It seems like a hundred years since I have been to Amelia Island. It is nothing like the last time I was there. To be honest, I didn't even recognize the place. I did manage to locate my hotel and then Main Beach where check-in took place for what may be the newest half Ironman triathlon in the country. If it wasn't a national debut event, it certainly was a Florida debut event. The Atlantic Coast Triathlon (70.3 distance: 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile ride, 13.1 mile run) was held yesterday, October 4, on beautiful Amelia Island, Florida. And, it promises to become a premier half ironman triathlon over the next two or three years if the inaugural event was any indicator. There were about 370 or so athletes registered for the combination of this 70.3 and the "Amelia Man" Olympic Distance Triathlons. DRC Sports and Chris Moling (JAX Sprint TRI series and Crystal River Sprint TRI series) put on a great event. It was well organized, and the volunteer support was almost up there with the 26.2 with Donna. I am impressed. I am actually considering going back in 2009.
Let me first straighten out a couple of things as I am sure you are gaping and wondering who in the world is really writing this. NO! I did not complete the entire 70.3 miles of the event. Two other girlfriends and I decided to do this "race" as a relay - The Dixie Chicks. Andra was our swimmer and she is a fabulous open water fish. Kathy was our cyclist and she knew she could mash out those 56 miles on the bike with the best of them. That left me to run the half marathon closer. Yippee! Or, yikes depending on how you look at it. The nice thing about a relay is no one gets pounded or destroyed by having to train for the entire distance, and ... as we quickly found out, you can have some fun all at the same time. Every one gets the chance to eat, shower, sleep in a bit or go back for a nap and still see all the transitions and the last leg cross the finish line (which we did in just about 6:01...not bad, I think).
The swim leg is in fact 1.2 miles of open water in the Atlantic Ocean. Thankfully there had been no recent storms and none looming off shore to stir up the surf and pound the swimmers into chum. Kathy says the bike course was "gorgeous" and that's enough for her to want to come back next year. The run is beautiful. The first four miles run through a little beachy neighborhood that is as cute as beachy streets can be. I would love to see the residents out on the course more in the coming years. That would add a lot to that portion. Miles 4.5 - 13 are run inside Fort Clinch State Park. Nearly all of it is canopied, beautiful North Florida (nearly Georgia) forest and cooler than the open streets. The race director was true to his word, there was hydration/fuel/iced towels/porta potties at every mile marker. The course, while not as well signed or "street marked" as I would have expected, was VERY well staffed by volunteers and police auxiliary - if only the Tallahassee Marathon would take some pointers...
The bad thing about being the last leg is that it's hot. And, if you are me and used to running in the dark and cool, hot is not always so good. There in lies the rub... So, while it was not a PR for me on the run at the end, it was good heat training and pace training (when your first 4 miles are right at an 8 minute pace, the remaining 9 are going to suffer if you happen to be a pretty steady 8:45 - 9:00 runner). Thankfully, we had all gone into it with the understanding that it was a new course; I had a hamstring issue; Andra's knee was bothering her; and well Kathy may have PR'd. Stinker! Not to mention, this was supposed to be FUN!!! It was, however, my second best time. Nothing to report to the record books, but I'll take it for training purposes. Now I know what to expect when running 13.1 miles near the coast between the hours of 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. And, it WAS fun!
I now know what I am getting myself into for the next one. And, I am sure there will be a next one - especially if I can be part of a relay team like this one. Dixie Chicks - You Rock!!!