The Windy City and my favorite city may be the only time you actually see the words love and wind in the same sentence. Unless, I guess we are talking about a tail wind! The Windy city will never let you down. Its food, shopping, architecture, art, and scenery are all just phenomenal. [caption id="attachment_2864" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Buckingham Fountain with the city in the background![/caption] This was my 4th time visiting the city and I LOVE it more and more everytime. Myself, Dustin, and our two friends Marcus and Carrie arrived on Wednesday night, giving us 3 full days before the Lifetime Chicago Triathlon. This race was to be my "A-race" of the fall season. Instead of being all up-tight and psycho, I decided to go into the race a little more relaxed and try to just enjoy being on vacation and being able to live a life that allows me to travel to a cool destination to do a race. I think in the end, it worked! After a night out on the town, we woke up the next morning and did an "adventure run". Those runs where your in a new place and you just run all over with no mileage in mind are the absolute best! We ran all aroundMillenium park, to the bean, and to the navy pier. [caption id="attachment_2867" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Dustin in the beer garden![/caption] [caption id="attachment_2866" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Run to Navy Pier[/caption]

After a shower it was time for the Magnificent Mile of shopping, but not before we hit up some of Chicago's Classic, Giordanos pizza for lunch. This pizza was HUGE and I probably ate the most of everyone at the table. Typical Liz fashion. I wish I could show you the picture of the pizza and my head (on a friends camera), because I look like a baby compared to that thing!! After eating and shopping all day, we were pretty tired so we decided to put our bikes together and relax a little. As usual, my bike was not shifting and we knew we had to find a bike mechanic on friday and get it fixed. For those of you who dont know me, my bike is usually not shifting, cables are frayed, derailer hanger is broken or something of the sort. Yep, thats what happens when you ride your bike ALOT!
Friday morning we woke up and took a not-so pleasant ride to the bike store through downtown. Warning: riding a tri-bike with race wheels and an aero helmet in high traffic is scary. Next time we will take a cab! Since the race was getting closer the bike mechanics were PACKED, so I just bought a new cable and took it back to the hotel for Dustin and Marcus to install (thank you)! On the way back to the hotel I decided to take a quick dip in Lake Michigan. The water felt amazing! However, I knew it might be choppy on race morning. Swimming in the wetsuit again was also a good reminder of how tiring it can be when you havent worn it in a while! I started to get a little nervous.
Next on the agenda was a trip to Wrigleyville! We got tickets to the Cubs game and that was certainly a cool thing to experience!
The rest of the trip was typical pre-race travels: going out to eat, going to packet-pickup, getting our race-day essentials ready. Saturday morning we walked around the race course to scope out transition and get a feel for the race. The race venue was HUGE! Over 9000+ athletes were expected to race between the sprint and olympic race, so you literally had to walk a mile to get to transition from the finish line. Transition opened at 4:15 am and my wave didnt even go off until 7:30! It was definitely the biggest race I have done yet.
So how did the race pan out??
The Swim: 
We got to swim in the harbor and the area was VERY narrow. I knew that after looking at last years results that the swim can typically be very choppy. It was choppy, but probably not as bad as years in the past. I didnt really know where to position myself at the start but I think I picked the right spot. I always fear getting whacked in the beginning so I try to stay away from chaos until the end when my endurance can really start to kick in. After the first turn it was a straight shot back to the exit. I was in the lead pack but I was still kind of veering off to myself. I knew that I needed to get back in the pack and stay on peoples feet but I just couldnt. This is something I need to work on.The swim exit consisted of a 400m run to the entrance of transition, and then probably another 100-200 meter run just because transition was so dang BIG! I decided it would be smart to take my wetsuit off once I got out of the water and then run with it. Unfortunately, they included your 400m run in your swim time so I dont really know how I did. My swim time was 3rd fastest female, 24:30ish (probably around 23mins for the swim itsself). Once I look back at the race, I think my swim was really sub-par to how I have been swimming lately (wasnt ready for the wetsuit or the chop), but a triathlon is a 3-part effort and the race must go on!
The Bike: 
 I got out on the bike and was just feeling GREAT. I was on top of my pedal stroke. My odometer stopped working so I really had no idea what my speed was, but I knew my effort was solid. The race course was fairly flat with rolling hills, and the windy city never lets you down providing us with a nice tail wind on the way out and head wind on the way back. The bike was different than anything I have ever done before. In this race the roads were opposite. You had to pass on the right and stay to the left. Well, This RULE* provided problems for me as I found out I got a "Position" penalty for staying on the right side of the road for TOO LONG. What the crap. Let me show you why I stayed over there:
Take a good look at that pic. Looks like alot of people on the right side of the road, right? and the biggest problem of them all: THE MAJOR earthquake CRACK right down the center of the two lanes. I was just simply trying not to crash or get a flat, so that penalty simply was BOGUS!! Anyway,I took over the female bike lead around mile 10 and flew into T2 with the fastest female bike split of the day by almost 4 minutes!! I biked a 1:04! Heck yea!
The Run: 
I had the lead biker for about 1 minute of the race before getting passed by Collegiate runner standout and USAT Recruit, Kathleen Hursey. Dangit! She ran by me like I was a slug. I actually was a slug tho! My legs were so sososo heavy!! I wanted to quit so many times during the run but I was in second, how could I quit!? (Actually I didnt want to quit the race, I Just wanted to WALK!) At the turn around I could see another chick working hard to catch up to me, so I finally decided to pick up the pace. I still felt like I was shuffling but the magic of a shuffle can work WONDERS when your trying to get to the finish line. I ended up holding off the girl by 10 seconds! Phew, good thing I didnt stop to take that walk stop! There was something about this run that was just terribly slow. I ran slow, but after looking at results, everyone else ran pretty slow too. It was weird, but I was glad it was all over. I finished 2nd!! Holy Cow I did it!!
After finding out that I got a penalty, I had a major melt down. How, could this happen to me!! I have the worst luck! The only thing good about the penalty, was that it was not a *drafting penalty, because people I tell you I do not draft!! I was almost positive that a 2 minute penalty to my time would drop me out of the top 3 and once again strip me of my pro-card capability (you have to earn top 3). I found the head official and he just did not give a darn. Actually, he told me you are not allowed to dispute penalties, you can only talk to them. How rude.
It started to rain so I got my stuff out of transition, and bummed myself back to the hotel totally just giving up on the awards ceremony. I checked results online back at the hotel and with the 2 minute penalty I was 3rd OVERALL! I HELD THEM OFF! Wow, that was a close call. I was SO thankful that hardwork finally paid off. I called my Mom and told her "IM A PRO!" ;) (Unfortuntaly, now I have NO pictures of my race that I turned pro in since I didnt go to the awards ceremony-ha!)
I have been chasing the dream of earning my pro card for over a year now, and I have finally secured my spot. I know that I will never be Sarah Haskins or an olympian or anything close to it, but I achieved the elite level status that I had been searching for. I know that I will get my butt kicked in every "pro" race that I do, but I dont care and I know that I will learn SO much about myself as a person and as an athlete while I do it. I hope to only improve and grow stronger and to continue to just LOVE what I do. I cant thank my Coach, Friends, training buddies, family and co-workers enough for cheering for me and being my biggest supporters. Ultimately a happy athlete, makes a fast athlete, and you guys are what helped me get here!!
To top things off, while at the airport waiting for our flight home I ran into the Bennetts and Cam Dye. We chatted it up and talked about the race. Dustin let them know that I just earned my pro card and it was only appropriate to take a picture with my future competition.
SO COOL!

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