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Hofstetter's ironman finish leaves him with sweet feeling

Largo's Mike Hofstetter was ecstatic over making the top five in the Fourth Annual Great Floridian Triathlon last Saturday. The event, known as Florida's Ironman Triathlon, is held at Lake Minneola and leads triathletes up Sugarloaf Hill for the 112-mile bike segment.

Hofstetter, 28, of the Midland Company/Suncoast Rehab team, was competing for the first time at the Ironman distance (swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run 26.2 miles), and finished in 10 hours, 18 minutes, 08 seconds.

"My friends who have done Ironman told me to respect the race," Hofstetter said. "I really relaxed on the bike, and made sure I got things to eat and drink. I couldn't go to Hawaii this year, so I did this at the last minute. I was ecstatic to get fifth."

A select few came almost directly from the Gatorade Ironman Triathlon in Kailua-Kona, including Joe Bonness, 39, of Naples (eighth overall at Lake Minneola in 10:33:53). Dan DeRussy, 51, of St. Petersburg and the Mad Dogs ran 12:27:26 just weeks after the Double Ironman Triathlon in Alabama. Laura Kaleel of Tampa (Mad Dogs), swam for a relay team, returning from Kona earlier in the week.

"Sure, you have the studs who are fast," Hofstetter said. "But the people who are out there 15 and 16 hours, using so much mental tenacity, to me, that's where it's at."

Danny Hicks, 44, of Tampa (Forest Hills Aquatics), finished in 13:57, also in his first attempt at the Ironman distance. "He normally doesn't do that great in the heat," said Jan Thompson, a teammate who traveled to Clermont for support. "This was an experiment, and he just added a few more miles to his training for it. At mile 80, on the bike, he wasn't feeling too good. But he persevered."

Kona heroes: The toughest bay area triathlete at the Hawaiian Ironman proved to be Dan Nolan of St. Petersburg. Nolan, who qualified by winning his age group at the St. Anthony's Triathlon last April, finished in 15:45:13. A swim split of :58:37 had the St. Pete Masters swimmer in good position, which he held with a solid bike split of 5:19. But severe back problems had Nolan hunched over, with two Ironman volunteers holding him up, as he walked home in a 9:27 marathon time.

"Danny will be on television with the way he finished," said top Pinellas Ironman finisher John Woodruff, 33, of Dig Me Sports), who finished in 10:50:52. "He's tough, and that's why he didn't quit."

Nolan's employer, Beach-Nutts Bar & Grill in Treasure Island, held an auction before he left for Hawaii in an attempt to help with expenses. Support was high, and he didn't let his supporters down.

Seminole's Jim Ward, 76, is sure to appear on NBC's Dec. 11 Gatorade Ironman Triathlon broadcast. Ward, who just made the swim cutoff by 8 seconds, began passing fellow competitors on the bike and run.

Ralph and Katie Knight-Perry of St. Petersburg, and the Mad Dogs team became the first married couple to have qualified for Hawaii six times. They say that qualifying for the 1995 World Championships in Mexico will be their main goal next season.

Good Life Games cycling: Race official Earnie Foster invites senior cyclists of all levels to register for the Good Life Games before the deadline Tuesday. "These events promote health and fitness for seniors 55-plus, and are individual time trials," Foster said. "Racing experience is not necessary for participation and enjoyment _ just a desire to get out, be active and share friendship."

Race distances will be 1 mile, 5 kilometers, and 10 kilometers, and races will be held at Gateway Centre in St. Petersburg.

Good Life Games forms are at most bay-area bicycle shops and Barnett Banks, or call 539-9487. Director of Good Life Games cycling will be John Sinibaldi, 81, a national champion from St. Petersburg. He can be reached at 522-8931.

Junior clinics: Kidspeed Cycling Club will sponsor a clinic for junior men and women on Nov. 19 at Shreeve Chiropractic Clinic in Tampa. Heading the clinic will be former professional and national champion David Mayer-Oakes of Lubbock, Texas. Also, former national champion Bill Shook of Tampa, and former national track champion Sharon Penn-Lichty of Tampa, will help coach and answer questions. For more information, call Mayer-Oakes at (806) 747-6060.