As afternoon turned to early evening on Sunday, May 6, the final triathletes trickled across the finish line on Bradenton's riverfront. As they crossed, friends, family and colleagues greeted the competitors as if they had just won the race -- even though the actual winner finished several hours before.
Photos were taken, hugs were exchanged. For some, finishing was more a relief than cause for jubilation. That was left to loved ones who didn't spend all day swimming, biking and running all over Bradenton, Fla. But anyone who finished had reason to take pride in what they accomplished.
The champion of the first ever One O One Triathlon, David Thompson, is a professional. He finished in 5 hours and 45 minutes to win $10,000. Much of the rest of the field was comprised of weekend warriors who love to test their fitness and toughness but work day jobs to pay the bills.
Count Mike Klemkosky in the second category. A Parish, Fla., resident, Klemkosky is a Bradenton Police officer. Though he's done half-Ironman competitions, Sunday's 101-mile triathlon was the longest of his career. He started feeling the distance around the time he hopped off the bike and started the 18.6-mile run.
"That's all it's about is finishing," said Klemkosky. "I run marathons, so I thought I'd try something different. It was pretty good except for the wind. I was running and fighting it. But it's everything I expected, and it's great for the area. I hope it comes back."
Klemkosky was greeted at the finish by his wife and kids and several of his fellow officers, who were working the event and pulling for their colleague at the same time.
New long-distance series
The One O One was a first-of-its kind race because of the 101-mile distance covered. It was also the first of a four-race series that will take the professionals to Clear Lake, Calif; Halifax, Nova Scotia; and Woodlands, Texas.
"Florida is a hotbed for triathlons, and we wanted to start here early in the season," said One O One executive director, Shannon Kurek, whose company brought the triathlon to Bradenton after scouting locations for about 10 months. "This is a totally new brand, and the distance didn't exist (before Sunday's race). We created the 101-mile race. There are longer races and shorter races. The Ironman is 140.6, and the half-Ironman is 70.3, so there was a huge gap in there."
Kurek, who has helped run and organize more than 400 races, said 21 states and 10 countries were represented in the event. But some people didn't have nearly as far to travel.
Tony De, a Sarasota resident and professional fitness trainer, has been doing triathlons for less than two years. He said he took up the sport after watching his wife, Julia, compete. He told her he could excel at the sport, and she told him to stop talking and start doing. De and his wife now travel all over the state for triathlons, so it was nice to have one in their backyard Sunday.
"This is pretty cool. It was a great event," said De, who is a member of the Sarasota Sharks Tri Club and competed in the Clydesdale Division (for 210- to 224-pound athletes). "This is going to be kind of a warm-up to my Florida Ironman in November.
"There is one very cool thing about this particular (course). It's extremely encouraging when the run you through the (downtown) loop a few times because you know what's coming, and you know how to pace yourself and plan. In some other events, it's just full to the end distance and turn around and come back, and you never really know how much you've been running until you get to the turnaround.
Julia also competed in the One O One. Now 52, Julia said she has always been very active but never took part in a triathlon until she turned 50. Now she and Tony work out together during the week and join races almost every weekend.
"Once you do it, you're hooked. I was just waiting to get old enough so I wouldn't have as good of competition," she said with a laugh. "But you have to have a spouse who is into it too, or you'd never be together."
One O One director of operations Doug Grout said every one of the competitors he spoke to had something nice to say about the course and Bradenton in general.
"This is our first year here, and we're very happy with location, and we think it has a lot of potential," Grout said. "Our hope is that Bradenton wants us back. We want Bradenton to want us as much as we want to do be here."
Copyright (c) 2007, The Bradenton Herald, Florida. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
For more information on Triathlon One O One, visit their Web site.