This year I put a lot of attention into preparing for the Chicago Triathlon. Last weekend marked one full year since I moved in with Abby in Hyde Park, and the Chicago Triathlon was to by my hometown race. Not everything went as planned, but I had a strong race and came in second against a great field on one of the hottest days Chicago has seen this year. To make it more interesting, the professional field starts at 11:30am and races in the heat of the day without a shadow to be found. Oh Chicago, my home sweaty home.
Leading up to the race I was pretty stressed. That stress was summed up when right before the start Matt Chrabot told me, “don’t melt out there.” Basically the late starts just give me time to sit around and stress out about things I can’t change. Luckily, once the gun goes off I can tip my hat to luck and put my energy into things I do have control over. Like swimming my butt off.
The swim is done in Monroe Harbor, right in front of Grant Park. The out and back swim has historically been like swimming in a washing machine, but with an offshore breeze it was waveless. I found myself in the middle of a big pack and came out with all the contenders of the race: Matt Chrabot, Stuart Hayes, Hunter Kemper, and Jarrod Shoemaker.
Chicago features a half-mile run between the swim exit and the start of the bike, which strung things out, but within the first few miles of the ride I took the lead and tried to put some time into the pack of chasers. I managed to get about 40 seconds on Matt, Stuart and Hunter, but in the heat I tempered my effort a bit to make sure I would finish strong.
There was a rumor that during the race a group of women would be doing a topless protest on the bridge above North Avenue Beach. I didn’t look up, but I didn’t hear anyone cheering for me, so clearly they weren’t there.
Starting the run I had trouble focusing on anything but the heat. After two collapses at longer distances this year it’s definitely gotten into my head a bit, and even though I’ve been training in this weather I had not raced in 90 degrees successfully yet this year. About two miles into the run I Hunter caught me. I was in no-man’s-land. I didn’t know how slow I was running until I saw Hunter stride by me. I picked it up, but started feeling defeated. At the turnaround, 3.5 miles in, I was passed by Stuart and saw Matt just a short ways back. Finally something clicked in my brain. I used Stuart as a carrot. I just focused on him and stuck with his surge. He put some time in, but I kept my eyes fixed. I really didn’t expect to catch him, but I had to try to stay with him. I wanted to make it a race.
At mile 5 Stuart turned around and saw me and I made a move. I passed him and just kept going. I ran the last 2k faster than any of the first 8 kilometers, and actually put time back into Hunter. I finished 40 seconds down, but managed to take back second place.
Looking back, I think I could have run faster. I wish I had. But while staying focused is a hard piece to master, regaining focus once it’s been lost is even harder. I did that on Sunday, and that’s something to be happy about.
Next up is Hy-Vee 5150 Championships in Des Moines, Iowa this coming Sunday. Aside from being one of my favorite race, the Hy-Vee triathlon is also the most competitive non-drafting Olympic distance triathlon in the world. They aren’t offering the primes this year, so I have no incentive to go crazy off the front. But I also don’t have a broken foot, so maybe I’ll set myself up for a breakthrough run. It’s Des Moines, crazy things happen at this race every year. I’d like to think that me carrying the American Flag across the finish line is just one of those crazy possibilities.