Tri a Little Tenderness


It was amazing. Truly. I am so incredibly proud of myself and so glad that I decided to try it in spite of my knee problems. It was too good for me to miss. I loved every second of it, and I am ready for more.
My Super Sprint Results, hurt knee and all!
For those who don't know, the order in a triathlon is swim, bike, run (most risk to least risk.)  There is a transition area, where you set up your stuff--your bike and bike gear and running gear (which for me was the same as bike gear just without bike helmet and gloves)--that you run to between each segment. There are entrances and exits for each segment to ensure that there are no collisions in between. The Super Sprint triathlon has a limit of 1,000 people (the Sunday triathlon has about 10,000), so it was nice that it was never super crowded.

Last night, we went to the expo for packet pickup, body marking, and to get last minute supplies. You pick up a timing chip that you strap to your ankle, so that when you walk over each of the timing mats at each event, can can know how long each segment took you. We had fun looking at the vendors's booths, and came upon a booth for Tri Tats--temporary tattoos for body marking. When you do a triathlon, they write your race number in huge black sharpie on each arm, and your starting wave number on your right calf. Fuzzy, Ryan and I had been making jokes about getting these as real tattoos to show how hardcore you are, but that each year you'd have to cross it out with new tattoos to write your new numbers on and eventually you would run out of skin. So when we saw the booth, we shared this with the vendors and told them that the temp ones were a good idea. Then I saw that they had "in memory of" and "in honor of" temporary tattoos, so you could write in the name of the person you are running for underneath. Well, nothing gets me emotional faster than thinking about doing things in memory of my Dad or thinking about the fact that he isn't here anymore, so I instantly teared up and ask Fuzzy to buy a couple. The guys were so nice that they gave us a small stack of them to take. It was really sweet. So when we got home, I was prepping the tattoo, and I remembered that I was dedicating the triathlon to Christopher and Katie, so I asked Fuzzy to write "DAD" on my calf and "In Honor Of Christopher and Katie" on my right forearm as inspiration. That way, when things got tough, I could say "dad never gave up, so I won't either. Christopher and Katie are taking a risk, so I will too." When that was done, I said "oh, but what about Mom?" so Fuzzy drew a heart on my left shoulder with "MOM" in it like an old-school tattoo. Perfect.

Erica's markings - In Memory of Dad Erica's markings - In Honor of Christopher and Katie Erica's markings - Mom

After the expo, Fuzzy worked on my bike, fixing the brake issue and making sure my tires were good, etc. I had not ridden my bike outdoors since my wreck, so I went out to the alley and rode it back and forth a few times to see how it felt. I was nervous about braking--sense memory and all--but ultimately, It didn't hurt my knee too badly and I knew that I could take my transition turnarounds pretty slowly if I wanted to. In hindsight, I should have gotten on my bike before the night before the event, but I didn't even know if I was going to be able to do the damn thing, so it's ok.

The day started at 5:30am. I got up, put on my swim suit and ate a cereal bar and a tomato. I drank some water and did a last minute check of my stuff (yes, ok, so I did almost leave without my timing chip, but we saw it before we left) and then headed out to Foster Beach. Kristen was also doing the super sprint, so she and Shaun were awesome and gave us a ride. The weather was perfect--kinda breezy in the morning, but super clear and in the mid 70s for the race.  We set up our stuff, then went down to the beach for a course talk. The night before, I ran into my friend Jess, who I used to perform with, and we were in the same wave, so I hung out with her as we got ready to begin. Sidenote about Jess: That girl signed up for the Sunday Sprint, then heard that the Chicago Triathlon shouldn't be your first triathlon, so she did one somewhere else last weekend, and also won an entry into the Super Sprint. Yes, that's right, she's doing 3 triathlons in 2 weekends. SHE'S AMAZING! But anyways, I wasn't nervous at all about the swim, or the race even--I was just a little distracty. But I was ready.

They advised that if you are a fast swimmer to go to the front of your wave, and if you are slow to go towards the back. Well, I am a fast swimmer, but I can't run, and since you had to run into the water, I didn't want to get in anyone's way. No one in my wave, however, wanted to be in the front of the pack, so the announcer commented that there must have been a lot of first timers in wave 9. Then the airhorn sounded, and off we went. The water was super warm, but I wore my wetsuit anyway, and was ready to take off. However, the water was super shallow and everyone was WALKING! They walked for a really long time, and it was hard to swim past the pack. Finally, when we rounded the first buoy, I was able to maneuver around everyone and pass a lot of them. The swim felt like it was only 8-10 minutes long, but my official time, due to my slowness in and out of the water was 18:44. It was great and invigorating! And I saw Fuzzy on the way out, and that was awesome. The swim distance was 1/4 a mile.

Sunrise Swim Start and Finish Erica Erica Erica in her wetsuit
(my signature pose)
Erica Erica swims Erica swims, others walk
Stuck behind the walkers.
Erica finishes the swim Erica on her way to transition
Me "running" to transition.

