I jumped into my tri clothes, acknowledged my screaming headache, swallowed some toast (thank you, Linda) and headed out the door with my backpack (packed with a wetsuit, goggles, timing chip, swim cap, running shoes, racecourse nutrition, socks, headband and sunglasses) and we were ready to go. (Our bikes were already on the car.) Off we headed, into the city.
We parked below Millennium Park and walked our bikes toward the lake. The world was dark and quiet; every awake human was also toting a bike. Triathletes are a different breed.
When we arrived at the transition area, one thing was clear: the rain had taken its toll. MUD. Everywhere. This wasn't going to be neat. Linda and I checked into transition (hers for the Olympic distance, mine for the sprint), got our stuff set up, and met back by the portalets. Because you always have to know where the bathroom is.
And before you really had a chance to think about it, it was time for Linda to grab all her stuff and head to the start line. It was 5:45 a.m., and race day waits for no one.
As we walked along the lake shore, one thing became obvious: the water was not calm.
|Lake Michigan is not your friend.|
Now, I'll be honest here. I wasn't entirely convinced I needed to do a tri today. My head was still pounding, and clearly the swim was not going to be easy. I walked to St. Arbucks to see if a little caffeine might help.
As I made my way back to the lake, the thought that occurred to me was, "Doing the tri probably isn't going to make you feel worse. But not trying will definitely make you feel worse." So I headed to transition, grabbed my wetsuit and other swim stuff (with only a few minutes left to spare) and made my way toward the start line.
Soon, it was my turn to jump in. When it was my wave's turn, the water felt great. I made the right decision to do the race. And then ... we started swimming.
SWEET JESUS, the water was awful. Choppy, wavy and full of seaweed. I'd get a face (literally) full of it, over and over. It clung to my arms and my feet and my everything. It was awful. I kept moving, hoping it would stop, and eventually - about a half mile later, when I got out of the water - I was free of it.
That sucked. It took me 28:25 to finish. It shouldn't take me more than 20 minutes; certainly not more than 24. But there you have it; almost a damn half hour! Yikes.
In racing, there are four different levels to the Emergency Alert System - Green (good conditions), Yellow (conditions could take a turn), Red (it's looking like not a good day to race) and Black (we're shutting this sucker down). When I got into the water, it was green. As I got on the bike, I was told they had moved it to red; I was to proceed with caution. I briefly contemplated ending my race there.
And then I got on the bike.
May I say, holy shit Lake Shore Drive is hilly! I had no idea there was that much elevation on LSD, but my legs sure felt it. The wind didn't help. It was a shitty, shitty 15 miles. I finished at a speed of 12.7 mph, contrasted with a usual 13.5 to 14.3 mph on other sprint courses. It took me over an hour and 10 minutes. And I still had to run.
Usually, by the time I get off the bike, my clothes have started to dry. Not on Sunday; nope, it was so humid, there was zero chance of anything being dry and comfortable. We were at 90-something-percent humidity, and it was time to begin running through a cloud. Supremely gross, and about to get grosser.
A 5K on the lakefront should be a glorious thing. Instead, it reduced me to a soggy bucket of flopsweat and lake water. But the only thing standing between me and a medal was 3.1 miles, so off I ran. It seemed to take forever.
It kinda did take forever. I would not be deterred. And finally, I crossed the finish line and got to put this beauty around my neck.
And I'm the only person I'm competing against, anyway. It's me against me out there. And while I'm not happy with my results, I'm happy with my refusal to give up.
There will come a day when I'm unable to do these things.
Today is not that day.