Top Gun Triathlon (St. Petersburg, FL): 7:00AM
Twilight Triathlon (Crystal River, FL): 7:30PM
Half of the GCTT crew loaded up for a weekend on the road looking forward to two fantastic events in Central Florida. So, with a collective of near fifty linear feet of caravan capacity, ten bikes, a multitude of tri gear, one family-size bag of animal crackers, Wiz Khalifa pumping on the stock sound system, and nearly another fifty feet of mobile phone chargers the 1,000 mile journey promised to be a great time for Dem Boyz.
The notion of racing twice in the same day was a welcome challenge for all of the team members, not since the days of track or competitive swimming have the guys done something like this. To ask the body to go anaerobic for nearly an hour at a time twice in a period of twelve hours presented many challenges, many of which were debated and discussed during the drive to St. Petersburg, FL. The basic strategy included the following: wash the team tri shorts with bar soap and air dry between events, swing through a grocery store to find some baby oil for the temporary tattoo removal, kill them with kindness at hotel #2 so as to gain early check-in and score some shut eye before the Twilight event, and be sensible about eating too much heavy food in the middle of the day. The guys checked all these boxes off with the exception of the food timing, “lunch” between events ended up around noon which would be similar to eating “dinner” at midnight prior to a routine morning event…
Race #1 featured the 14th Annual Top Gun Triathlon on a racetrack of a course in Fort De Soto Park just off the Southernmost tip of St. Petersburg, FL. The event is a marquee event for the central Florida triathlete community directed by two pillars of the multisport community, Fred Rzymek and Joe Fernandez. Fred even brought in some supplemental race director talent in the form of his twin brother Mickey Rzymek so as to tend to GCTT’s complicated multi-page rider sheet which includes such things as premium and sequential bike rack placement, preferred parking, three different flavors of post-race Rita’s Italian Ice, an extra couple ice cubes in the cool pools following the event, and a one-on-one pre-race course debrief complete with Q&A.
One of the many great things about Top Gun is the completely-closed bike and run courses, basically no vehicles to get in the way at all. This allows for the 1,000+ athletes to speed through the 0.25 mile swim, 10 mile bike, and 3.1 mile run without much concern other than “go fast, blister this course, every second counts.” Another great asset is that the event included a USAT Florida Region Youth Talent ID start wave which team member Joey Pocreva was able to spar with.
The Top Gun swim course took place in the calm and warm (85F) waters of the Gulf of Mexico at the North Beach of Fort De Soto. With a running entry start from the beach shore, zero surf or current, and great sighting buoys this course was meant for some fast swim times. Once beyond the 400 yard run up to transition the guys were looking forward to letting it rip on their own personal Brickyard given the simple out and back bike course which doesn’t even demand any hairpin turns, rather a wide, scooping cul-de-sac wherein momentum can be mostly maintained. Considering ~1.5 miles of hard-packed sand and some passing morning rain showers, the final leg of the event played to the strengths of those who either possess a solid cross country running background or have trained in a negative-pressure sauna (little wind, 100% humidity), respectively. The final 200 yards of the run were a blast with the spectators lining the chute cheering everyone on, this made for a great chance for the GCTT crew to look for their comrades speeding down the final stretch while secretly hoping one of them might experience some reverse peristalsis for all to see.
When the dust settled GCTT ended up with three in the top ten (Larson, Felty, Harrison), all team members in the top 12% of the 898 finishers, and eight podium appearances. Notable splits included Joey Pocreva with the third fastest swim of the field despite some extra drag (see — race number belt AWOL), Johnny Harrison with the second fastest bike of the field racing from behind in the final wave with plenty of athlete traffic and slotting in only seven seconds behind the top bike split recorded by the first athlete to span the course on wide-open pavement, and Eric Larson tapping into his hard-wired cross country harrier background to claim the second fastest run of the field. GCTT results page.
By 11:00AM it was time to hit the road North up the Suncoast Parkway toward Crystal River, FL. What was supposed to be a generous eight hour intermission seemingly evaporated thanks to tending to the Jenga puzzle of bikes in the team U-haul and time spent hunting down some post-race grub but it was made tolerable by the power naps most everyone was able to enjoy as well as DJ Harrison’s musical selection to get the guys through the 100 mile jaunt.
