Triathlon

Top Leon's Triathlon finishers like it cold

2013-06-02T22:00:00Z 2013-06-03T23:24:04Z Top Leon's Triathlon finishers like it coldJohn Burbridge john.burbridge@nwi.com, (219) 933-3371 nwitimes.com

HAMMOND | The body language said it all.

By the way they tightly crossed their arms while standing in place along the Wolf Lake Park pier while shrugging off a persistent mist from a pair of jet ski-propelled fly boarders hovering nearby, many of the Leon's Triathlon athletes didn't look too thrilled about taking a morning dip.

Especially this Sunday morning when the temperatures dropped into the 50s after a brisk northern wind chilled what had been a pleasant post dawn.

"Things will warm up once you get in the water," someone encouraged while wearing a parka in June.

At least Colin Riley didn't mind getting wet.

"Really, it felt great," the 25-year-old Naperville native and Cincinnati resident said after recording an overall winning time of 1 hour, 52 minutes and 5 seconds.

"I usually heat up when I swim anyway, so this was perfect," said Riley, who came out of the water in fifth place, and was neck-and-neck for the lead with Matthew Payne going into the final 6.2-mile run stage.

"After about a half mile, (Riley) just took off and I couldn't catch him," said Payne, 36, of Columbia Heights, Minn.

Riley and Payne had raced against each before in 2011 at the Best of the U.S. Triathlon in 2011. That time Payne placed first and Riley took third.

"This is my seventh season of doing triathlons," Payne said. "I basically drank my way through college and never got off the couch during most of my 20s."

Leon's is a USA Triathlon Regional Qualifier for the Olympic-Distance Nationals to take place Aug. 10 in Milwaukee. The event attracted athletes from across the country, including Kirsten Sass of McKenzie, Tenn., who, like Payne, won her first Leon's Triathlon during her first trip to Hammond with a top overall female time of 2:05:40.

"The wind affected my bike, and the cold made it difficult to change my shoes during the transition," said the 33-year-old Sass, who plans to run her first Ironman in New York City this summer after championship success in a half-Ironman in Arizona.

"And, as you could almost expect, there are double-Ironmans," Sass said. "People are always stretching the limits, but Ironman is as far as I'm going."

As for Chris Wickard, this race may be as far as she's going. The Crown Point 43-year-old plans to close the book on a stellar triathlon career, which includes back-to-back overall female titles at Leon's in 2010 and 2011 before placing second last year.

On Sunday, Wickard's time of 2:14:32 was good enough for an eighth-place finish among females, and a fifth-place finish in the US Best division.

"I'm just fighting too many injuries," said Wickard, who often experiences pain along her right shoulder and arm due to a bulging disk in her neck.

"It's real bad when I swim," she said. "I don't plan on doing the Valpo and LaPorte (triathlons) this year. If you see me back here next year, it will be as a coach.

"That's what I'm going to be working on ... my USTA coaching certification."

This year's 40th-anniversary triathlon offered a fourth option: stand-up paddle boating.

"My brother got together with (race founder) Leon Wolek about including stand-up paddle boats as part of the race for those who would rather not swim," Kristen Lennert said of Chicago resident Matthew Lennert, owner of Windy City Waterman.

"Our course was a little longer than the swim course, and it was planned almost perfect as the first paddle boater out of the water came out with the first swimmer," Kristen said. "We had 16 paddle boaters in the race (including Matthew), and we should have even more if we do it again next year."

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