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Made of Mettle

7:25 a.m.
Racers wait in the warm water of Lake Minneola for the starting horn. The sun is just coming up, but the air is chilly. After the national anthem, several crates of birds are released.

Times Photographs by Pam Royal

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 27, 1999

It seems an insane thing to do, especially on the first glorious, fall-weather weekend in Florida. Why would anyone want to get up before dawn to swim 2.4 miles, bicycle 112 miles and run 26.2 miles? But that’s just what more than 800 athletes did on Saturday in the water and on the the hills around Clermont in the ninth annual Great Floridian Triathlon.

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They swim, they bike, they run in Clermont

Athletes of all abilities are attracted to the Great Floridian Triathlon, which took place on Saturday, the same day as the more famous Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii. The field includes elite athletes who fail to qualify for the Hawaii race, first-time Ironman distance racers out to prove something to themselves, and repeat racers who should know better.

It begins in Lake Minneola and finishes in downtown Clermont, 23 miles northwest of Orlando.

Clermont race organizers have developed something of a reputation for satisfying the athletes who finish in less than 10 hours among cheering crowds as well as the slower athletes who plod along for up to 17 1/2 hours to finish well after dark. Minute details are handled smoothly, leaving the athletes to concentrate on the daunting task at hand.

Clermont soon will become a national hotbed of triathlon training. USAT (USA Triathlon) — the governing body that sanctions events and officiates races — will be moving its headquarters to Clermont.There they plan to build training facilities that will draw serious athletes from around the world.

— Times staff writer

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