Monday, August 25, 2014

was it a mud run or a triathlon?

Well, race weekend has come and gone and I am happy to say I survived!  And I can definitely say it wasn’t easy.  I do, however, feel extremely accomplished and also not as sore as I’d thought I’d be.  Actually, if I just keep moving I am not sore at all…it’s when I stop moving for any period of time and then start moving again when it hurts.  For instance at work today when I would be sitting then have to get up for any reason at all. 

But enough about my soreness, I’m sure you want to hear about the race.  So let’s get to it from the beginning. 

The organizers changed the bike course this year, so it was mandatory to sit through a 30 minute course talk before you could get your packet.  In my typical fashion, I like to go to things right when they open, so Mark and I went to the expo after work Friday for a 5:30pm course talk and then got our packets right after.  I didn’t mind going to the course talk and actually found it helpful to hear how everything was to go down beforehand.  Although I must say I was surprised by the pictures they showed of the swim start – so many people in the water at once! 

After picking up our packets we walked around the expo for a bit.  I got some swag, Mark rolled his eyes at me, and overall it was a good time. 

Saturday our families arrived, and that evening we went to rack our bikes.  For the first time, the organizers were allowing day ahead racking, which is great.  It was so nice to not worry about how we were going to get our bikes down to the transition area from the apartment at 4am race morning.  It also allowed us to sleep in a little later and take a cab down to the race in the morning as well (yay for no red line at 4am!).  It was also nice because it gave us an excuse to take our guests downtown and show them where they’d need to go to spectate.  A pop up torrential thunderstorm delayed our bike-racking plans for a little while, but we managed to get them racked ok.  I took a picture of where mine was (relatively) so I wouldn’t forget come race morning.  

Turns out that picture was pretty much useless on race morning, however, as it was completely dark in transition since we had to be there before the sun was up.  After waking up at 3:30am, choking down a banana and toast for breakfast (along with a Cliff bar for the road), we headed to the race at about 4:30.  Unless you are catching an early bird flight there is no reason to ever be setting an alarm for 3:30am…but alas, there we were.

Due to the downpour the day before, transition was a muddy mess.  And as luck would have it, I had put my bike right where a muddy puddle formed.  Good thing I had thought to bring a trash bag with me that I could lay on the ground to keep my things dry (although I didn’t anticipate the people running behind my spot tossing mud all up on it, so in the end it looked like I had participated in a mud run rather than a triathlon anyway).

The Swim:

After setting up our transition area, Mark and I made our way down to the swim start and sat around with some other CAC Tri Club members until it was time to head to our respective starts.  My wave started at 7:22am.  There were so many waves and they just started one right after another with no time to mess around in between.  I happened to see the fams right before it was time to get in the water, so at least I knew my cheer squad had arrived.  At 7:20 I was in the water and by 7:22 the start horn had gone off.  I don’t even think I heard it, I just saw everyone else in my group take off.  I’d literally had just enough time to let some water (a warm, 74 degrees) into my wetsuit and check my goggles weren’t leaking before it was time to go.  I liked it this way, though.  Less time to tread and think about panicking before you had to start (which I am happy to say didn’t happen this time, yeah!).

Me in the start corral waiting to head into the water.

The swim was challenging to say the least.  I’d swam over a mile straight in the pool before (granted with a few short breaks), but hadn’t in the water – and nothing could have prepared me for this.  Over by the start the water was nice and calm.  We swam about 375 meters south then turned back north for the remaining million meters.  By the time you got about 2/3 done (so on the other side of the harbor at this point), the waves were incredible and progress was rough.  At least the wind was at your back, so that made it a little easier.  I also had issues swimming straight at this point and zig-zagged all over the place – up against the walls at some points and others being yelled at by the lifeguards because I was going too far out.

It was around here where I was getting pretty spent and had to revert to breast stroke intermittently (in a surprising turn of events I was unable to swim on my back because it was making me dizzy (remember, the ITU sprint I panicked and could only swim on my back)).  Every time I would poke my head out of the water I swear the end buoy wasn’t getting any closer, so I made myself channel Dory and finally (after what seemed like forever) I had made it (after getting kicked in the face twice, too).  After finishing that swim I could have quit and been happy – it was so hard – but I still had two events to go and I’m much too stubborn for that.

Live action shot

Even more live action shot

The Bike:

After exiting the water and finding my land legs again, I slight jogged the quarter-mile jaunt back to transition, found my mud puddle, got my bike things together and took off.  The first leg was a northerly ride up Lake Shore Drive and I was going great, but that didn’t last long.  I would easily say the bike portion was the hardest.  Going north on Lake Shore I was averaging about 20MPH.  Once I hit the turnaround and started heading South, I was lucky if I could go 12MPH.  The direct headwind we were riding into was rough.  I felt like I was on a stationary bike and would never make it.  At one point I was going up a hill (by the way – Lake Shore is incredibly hilly, who knew?) and thought to myself, “I am going to just fall over I am going so slow right now, should I unhook my clips so I don’t completely eat it when I fall?”

