Race recap: Lifetime Chicago Triathlon Relay Recap

At some point over the next day or two, you’ll see three Lifetime Chicago Triathlon recaps here on ChicagoNow. All three will share some vital information, what all three members of the Fast Action Response Team call “how not to participate in a triathlon”.

My first tip…Tip #1: Make sure you follow directions, read everything you’re supposed to and register correctly. We didn’t. As of Friday morning, Phil, Dave and I were registered for the Olympic distance, as individuals and not as a Sprint relay team…oops.

Phil and I stood in the relay line to find we had no packet there. We were sent to the Solutions Desk line, which as a guy walked past with his friends pointed out, “…is the line you DON’T want to be in.” Awesome. Phil and I took turns going and standing in our bib number lines, still nothing. Once we got to the front of the Solutions desk line, we were taken care of quickly. Thank you, Collin and company for the speedy fix! Hooray! After we got our bib, chip and other info we walked around the expo! Holy cow, was it cool! I didn’t get to wander as much as I would have liked, I was a little short on time. Next year though, look out!

Enough teasing, I’m getting to the good stuff…race morning. After sleeping maybe 2 hours, not because of nerves but because PG decided I didn’t really need sleep, I got up at 4am to get ready. Walking out the door at 4:25am I got a text from Dave…he was already down at the race. As I approached Millennium Park, I pulled into what I thought was the South lot. Turns out I was in the Grant Park South lot…oops. Hey, reading…I can’t do that.

I made my way to the transition area. While I had no clue, I had my instincts and my cell phone with Dave texting, guiding me on my way. As I walked up to the race finish, Dave told me to go south…so I turned around. I asked if he was sure because I was now a trout swimming upstream. He replied, “oops.” So I turned back around and found the transition area.

I asked for directions and got pointed the wrong way…after the long way around, I found Dave and Phil. Alright! It was almost race time!As Phil got his wetsuit on, Dave realized he didn’t have a bike jersey. He’d be racing in his ChicagoNow softball t-shirt. Tip #2: Always make sure you bring all your gear for a race and then double check things.

We made our way towards the swim start. Maybe half way there Phil realized he had left his goggles back by the gear so he ran back barefoot to get them. We reunited near some port-a-johns and Dave had to make a pit stop. As we made our way closer to the swim start I noticed people in the water. So did Dave and Phil…it was Phil’s wave. We were late. Shit!

Tip #3: Don’t be late for the start of the race. Phil’s eyes went wide and he took off for the start. Dave and I turned around and giggled as we ran back to the transition area, which was closed. On the way we joked we’d gone from thinking of winning the media relay to providing endurance athletes a guide of what not to do at a race. So far, so good. Dave also mentioned he hadn’t been fitted for his bike yet. Which leads me to Tip #4: Get fitted for your bike before you ride it in a race.

We got to the transition area, and it was closed. Dave held up his press pass and we ran past folks. I ran to the port-a-johns…I had to pee.

Then we waited. I had no idea how far the swim was or how fast of a swimmer Phil was. Tip #5: Know the course and when applicable, know your teammates. Twenty minutes or so passed and I waited. I saw Mayor Emanuel run into the transition…that was pretty cool. Shortly there after I caught sight of Phil. I ran up, grabbed the chip and sprinted to Dave. Dave was off!

Phil said he was able to start after the third wave. Once officials realized he was late and not trying to cut in line, they let him go. He said the water was choppy, and it looked it.

After getting out of the wetsuit, we wandered to the bike entrance to the transition area. After we saw the first few riders return, I headed back to the run out to wait. I was instructed to go wait by our gear…so I did. And I tweeted Phil to let him know. Tip #6: Figure out all of that before the race starts. Like the day before.

I warmed up for 30:00 while Dave was riding. I felt ready, and got antsy. I waited…and waited…and waited. Time was crawling. This is no reflection on Dave. I was so nervous I was almost shaking. My leg, the 5k, was next. I felt pressure to run fast (and try to limit the tips for my portion of the relay). I wanted to run well for my teammates.

