Dorsey Taking On Ultra Challenge
TAMPA - During the next two days, more than 20,000 runners and walkers will hit the streets of Tampa to participate in one of four road races at the Publix Super Markets Gasparilla Distance Classic - a record for the event since all of the runs were combined into a single weekend of competition in 2003. The lion's share of those entrants will take part in today's 5-kilometer (3.1 miles) race, a distance achievable by most. For the more serious runner, this morning's 15k (9.3 miles) offers a challenging, out-and-back course along Bayshore Boulevard. Sunday, it's the half marathon (13.1 miles) and marathon (26.2), distances that tend to attract people who have dedicated a good portion of their lives to training for at least the past six months. And then there are folks like Tampa's Fred Dorsey. They tend to be driven and goal-oriented. If they were climbing Everest, they're the type who want to do it without the oxygen tanks.So for runners like the 52-year-old Dorsey, Gasparilla officials came up with the Bud Light Challenge and the Michelob Ultra Challenge. The Bud Light event combines both of Saturday's races and the half marathon Sunday. The Michelob Ultra event covers even more ground - 38.6 miles - by completing the 5k, 15k and marathon. Race director Susan Harmeling says the event is filled to capacity, with 250 in the Bud Light event and another 52 signed up for the Michelob Ultra. For Dorsey, the combined 23.5 miles of the Bud Light race is test enough. That's because Dorsey is going to be one of the most competitive entrants in this division. He might be a Grand Masters runner (older than 50), but when the races are done and all times from his three races are combined, Dorsey will probably own one of the top cumulative clockings. Dorsey, a systems engineer for Verizon, has done all six of Gasparilla's challenges. He was second overall in the event's inaugural year (2003), has been in the top five every year and he'll probably be among the leaders this time. "The first year, I entered it as something of a lark, to see how I liked it and challenge myself," said Dorsey, who recently completed the Disney Marathon in a time of 3 hours, 11 minutes. "But now it's turned into one of the premier events of my racing season. I really look forward to this." This year, Dorsey is shooting for a time of just less than an hour for the 15k, sub-20 minutes in the 5k and, coming back early Sunday morning, about 1.5 hours in the half marathon. His strategy for the three races goes a little counter to what his coach, Dror Vaknin, has suggested. Even though Vaknin believes the focus should be on the longest and final event, the half marathon, Dorsey attacks it from the front end, running the 15k as hard as he can. "Dror's probably right," said Dorsey. "But I like to run the 15k hard because I still have a chance at placing in my age group 50-55 in that race." Dorsey says he "backs off a little" in the 5k, which comes about an hour after the end of his 15k. For the half marathon, which starts at 6 a.m. Sunday, Dorsey said he will "give it all I have." Dorsey knows doing three races this hard in two days could lead to an injury, especially for a runner his age. And there have been times he wondered if he would finish - like last year when a hamstring tightened on him during the half marathon. But after Sunday, he will focus on the coming triathlon season, a time when he takes a little stress off his body by cross-training in the pool and on the bike. "I know my limits and I know that for me, this event is enough of a challenge," Dorsey said. "This is the one, kind-of-nutty thing that I do and this is really the only time I can do something like this."
Reporter Bill Ward can be reached at (813) 259-7456.