ST. PETERSBURG — The first leg of Sunday's St. Anthony's Triathlon was an endurance test as athletes battled rough water, troublesome wind gusts and a strong current during the 1.5-kilometer (0.9-mile) swim on the open waters of Tampa Bay.
"The conditions were tough out there," said Vinny Monseau, the 2009 runnerup in the elite amateur division who fell to 13th this year. "I had to give up a lot of ground in the swim. The last 500-600 meters, roughly the last third of the swim, it became real choppy and the current seemed to be taking us out. It was definitely something that slowed everyone down."
Recently, weather conditions have been a cause for concern during the swimming portion:
• Last year, the swimming leg for recreational athletes was canceled for the first time because of wind and rough seas.
• In 2007, a 48-year-old Illinois woman died during the swim portion of the race.
• Four years ago, lifeguards and rescue personnel pulled more than 80 from the water.
First-time motivation: Sarah Reinertsen, the first female leg amputee to complete the Ironman Triathlon World Championship, participated in her first St. Anthony's Triathlon on Sunday and won the physically challenged division.
"St. Anthony's was one of the races I've always wanted to do, and I can finally check it off the list," Reinertsen said.
Part of the reason Reinertsen decided to compete this year was so she could help with a workshop to teach amputees how to run. The workshop, held Saturday at Progress Energy Park, was put together by the Florida chapter of the Challenged Athletes Foundation.
"We just try to give as much knowledge as we can to amputees on running," Reinertsen said. "There's not a lot of people out there who teach people how to run after losing a leg."
Getting fit for a cause: Bill Ulbricht, president of St. Anthony's Hospital, completed his first St. Anthony's Triathlon and second overall.
"It's a way to support our team at St. Anthony's," Ulbricht said. "I had shoulder surgery last year and figured this would be something where I could get some exercise and lose weight."
Ulbricht wasn't the only one in his family to participate. His daughters, Emilie, 12, and Lindsey, 9, were in the Meek & Mighty triathlon Saturday.
"It was a great experience to share with them," Ulbricht said of the triathlon weekend with his daughters. "We've been able to keep each other motivated. The main was not the time but completing the race, which we were all able to do."