Saturday morning broke in what I call a watercolor sunrise. Muted shades of pink, purple, and blue with just enough clouds on the horizon to light up the sky. However, as we know, you can't really paint race morning. You can’t capture the nervous excitement that fills the air as everyone goes about their routines, and then slowly marches towards the start on the beach. The water was smooth. Smooth enough to fool you into thinking it was going to be an easy swim. It was the quintessential calm before the storm. Even the warm up swim gave no indication of the fact that the glassy gulf concealed thousands of jellyfish ready to light fire to our limbs.
The first two swim waves went off without a hitch. The start to the third wave was the same. The course swims out into the Gulf for about 100 yards before turning east and running parallel to shore. We soon found out that the first buoy was where the chaos began. Every stroke seemed to ignite pain somewhere on the body as jellyfish were everywhere. Joey was apparently immune to all of this as he was first out of the water AND still had energy to show off his dance skills at the awards ceremony (video evidence is somewhere). According to some spectators on the beach it looked like a sinking ship as people scrambled to hang onto paddle boards and signaled life guards. Nonetheless, those who made it through the swim were still rewarded with a great race.
In contrast to the swim the bike was smooth with a forgivingly calm wind. The course is deceptively rolling but one that is still capable of producing fast times, as demonstrated on this day by Allen and Matt.
The run, as expected in August, was hot and humid. Fortunately a large part of the run course is shaded giving everyone at least some respite. The only hill on this lightning fast and flat course is coming out of the tunnel after crossing under highway 98, which really only counts as a hill in Florida. Gulf Coast Tri Team members tore up the course leading to some great overall finishing times.
In the end GCTT took home first and second place overall, 5 of the top 10 spots, master’s champion, and 5 different age group awards. It was a great race and one that reminded me that I participate in triathlons not to feel fast, or because they are easy, but because each is a challenge in a different way.