EDITOR'S NOTE: After the article was written, we are saddened to share that Amy Christmas has since passed. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family.
My fellow teammate has asked me to write a report summarizing my experience at my hometown race, the Sandestin Triathlon.
I am person that sees numbers. My race wave start was 6:46am. A number of great importance to me. I moved to Fort Walton Beach on April 8, 1978 and lived there until July 15, 1985. The formative years of my life from 8 to 15 years of age where my home address was 646 Powell Drive. I started my triathlon career in Fort Walton Beach, receiving my first tri bike on Christmas 1984. My first triathlon followed in 1985. In 1987, at the age of 17, I raced the Elephant Walk Triathlon (i.e. Sandestin Triathlon). Yes, 30 years ago.
Triathletes come and go. Since 1985, I have seen athletes for 2 or 3 years then they would take a break, retire from the sport, or move away. We would hang out together and talk after the races. Over the years the sequence would continue. Of course, there are lifers like Johnny Harrison, Chad Hon, Lance Steed, and myself who have known each other for 20+ years. Currently, I have the honor to be a part of GCTT, something which has allowed me to meet and socialize with even more great athletes and people. We have a bond because of this crazy sport called triathlon. Triathletes are loyal, caring, friendly, hard working, goal oriented individuals with many becoming loyal, lifelong friends.
Sandestin 2017, back to the numbers. After 30 years, the race was moved from August to September. This year, the air temperature was in the low 70’s at the start of the swim, compared to the mid-80’s with the prior August date. The water temperature was 81 instead of somewhere around 85 to 86 as in August.
The swim had a slight chop and current with really no jellyfish.
GCTT swimmers: Evan 14:27.47, David 14:38.14, Robert 14:38.39, Jared 15:03:51, Andrew 15:47:43, Brian 16:47:78, Johnny 17:13:81, Aaron 18:47:74
Transition. To me T1 and T2 represent the 2nd and 4th events of a triathlon - 5 total (swim, T1, bike, T2, run). One can gain or lose significant placement here.
GCTT T1 numbers: David 1:14:05, Robert 1:18:48, Aaron 1:25:47, Jared 1:28:94, Evan 1:31:80, Andrew 1:31:80, Johnny 1:32:92, Brian 2:13:28
GCTT coming out of T1: David 15:52.19, Robert 15:56.95, Evan 15:59.27, Jared 16:32.50, Andrew 17:19.23, Johnny 18:46.73, Brian 19:01.06, Aaron 20:13.21.
Sandestin’s 20 mile bike course is always fast. Before the race a friend said to me, "the wind should be calm for the bike.” WRONG. 4.5 miles east on Highway 98 was fairly calm, 5 miles east along 30A heading to Blue Mountain Beach to the turn at Big Daddy's Bike Shop parking lot featured a decent headwind. Then a tail/crosswind on the way back to Highway 98. Highway 98 west returning to Sandestin was a decent tailwind as I was hitting 28 to 29 mph at times.
GCTT bragging rights as top dog cyclist: Brian 45:30.98, Jared 45:42.19, Johnny 46:39.73, David 47:23.01, Andrew 47:35.57, Aaron 48:49.87, 25. Robert 52:16.59, Evan 53:24.79
Now the ever important T2 (event #4).
GCTT T2 numbers: David 34.76, Aaron 34.80, Jared 39.87, Andrew 37.54, Johnny 41.42, Robert 43.47, Evan 47.08, Brian 53.68
GCTT coming out of T2: Jared 1:03:04.56, David 1:03:49.96, Andrew 1:05:02.34, Brian 1:05:55.72, Johnny 1:06:07.88, Robert 1:08:16.91, Aaron 1:09:07.68, Evan 1:10:11.14
Time to hammer the run.
The run course has pretty much been the same for 31 years, about 15 years ago is when the turnaround at Baytowne Circle loop began. The last few years we have been running on the trail to Baytowne, as opposed to the road. I love the heat but the 2017 run was a little cooler (84, instead of mid-90’s as in August). For me, I am always focusing on leg turnover. This year’s run, the entire time I was thinking about Amy and Scott Christmas. Saying to myself, "It's great to be alive!” - Scott’s famous saying. I repeated that many, many times during the 4 mile run. Our fellow triathlete and friend Scott Christmas has survived 2 plane crashes. Twenty years ago, in 1997, the event recognized Scott with the presentation of an award for surviving his 1996 crash which he was nearly died from. From there The Scott Christmas Award was established. The award is presented to an individual that has overcome an adversity, never gave up, and said “Its great to be alive.” Back to the run. I pushed on the run as always - do not fear the pain. I am alive. It’s great to be alive. I communicated with Scott last night after the event, and received news that Amy is still with us and that we will have the Scott Christmas Award again in 2018. I have known Scott for 20+ years. However, our GCTT mate Dr. Jeffrey Conrad, has been best friends with Scott since grade school. Please pray for Scott and Jeff, I know Jeff is there right now supporting his best friend.
