This race was a mental reach for me. My first two Sprint triathlons, the swim was a total struggle, and I was now doing an Olympic distance race. Lake Michigan had won on so many occasions, but I kept on going to battle. I was not giving up. I had the support of my Infinity team, as well as others. I would go swim by myself, and swim with other groups. The Ohio beach where I swim has a lifeguard, and I always had my swim buoy so I was always safe. Everyone encouraged me. I knew I could swim, but my nerves/my mind often got the best of me.
The week of the race, there was a surf ban from that Monday to that Wednesday. The ban was lifted on Wednesday afternoon but Lake Michigan was so choppy. My Coach Mo said we were meeting anyway. Last year during the Chicago Triathlon Lake Michigan was choppy, so I figured I needed to swim because who knows what the conditions would be like race day. I have purchased some new googles as I have had so many problems with all of the ones that I have previously purchased. They either leaked or fogged up, or sometimes both. I had bought three new pair and was going to test all three. I got in the Lake and the first pair leaked immediately. Half of my class had gone on. I tried some adjustments and nothing worked. So my Coach Mo gives me his. I can barely see, but no leaks. The waves were crazy. I swam, but feel like I am swimming in a washing machine. I literally g0t sea sick. I stopped so much to get my bearings, and to try to stop the motion sickness. I got to the quarter mile turn around, and decide to come back. I swam and stopped, swam and stopped. My coach yelled keep moving, and I listened and make it back. I thought okay I did not “freak out” in those conditions. While I didn’t get my mile, I took it as a win against Lake Michigan that day. I could swim choppy, even if it was not pretty. I also had a few more days to practice
Thursday prior to the race, I went to the beach to swim. My goal was to make sure I swam a mile. If I could swim a mile the 0.9mile would be no problem. Chicago Triathlon does not have a time limit, so as long as I keep moving I would be great. I swam my slow mile. It took me an hour, and my new googles held up. I could see to sight, there were no leaks. However,I had a new problem. I could not see when I got out of the lake. Everything was blurry, like I had cataracts. I got dressed and figured it would go away. It didn’t. I walked to my car, as I had to get home. I googled “blurry vision after swimming”. It listed many possible reasons- chloride, chemicals, etc. Also it recommended saline drops. I drove slowly as my vision was poor, and was light sensitive. I went to Walgreens and my eyes were worse. I had to have one of the staff at Wal-greens help me find drops as I could not read the labels. I purchased some clear eye drops, and applied the drops to my eyes and they got worse. I got to the point that I could not see my phone text messages or any print on my phone. I called one of my doctor friends who knows everybody to see if she knew an eye doctor. I did a phone consult, and she persuaded me to go to the emergency room. As I was getting ready to go, my eye site improved. I could read text and print on my phone. I called the on –call eye doctor and she told me I should come in but it could wait until morning. I go the following morning They ran all kinds of test, and the verdict was my new googles were too tight, and my eye dried out. I also had an underlying condition called Fuch’s dystrophy, and this condition predisposes me to have blurry vision. This condition was unknown to me. The doctor gave me some drops to apply every hour to hydrate my eyes and says I could race. I feel relieved, but I was so tired as I did not get any sleep the night before.
I get home, and took a nap they head to the expo. I arrived just in time for the briefing. This would be the biggest race I had every done. The other races had no formal briefing. I ran into a few friends at the expo then go to the BTA (Black Triathlete Association) meet and greet to see some old friends and meet some new ones. One of my new friends that I meet was Max Fennel, he is the first African American pro triathlete. He gave me some great advice. I tend to be hard on myself, and beat myself up especially on my swimming abilities. He told me “It takes time, be patient and just keep training.”
Saturday I met with my coach for a practice swim, I so wanted to stay in bed. I still was tired from being up Thursday night. I had to test my new googles though to see if they leaked, to see if I could see while swimming and after I exited Lake Michigan. My new googles were perfect no leaking, no fogging, I could see during and after the swim. I swam about 1300 yards so I felt ready. I also had to do a 20min run and my legs felt great. I was ready. I decided to go to the SuperSprint to cheer on some friends. I then did my usual race prep. I rode the bike course the part I could and visualized the part that I couldn’t.
