CLEARWATER - More than 1350 athletes participated in last weekend's Ironman 70.3 World Championship, representing all 50 States, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands and 40 countries. 195 Floridians took on the challenge, many considering this their home race.
But the home field advantage belonged to Bev Buysse, Clearwater's Assistant Director of Marine and Aviation, whose office overlooks Pier 60 and the event's transition area.
Buysse not only entered the race, but she was also the Swim Director for the event, coordinating the involvement of the Coast Guard, Coast Guard Auxiliary, and the many on-the-water safety volunteers on boats, personal watercraft and surf boards. She also spent all-day Thursday on the water, setting the buoys for the 1.2-mile swim leg.
Buysse enjoyed the support of her local fans. She explained that during most events, her motivation must come from within. But at this race, she had support scattered along the entire route. "When you feel like you can't take another step, to hear 'Go Bev', it makes you want to keep going," she said.
Nowhere was there more support than the Marina on Clearwater Beach, where the Marina Restaurant displayed a large banner urging her on. About an hour before the start, Buysse walked by and the restaurant's employees asked her to sign the Ironman shirts they were wearing. "I did feel a little bit like a celebrity," Buysse said, "It was nice to have that support from the Marina Restaurant."
Buysse had nothing but praise for the course; "I don't think you could ask for a better course - the times were extremely fast," she said. She was also appreciative of the efforts of City employees and volunteers. "The cops did an outstanding job on the bike course," she said. She also singled out Clearwater's Manager of Traffic Operations, Paul Bertels, for having organized and obtained all the necessary DOT permits for the course.
Buysee's training regimen was rigorous. Since January, she swam, biked and ran every Tuesday, Thursday Saturday and Sunday. On Wednesday and Friday, she ran and did weight training. Her only day off was Monday. Buysse kept a log of her training effort, and calculated that this year she has biked 3,300 miles, run 600 miles and swam 330,000 yards. She averaged 27.8 miles per day of biking, 4.7 miles of running and 3,100 yards of swimming. Buysse said that the weekends were the most rigorous, training 8 hours every Saturday and Sunday.
But while the Ironman 70.3 World Championship will be returning to Clearwater for at least four more years, Buysse doesn't intend to participate; "This was supposed to be my retirement race from the sport," she said. Buysse will continue to coach, however; "I get a lot of satisfaction from seeing my training clients reaching their personal goals," she said. But Buysse admitted that she might enter some of the shorter races, and hopes to participate in AquaBike events, which use the Ironman's 56-mile bike and 1.2-mile swim legs, but eliminate the tortuous 13.1-mile run.
For the record, Buysse finished 23rd in her age group, setting a personal best time of 5hours 31 minutes 35 seconds for the 70.3-mile distance - a world-class effort from the City of Clearwater's favorite triathlete.
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