GCTT run numbers: Jared 24:15.97, David 25:20.65, Robert 26:18.66, Johnny 26:27.09, Evan 26:36.23, Aaron 26:53.01, Brian 27:48.03, Andrew 27:49.01
After “five events,” here are the numbers. The bragging rights of a fun and friendly competition: Jared 1:27:20 (1), David 1:29:10 (4), Johnny 1:32:34 (6), Brian 1:33:13 (7), Andrew1:33:21 (8), Robert 1:35:36 (9), Aaron 1:36:30 (12), Evan 1:37:17 (14)
GREAT RESULTS TEAM MATES!!!
With my great interview skills I asked some of the team members for some thoughts on the day. Rob Felty stated, "I may have two new hips by [age] 50." Rob will be a top dog Grand Masters in a few years. Our teammate Dr. Conrad can do the surgery.
Andrew felt that ”It was a fantastic day” and I agree it was beautiful day of weather and friendship.
Evan stated that he has done this race for 9 times since 2007 and enjoyed the 2017 rendition. Evan, the always considerate athlete, said "I remembered when you dedicated your 2009 Overall Sandestin win to your dad who was in the hospital.” Evan, thanks for remembering, it was a special year.
Jared Moore was the team best finisher and Overall Male Champion. Jared is just coming off the 70.3 World Championship on September 10. From my experience after racing an A race 70.3 distance, usually two weeks later you will have your best sprint triathlon. Jared trained only a few hours after 70.3 and was rested and fit to win. Win he did. Great job Jared, we are proud of you but know that we are gunning for you at Santa Rosa Island Triathlon ;) Jared, you will always be a Sandestin Champion, welcome to the club.
This race is dedicated to Scott and Amy Christmas. The men of GCTT are here for you and offer support and love. GCTT FAMILY.
I love the Alabama Coastal Triathlon. Might be an odd statement for me. For those who know me, they know the swim is my weakest event. As such, it would make sense for me to stay away from an intermediate event that emphasizes the swim. Yet, every year I find myself registering for the race. Like eating vegetables, I tell myself it is good for me. Suffer through the swim, expose the weakness and vow to get better at it. Triathlon, like life, should be about constant self improvement.
Unfortunately, this year a series of unfortunate events led to me racing the sprint event for the first time. With the new course for both races, a sinus infection that made swimming fairly painful (more than normal for me) and this being my first time racing the sprint, I wasn’t sure exactly what the day would hold.
Race morning began with Hurricane Irma on many people's mind. The weather was a little cooler and definitely windy as a result. As it became light enough to finally see the Gulf I can’t say I was disappointed I was not swimming 1500 meters. This was confirmed as I was batted around by the waves swimming a warm up. All that aside, the sunrise was beautiful and racers were lining up getting ready for the time trial start. Much like when I race the intermediate distance I was starting at the rear. When my turn finally arrived I was pleasantly surprised at the space the time trial start provided. I was tossed around by the waves, but was not crowded one bit by other swimmers. After a quick sprint up the beach you are in to T1 and out on the bike.
Although anticipated, the stiff tailwind was still a shock (a fast one) once moving on the bike. It became quickly apparent this would be a tale of two races. One with the wind, and one against it. The 12.4 mile sprint out and back course (which the intermediate does twice) was flat and fast with little traffic. The turnaround came as no surprise and it was a battle 6.2 miles all the way back into the wind.
A quick trip into T2 and back out onto the run. Unlike the bike, the run headed east and into the wind first. The sprint distance covered the first mile, out and back, of the intermediate 3 mile out and back course. Battling the head wind directly after doing the same on the bike was tough, but the turn around this time provided a welcome tailwind to bring you home to the finish.
Overall it was a good day of racing in tough conditions. The new course is simple, well designed, and fast. A plus is the two loop bike course and central location of the host, The Hangout, makes it great for family and friends to spectate. I finished the day feeling blessed to have raced with great people, on a good day, with my son there to cheer me in. Most days don’t get any better than that.
Full results: http://www.amatteroftiming.com/images/results/2017/actinteroverall.html