noun: road trip; plural noun: road trips; noun: roadtrip; plural noun: roadtrips
Long car rides with friends, family, pets, etc. Generally entails excessive heat, or air conditioning, rest stops, pee breaks, speeding, sleeping, and lots of cities. Red bull is acceptable.
The long and boring trip that eventually becomes memorable and fun through time.
> source: Urbandictionary.com
2014 - Top Gun Triathlon - St. Petersburg, FL > Twilight Triathlon - Crystal River, FL
2015 - Chattanooga Waterfront Triathlon - Chattanooga, TN
2016 - Music City Triathlon - Nashville, TN
2017 - River Cities Triathlon - Shreveport, LA
The dust has settled on the 2017 version of the annual GCTT road trip race weekend, and consensus is that the outing was a success. This past Sunday, a baker's dozen of GCTT athletes partook in the 37th annual River Cities Triathlon held on the Cypress Black Bayou of Benton, LA and hosted by Sportspectrum of Shreveport, LA and the multisport community of Benton.
This particular team venture checked all the requisite boxes (plus a few extras) for the aforementioned definition of "road trip." Long drive. Check. Rental cargo van. Check. Excessive heat warranting plenty of air conditioning. Check. Rest stops. Ummm... sure. Dead battery, jump-start. Check. Pee breaks. Check. Forgotten gear (race wheel, goggles). Check. Speeding. Check, somewhat: 75mph speed limit on I-49 is grand. Moving blankets doubling as pillows. Check. Sleeping. Check. No less than five different charger cords extending from the dashboard. Check. Questionable eateries with truly 'handmade' food. Check. Trip anthem. Check. The restaurant staff shakedown on phantom food that was paid for but never made it to the table. Check. Red Bull. Check. Mistakenly driving into a barricaded and armed U.S. Air Force Base with said rental cargo van and armed gate guards staring the van down at the ready. Check. Long and boring. At times. Memorable and fun. Most definitely.
Checklist aside, the annual GCTT road trip has evolved into a chance for the team members to break out of the routine of "see each other for a few minutes prior to an event, redline it on the race course, briefly socialize at the post-race party, then return to your respective abode until next month's team event." The annual trip allows everyone a chance to catch up on lives of fellow team members, compare watts, explore some new music with a mix of disc jockeys clicking though their respective Spotify playlists, share tales of the races of yesteryear, try to remember how many ties and straps it takes to secure a dozen or more bikes into a rental trailer, and the like. Basically a refreshing take on the sport we all share a passion for while playing to the delicate balance between the desire to have fun with the want of being ready to RACE when the gun (er... Civil War field artillery in this case) blasts on raceday.
The event - the 37th rendition of the storied River Cities Triathlon. A vast majority of the team members had never had the opportunity to participate in this event, so it was an easy choice when debate began regarding the 2017 destination. The GCTT collective was anxious to have a go at this course and the buildup to the event including informative e-mail communication from the race directorship, multi-year listings of results and course records, and a few YouTube videos helped to fan the flame.
After nearly ten hours of travel that began in Gulf Breeze, FL (5:45am), the computer-generated voices of the phone maps had declared, "you have arrived at your destination" as the van, truck, and trailer rolled into the Sportspectrum parking lot. The dozen or so team members poured out of the vehicle doors along with a day's worth of empty water bottles and roadside stop snack wrappers with more than an hour to spare before the advertised packet pickup cutoff time of 5:30pm.
Packet pickup was fast, efficient, and methodical as the event staff processed the athletes from station-to-station. No lines. Fantastic participant goodies. Informative signage and graphics. A welcoming and friendly atmosphere with ample staff ready for any questions or concerns. A pleasant experience for the crew of weary road trippers.
The efficiency continued on raceday morning as the GCTT caravan rolled into Cypress Black Bayou Recreation Area. Despite the o' dark-thirty roll-out time, the GCTT crew limited the detours (i.e. getting lost) to ONE and upon arrival an abundance of law enforcement personnel were ready for parking the 50+ linear feet of truck/trailer/van. The instruction was simple: "NOSE-DIVE IT HERE." Nose-dive it? Neurons not yet fully communicating, the instruction may as well have been in Greek. "NOSE-DIVE IT HERE!" This time with no less than four officers/deputies and about 10,000 lumens of collective flashlight we were directed to park right up front with a perfect location for the convoy. If the rest of the day would remain this smooth the team was in for a great race!
