Race Review: Florida Challenge Triathlon 1.2-mile OWS

I’ve always wanted to visit Clermont, the “World Triathlon Destination”, and finally did so last weekend! The Intimidator event consisted of a half-iron distance tri and sprint distance tri along with aqua-bike, duathlon, and OWS races. I really wanted to do the triathlon; however, as those who follow me on STRAVA may already know, I didn’t run for most of February to recover from the Disney Marathon back in January. Since I’ve been swimming a lot in preparation for Escape from Alcatraz, the 1.2 mile OWS was the perfect opportunity for me to get more exposure racing in the open water...and check out Clermont!

  • Event: 32nd Annual Florida Challenge Triathlon - The Intimidator
  • Race: 1.2-mile open water swim (OWS)
    • Well-marked course: YES
    • Lots of safety support (paddleboarders/boats): YES
    • Water temp: 70 degrees
  • Venue: Clermont’s Waterfront Park at Lake Minneola

Swim Course

I looked at the 1.2-mile swim course map a couple days prior to the race. To be honest, I literally glanced at the map for a few seconds and that was it. "It's a rectangle...easy!", I thought. I've swam courses with really odd shapes, even an M-shaped course too (yes, I'm pointing at you, Ironman 70.3 Florida!), so I thought that a rectangle would give me no issues, whatsoever. However, one thing I failed to notice is that there is a curve from the second-to-last buoy to the last buoy (where I've drawn an awesome red exclamation mark below). I wasn't ready for this slight adjustment and it momentarily threw me off during the swim, among a few other things...

1.2-mile swim course map

Swimming the Course

Running Start

To start the swim, we had to run into the lake a good bit before actually jumping in to swim when it was deep enough. I was so excited that I ran a bit too fast into the water and actually felt a bit out of breath while beginning the swim. Despite the usual thrashing against bodies in the water, I was able to get my heart rate back down by settling into my usual controlled breathing.

Wetsuit Discomfort

Because of the 70 degree water temps, I was able to sport my 3/4th-length sleeveless wetsuit from 2 years ago. The problem is, this wetsuit is from 2 years ago. I’ve gained some weight and this thing is a bit tighter on me now, but it’s doable. Because it’s naturally a bit tighter than it should be and the fact that I should have done a better job of putting it on, I felt like the wetsuit was constricting my entire upper body like a sandwich. I gave it a couple stretch tugs early on during the swim when I felt this (not sure if it did anything) but the discomfort did go away after about about 200 meters or so.

I'm in the middle somewhere,  adjusting my wetsuit and trying to settle into my rhythm.

Lost track of buoy count

Prior to starting the swim, I counted the buoys- pass 4 circle buoys, then turn at the rightmost triangle buoy. Swim to the leftmost triangle buoy, turn, and then it’s 4 more circle buoys to the finish. Once I started the swim, I totally lost count of how many buoys till the turns. Facepalm. All I knew was to turn at the triangle buoys. Well, I turned at the first triangle buoy, and forgot we had to pass a smaller triangle buoy in the middle before turning at the leftmost buoy. You know that feeling when you’re driving, you think you’re there, but you really have a few more miles to go? Yeah, that’s how I felt at that point. So anyway, I swam to the leftmost triangle buoy, turned, and headed back to shore. 

The Curve to the Finish

I was situated in the swimming pack such that there weren’t too many people around me, but I did have a “buddy” who pretty much swam next to/near me the whole time (thanks for pacing me, man!). I never stopped swimming to look where I was going because I relied on my swim sighting (picking up your head to see during strokes) and was following a few others in front of me. On my way back to shore I was swimming pretty straight, as I did the whole course, but then noticed others starting to swim a bit east towards the START. I then thought, “Oh, maybe we have to finish where we started?” So I started turning east as well. It was after a half-minute or so that I finally saw the narrower, FINISH line for the swim in which I was no longer headed straight for. I had to change direction again and go a bit west toward the pier!


Lessons Learned and Tips

  • Control running into the swim: Don’t go out running into the swim too fast. If you do decide to run fast into the swim, don’t forget to breathe while running.
  • Study the course: Know the course route and its intricacies. Even an unexpected slight curve in buoys can throw your time off a few seconds. Anticipate turns at the appropriate buoys.
  • Get a properly-fitted wetsuit: When buying a wetsuit, make sure it fits correctly and you’ve practiced in it. Get in a warmup swim with it before the race.
  • Bilateral breathing: Be comfortable breathing on both sides. With the sun rising in the east it can be difficult to see depending on which direction you're swimming. Also, you may need to breathe on a certain side depending on waves and bodies thrashing around you.
  • Stop! Navigation time: If you're not sure where you're going, stop swimming! Doggy paddle/breast stroke with your head above the water to find your bearings. Better to stop and be certain where you're going than waste time constantly re-adjusting!


Overall, this was a great swim race. I managed to finish in 40:55 and place 3rd out of the 7 guys that did the 1.2-mile OWS. Aside from increasing my swimming speed in general, I need to get better at navigating...something that can be improved by better studying the course maps and getting more exposure to the open water. After finishing, I felt as if I had finished an intense bench press workout...but still had an itch to hop on a bike and cycle some hills!

I can't wait to return to Clermont for more triathlon training and racing. Next time though, I won't just have my wetsuit and goggles with me...I'll have my bike and running shoes too.


Shoutout to Danielle for the awesome pictures in this post!!!

Comments/suggestions about this race review? Let me know in in the comments below! Thanks!