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updated: 6/8/2014 6:59 PM

Supportive atmosphere reigns at Naperville Esprit de She triathlon

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  • Participants in the annual Esprit de She Triathlon in Naperville smile as they near the finish line on Sunday. The women-only triathlon included more than 1,500 athletes.

       Participants in the annual Esprit de She Triathlon in Naperville smile as they near the finish line on Sunday. The women-only triathlon included more than 1,500 athletes.
    Matt Arado | Staff Photographer

  • One triathlon participant brings her children with her as she crosses the finish line Sunday in the annual Esprit de She Triathlon in Naperville. The women-only triathlon included more than 1,500 athletes.

       One triathlon participant brings her children with her as she crosses the finish line Sunday in the annual Esprit de She Triathlon in Naperville. The women-only triathlon included more than 1,500 athletes.
    Matt Arado | Staff Photographer

  • The annual Esprit de She Triathlon in Naperville brought a big crowd of athletes and supporters to Centennial Beach on Sunday. The event featured a half-mile swim, 13.3-mile bike ride and 3.1-mile run.

       The annual Esprit de She Triathlon in Naperville brought a big crowd of athletes and supporters to Centennial Beach on Sunday. The event featured a half-mile swim, 13.3-mile bike ride and 3.1-mile run.
    Matt Arado | Staff Photographer

 
 

Kim Novotny of Wheaton was all smiles after finishing the Esprit de She Triathlon in Naperville on Sunday.

"I feel great," she said, "I finished second in my age group."

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Kathy Kari of Lisle, Novotny's friend, quickly piped up.

"And I simply finished!" she said with a smile.

Novotny and Kari were among the more than 1,500 women who participated in Sunday's triathlon, a signature early-summer event in Naperville. The triathlon consisted of a half-mile swim, a 13.3-mile bike ride and a 3.1-mile run.

The finish line was located at Centennial Beach, which by late morning was mobbed with the athletes' cheering, screaming supporters.

The event is a rebranded version of the SheRox triathlons, part of a series that started in Naperville in 2002. As always, Sunday's event was open only to women, which several participants said is a key to its enduring appeal.

"It makes for such a nice atmosphere," Novotny said. "You have all kinds of people doing it, including a lot of first-timers, and there's so much support and love the whole way. There isn't that competitive feeling that usually exists in races that include men."

Sunday's weather was nearly perfect, participants said -- sunny, cool and dry. The only challenge was a persistent wind.

"I felt that the most on the bike," said Maureen McGovern of Northbrook. "It was like you couldn't move sometimes. But I think a lot of that is mental, too."

Sunday was McGovern's third Esprit de She triathlon. She finished it along with her daughter, Maggie, and their friend, Lauren Chana.

"I really like this course," Maggie McGovern said. "And the feeling is great. There isn't a lot of pressure. All along the way people are talking to you, supporting you."

The post-race scene at Centennial Beach included a market where the athletes could enjoy a massage or sample some healthy food. Esprit de She is organized by Lifetime Fitness and Athleta. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Girls on the Run Chicago and the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund.

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