This will be my first two part Race Report due to how much there is to include about the whole weekend. Part One will cover the journey to Chicago and the weekend activities. Part Two will be the actual RR.
You may remember towards the bottom of The EPIC Journey Begins I mentioned adding Chicago to my race list due to my Lifetime Race Report I worked with someone from Lifetime Fitness and was given a chance for a race entry and passes to the Pro/Sponsor Pre-Party before the Chicago Tri, an opportunity too sweet to refuse. We did some planning and booked the hotel and air. This was the first race where flying was a feasible option, but I opted to drive and not hassle with flying my bike. The girls flew out after work in Friday and I took off around 6:15 AM from Minneapolis on Friday.
It was a bit of a challenge to make sure I had everything since the trip would cover a few days. I got the car loaded up the night prior and fueled up for a quick start on Friday morning. Here is a quick shot I took before heading out, not too bad for having my racing gear, and stuff for two others so they did not need to check a bag.
I was on the road and headed to Chicago, cup of coffee and water bottle in hand. No the bottle was not to avoid an unexpected pit-stop... it did have water in it! I can tell that the summer is slipping away from us, it is easier to be up and around before the sun comes up, it is a bit cooler, and trees are almost starting to turn colors.
I snagged a few pictures around the MN/WI border. I loaded up iHeartRadio on the iPhone after my station went out of reception and hooked it up in the car, it extended for another hour of driving until I hit Middleofnowhere, WI. I think it is actually a location that should be on the map, because nothing worked, no cell reception, and hardly any radio stations, so a quick switch was made to the iPod part of the phone. Ahhh music again.
Before I knew it, my bladder was telling me that we would need gas soon. Isn't it funny how that works? I stopped on the NE corner of Madison and hit up a Target for a bathroom, a few groceries including a case of water (never know what city water will taste like in a hotel) and a few miscellaneous items. There happened to be a Starbucks, so I snagged another beverage and was on my way to fill up the tank. Before I knew it I was back on the interstate and headed south on the other side of Madison, a city that was much smaller than I expected!
South of Madison a ways is where the Toll roads begin. I have only ever experienced toll roads a few times in my life while traveling to Florida, but had prepared and brought some change in a baggie. I pay the first toll, something around a dollar. Ok not too bad. After a while I get on 88 into Chicago to avoid some of the O'Hare nightmare of traffic, and the tolls started to take a toll on my wallet. I hit so many tolls I lost track! 80 cents, 1.80, .80, .60, etc etc. Before I knew it, I was darn near in Chicago....and nearly out of change. I made a few turns and ended at my hotel. Whew! I made it in one piece.
After unloading and letting the valet take the car, I checked in and was in the room with all my stuff shortly there after. I settled in and tried to keep things organized, and then decided to hit up the expo, for the first time.... there were multiple visits. I picked up my packet and opted out of body marking, I prefer not to walk around with my number plastered all over my arms and legs while enjoying Chicago!
I took a walk north of the hotel along the lake. What an amazing view. Here are some of the pictures I snapped while walking around. I just used my small digital camera, and did not tote the DSLR around the first day, I just wanted to soak up some of the city.
Back to the hotel and a quick change, I got ready to go for a run to acclimate my body to the higher temps since it had been so mild recently. I got in a 5 mile run or so, but backed off the pace because it was much more of a challenge than it should have been. I got back and showered then shortly after I heard from my wife that they had landed, so I headed to train stop where I would meet them. Grabbing a quick bite to eat before returning to the hotel, and quickly getting ready for the Pro/Sponsor pre-party.
So this was pretty cool to be invited to, and I had been looking forward to it since it came about! I enjoy getting to know and have the opportunity to talk with some people who are at that level. Although I initially had some feelings that I was out of place, it was quickly put at ease after talking with a few people. It had said drinks and appetizers, so we ate before hand. Little did I know that they would have a custom pasta buffet with chef! How sweet is that?!?! I didn't partake in that, but it was pretty cool to watch him prepare different dishes. The general consensus, Sunday was probably going to be hot and a rough day for racers.
I had my first Zico drink, coconut water. It was pretty good, nothing fancy, but supposedly some good benefits for the body.
We took a moment to step out on the balcony which overlooked Lake Michigan and Navy Pier. It was an amazing view at night with everything lit up.
We got back to the room and tucked in for the following day. Thanks for this amazing opportunity Kelly!
We were not up terribly early, but hit the expo again so my wife could look around.... dangerous for either of us to be down there. Well we ended up spending some money. I had scouted a pretty sweet Chicago Triathlon hoodie. Now that its cooling down, its time to think about hoodies agaig, and I love my hooded sweatshirts in the fall!
I had also spoken with a rep from Zoot in one of the booths, and suggested they show up for the Lifetime Fitness Tri in Minneapolis, and he assured me they were working with Gear West Bike & Tri to be there next year! Sweetness. I should have also mentioned that I would really like to be selected for the Zoot Team when they do their picks in a few months, but I restrained. Well, I went back and unfortunately they did not have the Zoot Ultra TT 3.0 like I wanted to pick up at 20% off, but they did have the Zoot Speed. Being a former Iowa Hawkeye.... I have a soft spot for Black and Gold. Being an engineer, I have a soft spot for gadgets, and the Speed is one more piece of gadgetry that I *cough*need*cough*.
A pair of shoes later as well as a chip strap... because I was not going to use the plastic band they give you to attach the chip, UNCOMFORTABLE!!!!!! We walked around some more, and then I found that I had missed an area of the expo the day before. It was split into two rooms. I realized I had missed my goodie bag and t-shirt, so I wanted to pick that up. This was in the second room, a good way for people to have to visit the second area. Looking around some more, I didn't find much I couldn't live without, so we headed out.
After getting things up to the room, we set out to see some of Chicago. We walked north on the lake, and walked to Navy Pier. Holy cow was there ever a boat load of people! It was hot, I was sweating, I was getting hungry, and not in the mood to deal with people. Luckily we got something to eat and it got a bit better. Not so much my scene that day, but here are some of the pictures I snagged throughout the day.
We then headed to Michigan Ave for a little more shopping. After only a few stops and one Coach purse later, we decided to head back to the hotel, this time in a cab. Was I glad to not have to walk back! It would have been a long few miles, and my legs would have let me know about it.
When we got back, we started getting ready to meet up with one of my wife's friends for dinner. We headed out and grabbed some food at a pretty sweet sports bar just a couple of blocks away. The inside was very modern, TVs everywhere, Cubs game, White Sox game, Bears pre-game, and UFC later that night... it was a great atmosphere! We had some hummus as an appetizer with pita bread, and I ordered a Panini with mozzarella, tomatoes, basil and pesto. The food was amazing, I would love to go back the next time I am in town. Along with dinner went a beer, since the past two races I had a drink the night before, I figured why mess with something that has worked.
Stay tuned for the race report to follow.....