Category Archives: Race of the Week

Race of the Week: Florida Challenge Half Marathon & 5K Trail Runs

By Pete Williams

When it comes to trail running, Florida is underrated. Sure, the Sunshine State might lack hilly terrain and high altitude, but there is no shortage of challenging trails through breathtaking scenery.

That’s what makes the 11th annual Florida Challenge Half Marathon & 5K Trail Run on Sunday, Jan. 26 at 8 a.m. one of our favorite races. Held at beautiful Alafia River State Park, just east of Tampa, it’s perfectly situated on the race calendar before triathlon season and amid a crowded road race calendar. It’s rated one of the top trail runs in the country, with hillier trails than you’d expect.

It’s also one of the better values in Florida endurance sports. Race-day registration is just $35 for the 5K and $45 for the half marathon (early sign-up rates were even lower). At a time when it costs $80 to pound the asphalt and pavement of a road half-marathon, that’s a bargain.

History: Race debuted in 2004 and is one of a number of popular off-road running events put on by Tampa Races, which also stages the Picnic Island summer adventure run series, along with the XTerra Florida Trail Run series.

Format: The Florida Challenge is a 13.1 mile and a 5K trail run on beginner and intermediate single track trails. The half marathon starts at 8 a.m. and the 5K a half hour later.

Amenities: Long-sleeve T-shirts, custom awards for top finishers, catered post-race food.

Cost: Online registration closing Jan. 23. Race-day registration available – $35 for 5K, $45 for half marathon.


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Race of the Week: Streak the Cove 5K

By Pete Williams

Streak the Cove II

Endurance athletes looking for a bucket list event the weekend of May 19-20 in greater Orlando have several options. There’s the Goruck Challenge, perhaps the toughest event in endurance sports, and Ironman 70.3, which has moved this year from its longtime Disney home to Haines City.

We’re big fans of Goruck and triathlon, but when it comes to memorable, brag-to-your-friends events, we’ll put our own clothing-optional Streak the Cove 5K up against everything. Our second-annual race, which drew 170 runners last year, returns for a two-loop run through the tree-lined neighborhoods of the Cypress Cove Resort on Sunday, May 20 at 8:30 a.m.

Though more than 80 percent of runners go nude, you may wear as much or as little as you like. (Shoes and sunscreen recommended.)

When Cypress Cove opened as a nudist resort in 1964, it was nestled on a two-lane road among cow pastures and orange groves. These days, there’s a Lowe’s home improvement store across the street, part of a bustling Orlando suburb. “The Cove,” meanwhile, has upgraded its facilities over the years and now has a sprawling pool complex and 80-plus hotel rooms to go with its beautiful lakeside setting

Name of Race: Streak the Cove 5K

History: Second-annual event that drew 170 runners last year. Streak the Cove is organized by Enterprise Media LLC, which also puts on the popular Caliente Bare Dare 5K, which takes place Sept. 30.

Format: Two-loop course through the shady neighborhoods of Cypress Cove. Race ends at the resort’s sprawling pool complex.

Amenities: Red Tultex T-shirts. Commemorative mini-bottles of wine to the top 20 male and top 20 female finishers age 21 and over. Goody bags before the race and post-race refreshment poolside, along with deejay and raffle drawings. Entry fee gets you into the resort for the entire day.

Signature Features: Um, it’s a clothing-optional race.

Projected Turnout: 200

Cost: $30 via online registration which closes at 11:59 p.m ET on Thursday, May 17. Raceday registration available for $35.

Sign-Up: Via IMAthlete

Read fitness blogger Meghann Anderson’s first-person account of racing the 2012 Streak the Cove 5K HERE.

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Race of the Week: Sweetwater Paddle for the Cure

By Pete Williams

Arnie Goodman almost called off his fourth-annual  “Sweetwater Paddle for the Cure,” which raises money for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.

Goodman, a Tampa physician who has been battling the disease for six years, has been undergoing another round of chemotherapy and figures he might not be able to appear at the event, which will go on as scheduled on Saturday (May 5) at 8:30 a.m. from Tampa’s Riverfront Park.

“I’ve been really sick, the disease is catching up with me,” said Goodman, 54. “But when I started talking about calling it off, my friends stepped up to make this happen and pull it together. I’m hoping to make an appearance.”

Multiple myeloma accounts for just 1 percent of cancer cases but has claimed the lives of a number of prominent Americans, including Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, syndicated advice columnist Ann Landers, and former vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro.

Goodman, who has undergone two stem cell transplants and spoke extensively with about his battle last year, has written extensively about the disease online. In 2009, he created the “Sweetwater Paddle for the Cure,” which began as a 5-mile kayak race and a 2-mile family fun paddle through downtown Tampa. That year, just one stand-up paddle boarder entered. Last year SUP enthusiasts outnumbered kayakers and Goodman says more than 200 total paddlers are expected this year between the two events.

