Naperville triathlon brings 'very fit people,' novices together to race

  • A 375-meter swim will begin the 11th annual Naperville Sprint Triathlon for all participants except about 100 signed up for a duathlon that instead starts with a milelong run.

    A 375-meter swim will begin the 11th annual Naperville Sprint Triathlon for all participants except about 100 signed up for a duathlon that instead starts with a milelong run. John Starks | Staff Photographer August 2015

  • Running from the swimming portion to the transition area to hop on a bike is part of the Naperville Sprint Triathlon, this year set to begin at 7 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 5, at Centennial Beach, 500 W. Jackson Ave.

    Running from the swimming portion to the transition area to hop on a bike is part of the Naperville Sprint Triathlon, this year set to begin at 7 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 5, at Centennial Beach, 500 W. Jackson Ave. Daily Herald file photo August 2014

  • A 22-kilometer bike is the middle leg of the Naperville Sprint Triathlon, set to race for its 11th year at 7 a.m. Aug. 5 starting at Centennial Beach, 500 W. Jackson Ave.

    A 22-kilometer bike is the middle leg of the Naperville Sprint Triathlon, set to race for its 11th year at 7 a.m. Aug. 5 starting at Centennial Beach, 500 W. Jackson Ave. Harry Hitzeman | Staff Photographer/August 2016

 
 
Updated 8/1/2018 6:24 AM

At 40 years old, preparing for his second national triathlon and his first international competition in the sport, Brian Dickhut might sound like a standout among the field in the Naperville Sprint Triathlon.

But as the race prepares for its 11th year at Centennial Beach, organizers say athletes of his caliber are not uncommon.

 

"There's a lot of highly qualified, very fit people who do these events," said Bill Burke, a race director with Louisiana-based Premier Event Management.

Among them, though, are a lot of newbies who are thrilled to swim in a quarry-turned-pool instead of a wide open lake and are wondering how their bike's gears will hold up to a speed and endurance challenge. The race is a 375-meter swim, zigzagging across the deep end of the pool; a 22-kilometer bike route; and a 5-kilometer, or 3.1-mile, run.

"The race itself, it's great for first-timers," said Dickhut of Aurora, who was a novice himself in 2011. "It's still competitive for those who have done it a lot of times. There's something for everybody in it."

Burke says his team cultivates that all-encompassing attitude. This year, they've tweaked race offerings to include, for the first time, a duathlon, a run-bike-run challenge of 1 mile running, 22 kilometers biking, then another 3.1 miles running.

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"It's just another way to offer something for different athletes," Burke said. "There's just some people who don't want to swim."

The nonswimmers will complete their first milelong run, then enter the transition area in the beach parking lot at 500 W. Jackson Ave., merging with typical triathlon racers as they exit the pool. Burke said about 100 people are registered for the duathlon, among a total race field that's anticipated to be between 1,900 and 2,000.

This year the race, set to take off at 7 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 5, also includes a traditional kids triathlon and a second annual aquabike, featuring a 375-meter swim and 22-kilometer bike.

As Dickhut has progressed within the sport of triathlon, improving his times, scoring personal records and qualifying for national then international events along the way, he said he's seen some of the same spectators cheering him on.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

He trains frequently at the beach and has befriended a group of loyalists who call themselves the Beach Bums. But even on race day, he says he sees familiar faces.

Burke agrees, saying Naperville seems to thrill in welcoming triathletes for a morning of competition, followed by recovery brunches and celebratory shopping downtown.

"The whole community really loves this event," Burke said.

For Dickhut this year, the Naperville Sprint Triathlon isn't a focus. It's a step along his training schedule preparing him for USA Triathlon Nationals on Aug. 11 and 12 in Cleveland and the World Triathlon Championships from Sept. 12 to 16 in Gold Coast, Australia.

"It seems short now, but at the time, it seemed like such a thing to have completed it," Dickhut said, comparing his first triathlon experience to his stamina now.

Instead of only sprint distances, Dickhut now competes at both the sprint and Olympic levels, and also has completed the longest type of triathlon, an Ironman, with a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike and a marathon run of 26.2 miles.

"You find a different place within yourself as far as how much you can push yourself," he said.

At his home course in Naperville, Dickhut, a software engineer, finished in 32nd place last year with a time of 1 hour, 4 minutes and 30 seconds. He's not as focused on beating that time this year as he is on keeping his form and pacing steady the week before his big national race.

"The real key in success for me," he said, "is did I go through transitions with no wasted time."

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