Written by Woody Wommack – Naples News
NAPLES — When James Lawrence set a goal to run 30 triathlons in 2012 and in the process set the world record, completing each race was his primary goal. On Sunday in Naples, his journey toward the world record got off to a great start when he not only finished the inaugural HITS Full Distance Triathlon, but also won the race’s overall title with a time of 10 hours, 27 minutes and 46 seconds.
“Every step the second half of the run I was feeling it,” Lawrence said. “But every time you cross that finish line it all goes away, especially when I remember why I’m doing this.”
Lawrence is attempting to raise $5 million for the Quiet Way Foundation through a campaign called “Tri and Give a Dam.” Quiet Way is a nonprofit organization that raises money to build dams to help provide fresh water to people in Kenya.
The full triathlon race, which features a 2.4-mile swim followed by a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile race was the first event of its kind to be held in the city of Naples. At the start of the day on Sunday, 20 entrants began the race. By 6 p.m., only two had finished while three others dropped out and 15 others remained on the course.
Lawrence, who lives and trains in Lindon, Utah, said he may have run his fastest time of the year, thanks to friendly course conditions.
“This was a great course,” Lawrence said. “The worst hill I had to run over was a highway overpass. It was just awesome and the conditions were perfect.”
A half triathlon also was held on Sunday, with Scott Anderson, 41, of Sarasota, taking the overall victory with a time of 4:32:36. Naples’ own Karen Tamson, 48, captured the women’s crown in the half with a time of 5:11:42.
The HITS series will continue with stops in 10 other cities around the country before culminating with a championship race in Palm Springs, Calif. in December. Event organizers said the series expects to return to Naples again next year, with even more competitors than the 600-plus that registered this year.
While Lawrence easily took the overall title, he spent most of the race trailing fellow Utah resident Deborah Battaglia. The 44-year-old Salt Lake City resident jumped out to a quick lead during the swim before being passed by Lawrence 12 miles into the 112-mile bike stage.
She went on to finish in 10:59:22, a personal record, and take the full distance women’s title. Her time also was the second best, male or female, to Lawrence’s.
“The last half-mile felt like I was floating on air,” Battaglia said of her reaction to finishing the race. “It was pretty cool to be a part of this for the first year and be able to finish with my best time ever.”
Battaglia also competed in Saturday’s open distance, which featured a 100-meter swim along with a 3-mile bike ride and a one-mile run.
“I always try to warm up the day before and I thought what better way to show my support for this event,” she said.
Battaglia plans on competing in 20 triathlons this year across the U.S., all while maintaining a full-time job as an emergency physician at the University of Utah University Hospital.
She said that she hopes she can make the HITS stop in Naples an annual event.
“It’s very pretty down here,” Battaglia said. “Tomorrow I’m going to go rollerblading and just enjoy the beach.”