I wore a 2 piece swimsuit underneath my wetsuit, which was a smart idea, cause it was essentially underwear and a sports bra. So in the transition area, I dried off, applied sunscreen, put on a tank top and shorts, socks and shoes, my knee brace, bike gloves, helmet, sunglasses and had a snack and something to drink. The bike distance was 6 miles, and we were to do 3 loops from Foster to Montrose and back. The bike went fine. I wasn't super fast, but I pushed myself. My knee feels ok until I have to tighten up and use the muscles and ligaments on it (I can bend and straighten it fine, but I can't tighten it or go up and down stairs, etc, without pain), so on the flat and downhill segments, I was fine. Where there were hills, however, it was kind of rough and I had to push through the pain. On lap 2 I got really tired and achy, so I thought about Dad and C&K and pushed through (although my wetsuit and suitjuice had completely erased all the sharpie and even the temp tat with my inspirational words--I knew they were there, though.) At the course talk, the announcer had said to call out to people when you were passing them and to communicate with each other. I always thanked the person passing to let them know that I had heard they were passing, and one time when a woman passed me she said "How's it going for you?" and it made me so happy! I replied that it was great and asked about hers, and she answered and zoomed off. That gave me an added boost. Having Fuzzy, Shaun and Ryan cheer me on at every Foster turnaround was pretty amazing, too. My bike time was 31:41.

  Erica gets on the bike Erica on her bike
Is that the wicked witch of the west? Nope, just me. Erica

At the end of the bike transition, I encountered my only gruff person--a volunteer who said to me "Quickly quickly, this is a race." only it was impossible for me to go any faster with my knee, which was hurting pretty badly. Ah well. I went, dropped off my bike things, and headed to the run exit, with what was probably a pretty strong limp walk. The volunteers on the way out were amazing, saying things like "You look great!" "You're still moving!" and "Great job!" It really made me well up with tears. I saw Fuzzy and gave him a kiss and then hobbled onto complete the mile and a half. Kristen and I walked together for a minute, then she took off running. I knew I wasn't able to run--my knee buckled 3 times within the first 5 minutes out of the gate--but I would try it every now and again. I would lumber along for about 5 seconds and stop. I decided that I would run through the finish line. The walk was really lovely--again, the weather was GORGEOUS, and the turnaround was up by the dog beach at Montrose. Athletes making the return trek would say amazing things to me like "Keep going--you look great" and cheer for me and that was incredible. Jess approached and cheered for me and gave me a high five.  When I got to the turnaround point, it was shady and gorgeous, by the lake and under the trees. It was quiet and there weren't a lot of people around, so I took a minute to look around me and take it all in while I was walking, and thank the Lord for allowing me to be a part of that moment. To push myself to do something that I didn't think I would be able to do. For my health and my life and to be able to have an experience like that. It was beautiful.

When I approached the finish line, Fuzzy was there and I told him to run ahead so he could watch me finish, cause I was going to run it in. I did my best, with my weird Frankenstein run, and they called my name as I approached--ironically, another Erica was finishing at the same time!  Once I crossed--I did it!--they gave me a metal, and Shaun, Kristen, Fuzzy, and Ryan all came to meet me. It was amazing. My "run" time was 29:47.
Erica starts the run
Lumbering along.
Kristen and Erica at the start of the run
Kristen and I together! Then she promptly left me in the dust. Ryan cheers for Erica
Ryan cheering! Me in the distance!
Erica finishes strong
Run Erica Run!
Erica finishes strong

I am SO thankful that I did the triathlon. I loved every single second of it. It's a shame that my knee is still not healed, cause I would love to do the Sprint distance tomorrow, but it was really smart of me to do the Super Sprint instead. It was all within my reach and in the realm of what I could realistically do being a month out of my training. Now, my knee is sore, but it is ok. I've iced it today to help with the swelling, and I will give it a little while to rest and then try to rehab it.  
Bemedalled Erica
Me with metal, Gatorade, banana and bagel. Fuzzy and Erica
Fuzzy and me!
Erica and Kristen
Me and Kristen--WINNERS!

What a journey it's been. I went from someone who never thought they could run or bike, to someone who can, then had a major setback with my injury, and now a newfound determination to get better and stronger.  I can see how these get addictive...I am ready for more! But for now, I am incredibly proud of myself and feel like I am on top of the world!!!!

(All photos by the amazing and wonderful Fuzzy Gerdes, the greatest man in the world.)


I'm so proud of you! (I've been saying it in person all day, but I wanted to say it to the interwebs as well.)

Yeah! Great job, tough lady! Thanks for the dedication. It means so much to me (us).

And, Fuzzy's beard is getting pretty amazing.


I dearly love the pics of you "running"!! Kudos to your day!!!

Yay! So proud of you!

Yay! Congratulations! I'm so proud of you! I've been reading the whole story of this, from your deciding to go, to all your training and how positive it made you feel, to your HORRIBLE accident, through all your doubts about whether or not you would still be able to do this, and now THE FINALE!

You are awesome, strong and brave! I'm glad to know you!

I am so proud of you!

You are an inspiration in more ways than one.

Erica! This post made ME tear up!! So proud of you, so inspired by you...way to go, YOU!