The Final Prep Before World's; Chicago 2009

              The Chicago triathlon was a question mark race up until the beginning of August. Since I was healthy, Matt West and I could use it as a last little tune up before we headed to Australia for World’s.   There also was the fact that K Swiss is a major sponsor of the event and I wanted to hang with my peeps from Swissle as well.  Also, it gave me an opportunity to spend some time with the family.  It was like a family reunion.  My brother drove up from Indy and my parents drove down from Detroit.  I got in on Friday morning and immediately ventured my way into the city and to my cousin’s place, hauling over 100lbs of luggage with me.  My cousin met me at the train station and I then proceeded to lug the 100lbs 1/3 of a mile to her place.  My arms were trembling they were so fatigued and my shoulders were basically in my ears.  I felt as though I had just done one of the World’s Strongest Man competitions minus of course the part of being that strong.  This experience taught me one thing and that was I would not lug those bags anywhere without a cart when it came to Australia.  I would either hire a bag boy or pay for a cart no doubt about it.                  My cousin Hope had accidently booked a trip to Myrtle Beach that weekend so after breakfast we parted ways and I proceeded to put the tandem together for the 500th time in my life.  This time however I actually got the entire thing done myself including the cables.  I was pretty proud of myself.   Later that night Friday a group of the C Different athletes from the Chicago area met for dinner at local guide Jane Newman’s scenic apartment overlooking all of Chicago.  There were two of us competing in the Chicago race on Sunday because the third had suffered a bike injury weeks beforehand.   By the time dinner was over it was time to meet up with my mom and dad who had made speedy time in from Michigan. 

                Saturday morning my parents and I wondered all over the area of Bucktown to find a place to eat breakfast. We settled on a Mexican breakfast place which was surprisingly better than first expected.  From there we took a short walk and waited for another member of the crew Matt West to arrive.  We made our way to the Hilton Hotel where the gigantic race expo was stationed.  Most of my time was spent chatting with those at the K-Swiss booth including new marketing big man Mike Rouse.  While there I snagged a few of these new amazing running books that they created.  The book unveils a two page spread of the new Aaron Scheidies “I run with Heart” campaign. 

                From the expo we met back up with the rents and awaited the final member f the crew, Brother Ryan.  After a bit of confusion trying to park and find us he finally tracked us down and we went out for a scrumptious meal at Baker’s Square before hitting the hay early for our 4am wake up call.  The Chicago triathlon is the 2nd largest triathlon in the world with over 9,000 participates between the Sprint and Olympic distance races.  With 100 people per wave that comes out to a lot of waves and therefore an early race start.  The unique part about the race is that the swim is right along the breaker wall and therefore spectators can walk meter by meter with you as you do the 1 mile swim.  The bike then is two loops along Lakeshore Drive and a scenic but crowded run past Soldier Field and the Chicago Art Museum. 

                At this race there was yet again a ParaTriathlon wave and Matt and I jumped out quickly before making the 180⁰ turn and establishing a rhythm.  There was some confusion between Matt and I whether I needed to hold back a bit or if Matt was just trying to obey the “stay behind me” rule for guiding but this would all get sorted out before World’s in a few weeks.  The swim was not what I totally wanted exiting the water in 20minutes and change.  We had plenty of time to compose ourselves for the bike during the long run to the mammoth bike expo they call the transition area.  This transition area is so big that it may be visible from an airplane by someone with my vision.  This also means that transitions thru it are not exactly quick.  Ours were especially slow and gave us another thing to work on for World’s. 

We got on the bike and continued to pick off some of the elite age group females that started before us and even some of the elite age group males that had started 4 minutes ahead of us.  One would have thought that the Chicago triathlon was designed to prepare people for the upcoming World Championships because the rules are ride on the left, pass on the right.  This is also what we would be doing in Australia because they, like England, still believe their way to be the correct way.  The first half of each loop at Chicago always involves a strong headwind.  This also means the second half involves a jet boost from the rear.  The tandem takes wind like it takes hills.  Going into the wind is amplified in resistance but the momentum gained from a tailwind is nothing to complain about. 