I saw Phil bounding down towards our gear, chip in hand. I started to take off towards him…in the wrong direction. Phil started yelling at me to stop. Tip #7: Don’t go backwards in a race. Shit! I grabbed the chip and tried to strap it to my ankle while running. Bad idea as I nearly took a header into a tree and a triathlete. Tip #8: Stop a moment, don’t rush. Collect yourself then go. I hit the timing strip and my Garmin as I exited the transition area.

I knew I was going fast. I was excited and glad to be moving. Run Dan, run! I took off. I picked someone just ahead and thought I’d tail them. When I hit the mile 1 marker and checked my Garmin, I subconsciously crapped my pants and lept for joy…8:42! My fastest mile time! Ever! Though tis brings me to Tip #9: Don’t start a race going all out.

I pulled back in a panic on the second mile. It hit me a bit and I slowed. Coming around the Shedd I saw Mayor Emanuel running back! So cool! I shouted at him and he grunted! Tip #10: Leave the Mayor alone when he’s racing.

I was at about 10:10 for the second mile. I started to get pissed off as I hit the turn around with just under a mile to go. Tip #11: Use that frustration to fuel you, push to the finish.

I put on my big boy pants and went as hard as I could, I was hurting. I hit the last .2 and kicked as best as I could. I saw Dave and Phil hooting and hollering just past the line and I ran at them. Tip #12: Enjoy the finish. You’ve worked hard, smile. And practice your finish pose. Yes, I did airplane arms again.

I high fived and dove at Dave and fell on the railing along the side. I had to catch my breath and not puke…it was close. Phil was shooting video of the finish and was asking questions…took me a few moments to realize he was talking to me.

UPDATE: Now with finish line video…here’s the video Phil shot at the finish!

My 5K time was 29:15! My fastest race! I had to look up my 5K PR…38:34, from the Santa Hustle last December. That’s a whopping 9:19 improvement! Wow.

We finished with a time of 1:50:22, coming in second in the relay division…of two teams! We were first in our gender though! Woo hoo!

After we walked through the finishers chute and retrieved our gear, Dave headed for work and Phil and I went to check out the swim start for a bit and cheer for some runners briefly. It was an awesome experience…a lot of folks, Coach Jen and Mark Rouse of Runner’s High n Tri included, are asking if I’m going to do the Tri on my own. Here’s my answer. I want to get through the Chicago Marathon first and take a week off to think about it. I’m not deciding until Pam and I talk and Coach Jen and I talk…so until then, maybe.

I consider my toe dip into the world of triathlon a success- a 5K PR and a hell of a lot of fun, plus important tips for you, my readers…what a toe dip it was!

More later! Oh yeah, please go vote! Thank you!

NOTE: I will add pics when available!



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  • What a hilarious post (and informative, too)! Congrats on the tri relay finish and the new PR! I have been throwing around the idea of an individual tri myself. Keep up the good work and good luck with the remainder of your training!

  • In reply to fult23:

    Ha, thanks! We figured folks should learn from our mis-steps! I like the idea of a triathlon, but it's a lot...we'll see. I'll mull it over the next month or two!

    How is training going for you?

  • I am pretty sure the funniest line in your post is "coming in second in the relay division...of two teams. We were first in our gender though."

    Training was going great, but I got a pinched nerve in my back on Thursday. Went the the back cracker today and again tomorrow. Hopefully get some relief soon; my half is in 4.5 weeks.

  • In reply to fult23:

    Ouch! Hoping you'll be back at it soon!

  • Great post! Lots of valuable tips (No. 10 is my favorite). Congrats on the massive PR. You're getting speeding. Now you just need to do a solo tri. Come on, jump in, the water's fine (if choppy).

  • In reply to suegelber:

    Thanks, Sue! I'm fond of that one as well!

    Maaaaybe...we'll see.

  • These tips need to be put on a t-shirt. You guys really nailed this one. :-) WELCOME TO TRIATHLONS (sort of)!

  • Hmmmm...I like the shirt idea!

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