Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Lake in the Hills Tri 2017: When Local Fun Meets a Seriously Competitive Group

I'm sure there are plenty of people out there that have their thoughts and judgements about me.

"You race to much Megan!"

"You put way too much energy into this hobby!"

"There are other things in life besides swim bike run, Megan!"

And they aren't wrong. I race a lot, I put all my free energy into this sport, and there is so much outside of the swim bike run world. But the fact of the matter is, I've spent my energy elsewhere. I've done other things and I can't find anything else that makes me happier than jumping into a lake with a bunch of strangers (or in the case of last weekend, a lot of friends and acquaintances at the Lake in the Hills Triathlon!) and fighting for space until we can all exit the water and hammer down on the bike. And when I'm not racing, waking up with the sun and watching the world start their day while I'm logging some miles on my bike or running shoes is just what the doctor ordered. One day in my lifetime there will be kids and I'll be searching for free time to pee in peace or take a shower without stepping on a rubber ducky. And rumor has it that time of life will bring a whole separate kind of happiness that can't be described. Until that times comes, I'm going to be selfish. Which is exactly why I couldn't say no to the Lake in the Hills Triathlon on Sunday.

This race will likely always be on my calendar, year in and out. When I lived at home, the finish line/transition was .3 miles away from my house. After my most recent move, I currently live .2 miles from the finish line/transition. It draws all the local triathletes that I also call my friends. It's well organized and the course is something I ride almost every time I take my bike out for a spin. And this year, the Lake Placid crew decided to join Mark and I for our all time favorite race.

I'd be lying if I said I felt race ready any sooner than Saturday morning when I went out for my shakeout ride and run. Qualifying for the World Championships the weekend prior in Madison left my body fatigued. Not super sore at all, just very tired. The Lake in the Hills Triathlon is in no way an A race, but when all of your friends and local tri-nerds show up, it's hard to treat this race as a "fun run."

Saturday night, part of the crew started to show up and Mark and I took them to dinner at our favorite place in Crystal Lake, Dukes. We had a bit of a wait, so we had a drink at the bar and caught up. Our Lake Placid crew is scattered all over the Chicagoland area so we don't always get a chance to spend much time together. After a full round of burgers (and meatloaf for John, weirdo) we headed home for some shut eye. 4am was coming quickly and we all needed to make sure we were well rested to bring our A-game in the morning.

Race morning arrived and the first thing I did was start the massive coffee pot for all of us. Nate and Trina were driving in from the city. Mark was down the street at home getting ready. Jacqui and Ryan had just gotten home from a wedding only a few hours prior so they were extra perky when we finally met up with them. The Strugglebus crew made their way to my house, parked cars, prepped bikes, and we all took off on the bike path to transition.

Approx 4:45am.
We always question ourselves on race day

Lauren didn't race but was determined to make sure she looked the part
Russ made fun of how small Brittany's bike is
Reminder: I can't bring Russ around my friends, he has no filter

John was doing laps around the parking circle pre 5am 
I'd like to note, the Atchison's are the first ones ready to depart.

Setting up T2 was quick and easy. Drop your run shoes and belt, get body marked (by Jacqui's dad!), and hop on your bike and take off for T1 and the start. We mingled for a quick second before we jumped on our bikes and headed to the lake for T1. As I was just about halfway toT1, I see my brother and the Strugglebus crew on the side of the road, Russ' bike was upside down. Of course, it would be the luck of someone in our group to get a flat tire before the race even started. Brittany, John and I stopped to offer any support we could, which ended up being just our company while Shane changed the flat tire.

We approached T1 and it was a beautiful site. The sun was shining brightly (albeit, a little too bright to see any buoys) and the morning was underway! Jacqui and I gave Trina some playful grief for taking so long in the porta potty while the rest of the group squeezed into their wetsuits and hopped in the water for a little warm up.

As I walked towards the water, I caught up with someone who I never thought I'd be racing with side by side. I've known her since I was in junior high. She was friends with my cousin and guided me as a Freshman in high school, while she was a Senior. When I went off to school in Champaign at the University of Illinois, once again there was she was. Senior status running into the clueless freshman at the campus gym. At this point in her life though, her triathlon and Ironman days were in full swing while I was simply running for an hour a day so I could drink on the weekends. An amazing athlete with a truly competitive spirit, Sara Nelson was someone who I always looked up to and said, "It'd be nice to be good at something like that one day." I never saw her after college, in fact we never spoke after that. Over the past few years, we've found each other again and in turn, she has jumped into the RyBread Racing World and uses Ryan as her coach. Yep, the girl whom I used to look up to in all her glory, we're now teammates. It had been about 8 years since she had raced triathlon, her last race taking place at the Ironman World Championships in Kona circa 2009. She's since married, had triplets, and turned herself into a full time runner/yogi while she shuffles work and 3 adorable minions. We stood on the edge of the water together and she looked at me and sheepishly asked, "Will you zip me up?" But of course! I waded in the water with my Strugglebus and Lake Placid crew and everyone in between. And you'd have a hard time slapping that smile off my face in that moment.

