When Gary Honeyman raced in the Batavia Triathlon in June, he panicked in the water. At the Naperville Sprint Triathlon Sunday, he finished in second place in the 70-74 age category, thanking Experience Triathlon training club for teaching him how to swim in open water.
The Batavia man raced in triathlons about 8 years ago and picked it up again more recently. He hopes to finish his third race of the season in September.
"You don't quit because you get old," Honeyman said after the race. "You get old because you quit."
The swim portion of the Naperville triathlon was 400 meters through Centennial Beach, with a 22-kilometer bike route and 5-kilometer run rounding out the race.
More than 2,100 people participated, making this year's race the largest yet.
Many triathletes point to the swim as the most difficult portion of the race. Like Honeyman, 17-year-old Ashley Lester, of Lisle, feels least comfortable in the water. She said it's hard to see where you're going at Centennial Beach but got through the race nonetheless.
Lester and her boyfriend Viktor Vajda, 22, also of Lisle, participate in at least four triathlons each summer, training together every day. The Naperville race is the largest they compete in, which is both a pro and a con.
"There are more things to do at it but it's a lot more crowded when you're racing," Lester said.
For Elizabeth Waterstraat, 37, the crowd of racers didn't really get in the way. The Naperville woman finished with the fastest female time, starting and ending at the front of the pack with a finish time of 1 hour and 6 minutes. Waterstraat said she ran her first triathlon in Naperville about 13 years ago because she thought it would be fun. Her strength was in running but she said now she is equally strong in all three sports after more than a decade of triathlons under her belt. Waterstraat won last year's Naperville triathlon, and travels throughout the country for races. Her hometown event is always a fun one, though.
"It's beautiful, it's safe, it's fast," Waterstraat said. "And it's five minutes from my home."
Race director Bill Burke said the sprint distance triathlon is a good one for new racers with Sunday's weather making the event close to perfect. For less experienced triathletes who are not eating right or hydrating before the race, heat can be a killer. But Saturday's rain left Sunday morning fresh and cool.
"That's a lifesaver for an event like this," Burke said.
With more than 500 extra water bottles when the last racer crossed the finish line, and just one person treated for dehydration, Burke figures the 2012 race was a success.