Make us your home page

Setting a fast pace for Saturday's Ironman race

CLEARWATER BEACH —The trucks rolled in from Panama City this weekend, loaded with the stuff endurance races are made of: parking for 1,600 bicycles, hundreds of tents, tables and sponsor displays and a towering finish-line arch.

Like a roadshow of triathlon paraphernalia, the Foster Grant Ironman 70.3 race has come to town for its premier stop. Saturday, the starting pistol is set to fire for the event's world championship.

Long before the nationally televised triathlon goes live, the event's crew is in for an adrenaline-soaked week of building the setting for a fast race on a tight deadline. But that's nothing new for the women in charge of making the race-day spectacle seem flawless.

"The race is a huge part of it, but people come for the whole experience," said Ashley Nalls, 26, a former Ironman competitor who is in charge of managing the event's expo area.

She said she is so nerdy about portable event construction that she takes pictures of bleachers and sign placement at sporting events.

For Joanna Jordan, the director for the triathlon, event logistics are something of a fixation. The petite, blond 27-year-old is certified on the forklift, and was once caught red-handed by race organizers behind the scenes at the Tour de France trying to glean clever setup ideas.

"I wish it was up for more than a day. Building out, that's what I live for," Jordan said.

So with a city of tents still waiting to be erected, inflatable buildings still tucked away in bags, parking a nightmare and a tropical storm in the Gulf raising tensions, no problem.

The crew has been through the motions almost weekly since March, bringing the same action-sport atmosphere to cities across the country, including Kona, Hawaii, Louisville, Ky., and last week, Panama City, Fla.

And in a field dominated by burly construction-worker types, Jordan and Nalls are willing to get their hands dirty, setting up bike racks or filling sandbags as needed.

"Being hands-on, that helps. It gives us credibility," Jordan said, leaning next to a bin filled with race clocks in the back of a tractor trailer parked along Clearwater Beach. "Plus it's fun to run a crew of guys."

And, she said, it's nice to see the chaos of a construction site turn into a tangible layout. Nearly finished, the 20,000-pound air-conditioned VIP boxes were being lifted onto risers by a crane along the shore.

Other tasks still to be completed by Saturday: Put together a bank of outdoor showers, build a giant sand castle and make sure a mall's worth of sportswear vendors are in place and ready to go.

"In the heat of the moment, it's often, 'Oh my, what are we going to do?' " Jordan said. "But we always find a way."

Dominick Tao can be reached at (727) 850-2951 or


Foster Grant Ironman 70.3

The race will take place in three stages: a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike ride and a 13.1-mile run.

When: Saturday morning (time to be announced)

Where: The race starts and ends near Pier 60 on Clearwater Beach.

Last year: The fastest combined time in the 2008 race was 3 hours, 40 minutes and 10 seconds, set by Terenzo Bozzone of New Zealand.

Setting a fast pace for Saturday's Ironman race 11/10/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 10, 2009 8:54pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Record $417 million awarded in lawsuit linking baby powder to cancer


    LOS ANGELES — A Los Angeles jury on Monday ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay a record $417 million to a hospitalized woman who claimed in a lawsuit that the talc in the company's iconic baby powder causes ovarian cancer when applied regularly for feminine hygiene.

    A bottle of Johnson's baby powder is displayed. On Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, a Los Angeles County Superior Court spokeswoman confirmed that a jury has ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $417 million in a case to a woman who claimed in a lawsuit that the talc in the company's iconic baby powder causes ovarian cancer when applied regularly for feminine hygiene. [Associated Press]
  2. Superior Uniform acquires Los Angeles-based PublicIdentity


    SEMINOLE — A subsidiary of Seminole-based Superior Uniform Group has acquired Los Angeles-based branded merchandise company PublicIdentity Inc.

    Superior Uniform Group CEO Michael Benstock
[Courtesy of Superior Uniform Group]
  3. FBI warns of spreading W-2 email theft scheme

    Personal Finance

    The IRS is warning businesses about a sharp increase in email phishing scams involving employees' W-2 forms — scams that can put staffers' Social Security numbers and other critical information in the hands of thieves.

    The IRS is warning businesses about a sharp increase in email phishing scams involving employees' W-2 forms.
[McClatchy DC/TNS file photo]
  4. Walmart expands grocery delivery service in Florida markets


    TAMPA — Walmart is formally launching its grocery delivery service in Tampa, the company announced Monday, as it expands its delivery test into Orlando and Dallas. Five locations around Tampa are offering delivery for online grocery orders.

    Walmart is expanding its grocery delivery to Tampa, the company announced Monday. | [Times file photo]
  5. Marina at Hudson Beach poised to become 24-unit condominium-hotel


    HUDSON — One of the mainstay businesses at Hudson Beach is poised for redevelopment into a 24-unit condominium-hotel.

    The owners of Skeleton Key Marina in Hudson have filed preliminary plans with Pasco County to redevelop the site into a 24-unit condominium-hotel.