The Pleasant Prairie Triathlon took place on Sunday morning just across the Illinois/Wisconsin border in Pleasant Prairie, bringing together over 750 athletes competing at the sprint and Olympic distance, as well as a duathlon and sprint and Olympic relays.
The 2017 USA Paratriathlon National Championship was also held in conjunction with the Pleasant Prairie Triathlon, where the best paratriathletes in the country could compete for national titles in six sport classes, as well as qualify for the USA Paratriathlon Development Team, which is designed to identify and develop athletic potential leading toward the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
Mandatory packet pick-up was available a week prior to the race in Chicago, as well the day before at the race expo in Pleasant Prairie and on the morning of the race. Unfortunately, a number of the timing chips were defective so participants that picked up their packets in Chicago still had to pick up timing chips at the race site before the race began on Sunday morning. The Pleasant Prairie Triathlon used disposable timing chips, which are a lot more comfortable and fit under the leg of a wetsuit much better than the standard timing chip.The swag for the event was a nice blue 3/4 zip shirt, which tended to run a bit big, but participants were allowed to change sizes as necessary.
In order to avoid the added expense of a hotel stay, I decided that driving up the morning of the race was a good option since Pleasant Prairie was only an hour away from Chicago. When making that decision I didn’t really think through the timeline. Transition for the race closed at 6 a.m., with the first wave going off at 6:30 a.m.. This meant that I needed to be on the road by 4:15, 4:30 at the latest. More importantly, (and painfully), this meant my day would start at 3 a.m. You know you are up WAY too early when you are crossing paths in the elevator with neighbors just returning from their Saturday night out. At 4 a.m. on a Sunday morning, I basically had the Interstate to myself-occasionally encountering another triathlete heading north (a bike on the back of the car the tell-tale sign)-so it was a very quick journey north to Pleasant Prairie.
The swim takes place in Lake Andrea, where water temperatures tend to be in the low 70’s at this time of year, making the triathlon a great option for both athletes that enjoy the comfort and speed of a wetsuit and those that prefer to go without. However, with the hotter days of the past couple weeks, the lake temperature had been hovering in the upper-70’s. I was relieved when I heard the announcement that the lake temperature on Sunday morning was 77.4 degrees, making the race wetsuit-legal, barely. Athletes had the option of participating in a swim warm-up between 6 a.m. and 6:15 a.m. before the race started.
With temperatures in the mid-to-upper-50’s and clear, blue skies, you couldn’t ask for better temperatures for racing. However, temperatures like these made hanging out before and after the race a bit uncomfortable if you didn’t have a friend or family member to hang on to your warmer clothes while you raced. This type of situation always makes me wonder why triathlons (typically) don’t have gear check.
The swim involves a run-in start, which was a first for me. I usually line up at the front of my wave to break-away quickly, but since I’d never done this type of start, I was a little concerned about the possibility of being trampled if I started swimming while others were still running into the lake. The swim course for both sprint and Olympic distances is a triangle, differentiated by different colored buoys. Inside of the Olympic course, the 750-meter sprint course looked so short in comparison.
Lake Andrea is a beautiful lake to swim in. The water was very clear, though a little choppy due to the moderately windy conditions of the day. Between the choppy water and the fact that the swim caps of the men’s wave directly ahead of me were the same color as the buoys, I had a little trouble sighting during the swim. Half of the time I wasn’t certain whether I was actually sighting off of the buoy or off of the swimmers.
The layout and location of transition at Pleasant Prairie is phenomenal. The transition area is located right outside of the Swim Out, which make for pretty fast transition times and minimal time spent running barefoot, which is always a bonus at a triathlon! The Bike Out and Run Out are located next to each other on the opposite end of transition from the Swim Out. The Bike In has athletes riding between fencing parallel to transition leading to the end of transition nearest the lake and is pretty narrow, which can pose a potential hazard for athletes coming in fast or multiple athletes at the same time.
The 20K-bike course is on a combination of asphalt and concrete roads with just a few rolling hills and minimal turns. The overpasses left athletes very exposed to the moderate cross-winds on Sunday, which presented a bit of a challenge in bike handling. In general, the roads are pretty smooth and well-maintained. I really enjoyed the bike course, passing a lot of athletes and finishing with the fourth strongest bike time in my age group.
The 5K run course takes athletes on a nice, mostly flat, path around Lake Andrea, with a very short out and back section in the middle and a two very small hills within the last third of a mile. There was one aid station on the course at that out-and-back section that athletes could hit twice if they wanted.
Overall, the Pleasant Prairie Triathlon is a well-run race on a great course with a kind of grass-roots vibe to it. I highly recommend it to both competitive athletes and beginners alike and will likely return to race it again in 2018.
Overall Female Winners-Sprint:
- Kristen Kostka, 1:12:02
- Avery Lemm, 1:13:05
- Beth Drolet, 1:18:42
Overall Male Winners-Sprint
- Ryan Finke, 1:04:45
- Marty Taylor, 1:07:00
- Paul Ruetten, 1:07:54
Overall Female Winners-Olympic
- Lisa Becharas, 2:14:03
- Jennifer Garrison, 2:15:09
- Ryan Streicker, 2:17:23
Overall Male Winners-Olympic
- Jeremy Rielley, 2:01:41
- Patrick Jackson, 2:04:44
- Ben Culver, 2:04:47
Overall Female Winners-Duathlon
- Melissa Radmer, 1:16:24
- Jennifer Wickersty, 1:20:28
- Anna Schopp, 1:27:39
Overall Male Winners-Duathlon
- Tim Petrie, 1:05:57
- Bob Jones, 1:09:43
- Nick Cukierski, 1:11:19