                Coming into T2 we had made up some nice ground on the elite age group males and had plowed through the elite age group female wave.  Our bike split was just under an hour at 58:33.  We entered back into the huge transition zone running with our clunky bike through the narrow alleyways trying not to hit equipment sticking out into the path.  We managed to clip one rack but made it to our rack without any wounds from the mess.  I threw on my Captain America shoes, my Tri Bike Transport visor and a few Swissle wristbands and bolted out onto the uneven path lined by spectators.  While doing so I heard my brother cheering me on and yelling, “You’re at 1:37.”  I had to grab onto Matt’s arm a few times as the dirt path drops off abruptly.  Aft about mile one the course changed to pavement and winds next to Lake Michigan and past the Chicago Art Museum.  This part gets a bit narrow and hairy especially on the way back as the waves behind begin their run. 

                Matt and I were clicking along on the run and it wasn’t until after mile two that we caught the one remaining elite age group female.  This girl was cooking and was well on her way to becoming a good professional.  I didn’t feel bad about passing her but she did hang on for a few minutes before dropping back.  At the 5K mark Matt read out 17:50.  I was happy with this split and hoped I could hang onto the pace during the second half.  At the turn around there were large speakers blasting “pick-me-up tunes” and an aid station.  Right away after the turn I felt as though I had converted into a sail catching the wind.  It would be a rougher second half and the first but I kept plugging away.  Matt seemed to have a lot more in the tank than I did and so he was able to use the extra energy to encourage me.  I knew that if only I could get back past the art museum I would hit the crowd and feed off their energy.  We made the final left hand turn to go under the road and then fed from the crowd the remaining ¼ mile into the finishing shoot.  Our time was a 2:03:49 which was nearly 90seconds faster than the previous year.  The second half of the run hurt my time a little bit as I came in with a 38:40 10K split.  No major injuries and some things to work on for the big race in two weeks.  I was fairly satisfied with the performance. 

                Upon arriving at the end of the finishing shoot I had my family and a large part of another to greet me.  Months prior to the race I received a random Facebook message from a mother of a 12 year old child with an eye condition leaving him legally blind.  Despite this, he has aspirations of becoming the star triathlete of the future.  She mentioned she had read about my story and her son Joshua began glowing with hope.  As we went back and forth Facebook messaging for the next months she mentioned that they live near Chicago.  Right when I found out I was doing the race I relayed it to Joshua’s mother and they planned the trip to watch. 

                At the end of the finishing shoot Joshua, his mom and two grandparents were there to meet me.  I was super excited to meet Joshua and hoped that I could serve as a glimmer of hope for his dreams of being the next triathlon star.  His mother told me that once he saw me a big grin consumed his face.  I got chills hearing this because the small things can make such an impact in a young child’s life.  I gave him my finishers medal and we snapped a few pictures.  We then began walking to find food.  When we arrived at a good grub shop we realized that it wasn’t open for another 15 minutes.  When you wake up at 4am in the morning and do a triathlon you begin thinking its lunch time at 10am.  Luckily, we were in Millennium Park and killed time by walking beneath the giant kidney bean structure.  By the time we were done distorting our body and face in the giant mirror bean it was time to take a table at the restaurant. 

                For lunch I ordered my typical meal after a race which includes a large burger and fries.  I don’t know what it is about doing a triathlon and craving a large juicy burger but it seems to happen each and every time.  Joshua did the same but with the kid’s version.  We exchanged mailing addresses and I told Joshua to expect a package of goodies in the mail.  Before departing ways I had one more thing to give him.  Along on the trip I had brought the name plate from the London Para Triathlon that had my last name, race # and country flag on it.  I had signed it and gave it to him as something that he can put up in his room and to give him inspiration whenever he needed a little motivation.   

                Meeting Joshua was by far the best part of the trip.  I have done over a hundred triathlons but not every day do I get to personally touch a life of another person going through the same struggles that I had to overcome.  I plan on staying in touch with Joshua and helping him to someday become a better triathlete than myself and tear down any record that I hold.  It would be an honor to mentor someone to exceed the accomplishments that I am able to achieve.  I think he can do it.  Just wait 10 more years and there will be a kid named Joshua Nichols on top of the podium at every triathlon.