In addition to the two paddles, there will be a benefit concert at The Lodge Restaurant and Bar in South Tampa the night before the race, May 4, from 5:30 to 8:30. Registration for the race is available online as well as the day of the event.

“I’ve been dealing with this disease for a number of year and thought I had it under control, but am hitting a bad spot right now,” Goodman said. “Once it became clear I probably wasn’t going to make it, every one of my friends said they’d step up and make it happen, and that’s pretty cool. I’m very grateful for the support.”

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Race of the Week: Shark Bite Challenge

By Pete Williams

April 14-15, 2012

It’s not often you find a race for $30 that offers an hour-plus-long event, a dry-fit shirt, post-race food and entry to one of America’s finest beaches, which is waiving the usual $8 parking fee.

That’s all part of the package for the ninth-annual Shark Bite Challenge and Paddlefest at Honeymoon Island in Dunedin, which includes two days (April 14-15) of paddle races. If you can paddle it, you’re pretty much in. Not surprisingly, a large stand-up paddleboard (SUP) contingent is expected for Sunday. Anyone registering at the Dunedin Brewery from 6 to 8 p.m. on Saturday night gets a free beer.

The race is organized by Karen Mirlenbrink, owner of the Dunedin Pilates Studio and an accomplished paddler herself. At a time when an increasing number of endurance races charge for parking and offer little in terms of free post-race refreshments, the Shark Bite Challenge & Paddlefest might be the best value in the industry.

Name of Race: Shark Bite Challenge and Paddlefest

Location: Honeymoon Island State Park, Dunedin

History: The Shark Bite Challenge is a fundraiser for the Friends of the Island Parks, a non-profit, citizen support organization that supports the efforts of Caladesi and Honeymoon Island State Parks.

Format: Two-day event kicks off Saturday, April 14 with a nine-mile, 6-man outrigger canoe race. The following day, there’s a 4-mile and an 8-mile kayak, canoe, surfski, OC1, OC2, SUP, and prone paddleboard race.

Schwag: The Shark Bite Challenge works in conjunction with the Island Earth Days festival. With registration, racers receive a dry-fit t-shirt, free parking, and post-race lunch courtesy of Cafe Honeymoon.

Signature Feature: Honeymoon Island and neighboring Caladesi Island are consistently rated among America’s most beautiful beaches.

Projected Turnout: 150-plus

Cost: A bargain at $30 for Sunday. It’s $120 for each six-man OC-6 canoe on Saturday. Those who compete Saturday get $10 off Sunday entry fees.

Note: Competitors must have personal flotation devices (PFDs) on their vessels at all times.

Sign-Up: Via Race day registration also available.

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Race of the Week: MADD Dash 5K

By Pete Williams

Racing at Al Lopez

This is the first weekend of the endurance sports season and Floridians have no shortage of high-profile options, including the Disney Marathon at Lake Buena Vista, the Ragnar Relay from Miami to Key West, and the new HITS Triathlon in Naples.

For those wanting an easier transition into 2012, there’s the MADD Dash 5K at Tampa’s Al Lopez Park. Organized by Tampa running guru Lynn Gray, it’s a fast course that likely will be run in ideal race conditions. (Think 58 degrees or so.)

Gray, who has completed 93 marathons, has introduced thousands to the joys of long-distance running over the years, most recently through her Take the First Step Program. She joined us this week on The Fitness Buff Show to discuss the MADD Dash and tips on making 2012 your best year yet as a runner. You can listen to that broadcast HERE.

Name of Race: MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) Dash 5K – A Resolution Run

When: Saturday, January 7, 8 a.m.

Where: Al Lopez Park, Tampa

History: This is a 10th annual event

Format: 5K, plus a 1-mile kids fun run

Amenities: Long sleeve t-shirts and goodie bags for the first 300 registered runners. Trophies for overall winners, along with masters/grandmasters/and high school winners, along with standard 5-year age groups (9 and under through 80-plus)

Projected Turnout: 300-plus

Cost: $25 for the 5K or $10 for the fun run

Sign-Up: Race day registration available

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Race of the Week: Purple Stride

By Pete Williams

Purple Stride highlights Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month

We’re at the tail end of Breast Cancer Awareness Month and there has been no shortage of terrific races and events to raise awareness and funds for a disease that impacts so many women and their families.

November is Pancreatic Awareness Month, which tends to fly under the radar compared to breast cancer and prostate cancer, which had its awareness month in September. But pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest forms of cancer, with only a 6 percent survival rate five years after diagnosis.

