So T. talked me into doing one last tri before the season was over — and can I just take a second to remember that, barely over a year ago, I was so certain that I would barely be able to accomplish a sprint triathlon, and that I should make it my goal to do that and then proceed on to do an Olympic in 2012 — and we picked the Tri the Creek triathlon, in Potato Creek State Park, just south of South Bend, Indiana. It was just shy of an Olympic, with a 1k swim, 22 mi bike, and 10k trail run.

I have the car rack, so I drove us out there. We decided that picking T. up at 4:45 from Logan Square would get us there when transition opened at 7AM, with it being about a 2 hour drive. I was actually running early when I left the house (SOMEONE CALL THE RECORD BOOKS, that is the first time that has happened in my entire life) and so I went to the Dunkin’ Donuts at Harrison and Wabash to get coffee. Bad decision. I called T. at 3:55 to see if she wanted one, then went inside. TWENTY MINUTES LATER, I left, coffee in hand. What happened, you ask? Dormrats. Dormrats happened. The fucking superdorm inhabitants, and 2 E 8th inhabitants, and Polk/Plymouth Columbia dorm inhabitants, and and and. Like little drunken, indecisive fleas. Since it was 4AM, only one woman was working at DD. That poor, poor woman. I can only hope she’s not always the one stuck with the drunk idiot children.

Anyways. So. 4:15 (4:15!!!! FOR TWO COFFEES!), I left and headed up to T.’s, and got there at 3:35. She came out, we got her bike on the rack and headed out. Dodged drunks the whole damn way to South Bend — it was not even funny, how badly people were driving. Best of all was when a CPD car came from out of nowhere headed toward the Skyway, bypassing the two clearly-drunk assholes that I’d carefully gotten past so that the accident they inevitably caused would be behind me rather than in front, and blew past me doing at least 100. T. was wearing her heartrate monitor at the time and her heartrate jumped from about 55 bpm to over 120. No joke. Thanks, CPD, your shit driving scared me more than the drunken assholes you failed to pull over. But we continued onward, and everything was great until we stopped at a BP for gas about 20 miles away from the race, and T. came out of the gas station and asked, “What time is it?”

I glanced at my watch, then paled and said, “FUCK! EASTERN TIME ZONE!”

It was, of course, not 6:45 and 15 minutes until transition opened, with two hours to go until the race started, but in fact 7:45 and with only 45 minutes until transition closed, with check-in and chip pick-up and body marking to be done before then, not to mention the 20 minutes of driving through the country until we got there.

We got there at 8:05 EDT, took a few minutes to get our stuff and unrack the bikes, plus air up T.’s tires as they were low, then got across the parking lot, at which point I realized I’d left my USAT card in the car and went back for it, then after T. finished checking in I went up and the cranky lady demanded my driver’s license, which I’d also left in the car (I can leave my wallet unattended in the locked car or unattended in the unlocked transition area, when I expect to finish dead last long after the others – hmmmm, tough choice), so I went back to the car a SECOND time. This time they let me have my race bib, and I went in to transition with 10 minutes left. This is actually slightly more time than I had at She Bangs, so I managed to lay everything out neatly and cover it up with the trash bag I’d brought in case of rain, since it was merrily raining all over everything. We put on our wetsuits and went out to test the waters and wait for the pre-race talk.

The race was tiny. TINE-EE. According to the results, they had 91 people in the sprint, and 47 of us in the long course. Which is like 25 more people than they had last year. But it was actually really nice to be part of a small race. Sure, I was guaranteed to be dead last, but it didn’t take me five minutes to find my bike and get out on the run, THANK YOU, CHICAGO TRIATHLON, AHEM.

Anyways, we did make it to the start without any drama more serious than Cranky Drivers License Lady, so all was well. The water was ZOMG FREEZING — honestly, I think it was colder than the 62°F Lake Michigan water I swam a mile in on Saturday; it was okay once I started swimming, but waiting in the water for the airhorn was brutal — and my interpretation of the race course was, let’s say, … non-traditional.

