PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - After 70.3 grueling miles swimming, biking, and running, Florida residents claimed the top places on the IRONMAN 70.3 Gulf Coast podium in the men's and women's classes.
Steve Jackson from Jupiter crossed the line first overall, finishing in 4:03:46. Jackson dominated the race, finishing more than six minutes ahead of the next closest competitor.
For Jackson, today is a remarkable triumph that would have seemed unthinkable five months ago.
"I was actually in a bike wreck," Jackson said. "On Christmas Eve, I broke my collarbone and had surgery the same day. There are seven screws and a nine inch plate in my collarbone right now. I spent January and February basically training indoors. I couldn't swim, I couldn't bike outside, and I couldn't run. For the first race back, I'm very pleased with the result."
Florencia Morales, who trains in south Florida and hails from Argentina, claimed the women's title with a time of 4:39:46.
"I did it last year and I finished as the second woman overall," Morales said. "I did not expect this!"
The temperature neared 90 degrees as the top finishers sprinted home at approximately 10:30 a.m. Although the conditions were far from ideal for running, Morales used the weather to her advantage.
"I train in this. I'm used to it. South Florida is even worse because we have more humidity."
At 4:39:06, 48 year old David Shearon was the first local finisher. A resident of Panama City Beach for two decades, Shearon's pace was fast enough to place fourth in the 45-49 year old age bracket, 42nd overall.
The course is a condensed version of the full IRONMAN course used in the fall. Following a 1.2 mile behind the Edgewater Beach and Golf Resort, the athletes transition to bicycles for 56 miles down Front Beach Road and north and south on Highway 79. A 13.1 mile running course loops around Front Beach Road and Middle Beach to complete the competition.
The IRONMAN 70.3 Gulf Coast, formerly known as the Gulf Coast Triathlon, is one of the region's longest running events, dating back to the 1980s.