Race Perspectives from the Sidelines Crewing at the Florida Double Anvil Triathlon

Posted on 23 March 2016

The annual gathering of ultra triathletes to the warm weather and sun of Florida is always a welcome sign that spring is almost here.   This year’s annual Florida Double Anvil Triathlon moved the confines of the triathlon mecca of Clermont, Florida. Clermont has a rich history of the triathlon and the famous Great Floridian Iron distance event. Hard to believe it’s been around 26 years already.

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Steve Kirby – race director, stellar volunteers and race team positioned the race in the beautiful park of Lake Louisa. It’s always amazing how things come together when we don’t try to hard and just let things flow.  Personally, I had a trip planned with business and was able to help out and crew for an athlete on the back end of my business trip and was so worthwhile as always, helping out athletes and an event.

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The race consisted of the typical “double iron distance” 2.4 miles of swimming in Lake Louisa (no gator problems!) 224 miles cycling through an out and back loop of approximately 6 miles, then the fun of 52.4 miles of running.  The park offered the athletes locations to stay in cabins at the race site to eliminate going back and forth to hotels and the race “pit” area housed all the transition, crewing, food, etc. and had plenty of room to see the athletes.

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A few observations for those of you considering the double iron distance, this bike course is not as flat as “typical” Florida terrain, and it has a few shorter grades but the road conditions are superb.  After riding many miles on the course, I noticed clearly that there was not even a bump on the course. However, I did not ride 224 miles as all the athletes racing so I can’t fully appreciate what the small little grades felt like late into the evening!

The run course consisted of a 2 mile loop vs. an out and back with some off road sand that clearly slowed down the run splits. Steve Kirby mentioned that hewill examine other quicker options for 2017.

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Crewing for an athlete – Andres Villagran (2nd men and 3rd overall) and working the bike turnaround during the graveyard shift was such fun.   It’s such a different perspective to see athletes grinding and racing hard lap after lap from the sidelines.    Interestingly, of all the athletes and teams competing, I hardly noticed any major suffering.    Of course, internally in the mind of the athletes I am sure their legs and lungs were hurting just with the significant distance covered over 24-36 hours.   The crews were fabulous and the diversity of minimalist vs. maximalist in terms of everything athletes brought was incredible!    I clearly took a few notes on ideas of things to consider for future races – most importantly the lay back chairs for the crew – not an athlete as it would be impossible to get out of one of those when very tired!

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The food worked wonders every lap for the athletes as always especially when new food was cooked –thanks to the great team preparing everything day and night.

It’s always interesting to examine the race performances by the athletes and the bike pace in this year’s event was over the top.  The top men and women were pushing so hard on the bike.   Many were gritting their teeth and especially noticed this when I was riding the course – truly amazing!

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19 athletes toed the line for the race and 5 teams going at it with constant racing.   The team-racing concept clearly was not easy, go a few hours then rest then repeat over and over again.      14 athletes finished the solo and a great showing by our women!     The second overall finisher was Maria Simone and hats off to an amazing race – she was pushing hard constantly but I will always remember that smile every loop.    Our men’s winner – Juan Carlos Sagastume was strong on the bike and run to claim the top spot with a time of 24:55.   Andres came from way back in the field after the swim, (as normal) with his signature “catch as many athletes as possible” flying run to take second for the men.    It’s was a great pleasure crewing for Andres and similar to Maria the signature smile and ease of letting things flow was his signature – borrowed bike and absolutely no walking at all on the run!

Congratulations to the ladies – wow super efforts from Laura Brock (2nd), Danielle Winkler (3rd), Colleen Wilcox (4th) and our very young Laura Knoblach (5th). Yes, 5 women starters and all finishers and with Maria’s amazing effort the women were incredible and great to see more than just 2 or three women competing.

The men’s results from 3rd -9th place:  Johan Desmet, Pascal Morin, John Lee, Erik Hanley, Joey Lichter (CLEARLY Joey had the Super Crew of all time!), Michael Ortiz (just a fabulous run), Goulwenn Tristant.

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The team challenge was great watching as each team had a different strategy in terms of rest and racing and clearly this was about team fun, racing and competition.   They were all going after it and the start and stopping from each athlete clearly showed it was not easy at all.

For those considering moving up from the Ironman distance, this is definitely a great first time double attempt as the course is not brutal – but like many events, and this year was no exception – significant rain can occur and come prepared, especially for your crew. The race is convenient to Orlando International airport; the overall costs are reasonable (in the south of the US), close to Disney for post race crew and family fun.

Most importantly, time and again one of the main reasons so many ultra triathletes continue to come back and race is the family and community that is part of every single event.  The crews, families, volunteers and athletes make these events full of lifetime memories.

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