Sandestin Triathlon is one of those must-do races on the Gulf Coast. The first time I raced it was back in 1995 when it was still the Elephant Walk Triathlon, Destin and Sandestin have changed a little bit since then.
Normally there is a huge contingent from out of state which use this race as a "destination race" but this year seemed a bit lean. The fact it was held the same weekend as Alabama Coastal and Beach Blast triathlons didn't help either. However, there was still a solid turnout of over 200 athletes for the event. One of the best parts of the race is the post race food (BBQ and chicken sandwiches, Grayton Beer Company, and other stuff) and the post race pool party. Seems like it is right out of Caddy Shack where the triathletes totally take over the pool area awaiting the awards ceremony.
Morning dawned with almost perfect conditions. It was a bit warm but moving the race to September vs. August was an outstanding decision. The Gulf was flat with just a little current and no jellyfish to be found (unlike a couple years ago that still haunts people). Being in a later wave was helpful since you were able to see the athletes ahead of you test the current, it was apparent there was a slight east to west current so you could plan accordingly.
The horn went off and Dave Shearon and I hit the water. As we rounded the turn buoy, we were swimming directly into the rising sun. This made spotting the far turn buoy to swim straight was next to impossible. Looking at the results I must have guessed pretty good on my line since I had a solid swim split (always gaged off Evan's). Unfortunately as I'm running up to the transition area, I could hear Dave's wife yelling, "go David!" Normally I like hold him off a bit more on the swim to make him catch me on the bike. We both entered T1 together and I think he was out before I even unracked my bike.
As I hit the bike, I have a pretty simple goal, "get as far on the bike as possible before Johnny Rocket catches me." With a 20 mile (actually 19) bike course and a five minute interval between waves, there was no time to slack off. I ended up catching Kat from Sister Chain and told her to stay with me, which she did (not drafting of course). Bad part of offering encouragement to Kat is I know she is a faster runner than me. Luckily my fragile male ego is pretty resilient as she went sailing by me during the run. Solid bike with very little if any wind made a nice ride.
I exited the transition just ahead of Scott and right behind Evan. I started out with the goal, "keep Evan in sight!" This quickly was reevaluated and modified to, "need to hold off Scott!" This was again modified to, "keep Scott in sight!" It is all about proper goal framing. The run was hot but at least a lot of the course was shaded. The water on the course was ice cold which was awesome. Dumping a cup of ice water over your head on a hot race day is about as close to heaven you can get.
The Team dominated the event! Dave Sharon pulled the "Babe Ruth" of triathlon by posting on social media how he was out to win the race. To his credit, he followed through and crushed it to include the fastest run split of the day. He also made an outstanding gesture by nominating Scott Christmas for his own Scott Christmas Award. Scott has had a rough year but continues to preserve. Great job by Dave on words spoken and looking out for his fellow athletes.
Aaron finished 3rd overall (missing 2nd overall by 1 second) and letting Johnny take Masters overall in 5th place OA.
The rest of the team finished:
Spence Cocanour 6th, 1st AG
Billy Striepeck 7th, 1st AG
Evan Malone 10th, 1st AG
Scott Roberts 15th, 2nd AG
Sister Chain's Kat Karpitskaya finished 1st overall and Mindi Straw finished 1st AG
Great event and fantastic racing by the team. Can't wait to see everyone at Santa Rosa Triathlon!