On Sunday morning, the sun was met with a sharp blast of an air horn then there was a splash mixed with cheering. Spectators lined the shoreline to support 500 swimmers, who dashed (in several waves) into Gulf waters for a quarter-mile swim. It was the start of the inaugural Galloway Captiva Triathlon, the first-ever USA Triathlon-sanctioned event to be held on the island.
"It was a huge success," said Kate Gooderham, a veteran planner and event coordinator with the non-profit Southwest Florida Events, Inc. "The weather was great, the racers both adults and kids had fun, and we all got to help fight hunger through our donations to CCMI."
The Fort Myers-based non-profit organization helps feed the hungry through its soup kitchen and Meals and Wheel program, which serves more than 14,000 meals each month. In addition, CCMI educates 40 children in its Community Montessori Preschool and provides weekend backpacks full of food to more than 2,500 children each school year and oversees a mobile food pantry.
The Galloway Captiva Triathlon was a huge success with great weather for a quarter-mile swim in the Gulf, a 10-mile bike ride topped off with a 3.5-mile run along a golf course. The inaugural event was held at South Seas Island Resort and benefited CCMI.
Captiva Island's South Seas resort and its lush 330 acres encompassed by 2.5 miles of white beaches along the Gulf of Mexico provided most of the course.
"It was a beautiful course," noted veteran tri-athlete Susan Cone, who earned 3rd place in the 50 to 54 age group. "I thought it was a well-organized event."
Earning overall male champion in the inaugural Galloway Captiva Triathlon was 24-year-old Justin McMurrer of Lehigh Acres with a time of 52:14; Caroline Humphreville, 24, of Naples, was named overall female champion. She finished with a time of 1:03:32.
"Everything happens so fast that it is amazing," Kate said about what made the event exciting for her. "The first swimmer was out of the water in nine minutes, and the first racer was done in under an hour."
The children's triathlon, that launched the weekend, took 6 to 9 year olds on a 110-yard swim followed by a 1.5 mile bike ride and finished with a half-mile run along the edge of the resort's golf course. Those 10 to 13 years old completed a 200-yard swim, a 3-mile bike ride and a one-mile run along the same course.
Since the adult tri-athletes biked to Blind Pass and back to South Seas for 10 miles, Captiva Drive was temporarily closed Sunday morning. Lt. Joe Poppolardo was invaluable in helping put together various plans that ensured the road could be efficiently closed and cyclists could have a safe and fun race, said event coordinator Ken Gooderham.
"The notification plan with the electronic message board, the re-routing of traffic in Santiva area, the excellent media coverage and the Lee County Sheriff's Office 'Code Red' calls the day before seemed to work well," Ken said. "The coordination with emergency responders, racers and resort went more smoothly then one could hope. Shows what a lot of planning can do."
As co-director and organizer of the Captiva race, Angie Ferguson didn't think it could have had a better outcome. The weather was perfect and the race was sold out weeks in advance with a waiting list well over 50 people.
"We were able to bring a 'fitness is fun' type lifestyle to Captiva through the race," Ferguson said. "It help boost local business and local economy and help others in our community through CCMI. What more could we ask for?"
Kate said she hopes the Galloway Captiva Triathlon will return to the island.
"This kind of race is truly a partnership between local governments, sponsors, racers and volunteers," she said. "The feedback we have been getting is good, but we'll have to see."
For more snapshots of the children's and adult's triathlon events, see page XX