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Chicago 2015 Race Report

04/10/2015 | By

Aaron Chicago 2 bike

The journey to a long anticipated race trip started on Wednesday the 9th of September. The amount of work leading up to these races in Chicago was phenomenal, not just only with the training, but with the fundraisers, sponsorship and organizing! I must admit that at time it was stressful, but there is nothing I honestly would rather be doing, not to mention the support I had from family, friends and sponsors.

My sponsors have been the backbone leading up to this trip, easing the financial pressure with some great contributions, and making the dream become reality. Please visit sponsor page at www.crosstrainingsystems.com and use these awesome services on my behalf.

Getting to the airport that mid morning, I can say that shit started to get real, that we were racing an international race in Chicago! Our first destination was Sydney to Dallas, then Dallas to Chicago, with a total flying time of 18 hours (not including stop over time). The longest flight I’ve ever had was 4 hours to Bali, which wasn’t pleasant, so I wasn’t looking forward to it.

The flight sucked and I was exhausted by the time we arrived in Chicago. We gave ourselves a good week before racing to acclimatize to the time zone etc. After arriving to our room we got organized and went shopping for some good foods. We found a whole foods super market down the road that had this awesome raw food section that I absolutely loved. Chicago is a beautiful place but OMG it’s expensive. In the next couple days we recovered from out flight with some much needed rest. It took me at least a week to be able to sleep properly. I kept waking up at 2am and not being able to get back to sleep, which was extremely frustrating because I know how important sleep is for optimizing performance. During the first few days after our arrival we used the hotel gym and pool for some light session training. Once we were fully recovered we had access to one of the most fantastic gyms in Chicago that all the Australian team was using in the lead up. We did a few yoga sessions, used the bikes and ran on the indoor running track that went around the whole gym. The Sunday prior to the race we did this awesome 50kms cycle around Lake Michigan which absolutely stunning. In the afternoon we headed over to the beach on the lake for an open swim. The wind condition had picked up and the water was cold, but we had no choice, as we needed to do this! After about 20 min of swimming we got out of our wetsuits and hit a quick 5km run to finish off the sunny day.
Monday of the race week we met up with the whole Australian team for a morning bike ride along the esplanade of Lake Michigan, followed by some fast laps around a bike loop just out side the city. The afternoon was a scheduled swim of the swim course in the lake. It was only half the course but I did 2 laps to familiarize my self with the conditions, and not being a strong open water swimmer, I was hoping conditions would be perfect.

Race 1 – 750m/5km
Tuesday was a sleep in and a rest day before the fist race, which was an aquathon. The morning of the race I woke up and really couldn’t wait to race. This is what we were here for, the racing. From the motel we were staying in, we had about a 5km walk to and from the event. I’ve never walked so fast before, or maybe I had, because to one could keep up! Once we signed in and racked our shoes in transition, I headed off for my normal warm up of a light run, some dynamic stretches and moderate run throughs. Once ready to go we headed down to the start line for the 750-metre swim then 5km run. Sounds easy right…? But in 30 plus degree temperatures I knew it was going to be hard. The swim start was a very professional set up and as I started to get my wet suit on, I started to visualize my race. I saw so many athletes get nervous and worried at this point but for some reason I started to hear voices in my head, and they sound like this: ‘You’re better than these guys, you are fast, you’re feeling good, let’s do this, show these other guys what you can do…” Racing motocross for years gave me the ability to stay very calm before a race. The worst thing that you could ever do before a race is get nervous and start to panic, your heart rate comes up too high and you use a lot more energy than you need.
They were sending waves off the pontoon with deep-water starts every 5min. Standing out in 30 plus degree heat in a wet suit is not fun! We had no warm up prior to the swim, which I hated because it normally takes me about 1km to get some rhythm, but that’s racing for you. I was relieved to jump into the fresh water to cool off. Everyone started scrambling for a front position. I casually pushed my way to the front, as I knew it was going to be aggressive once that start gun went, and I was ready for it.
BANG we were off, and there were arms and legs everywhere! I sprinted off at the start, but man, these guys were FAST! I held the front pack for the first 200 metres but couldn’t hold them (the beauty of a world race, they are the best age groupers in the world). I started to find some rhythm and held a fairly steady pace until the end. I jumped out of the water and proceeded to run to transition, which was about a 400 metre run. I got my wetsuit off in transition and slipped on the shoes and headed out proud in the Australian tri suit. 5 km wasn’t much and I wasn’t holding back even though many people thought I was crazy doing all 3 races over the week. I knew I wasn’t going to win medals and it was more an experience for me. I didn’t come all the way to Chicago for 1 race, although many did. Anyway in my first km I did a 3:30min km, which I knew I was pushing it with the amps and the cheers “come on Aussie”. The next few km I held 3:45 min per km and knew this was going to be over before I knew it. Coming on the blue carpet for the finish I turned up the pace with a strong finish.
That was it, first race done, and looking at the results after I finished, I came 22nd out of 60 with a 36 min finish time, and a new heart rate max of 185bpm, all which I was happy with.