Apple founder Steve Jobs died earlier this month after battling a rare form of pancreatic cancer for eight years and the disease has claimed the lives of a number of notable people in recent years, including Gene Upshaw, Myles Brand, Chuck Daly, and Randy Pausch, whose battle with the disease inspired the best-selling book “The Last Lecture.”

In November, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network will stage “Purple Stride” events around the country that include 5K and 1-mile runs, walks, and kids fun runs. The events include St. Petersburg (Nov. 5), Orlando (Nov. 13), and in South Florida on (Nov. 20).

We recently spoke with Tracy Connolly, race director of the St. Petersburg event, on The Fitness Buff Show.

Name of Race: Purple Stride – Tampa Bay

When: Saturday, November 5 – 8:30 a.m.

History: This is a third-annual event.

Format: 5K run and 1-mile fun walk around Albert Whitted Park in St. Petersburg

Amenities: T-shirts, music, kids activities

Noteworthy: Twenty-two people who either have or have had pancreatic cancer will be participating.

Projected Turnout: 1,000-plus

Cost: $25 pre-registration, $30 race-day

Sign-Up: Online HERE

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Race of the Week: The Highlander

By Pete Williams

Lots of mud at the Highlander

It’s not easy standing out in the cluttered, competitive field of obstacle mud runs. As we chronicled last week, there now are 17 companies promoting 22 such events this year – and that’s just in Florida.

Jonny Simpkins didn’t even decide to stage a race until competing in the Warrior Dash in Lake Wales in January. But his Highlander race, which debuts on Saturday (July 23) in Bartow, might just be the dark-horse hit of 2011.

Simpkins, who has a long background in both endurance sports and motocross racing, has found a unique piece of property, a tract of several thousand acres that’s never been used for endurance events – just a few off-road motocross events. There’s plenty of water and, in an unusual Florida twist, terrain of varying elevations.

Simpkins says the race, put on by his Rock On Adventures company, will be challenging enough but not overly difficult. One difference between the Highlander and other races is that the obstacles aren’t temporary; Simpkins has permission to leave them up for a proposed second race in October. That means the obstacles can be more substantive than those presented by some of the national obstacle run tours that have rolled through the Sunshine State this year.

Where rubber meets the rock

Plus, the event is billed as more of a family event. Spectators can see more than 75 percent of the 3-mile and 6-mile courses from raised terrain and take free hayrides to witness the rest of it. Plus the event will coincide with the Highland Games, a celebration of Celtic culture featuring bagpipes, kilts, and the type of endeavors you might see in strongman competitions.

“I didn’t want to put on just another fire-jumping, beer-drinking mud race,” Simpkins says. “I want to be know as the Highlander – a fun Scottish-themed event that you’re not afraid to bring your family to. There’s nothing wrong with beer-drinking races – and we have beer – but that’s not the emphasis.”

Name of Race: The Highlander

History: Debuts on Saturday, July 23, 2011 in Bartow

Debut July 23

Format: Three-mile and six-mile obstacle runs consisting of man-made and natural obstacles of mud and stone, dirt and water.

Amenities: T-shirts (with registration), lots of food and beverages available for purchase.

Signature Feature: Steep 150-foot waterslide plunge into muddy water

Projected Turnout: 500-plus

Cost: Very affordable compared to others in the category for (now expired) early bird registration, which started at $45. Race still a good value at $70 for the three-miler or $75 for the six-miler. Online registration ends today (July 18). Race day registration available.

Sign-Up: Online HERE

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Race of the Week: Nature Coast Twilight Triathlon

By Pete Williams

Running Crystal River

It’s amazing how an unusual start time can change the entire feel of a triathlon. The Nature Coast Twilight Triathlon, which takes place at 7:30 p.m. in Crystal River on Saturday, July 23, is one of the rare triathlons that does not get underway at the crack of dawn.

Most triathlons take place at dawn to facilitate road closures and avoid weekend crowds. But because the Twilight Triathlon takes place mostly away from traffic at Fort Island Gulf Beach Park, DRC Sports race organizers have the option of a PM race to go with their popular Crystal River Sprint Tri series.

We recently spoke with race director Chris Moling on the Fitness Buff Radio show and you can listen to that interview HERE.

Name of Race: Nature Coast Twilight Triathlon

History: Debuted in 2007, fifth annual

Format: One-quarter mile swim, 10-mile bike, 3-mile run

Amenities: Saturday night party on the beach with post-race music, refreshments, and awards.

Signature Features: Night-time triathlon. Bike lights are required for safety reasons. Reflective apparel or tape is necessary for the run as well.