Race #2 was the DRC Sports Twilight Triathlon, also the 14th annual running of this event. This event is held at the Fort Island Gulf Beach along Florida’s Nature Coast. Although this would include nearly identical, and arguably routine, sprint distances as race #1 (0.25 mile swim, 10 mile bike, and 3 mile run) what it would require to speed across the second finishing tape of the day would prove to be demanding considering the logistics of the daily double dip.
Daunting, yes. Fun and exciting, hell yes. The prospect of racing at dusk was very appetizing to the team. The setting sun, the seizure-inducing blinks of hundreds of bike headlamps and taillights (required safety equipment), and some afternoon headwinds which were about to lay down made for another reason to redline those transmissions for the second time of the day.
Following a full swim course warmup to loosen the muscles in a low-impact manner, eight of the ten team members would eventually toe the start line this evening. The two DNS recipients electing to rather indulge in the more comforting pleasures of frozen pineapple umbrella beverages while lounging on the beach.
The same warm water of the Gulf welcomed the athletes, this time it was more of a brackish mix with less visibility, considering the Crystal River runoff. What was especially exciting to the GCTT crew was the “all men in wave #1” start layout. This was a chance for the guys to really get after it without having to factor in wave start differentials. It was ON! After a quick swim, all team members well under 8:00, and only one team member chumming the water for shark by swimming into the barnacle of an underwater jetty it was out of T1 and off onto the bike course chasing one another down. With some vehicular traffic to account for this made for a bit less of a time trial layout compared to the morning event but the blue, black, and white kit colors of GCTT were blurring up and down that five mile stretch of Fort Island Trail providing the team members impetus enough to not lay off the gas for even a few peddle strokes. On post-mortem analysis, most every team member would later admit to having been anaerobic and battling some screaming gams while heading into T2 and looking forward to both racing into the night as well as being done for the day, as soon as possible. The run course demonstrated just how quickly dusk turns to dark, especially on a road with no traffic lights of buildings. No joke, dark. But, it was a blast. Chasing one another down and also having the chance to do a little check on the teammates before and after the 1.5 mile marker hairpin turn made for a great opportunity to motivate, joke, and wonder “is he feeling as bad as I am?” With less than 0.5 mile remaining in the day it was great to see the glow of the flood lights in the sky and look forward to the anticipated team member finish chute meet-and-greet while wondering why everyone agreed to this venture in the first place.
Quickly, the GCTT crew learned it had posted some great results: three in the top ten (Felty, Moore, Harrison), seven of the top sixteen, eight for eight on the podium, Rob Felty with the fastest swim split of the field, and GCTT title sponsor (Joseph Bolton of Pro Cycle & Tri) claiming his first age group podium slot in a triathlon!
The fun did not stop there though. DRC Sports knows how to have some fun with a post-race party. The food was top-notch and the atmosphere was energetic as many of the athletes on the day were celebrating their duplicate tri finishes, with some looking forward to an unbelievable third triathlon at the Scenic 17 Triathlon (Babson Park, FL) the next morning (GCTT opted out of that one). One additional perk to these events is that Kennedy Law Racing (Clearwater, FL) is an avid supporter of multisport in the Central Florida region and the KLR folks slung some custom backpacks and water bottles at all the athletes who completed both events, very nice!
The fun continued into the night as the GCTT crew hauled back to the hotel for some rest and relaxation… But, as with any great road trip goes, what happens on the trip stays on the trip!
In the end, GCTT greatly enjoyed both of these events and would highly recommend both of them, even the double scoop day. Any event with the the names Rzymek/Fernandez or DRC tagged to them are top-notch!
FUN CHALLENGE FOR THE OUTSIDE OBSERVER:
Which of these statements is TRUE? (choose as many as you think apply)
- one team member wore his race kit for a cumulative 15 hours beginning at 5:00pm on raceday and lasting through the night
- GCTT scored another award in the form of a misdemeanor citation for open container parlayed into an offense for transporting alcohol into a state park
- auto insurance claims needed to be submitted as a result of the weekend
- GCTT only made two pitstops for gas, not a bathroom break, during the weekend travel
- Chipotle was an advisable post-race meal during a group road trip