EveryMan Rating
2 Brewskis


Rating Scale (based on the amount of beer needed after race)
- 4 Brewskis: So excruciatingly painful and lame you’ll need a full year of recovery just to forget this race
- 3 Brewskis: The best thing said and remembered about race is; I finished
- 2 Brewskis: Challenging race in a masochistic I’d could do it again sort-of-way given enough time and Ibuprofen.
- 1 Brewski: Good solid race that exceeds your expectations
- No Brewski: A must-do annual event for both friends and family


The Race
http://www.chicagotriathlon.com

From the official Chicago Triathlon Web site, “With over 7,500 participants and 100,000 spectators, the Accenture Chicago Triathlon is known as the world's largest triathlon. This year (2005) it will become official with an attempt to set a World Record for the World's Largest Triathlon.”

Large certainly best describes this race. As in large transition area (think solider field- sized). Huge distance from swim exit to transition (think the average daily jog for a beginner runner). Big holes and bumps on Lake Shore Drive on the bike course (you’ll come to understand why many racers are using full-suspension mountain bikes). Long wait before start (You could finish the entire race in the time spent waiting for your wave start). Huge lines for the few available porta-potties. This is could also official be the world’s largest quadathon testing not only swimming biking, and running but also intestinal fortitude and Olympic caliber bladder control.

The Racers

The typical field consists of a highly explosive mixture of newbies, weekend warriors and hardcore pro wannabes. From the rapid to the rotund to the rowdy, this race has it all. Running in to the finish in 2004, I saw several guys who looked like they had a very up close and personal view LSD (Lake Shore Drive). On a positive note they seemed proud of their road rash as a exclusive souvenir of having finished the race.

The Swim

Image putting about 250 race ready athletes into your neighborhood swimming pool and you’ve got the start of the Chicago Triathlon. The swim consists of two swim lanes that run along the Monroe Street Harbor sea wall and make up the Olympic Distance swim. This is an especially great race for all those who have perfected the art of swimming over/under/through other swimmers as huge splashing waves of racers enter the water every few minutes.. A very talented swimmer could potentially swim the entire race on the backs of others. I found open water for about 2 minutes before I hit the next wave of slower swimmers. I also had to find a good doctor after the race for a nasty ear infection I got from the lake water. You’ve been warned.

Transition

You know how some people like to bring a balloon to mark their bikes in transition. You might consider finding one of those novelty stores that sells life-sized balloons of Dumbo because anything smaller will just get lost in transition. Image the long term parking lot at O’Hare Airport on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving but with bikes instead of cars and you’ve got the image. Word to the wise: In 2004 it was a bit on the windy side ( and by bit I mean freaking hurricane conditions) as befits the windy city. I think some racers over did it with their balloons as I swear I saw what looked like several LiteSpeed bikes high above Lake Michigan on their well way to Canada.

The Bike

The Olympic distance bike course consist of two loops up and down LSD if and when you have managed to negotiate your way through transition. This is the only race where you’ll need a separate water bottle just to make it in and out of transition. A GPS might also be helpful.

A full suspension mountain bike may indeed not be a bad choice for this race. It would certainly help you negotiate the maze of bumps, ruts, potholes, cracks and fissures that is the paved surface of Lake Shore Drive. The tight steering angles afforded by a mountain bike would also help you avoid the dozens of stationary and mobile obstacles along the two loops. Some of my favorite stationary obstacles included dozens of stray water bottles and nutrition bars, a full set of aero bars (eek), a broken bicycle seat (ouch) and what I can only assume and hope was a dead rat (yuck).

Some of my favorite mobile obstacles included a very big girl on a cruiser with way under inflated tires bopping up and down like Mary Poppins on a Sunday ride. From the “now I’ve seen it all file”; dozens of rolling orange cones whipped-up like tumbleweeds by the 40-mph winds, pro wannabes who, whipped up by their egos, zipped in and out of bike traffic yelling at all to get out of their way, and massive waves, whipped up by the winds, that crashed onto LSD like surf rolling onto a Hawaiian beach.

The Run

The run course follows the lake shore South from transition, around the Shed Aquarium, to McCormick Place and back North to the finish on Columbus Drive. Once again your first challenge if to find your stuff in transition. Last year the balloon parrot marking my spot had long since freed itself and departed leaving me wandering transition like a lost child at Costco. Having found my running stuff, and the run exit, I happily exited transition (only later did I realize what a terrible mistake this really was please see NTKS) and began the run.

