by Pro Triathlete Alex
Life Time Tri Chicago was my first profitable race!
First a little recap of what's been happing in my life leading up to this race… After a successful race in Minneapolis, Kelli and I loaded up the van and headed west to Colorado Springs to find a place to live. We settled in a kick-butt townhome with lots of windows and open space at the base of Cheyenne Mountain. A couple weeks later we were desperately trying to catch our breath as we hauled stuff upstairs into our new bedroom. I'm sure all of this living at 6,300 feet will eventually pay off!
So between finding a new place to live, moving out, being homeless for a few days, moving in and adjusting to being in a brand new place, training took a little bit of a backseat. Major life changes do that to everyone and I think it actually worked out in my favor to have a little mid-season break. Sometimes it pays to just take a step back and let your body (but most importantly your mind) replenish itself from the constant beat downs of triathlon training and life in general. Sometimes you just need to let it go and chill.
As we got settled into Colorado Springs I found myself rejuvenated with motivation to go out and smash it. There were new trails to explore, mountains to climb, group rides to master and I found myself a masters swim group that really crushes it in the pool. The only thing that was really holding me back was the thin air. Seems like training while acclimatizing to the altitude is a roll of the dice, some days I would feel incredible and some days I would barely be able to get moving. Luckily, in the final week before heading out to Chicago I had some quality sessions that really boosted my confidence going into the race!
I had done Life Time Tri Chicago a couple of years ago as an amateur and I remembered how incredible it was to zip through downtown Chicago. The feel of doing a major urban race is incredible. This combined with a great homestay with my buddy Justin Metzler and a cheap plane ticket made this race a definite one on my calendar. Justin is developing himself into one of the premier elite amateur triathlon racers in the country, so it was great to be able to stay at his place and get all the perks of someone who lives the all-tri lifestyle.
I had a few days of remembering what it's like to be in humidity again before the race. Seemed great because the weather stayed a cool 75-ish degrees for all my shake out workouts, and the thick air made me feel like I was flying.
The final day before the race I left Justin to stay downtown next to the race site. My Mom was flying home from a business trip in Moscow and it somehow worked out that she could land in Chicago Saturday night before flying home the next day. It's always great to have the family see me race and I was excited to just hang out with my mom in general.
Life Time Tri Chicago Race Day
Life Time Tri Chicago is a major event with 6,500 age group racers competing in two distances. Complicating things this year were two major production movies being filmed in the area and a planned women's protest—protesting having to wear tops on the beach while men can go topless... This meant this race would require extra focus.
The pro wave goes off after most of the racers have already finished, this allows for some really awesome spectator energy to feed off during the race. But with an 11:30-ish start time it also means we get to race in the heat of the day, and Sunday didn't disappoint with a high temp just shy of triple digits.
The water was a refreshing 69 degrees which meant it would be a no-wetsuit swim for us. (The wetsuit cut-off for pros is 68.) This was awesome because putting on a wetsuit when it's that hot out can only lead to major cramps before the race even starts.
The women were started ahead of the men with an “equalizer” of 11 min and 20 sec. This would give us guys something to chase and was because of the Toyota Triple Crown Series, where the fastest cumulative time, male or female, of the three Life Time Tri races would earn an extra $50,000! Personally I was just happy to have some more rabbits to chase after.
The men's field had 25-ish guys all starting together. This made for a really great draft as I settled into the group. I had an incredibly smooth swim start and was happy to just sit in the draft as my body got used to the race pace. We rounded a U-turn buoy and that's where things turned for me. The pack got stretched out into a line and after ~600 m of racing I zigged when the group zagged and I became unhitched from the group. Seems like whenever I lose the group I also lose focus. I bled a lot of time over the second half of the swim and came out of the water 2 min behind the group. I don't know what happened, but my swim just didn't show up on race day.
It was time to get to work. The windy city had other ideas, though. As I got out onto the road I could feel my skin tight tri suit being blown off me. The wind played around the buildings pushing me forward, left, right, and backwards all in the same gust. I gripped the bars hard and smashed down on the pedals trying to bridge to the guys up the road.
After a few minutes the heat began to really get to me, and nothing cools you off better than a bottle that's been sitting in the sun for a good hours time. Especially when that bottle is filled with sticky gel water, yummy and refreshing. Half way through the bike, I had already pounded down 3/4's of my bottle. I was able to pass some of the other guys, though, and this helped build my confidence for the run.
Once we got to running this was going to a race of attrition and when it comes to pushing your body way past its limits in the heat, I could get myself into the money, or so I kept convincing myself...
I finished off my bottle with about 6 miles left to go on the bike. Lucky for me there was an aid station right outside of transition to start the run and this one still had ice! I sloshed some water into my mouth while dumping the rest of the ice down my suit. Nothing like some ice crotch to get your legs running faster.
I was within sight of the next four guys ahead of me and was closing the gap down fast, I guess I wasn't the only one to run out of water on the brutal bike slog. With four miles left to go on the run I had passed those four. As I approached the run turn-around I began to wonder how far away I was from the next target. I counted five guys run past me the other way with about four minutes between me and the 5th place guy.
I was shocked to even think that I was in 6th place and I should've known better… but my brain was melting out of my head and I began to just turn myself onto auto pilot. There was no way I was catching 5th place, which was not a good thought to cross my mind. I still gave the run all my energy, but there just was no longer a warrior mentality to my race. It was more about survival and a quest for ice that kept me going.
Finish and Results
I crossed the line and was barely conscious enough to find the ice bath. Dunking my body into the blissful frigid water is an incredible feeling. I stayed put for several minutes try to recollect what had just happened and where I was. My body refused to take anything but water down. A few sips of Gatorade and I immediately felt nauseated.
After a second ice bath I was finally coherent enough to go chat with my Mom, where I discovered that I had placed 8th overall and the next guy ahead of me was only 30 seconds up. Argh!! Lesson learned: Always stay hungry and always fight for a little more speed. I must've been really losing it around the turn-around area to miss the two guys run right past me the other way on the bike trail. This race was one of the toughest gauntlets I've had to get through in a long time.
Overall I was very happy with how this race went for me. I maybe didn't go into it with the best fitness/training, but when the conditions get tough like that, it's usually more important to be fresh and eager to hurt rather than in shape but too tired to push through the pain.
Full Life Time Tri Chicago results and time splits can be found on Active.com. With 8th place comes a little bit more cash and things actually worked out so that I profited $50 for this race!!
Next up for me is the Super Sprint Triathlon Grand Prix in Las Vegas on Thursday, September 19th. It should be wildly different from anything I've ever done, and I'm so excited to be a part of it. Until then it's back to Colorado Springs and back to new college for me as I begin to finish my course work to become a registered dietitian.
As always, thanks for reading, believing, commenting, supporting, and dreaming. Let's all crack on and keep this progress going.