This year’s Chicago Triathlon fell on my second anniversary of moving to Chicago. As such, I felt like I should go ahead an win the race. I got sick of saying “I was second at the Chicago Triathlon” last year, and it just seemed right that I should be able to take advantage of a home-field advantage. It didn’t work out that way (expectations in racing will almost certainly work against you) – I ended up third against a tough field, despite great swim/bike splits. Maybe not my lofty goal, but damn, third is awesome!
The swim was really rough. Monroe Harbor had waves rolling in and against the wall, where we swim, it looked like a washing machine. Throughout the swim I was being thrown on top of people and had people being thrown on top of me. At one point I had a bit of an altercation with another athlete – I’m sure it was a misunderstanding, but after landing on him he turned and grabbed my shoulder and pushed me under. That kind of roughness is rare in the pro field because it slows down everyone involved. I managed to come out of the water in third behind Hunter Kemper and Cameron Dye. The long transition allowed Hunter and Cam to get a little ahead of me (my run speed from the water is not stellar this year), and I started the bike with a sizeable gap to Hunter and Cam with a bunch of other guys with me. Working hard I kept Cam in my sights, but was never able to close the gap to him. Around 16 miles into the race Greg Bennett passed me and he did close the gap to Cam. I hovered about 5 to 10 seconds back for the remainder of the ride and dismounted right behind the two of them with a big gap to Hunter and Tim O’Donnell.
A short aside to mention the changes to the Chicago Triathlon bike course: This year instead of two laps up and down Lakeshore Drive, we exited the lakefront after one lap and then did an out and back on Lower Wacker (lower refers to the fact that it is below the surface street, so we were underground and covered), then another out-and-back on the “busway”, which is a road that is normally closed to the public, used by the transit authority and charter buses. I loved the new route. It was really different from any other race course, it added some technical aspects to the race, and gave an experience that is impossible to have on my own. Plus, because there is only one lap, it allowed the pros to go off at 6am instead of 12pm, like we have in the past.
After New York I was pretty confident in my run fitness, and I expected to take control of the race when we got out feet back on the pavement.
Again, expectations in racing are never a good thing. Hoping is okay, but once those hopes turn to expectations you close off your minds ability to adapt to change. When I started running my legs were jelly. I had no pop in my stride and I felt all the fatigue of the work I put in over the past few months. At that point I gave up. I didn’t feel like I expected, and I wasn’t prepared to respond to the reality of the situation. This seems ridiculous. How hard can it be to just say, “run as fast as you can” even if you don’t feel as fast as you expected? But in the middle of a race, when your adrenaline is high and your brain is starved for oxygen, the answer is “it’s near impossible.” I ran poorly. Cameron and Greg grew smaller and I started thinking about external things, like my race next week and whether my dog would be at the finish line.
At four miles Hunter passed me and even though my legs were feeling better I couldn’t hang with him for more than a few strides. I ran it in for a 34:30 run split that is my slowest on the course.
Now, if you were paying attention I mentioned three people ahead of me, yet I finished third. Cameron ran off course, staying on the lakeshore north past the museum campus rather than crossing under Lakeshore Drive to the finish on Columbus. It was an unfortunate mistake, and by the time he realized it he was in sixth place for the finish.
Of note in the results is the fourth place finish by Jason West, a first year pro, and as far I know, his first time finishing in the top of this type of race. I’m looking forward to seeing his name crop up more in the next couple years.
For my third time racing Chicago I’m pretty happy to be back on the podium. It was a tough race, and while I made some mistakes I still managed to do well. I look forward to trying for the title again next year, but I will know to control my expectations.