Chicago ITU….drag race time

I realize it’s been awhile since the race, but I’ve had a pretty busy week so cut me some slack.  For those of you who don’t know, Chicago ITU was a few weeks ago.  ITU races are typically the races you see on TV.  For the professionals in the sport it is the format of race you see in the Olympics.  It is draft legal with a lot of short, fast laps.  For us age groupers the race is a bit different.  The race is not draft legal, but it still short(er) and fast(ish) laps.  There was a lot of talk about the course going in and I will get into some of the details later, but all in all it was a lot of fun.

Race week was busy to say the least.  If you didn’t know I’ve switched sponsors and home shops to Element Multisport and we had a busy weekend at the expo.   I went into the race knowing full well I wouldn’t be at 100% after working 12 hour days on my feet for 5 straight days, but that’s life.  If you know who Ryan Giuliano is, he does it all the time and seems to race just fine, so I drank a cool glass of shut the fuck up and got ready to race.

We were required to check our bikes in the night before so I took a quick cab in race morning.  As always, I got to transition really early. I would rather be there early, setup, and stress free than get the extra 45 minutes of sleep.  Sleep the night before a race does not matter much anyway, it is two nights before that is important and I slept like a brick that night.  Anyway, my eyes were on the weather and I had it pretty much figured out.  I was lucky and was in the first wave, a stroke of luck that comes in handy more than once during the race.  Rain clouds moved in during setup, rolled straight through, then the rest of the day was dry.  As I headed up to the swim start I had another stroke of good luck.  About halfway to the start another competitor called out to me and asked where my timing chip was…crap…u-turn back to transition.  The chip was still in my bag, I was cutting it close on time so I grabbed it and figured worst case I could shove it in my pocket if I didn’t have time to strap it on (I use a complicated strapping system that takes me a few minutes, but knock on wood,  it never falls off).   To get back to the start I basically had to jog, in my wetsuit, in the heat and humidity, about a half mile to the start.  Here I was with the best wave start and I was about to blow it because I forgot my damn timing chip…idiot.

Well, I made it in plenty of time, partly thanks to a slightly late start and I was also pretty well warmed up.  The start was pretty basic in the water, be kind behind the buoy, wait for the horn, then HAMMER TIME (I had that Big Sean – Dance remix stuck in my head the whole time…I kept saying “stop…it’s mother fucking hammer time”).   Apparently the swim was late starting because they were late putting in the swim buoys, so the markings on the swim course were okay at best.  I made it to the turn around first, but not by much and honestly I was only first because the second guy took about the worst line I have ever seen.   When we got side by side to come back he seemed pretty set on being slightly in front of me, so I let him go and I jumped right on his feet.  Now, I dunno if this was a good thing or a bad thing.  I got a free ride, that is for sure, but this guy continued to take the worst line possible to each buoy.  I am going to have to have a talk with the coach about which is better, drafting or swimming straight.  I will let you know what he says, I am sure you will all lose a lot of sleep no knowing.  Anyway, as we neared the end 2 other guys came into the mix.  I dunno who one of them was but I was guessing by his kick he was a pure swimmer, dude was carrying a 6 beat kick, so I switched to his feet to enjoy a bigger wave and a straighter line and the three of us went cruising past the poor guy who had done all the work.  At the end of the swim I made a mistake, and it cost me a few seconds.  Apprently they announced that you swam through the barrel buoys that were standing up, I missed that part and thought we were supposed to swim around them.  When our little group of 3 got to the stand up buoys I stopped to look around, the other two went into the swim exit and I spent 5 seconds figuring out if they had gone the wrong way.  I figured everyone else would follow us, so what would the race do? DQ everyone?  I charged into the swim exit and got out of the water 4th (Mr. Can’t Swim Straight went by when I was looking around) and I began the nice long run into transition.

I hate long transition runs, but I LOVE transition.  I practice them more than I care to admit, but the result is I am usually right at the top of the transition splits. To throw some numbers at it, I was in 16th place after the swim, but I started the bike in 6th place overall.  Which means I jumped 10 competitors just in transition.

I hit the bike first, with some other guy right on my heels.  Running through transition I saw the other 3 guys I came out of the water with and I had a pretty good idea who was going to be able to ride and who wasn’t.   I knew there would be 3 of us out there leading the charge on the first few laps and one of the guys had already cooked his goose.  I had studied the wave starts and laps and such and by my math we were going to have 2 completely clear laps, and as long as I was keeping each lap under 15 minutes there could never be more than 300 people on the course at one time.  So, back to HAMMER TIME… The course was a ton of fun, it was fast, and it was easy.  I have read some negative feedback about the course and I could understand it being a little crowded later in the day, but I think a lot of that was “user error.”  As my course got busier on the last two laps I got pretty vocal.  There were a lot of riders riding on the left side of the road or even right down the middle.  I yelled at one guy to “move right NOW” and he did not like it too much, but there was no one near him and he was just strolling right down the middle of the road.  He yelled something back that I didn’t hear as I passed him, he passed me back and apparently spent a few matches trying to hang with Kristen Sass and I but it was no use, we went by him and I never saw him again.  Just before that I passed Kristen Sass!  I see Kristen and her crew every year at Memphis in May and I know them through Jay McCurdy.  Was cool to see a familiar face out on the bike and Kristen is a heck of an athlete.  We rode two laps kinda yo-yoing and I felt bad every time I passed her again.  She could take all those u-turns and get up the “hill” better than I could, but I could hammer down the hills and pass her back ( I have a few pounds on her). We rode more than a safe legal distance apart and there were officials all over the place before you get the wrong idea, relax.  The bike went by really quick, I was definitely a fan of doing laps.  Each lap seemed to go by faster and faster and as I learned a good line it was getting more and more fun, however all ‘good’ things must come to an end and now it was time for my dreaded run.

T2 was uneventful, how about that for a review? When I was warming up before the race I was trying to stretch out but my calves were having none of it.  Even running to the start I could feel how tight they were.   My hope, was the bike would help loosen them up, and I was kinda right.  My legs were just HEAVY.  Flat out just did not have a lot in the tank and it was starting to get hot (feel bad for the sprinters it was really hot for their race).  A few guys went by me and they were flying, fucking runners…Long story short I slogged it out, and it wasn’t too terrible, especially considering the lead up.  As a side note in an already really long blog, how did people miscount laps?  I heard one guy do it and he was wearing a watch…Hey, buddy, you didn’t realize you were about to PR your 10k by 10 minutes?

I guess I should wrap this up.  I finished in 13th in the AG in 2:08 which I guess is a PR (bike course was short), I had a lot of fun on the bike, and I am glad I slugged it out on the run.  I’m feeling in pretty good form heading into my last training block before my first 70.3 (Challenge New Albany) so I have that going for me.   Special thanks to Nicole for putting up with me since I get a little weird(er) on race weekend.  The boys at Element for the support and all the people and fans who came out to yell and scream.  And thanks to you, if you actually made it this far, for reading my blog post…

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