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Threat of high winds, lightning delays, alters St. Anthony’s Triathlon

Athletes from Boulder, Colorado, and Bend, Oregon, win the race after a 1.45-mile run is substituted for the swimming portion.
Jason West, 29, of Boulder, Colorado, won the St. Anthonys Triathlon Sunday morning in 1 hour, 33 minutes, 47 seconds. He finished more than 2 minutes ahead of defending champion Matthew Sharpe.
Jason West, 29, of Boulder, Colorado, won the St. Anthonys Triathlon Sunday morning in 1 hour, 33 minutes, 47 seconds. He finished more than 2 minutes ahead of defending champion Matthew Sharpe. [ SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times ]
Published April 30

ST. PETERSBURG — The threat of high winds, rain and lightning turned the 40th St. Anthony’s Triathlon into a biathlon on Sunday morning, featuring only running and biking.

No traditional splashing into the bay at sunrise for the thousands of participants.

Instead, the race began more than an hour after its scheduled 6:50 a.m. start with a 1.45-mile run on roads and sidewalks near North Shore Pool. After that, the race transitioned to its traditional course with a 40-kilometer bike ride and 10K run.

When the race ended around 9:30 a.m., the finish line was splashed with sunshine and a beaming grin from 29-year-old Jason West, who won in 1 hour, 33 minutes, 47 seconds, more than two minutes ahead of defending champion Matthew Sharpe, a 31-year-old who like West makes his home in Boulder, Colorado.

About 12 minutes later, 33-year-old Paula Findlay of Bend, Oregon, had a similarly bright smile after she defended her women’s title, winning in 1:46:09, more than two minutes ahead of Vittoria Lopes, 27, of Boulder.

Paula Findlay, 33, of Bend, Oregon, successfully defended her St. Anthony's Triathlon women’s title, winning in 1:46:09.
Paula Findlay, 33, of Bend, Oregon, successfully defended her St. Anthony's Triathlon women’s title, winning in 1:46:09. [ SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times ]

Both West and Findlay said they were fairly comfortable during their races, though comfort levels varied under the redesigned format.

West, known best for his running prowess, said, “I think it’s actually easier to transition from a run like that to the bike. When you’re swimming, you don’t have a ton of blood going to your legs, and a lot of times when you hop on the bike after the swim it’s really uncomfortable and it’s really hard to start feeling good. But (Sunday) I jumped on the bike and I felt amazing as soon as I started pedaling.”

Said Findlay, “It just felt weird to get on the bike after running an all-out mile and a half. … I think I prefer having the swim first, because it is what we do all the time. That first run (Sunday) was interesting, because everyone just goes out so hard. It’s all that speed. I train for 10Ks and half-marathons, so a mile start like that is a totally different game.”

The switch to the run-bike-run format was sealed about 24 hours ahead of the start, a move West and Findlay said they understood and appreciated, as the winds continued to gust stiffly throughout the race.

Women's winner Paula Findlay, second from right, got off to a quick start Sunday at the St. Anthony's Triathlon, which substituted the traditional starting swim with a 1.45-mile run because of threatening weather.
Women's winner Paula Findlay, second from right, got off to a quick start Sunday at the St. Anthony's Triathlon, which substituted the traditional starting swim with a 1.45-mile run because of threatening weather. [ SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times ]

“A crosswind would hit and really blow you around,” said West, who previously had two runner-ups, along with a third- and fourth-place finish at St. Anthony’s. “The wind was something you had to keep in mind and make sure to be a little more safe at times. You couldn’t take as many risks (Sunday).”

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Like Findlay, West said he would have liked to swim, “because, you know, we’re all triathletes. But these things happen, and you just have to be ready to adapt.”

Both athletes said the race served as an ideal tune-up for next week’s PTO European Open in Ibiza, the Spanish island in the Mediterranean.

“This was perfect for the workout we would have done (Sunday),” Findlay said. “Plus, we got paid $10,000 (in prize money) for it.”

The sun broke through about 8:20 a.m. on Sunday, 20 minutes after the start of the St. Anthony's Triathlon. Around 1,200 athletes still participated despite the threat of inclement weather.
The sun broke through about 8:20 a.m. on Sunday, 20 minutes after the start of the St. Anthony's Triathlon. Around 1,200 athletes still participated despite the threat of inclement weather. [ SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times ]