Gary Jackson: Fire When Ready Pottery
A Chicago potter’s somewhat slanted view of clay & play
Categories: bike, Chicago, special events

Today was the Chicago Triathlon… and it was my third in a row. 2011. 2012. 2013.
My Trifecta of Triathlons! Swim a mile. Bike twenty-five miles. Run six miles.
Each one formidable in its own right… but today we put them all together!!!

So here’s my story… Triathlon morning starts very early. The transition staging area opens at 4:15am. And if you want to get a good spot, you need to get there early before the other thousands & thousands of people! My assigned start time was 8:36am which put me in Wave 34. Yes… be there at 4:15am and then wait until 8:36am. Four hours!!! Luckily, my friend Pammy was there with her husband Jeff who was doing the Sprint race. So she was there to hangout with me all morning. Talking. Chatting. Taking my mind off the race.

The good thing about needing to wait four hours is that you’re there to do a LOT of people watching… as well as a beautiful sunrise! Those who start in the earlier waves do the shorter Sprint Distance. basically half of everything. So they start a lot earlier, during the sunrise, and are generally finished and headed home before I even get started! But still, we all get the stunning & race-soothing sunrise!

Plenty of lifeguards on hand getting ready for the race…

Another “classic” part of the triathlon experience is the lines of porto-potties. Long lines for everyone of them. So it also becomes a matter of timing. If you need to go, you need to get in line. But you want to be close to your start time, but not stuck in line when your wave time gets too close!

As the sun gets a little higher, waves of swimmers start out every four minutes.

And then swim towards the finish line…

So finally, after a couple hours of waiting anxiously, it was my turn. Wave #34 ready to go! Yeah, that’s me… the bald guy in the center putting on my color-coded purple swim cap!

As luck would have it, when I jumped into the lake with my wave, I went down to the bottom and my first big kick to get me started hit the rocky bottom of the lake. And scraped my foot up pretty bad. The cold water helped… so I didn’t really notice how bad it was until I got to my bike to put on my shoes! Ouch!!!

The swim course starts pretty much across from Buckingham Fountain in Monroe Harbor. You jump in and swim south towards the Filed Museum. Then you turn around the buoy and swim north all the way to the Chicago Yacht Club. Just a smidge over a mile! With thousands of spectators lining the banks and cheering everyone on!!!

Finally… after a grueling swim (with me doing the side-stroke the whole way) you finally get out and “stumble” trying to regain your land-legs! Then it’s a barefoot run (or jog… or walk…) back to the bike transition area.

And then it’s off on the bike… of course, this is my favorite leg of the race. It’s a quick 25 miles from the Yachet Club up to Foster Avenue on Lake Shore Drive. You cross the median and turn back towards downtown… doing that loop twice! I had a great ride. I felt more in control this time than previous triathlons. I felt good in my positioning – never getting caught behind someone else, or hitting too many potholes or the gap between lanes on Lake Shore Drive. After a slow swim, it’s always fun to get on the bike and play a little catch-up to the rest of your wave that left you behind in the water.

After the bike portion, you run back to the transition area to change into your running clothes & shoes. And that’s when the heat hit me!!! Sure, it might be because the “breeze” that I was creating for myself on the bike was gone. Sure, it could have been the blazing sun. Sure, it could have been the temperatures up in the high nineties. Either way you look at it… it was HOT!!!

The run portion of the race takes you from the transition area along the lakefront, through the Museum Campus down to 31st Street Beach for the turn-around. And then it’s back north again towards the finish line in Grant Park. Did I mention that it was hot??? Running all the way down there in the blazing sun was tough for everyone. Even those who looked like tip-top-shape-marathon-runners were slowing down, stopping and complaining about the heat. It wasn’t just me. One of the highlights of the route was where the fire department had set-up a powerful wind machine to shoot water across the route to cool everyone off. It was like a fake thunderstorm to run through both coming & going.

When you finally make back to the Museum Campus, you can start to hear the crowd at the finish line. It’s around the Field Museum, through the LSD underpass and up a short hill into Grant Park. At the top of the hill you can actually see the finish line… and oddly, the adrenaline kicks in and so did my legs!!! A quick sprint to the finish line… and I was done with another Triathlon!!!

And yes, I’m sweaty. Sweaty enough to literally wring out my shirt!

My goal was to finish faster than last year’s time. Unfortunately, I did not make it.
My “official” race results gave me a time of 3 hours, thirty-four minutes and forty-four seconds!

Still faster than my first Tri race, but not last year’s Tri race And I blame the weather.
Okay, and maybe the fact that I hadn’t really done any run training as I’ve been dealing with some foot pain for the past few months, but besides that…

My swim time was a minute longer than last year – just under 1 mile in 0:50:08 minutes.
My bike time was minute faster than last year – just under 25 miles in 1:13:43
which makes an “official” average speed of 20.6 mph which I was pretty happy with!!!
My run time was seven minutes longer than last year – just over 6 miles in 1:20:43
yikes… did I mention it was SWELTERTINGLY HOT?!!!

At the finish line, there are a lot of vendors & volunteers passing out free food, water & wet towels. With painful legs, I kept walking around, stretching and chatting with my parents who had come to cheer me on. Luckily for me, and my stressed out legs, there were piles of bananas everywhere!!!

At the end of the day you picked up a bit of swag. Souveniers from the race… and my finisher’s MEDAL!!! My third Tri medal which I think officially makes it a “collection,” right???

And then there’s the “real” reason to do a Triathlon…
you can EAT whatever you want afterwards!!! I’ve earned it.

So of course we went to my favorite restaurant… Rose Angeli’s on Wrightwood.
I love that place. The food is great… but trust me, after a Triathlon the food is friggin’ fantastic!!!

I decided to go for broke with my favorite… Tortellone Con Salsa di Noce.
A gorgonzola filled tortellone tossed with grapes in a walnut pesto cream sauce. Yummy!!!

And the only thing that makes it better… dessert!!! My parents decided to split the chocolate fondue, but I couldn’t decide. My “usual” bread pudding with the best caramel sauce ever… or the special pear lasagna with homemade pumpkin ice cream?! I struggled. I couldn’t decide… so I had both!!! Again… I deserve it.

So there it is, my third Chicago Triathlon! From start to finish another great day.


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