Escape from Fort De Soto triathlon

Fort De Sotoin 2002 GBs' Simon Lessing elite triathlete supreme started out his season by winning at Fort De Soto, this year would it be my turn to win at what is regularly rated one of Americas Top-10 beaches ? Well of course not but we can all dream!

Having only flown in late on Friday evening and been assembling my bike still at 11.30pm. including fitting brand new aero-bars bought from Gottaridebikes Store on eBayand given I had to be at the race registration no later than 6.15am the next morning, I was a little apprehensive.

A short drive from downtown St Petersburg to Mullet key near the southernmost tip of Pinellas County. It was clear from the approach that this was going to be a pancake flat and fast course, and it was. After parking I went directly to the USAT desk, completed my day license form, paid my 9 USD and then went to the registration and packet pick-up, and body marking, no lines. Body marking was as usual in US races, numbers on bot thighs and arms, age on back of both calf muscles.

It was then quickly into transition and rack the bike and layout my stuff. We had numbered bike racks which were laid out in an A-shape, no real advantage to position as it was in one end and out at the other.

Having laid out my stuff I realised I'd left my number belt back in the UK, as anyone who knows me, knows I don't do safety pins! A quick stop at the resident bike mechanic and I'd bought another number belt. A few minor adjustments back in transition, mount the shoes on the pedals and it was time to walk along the beach to the start line.

As I walked along the beach a few things occured to me. The weather was great, although it was 7.20am it wasn't really cold; However, nearly 1/2 the field of sum 850 competitors were wearing wetsuits... I guess its true about the heat thinning your blood, after all no one would surely wear a wetsuit just to get a quicker swim time, would they ? I wasn't using a wetsuit.

When I got to the start position it also occured to me that it was a LONG way to the swim exit for a 400m swim, that was becuase it was a 1/2-mile swim. d'oh. Never mind, gthe swim to was about 40m out in about 1.5m deep water. I was in the last wave, we were about 45-50 in the Cyldesdale and Athena wave. The waves were going off at 3-minute intervals, mass start, swim out 40m to the first bouy, run left and them swim to the exit point 1/2-mile away.

The horn went and we were off; what was weird was that in with the big guys and gals were the under 16s. Very weird. I'd certainly have set them off after us and it must have been very intimidating for the two or three tiny 12-14 yr old girls that were stood near me on the beach - a couple of dolphin dives and I was into my stroke; not too much hustle at the turn bouy, and almost down to the last bouy it was pretty clear, I passed a few white hats and did collect a kick in the head at the last trun bouy but nothing too bad... a couple of olphon dives and it was up on the beach, a short run into transition helmet on and done up and off... turns out from the results I had one of the top-10 T1 times, 4th fastest age group T1 time and faster than all the femail elite, so thats alright ;-)

Fort De Soto MapOnce out on the bike and out onto the main strip for the fort(see left) there was a head-wind but I quickly started picking off cyclists, at the turn around at East Tip the wind was behind me and I continued to pick-off cyclists, until I was passed myself for the first time, after dropping back I put in a reall effort to get back past and continued on without being passed and back around to the transition entrance; leg over and off running into transition.

I had a lighting fast T2 but as I was leaving, I realised why... forgot my number belt for the 2nd time... back to my place, grab the belt and turn and run, probably cost me 15-seconds - it was out and over the steps at the Fort, not so difficult but I was glad to reach the top;

The run then went out onto the beach for about 1/4-mile and then onto a sand trail before returning into the park and the finish line. I was steadily picked off on the run, but overall, finished well up from my start position.

End times were 1:16:43, 12th Clydesdale, 265th overall. 12:49 swim for 800m which suggests the course was slightly short; 59-sec T1; 31:33 bike, 8th Clydesdale; 12th in 45-49 Age group; 1-37 T2 and a 29.46 5k run which althouhg a little disappointing was reasonale for me given my leg and the beach part of the run, I was 12th in Age group.

At the finish area there was LOADS of food, just when I was leaving loads of pizzas were arriving. This was a great season opening race, short, sharp and fast with online registration and great organisation!

There are a number of other races in the same location and by the same team this year[see links below], I hope to get back and do at least one more! Well done to Fred and his team! Its a beutiful location and would have been fun to spend more time looking around the park and taking it easy.


[Escape from Fort De Soto Triathlon web site]
[Tampa Tribune write-up and picture of 2004 winner]
[St Pete' Times write-up on 2004 triathlon]
[Official Fort de Soto web site]
[ review of the Fort De Soto park]
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