By Kevin Grogan,
Gear for Multisport

Clermont resident Tami Ritchie, a native of Bloomington, Minnesota, was the first female to break the tape in a time of 10 hours 20 minutes 22 seconds (2.4 mile swim-112 mile bike-26.2mile run) last Sunday in the Ironman in Haines City.

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Ritchie, who usually competes for her age group title at the prestigious Ironman World Championships in Kona Hawaii, wouldn’t normally compete at Ironman Florida because the events are so close together on the calendar.

Tami describes her decision to run and prep for the race:

I signed up for this Ironman so long ago; I almost forgot I had signed up! There were some friends doing it and convinced me to as well.

After my last Kona, I took some time off. I started a new job and enjoyed the other things I did, so not training and racing was right for me. I did not ride my bike until June of 2018 and did not do any swims more than 2 kilometers maybe twice a month.

Around May, I decided I did indeed want to try to train for the race even with the new job, so started training in June”.  Leading up to the race my biggest challenge was probably the same as a lot of people, simply finding the time to train, recover, and do everything else (and correctly balancing them all).  Mentally it was not too difficult, especially knowing that I would get to race and that my home was intact unlike many in the Panhandle. The biggest thing to really get into my head was to simply let go of any time-related goals.

Tami describes Race Day

On race day I cannot say I had any one big challenge.

The swim ended up being alright for a wetsuit swim, and the air temperature was maybe a bit warm but the water was just cool enough. I did not feel hot while swimming. It was amazing that we were able to get a whole 2.4 mile swim in and I am so thankful. The first loop of the swim was great even with all the turns, the second loop was so congested and chaotic, but again, at least it was 2.4 miles.

The bike was a good course, not fast but not super slow either. The day started to get a little warm, with some wind at times. I believe that most days the week or so before were very windy, so thankfully it was not that windy on the bike on Sunday. The course was enjoyable and I saw possibly the least amount of drafting I ever have.

The Run. It was hilly! Hot and humid for a good bit too. There were downpours later in the day. The course was well marked and easy to follow once you got out there. The aid stations were a bit far apart for the weather, I thought, but I was also thankful there were any and they were filled with volunteers given the circumstances of the race. In my opinion the toughest Ironman run course I have done.

All of the South Lake fans were fantastic on the run for me. This is my second overall win.  I got the win in 2017 at Texas but this is the most memorable. I was able to break the tape. The race was much more special being so close to home and with everything that happened leading up to it, and seeing so many friendly faces racing or supporting the race!’

After Hurricane Michael hammered the Gulf Coast, the 20th Edition of the Ironman Florida Triathlon was relocated from Panama City Beach to Haines City.

Tami reflects on the Ironman and her overall win:

“Ironman is truly something more! So many people striving for the best of themselves, whether it be for a fast time, podium, or to finish. The training and racing really do something for people. I think it is hard not to have this carry over into other areas of your life. Like many types of athletes, I think Ironman triathletes are generally hard workers, dedicated, goal oriented etc.

The relocation of the Ironman was the perfect example, athletes were able to scramble and make the new date and location work (and with almost no complaining!). That’s just the kind of attitude Ironman brings out, just get it done one way or another! Even greater to see was how the Ironman corporation wanted to and was able to move the race and give us an opportunity to race, Haines City welcomed us to their town, and so many volunteers came out on such notice. All around it was so amazing to see.”

Kevin Grogan is a contributing writer for the South Lake Tablet. He is also the owner of Gear for Multisport, Athletic Gear and a south Lake athlete.

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