ITU Grand Final: Chicago

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Swim 21:02 Cyclops Swim

When the swim started, I wasn’t ready. You know how they typically have a countdown or say “Ready, set, go!” There was none of that. I was in the middle of clearing my goggles and getting ready to go. We hit the water, and it was “READY! GO!!” As a result of this, my goggles were foggy and I couldn’t really see where I was going. We were thrashing along and fighting for position. It turns out, I was actually in a really good spot. I was actually hovering around 6th or 7th place for the first half of the swim while I was flailing around like a blind person.

By some miracle, my right goggle started clearing up and now I was a cyclops swimming along. At this point things got very aggressive and I couldn’t pass anyone. I was swimming back and forth behind a couple girls and over the wave of people in front of us. This is when I lost contact with the group I was swimming with. I was choking on water and trying to find somewhere to swim through. I knew I was swerving around but there wasn’t really anything I could do. Matt was walking along the side of the swim and I could see him. I was drifting closer and closer to the inside and had to get out.

As the last buoy came into sight, it was a mad dash for the end. Suddenly there were girls all around me and we were all swimming the same speed. As we rounded the last turn and headed for the exit, a girl yanked on my foot and pulled me back. I shook her off and ran out of the exit. Matt yelled at me “12th place!”

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T1 4:00

This was a really long transition. It was about half a mile to where my bike was. However, as we were running along, there were some paratriathletes in a smaller transition area on the way to where the bigger transition area. They had been one of the first waves to go off. A paratriathlete comes whizzing in right in front of me on his bike and stops. Stops and rolls back right to where I am running in slow motion. I tripped over the back wheel and barely missed going down. I yelled some expletives and kept going.

It had rained the night before the race and transition was in a grassy/muddy/sinking field. I kept running along as my feet were sucked down. I made it to my bike, threw on my helmet, sunglasses and shoes and went on for the ride.

Bike 1:05.52 Duna, nuna, nuna, BATMAN!

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This bike was basically underground the entire way and I felt like I was in the movie Batman. I had on clear glasses and we were going through tunnels and around curves. It was pretty cool and a little eerie at the same time. Basically like this with other triathletes chasing me instead of cops:

There were so many twists and turns but I was going really fast. Because we were underground, I kept losing satellite reception on my Garmin so I didn’t really know where I was at, but just kept plugging away at my goal watts from the race plan I had discussed with my coach Craig. I was laser focused.

There was a lot of drafting. It was nearly impossible not to draft because there were so many people and it was such a tight course. But some people took more advantage of this than others. I steered clear of the draft packs and just kept plugging away. I reached the turnaround at 33 mins. I was in position to have my best bike split ever on an Olympic distance course.

The second half went a lot smoother. I knew where the turns were and where to surge and where to slow down. It was actually really epic. I was cheering for other members of Team USA, some Australians, some members from Team GB, anyone who looked like they were struggling. It was a really cool atmosphere on the second loop. We were all in this together. Before I knew it, the second loop was over. I came in at a 1:05…8 minutes faster than any split I had done in this distance. Now it was time to go on the run and see what my liver had to say for the day.

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T2 3:02

This was another long transition. We had to go all the way around transition and then back in the same place where we had come in from the swim exit. When I got to my transition area, someone else’s bike was in my spot. I made a game time decision and pushed it down the bike rack so I could put mine in the right place. There was sand all over my feet but I shoved my feet into my run shoes and went out for the run of my life.

Run 46:15 (43:15) Running to the last second

As I set out on the run, I had this feeling in my gut that this was going to be the run. This was going to be when I could finally fly. For some reason, the stars aligned and I was running like I had never run before. Without pain and without fear. It was a pretty intense run. No one was talking. This was where the race was. On the run. One foot in front of the other. Go, go, go.

After the first loop, I started calculating in my head how much was left and the numbers weren’t matching up. I was straining my brain to think back to the athlete meeting when they said how many loops the course was…it was 3 loops right? I wasn’t hallucinating on this run, right?

It was a little bit harder knowing who exactly was on the same loop as you but it still made for some good competition. For once in a very long time, I was passing people. I didn’t have to slow down or stop because my chest hurt, I could just keep going.

As I turned for the last loop, I knew that something wasn’t right. Maybe I had missed something or I was doing an extra loop but I started dropping the hammer anyway. There was someone holding out American flags and I grabbed onto one. With less than a quarter mile to go, I passed one last girl and saw the finish line. As I hit the blue carpet, the girl caught back up to me and tried to repass me. But I wasn’t going to make it that easy for her. I dug down with everything I had left and pumped my arms as fast as I could with a technique Craig taught me. The other girl and I came across the finish line and I beat her by .01 seconds. Boom.

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We gave each other fist bumps and congratulated each other on a great race. I looked down at my Garmin and frowned. It said my 10k time was 46 minutes. Every time I had looked down at my watch during the race, my pace had been between 6:55-7:00 pace. Then I went to the distance and that’s where I realized things didn’t match up. My watch said I had run 6.6 miles. A 10k converts to 6.2 miles. The course had been .4 miles too long. I wasn’t the only athlete that realized this. But I was still ecstatic with my race and my results. I had PR’ed on everything!

Overall Time 2:20.10

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This is one of my favorite races I have ever done. Although the bike course was a little bit different, it was just so cool to be in the World Championships, representing the USA on home soil. It is a race I will never forget. Things just came together really well for the perfect storm and I was able to enjoy the atmosphere and the other athletes. I got to race with the best in the world and still finished 33rd in my age group and was the 13th American. I hope one day I get to wear the stars and stripes again and race my heart out.

Thanks to Matt for making the trip up to Chicago with me. You were a great sherpa and calmed me down when I was freaking out before the race. You dealt with our interesting homestay situation. Every time I saw you on the course it made me break out in a smile and want to go faster. Love you!

Thank you to my coach Craig Paiement for getting me to this place in my athletic career. It has been a long season after my bike crash in May and I finally got to see what I am capable of in this race. You have always stayed steadfast in your belief of me so thank you for that. All the hard work over the past year is paying off and I don’t even know what I will be capable of next year! It’s going to be so exciting!

And to you, friends and family – you are what makes this ride worthwhile. I was so scared of disappointing you all before the race but it turned into such an incredible experience. I love sharing all of this with you. You guys are in my heart when I am racing, every step of the way! Thank you, thank you!

And Kona, I am formally addressing you. I am really coming for you this time. No more messing around.

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3 thoughts on “ITU Grand Final: Chicago

    • Thanks, Kecia! I love also love following along on your triathlon adventures too! You have so much heart and courage!
      Last week I registered for Ironman Texas and I am also registered for Ironman Lake Placid. Two very different races but we will see how everything works out! Are you doing any Ironman races next year?

      • Yay! I definitely want to do IM Lake Placid some day, but we just have to figure out which year my husband can take a long vacation again. It will be fun to follow your journey! 💜

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