So the swim course was 1000m, and a rectangle out and back:

|         |
|         |
o         o
|         |
|         |
F         S

This is how I swam it:

o----o        \
|               \
|                 >
o               /
|             /
|          /
F         S

I’m pretty sure it started out OK, but then a few seconds in I thought I should give T., on my immediate left, a little space, so I went right a tad, and then I just sort of … kept going. I totally forgot to sight at all, and I was in the zone, so I was well out there by the time I remembered to look where I was going, and I glanced left and realized that all the other swimmers were at least fifty yards away. I adjusted course and swam and swam and swam and swam back and it seriously took me the entire rest of that leg to make it back to the pack. Then I rounded the buoy wide and finally got back into the inside of the course, but if I didn’t add at least 150 yards to my swim, I’ll eat my swim cap. It’s hard to be too mad, since it’s my own damn dumbass fault for not looking where I was going, which is basically the first thing anyone tells you to do when you get taught open water swimming, though. I like to think that the lifeguards were sitting there playing rock-scissors-paper to see who had to go get me and keep me from swimming out to the ocean.

My official swim time was 20:03, and my swim was 5th among female swimmers. If I hadn’t taken my little detour, I imagine I would have finished at least 2 minutes (if not 3) faster, and I might even have challenged the first place female swimmer, who had a time of 17:53. Grrrrrrrrrr. Stupid sighting, why are you so easily forgettable?!?!

Then I ran up the beach up to transition, found my rack with no trouble (I love you, blue painter’s tape!), and went out on the bike, where every single other long course competitor except one proceeded to pass me. But that’s okay. There was one obnoxious hill right at the start (to put space between competitors. Because there were just so many of us?), then two loops of a somewhat hilly course. It was really gorgeous. A very pretty state park, and a beautiful place to stage a race, especially for a slowpoke like me who has the time to appreciate the surroundings, haha. I averaged 15.1 mph, which beats my Chicago time, so I’m pretty happy about that. Not sure if it was the CompuTrainer classes or just having my front brake fixed so it’s not rubbing on the rim, or what, that helped me pick up the pace without feeling more whipped, or maybe it was just that the weather was cool instead of warm, but anyways, I felt good about the bike.

…that is, until I got back to bike in and the dang DJ was playing the Macarena. Really, people. It’s not 1995 anymore. LET IT DIE!

So then, changed into running shoes and off to the run. This was, as promised, a nature trail hike through the woods. It’s worth saying that they told me so, but I didn’t believe them. I had dithered over whether to bring my regular running shoes or my trail running shoes, but I hadn’t run any trails since April at Starved Rock, and hadn’t trained in the trail shoes, and you know, the first commandment, “don’t do anything new on race day,” so I went with my regular running shoes. I think I would have been happier in my trail running shoes. Oh well. Then — hills. Hills, hills, hills. The run was not flat. My poor Chicago legs were sad. My poor Chicago quads were registering complaints with the union. It was amusing. It turned rapidly from a run into a hike. I ran the flats, picked my way carefully down the downhills (some of which were steep, most of which were littered with wet leaves, and all of which were muddy and slick), and strode up the uphills. My time on the run was utter, utter garbage. I seriously had a 15:58 pace, it was ridiculous. But, I didn’t break an ankle, and I finished stronger than I started. And, maybe more importantly, I really enjoyed my quiet little hike by myself in the woods, and it made me want to go back out to Starved Rock and do some more trail running through the muddy woods, so I think that is actually a total win.

And, as for being dead last. Well, first of all, someone has to be last, and at least I expected to be last so it’s not like I was going to be all upset and sad and crying my eyes out about the shame, the shame, the shaaaaaaame of it all. Besides, last person to finish a triathlon still fucking finished a fucking triathlon, so whatever, couch potato critics. Last place still gets a finisher’s medal! Ha!

And then — I got second place in my division! So I finished dead last, in the rain, AND I STILL PODIUMED. Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha. I rule!

So, I really liked the Tri the Creek, and I would totally do it again next year. I would do some trail running beforehand, and not just the nice smooth asphalt of the lakefront trail, and I would wear my trail running shoes. I would try really hard to remember to sight frequently and not attempt to swim to Ohio by accident. And I would remember that I’m going to lose an hour in the drive there, so plan departure times appropriately. 3 Disciplines put on a good race (even though all those fancypants sub-3 hour elites ate all the food before we finished), and I would totally do another of their races. Who knows, maybe I won’t be last place, next year!