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Captiva Triathlon draws athletes of all levels

By Staff | Sep 9, 2015

Fort Myers resident Jennifer Bradbury will be competing in her third Captiva Triathlon this weekend. PHOTO BY DEBORAH PETERSON PHOTOGRAPHY

After volunteering at the Captiva Triathlon kid’s event four years ago, one Fort Myers resident knew she had to compete the following year.

Before Jennifer Bradbury met her weight loss goal of 140 pounds, she ran her first Veterans Day 5K in 2009. The race bug hit leading to her first half marathon in Naples in January 2010, again before hitting her goal.

Since June 2010 when all 140 pounds were shed, Bradbury has participated in numerous half marathons, as well as a full marathon. The avid runner, who is constantly adding new cardio workouts to her routine, eventually added cycling and swimming when she registered for her first triathlon.

This weekend marks Bradbury’s third Captiva Triathlon.

“I was really focused on swimming,” she recalled of training for her first triathlon. “I knew I could do the bike and run.”

Bradbury also had to learn how to transition from swimming, to biking and running, something she had never experienced in a race before.

“There are a lot of rules in transition,” she said.

The first transition area, which held her bike, helmet, sunglasses, water and anything else she needed, was set up first thing in the morning in a small space.

When Bradbury waited on the shore for her wave to start the first leg of the race, the nerves of swimming in the Gulf of Mexico consumed her.

“I was so nervous about swimming,” she said recalling that she was standing on the beach with tears filling her goggles.

The nerves turned into pure adrenaline as she hit the water shedding all the nervousness.

After finishing 440 yards in the Gulf of Mexico, Bradbury said laughing that she had to remember where her bike was located. Once she got to the transition area, she instantly began drying off her feet, so she could put shoes on, followed by her helmet.

Once set, Bradbury walked her bike out of the area before covering the next distance, biking 10 miles to Turner Beach/Blind Pass before traveling back to the transition area.

This year, she will have to change from her cycling to running shoes before finishing the last portion of the race, 3.1 miles. Bradbury said the two loops around the golf course has a little bit of an incline.

“It’s gorgeous,” she said.

This year Bradbury’s goal is to beat her time from the previous two years, which was exactly the same, 1 hour 17 minutes.

Since running and biking is part of her weekly exercise routines, Bradbury said she spent some time in the pool to practice her breathing for race day.

“It’s a good fun workout day for me,” she said smiling.

Bradbury said she continues to participate in the triathlon because of the camaraderie. She said everyone is there for the same reason, to beat a personal goal they set for themselves.

The Captiva Triathlon began in 2011 with a small group of athletes before attracting 750 athletes.

“There are a tremendous number of athletes in Lee County and we wanted to accomplish two things . . . encourage the multi-sport and to have a race locally. To have something that is really a very special race and to also raise money for a charity,” Kate Gooderham, Galloway Captiva Triathlon certified race director, said.

For the fifth year in a row, the Galloway family dealership has been the title sponsor affording them the opportunity to choose which charity the triathlon will support. Last year, $25,000 was donated to CCMI for the children’s backpack program.

The event will kick off with a children’s triathlon Saturday at 7:30 a.m. The younger kids will compete first, Gooderham said because they do not handle the heat as well as the older children. The race is divided into three different age groups 6 to 8 year olds, 9 and 10 year olds and 11 to 13 year olds.

“All three of them will be over before 9 a.m.,” she said due the short distances for swimming, bicycling and running. “It’s a fun race, meaning we don’t time them. The distances are pretty short.”

Gooderham said they have volunteers who line the swimming course in the Gulf of Mexico for the children, as well as the bicycling and running path.

“We do special things to make sure the kids are cared for,” Gooderham said. “People enjoy the kids being able to have the opportunity to be introduced to the sport in a fun way on Saturday.”

On Sunday the adults will begin their race at 7:15 a.m. The triathlon will begin with a quarter mile swim at the north end of Sunset Beach. Once they finish the swim, the athletes will bike the entire length of Captiva for 10-miles before running around the golf course for 3.1 miles.

“One of the wonderful things about the whole triathlete sport is at our level it is an assessable kind of sport that works well,” Gooderham said. “It allows people to really cross train because you need to be able to swim, bike and run. You can do well and have a good time at this without being fantastically good at any of them.”

She said many of the athletes that participate do it for the joy of completing a triathlon and having a sense of accomplishment.

Although the race is sold out for this year, volunteers are being sought to help on Sunday. Gooderham said they need volunteers to help with keeping spectators and athletes from running into each other due to the confined competing area.

Some of the areas that need volunteers include checking bicycles in and out of the transition area, as well as the bike course.

“We will have people out there to help warn of safety issues,” Gooderham said of athletes turning around at Blind Pass.

Jim Griffith, a Sanibel resident has volunteered his time every year since the triathlon has started.

“I have been a runner all my life and I enjoy running,” he said. “A couple of my children have done triathlons many years ago. I’m always fascinated by the people who enter and the enthusiasm.”

Griffith and his team of volunteers handle the registration and certifications of the athletes. He said a group of about five or six will meet Friday afternoon to start checking in athletes, which is followed by early check-in Saturday morning and again on Sunday.

“We try to accommodate everyone,” Griffith said. “Some come a long way.”

Over the years, many of his children travel to the island to help their father volunteer.

“This will be the first year I won’t have any of my children, but I will have one niece,” he said that will help him. “We are flying her down and she will be here for a week. It will be a new experience for her.”

Griffith said he loves volunteering because he admires every single athlete, both the children and adults, for participating in the triathlon.

“It’s a great atmosphere of everyone trying to better themselves,” he said. “It fills me with enthusiasm.”

Gooderham invites spectators to come out and cheer on the athletes as they cross their paths.

I would “love to see them come out and cheer them on as they go by,” she said, especially for those who live on Captiva.

Griffith said it’s really something to watch athletes crossing the finish line.

“It’s a magnetic three days of people trying to better themselves and improve their health and improve their overall physical being,” he said. “Whether you are doing it, or helping as a volunteer, it’s a great atmosphere.”

Follow Meghan @IslanderMeghan on Twitter.