Foster Grant Ironman 70.3 World Championship, Clearwater 2008  

Posted by FLATOUT JIM

Getting there was a story in itself. The important thing was that I qualified just like all the other participants. This was simply an awesome event. Clearwater Beach is a small enough community that a couple of thousand athletes and their families pretty much fills up the town. Being a World Championship event, the set up and the atmosphere was unlike any other event I have ever taken part in including Ironman Florida. Among other things, one cool thing about this event was that with the wave starts, my age group had time to watch the start of the pro field, and even watch a good number of them exit the water.


SWIM
The swim was a single loop salt water swim in the Gulf of Mexico. Conditions were ideal. Low wind calm seas, again unlike my Ironman Florida experience. I started out and tried to pick up a draft, but after a couple of hundred metres I found myself swimming too hard to try to bridge from group to group. So I started to relax and concentrate on my technique. Stretch out and finish my stroke. When I turned the second buoy and started home, I peaked at my watch and read an unbelievable 16 minutes. I felt good so I just went with it. Coming home I got a little disoriented with the sun directly in my eyes. I started to see some different colour caps and assumed I was getting passed. Then I realized that I was passing them. I had bridged up to the next wave, and finished with a 34:17 personal best for 2000m.
BIKE
Transition felt like forever, but ended up only being less than 5 minutes. The volunteers were awesome. They helped with everything. The bikes were racked by waves and that meant the racks were empty up to my mine making it very easy to find my bike. Out onto the course, it took very little time to settle in. The course whined through the streets of the town of Clearwater, and in the residential neighbourhoods, we only had a single narrow lane. When you get passed by packs of 15 and 20 bikes, with three abreast, you have to be very careful not to get clipped. About an hour in, I saw what looked like a mountain bike up ahead. As I got close, I realized there were two guys on the bike; it was Ironman legends Rick and Dick Hoyt. I couldn’t help but to give them a wave and a yell as I rode by. Nearing the end, I was starting to hurt and really had to bear down and concentrate to stay in the aero position. When I finally crossed the bridge, and returned to transition, I was 2:52:34. A little short of my goal of 2:45, but still a little better than Corner Brook.

RUN
In an event like this, you can’t help but to push a little harder than you would at a local event. And even though my bike split was less than spectacular, I did ride hard, and so I was concerned starting the run. As I made my slow exit out of transition, my legs slowly started to come around. I passed a couple of people hobbling along, likely starting their second lap. Across the causeway, and then up over the bridge. The route was nearly dead flat except for the arch bridge that joined Clearwater to the beach, and which was built to allow boats to pass under. It really isn’t that big a hill, but after hammering the bike for almost 3 hours, it felt like Mount Everest. There were still bikes coming in and I thought, Thank @#%& that’s not me. The run turns through some really nice neighbourhoods with lots of big trees for shade, and with some big gated houses. I stuck to my plan of walking at the aid stations and taking in fluids. On the homestretch, back across the causeway, I felt good enough to skip the last two and keep running at a good pace. There was a local radio station with a video truck blasting tunes as we ran past. I requested some TRAGICALL HIP, and the DJ looked at me like I had 10 heads. Guess good ole Canadian rock don’t make it this far south. Back through transition and into the finish chute. My finish time of 5:38:23 was about 9 minutes faster than Corner Brook. Short of my goal, but a PB just the same.

FINISH
The cool thing about doing a race in Florida is you are doing a race in Florida. Even though the event was over, I still had a finishers banquet, complete with fireworks, on the beach at Sand Key Park, and still had a week of vacation coming. From a triathlon point of view, I am now trying to figure out how to get back to Clearwater.

Farewell to Ironman Newfoundland 70.3  

Posted by FLATOUT JIM



It wasn’t long after I made my last post that rumours started to fly about the possible demise of the Ironman Newfoundland 70.3. Low turnout along with new races in Muscoka and Calgary would make it difficult to continue with the event even though it was well run, and featured an awesome course.

By mid fall, the rumours turned to fact, and Wreckhouse Entertainment put an end to their two year relationship with North American Sports, and announced there would be no 2009 event.

Having a 70.3 event so close to home made it near impossible to resist. Given the fact that I was born and raised in Corner Brook, and still had family there made the logistics of planning a trip around the event too easy to pass up.

Ironically, one of the factors that led to the events demise was one of the biggest draws for me. Low numbers made the chances of hooking a qualifying slot for Clearwater pretty good, but at the same time, low numbers made it difficult for the organizers to continue.

In retrospect, I felt that the 2008 event showed significant improvement, and although the numbers were only slightly better than 2007, the number of Newfoundland athletes dropped which meant that the increase in overall numbers came from athletes from away.

If the event was in danger of being discontinued, it would have been good to give it just one more try, or even make the 2009 event the last, that way, anyone who skipped 08 would have one last chance to participate in this type of race without having to travel to St. Croix, or Timberman, or Orlando. And maybe if there was just one more year, and a bump up in participants, organizers might rethink the decision, but hindsight is 20-20, and I am sure that these ideas were well considered and contemplated, and in the end, the final decision was one that the organizers could live with.

So to Steve and Mark and all the other people who made the event possible, Thanks. And to the people of Pasadena and Corner Brook who opened up their communities to athletes from all over the world, you should give yourselves a pat on the back. I have travelled to a couple of events, in different destinations, and the venue and course for the Ironman Newfoundland 70.3 was second to none, and I will miss swimming Deer Lake, and riding and running the Humber Valley.

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