First-time triathletes mingled freely with more experienced competitors Sunday during the Orbea Naperville Sprint Triathlon at Centennial Beach.
Race Director Bill Burke, of Louisiana-based Premier Event Management, said the event, now in its 14th year, is the perfect entry-level triathlon for anyone looking to get into the sport.
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For one thing, he said, the swimming portion takes place in a pool surrounded by lifeguards, making it less intimidating than a swim in a larger body of water. The bicycling, he added, takes place on some of the nicest roads in the country, and the run takes competitors through a beautiful downtown.
The race includes a 400-meter swim, 20K bicycle course and 5K run.
Burke said between 1,500 and 1,600 athletes took part in the triathlon this year. That's down by about 200 from last year, because the event had to be rescheduled, placing it on the same weekend as another race in Milwaukee.
Darryl Tyndorf of Wheaton said he appreciated the opportunity to compete in a triathlon held in the Naperville area.
"I would say it's kind of like our local course. It's nice to have an event in your backyard," he said.
The event's reputation drew participants from as far as Chicago and DeKalb.
Kevin Hsu of Chicago said he had heard the event was well established and well organized. So he took part in it last year and enjoyed it so much he decided to return.
"It's not a particularly challenging course per se," he said. "The nice thing about it is, because it's fairly scenic and it's a nice area here, it makes the race go by a lot quicker.
"You get to see all the different residential areas and run through them and bike through them."
Families also had a chance to spend time together, as was the case with Jim Hogan, 70, of Minooka, and his daughter, Anne Falk, 37, of Aurora.
"It's a good time, particularly afterward, wearing the medal and flaunting it in front of my other senior citizen buddies," Hogan said.
For Bob Hopfner, 44, of Carol Stream, it was not only his first triathlon but also a chance to learn a new skill. Hopfner, who celebrates his birthday Monday, said he was inspired by his wife, Cathy, who has been running marathons.
However, he had to learn how to swim.
"I actually am swimming with a snorkel because I don't have to worry so much about timing. I can just breathe through the tube, so it's really easy."
Cathy, meanwhile, cheered him on.
"For the first time I get to be the spectator," she said. "I'm excited for him. It's the day before his birthday, and I can't think of a better way to celebrate."