Sunday, August 24, 2008

2008 Chicago Triathlon

I finished the Accenture Chicago Triathlon today! I wanted to write up some details of the event for my learning purposes. Some may find it interesting, others will not :)

Overall Stats

These numbers are not "official," but they reflect my stopwatch and the real-time SMS alerts they sent. Updated with official numbers and Olympic distances.

  • Total Time: 2h59m51s (broke the 3 hour mark!)
  • Swim (1.5km/0.93mi): 34m20s (includes the 1/4 mile trot into T1)
  • T1: 4m55s (39m15s)
  • Bike (40km/24.8mi): 1h19m55s (1h59m10s)
    • The bike is (more or less) four lengths from Monroe Harbor to Foster. The wind was out of the North at about 10mph.
    • Avg Speed: Overall, 18.6mph; L1, 17.1mph; L2, 21.9mph; L3, 17.8mph; L4, 20.9mph
  • T2: 4m58s (2h04m08s)
  • Run (10km/6.2mi): 55m41s (2h59m51s)
    • The course went South from Museum Campus and back North. I broke it into two lengths, out and back.
    • Avg Pace: Overall, 8:58/mi; L1, 8:38/mi; L2, 9:27/mi.


  • Prepared everything the previous afternoon (done before dinner). Mentally rehearsed transitions and how to pack them so that it would be brainless.
  • Wake: 3:55am
  • Out the door: 4:15
  • Set up transitions per my brainless plan. Note that when I arrive to transition at race time, I work with what's on top of the stack first. Whatever's on top, pop it. T1:
    • Mesh bag hanging under bike
    • Bike
    • Helmet upside down. Inside the helmet:
    • Cycling Gloves
    • Gu & Alleve (wrapped in Saran and taped to Gu)
    • Shoes - socks in one shoe, sunglasses in the other
    • Hand towel on top, everything buckled into a tidy bundle
  • T2
    • Running shoes
    • Extra socks and Gu in one shoe
    • Orange water bottle (to aid identification) and race number/belt in the other
  • Transition closed at 5:45
  • Eat: 6:00
    • Turkey sandwich
    • Fruit Smoothie
    • Coffee (prepared the night before and refrigerated)
    • Water (see "mistakes" below)
  • Race start: 7:41.


  • Over-hydration before the race. I drank 1.5L of water, plus coffee, plus one of those fruit smoothie drinks. I felt bloated and had to relax my swimming pace four times to relieve myself. That's hard to do when people are swimming on top of you. Another consequence of the bloating was that the wetsuit was tighter than usual, meaning it constricted breathing a bit. I also relieved myself at T2. Next time I'll drink less before and drink more on the bike. If I do it right, I should be able to do the whole race without a bathroom stop.
  • Ate a little too late. I just sat with my stuff at transition to make sure it would be in a known state and drank water. I should have started eating 30 minutes sooner than I did, or eat a little less.
  • What else could I improve about transitions? Not much. Dealing with all the gear was slow. Ride sockless? Do like the pros do and leave my shoes clipped into the pedals? Have Gu on the bike so I wouldn't have to stuff them in my pockets? Don't wear gloves?


  • My right knee is pretty sore. It's the same inflammation from a tight IT band that I get all the time anyway—fixing this needs to a top goal next spring. I tried self-medicating with 3 Alleve along the way to prevent inflammation. I don't know if it helped.
  • I got a blister on my left arch on the run. I want to blame the shoes, but since I only got it on one foot it must be a combination of my form and the shoes. A fellow Triathlete suggested double-layered socks. I think I'll try 2 pairs of thin socks next time I go for a long run. Or correct my form :) I wonder if fresh socks after the bike would have helped, as 2.5 hours in one pair left them pretty damp.


  • When the race kicked off and I was watching the first waves of people swimming, the water looking like it was boiling from all the splashing...I hardly seemed real. "I can't believe I'm about to do this," I thought to myself.
  • The swim was a blur. I was in such a daze surrounded by 150 other white-swim-capped people that I hardly realized what was going on. All of the sudden I was in the water, and all of the sudden I was exiting and people were helping us out and up onto the steps. I held my front crawl form really well—I usually switch to breast stroke to catch a breath every now and then, but this time I didn't let that be an option.
  • T1 was flawless. I sat down in the grass to remove my wetsuit, which helped avoid the cramps I've experienced from time to time in my calves. Everything was in order and went according to my mental rehearsal.
  • The bike was more engaging. I was on a brand new bike (got it Thursday—nothing like breaking it in on race day!). Between checking my cadence on the Garmin 405, shifting gears for the hills, avoiding potholes, avoiding debris (like dropped water bottles) and passing at 25mph on Lake Shore Drive, the bike finally woke me up.
  • T2 was pretty good. My area was a mess—there were bikes I had never seen before on top of my stuff. But I was able to find someplace to stash my bike, identify my running shoes and change into them. I didn't change into the dry socks, though I might next time.
  • It was weird setting everything up in the dark. I didn't recognize where the transition area actually was until I picked up my gear in the afternoon. I just followed the herd this morning...moo.
  • The run was long and tiring. I tore out of T2 and when I checked my pace it was 7:30. I laughed and slowed down to a more comfortable 8:30. In the end, I really started running out of gas at the turnaround. Twice I walked while I took some water (at most 30 seconds of total walking, but still). The middle 4 miles of the run were lonely, as the spectators fell off.
  • Running under the final underpass 1/4 mile from the finish line...people clapping and cheering and the echoes down there...I got goose bumps all over.
  • I'm really proud of myself for doing this. I signed up over ten months ago! I have to say, one of the best decisions I've made in my life was making physical activities social. I have to especially give a nod to Mike Wood and Adam Wengert for the great camaraderie along the way and constant chatter about our training. I honestly don't know if I would have gone through with it by myself. The social spirit made it possible. Congratulations to you two, and to all of my fellow athletes!

No comments: