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Lake Zurich Triathlon – 7.13.14

17 Jul

Gracelyn and I woke up at 5:00 and were on the road by 5:30 am for the Lake Zurich triathlon. I’ve never been to a tri that did morning-of packet pickup, but this one, we would learn, is pretty small and not too intense so it was not a big deal to arrive by 6:00 and get our gear. Plus, you couldn’t get your timing strap until day-of, so why bother?


Our stickerts for our helmets and bikes looked like they were printed on Office Max labels on someone’s home printer if that gives you any indication of the professionalism of the race. Actually, I take that back. Everything detail-wise was perfect and up to par with a big company putting it on, so I was happy to have a smaller, cheaper race without skimping on safety or quality.


Oh, and another thing. People here were WAY more serious than people at my other races. My first indication (of what will be many) was the fact that despite the 76 degree water temperature (can we say bath water?) 99% of the racers were wearing full wet suits. It wasn’t because they were cold, it was because they wanted that competitive advantage. Fast-forward to my final indication that this was pre-pro racing. 90% of the bikes were tri bikes. The expensive, $2,000 minimum kind. I was using my $400 Craigslist road bike.


Did I mention I haven’t done a race of this distance?


I thought I trained decently. I knew I probably should have trained more, but I was totally unprepared for the ass-whooping I was about to get.


I finished the almost-mile (0.93) swim in 44 minutes. It was hard, but nothing compared to my swim in Lake M on Thursday. I noticed my entire wave had passed me and most of the wave behind me. This was my first inclination that I am going to finish at the end of pack.


Ran to transition and had a decent time. Maybe because I was one of the few people not taking off a wetsuit. Jumped on the bike and I was tired. Really tired. I had some patches of 14 mph and I knew it wasn’t fast enough to keep up (but hey! I did go 21+ mph down the hills!!). My average speed was just under 16 mph. Again, I noticed I was getting passed by almost everyone and I only passed one person ever. The bike is my strongest leg so this was concerning. It should be noted that the bike portion was shortened by about 5 miles the week before the race because of some unannounced road work. That was kind of a relief to me, but then again, the bike is my best part. Why couldn’t they take some miles off the run!?
The scenery on the bike leg was notable. A couple of horse stables and some nice nature patches. Plus, it was blocked off almost completely from cars, which was nice.


Oh, and then the run. The run. My tummy was growling come run time so I had one of those goo packets. Gross.


I feel like I was least prepared for the run. This is my own fault, it’s the easiest to train for – no equipment necessary! For some reason, my legs didn’t feel quite like Jell-o as soon as I started running. I kinda feel like I might not have pushed it enough on the bike, which is sad for me, but the overall race was hard so I don’t regret that – I don’t think.


The first lap of the run was fine, lots of walking breaks for the hills, but whatever. Then, the weirdest thing happened. I saw my mom right before the second lap and noticed I was the only person continuing the loop, not going to the finish. I actually thought something was wrong, but the course was so well marked I knew I was just on the lonely trail to finishing this race by myself. That was pretty hard, mentally. Luckily the race staff were still there and supportive but it was pretty lonely. I had a lot of chats with God about how grateful I am for an able body and I asked Him to help me push through.

Melissa Run

I finally finished that second set of 3.1 miles.
Gracelyn got third in our age group – she rocks. Sadly, we don’t have a photo together. Also, there are no race photos for me to steal because this was a pretty low budget race.


Now the biggest question for myself is – do I want to strive to do another Olympic distance and really, really train? Or, should I train harder for the sprint distances?


I’ll get back to you on that, but in the meantime I’m getting excited for Beach Day on Sunday and Gavin DeGraw and Matt Nathanson at Ravinia on Monday! Stay tuned for posts on those!


Le Tour de Shore 2014

25 Jun

Ever since I bought my road bike in August I have been addicted to cycling. There’s something about a road bike that makes you feel lighter and go faster (oh yeah – it’s the wheel size and overall design). I loved my fall 2013 Bubbafest tour of the Florida Keys and I wanted to continue my touring rides. I saw an ad for Le Tour de Shore in my copy of Adventure Cycling that I am trying out as a result of Bubbafest but I didn’t think anyone would want to do the two day, 100+ mile ride with me. Jamie and Kayla had plans for that weekend and I didn’t think I knew of anyone else with a road bike. Luckily, my friend Gracelyn who really introduced me to triathlons, had a group of cycling friends that had signed up for the ride independently and I was able to tag along with their group.

Friday morning I met the group of riders along the lake shore path around 6:40 am and we rode down to Millennium Park for the start of the event. It was chilly but perfect for riding. Gracelyn had told me she didn’t want to go “too slow” but wouldn’t be “holding 20 [mph]” which she translated to mean 17 mph. I saw that as a challenge but as it turns out she and two cycling friends really held 20 mph for a lot of the ride which left me cycling by myself, which was actually kind of nice.


The ride was split into two days. We rode ~65 miles the first day and camped in the Indiana Dunes Friday night and conquered ~45 miles the second day finishing in New Buffalo, Michigan.

The SAG stops (I think SAG stands for stop-and-go, but no one I ask really knows) on this ride were amazing. The first one was about 20 miles into the ride and had Chris Cakes pancakes – this guy holds the world record for highest pancake flipped in a frying pan), fruit, granola bars, water and Gatorade. I love pancakes and loved this stop. The next stop, right around noonish, had PB&J sandwiches and chips – heaven! I didn’t feel guilty about eating a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos AND a bag of Fritos because – hey – we just rode for 40 miles. The final stop before arriving to the camp site was just fruit and granola bars but I’m still really appreciative of the stops. Saturday morning’s SAG stops had Dunkin’ Donuts and coffee (mile 76) and fruit and granola bars (mile 96) before ending at a big barbeque on the beach.

The scenery for the ride was incredible. We rode along Lake Michigan for 60% of the ride, through corn fields, past beach houses and even stopped at a winery/brewery/distillery. The thing I loved most about the ride was how short and sweet it was. I’m not saying 100+ miles on the bike is short, but it was nice to be done riding after two days. I also liked the idea of riding one way and not having to turn back and see the entire route again. After our BBQ in Michigan we hopped on coach buses and headed home. The funny thing, though, is that the route that took us more than six hours on the bike took about an hour and a half to reverse on bus.


The weather couldn’t have been better. I did end up with a nasty sun burn, but I attribute that to the fact that the temperature was so crisp that I didn’t realize how strong the sun was. It actually got cold in the evening while camping. I slept in sweat pants, a hoodie, a bed sheet and a sleeping bag and was still cold. Saturday morning was chilly but I had a sweet jersey shrug that kept me comfortable until the first SAG stop. This is where I should have re-applied sunscreen (or applied for the first time to the previously covered areas). I have a sweet bike jersey burn on my back that hurts like heck.

I’m so grateful that I got to hang with Gracelyn and her friends. They were great. There were eight of us total and Gracelyn and I shared a tent Friday night. Other expert campers suggest we not keep our food in our tent because raccoons will actually rip through the tent to get it while we’re sleeping so we put everything we had in a bag of Gracelyn’s and inside the cabin at our camp ground. That actually turned out to be a pretty bad idea because the raccoons snuck into the cabin and had a smorgasbord of food throughout the night. We actually caught them sleeping on the bag in the morning!


My butt hurt for the next day but the ride was totally worth it. It is actually a fundraiser for the Maywood area fine arts programs, which I think is great! This ride is definitely worth the money and the day off of work. I can’t wait til next year!

Naperville Esprit de She Sprint Triathlon 2014

22 Jun

On Sunday, June 8, I completed my first triathlon of the season. It was an all-women triathlon, which I preferred last year to the co-ed (Lake Geneva) version, so I was really pumped. Plus, because I competed in an Esprit de She event last year (their inaugural year), I was supposed to get special perks (spoiler alert: BUST).

