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Highlights from Chicago

By Cortney Martin | Sept. 24, 2015, 12 a.m. (ET)

The ITU World Championship is a wrap! Among the F45-49s, I finished 15th in the Sprint (out of 88), and 30th in the Olympic (out of 78). Thursday's sprint was a decent race for me — Saturday's Olympic/Standard, not so much. I had a sore throat that started the day before the Olympic and by the bike ride I was coughing, but who knows if that played into it or not ... excuses, excuses! It matters not. I gave what I had on the day and loved being a part of Team USA and the ITU World Championships week!

Rather than another standard swim/bike/run race report, I thought it might be more fun to share some of the (random) highlights that come to mind when I recount the whole experience.

Check In. This is the moment when you realize just how multinational the event is! The bib number list is arranged by country and I spent some time studying it and realizing that I need to brush up on my geography!

Team USA Photo. This is the first opportunity for the team to come together and see all the fit athletes spanning the ages. We were instructed with jackets on, jackets off. Sprint only. Now Olympic. Now both together. Regular camera, now iPhone! Rich Cruse directed us from the lift and turned this:


into this:


I can't find me, but I'm in there. 

Last Wave. My group, F45-49, was the last of 27 (sprint) and 31 (standard) waves, starting 2-1/2 to 3 hours after the first wave. That put our start time around 1 p.m. which meant we not only had to have race breakfast, but second breakfast, and lunch too. It was a long time to keep the nerves in check.

Pink Equity. It was refreshing to see that the pink swim caps were distributed equally among men and women and did not just default to the women!

No Towels means NO Towels.  As I remembered from London, ITU said no towels in transition, and they were very serious about that. A washcloth hidden in my bike helmet beneath my race belt was confiscated and found post-race with about a hundred other sneaky little terry cloth bits. 

Escaping pontoon. On Saturday, with just a few waves to go before ours, the pontoon we were to jump off of had come loose and detached from the lake wall! We were supposed to swim north, then turn back and head south to the finish. After a delay, officials decided we would get in from the wall and complete a shortened sprint-distance swim just to the south. Half of the swimmers were very happy, half were not. This is part of the fun of rolling with whatever the race throws at you. Try to guess how I felt:


Subterranean Biking: We were not able to pre-ride the bike courses, and based on my observations of Chicago's drivers, I had no interest in cycling on open roads. Plus I don't have a horn on my bike, and it seems like to drive in Chicago requires a LOT of honking.


Much of the Standard distance course was the underground portion of a multi-tiered road (Lower Wacker) and on a bus lane adjacent to train tracks. There were lots of turns and you just had to gamble on how fast you could safely take them and then accelerate like heck coming out. Changes from light to dark were part of the course conditions we needed to adapt to, but it was fun and different and I felt like a Matchbox car!


Multi-lap run. The 10k runs were 3-3/4 laps. The finish line split off from the course and went for maybe 50m, which meant you had to run right past the finish chute three times, watching the people who were done, and knowing you were not done and still had work to do. Quite a number of people diverted a lap too early, and had to go back out to finish. One upside to the multi-lap run meant having spectator friends to look forward to seeing on each lap!

Bike shower. The sprint bike course was very bumpy and rough on the south end. My drink bottle is open at the top for refilling on-the-fly and the mesh sponge that is intended to be the baffle had been pushed to the bottom. As a result, my sticky drink splashed everywhere, and my solution was to shower with my bike. It was quite effective!

Meet the Elite. The morning of my sprint race, I had an opportunity to meet up with ITU athlete Joe Maloy, of Team USA, who raced in the elite event on Saturday. I was wound a bit tight waiting-waiting-waiting for my race and he really helped me to get some perspective and regain the calm focus needed to race well. I can’t say I was calm watching the men’s and women’s elite races though with all that intensity and excitement!!

Paratriathlon. One of my favorite events to watch is paratriathlon. Seeing the athletes and the innovative adaptive equipment that enables them to swim, bike and run is fascinating. And in case anyone is thinking that paratriathletes are somehow slower, let me set the record straight. The top paratriathletes are extremely strong, fast and competitive and can handily outrace most of us. (Read USA Paratriathlon Head Coach Mark Sortino's article on "Prepare to be Impressed"

Krige Schabort of Team USA won a silver medal!

That concludes my race week highlights from the 2015 ITU World Championships in Chicago! Thank you to USA Triathlon, my fellow Team USA friends, and all who make this exciting experience possible for age-groupers. See you all again in Cozumel in 2016!


For more photos, see my ITU World Championship photo album on Facebook

Read more from Cortney at

For more coverage from the 2015 ITU World Triathlon Grand Final and World Championships, visit