noun: road trip; plural noun: road trips; noun: roadtrip; plural noun: roadtrips
Long car rides with friends, family, pets, etc. Generally entails excessive heat, or air conditioning, rest stops, pee breaks, speeding, sleeping, and lots of cities. Red bull is acceptable.
The long and boring trip that eventually becomes memorable and fun through time.
> source: Urbandictionary.com
2014 - Top Gun Triathlon - St. Petersburg, FL > Twilight Triathlon - Crystal River, FL
2015 - Chattanooga Waterfront Triathlon - Chattanooga, TN
2016 - Music City Triathlon - Nashville, TN
2017 - River Cities Triathlon - Shreveport, LA
The dust has settled on the 2017 version of the annual GCTT road trip race weekend, and consensus is that the outing was a success. This past Sunday, a baker's dozen of GCTT athletes partook in the 37th annual River Cities Triathlon held on the Cypress Black Bayou of Benton, LA and hosted by Sportspectrum of Shreveport, LA and the multisport community of Benton.
This particular team venture checked all the requisite boxes (plus a few extras) for the aforementioned definition of "road trip." Long drive. Check. Rental cargo van. Check. Excessive heat warranting plenty of air conditioning. Check. Rest stops. Ummm... sure. Dead battery, jump-start. Check. Pee breaks. Check. Forgotten gear (race wheel, goggles). Check. Speeding. Check, somewhat: 75mph speed limit on I-49 is grand. Moving blankets doubling as pillows. Check. Sleeping. Check. No less than five different charger cords extending from the dashboard. Check. Questionable eateries with truly 'handmade' food. Check. Trip anthem. Check. The restaurant staff shakedown on phantom food that was paid for but never made it to the table. Check. Red Bull. Check. Mistakenly driving into a barricaded and armed U.S. Air Force Base with said rental cargo van and armed gate guards staring the van down at the ready. Check. Long and boring. At times. Memorable and fun. Most definitely.
Checklist aside, the annual GCTT road trip has evolved into a chance for the team members to break out of the routine of "see each other for a few minutes prior to an event, redline it on the race course, briefly socialize at the post-race party, then return to your respective abode until next month's team event." The annual trip allows everyone a chance to catch up on lives of fellow team members, compare watts, explore some new music with a mix of disc jockeys clicking though their respective Spotify playlists, share tales of the races of yesteryear, try to remember how many ties and straps it takes to secure a dozen or more bikes into a rental trailer, and the like. Basically a refreshing take on the sport we all share a passion for while playing to the delicate balance between the desire to have fun with the want of being ready to RACE when the gun (er... Civil War field artillery in this case) blasts on raceday.
The event - the 37th rendition of the storied River Cities Triathlon. A vast majority of the team members had never had the opportunity to participate in this event, so it was an easy choice when debate began regarding the 2017 destination. The GCTT collective was anxious to have a go at this course and the buildup to the event including informative e-mail communication from the race directorship, multi-year listings of results and course records, and a few YouTube videos helped to fan the flame.
After nearly ten hours of travel that began in Gulf Breeze, FL (5:45am), the computer-generated voices of the phone maps had declared, "you have arrived at your destination" as the van, truck, and trailer rolled into the Sportspectrum parking lot. The dozen or so team members poured out of the vehicle doors along with a day's worth of empty water bottles and roadside stop snack wrappers with more than an hour to spare before the advertised packet pickup cutoff time of 5:30pm.
Packet pickup was fast, efficient, and methodical as the event staff processed the athletes from station-to-station. No lines. Fantastic participant goodies. Informative signage and graphics. A welcoming and friendly atmosphere with ample staff ready for any questions or concerns. A pleasant experience for the crew of weary road trippers.
The efficiency continued on raceday morning as the GCTT caravan rolled into Cypress Black Bayou Recreation Area. Despite the o' dark-thirty roll-out time, the GCTT crew limited the detours (i.e. getting lost) to ONE and upon arrival an abundance of law enforcement personnel were ready for parking the 50+ linear feet of truck/trailer/van. The instruction was simple: "NOSE-DIVE IT HERE." Nose-dive it? Neurons not yet fully communicating, the instruction may as well have been in Greek. "NOSE-DIVE IT HERE!" This time with no less than four officers/deputies and about 10,000 lumens of collective flashlight we were directed to park right up front with a perfect location for the convoy. If the rest of the day would remain this smooth the team was in for a great race!
