By Lisa Luttenegger and Cover Photo by Athlinks
The end of racing season is nigh and that means one thing: race registration season is upon us. 2017 Chicago Triathlon registration just opened Tuesday, November 1—with it, 100 spots to register for one of my favorite races: the Divvy SuperSprint.
Those who know me know I’m a huge Divvy advocate, so this race is a dream come true for me. I’ve participated twice since its launch three years ago, and I’m excited to see it around for its fourth year. Grateful that this event was made to happen, I love the idea of leveling the playing field by putting everyone on the same bike, while creating a superbly accessible outdoor triathlon.
Photo by Melissa Barrick McDaniel
In 2015, I committed to an E.T.-themed Divvy SuperSprint with my friend Melissa. With a stuffed E.T. character in each of our Divvy baskets and a red hoody costume, we shared some good laughs. We even had Reese’s Pieces for our “nutrition.” Unfortunately, most of my other memories of this race involve the cold, rainy weather—from shivering before the frigid swim to personally having one of the slowest overall T1 swim-to-bike transition times (try to get your arms into the sleeves of a thoroughly soaked hoodie). But this race is so fun and quirky that I found myself back again in 2016.
A few people have asked if I Divvy’d to the Divvy race, and the answer is yes, of course. Though this begs another question: no, you don’t have to BYODivvy; the bikes are provided inside the race, free and clear of the infamous 30-minute time limit (remember to bring your helmet!).
These SuperSprint + Kids’ races are held at the more low-key Foster Beach, taking place Saturday (the day before the downtown-based “main event” Sprint and International Sunday races). This year, the kids kicked the weekend off and we adults had a special late check-in. I appreciated the extra sleep as I was also participating in the much earlier sprint race the next day (some even opt for all three distances in a special “Triple Challenge” division). The Divvy wave brings up the rear on Saturday, but you must leave the transition area with all participants.
Note: My advice is to make sure you’ve taken off your helmet/hat/shoes and set your seatpost height. Then, grab your coffee/snack as they shoo you out of the area.
Everyone has a front row view of earlier waves of athletes completing the 375-meter swim. The water was choppy this year but 375 meters doesn’t cover a ton of aquatic real estate when you’re presented with a beach start and a very shallow Lake Michigan—the attainable swim is another reason this race is great for beginners looking to…test the waters…You do have to get around the furthest turn buoys (6-ft deep at most), but you can nearly walk/splash-dash through the swim if you have to (compared to the Kids’ 200m…they nearly had the opportunity to swim). And if you’re a strong swimmer, you can bank decent time with a fast swim.
It’s a good idea to make sure you know where you left your bike…since they all look the same in the Divvy wave. Though, if you take my word for it, you should know…I practically needed a cue sheet to find my OWN bike in the Sprint race on Sunday. Remember your landmarks. Put your shoes on. Put your helmet on. That’s all.
Photo by Lisa Luttenegger
Bike - The main event, for the Divvy wave.
I’m familiar with the area that is the bike course, so I knew when to expect small inclines and how, with a 3-loop course, there would be five 180-degree turns. I decided to go all in and grab the basket (you can’t exactly clip aerobars on to a Divvy). Gear #3 was set and I pedaled like mad. I was thrilled to come away with a 17mph average on my Garmin. The course is transparent (3 loops), so you know where you’re at as you see all your friends multiple times. Except for Melissa—girl had the right of passage of a lifetime, getting a flat on her Divvy.
Rule number 1: roll with the punches. Note: There is no SAG but officials did offer her a new bike at the end of the first lap.
The bike course atmosphere is awesome; it’s utterly hilarious to see a bunch of people racing Divvy bikes, or in costume (one guy raced in a full suit)…but most of all, the athletes are supportive, smiling, and cheering each other on. Some are on the Divvy because they don’t even own a bike (yet), and others are seasoned triathletes with n+1 bikes.
The sad part is how quickly the 10.5k ride is over…
Shoes are already on! Ditch the bike, grab your bib number. Oh, and it’s a good idea to take your helmet off…happens to the best of’em.
Photo by Athlinks
Similar to 2015, it had rained and the run course and eventually my entire legs resembled wet paint mixed with sand and grime. There were plenty of puddles and not a lot of room to get around them, but for a 2.5k run (~ a mile and a half), you make it work. And if you’re out for fun, you might appreciate the view of our lovely parks and lakefront.
The run always feels like my weakest leg in this race, and 20+ minutes of furious pedaling on the tank that is Divvy doesn’t leave the legs feeling fresh. Despite a substantial lead off the bike, I was aware of the looming threat of being run down and didn’t hold back (save for a fleeting thought of racing again tomorrow).
Here I am with CES teammate Katie England--she was second place overall female of the SuperSprint (non-Divvy category). Photo by Jennifer Hienton
I held on for my first and last Divvy SuperSprint title (giving the Triple Challenge a shot in 2017). It was a different kind of race than 2015, but that’s the magic of the Chicago SuperSprint—it’s a race for all, and a unique way to participate in this fun weekend.
Lisa Luttenegger is a Chainlink ambassador and all-distance triathlete with Chicago Endurance Sports--most notably the Ironman and Divvy SuperSprint. She learned how to ride a bike on a dirt mound in the back yard and hopes to someday return to these cyclocross roots and remedy her bike-race envy. Lisa shares a condo with her tuxedo Maine Coon, Joe Meower.