Athletes to 'run on water,' swim around Nathan Benderson Park island Sunday

UNIVERSITY PARK -- Athletes will be "running atop the water" as part of a new format for triathlon events taking place Sunday at Sarasota's Nathan Benderson Park.

The Sarasota Storm Tri Club has permission from park management to send runners competing in triathlon events across the flat surface of the lake's wave attenuation system, which maintains smooth water conditions during rowing regattas.

Runners will be routed across its broad length, said Steve Butler, a founder of the tri club.

The club is putting on men's and women's sprint triathlon events early Sunday featuring a quarter-mile swim, an 11-mile bike course and 3.1-mile run.

The club is going all out with another first-time offering: A 1-mile swim around Regatta Island.

"We're expecting 250 athletes for this first go-round," said Butler. "And as the last little part of crazy ... 14 to 15 people signed up for the Storm Chaser -- they do a tri (earlier) in the morning, and then do the open-water swim."

One athlete planning to do the island swim only is Jamey Nix, 52, of Sarasota, a triathlete who also regularly swims 1.5 or 2 miles, three times a week, as part of the Sarasota Sharks Masters swim team.

He is also a member of the Sarasota Storm Tri Club, and will volunteer during its fundraising triathlon events Sunday before donning swim gear for the island swim.

"This is really a warmup to get me rolling in triathlon," said Nix, who joked the only special item he plans to take with him to the swim will be alligator repellent.

As a precaution, his wife, Kathy Nix, 50, also of Sarasota, said Thursday she will be provide kayak support during her husband's swim, he said.

"Next week, we're doing a tri together," added Jamey Nix.

To late register, go to early packet pick-up from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Friday at Fit2Run, 1400 Main St., in downtown Sarasota; from 3-7 p.m. Saturday at the park, 5851 Nathan Benderson Circle, Sarasota; or at 6:30 a.m. Sunday at the park, according to Ren Schrock, a Tri Club member in charge of registration.

Also at the park this weekend is the SRQ Sup and Run 5-K, a stand-up paddleboard event and run presented by the Sarasota Athletic Association, benefitting veterans and their families through Operation Second Chance. It starts at 8:30 a.m. Saturday.

"Especially through Operation Second Chance, we want to continue to grow this event, to show our appreciation and support for our veterans," said Paul Blackketter, who heads the nonprofit organization that manages the park.

Information: worldclassrowing.com.

Sara Kennedy, University Parkway reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter@sarawrites.