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It’s one of the sport’s marquee races along the country’s most scenic city skyline, and triathletes show up by the thousands.
The race itself and host city combine to make the weekend a can’t-miss experience, but the event’s massive size does present some struggles. If you’re heading to Chicago for the race this weekend, take advantage of the best aspects of the Life Time Chicago Triathlon while avoiding the hassles.
1. Be Ready For A Wait
Transition closes at 5:45am but waves go off for hours after that. If you’re in a late wave, make sure you bring enough clothing, food, drink and maybe a comfortable place to sit while you wait for your wave.
2. No Need To Sight
The swim in Monroe Street Harbor is entirely protected by breakwaters so the harbor’s bottom isn’t churned up by waves, leaving the water crystal clear. The swim goes out-and-back parallel to a wall, so you can hold a straight line by marking your distance to the wall with every breath rather than lifting your head to sight.
3. Run To Transition
The run from the swim exit to T1 is on an approximately 600m-long stretch of pavement. If you want to protect your feet and run a little quicker, you can leave footwear just outside of the swim exit. Otherwise, pick up your feet and make it to the grass-covered transition area.
4. Know How To Navigate Transition
The biggest triathlon in the United States, not surprisingly, has a big transition area. It’s on a grass hill so some parts are hidden from the “Swim In” gate, so make sure you have a foolproof way to find your transition area. After racking your bike, walk from the “Swim In” to your bike and count the number of rows you walk past before reaching your area. Make a mental note of your row number and route so you’re on autopilot during the race. Even after tracking the route to your bike, it’s a good idea to mark your transition area with a balloon, brightly colored towel or something easy to see from a distance.
5. Watch For Potholes
Lake Shore Drive is one of the most scenic bike courses of all the urban triathlons in the country, but the road itself is littered with potholes. Keep your eyes on the pavement, but don’t swerve to avoid a pothole without checking your blind spot. Thousands of racers share the two loop course, so there will be a ton of racers around you. It’s important to dodge the potholes, but more important to dodge your fellow triathletes. Looking far up the road to identify and avoid potholes is the best practice rather than waiting till the last meter.
6. Run Really Fast
The run is flat and fast. It’s a good course to take a risk and start fast if you’re hoping to set a PR.
After you’re done racing, stick around to watch some of the sport’s fastest pros throw down for points in the Race to the Toyota Cup. They start at noon.
8. Enjoy The City
If you’re looking to experience Chicago’s culinary scene, fill up with a healthy meal without waiting around for hours at Lula Café the night before the race. After the race, head over to the Publican in Fulton Market for a seasonal Bloody Mary that, in true celebratory fashion, comes with a beer. The food menu pairs well their deep list of Midwestern and international beers. Or, you can’t go wrong with a Lou Malnati’s deep-dish pizza.
Aaron Hersh is the senior tech editor of Triathlete magazine. Follow him on Twitter @triathletetech.