EveryMan Rating
2.5 Brewskis

Rating Scale (based on the amount of beer needed after race)
- 4 Brewskis: So excruciatingly painful and lame you’ll need a full year of recovery just to forget this race
- 3 Brewskis: The best thing said and remembered about race is; I finished
- 2 Brewskis: Challenging race in a masochistic I’d could do it again sort-of-way given enough time and Ibuprofen.
- 1 Brewski: Good solid race that exceeds your expectations
- No Brewski: A must-do annual event for both friends and family

The Race
www.sommersports.com/events/greatfloridian
Here’s a funny story. The start of the 2005 race was delayed by about a half-hour by the police. It seems there were three cars parked in the parking lot which served as run up to the transition area. The police felt it was unsafe to have these cars “parked” there as they might pounce in front of hapless racers.

I remembered this odd start some 14 hours later as I was running in the pitch-black Florida night, into oncoming traffic, on a road with no shoulder, wearing only a spaghetti thin neon glow tube.

Thank God they held up the race start and put orange cones around those cars. They may have belonged to somebody who might have left early and ran over me on the run. ;-)

The Great Floridian Triathlon is really three races in one. There is an Iron distance race, a half iron distance race and some sort of super-sprint, which I assume is very short. (of course we all know what happens when one assumes)

The Great Floridian Triathlon is also the national long course championship. I’m really not sure, as were most of the racers, what the International long course distance is, but the winners in each age group can go to the International Championships in Australia and find out.

I raced the full iron distance and I kept seeing see the half competitors. They were the ones passing me on the bike. My wife was happy to have the company of several hundred half competitors. I got real tired of constantly being passed by these half weasels that only had to do one 57-mile loop.

I suspect the race organizers need to have three races to make this a viable event. But running out of water on the second loop of the bike is a pretty lame way to save money.


The Racers
There are a lot of the old-school types still doing this race. You know that kind that have been racing for the last 15 years and still wear those shin high red stripped socks with some funky old-school Puma running shoes that might actually be hip again if they were worn by somebody 30 years younger.

There are also a lot of great people in this race. I cannot say enough good things about the racers that I met before, during and after the race. A huge shout out has to go to the Iron Penguin who raced this course too many times to count, and who organized a pre race inspection of the run and bike courses. Dude you are great! From now on just call me the Iron Dumpling.

There was also a huge group of Brazilian racers from Miami, who made the race very interesting by their bravado and considerable lack of clothing. There was a fun group from Chicago, who swept many of the awards, unfortunately wearing way too much clothing.

There was our small band of racers from Colorado, who had the huge advantage of altitude of set by the huge disadvantage of heat and humidity.

And of course no one will forget Wilma, who thankfully showed up a day late but never the less managed to spawn a few tornadoes right on the race course. Thank goodness we were able to watch her from the safety of our hotel room in Orlando the day after the race.

The Swim
The swim is two long triangles through the murky waters of Lake Minneola. And when I say murky I mean this water is so black that you can’t see your hand in it as you swim. The race organizers blamed this dark water on the natural tannins in the lake. I suppose swimming in the dark water is like swimming in a fine Merlot.

A nice touch on the swim was the water station between the two loops. And unlike the bike, there was no swimming uphill.

Transitions
Transition areas were well manned with very cheerful and very helpful volunteers. Once you figured-out the dizzying number of bags and what to put in them, you are set to race. The half iron weasels didn’t get in the way too much but the changing tents were extremely hot. I felt bad for the volunteers who had to staff them all day expect for the dude who got my water.

I asked for a cup of water as I was changing into my run clothes. The helpful volunteer ran right up to the cooler, got a cup, poured a large cup of icy-cold water, and drank it.

The Bike
The bike course consists of two 57-mile loops in and around Clermont. Now I know that two 57-mile loops added together equal 114 miles and not the “proper” 112 miles. But that’s what my bike computer said and others confirmed it, like the Iron Penguin, so I’m sticking with it. Never argue with the Iron Penguin.

The bike course is not flat, and boy is this an understatement. If you want a flat course I suggest you try Ironman Florida which has one hill, which also happens to be a bridge.

