The lead-up to this 4th iteration of the Tradition's Triathlon was markedly less unnerving as the forecasted temperatures were not in the 30's as they were last year. With the 600-yard swim in Tradition's Lake ruled wetsuit-legal, racers were afforded a strategic choice - buoyancy-boosting wetsuit or T1-time-trimming. It appeared most opted for the neoprene swimwear. Teammate Rob "Philanthropist" Felty, however, was one of the minority who opted out and, arguably, despite his notable history as an aquatic Nittany Lion donated as many extra seconds in the water as he invested in post-race raffle tickets. Imagine Andy Potts not posting the fastest swim on the day.
The bike course is certainly challenging for a Gulf Coast race with about 650' of climb over the 17-mile trek. The race venue is just secluded enough to give the impression that the course is closed to traffic creating a very safe course for aggressive riding (excluding that last sandy, sharp turn into Transition...under no circumstance should any racer attack at this point on the course).
The run course is certainly a break from normalcy for most sprint-distance races. What starts (and finishes) in a serene, posh residential development quickly detours onto an undulating trail (with some portions showcasing the iconic Mississippi mud), which opens up onto the Freeway for a rolling out-and-back. One last pass through the wooded trail and finishers are greeted by the redolent aroma of Waffle House waffle batter.
Every race touts their post-race party as "the best". While I am not qualified to award that title, I can say emphatically that the Tradition's post-race festivities are a lot of fun. A relaxed setting, quality-grub (some healthful options in addition to the usual cookies), and good camaraderie create a backyard-bar-b-que/neighborhood bloc party vibe.
The awards this year were functional - engraved glass mugs. And the Gulf Coast/Pro Cycle & Tri Team collected quite a few occupying eight of the top 10 overall spots. Eric Larson took the top overall spot followed closely by Allen Stanfield, and Sam Hudson rounded out the podium (and topped the Master's division). Also notable was Randy Walton's Grandmaster's win. The only team member who returned home without a mug was Doug Jones who sacrificially donated his 1st Place AG mug after a mix-up resulted in a racer in another division not receiving their hard-earned award. He was not wearing a shirt at the time of donation.
Overall, Tradition's is a great early-season race and certainly worthy of making an annual tradition.