The weather here over the past couple of days has been extreme. One moment hot and sunny, the next heavy thunderstorms with lightning. Our bike racking yesterday was cancelled and rescheduled for first thing this morning. Whilst this is not unusual for a regular triathlon race, with over 2, 000 athletes and bikes to check, the organising team were definitely going to be under pressure.
Fortunately, that pressure did not impact on me. I decided not to go to transition too early, but arrived at 8am when there were no queues. At check in, my bike was scrutinised, my helmet inspected, numbering and trisuit. I went and found my bike position, laid out my running shoes, sunglasses and made one final check of my bicycle. Then I rehearsed the run from the swim exit to my bike and finally the route to bike out. From here I could see the route from bike dismount, around the outside of transition and back to merge with the swim in route. Time for some banter with British team mates racked close to me.
Back at the team hotel, there was time for breakfast before putting on my tri suit, tracksuit and packing my wetsuit.
Wetsuit on, swim cap and goggles in hand, my race was finally called to the assembly area. An official gave us a last race brief and then we were allowed to enter the cool fresh water of Lake Michigan. "On your marks", then the horn sounded.one hundred and eighty men aged 50-54 years old were racing in the World Triathlon Championships.
The first hundred metres is a melee of feet, arms, bubbles and bumping into other athletes. I look ahead every twenty strokes, searching for a gap between the bodies and trying to site the turn some three hundred metres away. Turning at the bouys, the race heading straight back, past the start pontoon south to Museum Campus. As we closed towards the swim exit, the water became very choppy and sighting the exit area was difficult. The last bouy was suddenly there, a sharp right turn and a sprint to the steps. I closed too fast on another swimmer and was kicked in the eye dislodging my goggles! However, another ten seconds and I was up the steps out of the water running the 400m to transition. I was out in 65th and had swum my fastest 1500m this season.
Helmet on, wetsuit off and bike in hand I am heading for the mount line. I gained eleven places and was off pushing hard. The sunshine was beginning to increase the air temperature and I told myself to remember to drink from my bike bottle. After the first two straight miles down Columbus Drive, the course entered an under ground network of roads. Nobody had been able to recce the bike course, but had been warned of bumpy roads, low light and tight turns. Out of the sunshine, it was quite cool and we were not affected by the sudden gusts of wind. I caught bike after bike. Competitors from earlier starts were coming into view and I was able to spot the sudden changes of direction. Then we emerged onto an external private road. Out and back and I still catching people. Back undeground for another couple of miles before emerging into bright sunshine on Columbus Drive. Shouts of "go GB" encouraged me to keep my speed above 25mph to the turn around point and the start of the second lap.
Towards the end of lap two, one bike past me. No other athlete past me on the bike. I headed into transition in 21st position. Running shoes on and sunglasses in hand this was where the real pain begins.
The run headed up and down Columbus Drive three and a half times . A stream of other age group athletes gave me targets to chase. Mexicans, American, Canadians and Australians were caught and past. Support from British spectators lifted me to work harder. Keep good form, stride forward and stay relaxed were reinforced by spectators. A Dane came past and I spotted that he was in my age group. I needed to keep with him. Lap two and he was ten metres ahead. We glanced across at each other at the turn around point and despite all the other athletes on the course, we knew that we were racing each other!
Slowly the Dane pulled ahead and with one lap to go he had a considerable lead. However, the race was not over and I knew that there were other M50s to chase down. The temperature was increasing all the time and cups littered the course at both drinks stations. 800m to go and other athletes were fadimg. One last turn around the Buckingham Fountain and I dug deep to stride towards the finish line. I heard the commentator announce my name and country as I crossed the line. 21st M50 triathlete. Second British finisher in age group and 5th European.
The atmosphere in the finish area was superb. Differing nationalities congratulating each, thanking one another for racing hard and for reaching the finals in the first place. One American summed it nicely, "Hey, we all have day jobs!". But we are passionate about triathlon.
Home soon when the training begins again.
The jet lag had me awake at 5.30am this morning for what was to be a busy day. Today was all about finding my way around and locating all the important elements of my race, the swim start, the transition route to the bike and both the bike and run courses. Whilst the Team Manager will cover all this at our meeting tomorrow, I still prefer to do my own homework and see everything ahead of the race. Preparation helps and as we all know 'marginal gains' make a huge difference!
Just to remind you, the swim takes place in Lake Michigan and follows a loop running parallel to the shore. Total distance in my event is 1500m and will take me about 25 minutes. I climb out up the blue matted steps and run 400m to the transition area. This was packed with bikes today for the 'sprint' race. I will need to rehearse finding my bike tomorrow once I can rack. There will be 150 competitors in my age group, but about 2, 000 athletes in total!
The bike route is a flat and fast 40km route which loops twice through Grant Park and a subterranean road beneath the city called Lower Wacker Drive. Once back into transition, it will be a quick change of shoes before setting off for three laps of the Park totalling 10 kilometres. I'm now really excited and ready to race. There are some super fit men and women here including top Elite triathletes like Johnny Brownlee, Javier Gomez and Gwen Jorgensen, who race later on Saturday. Their race will televised in the UK on Sunday.
I won't have much time to do much else while I am here, but I did find out a few facts about Chicago; it's known as the 'windy city' but this has nothing to do with the weather. It refers to 'windbag politicians' who failed to deliver on the promises they made to the whole of the USA. There is an ice hockey team called The Blackhawks, an American football team called The Bears and a baseball team called The Cubs.
After competing in Geneva I was given the opportunity to join the GB Team and travel to Chicago USA for the Age Group World Championships.
This has meant continuing a heavy training programme throughout the school holidays and fitting in a couple more races.
Today I left Manchester at 9.30am, flying to Chicago O'Hare Airport in time to attend the Official opening ceremony with more than 4, 000 competitors across many different age groups. I also needed to re-assemble my bike and have a quick look around at the main course venue.
I was pleased to meet the BBC's Louise Minchin who is also racing and is being followed by a film crew. Her article will be aired on BBC Breakfast on Friday morning and Sunday morning, so look out for me!
Tomorrow I will run and cycle the race course ready for Saturday.