South Florida triathletes await the Florida Atlantic University Wellness Triathlon with great anticipation. It not only features a perfect course with challenging competition, but it normally kicks off the triathlon season on Florida’s Gold Coast. This year’s date is April 15, with a start time of 7 a.m.
Spring is perfect for triathlon in south Florida. The weather is mild but not yet hot; there is almost never rain. The wild ocean of winter has given way to calm conditions on most event days. And the venue, Spanish River Park in Boca Raton, offers a convenient and scenic setting.
Athletes gather in the transition area about 100 yards from the beach. Bikes are racked and equipment placed. Sometimes the water temperature is below the 78 degree threshold that allows the use of wetsuits, but most of the competitors will forego this cumbersome accessory, as the water is rarely under 75 degrees. The swim is designed to go with the current, so the 1/4 mile takes as little as 6 minutes for elite swimmers.
Participants walk the quarter mile down the beach to the start, while spectators gather along the runway where the swimmers will emerge from the water and head for transition. Competitors start in waves, about 3 minutes apart; each wave is identified by a distinctive color swim cap. It takes about 20 minutes for all the waves to start, and the average swimmer takes about 10 minutes to complete this shortest part of the the race.
As the athletes transition to their bicycles, the spectators can either head for the area where bikers will emerge from transition (also where they’ll return), or gather along the shore road to cheer as the bikers pass. The bike portion of the race is mostly flat, with one small bridge over Boca Raton inlet, and most riders complete the 10 mile course in under 40 minutes, with the fastest finishing in about 25 minutes.
The second transition is short — just rack the bike and go — and runners exit a different way than bikers. The 3.1 mile run can be taxing after the exertion of the swim and bike, and times diverge. Elite athletes run in less than 20 minutes, but some of the stragglers will walk this part of the race in 45 minutes or more. Every athlete hears cheers from the spectators who gather at the finish line.
How to Participate: Athletes and Spectators
Spanish River Park is located on state route A1A just south of Spanish River Boulevard in Boca Raton. The park offers free parking on the day of the race. Last year over 750 athletes started the race, with probably an equal number of spectators. This year’s race could possibly attract the maximum allowable number of race participants, which is 1,000, so early registration is advised. For registration information, go here.