so this is many months delayed; it’s just been sitting in my drafts! oops!
just a warning, this will probably be the longest recap i’ve ever done. i just want to remember everything!
despite the fact that pleasant prairie isn’t too far from chicago, i decided it would be best to stay in a hotel the night before the race, especially since this race has a mandatory bike check the day before the race. alex and i drove up on saturday and went right to the expo. everything was well organized, and i would say it took less than 5 minutes to get my number, pick up my packet, and rack my bike in transition. there was also an optional 30 minute course talk that i wanted to go to. it went over the basics of race day and i heard just what i hoped to: the bike course would be completely closed to traffic. i left the expo feeling energized and excited.
the alarm was set for 4:30am on race day, but i was awake at 2:30, just scrolling through my phone. once the alarm went off, i bounced out of bed to eat an uncrustable sandwich and banana. then, it was time to put on my tri suit! i bought this thing almost a year ago when it was on super sale, and i almost couldn’t believe it was finally time to use it! then, alex ran through my checklist as i packed everything thing i needed for transition in to a bag. the morning moved quickly, and we were on our way to the race by 5:15.
now, normally, i wouldn’t go to a race super early; i hate waiting around. but the rules of tri are totally different and transition closed to all participants at 6:30. not only that, but the main road to get to the race closed at 6:00am. i was paranoid that there would be tons of backed up traffic as people were trying to park, so i wanted to leave super early. i guess i overestimated though, because we were in transition before 5:30 haha.
first things first, body marking! my race number went on my arms and my age went on my calf. then, i set up my transition area. on a bright colored towel, i laid out my shoes, socks, race belt with bib, body glide, sunscreen, water bottle, clif blocks, shammy, helmet, and hand towel/water for cleaning off my feet. after second guessing everything a million times, i was all set.
the wait until the start sucked. my age group didn’t start until 7:36, so there was a lot of waiting (aka time to get myself nervous). but eventually, the wait was over and it was time to put my cap on and group up with the other 18-29 year olds. we waded in to the water, which was a warm 82 degrees. my heart was pounding out of my chest as the announcer got us ready. “10 seconds…get ready…GO!”
i dove in and started to swim. now, to give you a bit of background, i was a swimmer in high school. i grew up going to lakes and the beach, and i swam the .5 mile distance while training for this race. i felt prepared for this leg. and yet, a few minutes in, the bubbles from the girl in front of me kept going in my nose, and i instinctively went to stand to blow the water out. well, there’s no standing in a lake, and i officially had my first OWS freak out.
i can’t stand…i can’t get this water out of my nose…i can’t breathe…i could die doing this…how far am i?…i can’t see the end (an actual real concern; this race has you swim toward the rising sun, making it nearly impossible to see the end until you’re close to it)…i can’t do this. folks, the freak out was real, even if short lived. i somehow found a rational side in my brain and flipped on to my back. i caught my breath, reminded myself i am a strong swimmer who can do this, even if i just have to take it one slow stroke at a time, and i flipped back over to re-start my swim. i forgot all time goals i had and just made my way across the lake. i was so happy when my hand hit sand. i stood up and ran to transition.
.5 mile swim- 19:30
when i got to my bike, alex was on the other side of the fence cheering. i immediately felt silly about my panic before and wanted to kick myself for letting myself take it slow. i rubbed the sand off my feet and made sure to shammy them dry so i wouldn’t get blisters once i put on my socks and shoes. i quickly ate two clif blocks and got some water before clipping on my bib and helmet, and running toward the bike course.
transition 1- 4:29
once i crossed the mount line, i took off. as you may recall, biking has never been my forte, but i’ve worked on it a lot these past few months, and felt like i could at least finish the course. i felt good going out and was getting excited to see the rest of the course when, not even a mile in, i felt a clunk as my butt slid down toward the frame of my bike. shit. i pulled off to the side of the course and saw that my seat post was loose. i pulled the seat back up and tightened it and took off again. a minute later my saddle pitched backward. shit shit shit. i pulled over again and, while my seat had slid down again a bit, the main problem was that the saddle was tilting back. what the hell?! i have never had issues with my seat before, and so while i knew how to fix them, i couldn’t tell why it was happening. after tightening things up again, i tried to go once more, and my saddle tilted again. i pulled over again, distraught. my seat is totally broken. what is going on?!?! i’m not going to be able to finish.
that was enough to make me want to cry. i took out my wrench and tightened everything as much as i could. no slack was left. i asked my bike to please play along and tried to take off again. thankfully, nothing budged. i went off with a little more speed, and still nothing happened. maybe i could do this. i was cautious for the first 3 miles, and then i felt confident again. i enjoyed my time on the beautiful course, trying not to think of the time i lost playing mechanic. around mile 8, my saddle gave a slight pitch again, so i pulled over to quickly tighten one last bolt and get a bit of water. i felt less panic this time because at least i knew which bolts were giving me issues. i crossed my fingers that it would hold out until the end and made my way to the big hill that ends the course. thankfully, i had no issues, and i turned back toward transition, where alex was cheering for me again.
12 mile bike- 1:06:20
as i ran my bike in to transition, i tried to tell alex about the issues i had. he looked worried, but i reassured him i was okay and would tell him all about it at the finish. i grabbed my clif blocks and water bottle after throwing off my helmet, and made my way to the run.
transition 2- 1:10
holy jello legs. i was like bambi learning how to walk. i ran past a girl in a bright pink top and yelled “i don’t know how my legs work anymore!” and she agreed. i tried my darndest to run through it, but it was clear that it wasn’t happening, so i started to speed walk. i also took this opportunity to eat my fuel and drink my water. i could finally feel the sun beating down on me but, unlike the last two legs, i knew i could finish this part. it may not be fast or pretty, but i would totally be seeing that finish line. i used a .1 mile run, .1 mile walk technique to get me through the run. i wasn’t out of breath or super tired, but my legs were done and it was friggin’ hot. i took my time, but soon i saw the finish arch. bright pink top girl passed me and reassured me i could do this. at the 3 mile marker, i said legs, i don’t care how tired you are, we are running! and i took off as fast as i could.
5k run- 41:04
i crossed the finish line, relieved and excited, as i heard alex yelling my name and bright pink shirt girl gave me a thumbs up. i did it. i was an iron girl!
finish time- 2:12:31
i was so happy. to be done, but also to have done it. i couldn’t believe that two hours before, i had been swimming. it all seemed so long ago already, and i had so much energy! (or adrenaline, whatever haha) i immediately found some shade and grabbed a bunch of bagel halves and juice and bananas for alex and i to share (i mean, the guy had also been up since 4:30 and ran around spectating the whole day!)
the race was great. one i would do again, for sure. i couldn’t believe the amount of support coming from my fellow participants. every time i came up to sight in the water, i could hear friends encouraging each other to keep going. each of the four times i had to pull over on the bike, someone slowed down and asked me if i was okay. and the run was the best; so many high fives and jokes about how crazy we all we to be out there. seriously, the best race ever.
and now, i’m hooked! i can’t wait until the next one!
have you done a triathlon? are you as obsessed as i am now?