By Pete Williams
It’s tough to keep track of all of the new races popping up in the state of Florida. Even in this tough economy it seems like there’s no shortage of new events for 2011. Here are a few I’ve discovered in the last week that seem especially intriguing.
(UNNAMED) MIAMI BEACH PADDLE BOARD EVENT: It didn’t take long for triathlon promoters to jump on the stand-up paddle board craze. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported Tuesday that Exclusive Sports Marketing (ESM), best known for the Family Fitness triathlon series, will be staging an event somewhere in Miami Beach the weekend of Sept. 16-18 and offering $15,000 in prize money.
That’s an impressive amount of coin, but ESM president Chris Colgan tells the Sun-Sentinel that ESM plans to model the event after the wildly-popular Battle of the Paddle in California with sprint and long-distance races on a slalom course with numerous turns.
As a SUP fan, I hope they pull it off, but I’m a little skeptical. Even SUP organizers from within the industry have had a tough time drawing huge numbers on the East Coast, certainly not enough to recoup $15,000 in prize money. Presumably ESM has some sponsors involved. It could help that the popular YOLO Board Seaside Festival will be the previous weekend in Santa Rosa Beach. That’s a long drive to Miami, but perhaps the draw of two major SUP events in a 10-day period will help draw some of the sport’s biggest names.
MIAMI SPEED TRIATHLON (May 21-22) – Last Nov. 21, I pulled off a unique doubleheader of racing the inaugural Muddy Buddy at Zoo Miami and then attending the NASCAR Sprint Cup finale just hours later at Homestead-Miami Speedway. At the time, I remarked that I must have been the only person in South Florida to have possibly done both since there’s not too much crossover demographic between NASCAR and endurance sports.
I guess I was wrong. The Miami-based Excel Sports is staging the inaugural Miami Speed Triathlon at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Athletes will start by swimming in the man-made lake in the infield, one lap for the sprint distance and two for the Olympic. Appropriately enough, the transition will be on pit road. You’ll head out on the racetrack before exiting the facility and biking on roads that are largely deserted on non-race days (which is to say 350-plus days of the year). Much of the run course will take place around the race track, though thankfully not on the banked track. Fans in the stands will get a great view of most of the run.
I wish there wasn’t so much going on that weekend, such as the Streak the Cove 5K in Kissimmee and the Gulf Coast SUP Championship in Madeira Beach. At least I’ll make it back for another doubleheader of Muddy Buddy and NASCAR on Nov. 20. This year, Zoo Miami won’t be hosting the Muddy Buddy finale, however. That’s because of the final intriguing event…
MUDDY BUDDY “WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP” (Dec. 4) – The folks at Competitor Group, which operates Muddy Buddy, tend to emulate Ironman wherever possible, which might explain the lofty “World Championship” title given to a series that has all of one race (Vancouver) outside the United States. We’re amazed at how quickly the Sunshine State has become saturated with muddy adventure runs, with Warrior Dash, Spartan Race and supposedly Tough Mudder coming this year, along with an expanded Dirty Duo series.
But we applaud Muddy Buddy for moving its longstanding Orlando event from Mother’s Day weekend to kick off the series April 9. The series returns to Miami for a second year on Nov. 21 and now the “world championship” will take place Dec. 4 in Punta Gorda at the “Redneck Yacht Club,” a former potato farm now used for monster truck events.
Like NASCAR, Muddy Buddy sees the value in starting and ending its series in Florida. It will be interesting to see if having a new event billed as a world championship just two weeks after the Zoo Miami event will cannibalize attendance in South Florida. The Miami attendance last year was relatively modest by Muddy Buddy standards, even though the facility was ideal for the event and the execution was topnotch. For folks in Southwest Florida on up to Bradenton, Sarasota, and maybe even Tampa Bay, the season finale should be an attractive event.