Lake in the Hills Triathlon

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A foggy, cold and rainy morning greeted nearly 200 athletes at the Lake in the Hills Sprint Triathlon on Sunday.  Packet pickup was held at multiple locations during the week (including race morning), along with a number of pre-race training opportunities provided by Racer’s Edge Athletics, makes this event one of the hidden gems in the Northwest Suburbs.  This year was extra special, as it also played host for the USA Triathlon Age Group and High School State Championships!

This is a “split transition” point-to-point race.  This meant that participants congregated at athlete parking to sign their waiver and pick up a timing chip before riding to setup Transition 2 and then down to the beach to prepare Transition 1.   Each location had box configurations instead of traditional racks which made setup a breeze. Athletes were provided optional clear bags that would be used to transport gear from T1 to T2.  Next time, I will opt to bring my own bag as my clear bag ripped before leaving the parking lot.

Even with preparing two areas, there was time for a quick swim warmup.  Other than the premiere wave, the swim start was single file self seeding with a few seconds between each person.  The obtuse half mile course was well marked, yet, the fog made it difficult to sight each buoy or see the support boats.  I wasn’t thrilled with my swim. But then again, I rarely am.

The 15.5 mile bike began with a climb up to the first of many sets of rolling hills.  This year the course was an out-and-back, which was a change from previous years. According to Jennifer Balmes, who took third in her age group, the configuration used to follow a star pattern with multiple turnarounds.  Given the rainy and windy conditions, it was fortuitous to have as few sharp U-turns as possible! Another benefit of the out-and-back course was being able to see the leaders “flying” back, while many of us were still going out.  There are just enough climbs on the bike course to make it challenging and I was glad I rode one of the preview days so I knew what to expect.

After a quick change of socks (to an only slightly drier pair) in T2, it was time to lace up and tackle the four mile run.  Luckily, it had stopped raining, but the humidity still made the first few miles of ascent a challenge. The grade seemed to gradually increase as we made our way through the subdivision.  That effort was rewarded with a fast descent after the turnaround at the 2.5 mile mark. Much of the final mile was on a fairly flat paved path allowing for a final push to the finish line where medals, massages and adorable and delicious custom triathlon cookies from Pop a Button Bakery awaited racers.

Even with a final sprint, I missed my goal by 17 seconds. Not coming up short were first place overall finishers and new Illinois State Champions, Ryan and Jacqui Giuliano.  They put up incredible times of 1:10:32 and 1:24:40, respectively.

It was also great to see the number of younger athletes who participated in both the age group and High School Championships compete.  The future of our sport is in good hands with Race Directors Shane Firsching and Matt Kidd at the helm of races like this one. Their passion, organization and communication make this a bucket list event for beginner and experienced triathletes alike.

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