Ironman series resumes in Panama City
After a four-week reprieve in the Ironman schedule following the Ironman World Championship, the Ironman series ramps up again this weekend. On Saturday, 2,500 athletes will start the 12th edition of Ironman Florida in Panama City Beach. The race will see age group athletes competing for 65 qualifying spots for the 2011 Ironman world Championship and the professionals competing for 1,000 points in the Kona Pro Rankings and a $50,000 prize purse.
After the initial threat of the Gulf oil spill, and its impact on the communities and residents, the pristine shores that line Panama City Beach will take on a new meaning this year. No longer can one take for granted that the white sandy beaches and crystal clears water will always be here to enjoy.
Athletes participating in the race this weekend, and the Ironman family in general, will be thankful that the communities that have graciously hosted this event for 12 years have been spared the worst of the potential effects of the oil spill.
On Saturday, competitors will swim a two-loop swim in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, followed by a single-loop bike and a two-lap run. The bike and run courses are considered “flat and fast”, which no-doubt helps make this one of the most popular events in North America for athletes wanting to establish a personal-best time.
Professional race – Women
Ironman champions Erika Csomor from Hungary, and Germany’s Nina Kraft highlight the women’s field. American Kim Loffler is always a podium potential in any race she enters and, is due for her first win at the Ironman distance.
Jessica Jacobs recorded one of the fastest all-time bikes splits by a woman at the 2008 Ironman Florida. The American put on a superb running performance at an Ironman distance race in September, where she put together the fifth-fastest marathon overall.
Professional race – Men
Ironman champions Bryan Rhodes from New Zealand, Australian Chris MacDonald and Germany’s Max Longree will be all starting here on Saturday. They all know what it takes to win and the trio of champions should all be contending for the title.
Germany’s Dirk Bockel will also be starting in Panama City Beach, and is coming off his second top-10 finish at the Ironman World Championship in two attempts. The 2008 Olympian has decided to extend his 2010 race season and arrives as a definite favorite.
All the contenders should be keeping their eye on 27-year-old James Cunnama, though. The South African has a knock-out run and is in Florida fresh off his Ironman 70.3 Austin win this fall.