Swim: 1/2 mile

Last minute race instructions were given out and just like that the gun went off and the elite wave was in the water (which included Jacqui, Ryan, and Sara). Immediately following, the William Tell Overture started to play and one by one we were released into the water. I was probably the 15th person in the water after the elite wave. I dove in knowing I'd have a lot of people behind me looking for me the rest of the day. One thing was for sure, the water was WARM. Warm enough that I thought it may not have been wetsuit legal in a USAT sanctioned race. But I used the free buoyancy I had wrapped around me and keep my strokes strong and steady. The sun was also pretty strong and made it difficult to see the first turn buoy that was directly in front of us. Once I hit the buoy, sun was no longer an issue, nor was space. I was solo the rest of the swim and even noticed a few people swimming way off course. I sited multiple times in a row just to make sure I wasn't the one going off course, and sure enough I was good to go. I found that final turn towards home and put it into high gear. I saw the exit and soon my hand swiped the sand. Guess it's time to stand up. I stood up and ripped my suit off. As I ran across the timing pad I glanced at my watch and read 12:20. Helluva improvement from my 13:55 last year!


I hate T1. Whether it's an Ironman race or a small local sprint. Taking my wetsuit off and getting socks on for the bike always flusters me. I was doing good keeping nerves under control until I heard my name and looked up. Todd. Damn it! I'm not supposed to see him until the bike! And then as I put my helmet on and grabbed my bike, BFG brother to my right. Ugh, these guys are gonna make me work hard for it today. I wished him luck and took off for the bike out. T1 time: 1:37

Bike: 15.5 miles

Leaving transition you immediately find yourself mid-climb up a hill. Not a terrible hill, but considering you're starting it halfway up, it kinda sucks. And with only 15 miles to show your stuff, there's no time to take your time. I got comfy and just before hitting mile 1, Todd made his pass and gave me a lovely smile. Ugh, we're starting this already. Except, I never lost him. He was in my site for a long time. Crossing Randall Road, I knew to look up for my dad on the end of our street. He was standing there with his phone in the air, clearly trying to record the athletes zooming by. As I passed him standing on the corner, I also passed Sara. This girl was putting in some work, riding on the drop bars on her mom's road bike in a nasty headwind uphill.

****Note, all action shots thanks to Jess! She stood out on the bike course and the finish line and snapped away like a mad woman! THANKS JESS!****
Mark goes zoom zoom
Hey girl heyyyyyy!

And with that, the steady climb up Miller Road began. It's not a tough climb, but there was a pretty decent wind, making it a not so fun climb. We finally made our way out to Haligus Road and headwind turned into a crosswind. Roller coaster hill even left me timid on the descent from the crosswind. Soon, I saw Jacqui heading back home and just before the turn around I saw Todd making his way back. He probably has a minute on you, could be worse. I knew very well that I wasn't about to cross that finish line before Todd. He's made for these short races. I am not. But the less distance between us, the better. When I made the turn around, I saw Mark was probably about 30-45 seconds behind me. He'll find you on Conley Road, without a doubt. Between the turn around and the turn onto Conley Road I saw John and Brittany heading towards the turn around. The turn onto Conley Road brought the winds back into your face and it was a small struggle to gain any speed on that small section of the course. Right before we made the turn around on Conley, Mark made his way past me (as expected) and warned me, "Be careful on the way back out!" Just a few days prior, he had gotten a flat tire on Conley on one of the rough patches. I promised to watch out and kept on.

Trina looking fabulous as always 

John on the hunt for RyBread!

Mrs. Speedy!

