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Twenty women go the distance in swim/bike/run competition

Some group members who traMundleeshow off medals they earned for finishing triathlon. | SUBMITTED PHOTO

Some of the group members who train in Mundleein show off the medals they earned for finishing the triathlon. | SUBMITTED PHOTO

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Event — Esprit de She Triathlon in Naperville

Total participants — 1,229

Challenge — Half-mile swim, 14.2-mile bike ride, and 3.1-mile run (“sprint” triathlon)

Team Mundelein — Coed training group meets in Mundelein with about 30 members. Started training last September.

This triathlon was for women, and 20 women on Team Mundelein participated, ranging in age from 20-66.

The group of 20 included two cancer survivors, four first-time triathletes, and three mother/daughter teams.



Lori duPont & Carly Beranek

Linda & Amy Klink

Karen & Alli Whitson

The Rest of the Team

Jen Knop

Bev Johnson

Teri Kleiner

Carla Billinger

Peggy Billitier

Margie Wingender

Maggie Ryan

Sherry Schrank

Peg Turner

Kristina Watanabe

M.J. Pfingsten

Mari Hoetzer

Donna Walker

Rae Ollendick


Nancy Toland, Stacy Obispo & Debbie Yakimisky

Updated: August 18, 2013 2:32AM

Turns out there’s more than one “M.J.” out there inspiring people to achieve seemingly impossible goals.

Who knew?

During his pro basketball career, Michael Jordan did truly amazing things on the hardwood, and he inspired an entire generation of youngsters to strive for excellence and pursue their athletic dreams.

That also pretty much describes our own “M.J.” — Mary Julie Pfingsten, a 66-year-old who lives in Mundelein. She doesn’t a jump shot and can’t dunk. But she has the same drive to succeed as that other M.J.”

And recently, that drive and desire carried her and her 19 teammates across the finish line, winners all in the Esprit de She Triathlon — a sprint-type triathlon for females that was held in Naperville.

Our “M.J.” is part of a 30-member coed group that trains regularly in Mundelein. The workouts started last September and the female members then parlayed what they’d practiced for into results, completing the half-mile swim, 14.1-mile bike ride, and 3.1-mile run that constituted a “sprint distance” triathlon.

Why tri?

“It gives me a feeling of well being, doing something good for my health,” said Pfingsten. “The best part about completing a triathlon is that I can (finish). It’s great to have a lofty goal for yourself and to achieve it when you thought you couldn’t.

“There is no feeling like crossing that finish line. And an incredible feeling of finishing the swim since only 4 years ago, I could hardly put my face in the water.

“I do this to prove that you are never too old. In 2011, when I did my first tri, I told myself ‘NO REGRETS. I wanted to know that I could do it.”

Our “M.J.” is also glad to be part of a triathlon team.

“I am just as excited when a teammate crosses the finish line,” she said.

As for training, Pfingsten said her teammate, Kristina Watanabe, said it best: “It is hard to train; there are good and bad days. Some days can be miserable, but the awesomeness of completing a goal is worth it all.”

Pfingsten also said a half-dozen team members will be competing in a half-Ironman triathlon in Door County later this summer. She said teammate Rebecca Atkinson, who is going to Door County, summed up the sport this way: “You are the one that has to make the decision to carry on, to change shoes, take a drink and keep at it. That’s why, crossing the finish line, you are triumphant in your accomplishment. You did it , you finished. You conquered whatever demon of self-doubt told you that you were being ridiculous, and you won.”

Just like that other “M.J.” always did.

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