EDITOR'S NOTE: After the article was written, we are saddened to share that Amy Christmas has since passed. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family.
My fellow teammate has asked me to write a report summarizing my experience at my hometown race, the Sandestin Triathlon.
I am person that sees numbers. My race wave start was 6:46am. A number of great importance to me. I moved to Fort Walton Beach on April 8, 1978 and lived there until July 15, 1985. The formative years of my life from 8 to 15 years of age where my home address was 646 Powell Drive. I started my triathlon career in Fort Walton Beach, receiving my first tri bike on Christmas 1984. My first triathlon followed in 1985. In 1987, at the age of 17, I raced the Elephant Walk Triathlon (i.e. Sandestin Triathlon). Yes, 30 years ago.
Triathletes come and go. Since 1985, I have seen athletes for 2 or 3 years then they would take a break, retire from the sport, or move away. We would hang out together and talk after the races. Over the years the sequence would continue. Of course, there are lifers like Johnny Harrison, Chad Hon, Lance Steed, and myself who have known each other for 20+ years. Currently, I have the honor to be a part of GCTT, something which has allowed me to meet and socialize with even more great athletes and people. We have a bond because of this crazy sport called triathlon. Triathletes are loyal, caring, friendly, hard working, goal oriented individuals with many becoming loyal, lifelong friends.
Sandestin 2017, back to the numbers. After 30 years, the race was moved from August to September. This year, the air temperature was in the low 70’s at the start of the swim, compared to the mid-80’s with the prior August date. The water temperature was 81 instead of somewhere around 85 to 86 as in August.
The swim had a slight chop and current with really no jellyfish.
GCTT swimmers: Evan 14:27.47, David 14:38.14, Robert 14:38.39, Jared 15:03:51, Andrew 15:47:43, Brian 16:47:78, Johnny 17:13:81, Aaron 18:47:74
Transition. To me T1 and T2 represent the 2nd and 4th events of a triathlon - 5 total (swim, T1, bike, T2, run). One can gain or lose significant placement here.
GCTT T1 numbers: David 1:14:05, Robert 1:18:48, Aaron 1:25:47, Jared 1:28:94, Evan 1:31:80, Andrew 1:31:80, Johnny 1:32:92, Brian 2:13:28
GCTT coming out of T1: David 15:52.19, Robert 15:56.95, Evan 15:59.27, Jared 16:32.50, Andrew 17:19.23, Johnny 18:46.73, Brian 19:01.06, Aaron 20:13.21.
Sandestin’s 20 mile bike course is always fast. Before the race a friend said to me, "the wind should be calm for the bike.” WRONG. 4.5 miles east on Highway 98 was fairly calm, 5 miles east along 30A heading to Blue Mountain Beach to the turn at Big Daddy's Bike Shop parking lot featured a decent headwind. Then a tail/crosswind on the way back to Highway 98. Highway 98 west returning to Sandestin was a decent tailwind as I was hitting 28 to 29 mph at times.
GCTT bragging rights as top dog cyclist: Brian 45:30.98, Jared 45:42.19, Johnny 46:39.73, David 47:23.01, Andrew 47:35.57, Aaron 48:49.87, 25. Robert 52:16.59, Evan 53:24.79
Now the ever important T2 (event #4).
GCTT T2 numbers: David 34.76, Aaron 34.80, Jared 39.87, Andrew 37.54, Johnny 41.42, Robert 43.47, Evan 47.08, Brian 53.68
GCTT coming out of T2: Jared 1:03:04.56, David 1:03:49.96, Andrew 1:05:02.34, Brian 1:05:55.72, Johnny 1:06:07.88, Robert 1:08:16.91, Aaron 1:09:07.68, Evan 1:10:11.14
Time to hammer the run.
