Last weekend, my husband and I got up before the sun, loaded our bikes onto car and headed north to race in the Lifetime Chicago Olympic triathlon. I took my own advice and followed these 5 race day travel tips and we arrived at the Expo without a hitch.

I had never been to Chicago before and we were both really looking forward to swimming in Lake Michigan, biking on the city streets and running along the river front path. After we attended the pre-race meeting, picked up our bibs and timing chips, met pro triathlete Andy Potts, and racked our bikes in the transition area, we headed out in search of some Chicago style pizza to carbo-load with.

It seemed like all of the other 9,000 triathletes who were going to be racing the next day had the same idea and every place we went to had over an hour-long wait. We ended up getting a pizza to go and eating it back to our hotel room. We got ready for the next morning and hit the hay early for our 4am wake-up call.

chicago tri lgDespite there being a severe thunderstorm the night before the race, and the threat of rain on race day, we woke up and there was no rain in sight. The transition area was a 2-mile walk from our hotel and so we left early and had plenty of time to set our gear out before the transition area closed at 5:45.

Since our waves didn’t start till after 7, we had over an hour to wait and watch the pro’s start, which was really fun to see—they’re SO FAST! We were also really happy that the race had a swim gear check so that we could wear our flip-flops and jackets and drink from our water bottles right up until our wave started.

I was one of 2 other girls in my age group (156 people total) who wasn’t wearing a wetsuit. I feel restricted in a wetsuit and prefer not to use one and I was SO happy that the water temp was 75 degrees. It was cold at first, but once I started swimming, I didn’t give it a second thought.

The swim was the hardest swim I’d ever done. We swam through 1500 meters of super choppy water and there was so much seaweed in the water that I had to stop a few times and pull it off of my face. But those challenges made finishing the swim so much more rewarding. I thought I’d be nauseated and sea sick after the swim, but I felt great!

Once out of the water, we had to run almost ½ a mile to the transition area. I always have an extra water bottle to rinse off my feet and I was so glad for that because the transition area was a huge mud pit thanks to the rainstorm the night before. At first I couldn’t find my helmet or shirt and I guess someone else bumped into my bike and they fell on the ground. I was so relieved that I found my helmet and shirt, I didn’t even care that they were both covered in mud.

I headed out for the 24-mile bike ride with the goal of not crashing on the slick, still-wet pavement and surviving the five sharp turns that they warned us about in the pre-race meeting. I focused on riding as fast as I could and on making sure I drank lots of water and electrolyte drink in preparation for the climbing temperatures I knew I’d face on the run.

The bike was absolutely amazing. It was an awesome route that took us along Lakeshore Drive and then down under the city along the bus routes. It was like being in a video game… it was so fun to ride in the tunnels!

The good thing about doing an out of town race is that the course is usually new and you don’t know what to expect and so that makes the time in the saddle go by so quickly. Before I knew it, I was back in transition.

Yet again, I was SO happy I brought extra socks because, thanks to the mud, the ones I was wearing were soaked. By the time I started running, the sun was out and the weather was hot and steamy.

My goal for the 6 miles was to keep moving forward and to just make it to the next water station. Thanks to my Huma Gel and margarita Shot Bloks, I felt like I had fueled well and had some energy left for the run.

The volunteers were awesome and made sure we had plenty of water and Gatorade. The fire department even parked their truck and sprayed us with the hose as we ran by—it felt amazing.

By the time I rounded the corner and saw the finish line, I was ready for the run to be over. I sprinted the finish and was greeted by an icy towel and a sweet medal.

All in all, this has probably been my favorite race yet. It was well organized, the course was challenging and interesting and it was so much fun to get to explore Chicago via this triathlon.

My husband and I are already planning on coming back and racing again next year, so why don’t you join us too?