Chicago Triathlon Supersprint 2015

On August 29, 2015, I kicked 30's butt by participating in the Transamerica Chicago Triathlon Supersprint!  I wanted to write about it so friends and family can hear the story and so hopefully someone like me who is obsessing about figuring out what it's like can find this post and get a little peace of mind for next year's race!

On Friday, Zach and I went up to the race expo.  The expo was neat.  They were selling huge stuff like bikes and wetsuits and $200 shoes and also little things like car stickers (which I forgot to buy-ugh!), shoe laces, and body glide.  We picked up a pair of elastic shoe laces to help make my transitions quicker and a race belt so I wouldn't have to pin my race bib to my tri suit.  We also got an official race tshirt.

Then, we attended my "course talk" which explained details of the course and transitions, the rules for the race, safety considerations, where to park, etc.  Even though I had heard most of the information, attending the meeting really helped put my mind at ease.

After attending the meeting, I was allowed to pick up my race packet.  We followed signs through the labyrinth of the basement of the Hilton and found pick up.  I had received an email early in the week with my bib number and all I had to tell them was my number and show an ID to get my packet.  Inside was my bib, tri-tats (temporary tattoos) of my race numbers for each arm, the numbers to put on my bike and helmet, and my timing chip.  Then we moved to another kiosk where I got my participant tshirt and a "goodie bag".  The bag is a nice cinch sack and had samples of vitamins, beet juice, Gatorade and all kinds of weird stuff.

After leaving the expo it was almost dark, but we drove to Foster Beach to check out the race site anyway.  We parked on what would become the bike course, walked part of the run course, and walked almost the whole path between the swim and transition.  We went down the beach and put our toes into cold, cold, cold Lake Michigan.  I wanted to get an idea of just how cold 60 degree water was.

Then we drove to our hotel from the beach, which was nice so we could see how long it took.  There were no hotels in the City under $100, so we stayed in Skokie.  It was about a 30 minute drive.

The next morning, our alarms went off at 5am and we got everything for the race together and headed down to the car, where we discovered it was raining.  I checked the weather and it was forecast to rain all morning.  We found a 24-hour Walgreens on the way and picked up an umbrella and poncho and a box of garbage bags.

When we reached the parking area, we had a not-so-short walk in the rain to the check in area.  Zach stayed back and waited in line to pay for parking and I went ahead to the site, which was good because the line to get into transition was huge.  They advised us at the course talk to arrive by 6am to transition so we'd have time to get everything settled before transition closed at 6:45.  We arrived in the parking lot around 6am, so by the time I walked down to transition, waited in line, and checked in, it was 6:40.  Thankfully, they recognized this was mostly due to organizational flaws, so transition remained open longer.  It was pouring.

I got my Divvy bike and found a spot right next to the beginning of the run course to set up my stuff.  I put a garbage bag on the ground and then put my transition bag on the back edge of it and my towel (ha!) on the rest of it, so neither would be laying on the wet ground.  I put my helmet on the bike handlebars with my sunglasses ready inside them (double ha!)  I also set my shoes (which were already soaked) out on my towel with socks rolled down so I could just roll them onto my feet and then slide them into my shoes.  I also laid out my race belt with my bib already attached on the towel.  Then I took two more garbage bags and covered my transition bag, towel, and gear and laid the box of garbage bags on top so they wouldn't blow away.  Finally, I put my wetsuit on up to my waist and headed out of transition down toward the beach with my swim cap, goggles, and earplugs in hand.


THE SWIM (375m/not quite 1/4 mi)
We lined up at the starting line on the beach (my wave had 37 people in it) and an air horn sounded to set us off.  We ran down into the water, which was 62 degrees the morning of the race.  We swam out to a buoy, rounded it, swam parallel to the beach, rounded a 2nd buoy and swam/ran back into the beach.  The short description of this is that it was the worst thing I have ever done.   I had trained swimming 400+m, but I was not ready for swimming in Lake Michigan.  The wind, waves, and cold were just brutal.  Every time I got a stroke rhythm going I would choke on the water and have to stop and sputter or turn onto my back.  I backstroked a LOT of the swim.  Also, we were hitting and kicking each other, which I expected but was still annoying.  On top of it, I was wearing ear plugs because I've had trouble with water in my left ear all summer and my goggles were tinted, which was great in nice weather, but on this gray, yucky day, I just felt isolated and sensory deprived.  My goggles also fogged and I could barely see. The girl behind me as we started cried and hyperventilated.  I don't know if she continued or quit.  A woman in my wave had to be helped out of the water near the finish.  It was the real deal. We were never more than about 20 feet from a lifeguard, which was good. The water was only about 5.5ft deep--just deep enough that I couldn't touch. Next year I will train swimming a much longer distance--maybe a half mile or so--and will try to get some training sessions in Lake Michigan so I feel more comfortable with the open water.

