Coming Home to Race in the Chicago Triathlon

The 2009 Chicago Triathlon promises to be not only an adventure in racing, but one in logistics as well for the over 9,500 veteran, newbie, pro and elite racers. We will do battle with the elements, the course and ourselves as we hurl into the chilly (expected 60 degree) waters of Lake Michigan beginning at 6 a.m. tomorrow. Mind you that transition opens at 4:45 am and closes at 5:45 a.m., meaning that if your wave of the swim start goes off at 10 a.m... you have quite a few hours of pondering the sunrise ( and dare I say sanity) over majestic Chicago skyline in the brisk morning air.

I have come home, so to speak, to race in this year's triathlon. In over 10 years of professional Adventure Racing, at least 40 triathlons and untold numerous other endurance events, I have never raced my hometown triathlon. I still get strange looks and cautious comments from the home team..."You're doing what?" ..."How far?" ... "What do you do in a triathlon?" etc. Interesting to note though that my 101-year-old grandmother, who has never lived anywhere else but Chicago, seems to be able to keep track of it all and knows the course.

I have often said "The joy is in the Journey" and I think that a truer statement could not be said in the case of this triathlon. Traveling with an enormous gear bag, hard bike case and backpack through the airport and EL system in Chicago makes it seem as if the competition has actually already started. Thank goodness for little wheels.

After putting together the bike -- truly an exercise worthy of Rubix Cube-proportion -- and coordinating the transition bag, it was off to registration I went, fearing a throng of Type A triathletes aching to be body marked! What I found was a smooth operation. Getting your number, showing your ID, getting your swim cap, body marked and goodie bag literally took all of 15 minutes. I think a new record! It did feel a little weird walking around town with black numbers written all over me (number 5088, if anyone cares to follow on, but kind of proud as well. People tend to look askance at that type of tattooing.

Granted I had to meander through a virtual labyrinth of triathlon gear porn from every merchant and sponsor in Chicago (ok loved it!) but a record of in-and-out nonetheless. One thing about triathletes: once they have the fever, there is rarely a cure. Every new technology, fabric, aerodynamic ge-gaw has to be bought and debated about. A triathlon is truly a unique playing field, where you can compete (at least equipment-wise) with the pros in the same event. Think of not only wearing comparable football gear as the pros, but doing so in the Super Bowl... with them!

The 2009 Chicago Triathlon is part of the prestigious Lifetime Fitness national series, so you get to hobnob with the pros as they chase the series big money purse. Hobnob is probably as close as I will come tomorrow to finishing with them, but no matter. My brother Craig will be racing with me (actually his wave is leaving an hour after me) and I get to race in my hometown... so matter what happens, I think I am a winner. Besides... now I have the best reason to dig into some serious Chicago pizza. I'm racing tomorrow!