Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What Some People Will Do for a Wetsuit, Part 2

Was a new shoe being released? No. Did I miss an announcement about a sale? Not that I could find in rereading a newsletter. So what caused the line forming outside Fleet Feet Piper's Alley on Monday morning? The hottest commodity on the block, at least if you're a triathlete: a wetsuit rental that would get you through the weekend's Chicago Triathlon.

And this wasn't just any line. My husband spotted it when he biked down Wells after a night on call and when I went over more than an hour later the line wrapped past the building, along the residential courtyard and in front of the next set of buildings north. Those in search of wetsuits brought chairs and cushions to sit on, reading material and more to keep them entertained. You'd think they were waiting to score tickets to a hot concert, but no, they wanted one of the 60 or so wetsuits available for weekly rental at the store.

I have to admit, at first I thought they were a little crazy to be spending $50 to rent a suit for seven days. They could possibly find a slightly used one online at craigslist.org for the same price or find a sale at an online retailer and get some discount on an item they could use year after year. Plus the idea of waiting in line to find out your size was out would be heart-wrenching.

But they knew something about the weather that had escaped my radar or had some extra sensory perception telling them that race weekend would warrant a wetsuit. Yes, Chicago has been blessed, or unblessed depending on how you look at it, with a less-than-stellar summer, especially when it comes to the temperatures and the rain. And the weather also left us playing Russian Roulette to see what we'd wake up to especially as races approached (I've only checked weather.com three times but I swear the forecast has differed every time from an ideal partly cloudy 74-degree day to rain to temps in the 60s). But despite that, Lake Michigan was at least attempting to warm to its typical late-summer temps. Until last weekend, that is, when the Lake was bone-chilling cold and some athletes claimed they were so cold they turned around and got out before completing their desired distance.

Whatever the reason, these racers knew that they needed that wetsuit to solidify their goals of completing the triathlon. The first person in line (pictured above on right) said he arrived around 6:15 a.m. to wait for Fleet Feet's 10 a.m. opening. He didn't want to work all summer to race the Chicago Tri and then have a little weather get in the way of keeping him comfortable in the three disciplines--not exactly his words, but I didn't have a notebook with me and couldn't write anything down. And the three photographed above would be scoring some extra warmth come race day. They comprised part of the first five in line.

Good luck racers and hope no one was left out in the cold! Posted by Kate

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