THE BIKE (10K/6.2mi)
I expected the bike to be my best event.  I was signed up for the Divvy wave, which means everyone in my wave was riding the rent-from-the-city bikes.  They are 3-speed cruisers.  Great for cruising around Chicago, site-seeing, riding along the lakefront path.  Not race bikes.  They were very heavy.  At home I ride a Trek mountain bike and it is much lighter than these bikes.  The ride would have been easier on my mountain bike and it would have been fine for the race.  Many other people were on mountain bikes.  The Divvy wave was a good choice for this first time, though, because I was unsure when I registered if my mountain bike would be OK and knew buying a road bike this year was out of the question, and I wasn't too keen on transporting my bike up to the city. Mercifully, aside from two overpasses the course was flat and guarded from the wind, mostly.  Again, I would train for a longer distance than required by the race, maybe around 10 miles.

THE RUN (2.5K/1.5mi)
I expected the run to be horrible, but it wasn't.  I choked on my Gatorade on my way out of transition, but after that I did fine.  I did stop to walk for a few steps at a time a couple times during the run, but everyone was very encouraging.  They had people cheering along the way and even some of the athletes running back toward the finish were cheering on the wave that was headed out on the run.  The group at the turnaround was so sweet and encouraging! The run was partially on a gravel path and there were some seriously huge puddles, but my shoes were already drenched so I just ran through. I was tired, but felt OK through the run.  Again, next year I'll train for a 5K to be more prepared. The rain and cool day were a big help on this leg.  On the way back I reached a point where I wanted to stop and walk, but then I could hear the crowd at the finish line and I had this renewed energy and was able to finish strong.  It was awesome.

At the finish everyone was cheering and they announced my name as I crossed the finish line.  Zach and Lynn had been somewhere along each course cheering for me and Lynn had made encouraging posters to hold up and cheer me along the way. They were rock stars standing out in the rain for me! I finished in 1 hr 6 min, which is not very good, in the grand scheme of things (the fastest women did it in about 38 minutes, I think).  But I had estimated based on my training that I would finish in about 1 hr 20 min, so my actual time was quite a bit better than I expected. As soon as you crossed, they showered me with things.  A small towel, chips, pretzels, bottles of Gatorade and water, and, of course, a finisher medal.  I've been on the "get rid of participation trophies" bandwagon before, but man, I feel like I earned that finisher medal!

We weren't allowed headphones or music on the course, so I took a page from my friend Rachel's book and prayed along the way.  I prayed for the sweet babies born recently in my life and for their Mamas.  I prayed for a friend's Mom who was in ICU.  I prayed for baby Luke and his family--who I've never met, but have been following their story on Facebook.  I prayed for the family of the child that will eventually pass and give baby Luke the heart he desperately needs.  I prayed for students in our ministry.  I prayed for my dear friend who recently experienced a miscarriage.  I prayed and praised God that He gave me a healthy body and that He is my strength and provider.  I thanked Him for Zach and Lynn cheering me on and Andee at home watching our kids so they weren't standing in the rain. It helped a lot.

After the race we went back to our hotel (since it was only just after 9am) and sat in the hot tub--glorious!!!!  We splashed around in the pool and did a few laps, which helped relax and stretch out my tight, cold muscles.  Then we packed up and headed home.  I took a 3 hour nap.  Sunday, I was very cranky and tired.  By Monday, I had pretty much recovered.

Bottom line: I will do it again next year.  Registration for 2016 opens October 2015 and I won't hesitate to sign up again.  If you are thinking about trying it, DO IT (I'm looking at you, Jodi).  It was awesome.  It was hard the whole time and scary at moments, but overall it was just an awesome experience.  Worth every difficult moment.  I will also start training earlier, train most intentionally, and train for more distance in each event next year, and then go have a blast as a Supersprint veteran!