St. Anthony’s Triathlon Race Review… but first a brief history of the triathlon…
St. Anthony’s Triathlon began in 1984 as the Tampa Bay Triathlon and was part of the 10-city U.S. Triathlon Series. That year, 600 athletes completed the 1.5K (0.9 mi.) swim, 40K (24.8 mi.) bike and 10K (6.2 mi.) run at Fort DeSoto. The following year St. Anthony’s gained ownership of the event and moved it to the waterfront of downtown St. Petersburg.
Today, St. Anthony’s Triathlon is considered to be one of the sport’s leading events in the U.S. More than 3,200 professional and amateur athletes of all ages and abilities, and from all around the world, gathered along St. Petersburg’s waterfront competing in the 36th St. Anthony’s Triathlon.
What began as a single race has grown to encompass three events — the Olympic distance St. Anthony’s Triathlon, the St. Anthony’s Sprint Triathlon and the Meek & Mighty Triathlon. Active.com selected St. Anthony’s Triathlon as one of the 12 “must-do” triathlons, calling it “One of the best early-season triathlons in the U.S.”
I flew into the Tampa airport from JFK. After renting a car, the drive was an easy 30 minutes to St. Petersburg. My cousin, Mindy, met me at the airport. (She lives in Denver.)
We checked into the Vinoy Renaissance Hotel, steps away from transition and after that walked around the transition site and the expo. On our way to the expo, we saw TriBike Transport and I retrieved my gear bag. (My bike and gear bag were coming from TriBike Transport from Sunrise Tri on Long Island.)
After picking up my number with ease, I was happy to see all the cool race swag — a tee-shirt, socks, a blanket, and a Headsweats bandana. I was impressed. I started to see why this is known as the best triathlon in the country.
Mindy and I walked around and looked at all the booths before returning back to the hotel for the evening.
Bike Pick Up And Racking
The next day, I got my bike from Matt, who was working for TriBike Transport, and he filled up my tires and put on my pedals. I rode it, like my coach instructed, to make sure all the gears were working properly. It felt good to ride. I knew I would be fine.
At St. Anthony’s Triathlon, all the racks were properly marked. I was excited that I was close to swim in and bike in. Bike out and Run out were far from where my transition spot was.
As I racked the bike, I went through the race in my head. I looked around and envisioned myself swimming in, riding out and running out. I stood in the middle of transition just looking at the run in/bike out spots.
I was a little nervous about leaving the hotel and going to the transition spot to lay out my gear. My cousin came out for the weekend to see me in the race and I didn’t think I would find her. There were thousands of people at the race site.
The bike racks were tight. There was a spot in between a competitor and me, and we still felt there wasn’t much room. It felt like it took me a long time to get myself organized. This was my first triathlon of the season and, I felt a little disoriented.
Last to leave transition
I was one of the last ones to leave transition and didn’t have time to make one last pit stop. As I was leaving, I asked a volunteer where the closest port-a-potty was. She told me to use the volunteer one. “It’s much cleaner,” she said.
Boy, was she wrong! It was horrible. Plus, there was no toilet paper! As I left the hotel, I took a roll of toilet paper with me. But don’t you know, I left it in the transition bag and was unable to retrieve it! “This isn’t starting well,” I thought.
I walked over to the swim start. “Maybe I can go in the water and clean up,” I thought. No such luck! The water was low tide. The only way to get deep into it would be to stand alongside the competitors who were racing. I stood in the shallow water feeling very self-conscious. I brushed it off. “Stay in the moment,” I heard my coach saying to me.
I lined up with the Green caps (each age group had a different cap). As I stood there waiting to enter the water, I hear, “Hilary!” I look up, and there was Mindy standing, cheering. I smiled. It was so good to see her there!
The 50 – 59-year-old age group entered the water. We stood. The water was cold. It didn’t look rough but I did feel a bit of a current. I looked around. Everyone was shivering. There were some people without wetsuits, but most wore them. People were commenting that they didn’t feel good in the water and that I should go in front of them. I kept in the zone just like Coach said.
It felt like forever until the gun went off.
I started to swim, nice and easy. The water looked pretty flat. I looked over and saw a woman doing the backstroke. I saw another one doing a breast stroke. Arms and legs were flailing all over the place. I kept in the moment. “Nice and easy,” I thought. There’s a long way to go.
Soon, I was at the first turn and went deeper into the open water. As I did that, the 60-year-old men who were behind the women, came upon us. They were pushing and kicking. One guy tried to push me down to swim over me. I wanted no part of that! Swimming quicker, I need to get away from all those people and get into my own groove and that’s exactly what I did.
However, the water was rough, very rough. I smiled to myself. “The choppier the better!”
The swim course was nicely marked. There were many red buoys, which were for direction and yellow buoys which were for turning. I felt as if I was going pretty straight, which for me, was a huge accomplishment.
The course was straight along the beach line and then went out and mad a big box. It looked sort of like the “big dipper,” someone told me. It was true.
