St. Anthony’s Race Preview
Despite the cooler temps and extra Christmas lbs, race season is fast approaching. For those of you who like to plan ahead and get on top of your summer schedule, that means it’s time to start planning!
Since triathlon’s inception in 1974, there have been only a handful of races that have stuck around for the long haul. One of these races, known by most athletes to be the best Olympic distance race in the country, is the historic St. Anthony’s Triathlon. Taking place in beautiful St. Petersburg, Florida, St. Anthony’s has become a staple for many pros and amateurs alike. Taking place in late April, this race is an ideal early season opener for nearly everyone due to it’s long legacy, flawless organization, pristine course, and great volunteers. Let’s take a look at what makes this race great and how to best go about traveling and prepping for this race.
Why St. Anthony’s?
St. Anthony’s has earned a reputation of being one of, if not the, most prestigious and respected races in the country. For the past 35 years, the crew at St. Anthony’s has continued to put on a top-notch race experience that caters to all athletes. With a kids race on Saturday, the weekend allows for youngsters to get their first experience with triathlon. Then, on Sunday morning, the professional field lights up the water at sunrise with an always-exciting battle for the coveted title of “St. Anthony’s Champion.” Over the years, some of the best Olympic distance non-draft fields have been assembled at this race. Once the Pros take of, Age Groupers from all over the world embark on a challenging, fun, and rewarding morning of racing. Overall, the experience is one to remember.
St. Anthony’s takes place at a good time in the season. If you’re from the northern half of the country, St. Anthony’s gives you the perfect opportunity to come soak in the Florida sun for a weekend. Also, St. Anthony’s comes at a great time in the year to start your race season. Not too soon, not too late.
Located in downtown St. Petersburg, the race site is just a hop, skip, and jump away from the Tampa airport. Easily fly into Tampa from nearly anywhere in the county and enjoy a short drive to the race site. There are many hotel and Airbnb options just a short walking distance from transition area (Vinoy Park), which makes the travel and accommodation aspects of the trip much easier than most races.
With the race site sitting directly on the main street running though downtown (Beach Drive), there are abundant dining options within a half-mile of the primary hotels and race area. This makes finding a pre-race dinner that much easier. From experience, I would recommend Bella Brava, 400 Beach Seafood and Tap House, or Joey Brooklyn’s Famous Pizza. All offer great options for the night before the race.
Now, let’s take a quick look at the course.
A simple yet exciting swim course takes athletes from Spa beach, into the Tampa Bay and back. With only 3 turns, the course is simple to follow. However, in years past, the water around the bay has been known to get choppy in the morning. If you’re an experienced ocean swimmer with a high turnover, this race suits your strengths. If you don’t have ocean swimming experience, there’s no better place to learn! My advice for this swim is to make sure to lick your goggles (and rinse with water) before the start. As the sun comes up, it’s often impossible to see the buoys if your goggles are fogging. Also, if the water is rough, focus on increasing your stroke rate to help move through the chop more efficiently.
In the final meters of the swim, you will swim up to a set of carpeted stairs that lead you onto the seawall and into T1. Expect a longer run on a grass field into the park. As there are a lot of athletes, make sure to take a visual note of where your bike is located before the race start. Goggles off, helmet on, and you’re off!
The first 2 minutes of the bike course are unique. Uncommon to triathlon, the St. Anthony’s bike course provides athletes with the unique opportunity of riding on a cobbled, brick street. Although short, this section of road is a memorable part of the course. Once off the bricks, you will enjoy the next 39km consisting of downtown city streets and winding neighborhood roads full of cheering spectators. If you’re looking for a course that won’t bore, this is it. Once you’ve given a good effort for 40km, you return to the cobbles and dismount with a view of the water. As for the bike, I would remind you to stay aero as much as possible. There are many turns, but none are too sharp to take in the aero bars. This can gain you some time at no cost.
Again, T2 is a bit of a run through the grassy field. Make sure to take note of where your bike is racked so you don’t have to waste time and energy looking. Helmet off, shoes on, and you’re off onto the run!
This run course is a flat, simple, yet idyllic out and back. Winding through surrounding neighborhoods, the run course is full of enthusiastic spectators and helpful volunteers. With plenty of aid stations along the course, as well as residents with sprinklers, the temperature doesn’t come into play until the last 5km or so. Once you hit the turnaround at 5km, you’re just one final push from the finish line. No matter how badly you’re hurting, the finish line crowd is always a pleasure to hear. My one bit of advice for the run course is to pace well. With a large crowd cheering you on in the first half mile, it is easy to get carried away and start the run too fast. Take it easy, control your effort, and remember that there are a full 10 kilometers to run!
If you’re still in the planning stages of your season, take my word that this is a race you don’t want to miss! Having raced St. Anthony’s as my first ever triathlon in 2010, and now 4 times since then as a professional, I will be returning this April alongside many other top Pros and Age Groupers. Whether you’re new to triathlon or have been racing for a lifetime, this race suits you. If you have any questions regarding training, reach out to us at email@example.com, message us via Instagram (@prformance_coaching), or call us at 317-727-6083. Hope to see you at the race!