The Great Floridian is similar to IM Wisconsin. Worse yet the race organizers like to put the hills around every right turn. Oh look there’s a right turn. It must mean I’ll be OUT of my saddle again.

The big hill is called Sugerloaf, which comes the second time around at about mile 95 into the race. The good news is this hill allows you to really stretch your sore legs by walking up a 13 percent grade. Just bring plenty of water because there was none at the tail end of the bike. Those half weasels drank it all on first loop. Did I mention I was constantly being passed on the first loop?


The Run
The run is a 10K out and back and three 7ish mile loops around the lake. It is almost entirely flat unless you consider the massive sideways camber of the road a hill. You should, as it really hurts to run on this rode. But than again you have no choice as there is no shoulder.

Some of the high points of my run included the snarling pit bulls that provided extra incentive for a wining time, and running by yourself in the pitch black night past several unmanned aid stations.

There is however one of those huge searchlights at the finish line, the kind that car dealers seem to favor. It illuminates the evening sky with glorious rotating lights. It calls to you in a teasing sort of way. “Come here and be done mon ami. Oh…but you are only on lap one, no no no no of you must go back into the murky night.”


NTKS (Need To Know Secrets)

- The “mandatory” marathon at the end of the race seems very voluntary indeed. No body was checking my number at the end of out and back part of the run and nobody was counting the loops but me. And no there were no timing mats on the run. I suspect a few competitors may have set a “personal best” on the run.

- There is a famous aid station on the run manned by the mad dogs. This is a must do aid station as these folks know how to party. In fact all the volunteers along the race were great. Thanks guys for you encouragement. Without you it would be much a harder race as there is no crowd support along the racecourse.

- There was second great aid station this year manned by the Flintstones. These were folks dressed up as characters from the Flintstones cartoon. Get it: Wilma. The women of this aid station were especially out going since they seemed to be drinking a wee bit. On every loop they become friendlier and friendlier offering hugs, kisses and dare I say even a kiss or two of the French kind.

- There are great big trophies for the top ten places in each age group. I actually got a great big trophy as I took 7th in my category. And hey nobody but us has to know that there were only eight Clydesdale competitors.


 
 

EveryMan Rating
3 Brewskis
Rating Scale (based on the amount of beer needed after race)
- 4 Brewskis: So excruciatingly painful and lame you’ll need a full year of recovery just to forget this race
- 3 Brewskis: The best thing said and remembered about race is; I finished
- 2 Brewskis: Challenging race in a masochistic I’d could do it again sort-of-way given enough time and Ibuprofen.
- 1 Brewski: Good solid race that exceeds your expectations
- No Brewski: A must-do annual event for both friends and family

The Race
http://www.floridahalfironman.com
If you like the combination of extreme heat, humidity and Mickey Mouse, this race is for you! This is certainly one of the most family friendly races on the triathletes’ calendar. While you sweat and toil assembling your bike, the family can be out having lunch in Germany or France at Epcot or perhaps a more exotic African fare at the Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

While you sit in the blazing sun at the pre-race meeting the kids can be frolicking at the nearby beach. And while you race through the bike unfriendly streets of Disney’s back lot, the family can be sipping a cool lemonade or Ice Tea at Fort Wilderness. However all this family-fun does come with a price…a very hefty price.

I’m now a complete believer in the Disney business plan. They have perfected the art of maxing-out your credit cards with a smile and a song. (In my case it was the 2 hour Hoop-Dee-Doo Music Review which came to something a bit over $200 for my small family)

Indeed, the hardest part of this entire race is opening the credit card statement on your return home.

The Racers
I asked the super buff guy at the pool where he got his rub on Ironman tattoo which was prominently blazing red in the mid day sun. He gave me a look of total disregard contempt and said in a heavy French accent, “This is not a child’s tattoo. She is real!”

I considered this for a while and decided that while I certainly use many fine products and services daily, but the thought of tattooing myself with a corporate logo of their manufacturer was a bit much. Can you image the conversation with your spouse. “Honey the dishwasher does such a great job that I just added a Whirlpool tattoo to my left shoulder.”