The weather had been iffy in Chicago and I was worried about air/water temps. One blogger I read, Kelly the Culinarian, had done a practice swim in the pool we were going to use and advised me that sans-wetsuit would be OK. She was totally right, the water was 76 degrees and perfect.

The morning of the race I woke up at 4:45 and the air temperature was 55 degrees when I headed to Naperville. The transition area closed at 6:45 am and my wave wouldn’t begin until 8:15 am which meant a lot of waiting around.

The race went perfectly. I have no regrets about the amount I trained or prepared. My swim started off a bit rough because I was at the back of my wave and probably didn’t deserve to be. It’s funny how you wait what feels like forever (almost two hours) to start and when it’s your time you feel rushed! I didn’t even put my goggles on my face until about ten seconds before starting. What the heck was I doing the rest of the time? Anyway, I got a lot of feet in my face and didn’t feel free to swim comfortably until about one third into the course.

My transition one (T1) time was long. I saw my mom and was kind of chatting with her while I transitioned to bike. My biggest complaint about the race was the way they had set up the transition areas. The run out and bike in were at the same spot so those of us in later waves (read: younger) had to run with the bike longer than the others. I know it’s not a big deal, but for some reason it really bothered me. Probably because it’s uncomfortable running when you’re exhausted and dragging a bike on your side.


The bike ride was great – it was actually my best leg. It was two laps and there was a strong head wind on the second half of each lap which made for some cold riding but the tail wind side was so great and I could hit up to 21 mph. I did see one wipe out because there were sharp turns and lots of lost water bottles.

Like I said I wasn’t thrilled about the way transitions were set up. Running with the bike is difficult. Nothing noteworthy during T2 other than I found my sunglasses in my cycling shoes (I thought I had left them at home). I wore a hat for the first time – mostly so my parents could see me – that I had won from my friend and former classmate Erin’s blog. Thanks, Headsweats!


The run was OK. There was little crowd cheering and it felt kind of lonely. I don’t know if I’ll ever master the jelly-legs feeling you get off of the bike that makes you feel like you are crawling when you’re trucking along at a regular run pace. No hills or surprises so that was a win for me!

My parents came out to support me and take photos and I really appreciated it. There was a fun “lifestyle market” at the end of the race that really wasn’t any different than other races I’ve finished. There was a VIP “founding finishers” tent for those of us that races with Esprit de She last year but it wasn’t very exciting. They didn’t offer anything exclusive other than private port-o-potties and sparkling grape juice.

Like I said – great weather and a great race. No regrets. Plus my mom and I picked up Portillos on the way home – WIN!


Swim (1/2 mile): 15:27

T1: 4:23

Bike (14 mile): 49:17 (avg 16 mph)

T2: 3:19

Run (5k): 33:17 (10:43/mi)

Total: 1:45:41

Lake Geneva Triathlon Recap

16 Sep

Second triathlon… done!

The Lake Geneva tri was Saturday and it was awesome! Not as awesome at completing Pleasant Prarie with my friend, Jamie, but still awesome.

I had a doctor’s appointment and a dentist appointment on Friday and had the rest of the day to pack up and get to Lake Geneva to pick up my race info. I got to William’s Bay on Friday around 7:00 pm, grabbed my packet, and bought a sweet new swim bag and some anti-fog goggle spray. As it turns out, the goggle spray never made it home with me. To this moment I am still not sure where it went. That was a bummer.

I stayed at my neighbors’ lake house and we had some pizza and pineapple the night before and they helped me apply my tri tats (which still aren’t off my arms yet! HELP!). Then it was time to set my alarm for 4:30 am.

A funny thing happened at 4:30. I woke up, checked the weather, and it was 36 degrees outside. 36! It had been in the 90’s earlier this week and was a beautiful 60ish on Friday. What happened!? Luckily, they pushed the start time (6:30) back 45 minutes because they knew it was just too cold for people to be transitioning from water to bike, but unluckily we had to stand outside waiting from 5:30-8:15 when I finally went off. I’m grateful that by 8:15 the sun had come out and I had started to warm up a bit. Let’s get into the good stuff, though.