As a slow Clydesdale, I hate the run. This is the part of the race some runners just love to really stick it to us big guys. They come bounding by us like some crazed kangaroo on uppers on your way to a 30 minute 10K. The Chicago Triathlon has lots of these run weasels. Last year I was prepared. Not only was it cool (a Godsend to us big runners) but I also had a bit of secret. And no I did not pump my butt up with steroids, or slurp human growth hormone like Jose Conseco at his annual physical. I had however lived and trained at 6000 feet above sea level giving me the legs of a running god…all be it a somewhat chunky and long in the tooth running god. No matter, I still ran the flat, twisty and cool course in a PB making me forget all the crazy stuff from the rest of the race.

The Race Expo

This is a true must go expo as it is the largest and most packed of any race as befits the size of the race. Actually you really must go to pick up your race packet and get body marked. With your numbers in place, you get to enter that exclusive world of triathlon racer a full day or two before the race and show off to all your neighbors, friends and family. You can think to yourself “That’s right Mr. Chubby neighbor. I may be cutting the grass today I’m doing it with the form and physique of a race ready triathlete.” Plus there’s lots of free swag to be had at the expo and you get the added benefit of savoring the pre race buzz, without having to break a sweat.

NTKS (Need To Know Secrets)

- You have two choices to get to transition from the swim exit. This is about a half a mile run (I’m not kidding here). You can run on the broken concrete path in your bare feet or you can run in the grass, but the grass hides broken glass. The smart move: Bring your running shoes and stash them at the swim exit. The time is takes to throw them on is well worth the beating your feet will endure from either the broken concrete or stashed glass.

- Transition bike placement: The smart move: rack you bike as close to the bike exit as possible. If you stashed your shoes by the swim exit you’ll wear them to your bike (remember transition is huge) and you’ll also avoid much running time in your bike shoes out to the bike exit. On the way back you’ll also avoid running very far in your biking shoes to your stuff.

- After the race, the line to get back into transition to get your stuff is longer than the toilet lines. Getting your stuff out of transition can take hours. The smart move, while everybody is in a huge line (at the South “run” end of the transition area) to get their walk around to the bike exit (North of end of the transition area) and avoid the long wait.

- Parking your car. If you get to the race late you’ll have a hard time parking your car. The smart move: get to the race early (transitions opens at 4:30 a.m.---no winning you are a triathlete after all) and you’ll have plenty of free street parking just around the corner from the race. As an added bonus you won’t have to wait in a huge line to get into transition, plus you can rack your bike right by the bike exit.

-It may take hours for your wave start. The smart move: get lucky with your race start time or bring a good book, Ipod and or friends and be ready to enjoy the wait.


 
 

Wf8 25th Anniversary Wildflower Triathlons Festival Review http://www.tricalifornia.com/wildflower/2007

EveryMan Rating: 2 Brewskis (BYOB as they don’t sell it in the park or within 10 miles of the race) Rating Scale (based on the amount of beer needed after race) • 4 Brewskis So excruciatingly painful and lame you’ll need a full year of recovery just to forget this race • 3 Brewskis The best thing said and remembered about race is; I finished • 2 Brewskis Challenging race in a masochistic I’d could do it again sort-of-way given enough time and Ibuprofen. • 1 Brewski Good solid race that exceeds your expectations • No Brewski A must-do annual event for both friends and family

Wf3 The Race

They call Wildflower the Woodstock of triathlon. As I’m sure you may recall Woodstock was best known for sex, drugs, mud, and of course rock and roll. I think the reason that people equate Wildflower to Woodstock is that both take place in the country and both involve camping. However, I found that that the only things the two really have in common are the drugs (think EPO instead of Marijuana and Steroids instead of Cocaine) and of course both begin with the letter “W”.

Wildflower is really three triathlons over the course of the weekend. On Saturday they host a Half Ironman and Mountain Bike Tri and on Sunday it is the turn of the Olympic distance athletes to race. Both the Half Ironman and Olympic distance race are big events with about two and a half thousand athletes each.

This unfortunate side effect of this two day race schedule is that you really can’t party on Friday or Saturday night as somebody is always racing the next day. Of course this does not stop the thousands of college kid volunteers from partying or getting naked (more on this unique Wildflower tradition in the Need to Know Secrets).

Wf6 This year the race was best summed up by the 3 “H”s

Hot

Hilly

And

Hard

For the half Ironman race you can also add a “W” to that list for Windy…and you’ve got a hell of a race.

If you are thinking about doing the half Ironman be prepared to add about a half hour to your usual half finish time and don’t be surprised if you end up with a PW (personal worst time)

For the Olympic Distance race you can safely add 15 minutes to your normal finish time and also call it PW kind of day. This is mainly because the only flat part of both races is the transition area.

The Racers:

The half Ironman race brings out the ultra fit and elite of the triathlon community and this year that crowd did inexplicably include Santa Claus. I’m not kidding. I saw a guy that if he were dressed in a red suit and suspenders would make my young son weep with joy.

