I hate admitting I’m wrong, but sometimes, it has to be said. 

I thought that I could get through the entire training, and racing, of the Chicago Triathlon without a wetsuit.  Today, Mother Nature decided to deliver a beatdown to remind me just how wrong I was.

I met two friends from my training group this morning at 8 at the Ohio Street Beach here in Chicago.  We stared out at the water, thinking that surely those people who were just standing around, not swimming, were overreacting.

I mean, the water was a bit wavy, sure, but how cold could it be?  We had just swam on Wednesday night, and it was a balmy 65+ degrees.  They donned their wetsuits; I stripped to my bathingsuit. 

We got in.

It was the coldest water I’ve ever voluntarily swum in, save the Colorado River, which is fed from mountains, in the bottom of the Grand Canyon. There, at least, the heat of 110 in the Canyon balanced out the cold. Not so much here.

Add to that the waves – 3 feet at times – and we barely made it 100 yards before returning to shore, numb, shaking, and ready for a warm drink.

Did I mention it’s August?  That my race is 1 week away?  That I’ve trained all summer?  And that now, I didn’t think I could do 1 mile in that cold, without a wetsuit?

So yes, I started dialing for dollars.  I finally found nirvana at Element Multisport, a shop on Clybourn and Damen in Lincoln Park.  I know it mostly because it’s sandwiched between the Subway I hit up on my trips to Costco, and the Golfsmith where I gear up for that sport. 

From the outside, the store always looked intimidating.  It has $5,000 bikes in the window, and I wasn’t sure what I’d find inside.  But when I called to ask about the availability of an XXL wetsuit, they said they didn’t have any – but I thought they might have something else that worked.

From the minute I walked in the door, they helped me find the right suit.  In addition to purchasing a suit, they’re offering wetsuit rentals for the Chicago Triathlon, and they have men’s and women’s XLs.  After looking at a few options, and deciding nothing was likely to work, Chris (one of the gurus helping me out) pulled out a Zoot Fuzion, full-sleeved.  We looked at it, and thought it might fit.  It was an XL, but sure enough, after some Suit Juice (which helps to smooth the pulling-on part of that adventure), it went on like a dream.

When I walked out of the fitting room, sweating, and just a bit red, I looked at the three guys at the counter – Noel, Chris, and The Guy Whose Name I Didn’t Get.  Between the three of them, they were as surprised as I was, I think, that it fit – but it did!!!! 

I cannot express how relieved I am to have a suit for next weekend.  And I learned a really good lesson today – that going to a specialty retailer, like Element, who really only does this one thing, and does it well, can make a big difference in your season.

One other note: the Gang at Element was ready to search high and low for a suit that was going to fit me – calling around to anyone they could find on Monday.  In my real life, I work in the Client Service group for a large, large company.  If everyone who worked for us treated our clients as Chris and the gang treated me, we’d never lose a customer.  They were all the things we look for – patient, kind, knowledgeable, helpful, and efficient.

So if you’re in the need for some last minute help, advice, or gear, check out my new friends – your time will be well spent, I promise.

Element Multisport

Phone: 773-529-4TRI (4874)

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