ALMOST Caught the Tri Bug

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Since I’ve started working at Chicago Athlete in May, I’ve learned a lot about the sport of triathlon; reading different articles from Triathlon Magazine and watching the Olympics has taught me that it’s more than just swimming, biking and running a certain distance, and like any endurance sport, it requires dedication and strategy to be successful.

After covering the 34th annual Transamerica Chicago Triathlon on Sunday, though, I officially consider myself a triathlon fan. And I have a feeling that I’ll soon be a training triathlete.

This isn’t a surprising result for me; I often call myself a company’s “ideal consumer,” because I am very easily sold by advertisements (which is why Woodfield Mall is both the best and worst place for me), and I can be persuaded to try something new in a second (which is why I decided to do a trapeze class without any previous interest – stay tuned for info about that). While triathlons have been much more on my radar lately, the idea of actually doing one has been tempting, but not quite tempting enough.

Now, getting up at 4 a.m. was not necessarily my idea of fun for a Sunday morning. However, seeing the city filled with athletes, coaches and vendors while it was still dark out was a very unique experience; normally, the people you encounter at 5 a.m. are tired and cranky, but everyone at this scene was full of positive energy and excitement. I’ve written about this “race mood” before, but it never ceases to impress me.


Any day that I get to sport a press badge and receive VIP treatment as a media member is a good day in my book; yet, I got so caught up in taking pictures at the Chicago Triathlon, I almost forgot I was working. There was so much going on around me, and I wish I had four lenses to capture all the excitement. (See what I did capture here)

I was lucky to get a front spot at the swim start, and I intently watched the front swimmers before the race began – “what are they thinking?” I wondered. I wasn’t even competing, yet I was thinking about drowning, getting wacked in the face by someone else’s arm and how cold the water probably was, but these athletes looked poised and prepared. Obviously, our swimming experience is not even comparable (because I have none), and they had trained and prepared for this race, but still, I was stunned.

My favorite part of the entire day, though, was watching the transitions. My coworker told me beforehand that there would be people standing at the Swim Exit lifting swimmers out of the water, but when I walked over to the transition area, and saw athletes whipping off their wet suits and sprinting to the bikes, I actually started laughing. While I know having efficient transitions can be critical to an athletes’ final time, watching this process as a first-time spectator was somewhat comical; everyone looked like their wetsuits were on fire, and that if they didn’t get to their bike fast enough, they would be trampled. Despite some frantic looks, though, most athletes knew what they were doing and smoothly transitioned to the bike – something I would have probably failed miserable at.

Later on, standing at the finish line, I was fascinated once more with how much energy the finishers seemed to have – again, I know they trained for this, and are in great physical shape, but you’d think after swimming, biking and running for two to four hours, you’d be exhausted. What was even more impressive to me was the people who were finishing among the top group, who were also completing the Triple Challenge, where they would do three triathlons in about 24 hours. After the International distance, which I was watching, they had about an hour before the Sprint distance began, and already competed in a race Saturday morning.

Overall, the event served as my true introduction to the multisport, and almost as an advertisement to convince me to participate. Everyone I’ve talked to says the most common anxiety with the triathlon is the swimming portion, and I fit in that group; I know I can run a good distance, and I enjoy biking, but thinking about swimming with a huge group of people is very intimidating to me. But so was a half marathon at one point, and I’ve completed that.

While I think the Chicago Triathlon is way beyond my athletic abilities, for now anyways, my goal for this winter is to utilize the local pool, and improve my swimming skills. Then, maybe next summer, I’ll tri a tri.

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