The Swim – 500 meters (1/3 mile)

The water temperature was about 72 degrees and I didn’t wear a wetsuit. At ankle-deep the water seems like bath water, so I thought I’d be fine, but as we waded a bit deeper I was regretting my choice to not wear a wetsuit. Since the swim was so short I thought I’d dominate, but I didn’t. Water got into my goggles and was driving me nuts the whole time. That was a real bummer because I could have done much better than I did.


I struggled to get my long sleeve shirt on over my wet body. Luckily I purchased some bike gloves because they had advised us to put our socks on our hands if we didn’t have any gloves – that’s how cold it was in the wooded areas we’d be riding through!

Bike (14.1 miles)

It was almost 9:00 so the weather was starting to get nicer. The course started with a huge climb uphill that I haven’t been training for. That was rough, but after that hill I was able to take on some smaller hills without any problems. The course was beautiful and scenic around Lake Delevan where my aunt has a cottage. I loved all the families on their driveways cheering us on! The only down side was that my bike computer wasn’t working so I never had a real grasp on how fast I was going, but I did set my Garmin so I had an estimate of the distance completed.

Lake Geneva Tri Bike

Lake Geneva Tri Bike


T2 is so simple for me since I’m not wearing bike shoes. I just drop my bike, throw on my shirt with my number on it and off I go!


The run was rough for me. I haven’t been training too much and it was very, very hilly. Plus, there were a ton of cars on the course! WTF?! I was pretty disappointed with my run time, but I know that’s where I need to focus next time.

Lake Geneva Tri Run

Lake Geneva Tri Run

Overall, a very fun, scenic race! So glad I did it. I was disappointed with the number of cars on the run course and the fact that at one point both lanes of run traffic (coming and going) had to share a single sidewalk (standard size) to get to and from the water station. That was poorly planned. Also, the name of the group that puts it on is called “TriRock” and our medals had a guitar which are both supposed to symbolize their use of music at the race but I really couldn’t tell you any point I heard music besides the finish line. I think they could beef that up a bit. Could have used some at the water station and along the hills on the run.

I’m grateful that my parents (and Lucy) came to see me finish, too. They got a few photos and then we headed back to our neighbors’ house to get ready for our other neighbors’ son’s wedding reception on a boat around Lake Geneva. The weather kept getting more beautiful and there were free drinks for my dehydrated body to soak in. It was a great time. We did some shopping in Downtown Lake Geneva and then I came back home and crashed!

Was anyone else at Lake Geneva for the tri? What did you think?

Iron Girl Pleasant Prarie Triathlon Recap

13 Aug

After the bike that broke my heart I went to the John Mayer concert on Friday night and drove up to Pleasant Prarie, Wisconsin, on Saturday!

We met at her parents’ house in Elk Grove and added her bike to my sturdy bike rack and made it about 15 miles before we saw those bikes sliding around so we pulled over and readjusted. After the adjustment we were good to go and didn’t have a single problem with the bikes! We stopped at another Craigslist house which listed a Trek 1000 for sale on their garage sale ad but it was a 50cm bike and too small for me.

After that we made it to the Rec Plex which is where the race was hosted. We were able to pick up our packets, get our bikes looked at (they filled my tires and oiled my chain!), and check our bike into our transition area (read: claim a sweet spot!!). They also had some fun vendors we shopped around at until the course talk where they went through the rules, course details, and Q&A. After that was over we headed to the hotel and made sure we had all of our equipment/clothing/supplies before we went outlet mall and Target shopping!

Before the shopping adventure began we carb-loaded at Olive Garden. I downed three bread sticks and barely touched my pasta so it’s safe to say I was carbed-up. After that we headed to the outlet mall and I was strangely disappointed. The Pleasant Prarie outlet mall is one of my favorites because I usually find great deals but I firmly believe that outlet malls are becoming way too saturated lately and now all the stores are making clothes/products just for the sake of saying they’re outlet prices. I bought some refurbished Sony headphones and a cute Bath & Body Works air freshener and Jamie got a sweet North Face jacket (true outlet price, I think) and then we made our way to Target for some Gatorade, hair ties, and other last minute purchases.

