Trek Women
August 28, 2007

Been there, tri'd that...

The sun was streaming through the bedroom window and I came awake in a heart-stopping panic... my alarm didn't go off and my back-up alarm didn't go off... I overslept and missed the Accenture Chicago Triathlon!

That was the nightmare I had about 30 minutes before I actually woke up, obsessive-compulsively checked my race bag for the 100th time, got dressed and headed downtown to set up my gear up in the transition area. It was 3:50 am and the highways were empty except for the occasional car with a bike strapped to the back. We were all headed toward the same destination, to take on the nation's largest tri. By 5:45 am, more than 6,000 participants were ready to go and at 6 am, the air horn blew for the first wave of swimmers.  I ran to the bathroom. Nerves.

At 8 am, I lined up in the start chute with my wave, #30, of women ages 35-39. That's where my super-cheerleaders found me -- my sister, Jen; my sister, Becky; my brother-in-law, Steve; and my 2-year-old nephew, Paddy. They were screaming like crazy and tears were in their eyes and they were probably as anxious as I was at that moment. They had made cute visors with "Go Laura" across the brim. This is it, I thought to myself.

All morning long, the word had been passing through the ranks, the water was cold, only 67 degrees. You could hear yelps every time a new wave jumped into the water. I didn't have a wetsuit, big newbie mistake. At 8:15 am, I jumped in. Oh my gawd, it was freezing!!! It knocked the breath out of me. At 8:17, the air horn sounded once again and we were off in an amalgam of flailing arms, kicking feet, and splashing murky green lake water.

I wish I could say that I took off swimming like Summer Sanders. In reality, I made it through the .93-mile course propeling forward more like Esther Williams. After all those hours in the pool, it wasn't how I wanted it to be; but, I made it through by thinking of all the people rooting for me and keeping my eye on the Chicago skyline in front of me. Next time, I'll do it better.

I was happy to make it through the first transition and onto my bike. Speed at last. It felt so good with the sun bouncing off the lake water and just enough wind on my face. The 22 miles were over too soon, I wanted more. My cheerleaders were there at the end of the bike leg, "Go Laura!" I heard them yelling. I sent them a thumb's up and transitioned to the run.

I hadn't really thought about the run as I was mentally preparing myself for the race. I was so worried about swimming in open water and catching a flat on the bike (though I had my repair kit), that I didn't have a run strategy beyond "don't trip." Well, I didn't trip and I quite enjoyed the beautiful scenery while I made my way to the finish line. Surprisingly, my pace was under a 10-minute mile - I wasn't expecting that at all. The last half mile, I mustered up all the juice that I had left and sprinted for the end. I did it! After training for seven months, I done did it! It was an exhilarating feeling to accomplish something I never would have dreamed possible.

If you had asked me during the swim if I would do another tri, I would have said hell no. But, once I got my legs during the bike and run, the answer changed to heck yeah. I'll be back next year.

Yesterday, I packed up the car and drove back to DC. The 12-hour trip gave me plenty to time to give my friends who called a breakdown of the race. Today, Russ, Wayne and I checked my stats on the tri web site. I was pleasantly shocked to see that I finished in the top third of all participants and top third in my wave and for my gender. My times weren't the most important thing to me; but, it's a nice bonus. Now, the question is... what next?

P.S. I have one more special kudo to give -- to Rob "the beast", my fomer spin instructor at the Marine Barrack's at 8th and I (who's now stationed at Quantico). Rob created a triathlon training plan for me and encouraged me every step of the way. Thank you!

P.P.S. My supercheerleaders couldn't find me at the finish line, so we recreated it in front of Becky and Steve's house. 


Laura, you are truly awe-inspiring! I am getting my bike out this weekend, come hell or high-water.

You have the courage to change your life, and that gives me great hope that I can keep going forward.

Can you share your favorite DC ride? When I lived on the Hill, I loved all the places I could go on a bike.

You go, girl!!!

your fan, Patrise

Posted by: Patrise | Aug 29, 2007 10:46:59 AM


What a fantastic job. And to survive the brisk swim, quite an accomplishment.


Posted by: Viz | Aug 29, 2007 3:10:42 PM

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