The most humble soul you'll ever meet
We finally made it back to Miller Road and found our first tailwind of the day and it was glorious. I finally saw some speeds I should have seen more of during the ride. I put it in the highest gear, put my head down, and used the tailwind to carry to me transition. Just before I hit transition, I got passed like I was standing still. Jon Crane. Damn him. He didn't even look up. He'll pay on the run. And within a quarter mile from transition, Trina makes her first appearance of the day, cruising right by me with the biggest shit eating grin on her face. Oh no she didn't. I dismounted awkwardly (per usual) and checked my watch: 45 minutes. 20.4mph.


I kept my eye on Trina in transition and was not going to let her leave before me. I literally threw my bike shoes and helmet, grabbed my shoes and put the 2nd one on as I started my run. My belt wasn't fully snapped until I hit the run out shoot (that Jacqui's dad so graciously ushered me to!). 45 seconds after dismounting the bike I had started my run.


I took off and Trina was still in transition fumbling with her shoes. I saw so many familiar faces as I ran out of transition, it was hard not to smile even though I knew I only had 4 miles to hunt down a few people. The first left turn out of the parking lot sat Lauren on the curb, all smiles and waiting for us all! I flashed my pearly whites and about a block ahead of me was my first victim, Jon Crane.

Hi Lauren!
I glanced at my watch to check things out and saw it read 6:50 pace. OK, that's not going to kill you but you won't be able to hold that for 4 miles. Soon enough, I closed in on Jon and asked him (kindly) if he entered this race to play or if he was just hanging out. He laughed and told me that Mark was just up the road. I saw him, and he was next. I was not about to have a repeat of last year's race. Once I caught him I asked him if he wanted to try and go sub 1:30. If he did, he needed to hang out with me and I was going to do my best to make it happen. I'm pretty sure he mumbled something about "too fast, no way" and let me on my way.

Mile 1 clocked in at 7:29 and that was just where I wanted to be. Within the next half mile I saw Jacqui, heading towards home. And she was cruising. I cheered the best I could, and at the same time I thought about how many times I saw her walking on run courses last year, and it did my heart good to know that this girl was doing what she was meant to do. Just after I saw Jacqui, I heard someone coming behind me. Oh no, it can't be. Don't let it be true. John. And as he made his way past me, he yelled, "Eat my turds!" and then pretended to fart in my face. As much as I wanted to kick his ass that day, I let out a laugh I didn't know I had in me while holding such speed.

The climb up the the turnaround started and I spotted Todd and Nate making their way home. And Andrew! Everyone was all smiles and cheering for each other. Even though I know we all secretly wanted to destroy each other. Mile 2: 7:19. YASSSSS let's try and descend these 4 miles. I turned around and less than a quarter mile down the road I spotted Trina (still looking fabulous). I gave her a wave and did my best to kick it into high gear. Just behind Trina I spotted Sara, flying and yelling "I can do this part!" And soon after Sara, Brittany! I flashed my peace sign and mile 3 clocked in at 7:26. OK scratch that descending idea. Time to make this last mile fast! We hit the running path with less than a mile to go and I thought maybe I could pull a 7 minute mile out of my butt if I tried hard enough. Alas, not quite as mile 4 clocked in at 7:17. Total run time: 29:55 with an overall finish time of 1:30:35. 2 minute PR, successful day!

Speedy for the Win!

Mrs. Speedy for 2nd place overall!

Nate. Mr. Tomato. AKA - badass in a speedsuit
2nd place in Age Group!

1st in Age Group
6th overall!
Mark/BFG - 2nd in Age Group!

John. Twinkle Toes.
4th in Age group!

Brittany - 2nd in Age Group!
Trina BARELY made it to the potty at the finish line hehe
2nd in Age Group! 

Catching up with friends, old and new, post race was so much fun. Most people will think it's ridiculous to want to catch up with friends before 8:30 on a Sunday morning after such an intense speedy workout, but to me there's no better way. I soaked it all in, enjoyed everyone's company, and was sad when it was time to depart. 

Me, Sara, and Jacqui
CLS Gator Girls!

Me and the BFG
My heart melts when I see this picture!

Trina: Let's take a selfie!
Sun: Nice Try
Team RyBread had a HUGE day!
As for me, the summer solstice hasn't even hit yet and I already have 4 triathlons under my belt, 3 of them no piece of cake. Now that I've added the World Championships to my race resume in September, I'll be taking a small racing hiatus so I can try and gain some speed in all the disciplines in an effort to bring my best to Worlds. I can honestly say I NEVER thought I'd be where I'm at today. Had you told me back in January that I'd be looking up AirBNB's for a trip the World Championships in September, I would have laughed in your face. But truth be told, I've said it once and I'll say it again, trust your training.

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