Agony of triathlon, joy of competition

By Etheria Modacure

Swimming, biking and running are ways of exercising many find rewarding, but doing all three on the same day along Lake Michigan can be challenging. This didn’t deter more than 8,500 Olympic, paratriathlon, elite, amateur and first-time triathletes from competing in the 28th annual Lifetime Fitness Chicago Triathlon on Aug. 29.

From elite athletes to local law enforcement and military personnel, participants gave their full effort to compete in an event known as the Guinness World Record holder of the world’s largest triathlon.

“What could be better than swimming in Lake Michigan, riding down Lake Shore Drive with the skyline behind you and running through the park?” said 14th District Chicago Police Officer Mike Sanchez. “People are obviously excited to be down here, this is a great race.”

Amateur and first-time competitors started the event before sunrise as they began swimming in Lake Michigan at Monroe Harbor.

After swimming 1.5 miles, triathletes moved to riding 40 kilometers north along Lake Shore Drive from Randolph Street to Foster Avenue.

At the bike turnaround near the Foster Avenue exit, there was a bike specialist helping cyclists who had trouble with their bikes so they could continue the race.

One cyclist had his tire pumped with air by Stan Anismov, who works at the Village Cycle Center, 1337 N. Wells St.  Anismov said he has volunteered at this event for nearly 10 years and he usually repairs 20 – 40 bikes during each triathlon.  Anismov said the repairs are mostly inner tubes or patches.

Cyclists returned to a transition area between Randolph and Monroe Streets to begin running 10 kilometers down the lakefront path to the 31st Street Harbor. Some amateur athletes ran the 5-kilometer sprint.

While the triathletes were running along the lakefront path, there were signs of encouragement from spectators that caught most of the runner’s attention.

Wendy Domanski, one of the spectators, had a sign that read, “Sorry this sucks. Keep Going!”

“I think people’s faces are kind of down and then they see [our sign] and they smile saying, ‘You’ve got the best sign yet,’” Domanski said. “This is a

tough race.”

Other competitors find numerous reasons to compete in such an endurance-testing event.

“It’s an addictive sport,” said Jean Draper, a contestant in the parartriathlon event. “Your first thought is to

challenge yourself.”

Draper’s right leg was amputated below the knee after a car accident in 2005. Draper had the support of her husband Rob Draper, who motivated her to continue competing in triathlons.

“It was something we used to do when we were dating. I thought I would run again, but I didn’t think I would do a triathlon again,” said Draper as she practiced before the event at Ohio Street Beach, 400 N. Lake Shore Drive. “I was a little bit intimidated”

The winners of the elite competition were Mark Fretta from Portland, Ore., and Sarah Haskins from Colorado Springs, Colo. Both triathletes won $10,000 in total

prize money.

“You’re only as good as your last race,” said Fretta, who has continued to compete in triathlons after suffering a broken collarbone in a 2006 cycling accident. “Winning doesn’t make the next race easier. This is my hobby.”

Haskins was happy to win her second consecutive triathlon here in Chicago.

“Just to put it together two years in a row is a great feeling,” Haskins said.

Haskins had no problem riding her bike on Lake Shore Drive as she zoomed past traffic jams and even a broken down vehicle between Addison and Grace streets.

“As racers, you have to look out for that kind of stuff,” Haskins said. “Whether it’s a pothole, a rider, something in the road; that’s our job to look out to be aware

[of it].”

The uniqueness of cyclists racing on an expressway got the attention of Haskins as she reflected upon it after the event.

“You’ve got cars right next to you—you kind of race the cars,” Haskins said. “You just kind of grind it out because you’re heading down a road and don’t have to worry about [sharp] turns.”