Transition opened the day before the race, so I decided to take CC my bike on Saturday to get a prime spot that would be easy to find, and get to the bike out. The ends had been taken, there is always more room on the end, and it is easy to exit. I picked a stop by the wave sign so would be easy to find.
I woke up at 3:00 am got dressed, placed on my chip and number tattoos on my arms. Chicago TRI does temporary tatts versus marking arms with race number. I then ate my usually pre-race meal- Breakfast wrap. I grabbed my TYR bag, water bottles, and Uber over to the start of the race. I live about 15-20 minute walk away, but it was dark, and I figured would save my legs for later. I got there about 3:40, and walked to transition. It opened at 4am, so I had to wait in line. It opened I headed to my bike. I set up like I had before, but this time I make sure I had my nutrition out. I could not find during one race, and this was a longer race so I know I would need to make sure I ate, and had adequate hydration. I got my stuff out of the swim- wet suit, googles that had baby shampoo in them to prevent fogging, and the cap that they issued. I then set up my helmet with cycling glasses in them, bottle of water if I needed to rinse off my feet, cycling shoes with powder in them and in shoes. I then had my running items- race belt with bib, visor and running glasses.
I then started to walk over to swim start to find to switch my swim cap. I am latex allergic and thought I had a silicone green cap at home, but I did not. I asked during briefing if I could wear mine, and they said fine. I contacted the race via Facebook page, and they said they had non-latex at the start. I walked the 400 yards to swim start, and the person was not there yet. I then walked back to get my wet-suit, and other items. I was already hot, and felt the humidity already from the 400 yard walk. I then got my leg marked with my age
I walked again to swim start. I find the person that had the non-latex caps. It is about 5:30 am. I proceeded to put my wet suit on, swim cap, and place my googles on my head. We started to line up in waves, I was so nervous I literally was about to cry. I saw Joy and she tells me to calm down, that I got this. I saw Paula my Infinity teammate. She states that she was nervous too. I saw Claire and Denise, and Karis other Infinity teammates. Seeing them helped to calm me. Angela, and Annastasia also greeted me and wished me well. It was time to get in the water. It iwas a tread start. I listened to Mo advice from a past clinic and floated on my back for a few minutes to get some space and stay calm. I then flipped over and tread for the final seconds before the start. The horns went off and we were off. I was still nervous and could not get a rhythm. I did a few strokes then stopped to tread, stroked then treaded. I heard my name “ Ouida keep moving”. “ Ouida keep moving” every time I stopped to tread. I look and it was Joy. She told me to think of the most ratchet song to play in my head. I started laughing, and was more calm. She stated that I had all that space keep going, there was no one around me. One of my fears was people swimming around me, over me, kicking me, and pulling my leg . I kept going. I saw the buoys, I kept going and see the turn buoy. I intentially stayed out of traffic so I was far right of buoys. I needed allot of treading to sight as I came close. Joy yelled 10 strokes, you are almost there. I turned and was relieved, . Now I needed to just swim straight just like a training swim at Ohio Beach. I still was stroking and treading- more stroking than treading. All the karakes and boats asked me was I okay, during my many treads. I was fine, it was just my calm go to. I kept stroking I could see the final buoy. Then I had finally caught a rhythm. I was almost there, someone grabbed my leg maybe by accident. I began kicking to let me know I was there and to get away. I caught the worse cramp. I yelled help I was at the step but I felt like I could not move because of the cramp. I had finished the swim, the worse was over, and I could see afterwards. I run out of my wetsuit. Then 400 yards walk/run to transition It was the longest transition ever
Swim estimate 1 hour ]
Official swim time 1:03:36
T1 estimate 4 minutes
Official T1 10:12
I get to my area, grabbed my eye drops to apply. I put on my helmet, glasses, dried off my feet, put on my socks and shoes, and grabbed my nutrition.