Arrival to the transition was none other than expected at this point. No lines. Smooth flow to the numbered and assigned bike racks. Abundant race staff and USA Triathlon officials for last-minute questions and gear layout assistance. And, an overall great vibe. That vibe in part provided by likely one of the most energetic emcees in the history of triathlon - Woody Nesbitt. Woody and his crew had the audio set to the mood of the morning, almost as if the athletes milling in transition were choreographed. Any aspiring multisport emcees, take note on the delivery of the important announcements, the perfect song selection mix, and the top-notch sound system featured at this event. It did not go unnoticed by the GCTT athletes.
Soon enough it was time to make the last visit to the bathroom and head down for a pre-race warm-up swim in the WARM body of water followed by the methodical release of athlete waves onto the half-mile swim course. The wave start layout would allow the age-group athletes to compete head-to-head within their respective categories, save for the Invitational division (10 men, 5 women) that was to tee off two minutes before the entirety of the event field. GCTT is proud to have had three representatives in the competitive Invitational wave: Tyson Pompelia, David Shearon, Allen Stanfield. As mentioned above, the water is warm. No wetsuits at this event. Leave them at home. Additionally, this is a true and fair half-mile swim. Every bit of the distance is covered while swimming with very little need for dolphin diving of high-kneeing it into or out of the water. With a quick couple steps it is onshore, across the timing mat, under the swim finish arch, and sprinting through the pavilion toward transition.
The bike course has a reputation of being an 18-mile racetrack - fast, flat, and a perfect setup for a solid 5k run on the tail end of the event. The GCTT athletes concur that the expected racetrack is a reality: mostly-decent road surfaces, innocent rollers along the way, and basically nothing but right turns all translated to some fast splits. The confounding variable was the seemingly swirling wind without a prevailing direction in relation to the course that circumnavigates Cypress Lake, some left wondering, "when do I get the tail push." Traffic control and volunteer support was good for this course which is open to vehicular traffic, only a few anecdotes of having to pass or wait to be passed by a passerby motorist and most importantly, no spills or wrecks by the GCTT crew as everyone managed to keep the rubber side down. Dismount. Rack. Loop around the length of transition, and onto the run.
Along with some overcast skies and the noted swirling winds for this particular day, the meandering run course which is entirely contained within the Recreation Area offers an abundance of shade. Whatever Mother Nature is not able to provide the race staff and volunteers make up for with ample aid stations stocked with ice water, iced towels, and a motivational cheer. On a hot, sunny, humid day this would be a relative reprieve, however on this particular day, the ideal weather conditions meant there would be no excuses. Run hard. Search for that redline on your cardio engine. Ignore the heavy legs. Take advantage of the cooling stations. And let the miles click by.
The finish line experience is great. As with the transition area sound system, the same applies -- great announcing, great music, a fun and positive environment. Huge finisher medals. Cold bottles of water. And mostly-immediate results slips complete with split and pace breakdown.
While awaiting the various age groups to finish and as the results continued to sort themselves out the athletes were treated to a great post-race spread of refreshments and food. Beyond that, the banter was on... Congratulating fellow athletes. Swapping stories of the morning. Comparing watts (yes, again). Handicapping one another's performances. The part of multisport that keeps many of us coming back for more.
In the end, GCTT is proud to have earned overall and age-group podium representation at this historically competitive event. The highlight of the awards was the guitars that the top-five male and female athletes were presented. Yes, actual guitars complete with amp cords, bags, and customized bodies emblazoned with the year and event name. GCTT's Tyson Pompelia claimed one of those very guitars, and after some coaxing by his fellow teammates he may or may not have been convinced to play the only kind of guitar he knows how to - shredding on the air guitar.
In sum, River Cities Triathlon 2017 provided for a great destination event for GCTT. An event which is well worth the road trip experience and one which should probably be on the "to do" list for multisport athletes of all ability levels. Check it out sometime.
The team thanks all those who made the trip happen: our loyal GCTT sponsors, our supportive families and friends, the Sportsprectum and event staff and race directorship, the event volunteers, the event sponsors, local law enforcement, and the multisport community of the greater-Shreveport area.
RESULTS LINK: https://register.cajuntiming.com/results/default.aspx?event=41075&r=14610
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!
by Evan Malone
Race Date: 08/20/2016
The 2016 GCTT event schedule incidentally aligns with one team event per month, April through October. The August event featured a return to the beautiful, Gulf front communities along Santa Rosa Beach (aka SoWal, or Highway 30A, or simply “30A”). The team was looking forward to some favorable race conditions compared to the recent visit to Nashville (scorching sun and heat) and hopefully a reprieve from the purple flag conditions which can be associated with summer month Sea Nettle (jellyfish) invasions along the Gulf coast.
