Sunday, August 30, 2009

Chicago Triathlon Race Report and Results

On Sunday August 30th I competed in my peak race for the year, the Chicago Triathlon. This was my 3rd and final pro-qualifying race of the year. At each of these races the top 3 from the Elite Amateur races can turn professional. My first one, at Hy-Vee, I was 20th, my 2nd one in Minneapolis I was 12th. In Chicago I was hoping to build on that with a top 10 finish. Jen, Payton, and I made the drive to Chicago on Friday night and stayed with my good friend Zeb Gilliam and his wife. On Saturday I picked up my packet and went for a short run with Zeb. My wave would be the first one to start the Olympic Distance race at 7:28 a.m. on Sunday. I was able to manage about 5 hours of sleep before waking up at 3:30 a.m. on Sunday. I had my typical pre-race favorite breakfast of a belgium waffle with peanut butter and syrup before getting my things packed up and heading to the race course. The transition area closes before the sun comes up at 5:45. I had plenty of time to walk through the massive transition area to find the most direct route in and out of both transitions. This is important in a race where there are 9,000 bikes racked. It would be easy to skip this small detail and struggle to find my bike or my running shoes. I would be competing in the Elite Amateur race with about 110 guys. I got a good warm-up of 2 miles running and some drills and strides before putting the wet suit on. They do not allow swim warm-ups in Chicago since they have sprint race waves going in starting at 6:30 a.m.
Swim: I knew the swim start would be very crowded. There were about 110 Elite males and 60 elite females in my wave. The swim start isn't very wide so it makes for a very rough start. I tried to hug the wall all the way on the right so I could use my new swim technique in which I breath to my left. I've found I rotate much more efficiently when I breath to my left. I got out hard and the first couple hundred yards was pretty intensely crowded but after that it got much easier. We began by swimming south for about 375 yards before making the turn around the bouey to swim back past where we started. After making the turn I was swimming on the left side. I really didn't draft on anyone's feet during the swim. I tried to focus on my own rhythm and I felt pretty good. I had one mishap where I ran into a bouey and hit it pretty hard. After that I got back into my rhythm. I exited the water in 57th place. My time out of the water was 21:30 but our swim time runs until we reach the transition area which is about 500 yards away. I was 23:13 when I hit transition which was about a minute and a half faster than last year. I was feeling pretty good about this.
Bike: Out on the bike I spotted a great triathlete from Illinois, Ryan Giuliano riding next to me. Ryan is a pro duathlete who like me has a weakness in the swim. We exchanged leads numerous times on the bike being careful to stay out of the draft zone as our wave had been warned before the start that there would be 15 marshalls on the course watching the Elite Amateur race for rule infractions. I was passing lots of riders from the elite wave early. The first 6 miles was into the wind which was blowing at about 13 mph right into our faces. When we made the turn the speed quickly went from 24 mph to about 29 on the way back. The course is two loops on Lake Shore Drive. It is very flat with a few potholes that can cause for some scary moments on the bike. After one loop someone yelled that we were in 22nd place. I had moved up considerably on the first lap and knew I had a shot at reaching my goal of being in the top 10 by races end. On the 2nd loop the Elites were more spread out. I pushed hard on this lap and finished up the bike ride with a split of 58:21. This came out to a 26.0 mph average since the course is a few tenths of a mile long. My bike ranking was 4th out of the Elite Amateurs. This was a new best average for me and my first time breaking an hour over 40 kilometers. When I got off the bike I was in 16th place.
Run: I tried to follow Ryan Giuliano's torrid pace through transition 2 and it led to one of the faster transition times of the day. I knew he was an amazing runner and I wouldn't be seeing him for long. Out on the run I put the Garmin GPS watch on to monitor my pace. I was hoping to average 5:35 per mile. I went through the first mile in about 5:28 and I had already moved into 11th. My pace started to slow just after the 2 mile mark but I continued gaining on some of the guys in front of me. The turnaround in Chicago is about 3.5 miles into the race. At that point I was able to count the guys in front of me. I was in 8th place at the time with a couple guys close behind me. I had been passed by a guy that I caught back up to and sat on for the next two miles. My pace had slowed to about 5:45 and I was getting some small cramps in my hamstrings. I moved into 6th place with about a mile to go and started pushing really hard. With a half mile left I knew I had a good shot at breaking 2 hours which was my other big goal. I passed another guy to move into 5th but there were 3 still really close to me. I pushed hard the last 1/2 mile and was passed by one of the guys I had passed earlier in the last 100 meters. He came flying by me and my legs were trashed so there was no response. I wanted to go but my hamstring cramps were getting worse by the second. I could hear Zeb and Jen yelling for me with 100 meters to go and I finished up with a total time of 1:59:24. This was a PR for me by almost 3 minutes. My run time was 35:21 (5:42 pace) which also ranked 4th of the elite amateurs. Complete results from the elite amateur race with splits can be found at Although I didn't hit the pro qualification I was thrilled with the race. I went in knowing I probably would not be in the top 3. I was hoping for top 10 so to get 6th was a great race for me. My time was almost 6 minutes faster than last year which reflects the past 10 months of hard work. As my first season of year round training comes to a close I'm proud of the progress I was able to make. Although I have yet to hit the pro-qualification I believe I am capable of doing so at the 1/2 Ironman Distance. I have lots of work to do. It won't be easy. I'm excited about the progress I made in the Olympic Distance pro-qualifying races going from 20th to 12th to 6th in the 3 I did this summer. Next year I'll move up distances and make the 1/2 Ironman my focus. For now I'll keep training for a couple weeks but without near the focus or intensity. I'm planning to do a small local race in a couple weeks. I have to thank my sponsors, Kaminski Pain and Performance Care, Healthy Habits, and Zipp for helping make this year a big success. Without you this progress wouldn't have been possible. I saw Dr. Kaminski for some ART on Thursday that had me feeling great on race day. Healthy Habits gave my bike a super tune-up and had it ready to race my fastest bike split ever and that was aided with the world's fastest wheels...Zipp! Mostly I'd like to thank my wife Jen for her support through the first year of this journey. She has given me unbelievable support in training to prepare for the success that has come this season. I also want to thank the many people who sent me encouraging e-mails, phone calls, or comments on the blog. Thanks to all of you who read this. I hope my journey has been able to inspire you to DREAM BIG!


Ryan said...

Great race. Congratulations on achieving your goal for the race and for such a huge improvement. Looking forward to reading more next season.

Jeffrey said...

Jeff - Congratulations on an incredible year of training and great race successes! We're so happy for you.
Jane and Jeff

John Pfautz said...

Congratulations Jeff. Impressive and inspiring!

Anonymous said...

I'm very proud of you Jeff. You are an inspiration to many that hard work does reap rewards. I also appreciate all the support Jen has given you. She is amazing also. God has blessed your family.
Love, Mom