St. Anthony’s Triathlon has been on my race bucket list since 2013! I had planned to register for it last year, but it was only 2 weeks before Gulf Coast 70.3 and I was worried about having enough time to properly recover, so I decided to wait until this year. I’m really glad I did.
The St. Anthony’s Triathlon is a premier race event known for attracting a wide range of professional and amateur competitors including Olympic gold medalists, Ironman world champions and celebrity athletes who compete on a scenic course along the waterfront of downtown St. Petersburg, Florida. 2016 was the 33rd annual race and there were ~3,400 triathletes participating in either the Meek & Mighty triathlon (for kids and novice adults) on Saturday or the Sprint or Olympic distance races on Sunday.
Deb and I arrived in St. Petersburg on Saturday afternoon and went straight to the expo in North Shore Park for packet pickup and to see what goodies the vendors were offering. If I were to offer one criticism it would simply be for the race organizers to add street addresses for the expo/packet pickup location and bike check-in, so it would be easier to navigate there by GPS. But, no harm, no foul, we found both places – we just parked a long way away…
Packet pickup was pretty painless – it got a little clogged up, but there were so many people. As a race organizer myself, I cut them a lot of slack – they moved people through pretty well and 20 minutes later I walked out with a sweet USAT pint glass, a nice bright yellow dri-fit race shirt, my timing chip, bib, and an awesome bag of race swag. Then Deb and I went back to the car to get Chrissie (my bike) and take her to bike check-in. Everything went super-smooth – you’d think they had hosted this race a time or two… or 33. We checked out the swim start, we went back to the expo and poked around for a bit.
Then we headed for our hotel to wait for our roommate to arrive. We had the wonderful pleasure of having the super-speedy, Malachi Henry, stay in our room with us. What a delight!! He arrived and we all went for a walk on the beach and he bought us dinner at Sloppy Joe’s (which was connected to our hotel). Malachi brought his Normatec compression boots with him and was very generous with them. Oh, they are HEAVEN!!! I actually went through 2 cycles with them on Saturday night and another cycle on Sunday morning. Sooooo awesome!!!
Sleep came early and so did the alarm!
I jumped right into my routine. Double check transition bag, make coffee, have a piece of toast with almond butter, a banana, and a bottle of water, make almond butter & banana sandwich to eat before the swim start, get dressed, and then just sit and wait… only I got to wait in the awesome compression boots! Malachi and I left for the race site around 5:15am. Deb stayed at the hotel and was planning to come meet up with me at the finish line. During the drive there, I started to get nervous. I hadn’t done an open-water swim since Beach 2 Battleship (and let’s be honest, that was much more floating along with the current than swimming) and was a little freaked out about the prospect. I wasn’t worried about the distance – I swim 2500 yards 2-3 times per week and it’s not a big thing. But I was worried about getting hit and kicked and punched during the start. Oh well, it’s part of the game and what was I gonna do? Quit? Not likely…
We got to the transition area by 6:00am and got out transition areas all set up. The transition area was VERY sandy – not a lot of grass at all. I couldn’t help wonder how nasty it was going to be when I got to T1 after the swim… 😦
Malachi and I left transition and walked down to the swim start just in time to see the pros start. Wow, I so wish I had my camera. I have mad respect for the professional triathletes! The men’s field included Cameron Dye, Tim O’Donnell, Tyler Butterfield, and Sam Appleton (and a bunch of others whose names I didn’t know). The women’s field included my personal hero, Mirinda Carfrae, Sarah Haskins, Alicia Kaye, Lauren Goss (and others I didn’t know). The cannon (yes, EVERY swim wave was started with a cannon shot) went off and man, those guys were so fast!!!
I ate part of my sandwich, got my wetsuit on, and then it was time for me to go warm up. Malachi gave me a hug, wished me luck and I was off. I went into the water, which was warm, but wetsuit legal, and just kind of got used to it. I headed to the corral with my swim wave and looked over and who was standing right beside me, but Sister Madonna Buder – the IronNun!!! OMG! Such a cool lady!!! We walked out into the water, the countdown started, the cannon went off and we were swimming. I even remembered to start my Garmin… In Triathlon Mode even!!
And IT WAS AWESOME!!!!
I found a lane of clear water pretty early on and was thrilled with how (generally) straight my lines were. I passed buoy after buoy – passing the orange ones, turning at the red ones. And before I knew it I was at the metal stairs and a volunteer was helping me get my footing. Up I went and I was off to T1. (Swim Time: 33:44, Avg. 2:03/100 yds)
Just as I feared T1 was a sandy, dirty mess! I stripped off my wetsuit, dried off a little and laid my towel down so I could sit on it and rinse my feet off before putting my socks on. I had to rinse twice… Socks on, bike shoes on, helmet, check… sunglasses, check… Bike food, check… sunscreen again… grab bike, throw wetsuit over the rack and go… only I walked out… (T1: 5:10 – I gotta work on that shit!!)
The bike segment was GLORIOUS! And Chrissie is an AMAZING bike! I just love her so much!! There are lots of turns on this course. They call it a “technical” bike course. I guess it was and I had to slow down to turn often, but every time I looked at Garmin, I was between 20-24mph. About 14 miles in I hear an “On your left… THERE SHE IS!!!” and Malachi BLEW past me in all his Speedo clad glory – he must’ve been going 26mph! Before I knew it, I was back to transition, dismounting my bike. (Bike Time: 1:16:41, Avg. 19.4 mph)
T2 should’ve been super quick. I have no idea what the heck took so long. Racked my bike, changed my shoes, took off my helmet, put on a hat, got a drink, and headed out. How does that take over 3 minutes? I have no clue… (T2: 3:07)
The run course was beautiful! We went over a bridge and turned into a very swank neighborhood – the houses were just breathtaking! And the crowd support was amazing. Along with the “official” aid stations every mile, residents had aid stations set up in front of their homes – some with beer even (which I did not partake of). It was so cool. I saw Malachi at about the 2.5 mile mark (for me) as he headed back to the finish line and he was FLYING! I ran easy the first 4 miles and then actually raced the last 2. I have NEVER raced at the end of a triathlon before. HR zone training must actually be working! (Run Time: 1:07:38).
Total Time: 3:06:08
My goal for this race was 2:59:59 or less – I really wanted that sub-3. And if my transitions hadn’t been so shitty, I could have gotten it! You can bet I will be practicing before IMFL in November!
I place in the top half for my age group and my gender. I was 12/39 on the bike (#ZwiftEffect).
I would definitely do this race again – and I probably will! I have heard that the weather can be really fickle, but we had the perfect day for a race! Next time we will stay at the Renaissance Vinoy which is right at the transition area so we don’t have to mess with cars, but all-in-all a great race!
Thanks especially to my sherpa-extraordinaire, Deb, my training partner in crime, Megan, and the folks at SwimBikeFuel.