I love the Alabama Coastal Triathlon. Might be an odd statement for me. For those who know me, they know the swim is my weakest event. As such, it would make sense for me to stay away from an intermediate event that emphasizes the swim. Yet, every year I find myself registering for the race. Like eating vegetables, I tell myself it is good for me. Suffer through the swim, expose the weakness and vow to get better at it. Triathlon, like life, should be about constant self improvement.
Unfortunately, this year a series of unfortunate events led to me racing the sprint event for the first time. With the new course for both races, a sinus infection that made swimming fairly painful (more than normal for me) and this being my first time racing the sprint, I wasn’t sure exactly what the day would hold.
Race morning began with Hurricane Irma on many people's mind. The weather was a little cooler and definitely windy as a result. As it became light enough to finally see the Gulf I can’t say I was disappointed I was not swimming 1500 meters. This was confirmed as I was batted around by the waves swimming a warm up. All that aside, the sunrise was beautiful and racers were lining up getting ready for the time trial start. Much like when I race the intermediate distance I was starting at the rear. When my turn finally arrived I was pleasantly surprised at the space the time trial start provided. I was tossed around by the waves, but was not crowded one bit by other swimmers. After a quick sprint up the beach you are in to T1 and out on the bike.
Although anticipated, the stiff tailwind was still a shock (a fast one) once moving on the bike. It became quickly apparent this would be a tale of two races. One with the wind, and one against it. The 12.4 mile sprint out and back course (which the intermediate does twice) was flat and fast with little traffic. The turnaround came as no surprise and it was a battle 6.2 miles all the way back into the wind.
A quick trip into T2 and back out onto the run. Unlike the bike, the run headed east and into the wind first. The sprint distance covered the first mile, out and back, of the intermediate 3 mile out and back course. Battling the head wind directly after doing the same on the bike was tough, but the turn around this time provided a welcome tailwind to bring you home to the finish.
Overall it was a good day of racing in tough conditions. The new course is simple, well designed, and fast. A plus is the two loop bike course and central location of the host, The Hangout, makes it great for family and friends to spectate. I finished the day feeling blessed to have raced with great people, on a good day, with my son there to cheer me in. Most days don’t get any better than that.
Full results: http://www.amatteroftiming.com/images/results/2017/actinteroverall.html
By Aaron Runyon
Race Date: 10/1/16
I struggle to write a meaningful race report without sounding cliche. I want to say things like, "life is unpredictable," "just have fun," "goals aren't always meant to be accomplished," and even "enjoy the experience." But as race day unfolded for the Santa Rosa Island Tri these were the things that came to mind. Why? I think it is because triathlon, and endurance sports in general, are a mirror for life. In such a short amount of time, a single race, you can experience such an array of emotions. Anticipation, excitement, joy, pain, frustration, hopelessness and so many more. Considering you often experience these with some of your closest friends and family it is no wonder that I often leave races feeling as if I have lived a whole lifetime in a matter of hours. To me, this is why trying to describe triathlon elicits larger than life, often cliche, statements that people have used, and over used, to attempt to capture life's experiences.
After several years of challenging weather Saturday blessed those who raced with near perfect conditions. SRI Tri is a bookend race for me. Not just the last race of my tri season but a chance to see friends one last time before winter drives me to other activities. I spent the morning taking the time to talk with people, including jokes about whether myself or another team member would have the slowest swim split (I won) and as I walked down the beach to the swim start and the sun was just cresting the horizon illuminating the glassy surface of the gulf I thought, "enjoy the experience."
Fast forward to the run and I was thinking the almost exact opposite. It felt terrible as it always does. And, as I was unsuccessfully chasing first place in my age group I was thinking, "goals aren't always meant to be accomplished." We learn more from failure.
For another trio from our team, plagued by unexpected injuries and bike wrecks, who were preparing for an impromptu GCTT relay, it was a slightly different story. Thrown together at the last minute because they all wanted to race, but due to their individual limitations had to specialize in one event each. They still wanted to be out there on race morning though. Soaking it all in. "Life is unpredictable."
In the end, it was a perfect day for racing, for learning, and for living. However, the event serves only as a prologue for many families. Early Sunday morning many of the same triathletes, now with kids in tow, are back at the beach for the Sea Turtle Kids Triathlon every year. As I watched the event, with my own three year old begging to race and not understanding why he could not, I couldn't help but be amazed. I saw challenged athletes, one with a single leg prosthesis, a visually impaired child with a guide, along with kids from all walks of life compete and complete a triathlon of their own with smiles on their faces. They reminded me yet again, "just have fun." Enjoy the ride.