Growing group gives grueling events a tri
By Anthony D. Alonzo Post-Tribune correspondent June 13, 2012 11:06PM
Members of NWITRI, a second-year Northwest Indiana-based triathlon team, pose at the Pavilion at Wolf Lake Memorial Park after Leon's Triathlon on June 3. | Anthony D. Alonzo~for the Post-Tribune
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Updated: July 15, 2012 3:13PM
When Leon’s Triathlon returned as a high-profile annual event held in Hammond, discussion focused on the event’s financial boon to the area. That restoration also inspired a group of region-based triathletes who look to push their skills at the “home event” and beyond.
Formed shortly before the 2011 Leon’s, NWITRI — short for Northwest Indiana triathletes — gained traction by fielding a few participants in that event. Now the group has expanded to more than 30 local “tris” who train with and encourage each other to meet the challenges of the 3-in-1 sports competitions.
“We have been focusing on this,” said 49-year-old NWITRI member Elaine McCracken about Leon’s. “We were here last year and we saw some of the stuff that was going on and we said we wanted to be a presence this year.”
Not to be shown up in their own back yard by competitors coming to Northwest Indiana from across the country, NWITRI got on the board at the May 3 competition, earning top-3 age group wins by Jamie Beal (third place, 35-39 division), Angela Erb (third place, 50-54 division), Jan Duncker (third place, 55-59 division), and Liz Vandervelde (first place, senior division).
McCracken, who participated in the recent Leon’s, is NWITRI’s vice president. She also focuses on new team member training. Other specialists, such as non-tri Matt Lee of the Munster Swim Club, have been integral to the group’s preparations. Lee helped secure the use of Munster’s new $17 million aquatic center for team practices.
“Eight weeks ago I still used nose plugs when swimming,” said NWITRI newbie Kerry Martin. “(The team trainers) got me out of noseplugs.”
Martin cheered on Leon’s participants near the Wolf Lake shoreline this time. Dozens of tris ran by peeling off parts of their dripping gear in the transition from swimming to cycling. She’s feeling more confident about swimming, the event she called “the most feared part of the triathlon.”
Looking to invest in several more weeks of training, Martin may soon take the plunge, pedal and strides of a triathlon. Several other NWITRI members have their sights set on upcoming tris, such as the July 14 Valparaiso Triathlon, the Aug. 4 LaPorte YMCA Triathlon, and the Chicago Triathlon, which runs from Aug. 24 to 26.
Beal, a Griffith resident, finished Leon’s to the sound of her teammates saying, “You smoked it, girl.” She said swimming was her strong suit.
“I like the water,” said Beal, 36, as group president Anthony Downey looked on. “The bike (part) is a challenging course; it’s very windy on Cline Avenue. One direction it’s smooth sailing, and the other direction the wind is in your face.”
NWITRI members said that despite what sometimes seems like an uphill climb, the group has been able to gain sponsorships and get off to a good start this year. At their first Leon’s, a member got a flat tire and there was also a cycling accident. 2012 has been incident-free.
For more details about NWITRI, visit www.nwitri.org.