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Saturday, December 9, 2023


Swimming more than a mile, hopping on a bike for a 56-mile spin and taking a nice 13-mile jog – all in the same morning – may not be most people’s idea of a fun-filled vacation. But for hundreds of hardy souls it apparently is, because the upcoming St. Croix Half Ironman Triathlon is sold out.
Response for the annual May 6 spectacle – this year longer and tougher – was so overwhelming that Tom Guthrie, the St. Croix event director, was forced to turn away entrants last week – three months before the race.
With 650 age-group competitors and 60 to 70 professional racers, the 13th installment of the St. Croix race will be the largest yet. That’s not even counting the 75 to 100 entrants for a shorter sprint triathlon that takes place during the big event.
And because dozens of entries a day were coming in as the race neared capacity, Guthrie said he expects next year’s event to be even bigger. Last year’s shorter triathlon attracted about 350 competitors.
"We were doing 40 entrants a week," Guthrie said. "We could have done another 300 to 400 people."
The big draw for those doing the half Ironman are the qualifying slots for the biggest race of them all: the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon, the sport's revered world championship.
The big draw for St. Croix and those involved in the island’s tourism industry, however, are the thousands of people who will be on island, many for at least a week. The triathlon is turning out to be St. Croix’s – and the entire territory’s – single largest tourism-related event.
And if the race continues to grow in the upcoming years, which is likely because St. Croix event organizers have a five-year contract with Ironman, the island’s approximately 1,000 hotel rooms will be close to tapped.
"Next year we hope to increase our Hawaii slots," Guthrie said. "Housing permitting, I hope to have about 950 people. Can we take up every available hotel room? I hope so."
Acting Tourism Commissioner Pamela Richards said the government will contribute $150,000 to stage the race, which will cost several times more than that to hold. Richards added, however, that while she fully supports the triathlon, the funding is intended as seed money.
"Our position is we give funds to start up an event," Richards said.
Along with racers, who will pay $125 each for the honor of torturing themselves, and their families staying on island, St. Croix receives expanded exposure because the event is filmed by a production company and then televised on various networks in several countries.
For most of the life of the St. Croix race the distance has included a 1.25-mile (2 kilometer) swim, 34-mile (55 kilometer) ride and a 7.4-mile (12 kilometer) run. To be an Ironman qualifier, the ride had to increase to a total of 56 miles and the run to 13 miles. The swim distance will remain the same. An actual Ironman race consists of a 2.4-mile swim, 122-mile bike and a marathon-distance, 26.4-mile run.
Guthrie said the winning time for the male pro in the half Ironman will be in the neighborhood of four hours. Age groupers will be on the course for about six hours.
There are currently 21 events in the Ironman Triathlon series of races – either full-length races or half distances – leading up to the Ironman Triathlon World Championship on the island of Hawaii in October.
Besides being a qualifier for the Hawaii and the California Triathlons, the St. Croix race has been and will continue to be a qualifier for the Lake Placid Ironman and the Canadian Ironman. The local race will offer 30 spots for the Hawaii race, which will likely go to the top two finishers in each age group.
For the pros, the draw of St. Croix is the $50,000 purse, one of the largest in the sport. It is equally distributed between men and women through 10 places, with the first-place finishers walking away with $7,000.
For more information on the race, check out the official Web site at St. Croix Half Ironman Triathlon.

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