As it would turn out, both the weather and the Gulf sea life would play nice: flat or knee-high surf, absent swarms of sea life, favorable current pushing along the shore, 85F Gulf waters, negligible winds, and peak air temperature near 85F by the end of the event. These near-ideal conditions in concert with the backdrop of the manicured Sandestin Resort would make for a fantastic event — the splits, positive all-around vibe, and finish times on the day reflected just that.
The swim course features a mainly point-to-point, West-to-East segment (0.3 mile) coursing parallel to shore. Combined with the outbound and inbound segments (0.1 mile each) which position the athletes basically directly above the “second sandbar” from shore, it makes for a tidy 0.5 mile course. The walk to the start corral was punctuated by many athletes taking the opportunity to enter the water for a warmup swim, test their goggles, and convince themselves that there wouldn’t be any problem with stings or nettles this year. One aspect of this event which the team (or at least this author) was looking forward to is the “wave start” format which this event utilizes. Basically sending groups of athletes organized by age into the Gulf in four-minute increments (30-34, 29-under, 35-39, 40-44, etc…). As it turns out, the 2016 GCTT race calendar only has two such events, the remainder of the events falling in the “time trial start” format. With the wave start format, the team relished the opportunity for some head-to-head racing. In the end, the swim proved to be an honest challenge given some chop to the surf, which played to the advantage of more experienced open water swimmers.
The T1 run is the typical Gulf front “up the beach, over the dune(s), into the closest parking lot” coursing which GCTT is familiar with in regard to other Gulf swims. Not to belabor the point, but it was understood that nearly all the participants this year took pleasure in declining the “vinegar spray” station which was positioned atop the dune walkover — no jellies! This particular T1 run was peppered with spectators and out-of-town visitors (remember, this is inside of a beautiful resort) cheering everyone along, a nice boost of confidence en route to the bike racks.
The bike course is a fast, mostly-flat (couple of very, very small dips at waterway crossings), and simple out-and-back ten mile stretch. Save for the first and last roughly three miles of the ride, the majority of the course follows along Highway 30A — scenic landscapes and beautiful beachfront communities. The aforementioned miles on Highway 98 include a coned-off lane for athletes with perhaps the only obstacle(s) being on-coming athlete traffic (athletes at mile 2 crossing with athletes at mile 18, for example). So the name of the game while on Highway 98 is “heads up, pass with extreme caution.” The miles along 30A amount to a closed course experience with very few vehicles accessing the road during the event — not much remaining but an orchestra consisting of the whirl of aero wheels, the click-clack of gear shifts, the sounds one might associate with a snot-rocket being loaded and/or discharged, and the rhythmic grunts of “on… your… left…, ON… YOUR… LEFT…”
T2 is a no-brainer. Ample rack space, wide in-out traffic lanes, and a paved lot make for a clean transition from bike to run. As with T1, the crowd support is still there and perhaps has grown through the morning. A few high fives and fist bumps on the way toward Baytowne Wharf!
An informal poll following the event found that the run course is what most athletes enjoyed this year. The four mile course is completely within the confines of the Resort. This translates to a two mile out-and-back layout which utilizes a wide, paved pathway surrounded by primped landscaping and covered with ample shade. Additionally, this 2016 event offered multiple water stops with a total of SEVEN chances for athletes to take advantage of these stations which were staffed by energetic volunteers and race staff. Of note, the full bottles of ice cold Dasani water were SPOT ON!
The Beach House (i.e. Elephant Walk, Finz, or “the restaurant next to the Hilton”) played host to the afterparty and awards. Overall, a unique and fun atmosphere with athletes, friends, and family members gathered in and around the pool which overlooks the beach (and the swim course from earlier that morning). Yet another fun part of this annual event which the team enjoys and looks forward to, with many athletes electing to spend the remainder of the day (or weekend) in the Resort.
Congratulations to all the athletes who participated on Saturday, GCTT hopes each of your race experiences was a positive one. GCTT is thankful for such a supportive multisport community which includes so very many integral players — race director, race staff, volunteers, medical personnel, law enforcement, event sponsors, venue hosts, and families/friends who support our multisport endeavors.
Finally, thanks to the GCTT sponsors which make this team possible! 2016 has been great thus far. Looking forward to the remaining events as well as the Gulf Coast Tri Initiative geared toward increased youth involvement in multisport!