Crawfishman Triathlon, the venue and the "backyard" feel of the event, reminds me of the Sylvania Bud Light Triathlon which was my second triathlon I participated in (1994), at the age of 18. Back then, the Sylvania event was hosted at Lake Olander in Northwest Ohio, a couple miles from the Ohio-Michigan state line and while it was not literally someone's back yard, it was situated in a residential area with large residential lots backing up to the park and also far enough from some of the more developed parts of town to make for a perfect egress and ingress when it came to the bike and run courses - safe, secure, and lined with some nice homes and properties. I appreciate this similar "feel" with the Crawfishman venue. One notable difference, though, would be that Lake Olander freezes in the Winter -- an 8" ice thickness means some Winter use of the Lake is possible with skating and ice fishing -- and probably doesn't cross that 78.1F threshold until sometime in July. Additionally, the prospect of “are there alligators in there?” doesn’t really extend to Ohio. Beyond these differences, there is the difference of 25 years. This was back before chip timing, immediate results with full splits turnaround, carbon everything for bikes, GPS watches with Strava uploads, mount/dismount lines (we used to be able to ride our bikes into and out of transition, basically directly to/from your own personal rack space), customized athlete garments, online results published before athletes arrived home from the event (a stack of paper stapled and folded into an envelope would arrive in your home mailbox 1-2 weeks after the event), among other things I am sure...
Learning of the rich history of Crawfishman and drawing some parallels with my own experience in 1994 makes it fun to imagine what it was like to be a Crawfishman participant in the mid-80's or early-90's. For this reason, I have really enjoyed the opportunity to head to Bush, Louisiana for the last three editions of the event -- to be a part of an event which has endured as well as spanned for longer than my own time in the sport.
The 2019 edition of the event would line up with my 43rd birthday. It sounds cheesy I am sure, but birthday races are a great way to celebrate another year while doing what you enjoy and spending time with some fellow athletes and friends. And if you think about it, not many chances to enjoy a triathlon ON your birthday if you consider the calendar rotation and that the majority of events are held on either Saturday or Sunday. My last birthday race was Ironman Texas 2012 and my next opportunity will be 2024... I will now formally start lobbying for Crawfishman 2024 to be held on Sunday, May 19th. If you have a birthday which falls on a weekend day during triathlon season I encourage you to get out and find an event as a way to celebrate! Many thanks to race management for working with my wife, Mindi, on her delivering a HUGE sheet cake the day before the event to share at the post-event party - hope you had the chance to grab a piece despite the weather, more on that later.
OK, now on to the swim-bike-run of it all.
Pulling up to the race site I can hear the familiar voice of Crawfishman - Mike Wattigny. Mike does a great job with keeping everyone informed, making all athletes and spectators feel welcome, and providing some calm direction to an otherwise busy (ok, maybe a bit hectic for some) morning.
The swim at Crawfishman is a great swim. Ideal water temperature, at least for this author who prefers NO wetsuits as it is just more for me to haul on raceday and more mess to clean up afterwards. To hear the official 78.2F announcement was quite welcome. In concert with the water temperature, glass-flat conditions with a simple course layout awaited the athletes - follow the buoy line and swim as hard as you can for just under 500y, make an acute angle right turn, and swim just over 500y to shore. A couple short steps to get your footing while navigating the threshold between the Lake bottom (ok, candidly, it IS a bit slippery) and the sand beach before shifting gears while splash dancing through the kiddie pools which line the segment between the water and the transition area.
The bike course is awesome. Simple in layout, very good road surface conditions for the majority of the track, and secure intersections (law enforcement had those locked down). The out-and-back format allows one to give a nod or wave to fellow athletes who are already heading back toward transition and to also check on the status of any competition one may have going on. Add to this, the sun had not yet broken through the cloud cover which perhaps meant the run course would not be a sufferfest in the sun and hills...
...however, pulling into transition, those dark skies portended something else - some nasty weather was on the way. As they rolled into T2, athletes received word - again, from that familiar voice on the loudspeaker - as Mike was making it clear to every single participant that the run course would not be the prescribed four mile affair. Rather, athletes would be covering a two mile track (one mile out, one mile back) as race management had made the call (the ABSOLUTE RIGHT CALL as it would turn out) in an effort to get all participants back to the race venue before the strongest part of the approaching frontline covered the race site. For some it was a relief - “great, my legs are shelled and the run is my least favorite of the disciplines" - and for others it was daunting - "ok, my four mile tempo run just turned into a two mile sprint." This did not dampen the spirit of the event one bit, in fact it added some excitement to the run segment of the event - get back before the weather and cheer for those other athletes still on course.
The rains did come. It dumped. Race management, the staff, and the volunteers did right by the event and by every single person in attendance by working to relocate the post-event food and festivities to the large barn on site. Everyone had the chance to stay dry and safe while enjoying the awards presentation and food. Sure, the "perfect" day would have included hundreds of athletes and spectators lounging on the large grass field while sharing in some fellowship and enjoying a relaxed awards presentation all compliments of the hospitality extended by the land owners who are so gracious to allow an event as such to take place in their back yard, literally. That is one of my favorite parts of this event -- basically like being invited to a backyard cookout after a race -- and I cannot wait to get back to Crawfishman to do that again!
Again, thank you to everyone involved in producing and coordinating this event - race directorship, volunteers, vendors, event sponsors, law enforcement, etc…
And, as always, HUGE thanks to Pro Cycle of Fairhope, The Orthopaedic Group, and Heart O’ Dixie Triathlon for their continued support of Chain Tri Team in 2019!