Arrival to the transition was none other than expected at this point. No lines. Smooth flow to the numbered and assigned bike racks. Abundant race staff and USA Triathlon officials for last-minute questions and gear layout assistance. And, an overall great vibe. That vibe in part provided by likely one of the most energetic emcees in the history of triathlon - Woody Nesbitt. Woody and his crew had the audio set to the mood of the morning, almost as if the athletes milling in transition were choreographed. Any aspiring multisport emcees, take note on the delivery of the important announcements, the perfect song selection mix, and the top-notch sound system featured at this event. It did not go unnoticed by the GCTT athletes.
Soon enough it was time to make the last visit to the bathroom and head down for a pre-race warm-up swim in the WARM body of water followed by the methodical release of athlete waves onto the half-mile swim course. The wave start layout would allow the age-group athletes to compete head-to-head within their respective categories, save for the Invitational division (10 men, 5 women) that was to tee off two minutes before the entirety of the event field. GCTT is proud to have had three representatives in the competitive Invitational wave: Tyson Pompelia, David Shearon, Allen Stanfield. As mentioned above, the water is warm. No wetsuits at this event. Leave them at home. Additionally, this is a true and fair half-mile swim. Every bit of the distance is covered while swimming with very little need for dolphin diving of high-kneeing it into or out of the water. With a quick couple steps it is onshore, across the timing mat, under the swim finish arch, and sprinting through the pavilion toward transition.
The bike course has a reputation of being an 18-mile racetrack - fast, flat, and a perfect setup for a solid 5k run on the tail end of the event. The GCTT athletes concur that the expected racetrack is a reality: mostly-decent road surfaces, innocent rollers along the way, and basically nothing but right turns all translated to some fast splits. The confounding variable was the seemingly swirling wind without a prevailing direction in relation to the course that circumnavigates Cypress Lake, some left wondering, "when do I get the tail push." Traffic control and volunteer support was good for this course which is open to vehicular traffic, only a few anecdotes of having to pass or wait to be passed by a passerby motorist and most importantly, no spills or wrecks by the GCTT crew as everyone managed to keep the rubber side down. Dismount. Rack. Loop around the length of transition, and onto the run.
Along with some overcast skies and the noted swirling winds for this particular day, the meandering run course which is entirely contained within the Recreation Area offers an abundance of shade. Whatever Mother Nature is not able to provide the race staff and volunteers make up for with ample aid stations stocked with ice water, iced towels, and a motivational cheer. On a hot, sunny, humid day this would be a relative reprieve, however on this particular day, the ideal weather conditions meant there would be no excuses. Run hard. Search for that redline on your cardio engine. Ignore the heavy legs. Take advantage of the cooling stations. And let the miles click by.
The finish line experience is great. As with the transition area sound system, the same applies -- great announcing, great music, a fun and positive environment. Huge finisher medals. Cold bottles of water. And mostly-immediate results slips complete with split and pace breakdown.
While awaiting the various age groups to finish and as the results continued to sort themselves out the athletes were treated to a great post-race spread of refreshments and food. Beyond that, the banter was on... Congratulating fellow athletes. Swapping stories of the morning. Comparing watts (yes, again). Handicapping one another's performances. The part of multisport that keeps many of us coming back for more.
In the end, GCTT is proud to have earned overall and age-group podium representation at this historically competitive event. The highlight of the awards was the guitars that the top-five male and female athletes were presented. Yes, actual guitars complete with amp cords, bags, and customized bodies emblazoned with the year and event name. GCTT's Tyson Pompelia claimed one of those very guitars, and after some coaxing by his fellow teammates he may or may not have been convinced to play the only kind of guitar he knows how to - shredding on the air guitar.
In sum, River Cities Triathlon 2017 provided for a great destination event for GCTT. An event which is well worth the road trip experience and one which should probably be on the "to do" list for multisport athletes of all ability levels. Check it out sometime.
The team thanks all those who made the trip happen: our loyal GCTT sponsors, our supportive families and friends, the Sportsprectum and event staff and race directorship, the event volunteers, the event sponsors, local law enforcement, and the multisport community of the greater-Shreveport area.
RESULTS LINK: https://register.cajuntiming.com/results/default.aspx?event=41075&r=14610
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