As I was biking out to visiting some raceAthlets at a distance camp ground I saw Santa bringing it home at about 9 plus hours into the race.

You go dude! That’s the type of real effort that made me and the elves proud.

I raced the Olympic distance race and this was the usual mixed bag of weekend warriors and talented amateurs.

Wf2 The Swim:

The swim takes place in oddly named lake San Antonia. I say oddly because I was expecting Lake San Antonio to be in Texas. The water is cold, clean and crisp. The swim makes a sort of “P” and both races feature wave starts.

I found sighting (read swimming in a straight line) to be especially difficult as you swim into the rising sun and you really don’t have any markers or discernable natural features to use for sighting beyond the buoys.

Note to any and all race directors: just plopping a bunch of big orange buoys into the lake a half a mile apart is not setting up an adequate swim course. Perhaps you should try to swim your own course before you make the rest of us do it to see how easily you can see the tiny orange dot on the horizon.

Transition:

Your transition spot is assigned by your race number. This was a bit confusing for us Olympic distance types as the numbers on the bike hangers match the race numbers for the Iron Distance bibs. Unknown to many of us, we only had to match the last three numbers of our race numbers to that of the bike hanger number. This made for many early morning mix ups worthy of the Three Stooges

Wf4 The Bike:

Hills, hills and more hills.

The bike course is purely an up and down sort of adventure You spike your heart rate on the way up from the two mile long climbs that make many a newbie walk their newly acquired triathlon steeds in a humbling display of the benefits of being thin. And you spike your heart rate on the way down as you fly at almost 50 mph back into transition and try not to crash into trees, cars, suspicious bushes, and mostly other cyclist coming up on your left, and runners going down on your right.

If you love to climb this is a race for you. If you are like me and you are carrying extra weight, you’ll pay the price and then some.

The Run:

The run course loops around the park and up and over several large and painful…guess what? Hills.

Yes, just when you thought you were done with the bloody hills you notice that a never ending uphill climb as you struggle to make your legs work on the run. Wf7 For us Olympic distance athletes the hills did provide a welcome opportunity for a relaxing stroll. I would say that about ninety percent of the athletes around me walked at least some portion of the two mile climb that is the key feature of the 10K run.

Reports from the half Ironman suggest that many more people actually ran the entire run, but then again in general they did tend to look like much meaner and leaner triathletes.

It is worth noting here that the run on both the Olympic and Iron distance race does end in a quad crushingly steep one mile descent into the finisher’s coral. You can make up huge chunks of time on this last mile, but beware your feet will certainly pay the price if you race like I did without socks.

The Race Expo:

The expo features a wide assortment of vendors that you will certainly be happy to see as you discover that the TSA has confiscated your CO2 cartilages.

The race takes place in rural California with the nearest bike shop about an hour away. This means you are pretty much stuck with whatever food you brought to the race. You can purchase food at the expo but the choices are limited to crepes, burritos, hot dogs, pasta, and stir fry. That’s all there was this year and after four days of the Wildflower burrito I was ready for something a bit less carnival like.

Also the race expo does feature bands like Woodstock of yore but I never managed to hear one play. This is especially odd as I was always at the expo buying this or that while snaking on the fifth burrito if the weekend.

Wf5 FYINTKS (For Your Information Need To Know Secrets):

• Transition never seems to close. They say that it does but it never really did. So no need to get up crazy early as the rousted college kids who man the transition gates will allow you to come and go at will.

• I stood in the “restricted’ start area of the half iron distance race and watched wave after wave leave without any issues. My suggestion is that you sleep in a bit and get to transition just before the start of your wave.

• If possible get to Wildflower early. The race consists of numerous camp grounds located around the lake. You’ll want to be as close to the expo/transition as possible unless you enjoy a long and very hilly bike/shuttle/walk to and from all the action and food.

• You better love camping. No matter if you rent an RV, as we did, or decide to tent it you better enjoy camping. This means communal showers, stinky toilets, dust and dirt, and the wide open bright, shiny and cold nights of spring is all yours for no additional fee.

• And yes on both the Olympic and Iron Distance course you will have the pleasure of a topless for boy’s, and even bottomless for girl’s aid station. They, the naked bits, just sort of jump out at you as you round a corner or crest a hill. You are racing hard and the next minute you are hugging a topless coed with all sort of wiggly and jiggly bits all lousy goosey as God intended. It is something that is certainly unique in the sport of triathlon, and perhaps only possible in California at Wildflower while camping and racing in the middle of pretty much nowhere.

For more Everyman Triathlon click HERE.

 

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