This was the first year for the Tampa Double Iron (4.8 mile swim, 224 mile bike, 52.4 mile run) – hosted by Steve Kirby. Steve also directs the Virginia Double/Triple Iron events every October. As with any first time race certain items will be improved but overall as all athletes agreed, the race was a huge hit! It was clearly evident at the post race awards ceremony as many athletes made a few comments that they were all interested in coming back again to the race in 2012. I wanted to highlight some aspects of the race for athletes who might consider a race distance longer than the Ironman. Steve will be posting all the results, etc. and my focus is on the event with the purpose of educating athletes that you might consider this event to your race calendar in 2012.
The weather was a welcome relief for many athletes arriving to Tampa from cold climates. My wife and I came from Pittsburgh and when we landed it was approximately 60 degrees warmer than home. This would have an impact of not being acclimated to the warmer temperatures but it was going to be a joy not having to put on multiple layers of clothing and riding and running in shorts!
The race started at a local YMCA with a 50 meter pool that was fabulous. The water temperatures were cool enough to allow athletes to wear wetsuits. There were 4 athletes in the each lane (very wide lanes). Swimming outside in the beautiful 75 degree sunny skies of Florida was a highlight for all participants and crews. After the swim and because of construction, each athlete was given a 30 minute allotment of time to be subtracted after the finish and transported to the bike transition area a couple miles away. This system worked out well and eliminated potential traffic problems, danger with drivers, etc.
The bike course road conditions and loop were amazing. The smoothest road I have been on in a long time. The completely flat loop was fast for sure but the added elements of sun/warm temperatures along with wind on the back section of the loop made it challenging. Also, no vehicle traffic on the course made it perfect to hammer the bike with no distractions. In my opinion it is one of the best bike loops on the entire IUTA circuit. Steve and his volunteer team had large tents set up for the athlete’s crews and was convenient to the bike and run loops. There were not problems at night, very easy to navigate the course and all athletes agreed that the course selection was superb.
Off to the run, which was an out and back course. There was a shaded section (pine trees) lining the road for about half of the run which made it pleasant as the temperatures and sun rose during the day. Similar to the bike course, the run was completely flat and fast.
The crews take on a lot of work when they decide to help out an athlete and it’s always great to see the various small “parties” going on and new bonds and friendships between crews and athletes from around the world. There were several first timers that came to Tampa and now are part of the ultra-tri family. These are demanding races and the challenge of the distance and multiple disciplines are the attraction for the athletes as compared to single sport ultra distance races.
There were many great race performances, but one stood out for me – Leslie Holton’s amazing finish to beat the cut-off with completely wrecked/blistered feet. She dug real deep and had to run as hard as possible the last 10 miles to make it and watching her come across the finish line with absolutely nothing left was emotional for everyone. Also, a big shout out for every athlete who competed in this fine event.
The post-race party was at a restaurant on the Tampa Bay. As we all gazed at the sun, waves, and various swimmers/boaters out of the full glass windows, it made us temporarily forget about the snow, ice and long cold winter back home. Personally, I wanted to thank Steve and his small staff of volunteers for directing this great event. Will I be back next year? You all know the answer to that question – ABSOLUTELY!
Get this race on your schedule if you want a heck of a challenge, meet some great new friends/athletes from around the world, and kick off your season with nice warm weather in Florida be there next March!