Our First Triathlon (before)

Our First Triathlon (before)

By the time we got back to the hotel, laid out all of our stuff and formulated our plan, it was nearly 11:00 and let’s be honest, that’s past my bed time on a normal night, let alone a night that we have to be up at 4:00 am. I had a hard time sleeping because I was so anxious, nervous, and excited. When we woke up at 4:00 I was actually rockin’ and ready to go!

We got to the Rec Plex at 5:00, got body-marked and set up our transition area right away. We pretty much finished getting ready by 5:20 and had more than an hour until the transition area closed and more than two hours until we actually started the race! Plus, it was 62 degrees, so we were freezing.

The cool air + warm water on the lake

The cool air + warm water on the lake

When the transition area closed at 6:30 we made our way to the beach barefoot and with one shirt for warmth that we left in the sand. The grass and pavement were so cold on our feet that we rushed to the lake shore and thawed out in the 76 degree water.

Over an hour later it was finally time to get in the water and start the race! I want to cover what I wore and what I’d do differently for each leg of the race. So here we go:

Start/swim: I wore my one-piece Nike suit, an extra sports bra, and long spandex shorts underneath. This was perfect for my swim. Plus, I got new Aquasphere goggles last week and they were awesome. They fogged up a bit, but the suction/seal was great.

T1 Iron Girl Pleasant Prarie

T1 Iron Girl Pleasant Prarie

Next time: hit start on my Garmin! I forgot to time this leg but really it was fine because it’s nearly impossible to look at your wrist while swimming. Try it. Also – get some anti-fogging stuff. I think my SCUBA teacher said toothpaste works – I will try.

T1: I kind of took my time and made sure I had everything, but everything went smoothly. I didn’t even use water to wash off my feet (we didn’t really need to) but getting on my socks was hard. I am going to research how to do that better.

Bike: Everything went smoothly on the bike! I swapped my swim cap and goggles for helmets and sunglasses but rode in my swimsuit and shorts. I DID forget to reset the odometer-thingy before the race and it’s kind of complicated to reset so I used my Garmin for time/distance and it worked fine. I was able to drink plenty of water and catch my breath on this leg and it went great. I just plan on having a better bike next time!

T2: I had been debating whether or not to switch into dry shorts for the run but I didn’t and it worked out great!

Run: Threw on my pre-pinned bib (Miami) shirt and ran off on my jello legs. Wouldn’t have done anything different here, either.

Finishing the Iron Girl Pleasant Prarie

Finishing the Iron Girl Pleasant Prarie

So how’d I do?


Iron Girl Pleasant Prarie Race Results

Iron Girl Pleasant Prarie Race Results

We did it!

We did it!

Originally my goal was to finish under two hours and I crushed that and finished in 1:37.

The race was so fun, so empowering, and so addicting! Now I’m pumped about finding more fun races. And a new bike!

Our First Triathlon (after)

Our First Triathlon (after)

Chicago Waves & Tris without Tunes

25 Jul

Well, I was hoping to be able to write a post on my first Lake Michigan open-water swim that was scheduled for this past Tuesday, but as you can tell by my words and use of passive voice it didn’t happen.

Monday night the news channels started reporting a Northerly cold front that would be bringing in huge waves to the lakefront. While it would relieve us of some of the 90 degree heat it would also bring “dangerous” waves and “life-threatening” rip currents. The warning was issued from Tuesday morning through Wednesday evening which put a damper on the Open Water Swim Clinic. I was excited to learn about the swim etiquette and tips for the swim portion of triathlons, but luckily there’s another one in two weeks I can attend. I just hope it’s not too late!

