Ironman Florida – success!

Ironman finishers Margaret Valair and Leonard Kershaw

Ironman finishers Margaret Valair and Leonard Kershaw

Len Kershaw

In late October, two couples (Margaret, Francois, Diane and Len) hauled their triathlon gear across country to compete in Ironman Florida on November 7. Ted and Joan Pierce followed, volunteering their time to provide physical and moral support to Diane and Len.

This race consists of a 2.4 mile swim in the Gulf of Mexico, a 112 mile bike ride, finishing with a 26.2 mile run. Each of these segments has cutoff times which must be met. The overall time limit is 17 hours.

Before dawn, 2,900 participants eagerly awaited the 6:15 a.m. swim start on a cool and breezy morning. Margaret Valair was first out of the water followed by Len Kershaw and Diane Wagner. The swim was unusually rough with six foot swells often preventing clear view of the swim buoys used to keep you on course. Happily, we all made the cutoff time after being knocked backward by some of the waves. After a quick rinse under beach showers, racers donned bike clothing for the 112 mile bike ride.

Most of the bike course is relatively flat, but wind is a factor. This year the wind swirled in different directions. The absence of even a partial tail wind greatly impacted the mile per hour pace. Between miles 80 and 90 a steady rain fell which made the roadway nice and slippery. Luck still with us, we were able to make the bike cutoff time.

Now onto the 26.2 mile run course. Margaret began the run course in daylight hours before Len and Di were off their bikes. She clearly had a Personal Best in mind. Len soon followed and was able to complete the first loop of the run (13.1 miles) before darkness and showers occurred. Diane, who was struggling with a running sports injury, called it a day, choosing not to undertake the run. Instead, assisted by Ted and Joan Pierce, she gathered her gear from the transition area and headed to the condo for a warm shower and food. Then, with the clock still ticking, she headed to the run course with Ted and Joan to cheer for Margaret and Len. From other spectators it was learned that 20% of the participants had dropped out of the race, many not finishing the swim. Typical drop rate is around 5%.

Now almost 9:00 p.m., Margaret is spotted on the course closing in on the final mile. Realizing she could do a Personal Best by picking up the pace, she did so setting a new record of 14:55 which placed her ninth out of a large age group of 35 participants!

Shortly thereafter, Len appeared in the dark charging to the finish line in a steady stream of showers. As he crossed the finish he heard, “Leonard Kershaw, you are an Ironman,” finishing in a total of 16:20 hours, good for a fifth place finish in his age group.

Special thanks to Ted and Joan Pierce for spending a long day cheering us on and helping haul our gear.