The run course has pretty much been the same for 31 years, about 15 years ago is when the turnaround at Baytowne Circle loop began. The last few years we have been running on the trail to Baytowne, as opposed to the road. I love the heat but the 2017 run was a little cooler (84, instead of mid-90’s as in August). For me, I am always focusing on leg turnover. This year’s run, the entire time I was thinking about Amy and Scott Christmas. Saying to myself, "It's great to be alive!” - Scott’s famous saying. I repeated that many, many times during the 4 mile run. Our fellow triathlete and friend Scott Christmas has survived 2 plane crashes. Twenty years ago, in 1997, the event recognized Scott with the presentation of an award for surviving his 1996 crash which he was nearly died from. From there The Scott Christmas Award was established. The award is presented to an individual that has overcome an adversity, never gave up, and said “Its great to be alive.” Back to the run. I pushed on the run as always - do not fear the pain. I am alive. It’s great to be alive. I communicated with Scott last night after the event, and received news that Amy is still with us and that we will have the Scott Christmas Award again in 2018. I have known Scott for 20+ years. However, our GCTT mate Dr. Jeffrey Conrad, has been best friends with Scott since grade school. Please pray for Scott and Jeff, I know Jeff is there right now supporting his best friend.
GCTT run numbers: Jared 24:15.97, David 25:20.65, Robert 26:18.66, Johnny 26:27.09, Evan 26:36.23, Aaron 26:53.01, Brian 27:48.03, Andrew 27:49.01
After “five events,” here are the numbers. The bragging rights of a fun and friendly competition: Jared 1:27:20 (1), David 1:29:10 (4), Johnny 1:32:34 (6), Brian 1:33:13 (7), Andrew1:33:21 (8), Robert 1:35:36 (9), Aaron 1:36:30 (12), Evan 1:37:17 (14)
GREAT RESULTS TEAM MATES!!!
With my great interview skills I asked some of the team members for some thoughts on the day. Rob Felty stated, "I may have two new hips by [age] 50." Rob will be a top dog Grand Masters in a few years. Our teammate Dr. Conrad can do the surgery.
Andrew felt that ”It was a fantastic day” and I agree it was beautiful day of weather and friendship.
Evan stated that he has done this race for 9 times since 2007 and enjoyed the 2017 rendition. Evan, the always considerate athlete, said "I remembered when you dedicated your 2009 Overall Sandestin win to your dad who was in the hospital.” Evan, thanks for remembering, it was a special year.
Jared Moore was the team best finisher and Overall Male Champion. Jared is just coming off the 70.3 World Championship on September 10. From my experience after racing an A race 70.3 distance, usually two weeks later you will have your best sprint triathlon. Jared trained only a few hours after 70.3 and was rested and fit to win. Win he did. Great job Jared, we are proud of you but know that we are gunning for you at Santa Rosa Island Triathlon ;) Jared, you will always be a Sandestin Champion, welcome to the club.
This race is dedicated to Scott and Amy Christmas. The men of GCTT are here for you and offer support and love. GCTT FAMILY.
Athlete Race Report - 2016 SRI Tri
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.
Pensacola Beach Triathlon (05/14/2016)
Despite numerous team athletes having participated in this annual event this was the first time the Pensacola Beach Triathlon was an official team race and it did not disappoint. Everyone was treated to a fantastic race thanks to the organizers, volunteers, and sponsors. A big shout out goes to all those who make this race possible!
In contrast to a chilly start at Traditions Triathlon just a few weeks ago, athletes at the Pensacola Beach Tri were blessed with mild and calm racing conditions Saturday morning. The swim starts in waist-deep water and follows the shore before making a ninety-degree left hand turn into the home stretch. A fter lots of dolphin diving in a low tide athletes reached the flat run into transition. Many of the Gulf Coast Tri Team athletes chose to race in the elite wave and enjoyed a clear swim.
The wind was eerily, and pleasantly, calm on the bike leading to some speedy bike splits. Even passing the wind funnels of the Portofino towers the bikes were steady in the slight crosswind. Slow swimmers and fast bikers sorted themselves out on the ten mile out and back bike. The course had a lane just for bikes both directions and volunteers and officials did a great job controlling traffic leaving the athletes with only one things to do, race.
