ST. PETERSBURG — At 7 a.m. Sunday, a long, steady stream of more than 3,000 athletes began charging into the waters off Spa Beach and proceeded through the swimming, cycling and running of the 30-plus miles of the St. Anthony's Triathlon.
At 8:40, Cameron Dye, 33, broke the finish-line tape in Vinoy Park, making it three straight victories in the event for the Boulder, Colo., native.
Dye finished in 1 hour, 40 minutes and 31 seconds, a slightly faster time than predicted because the Olympic-distance course was shortened because of choppy waters in the swim, from 1.5 kilometers to 900 meters.
"I felt pretty good," said Dye, who has been a pro triathlete for 11 years and competed in nine St. Anthony's races. "I was a little bummed that we didn't get to do the whole swim. But I felt good in the water and jumped on the bike and started hammering just like I always do."
A little more than 10 minutes after Dye crossed the finish line, Lauren Goss, also of Boulder, finished as the top woman in 1:51.54, more than 10 minutes faster than her third-place time last year.
Goss's trip around the course was a bit more of an adventure than Dye's.
Goss, who has competed in five St. Anthony's races, made a wrong turn about 10 miles into the 24.8-mile portion of the bike race. She said a policeman directed her the wrong way, a mistake she realized because no cones were marking the course.
By the time Goss, 29, got back on the correct course, she said, she had lost only 15 or 20 seconds and never came close to losing her lead, which she held from start to finish.
"But I did think, 'If I lose this race because of this (wrong turn), then someone owes me 10 grand' (the amount of money given to the men's and women's winners)," Goss said, grinning. "Fortunately, it all worked out fine."
Everything else went smoothly for Goss, who won by almost a full 3 minutes over Lindsey Jerdonek, 33, of Sagamore Hill, Ohio. Jennifer Spieldenner, 31, of Findlay, Ohio, finished third in 1:56.33.
Goss said her performance had a lot to do with training the past 16 weeks almost solely for St. Anthony's.
"Usually I start racing in January, but this year I held off and just focused on St. Anthony's," she said. "I really wanted this."
The men's race was closer, but Dye, who also won this race in 2010, led pretty much from start to finish, holding the lead after the swim and bike legs.
Runnerup Eric Lagerstrom, 28, of Gresham, Ore., finished in 1:40:52, 21 seconds behind Dye.
In third place was Jason West, 24, who trains nearly every day with Dye in Colorado. West finished in 1:41:05 and was beaming afterward because he has recently overcome several nagging injuries and Sunday he managed some cramping.
"I feel like I could have gone a lot faster, but I started cramping a little bit, so I had to be a little conservative to make sure I didn't totally cramp up," West said. "Once you cramp up, you can end walking in and finishing 20th."