by Evan Malone
Race Date: 9/10/16
A handful of years ago I cancelled (or simply didn’t renew) my [insert multisport name here] Magazine subscription. The idea was to move on from the vague, non-committal articles about lifestyle, nutrition, training, racing, and gear peppered amongst the many, many ads in favor of soaking it in on my own terms. Despite the repeated “you can still renew and get a deep discount, free gift, or extended subscription” offers I was able to resist the urge to re-renew (is that a word?). This ability to avoid the print publications was possible partly due to the ever-expanding knowledge depot contained on the World Wide Interwebs but I contend that it was also a subconscious, personal decision to focus more on the grass-roots, organic, athlete-based information which can be shared and drawn upon for further inspiration, implementation, and improvement in whatever arena is deemed appropriate — training, preparing, budgeting, outfitting, spectating, scheming, traveling, racing, etc…
Along those same lines, this author offers a baker’s dozen of insights and observations from the 2016 version of this annual event. This was my seventh go at this event, including the inaugural running of this event in 2008 (the only year it was based out of the Gulf State Park Beach Pavilion) so perhaps I can vouch that this race is a consistent success and has seen some many improvements in regard to optimizing the athlete experience (safety, success, entertainment, confidence) while also teaching some great, great lessons to thousands of participants along the way…
1 - a clear radar at 4:00am, along the Gulf Coast, in September does not mandate clear skies all day long, or even at 8:30am
2 - plastic bags are a triathlete’s friend - lay an empty grocery bag over running gear once positioned in transition or tuck key fobs and mobile phones inside of a ziplock bag before stowing it in a transition bag
3 - al forno (cooked twice) = first in getting a wetsuit on in 75F air temperature and a second time boiling in the 85F Gulf, no wetsuit today for that reason
4 - the Gulf Coast of the U.S., shuffle your feet while entering the water (spook the stingrays to scurry away) and take it in stride if your triathlon start corral is situated around a Federally-secured sea turtle nest
5 - the toughest part of a two-loop swim is entering and exiting the water TWICE; keeping the cardio engine from red-lining at the halfway point of the swim is key
6 - a challenging swim doesn’t need to include HUGE waves or swarms of sea life; churning current can make for an inefficient stroke rhythm
7 - Driver’s Education applies to cycling in the rain = stopping or changing direction on freshly-laid asphalt with the first spittle of rain takes 25% longer to accomplish
8 - course updates as sent out by the race director are indeed worth the pause to read, digest, and act upon — many times these announcements include minor changes to the parking location(s) or contractual sponsor plugs/ads or last-minute reminders on “I.D. required for packet pickup” but when it comes to race schedule or race course, pay particular attention
9 - avoid riding or running through a puddle, what’s at the bottom is a mystery and might require riding/running something other than a straight line (point A to point B) but it may save a busted wheel or twisted ankle
10 - starting the run of a triathlon with wet shoes is no fun, ever (refer back to #2)
11 - sunglasses can serve as a great windshield when running into a fast-approaching wall of rain
12 - the volunteers working the most remote corners of the bike course or weathering the day (literally weathering the storm) for hours on the run course are the glue which hold it all together and the crew out at this event deserve extra special thanks — rockstars… rockstars who did it with a smile and a word of encouragement for everyone who passed!
13 - talk to your fellow athletes pre-race (calm the nerves, answer questions, exchange well wishes) and post-race (share in the fun of the accomplishment, exchange stories from the race course) — this author found himself sitting at a table of five athletes, none of whom came to the event together, all originally from the state of Ohio, ages spanning five different age-groups, with nearly 75-years of combined triathlon experience… small yet relatively-diverse triathlon world!
In sum, the GCTT members had a fantastic, successful, and rewarding experience at the 2016 Alabama Coastal Triathlon. The directors, staff, volunteers, and fellow athletes made the best out of the conditions of the day. Further, GCTT again thanks the loyal team sponsors who make this all possible!
Next stop, Santa Rosa Island Triathlon (10/01/16) followed by the 2016 cap to the Gulf Coast Tri Initiative (10/02/16) with nearly twenty (20) youth athletes participating in the Sea Turtle Triathlon at Pensacola Beach, FL as part of the Initiative!
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