“I got this,” I thought and I swam to the beach. As I approached the steps, two men pulled me out of the water. I stood there for a moment feeling dizzy and disheveled. Mindy scream my name. I smiled again and ran into transition.
T1 – My First Problem
I came into transition, sat down and tried to pull off my wetsuit; but, it wouldn’t come off. I never had this problem before! I struggled to get my legs out. Five minutes later, I had my helmet on, un-racked my bike and was on my way.
I got on my bike and took off. Staying in the moment, I couldn’t believe how pleasant the ride was. It was a tour of St. Petersburg!
I understood why they say St. Anthony’s Triathlon is flat and fast because it was!
We rode past the Dali Museum and up and down the Avenues. The bike was marked beautifully. This was one of the best-marked courses I had been on! So many times, I get on the bike and I’m not sure where to go. “Should I go left or right?” I would often yell out to a volunteer. But, this time, I felt 100 percent comfortable. There were so many markers both on the ground and off the ground. There were cones that mapped out the direction along with great big signage!
One thing that I will say about the course is that there are a ton of sharp technical turns. There were several u-turns as well. I found myself slowing down for these turns, then finding it hard to get back up to speed.
There was also a lot of wind at points. That always makes it a little harder to ride.
At times, we were on some very bumpy roads. At one point, I yelled to a volunteer, “why are these roads so bumpy?” He said, “because the residents want it this way.”
I was happy to get back on a smooth road. The bumpy roads were making me feel nauseous! I couldn’t ride over them fast. The faster I went, the rougher it felt. I was thinking about some of the people who passed me. “How are they doing this?” I thought.
At mile 10, there was a bottle exchange. I didn’t want to try to reach out and get water. So I said, “thank you” and rode on. About 45 minutes into the ride, I ate a Honey Stinger. (I had a conversation the night before I left. My coach instructed me to eat every 45 minutes and constantly drink on the bike.)
The ride back to transition had at least a block or two of brick. It was very rough and I slowed down into transition.
By the time I reached T2, I had to go to the bathroom bad! I couldn’t run 6 miles without going. So I made a pitstop into another one of those horrible port-a-potties. This time, there was toilet paper.
I walked back to my spot, changed my shoes and took off. The run was going to be the challenge of the day!
On the St. Anthony’s Triathlon, we ran out along the water and then into a gorgeous neighborhood in St. Petersburg. The homes were magnificent.
What I loved about the run was that people from the neighborhood came out and set up stands where they offered water, oranges and shots of beer. I felt as if I were running Bolder Boulder again! There was so much community outpouring of love for this race. You could just feel it.
Some of the residents had hoses going to cool off. The St. Anthony Triathlon volunteers offered water, Gaterade, Gu and ice cubes. At every water stop, and there were a lot, at least one every half mile or so, I dumped water on my head to cool down. It was hot. The weather was 90 degrees at the time of the run.
My Achilles Hurt
My problem was my Achilles. After breaking my toe in January, I ran the EventPower LI Riverhead Rocks Race and did something in the trails. Every time I ran after that, I would get severe pain in my foot. I tried everything to make it feel better for the race, including stopping to run for at least two weeks!
I said to my coach a couple of weeks before the race, “I don’t know if I can run again. Let alone 6 miles. It’s been so long!” She said, “if you feel better, you can easily run 6 miles.”
I ran the St. Anthony’s Triathlon running leg of the race but I wasn’t feeling great. I could feel the back of my ankle pulling every step I took. I kept thinking of Jeff Galloway and what he said to me about the Achilles. “You can run on it but make sure to ice it two times a day!”
I needed to get through this race. I wasn’t going to give up. Mindy was there to see me finish (although she said many times, “if something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.”).
After passing the three-mile mark, we headed back to transition. A neighbor gave me an orange which gave me a boost. I ate my Honey Stinger and felt good. The only thing bothering me was my ankle and heel.
At the Finish Line:
Although I tried 10/20, I tended to walk more than run. It was hot and I was hurting. I allowed myself to just finish. My goal was to finish and have a smile on my face.
I kept hearing my coach say, “stay in the moment.” I did. Taking in everything, I let myself enjoy the scenery.
When I got about 50 yards from the finish line, I sprinted. I didn’t care about the pain, I wanted to finish strong. Mindy was cheering. I crossed the finish line and did what I set out to do. I felt good!
What an amazing feeling!
It was fantastic to see Mindy there. But, I was starving. I needed a bagel, ASAP! I went over to the tent. The organizers of St. Anthony’s Triathlon put out a full spread. I didn’t want to eat without Mindy, so I took a bagel and some apple juice and went back into transition to pack up my transition bag and my bike and take them both over to TriBike Transport to ship back to Long Island.
My thoughts about St. Anthony’s Triathlon
I simply loved St. Anthony’s Triathlon. I would definitely recommend it to anyone racing for the first time or anyone who wants to PR on a flat course. This is one race I would certainly do again! Thanks to the organizers of the St. Anthony’s Triathlon for being such a great race.