Projected Turnout: Race is capped at 300 because of limited parking at Fort Island Gulf Beach Park

Cost: One of the more affordable triathlons at just $55 (for USAT members) through July 20 and $70 after (if available).

Sign-Up: Via or download form at DRCSports site.

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Race of the Week: SUP Splash St. Pete Beach

By Pete Williams

SUP Splash Comes to St. Pete

With the possible exception of adventure mud runs, no segment of the endurance sports race scene has boomed more in 2011 than stand-up paddleboard races. Here in Florida, it’s possible to find one virtually every weekend and there’s now even a regional SUP series to keep up with demand.

The SUP Splash Race Series, which debuted last month at Lake Lanier in Georgia, comes to The Postcard Inn on St. Pete Beach on Saturday, July 16 at 9 a.m. The race is organized in part by Karen Mirlenbrink, owner of the Dunedin Pilates Studio and an accomplished paddler who recently joined us to put us to talk about the race on The Fitness Buff Show.

Name of Race: SUP Splash St. Pete Beach

Location: The Postcard Inn, 6300 Gulf Boulevard, St. Pete Beach, FL 33706

History: This inaugural race is the second in the five-race SUP Splash Race Series, which includes two races in Georgia and a season-ending event Oct. 1 in Chattanooga, Tenn. The St. Pete race benefits Surfrider Foundation, a non-profit grassroots organization whose mission is the protection and enjoyment of the worlds oceans, beaches and waves with conservation, activism, research and education.

Format: Six-mile elite race and three-mile open races open to SUP, outrigger, and kayak.

Schwag: T-shirts plus weekend-long goodies. There’s “Welcome Night” packet pickup on Friday, July 15 from 6 to 9 p.m. at The Postcard Inn sponsored by Barefoot Wine. Free appetizers and beverages for racers ($10 for guests). Race entry includes lunch, beer, and awards on Saturday. There’s also a concert later in the afternoon.

Signature Feature: St. Pete Beach is quickly becoming a popular destination for SUP racing with its calm flat water. Course also goes into Treasure Island.

Projected Turnout: 75-100

Cost: $40

Registration: At SUP Splash Series site

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Nation’s Largest Beer Run?

By Pete Williams

Postrace at The Oldsmar Tap House

When Fred Rzymek and Tony Falso staged the inaugural “Oldsmar Tap House 5K” in 2009, they figured they’d draw 300 runners to the bar just west of Tampa for a Friday night run.

Instead, more than 700 athletes pre-registered. Another 500 showed up an hour before the race. By the time the first kegs were tapped, a crowd of 2,000 athletes and spectators had gathered.

Last year, the race grew to 1,400 runners. This year, more than 1,500 are expected.

Apparently the way to deal with a recession in the endurance world is to offer free beer – but not just any beer.

“Everyone has Michelob Ultra after an event,” says Rzymek, a longtime race director in the Tampa Bay area who is staging the third-annual Oldsmar Tap House 5K on June 10 at 7 p.m. “Being able to enjoy a number of craft beers no doubt helps.”

This year, Sierra Nevada is the official beer sponsor, providing 25 kegs. That will get things started, with the Oldsmar Tap House providing other craft beers as the night goes on.

As usual, the street in front of The Tap House will be shut down to traffic, creating a block party. There will be a live band and runners receive towels in addition to T-shirts. The first 50 male and first 50 female finishers will receive a lanyard and one-liter plastic “das boot” to fill with beer (up from the 18-ounce versions distributed the last two years). The boot allows access to an express beer line all evening.

Rzymek also will distribute 100 pairs of Boston Bill sunglasses, probably through a random drawing of sorts.

Falso opened the Oldsmar Tap House in an upscale but largely vacant office-and-condo district in February 2008, not long before the economy crashed. The brew pub features dozens of microbrews and an old-time pub atmosphere. Some patrons take on the challenge of drinking a 60-ounce beer from one of the Tap House’s signature glass boots.

When the pub opened, a running group was leaving for Wednesday twilight runs along the Oldsmar waterfront from a nearby bike store, meeting at the Tap House afterward for beer. When the bike shop closed the group, now known as the Oldsmar Run Club, began departing from the brew pub parking lot. The Wednesday night Tap House run continues to be one of the best-attended in the Tampa Bay area.

As for the race, Rzymek says he already has more than 1,000 runners pre-registered. There is early packet pick-up and sign-up at the Oldsmar Tap House on Wednesday, June 8 and Thursday, June 9 from 4 to 8 p.m. Online registration is open until the evening of June 8.

“You get the shirt and towel, and maybe win a boot,” says Falso, the Tap House owner. “Heck, some people drink enough free beer to cover their race entry fee.”


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