CRYSTAL LAKE – Why do you race? It is a simple but loaded question. When Chris Rodriguez was asked this, he picked up his phone from the picnic table it was resting on and read directly from it.
Before, he had raced to prove his worthiness, and to prove that he could beat his personal records. Now he had a new reason.
“I try because I enjoy it, and I’m good at it. I yearn to be seen and to be heard, and to make a difference in the community,” Rodriguez read as tears welled in his eyes. “I yearn to inspire, to be a leader and courageous, and have a unity with the community and a sense of family. ”
When Rodriguez, an Oakwood Hills resident, discovered the reason he races, he stopped wearing a watch while competing. From triathlons, to mountain biking, to XTERRA racing, Rodriguez began to race for the race itself rather than what the watch read when he crossed the finish line.
If he had been wearing a watch at his latest race, the Illinois Triathlon Championship, it would have read 2 hours, 11 minutes, 43 seconds. That’s how long it took him to complete a course that pits participants against 1,500 meters of swimming, 26.5 miles of biking, and 10 kilometers of running.
In all, including relay teams, 441 people participated in the triathlon, which took place at Three Oaks Recreation Area. Participants could choose between an Olympic-length triathlon, or a Sprint Triathlon, which is a little less than half the distance of the Olympic course. Options such as Aquabike and relay teams were provided as well.
Rodriguez’s time was by the far the fastest among those who competed in the Olympic-length triathlon Sunday. The next closest time to his was about eight minutes slower. His time was so fast, that several people afterward jokingly asked him if he had found and taken a short cut.
And as Rodriguez – who didn’t check his time or placing until about an hour after he crossed the finish line – had discovered this last winter, the time or result isn’t why he races.
“Since then,” Rodriguez said, referring to his epiphany. “I was like, ‘You know what, I’m not going to wear a watch anymore.’ Because I don’t need to prove to myself like I was trying to do in the past.”
Even with him finishing in front of the pack, Rodriguez said he doesn’t get much time to train. Between balancing family time and work – he’s a heating and air technician at H.R. Stewart in Cary – he rarely finds time to focus solely on preparing for the next event.
But that doesn’t diminish his love for the sport. Sometimes, he’ll come straight from work, jump out his car and straight into the water for a swim.
“I found a sport that I love,” he said. “I found something I’m really good at, and I enjoy doing.”
It almost seems like an afterthought that Rodriguez had almost not competed in the race at all. He joined the competition Sunday morning, less than 24 hours after he had been the best man at a friend’s wedding.
In the span of one day, Rodriguez had attended a wedding – which involved giving salsa lessons with his girlfriend to others at the wedding and giving a best-man speech that he claims “left no dry eyes in the room” – and won a triathlon.
But a busy schedule is nothing new for Rodriguez. In the next month, he will compete in a race every weekend, in some form or another. For now, he seemed pretty content with what he did this weekend.
“It felt incredible,” Rodriguez said of crossing the finish line in front local people, many of whom he is friends with. “It felt really good. This is probably one of my favorite races of the year.”
Top Olympic-length triathlon finishers
1. Christopher Rodriguez 2:11:43
2. Jeffrey Herman 2:19:03
3. Mark Londa 2:21:26
4. Shannon Schroeder 2:21:42
5. Matthew Gervase 2:22:00
6. Kevin Steward 2:22:57
7. Katie O' Connor 2:25:13
8. Carlos Monzon 2:25:17
9. Mark Beening 2:25:32
10. David Machemer 2:26:43
Top Sprint-length triathlon finishers
1. Timothy Suter 1:05:51 DeKalb
2. Steve Fredrickson 1:06:03 Genoa
3. Matt Jennings 1:06:12 Frankfort
4. Will Cornish 1:06:17 Naperville
5. Dave Naze 1:09:55 Clarendon Hills
6. Tyler Veerman 1:10:15 Pekin
7. Tom Veerman 1:11:56 Pekin
8. Bill Opila 1:11:56 Downers Grove
9. Tom Fox 1:12:13 Lakewood
10. Krzyszlof Musk 1:13:12 Crystal Lake