I started with my Honey Stinger Chews while I walked to bike mount line. I started to ride. Biking is my strongest discipline although I am an original runner. I started up the ramp, and my chain dropped. I thought not today. I quickly slipped it back on. Then I took off. My first two races I was the last or one of the last people out of the lake, and am a strong biker so I generally pass allot of people on the ride. This race as there are so many waves what would not be possible to be last. I passed allot rides and got passed allot too. While Chicago is flat, they picked the few hills that we have for the course. Drafting is not allowed, so I was putting in work. I made sure to hydrate. My first two races I was so concerned about not being last I neglected to drink. I could not do that today, as it was a longer race and it was going to be hot. I saw some of my training crew on the course, and a member of my cycling club ahead of me. I saw my coach on the turn around, and he passed me an told me to pick up the pace. I thought I was doing well, but he stated “ Chase these guys”. I kicked it into high gear and passed a few. We got to Wacker Drive which is underground, I grabbed my almond butter as we slowed a little for the turn. Bike racing while I am not great helps so much with the controlled turns, and steady accelerations especially when I get dropped. It was cool, and flat so I took off. 22 to 23mph. It was so much fun. I have a need for speed. I get to the next turn around and more flats. I tried to kill it. I see my coach again. He give me a nod, I assume it was doing well as far at the pace. I see two people who had crashed, and thought oh no. I kept moving though. I had a goal pace and I was going to reach it. In my hast I neglected to get my 2nd hours Honey Stinger nutrition . I made that last turn and I was back at bike dismount. I was happy I made my time. I ran to my area dropped my bike. I moved people stuff that is all over my mat. I apply my eye drops. I then grab my visor, shoes, and running glasses. I walk out to run course. I eat some of my waffle honey stinger. Although I hate having stuff on my stomach when I run. I grab some water.
Bike estimate 1:22- goal 18mph or more Official bike time 1:22:30– 18:04 mph
T2 estimate 4 minutes
Official T2 5:37
I walked out to run course. I eat some of my waffle honey stinger. Although I hate having stuff on my stomach when I run. I grabbed some water. I run 5/1 interval—run 5 minutes, walk one minute. I decided to walk the first intervals to “get my legs back”. I started with the second interval and I felt strong. I then saw the Infinity/ BTA tent and heard my name.
I was so awesome to have the support. I kicked it into higher gear. I felt great, like some of the speed work was paying off. I was still slow, but closer to where I was last year training for New York I thought. I kept doing my intervals. I slowed at each water/Gatorade stop. It was starting to get really hot. Around mile four I started to get light headed. I thought oh no, let me slow down so I can finish and not pass out. I saw one of the run course marshals and I asked if he had some salt. I walked a bit and I felt better. I tried to run, but at a slower pace. I had about 1.5 miles left. I ran into Rudy who I had met the morning before the swim. He gave me some calming words then, and told me to come on we have to finish strong. We ran together until the last stretch. I did whatever sprint I had left in me and crossed the finish line. I was so happy. I had made it. I completed the Olympic distance triathlon. Ir was hard, it was rough, but I finished with a smile on my face.
Run 1:15 estimate 1:22- goal 11:30 to 12 miles/min pace
Official run time 1:24—13:40 miles/min pace
Total time 4:06:3
20min over my estimate due to heat and long transition. I was proud nonetheless, it was a PR as my first anyway. Last year in June I started swimming lesson, and I had just completed an Olympic distance triathlon. My goal was to speed up so I could make my cut off time in all three disciples for my next race. The plan will be to to work on not stopping so much. I also to better hydrate for heat, and keep doing the speed work. It also helped that allot of my speed work at lunch in the middle of the day. My ankle has healed and now have to continue to put in work, but not so much as to cause another running injury. Chicago Triathlon was fun, but challenging . I can’t wait to do it again.