Aaron Chicaogo 1 bike

Race 2 sprint distance 750m/20km/5km
After a good night’s sleep (finally) but waking up a little sore from the previous day’s race, I knew that backing up another race was going to be hard, but with all the training I’ve done I knew I could do it. I was excited and motivated to be doing another race. We had a small breakfast and headed down to the transition to organize our bikes etc, and took our bags to the bag drop area, which by this time, was loaded with athletes. We started our normal routine of warm ups, and we had another quick look over the course map and proceeded to the start of the swim. It was another hot day 30+ degrees. I lined up in the swim start with again no warm up. I knew what I was in for after yesterday’s swim as the course was the same. Lining up on the start line I was confident to get a good start. The siren went and we were off. I got a good start. I was sprinting with the front guys but after about 100 metres I knew I couldn’t hold it, but proceeded to give it my best. With the front pack slowly creeping in front of me, I was happy to hang on the back and draft to save some energy. Coming out the water there was a huge run to transition, about 600 metres in fact, which was a good opportunity to catch my breath and relax before smashing out the bike. I had a really quick transition and screamed out on to the bike course. 20kms is not long on the bike. I gave it my all, passing people left right and centre. The bike course was away from the city and was quite technical in sections. Some of the road was bumpy and in one spot I hit a bump and was airborne. The temperature was really hot so I made sure I took in enough water, washing down a gel also. On the last lap of the bike I could feel my legs starting to fatigue from the previous day’s race, so I knew the run was going to be hard, but I definitely had it in me to hit it hard. I had a really good spin before transition to get ready for some speed. Coming off the bike, the run to transition was a good 500 metres, which was a good opportunity to get the legs turning over at a fast cadence with no shoes on. With a super fast change and shoes on, I headed off on the run feeling strong, with the first km a sub 4 min. I felt good but soon felt the affects of the heat, but kept pushing hard. I had a few Americans past me (man these guys are good!) with the cheers of the crowd, and in my mind thinking about what it’s taken to get here. I pushed myself beyond limits I’ve never taken myself to before. Coming onto that blue carpet for the finish is a feeling that cannot be explained in words. It’s a feeling that needs to be experienced yourself. My finishing time was 1:09 min (30th out of 70 athletes).

Race 3 Olympic 1.5m/40kms/10kms
After 1-day recovery I pulled up a little heavy from race 2 and knew that this was going to be the toughest race of them all, but kept a positive mindset of ripping it up. Going through the usual transition and warm up rituals I headed down to the swim start for a longer and different swim course of 1500 metres. I lined up on the start line but made the mistake of starting at the back only because it was a longer swim and I wanted to save energy and not smash the start, which is normally my tactic for the longer distances. The siren went and I got caught behind people I practically had to climb over them. After fighting through the pack I found some rhythm and started getting somewhere, coming out the water in 26 min. I felt good and was ready to hit this bike, and OMG, what a bike course it was! The 40 km course was through the heart of Chicago, through under ground tunnels on different levels, and it was absolutely amazing and definitely the highlight of all 3 races. 40kms on the bike is definitely my strength and passing so many people I felt really good on the bike with some awesome speed on the fastest track throughout the week. I managed to pass many American and a few Australians, making up my lost time from the swim. Coming off the bike in 56 min for 40kms on a high, I pumped myself up for the 10km run, which I knew was going to hate. I paced my self for the first few km and was starting to feel the effects of the 3rd race very quickly at the 7km mark. My body wanted to shut down with my run pace slowing to a mere 4:30min per km, which is normally a casual run pace for me. I knew I had to get this done. Getting motivated from fellow Australian athletes I put on a brave face and pushed through the extreme pain to come across the line for a personal best of 2:14min, which I was stoked.

To wrap things up, Chicago is the most beautiful place and the racing experience has been something I’ll never forget. I just want to thank everyone who helped me get here: friends, family, clients and most importantly, my sponsors for making it happen.

5 Star Spas
AT Roofing
Cycology Lab
I Love My Phone
PH8 Water
The Bike Station
The People’s Market
Tri Swim Coach
Vida Comida

Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart. I hope you have enjoyed following the Chicago journey, and will keep following me through the 2015/16 Tri season.

Stay tuned for my story on how I wrecked everything with an American pizza (after racing, of course)

Next big race is the Australian world duathlon championships on October 17th at Elder Park in Adelaide. I would love you all to come down and watch me take on the world.

Aaron Buchan

Aaron & Amber 1 Chicago

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