When we started this process all we had our sights on as far as races were concerned were sprint distances, with the culmination being the Olympic Distance of St, Anthony’s. After three years this has turned into Half Iron distances of 70.3 miles with the eventual goal of a full 140.6, hopefully in the next couple of years. One thing has remained constant, however, from year 1; the sprint races in Crystal River.
Why, you may ask?
Because, at the core of it, they are fun races.
Crystal River Triathlons are a series of three races run by DRC Sports
scheduled around the summer holidays of Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day, with an extra one called Crystal River Twilight near the end of July that is started at 6:30 PM. They are held on Saturdays, which is great because you don’t have to go to work the next day (normally), they are inexpensive (especially if you buy all three in the series at once near the beginning of the year. They averaged out to be around $35 a race.), and they have a fun, relaxed, party atmosphere. The number of racers are limited to around 300 or so, which gives an excellent chance to place (Jennifer placed in one race last season) in the many divisions they have, and the awards go 5 deep.
I am not saying they are not challenging. We have had easy races here and we have had harder races (this is subjective of course) but what once were target races have now become part of our summer training routine, and I see no reason to alter this in the future.
For one thing, the race is short and fast. This is a good thing for beginners as it doesn’t present obstacles that
|The normally calm waters after Debbie hit last season
are too great to overcome. The swim is 400 meters in a clockwise direction, in brackish water that is usually around 83 degrees. Since it is a mixture of salt water and spring water, it sometimes can give an odd smell, but normally it is clear and calm (except for the race after Tropical Storm Debbie which churned it up pretty good). The current can be a challenge at times, but normally not anything that can’t be over come. The bike is 15 miles (7.5 out and back) out and back along a flat smooth road. The drawback here is because it’s the only road in and out of Fort Island Beach it is an open course and we all know what asses some motorists can be. The good thing about that is you can get behind a car or truck and draft the hell out of the ride. The run is 1.5 miles out and back, for a total of 3 along the same route as the bike. It can be a HOT race, especially into the middle summer months, and the Twilight race, although fun at night, can provide much needed blood supply for the mosquito population (bring bug spray, especially for the run portion).
We use these races as “training” races. Mostly to get our transition speed down and learning how to push hard for an entire race. I still race in the Clydesdale Group, and this year there are 13 of us in that division, and only two in my age group, which means I have to beat 8 people to place 5th. I have never placed higher than second to last. I have my goals this year of being through the swim and bike in under 1 hour (10:00 swim and 50:00 bike), giving me a lot of time for the run. With correct conditions I think this is doable, but we will see. I angered the Tri God last season by taking Crystal River for granted as an “easy race” and got progressively worse with each race, including the miserable performance in CR2 after Tropical Storm Debbie churned up the normally clear swim route and provided choppy water. I won’t make that mistake again.
So if you are a newbie, or just someone wanting to have some fun, I highly recommend this race. I have known elite level triathletes, like Kelly Ann and Jim Jenkins run these races and still managed to have fun, so come on out.
Tell the the Fat Slow Triathlete sent ya!!