I’ve come to the conclusion this year that if it’s Sunday and raining in the Chicagoland area, it must be race day! Such was the case, yet again, when I awoke to the sound of driving rain at 4 am before making my way to Gillson Park in Wilmette for the seventh annual North Shore Triathlon, which features both sprint and super-sprint distances.
A constant downpour greeted the nearly 600 athletes who arrived in darkness to setup transition. While I found a premium spot at the end of my rack, I waited until the last possible moment to setup my gear. Although, I did don my wetsuit somewhere around 5:30 for the 6:45 start in an effort to stay dry and warm.
Lake Michigan had certainly “flipped.” While the water was as calm as I’ve seen it this season, it was reported to be a chilly 63 degrees for the start of the race. This is a unique in-water wave swim start that is a straight point-to-point for the full 500 meters. It’s also shallow enough inside the buoy line to stand, which makes it an excellent event for the novice triathlete.
Although the wind picked up a bit, it felt good to be on dry land and make the short run into T1. The roads were going to be slick given the morning storms, and while the two-loop bike course isn’t highly technical, there were just enough twists, tight u-turns and cobblestone patches to keep one hand near the brakes at all times. Perhaps my favorite part was coming back on Wilson St. each time since the wall against Green Bay Rd. provided a break from the cross wind. It felt like the only place to really pick up speed!
T2 looked like a second storm had rolled through, as gear was strewn everywhere. I do wish people would be a little more respectful of each other in transition. I had to dig through other people’s clutter for my run gear, which fortunately, I had been smart enough to put in a bag to keep dry.
Once out on the 5K run course, my lack of training for my last triathlon of the season was evident. I couldn’t find a rhythm and was struggling to breathe. A surprise pat on the back and a few words of encouragement from Xochitl Mayorga was just enough to motivate me to get moving again! I shuffled my way through the scenic neighborhood that comprised the run and was grateful it wasn’t pelting rain as it had been just a few hours ago.
There was great support along the course from volunteers and spectators alike. One group, just before the final turn to the finish line, was screaming there was only 12 seconds to go! Once across, there was plenty of food and beverage to refuel and opportunities to get a much needed stretch. It was at the finish celebration that I found Race Ambassador, Kevin Daliva. Kevin was my pacer at a race last year and was all smiles after finishing his first triathlon. Our conversation reminded me of why I started my middle age journey into endurance sports five years ago. It’s all about pushing yourself to new limits. I expect to see Kevin at future tris!
The North Shore Triathlon was a great way to conclude my tri season. I have a few more half-marathons and 5ks left in 2019, but it won’t be until 2020 that I see my triathlon “family” again in competition.