It was still dark when I parked my car on a Wilmette side street across from Gillson Park. Typical morning routine for triathlons: driving to the race site on dark, quiet streets, unpacking your car hoping one of the neighbors don’t mistake you for a cat burglar, and walking to the transition area with a load of gear that is only matched in weight by your nerves.
I had not done a triathlon in two years and was unsure as to how it was going to go. I don’t think anyone ever feels that they are truly prepared for
The first thing I do is go to get my body markings and was asked, “wetsuit or no wetsuit?” I reply that I was not wearing a wetsuit and was greeted with a laugh and a “oh, good for you. The water got colder since last night.” I set up my bike and took a quick walk down to the water to see what it would be like, of course, forgetting halfway down that I still needed to get my timing chip. (Ugh.) Yup, it was cold. I told myself that it was actually just “refreshingly cool.”
After a quick stretch, I went out for a short warm up run. On the way back, I thought to myself that I should have returned to the race site by now and realized that I had missed a turn somewhere. Running around in the dark, in a town I had never been in, with the transition area closing in 15 minutes, great. I quickly got my bearings and made it back.
We all headed out to the swim start and beach area was pretty quiet. When my wave was called to the start, we got in the water and waited for the gun. Standing in the 60-something degree water for a minute before the swim start was not something I think a lot of people were looking forward to at that moment, but you got to do what you got to do, right?
We took off on the swim and the water was cool and clear. I could see right to the bottom and had the beach to my right to help keep me in a straight line. There were plenty of buoys in the water to keep us on track, which was great, as sighting always seems to be a problem for me. The swim seemed shorter than I thought it would and I was out of the water in no time.
The bike course was two loops and 20k long. I told myself that it meant that each out-and-back section was just three miles long. Usually, that helps it to go by faster. This time, it did not. The first time through, the turnaround point seemed to be somewhere between Wilmette and Canada. It finally came and the rest of the ride seemed to go by a little faster. The bike course was excellent. There were sections through residential areas and downtown and it made finding landmarks for the second loop easier. There were some incredibly fast cyclists whizzing by and it was very cool to see them come from the other direction.
I finished the bike and got a shot of adrenaline because it was time for my favorite part, the run. I sprinted out of the transition area with a smile on my face as it was now time to play the game “10 points for everyone you catch.” The run course had a few long straightaways- which I knew ahead of time- and that allowed me to break the run up into sections, planning to accelerate at a couple different points. It was fun running down the streets, especially the short cobblestone section near the middle. The finish line was just after a curve near the park and I had checked out the last 400 meters on my warm up. Once I hit that spot, it was all or nothing. I did lose a final sprint in the last 50 meters, but was very happy with my run split, so nothing to be upset about. (I checked the results when I got home and ended up with the fastest run time of the day. Point of pride.)
The North Shore Triathlon is definitely a race that athletes will enjoy. The course and logistics of it make it a nice one for beginners as well, but for triathletes looking for a good “end of season” sprint distance race, the course is a fast one where you can really show off your speed. There seemed to be plenty of competition-minded athletes out there, too, to give yourself someone fast to pace off of. I hope to be back next year to see if I can improve upon my times.