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Weekend Preview: Florida and Bahamas

Some of the best triathletes in the world will be gunning after a $500,000 prize purse in the Bahamas, while age group athletes make their annual pilgrimage to Ironman Florida.

Island House Invitational

Sponsored by Mark Holowesko, who has long supported cyclists and triathletes alike, the Island House Invitational triathlon will be taking place on Highbourne Cay, an island owned by Holowesko 35 miles south east of New Providence that has a marina and cottages, along with barely enough road to host three triathlon races over three days.

The events include Friday’s “time trial” prologue event that includes a 300 m swim, 7 km bike and a 2 km run. Saturday morning sees the 20 invited athletes take on an “Enduro” draft legal event that includes a 500 m swim, 13.3 km bike and a 3.3 km run, all done three times in succession. The weekend ends with Sunday’s draft-legal sprint (750 m swim, 20 km bike, 5 km run) race.

A cool half-million dollars is up for grabs, with the money going 10 deep, so every competitor will come away with a paycheck at the end of the weekend.

Gwen Jorgensen at Highbourne Cay in 2014. Photo: Kevin Mackinnon
Gwen Jorgensen at Highbourne Cay in 2014. Photo: Kevin Mackinnon

Women: Lauren Brandon (USA), Mirinda Carfrae (AUS), Leanda Cave (GBR), Flora Duffy (BMU), Gwen Jorgensen (USA), Rachel Joyce (GBR), Alicia Kaye (CAN), Rachel Klamer (NED), Lisa Norden (SWE) and Heather Wurtele (CAN).

Men: Barrett Brandon (USA), Tim Don (GBR), Cam Dye (USA), Javier Gomez (ESP), Leon Griffin (AUS), Ben Hoffman (USA), Luke McKenzie (AUS), Richard Murray (RSA), Tim O’Donnell (USA) and Trevor Wurtele (CAN).

UWC Bahamas Triathlon

While the pros will be racing in Highbourne Cay, about 200 age group athletes will be competing just a few miles from the Island House at the UWC Bahamas Triathlon. Triathlon Magazine Canada editor Kevin Mackinnon will be announcing at the race this weekend, which offers a wonderful getaway opportunity for athletes looking for a late-season race in a warm climate.

Races include sprint and Olympic distance races for adults (including relays), along with a kids triathlon, too.


Ironman Florida

Ironman Florida began in 1999, the year that Ironman began its expansion in North America with the launch of Ironman Lake Placid. Now, 16 years later, the race in Panama City Beach remains one of the most popular on the Ironman circuit.

On paper the race should be “easy” – although no race that includes a 3.8 km swim, 180 km bike and 42 km run should ever get that moniker – thanks to the flat, fast bike and run courses. Race days have often turned challenging, though, thanks to high winds or high temperatures. Last year the swim had to be cancelled for the first time in the race’s history due to high winds and challenging surf conditions.

The swim takes place in the Gulf of Mexico off the pristine white beaches and, except for last year, is typically relatively calm. The water is warm enough for a comfortable swim, but cool enough to allow wetsuits – a dream scenario for many.

The flat, fast one-loop bike course can be a bit of a challenge at times if the winds pick up, but on the right day is a great opportunity for a bike PB. The run passes through one of America’s most popular state parks, St. Andrew’s State Park, which features beautiful sand dunes, wildlife and scenic ocean views.

Athletes seem to flock to Panama City Beach every year to enjoy both the race, the beautiful beaches and a relatively inexpensive trip for their families since condos can typically be found for off-season prices.

There’s no pro race at Ironman Florida this year, but there will certainly be some fast age group times as athletes go after qualifying spots for the 2016 Ironman World Championship.