Registration is open for 2013 Gainesville Biathlon Challenge


Noah Kaufman, top, and Kristen Seymour participate in the 2013 Gainesville Biathlon Challenge on April 6 at the Northeast Pool in Gainesville. Biathlon Challenges are scheduled through September.

Elizabeth Hamilton/Correspondent
Published: Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 at 4:44 p.m.

With sweat in his eyes and the pool in sight, Matthew Howland, 26, took off his shoes and dove headfirst into the heated, 80-degree water at Northeast Pool earlier this month.

Facts

If you go

What: 2013 Gainesville Biathlon Challenge
When: May 11, June 1, July 13, Aug. 10 and Sept. 7
Where: Alternating between Northeast and Westside pools
Admission: Early entry fee (Up to two days before the race) is $15 for Gainesville residents and $22.50 for non-residents. Late or day-of-race entry fee is $20 for Gainesville residents and $30 for non-residents
Information: 334-5067 or www.cityofgainesvilleparks.org

The impact wasn't as refreshing as he expected it to be after his hot three-mile run, the first portion of the 2013 Gainesville Biathlon Challenge.

Howland entered the pool in second place, 10 seconds ahead of the next participant, a considerable lead in racing terms.

But his biggest challenge has always been pushing through the first 50 meters of the 800-meter swim.

A long-distance runner for two years, he's used to breathing whenever he wants, not once every three strokes.

Winded and trying to find his rhythm, he felt himself fall behind, and soon enough, another competitor passed him.

"I never get out of the pool happy," he said. "(Losing) gives me the motivation, though, to work on my swimming."

Howland placed third in the first of Gainesville's six biathlon events.

The next races will take place May 11, June 1, July 13, Aug. 10 and Sept. 7.

All of the races consist of a 5K run, which is about three miles, and an 800-meter swim, which is eight laps.

The event is open to people ages 13 and older.

Races start at 8 a.m., and participants can sign up at 7 a.m., if they have not registered in advance.

The venues will alternate between the Northeast Pool, 1100 NE 14th St., and the Westside Pool, 1001 NE 31st Drive.

Attendees are encouraged to sign up two days before each race to save money.

The first 25 people registered for each race receive "race swag," such as a swim cap or a dry-off sports towel.

The early registration fee for each race is $15 for city residents and $22.50 for non-city residents.

Day-of-race registration is $20 for city residents and $30 for non-city residents.

Male and female first-place winners will receive two seasonal pool passes, as opposed to previous years' trophy and T-shirt prizes.

The goal for the 2013 Biathlon Challenge is to attract interest and awareness to the races in the community, said Jeff Moffitt, recreation supervisor with the Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs.

The event has been going on annually for more than 30 years, he said, but it has always relied on word-of-mouth for registration.

Organizers said about 15 competitors per race have participated in the past three to four years.

This year, the department has a new marketing team, so several changes, including the "race swag" have been made to increase attendance by at least five people per race.

The course has not been changed.

Michelle Weydert, aquatics leader, said she hopes that advertising will bring more people to the races and the pools. The last race on April 6 that Howland competed in had 18 participants. Her goal is to have races with 40 competitors.

Making the event larger and more professional, she said, will take small steps and a few years. She wants to create a good program with a variety of participants, ranging in ages and athletic levels. To reflect its maturity, she changed the biathlon's name from "Splash and Dash" to Gainesville Biathlon Challenge. Also, the organizers currently use stopwatches to record times. A future goal is to have ankle timers for the participants.

Howland said his two-year participation in the biathlon serves as transitional training for triathlons, a future challenge that he is preparing for. He also uses the biathlon as a way to benchmark his fitness level, and he hopes to see larger turnouts to increase the competition among the top athletes, he said.

"Not knowing who your competition is, is just more exciting," Howland said.

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