Wetsuit. I know the rule is “nothing new on race day”, but I never got the opportunity to swim in it.
Transition was only open 4am-5:45am for the International Distance. I registered for the Clydesdale Division, so my estimated start time wasn’t until 7:40am. I definitely could have used something more to eat during the wait. My wife and I sat by the lake and watched the first waves as they swam by and got some great pictures of the sunrise on the lake. 7:15am comes around and I started to get my wetsuit on and walk down towards the Swim Start and line up in my wave for my 7:40am start. Next time, I think I’ll do my usual age group so I can start a lot earlier.
1500m – 41:23
The swim is an interesting start. They have a set of metal bleachers setup at the Swim Start and Swim Exit. You walk down into the water then jump in. You have to tread water for 1-2 minutes while everyone gets in, then they sound the air horn and you’re off. For the International Distance, you start off going south towards the Shedd Aquarium between some buoys and the sea wall. Once you get to the last buoy you make a u-turn and head back, past the Swim Start and all the way down to the Swim Exit. Once you pass the Swim Start, you can start swimming towards the sea wall which makes it great for spectators to watch.
The water was cold to me. Some people probably think 70 degrees was warm, but I’m glad I had my wetsuit. I started off doing front stroke until I got to the u-turn, then I alternated between front stroke, back stroke, and side stroke to the finish. Sighting was fairly easy since you could look at the sea wall and judge whether you were going straight or not. It was spread out enough so I never felt like I was crowded or had people swimming over me, although I was in a smaller wave.
The Swim Exit could get a little crowded depending on how many people get there at the same time. You had to find the bleachers under water to get your feet on them, but they had neon stripes so you could see them. They had volunteers that helped you get your balance and get out of the water and up the bleachers. They also pulled the wetsuit zipper for you as you got out.
T1 – 11:12
I’ll admit that I did take some extra time in T1, but this time also included the run from the Swim Exit to T1, which was easily over 400 yards. They have a carpet down until you get into T1, so that helped with rocks. I got my wetsuit off fairly easily, I took a drink of Gatorade Endurance and had one of my Honey Stinger Energy Gels while I turned on my Garmin Edge 520 Plus on my bike. I put it in Extended Display Mode and use my Garmin Forerunner 935 for my tracking. I got my socks on and my Brooks Ghost 10 shoes with Lock Laces since I don’t have clipless. I got my bike and headed towards the Bike Out.
24.8mi – 1:37:00
What an amazing view of Chicago! The International Distance is an out-and-back on Lake Shore Drive, then on Intermediate Wacker and the Busway. This year it was completely closed off to traffic for our lanes. The Lake Shore Drive portion wasn’t bad and fairly flat with a few hills on the bridges. The heat started rising though as it got later in the morning. There were a few cooler spots on Lower Wacker, but the Busway had some decent sized hills. I definitely felt it in my legs. When everyone says to enjoy the bike and that you’ll never see the city the same again, they weren’t lying. I work in the Chicago Loop, but the bike ride was amazing. I drank both of my bottles of Gatorade Endurance during the bike.
T2 – 5:25
I found my rack easily and had another Honey Stinger Energy Gels while I racked my bike. I took my helmet off and grabbed my hat. I was definitely feeling the heat and I knew the run was going to be tough.
10km (Shortened to 5km) – 45:25
My wife found me as I came out of the Run Out and ran with me for a few hundred yards. The run starts off on a small gravel path that doesn’t have much room. There was an aid station at the beginning of the run and they had one around every 3/4mi, which was nice. They offered some Gels, Gatorade, and water. At every aid station I drank a Gatorade and a water, then I got an extra water and dumped it on my head. I’m a slower runner normally (10-11 min/mi), but this run was brutal because of the heat and humidity. Most of us were only running a few hundred yards, then walk, then run again. After my first mile, some people were saying that they shortened the run for everyone to a 5k. Once I got to the Sprint turnaround, they were right. Everyone was required to do the turnaround and do the Sprint Distance 5k. I was a little bummed because I knew I could do the 10k, even if I walked a lot of it. I headed back and there were a few hills as we got closer to the finish line. The rest of my family met me after the finish line, which was a great feeling.
I finished my first Olympic Distance Triathlon! It is definitely a race I would do again, and just hope for cooler weather. The volunteers were great, it was very well organized and plenty of aid stations for the run. Having the bike completely closed to traffic was amazing and I hope they can do that every year. I would recommend this race to anyone at any level.
Roka Mavericks Pro II Sleveless Wetsuit
Garmin Edge 520 Plus
Garmin Forerunner 935
Brooks Ghost 10
Honey Stinger Energy Gels
De Soto Half Zip Tri Top
My Kilometre Tri Shorts
2018 Fuji Roubaix 1.5