“That’s great dear, it just looks super above your Volvo and American Express Tattoo’s. I’m getting my Playtex tattoo done tomorrow.”

By now you may have guessed that many of the racers are the Ironman hardcore international types. Not to be out done, many of the local racers are also the hardcore Ironman types. I met another guy from Wisconsin who had a tattoo (real) of every IM race he had completed. For instance, the Wisconsin race featured a prominent smiling cow above the IM tattoo while the Florida full IM featured a happy leaping porpoise.

The Swim
The swim is a lope-side triangle. Athletes start in about 20 waves. As usual, the Clydesdales and Athenas started in one of the very last waves. Note 1 to race organizers: we are getting a bit tired of always being last. Is there a secret race director manual that says that Clydesdales and Athenas must start last because they will drink all the beer? Do race organizers get a secret thrill in seeing us big boys struggle through the mid-day heat while all the pro’s and small girls have long ago finished the race?

Except for the rumors of triathlete eating alligators, the swim is very pleasant. The course is well marked. The water is warm, not wetsuits legal. There is only one big loop, which means you won’t get caught up in many elbow battles. Enjoy the clear water and keep an eye out for fish in the shallow parts.

Transition
Note 2 to Organizers: Black Astroturf like carpet is a really bad idea in Florida.

The transition is on a beach and the IM folks had kindly covered most of the beach in black carpet. It felt great to walk on and run on in morning while putting our stuff into transition. I loved the feeling of soft sand covered by soft carpet. The same cannot be said later in the day. A crash course in hot coal walking would certainly have been helpful during the first and second transition. We were all jumping around like kangaroos trying get out feet into the bike shoes.


The Bike
The bike course winds its way through the back lots of Disney until you hit the mean streets of Orlando and the country roads further out. Friendly Disney security guards cheer you on as you fly through their property. It would have been more helpful if they actually stopped the traffic. At one point a bunch of us big guys were almost taken out by a sleepy-eyed Disney employee who mistook the racecourse for own personal highway. He came at us head on in an old Dodge. He didn’t seem to be bothered a bit by the bikes that were flying left and right to avoid a head on collision.

The other unpleasant surprise is how hilly the bike course gets in the middle. Who thinks of big hills when they think of Florida? No me until I had to get out of my seat as the road turned up and continued to climb for a half mile at a time.

It was then that I also noticed that it was getting a wee bit hot and muggy. I usually can’t tell when I’m sweating on the bike. Climbing the hills in the mid-day Florida heat, I was more like Sponge Bob than Simon Lessing, who won the race, and who I was sure was already done as I headed back to the transition area for a second round of coal walking.


The Run
The run was changed in 2005 to two loops in and out of the Fort Wilderness Disney property after many complaints about the old Golf Course segment. The good news is that the part of the run that meanders through the shady tree-lined Disney property is great. The bad news is that the part of the run that winds through the of the semi-trailer parking lot, the hot asphalt bus and RV choked main road entrance to Fort Wilderness and the dusty and rutted path that follows the dry cannel back to the property really sucks.

It especially sucks when it is well above 90 degrees with 100 percent humidity and not a cloud in the sky to provide any shade. It especially especially sucks when you hit the first aid station back on the property and some well meaning volunteer hands you a cup of coffee hot coke. Now that’s the type of sensory overload memory that will stick with you for a while.

NTKS (Need To Know Secrets)
- If you are really sick of the heat on the run, the siren call of the finish line may just be too strong to resist. It is only a matter of making a right instead of a left and you’ve just finished the run in record time by avoiding that “mandatory” second loop.
- Compared to the Chicago Triathlon the transition area is actually pretty small but just wait until you start out on the bike. Make sure you know how to run in your bike shoes. You’ll have to run through the transition make a right, run over a bridge, make a left, run down a path, make another turn and run down a road until you get to the point where you can actually get on the bike. Figure you might as well add a mile or two to the half marathon while pushing a bike.
- Beware of hot coke. It kinda tastes like defeat.
- Note 3 to organizers. The best part of the race is having your family at the finish. It is almost worth the heat, humidity and warm coke.


 

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