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Anyone for a 70.3-mile sprint?
By SCOTT PURKS
Published November 9, 2006
CLEARWATER - Lisa Bentley swam 2.4 miles, rode a bike 112 miles and ran a marathon on the same day - as fast as she possibly could - three weeks ago during the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii.
On Saturday, Bentley plans to swim 1.2 miles, bike 56 miles and run a half-marathon (13.1 miles) - "in basically an all-out sprint," she said - in an effort to win the first Ironman 70.3 World Championship at Clearwater Beach.
How? As in how can a person go through a full Ironman and only three weeks later compete in a world championship of 70.3 miles against a world-class field?
Bentley, by the way, is 37.
"I feel great!" said Bentley, who placed third in Hawaii. "I actually got one of the best workouts of my life three weeks ago, and after resting up for a week and doing a couple of sharpening workouts, I feel really good.
"You train so hard for the (full) Ironman and get in such incredible shape that, yes, your body can bounce back well from such a thing. (Saturday) should be interesting. Who knows? Maybe my body will come out hitting on all cylinders. You never know with these things."
About 1,800 world-class triathletes will line up Saturday and plunge into the Gulf of Mexico. About four hours later one of them will cross the finish line near Pier 60.
It will end a year of 17 qualifying events around the world and two years of planning on the part of race director Steve Meckfessel and his Ironman committee.
"I remember sitting down and talking about this and then we went to work," Meckfessel said. "Now that it's finally here it feels almost like a relief. Everything is on cruise control at this point. We're ready to run."
Which is saying a lot, considering the event is one of the biggest logistically in Clearwater's history, involving more than 2,500 volunteers, a great deal of the city police force, miles of blocked-off roads and more than 7,000 orange caution cones.
For entertainment purposes, it brings together a combination of full Ironman triathletes and shorter-course triathletes (mainly those competing in Olympic-distance events, 0.9-mile swim, 24.8-mile bike and 6.2-mile run).
Bentley said the shorter-course athletes might have the advantage over the full Ironman competitors because speed, which the shorter-course athletes are more accustomed to, could weigh more heavily Saturday than endurance.
"If you're a triathlete at any distance you will have endurance," Bentley said. "And if the short-course athletes really want to get after it I think they can really step it up to the 70.3."
The other drawback a full Ironman athlete might face is fatigue and injury, especially on Saturday, just three weeks after a full Ironman championship.
For instance, Australia's Luke McKenzie, one of the world's best triathletes, will not compete because he aggravated a knee injury in Hawaii.
Which brings up another reason the half-Ironman distance has become so popular that a world championship was formed.
"You can only run three or so full Ironman events in a year because that's about all anybody's body can take," said McKenzie, 25. "But you could probably run 10 or so 70.3 events in a year."
This year, McKenzie ran two full Ironmans and six 70.3 races.
"Any way you look at it," McKenzie said, "this distance and this event is great for the sport."