I rode my bike to work that morning and the water was as calm as can be. It was so peaceful, I wanted to play hooky to work and go for a swim! Who knew the waves would turn into such monsters. Needless to say they canceled the clinic around 3:00 pm and I ended up riding my bike home that day and it was the hardest ride I’ve ever had. It took forever and I felt like I was going so slowly. I need to improve my riding-to-work ways because carrying a huge backpack doesn’t help the situation. Also needless to say, I didn’t stop to take a photo because I was afraid I’d never get going again!

Chicago lakefront waves

Chicago lakefront waves 7/23/13 – Image by Miguel Herrera from ABC 7 Facebook Page

This week I was reviewing the FAQ for the IronGirl Tri. You would think I might have done this when I signed up, but what fun would that be? I love finding out three weeks before the race that I have to be there at 5:30 AM for a 7:00 AM start time. I especially love finding out that the use of headphones is prohibited through the whole race. WHAT?!

I kind of get it. Of course we can’t use them for swimming and it’d be dangerous for biking, but I was hoping to leave my iPod shuffle and headphones at my T2 spot (are you impressed with my triathlon terminology already?) and crank up the tunes for the run. After all, I will have just swam a half mile, biked 12, and then they expect me to run three miles while enjoying the sounds of people huffing and puffing nature?

The one benefit I see to this rule (besides preventing crashes and therefore coming out in one piece, which is my goal) is testing my mental endurance. Music often makes us forget what we’re doing (which is why we listen to music while working out!) and makes it easier to plow through a task (again, that’s why we do it!). So not only will this be a physical test, it will be a mental test as well!

Have you ever run a race that banned headphones?

My friend Rachel said they’re technically not encouraged at most half marathons and marathons, but they are permitted. I did some research and found this on the 2013 Chicago Marathon site:

Can I run with an iPod/headphones?
Yes. USATF, the national governing body of the sport, recently amended its ban on headphones, iPods and similar devices. However, athletes competing for prize money are not allowed to use electronic devices such as headphones and ear pieces.

So there you have it. You can find me crawling to the finish line on August 11 without any pump up music… but at least I’ll be safe!

Oh — and take a look at this cute little muffin I took for a walk last night. It’s our friend Jon’s new puppy, RC, and she’s a 13-year old heart stealer.


RC, Jon’s new puppy

Espirit de She 5k

20 Jul

Thursday night all of the Chicago weather stations warned us to stay inside! The temp was a balmy 93 degrees with a heat index close to 100! Despite the warnings, my friend Jamie and I suited up to complete the first ever Espirit de She 5k in Lincoln Park.

Why are we crazy enough to do a 5k in the heat? Well, the answer might stem back to the fact that we’re crazy enough to be doing our first triathlon in August and we figured a 5k would be good practice for the running portion of the race. We rode our bikes to the start, too, to get in that extra triathlon feel.

We were extra prepared, so we got to the race well over an hour before the start time. It turned out to be good planning, though, as were some of the first to take advantage of free mini-spa services offered by LifeSpa — the spas inside Lifetime gyms. I got my nails painted purple (one of the official race colors) and then got back in line for a mini massage which actually wasn’t that relaxing.


I had been excessively drinking water all day so I was feeling a little bloated at the race start, but we started off well. We ran through some misters that were actually cold feeling! I was excited to use my new Garmin watch to measure my pace and distance, and it was so accurate! We got the water at the one mile stop and my only complaint was that the water was luke warm. Maybe that’s a scientific thing — the water is supposed to be warm as to not shock your body — but it doesn’t feel good when its almost 100 degrees outside.

We ran through one other mister ant the wind was blowing it so no one actually got the mist. That was disappointing.

I didn’t run as fast as I could because of the heat, but I thought the racing technology was cool (but not as cool as my new Garmin Forerunner!!). Here’s a snapshot of my results:


All in all we finished the race safely and were greeted with icy cold towels and fruity Popsicles at the finish line. Plus, there was yummy, healthy food and more sweet treats (read: wine) in a little lounge. I’m proud of us for doing it and surviving!

Only 23 more days til race day!