Suncoast Triathlon Race Report

The Suncoast triathlon held on the 30th of October was the last race in the Tampa Triathlon series. It was held in what has to be one of the best and fastest locations for a sprint event anywhere. The race was held, like the season opener, Escape from Fort De Soto, at the Fort De Soto park off the mainland part of St Petersburg and regularly ranked as one of the Top-10 beaches in the USA! In 2003, Simon Lessing won the early season race along with a number of other GB elites taking part, this year most of the 550 competitors were local, many from the St Petes Mad Dog triathlon club and Florida. There were though at least four of us racing from Europe, with three from GB.

The race started promptly at 8.00am. with a 1/3-mile swim in the salt-water lagoon next to the Gulf of Mexico, it was a mass start organised by age groups but with the elites leading off. In places the water was only just deep enough to swim in following the recent hurricanes, that though didn't stop one of the elite women coming in from the swim in 7.39, many people used "dolphin dives" for the fisrt 100ft or so once getting in the water. After the swim it was long run around the beach to T1, and from there out onto to the bike course.

The course was pretty unique in so much as it was closed roads, a L-shape course with a turn-around roundabout at each end. It's a fast course, you were able to get on the tri-bars quickly and to do the whole 11-mile bike course in the same gear and with no stops for traffic, crossing etc.

Once back into T2, it was out on a mixed 5k run course, concrete footpath on the way out, compacted sand on the way back. First home in the elite Mens division was Swen Sundberg from Germany who finished the course in 49:56; for the elite women, local athlete Sarah Groff finished in 56:58; Howard Davis fron Tri-Force, using the race as a warm-up for Ironman Florida a week later, came 5th out of 38 in the 40-44 Age groupin 1:01:50 ; Mark Cathcart from Tri-Force came 9th out of 26 in the 45-49 age group in 1:07:59.

The stand-out performance though came from 11-year old Bethany Saunders from Salford Junior Triathlon club. Bethany was 2nd in the 1-14 age group in 1:17:40. Bethany competed over exactly the same course and distance as the adults. Later the same day Bethany was flying back to the UK with her parents and was starting a new school the next day!

If you are going to Florida for vacation, a business trip or training and can find your way over to St Petersburg check-out the Florida Race Place website before coming. Fort De Soto is a beutiful location, great races and Joe/Fred and the team put on a great post race party. Not only that but trophies go to the first five in every age group!
http://www.flraceplace.com/TRI-GPIX/