ITU Chicago 2015 Race Report by Alice

Wow! What a race report to be able to write.

Chicago was an amazing venue to race and suited my strengths as the bike and run were going to be fast and flat. The downside to fast and flat is that American roads can also become dull and mentally hard.

The race venue was on the lake front in the park area of downtown Chicago. The transition was at one end of the park and the race start/finish in the middle and the expo/registration at the other end.

You have to pick your race ‘packet’ up and get body marked two days before the race in ITU as there are so many athletes. It’s quite good to get in as early as possible within this time to make sure you get the t-shirt size you want.

Racking…we had to rack the night before and take our trisuit and helmet for inspection (you take them away with you and leave the bike behind). You are racked by wave age, so that everyone in your wave has the same transition distance to keep it fair. This means that if you are in a popular age group you could be on a very squashed rack. As it was so hot we deflated our tyres and then trecked back with our track pumps the next day. I was very lucky to be right at the end of the rack, so if I couldn’t find my bike I would have had a problem! It also meant I did have a bit more space to dump my wetsuit and kit.

The night before the race I ordered a pasta meal and G&T from room service and chilled in my room. I needed the G&T to sleep (honest!).

In the morning transition was open early (7.30-8.30) and we walked back again (we did a lot of walking in those few days), this time with our race kit and set up our transition. As we were so close to the hotel we walked there afterwards, had a snack and prepared ourselves for our races. Prep in the UK is usually waking at 4am, wondering why I do a sport which makes me get up so early, eating porridge, driving the car to the race, wondering why I do a sport which makes me get up so early, registering/getting nervous, wondering why I do a sport which makes me get up so early. In Chicago my race prep was eating food, wondering why I spent so much money going to a race which makes me feel so nervous; listening and dancing to the iPod compilation Robin had made me; getting dressed for the race and going to the toilet about 10 times. However, when you step out of the hotel in your official trisuit and walk to the race start the immense pride you feel helps to keep those race nerves just a little bit in check. At the edge of the venue there was the bag drop and athletes were starting to gather. I left my bag (forgot to take my pre-race gel) and realized I still had on my flip-flops, sunglasses and sun hat – doh! Thankfully a GB supporter looked after them for me.

Swim start. The waves swimwere by gender and age-group and were sent off five minutes apart. There were three race pens for the swim start, the idea being you were corralled into race pen three and then as waves prior to you went off you moved into pen two, then pen one. In race pen one we were given a short race brief and then off onto the pontoon. From the pontoon we entered the water and then had to jump/dive in and swim to the race start between two buoys. There was no time to warm up or prepare – it was get in, swim to your chosen position and then ‘take your marks – horn blast to start’. I positioned myself over to one side, I thought it best to be 30 seconds slower but enjoy it rather than be in the washing machine with the fast ladies. My approach worked for me and I had an enjoyable swim. The swim turned out to be about 840m (a supporter walked it along the shore with his Garmin). The water was around 16°C, so very comfortable, with a slight swell. The swim was straight, following the harbour wall with a single buoy turn to the exit. I exited up the ramp, remembering to unzip and take my right arm out first, stripped down to my waist and ran along the blue carpet for a considerable way to T1.

bikeMy racking position was in what can only be described as a sand pit. I stripped off my wetsuit and dumped it in the sand, de-racked the bike and ran with my bike across the grass towards bike out, trying to de-sand my feet as I went. To the bike mount line, onto the bike, feet into shoes (yep managed it without falling off but elastic bands didn’t break – snapped them with fingers instead). And we’re off into my strongest discipline. The course was mostly dead flat and straight. Long stretches with a strong tailwind made for 26mph speed to the first turnaround and then into headwind made a drop to around 18mph. Then up a slope with some rather lumpy bits and potholes and narrowing of the lane. You can’t be afraid to use your voice to get other cyclists to move over. Down the other side with a hard left under a bridge, up again and to the second turnaround. The turnarounds weren’t too tight and the athletes reasonably spread out. I played cat and mouse with a Mexican lady in my age group but sadly had to drop back to avoid it looking like drafting and then could never quite catch her up again. Three laps like this and then bike finish loomed ahead – feet out of shoes (that went ok too), off at the dismount (my mind went blank at this point – bike dismount before or after line – surely it must be before!)…running now all the way round the back of transition and in, along the rack, though the sand to the end of the rack. Re-rack, take shoes and visor to grass area (rub sand off feet), shoes on and out of T2. Now this was going to be the hard part….

You turn out of transition along the same very straight and flat road you cycled on (a separate lane to the right of the bike route). In the water you feel cool, on the bike the wind and speed kept your temperature comfortable but on the run you can feel the warm wind and the heat rising from the tarmac – there is no shade at all. All you know is that you have to run all the way down the road (you can’t see the end), all the way back to transition and then another two thirds of that to complete the course. So you start running and all the bravado you had that you can do the pace you had planned, even if it is hot starts to be eaten away, you know you’ve hydrated well but your throat feels tight with the heat, you’re desperate for a drink but the water stations are on the return leg – you run past them really wanting that water. Like a mirage you keep thinking you can see the turnaround but it doesn’t come, it’s a crossing point or just your mind playing tricks. What does keep you going is the support and cheering from your fellow athletes and spectathletes. You finally make it to the end of the 1st lap and then you know you’ve got to run back down again. At the last turnaround you know you have to run about halfway back up the road before the run around the fountain to the finish…not long now. There were several GBers in m­­y age group and I really wanted not to be the last GB athlete. I knew that most of them were ahead of me but that at least one was behind, turning the corner towards the fountain I checked over my shoulder and could see blue suits – GB or USA? I couldn’t tell but tried hard to put some distance between us and then there was the grandstand and the finish line. Remember to smile! I’m normally looking at my watch but this time arms in the air and a big grin – it was hard not to want to smile but it was more a smile of relief than incredible happiness. I had finished and survived. I wasn’t in the recovery tent or hospital (unlike some of our GB athletes), I had a time, I had a medal, I was a team GB athlete.

I found out later that the roadside temperature was 36°c, which the Mexicans loved but I really didn’t.

Post-race…you get your medal and then immediately there were ice baths which I thought were great and spent several minutes cooling down there, no water at this point – you had to walk around 200m to get water which really wasn’t ideal in that heat. There were bananas post race but no oranges, which I think are really helpful after a hot race. No Erdinger either! There was a free massage though, which was great. So, after that onto bag drop, collect stuff, make up recovery drink and then watch some more athletes run past on their race feeling relieved that you have finished. We wandered back to transition to de-rack as all the racing was just about finished.

I was very happy with my swim, it was slower than I wanted but it was longer and it wasn’t at all traumatic and I felt relaxed. The bike was great and I felt I did it justice, the run I was disappointed with. I had a pace planned but in the heat (and having raced the day before) I just couldn’t do it and dropped to the slowest pace on a 5k that I’ve done in many years. However, many other athletes suffered in the heat with some ending up in hospital, so I am keeping it in perspective.


Aquathlon: 23rd out of 34; Sprint Triathlon: 62nd out of 84   My personal goal was ‘not last’ and ‘not last British athlete’, I achieved both so I’m happy. I also learned so much about racing in general, being an athlete and what I need to work on for next time!


Comments are closed.