Luckily I survived the wind and the second leg was in Lower Wacker – which is underground and protected from the wind.  It was refreshing to actually be able to pedal relatively easy again and catch my breath. 

Then came the third leg, the busway.  There were a few hills on this part, but nothing too extreme.  What made the busway tricky was the constant in and out of the natural light – and sometimes it was hard to see, especially with sunglasses on.  And then there was the crash.  Right before the turnaround you had to climb a pretty steep hill, and obviously go back down it after turning around.  Well it was a natural to artificial light change and it was tricky to see.  The guy in front of me was going a little fast and he ate it – hard.  He slid his bike and ended up skidding across the pavement, on his skin, on his stomach.  And this was on mile at least 22 of about 25, so so close to the finish of the bike leg!  Luckily I was on the outside and was able to avoid hitting him as he went down, but it looked seriously painful and definitely gave me quite a shakeup.  As I was pedaling away, volunteers were coming out of nowhere to assist and prevent any further collision.   

Finally I finished the bike leg and made it back to transition.  The cheer squad was even waiting at the end!

Sights on transition, happy that leg was over!

The Run:

Finally it was time for the run.  At this point I was seriously energy depleted.  I’d eaten some chews before hopping on the bike, but didn’t eat my entire strip and didn’t grab them to finish on the bike.  So before the run I downed the rest of that pack and a whole other pack.  And then at mile one I downed a Clif shot.  And a cup of Gatorade.  Bad bad bad idea.  My stomach hurt so bad about a mile and a half in.  Luckily once I digested some of the stuff I’d just crammed in I felt better – but it was bad for a bit there.

I’d been waiting for the run the entire race, and I anticipated I’d be pretty slow.  I just concentrated on keeping my feet moving at a run pace, because I knew if I walked at all I’d never start back up again.  I managed just under an 11 minute mile pace, which I am happy with.  The course was a loop south on the Lake Shore path.  I’m happy I did that 10k two weeks ago – the course was the same so I knew what to anticipate in terms of hills and such ahead of time.

Finally I reached the finish line and it was such a great sight to see (I knew I was running 11 minute miles and I kept looking at my watch telling myself only this many more minutes...pretty much the whole time).  Somehow the cheer squad missed the finish, but at least I ran into Coach Trent and some others afterwards.  I collected my medal, my gear, tried to choke down a banana (I’m not good at eating after vigorous exercise I’ve learned), and found the fam.  It was finally over.  

1.5k swim/40k bike/10k run - 3:36:50 Total Time (43:42 swim, 1:35:59 bike, 1:08:39 run)

 Celebration selfie

 Earned that medal!...I'm not even confident that's the front

One-half of the Cheer Squad


It’s hard to believe that when I started training for this race in February I couldn’t swim to save my life other than doggy paddle, I hadn’t ridden a bike since before high school, and the furthest I’ve ever ran was shy of three miles.  I still wouldn’t call myself an athlete, but I’d say I’ve found a start.

I was really excited to finally be able to write my recap post for the triathlon, until I actually tried to write it.  Unlike the thirty or so other blog posts I’ve written since February, this one was a challenge.  I think it’s because I originally started ‘the accident athlete’ as a way to discuss my successes and failures in training for said triathlon and now it’s done.  I’m sad that the journey is over, but also extremely satisfied that I was actually able to pull it off.  Not only was I able to do something I’d never even considered thinking about doing (let alone actually doing), but I actually did it! 

Even though it’s over, I don’t want to give up the blog.  As I’d mentioned a couple of posts ago, I am looking forward to turning this blog into something more (and maybe gaining a few more followers in the process!).  Since I am getting married soon, it likely won’t be until after that, but I promise it will be worth the wait.  I do have a half marathon to run in two weeks, so I’ll give you a recap on how that goes afterwards, but otherwise it will be quiet on ‘the accident athlete’ until after the wedding.  For those who have followed my journey, thanks for reading and all the encouragement along the way!!  


  1. Yes it Was the race of the century. I was shocked when I saw your determination in this race. Knowing that you had never swam before I couldn't believe my eyes. But I'm not to surprised knowing you pretty much do what ever you set you mind to. It has been my pleasure watching you grow into the Iron Woman you ate today.

  2. Congrats on the race! Last year when I did the Chicago Tri for the first time I remembered thinking how much I hated everyone who had done it for not warning me about the hills on Lake Shore Drive, totally brutal.