Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Chicago Triathlon

I was not sure whether or not I would be able to race this one until about Friday morning, since my neck was in pretty bad shape the whole week after the crash the weekend before. I tried swimming on Tuesday night, and after 3 strokes, I had to flip onto my back and just float because it hurt so much to support my neck in the water. Friday morning was the final test before leaving, and I was able to swim awkwardly and not quite pain free, but I still thought that I could get through the race. Besides, I had never been to Chicago before!

I must digress for a moment here and thank my sponsor and the team over at Hello Velo for fixing up my bike after the crash so that I COULD race on the weekend. I had no idea how much damage had been done to my bike until after I brought it in to the shop. Not only was my front Zipp 404 broken, but the ball bearings in the front fork had exploded from the shelling upon impact! One of the ball bearings was stuck to my magnet. There was also a nice dent in the fork, and the back hanger was completely bent out of shape and had to be replaced. I owe a sincere thank you to Steve and Marshall for working so hard on fixing the bike, and to Paul for being so generous in replacing my helmet and lending his personal race wheels for me to use for the remainder of the season.

I thought that living in downtown Toronto would prepare me for the big city life in Chicago. I was wrong. Chicago is sooooo crowded at all times of the day or night, and the drivers are even more aggressive! The roads are very cracked and full of gaping potholes! I was concerned that I would flat at all times! With that being said, Chicago is also quite beautiful on the lakeshore with a stunning view of Lake Michigan. Ming and I also had the chance to see the view from the 43rd floor of our new friend and host's condo right smack in the middle of Chicago (Thank you Nathan for putting us up!)

The Chicago triathlon was an attractive race to do since it is the biggest one in North America. There were 8000 people who raced over the course of the weekend! Also, Chicago attracts a VERY competitive field of athletes.

The Swim:

So, I had previously mentioned that I have been getting used to aggressive ITU swims and mass starts and almost enjoying them at times. With an injury, however, especially when it involves the neck, I take that all back! My wave was massive with Elite women, and Elite Masters women and men. It was an in water start, and as soon as the horn blared, I just got clobbered! I was not nearly as aggressive as usual because of my neck, so I got pulled under, kicked, punched, all of that behaviour that goes with open water swimming. It was probably because the space was rather narrow to accommodate that many swimmers, and also because it was wetsuit legal (much to my dismay), which allows people to kick and punch while they are buoyant. Either way, I had to stop several times, adjust my goggles, and basically just survive the swim without further injuring myself. I also felt awful in the wetsuit, since there was no chance to warm up in the water, and I haven't warn it since July 4th. With a 2 minute run from the exit before getting into a massive transition area my final swim time was 24:28. That's not a stellar time for me, but I survived it and was happy to get out on the bike course and do some chasing!

The Bike

The Chicago bike course definitely catered to my strengths...riding on flats with the occasional gentle incline and riding in the wind. We rode along Lakeshore drive for the whole race! I didn't have a working bike computer for the race, since I forgot to attach the magnet to my front wheel. I had no idea how fast I was going, so I just went hard. I pushed hard because I figured that because I didn't have a great swim, I needed to make up time on the bike. There was one woman that I came out of the water with that I spotted just ahead of me early on the bike course. I passed her, only to have her pass me back a minute later. She definitely did not want me to pass her again, so I had to work to keep her in sight (this was not a draft legal event). I ended up having the ride of my life! Perhaps, it was some redemption from last weekend, but I biked 1:04:41 which is a HUGE PB for me! I think that works out to something close to 37.8km/hr!

The Run

Here is where I paid for the ride of my life. It was 90F and sunny when I hit the run course. I had a great first mile, and then suffered hard through the next 5.2! My legs just felt like lead and I was going slow and breathing really hard. I could not have been happier to see the finish line! My final time was 2:17:13, which put me in 7th place out of 57 Elite women. I wasn't thrilled with my race as a whole, but it has been a long season, and I've probably only got a couple more races for the year.

Up next for me is the World Championships in Budapest. I leave on Labour Day!

Thanks for reading.


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