After a sharp left hook into transition off the bike athletes were left to fight out the overall finishing order on the three mile run. Temperatures were heating up but overall, for Florida in May, it was a pleasant but painful run through the quiet neighborhoods of Pensacola Beach.
The postrace celebration and awards at Flounders left nothing to be desired with food, beverages, a playground for the kids, and of course, the beautiful beach. Overall, it was a good day for the Gulf Coast Tri Team athletes who took five of the top ten spots, including overall by Allen Stanfield, in the elite category. Caleb Earhart earned himself podium placement for the 20-24 grouping and Spence Cocanour (who also gets the “award” for most prepared with postrace beverages) topped the 40-44 age group while the one-two punch of Doug Jones and Terry Bailey took first and second respectively in the 60-64 age group.
Finally, thanks to our sponsors who make amazing experiences like this one possible!
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.
Race Results - 2015 Sandestin Triathlon
Great racing today at the Sandestin Triathlon! One of the most beautiful race venues in the world. Here are the guys' results:
Allen Stanfield -- 1st OVERALL Male
Eric Larson -- 2nd OVERALL Male
Andrew Rothfeder -- 4th overall, 1st Masters Male
Joey Pocreva -- 5th overall, 1st 15-19M AG
Aaron Runyon -- 6th overall, 1st 35-39M AG
Matt Storr -- 11th overall, 2nd 35-39M AG
Randy Walton -- 13th overall, 1st 50-54M AG
Lance Steed -- 2nd 45-49M AG
Scott Roberts -- 17th AG
Sunfish Triathlon – Meridian, MS – 7/11/15
This weekend the GCTT made its debut at the Sunfish Triathlon in Meridian, MS. This mid-July race typically brings HOT temperatures and this year’s race was no exception. Even the water temperature was a balmy 92 degrees.
This also marked the 29th running of the very popular Sunfish Triathlon, attracting a fast field of participants from all over the Southeast. The race started with a 1/3 mile swim in beautiful Lake Bonita followed by a 17 mile bike through some very deceiving hills. The event finished with a steamy 5k run around the lake.
A great feature of this race was the $100 cash prize awarded for the fastest participant in each of the three disciplines so even before the starting gun went off the competition was heating up. Rob, Allen, and Sam would all be chasing the swim split since Joey would not be competing (according to Joey it was Rob’s for the taking). Matt was planning to crush the field on the bike. In the absence of Eric the run split would also be up for grabs by the runner who could survive the heat with a swift run. When all the dust settled Sam would take home the cash for the fastest swim edging out Rob by only 21 seconds. Matt narrowly missed the top bike split by the tiniest of margins (8 seconds). The run split was taken with a blazing fast time (albeit questionable, story for another time) of 16:44 by an unknown from Louisiana.
Even with a stacked field the team placed 7 members in the top 22, and 4 in the top 11! Allen would yet again cross the finish line first and take the overall win with a smoking fast time of 1:10:52. This race along with Heatwave marked Allen’s second top podium finish of the year. Johnny grabbed the Grand Masters Title to keep his hot streak going. Doug rebounded from his Texas injury by taking home the Senior Masters trophy. Several others also took home hardware.
Full team results are as follows:
1st – Allen Stanfield, Overall Champion
6th – Sam Hudson, 1st AG
8th – Caleb Earhart, 1st AG
11th – Johnny Harrison, Grand Masters
16th – Rob Felty, 1st AG
21st – Matt Storr, 5th AG
22nd – Kevin Self, 5th AG
30th – Doug Jones, Senior Masters
64th – Terry Bailey, 3rd AG
Awesome job of racing in what proved to be a very fast field!!! Complete results along with video of each participant crossing the finish line can be found here.
Post-race activities included frosty beverages and pizza as well as the always “healthy” Popeye’s fried chicken. A good time was had by all! Next team race will be the all popular Sandestin Tri on August 22nd.
Race Summary - Grandman Triathlon 2015
The team had their strongest performance of the year yesterday at the 2015 Grandman Triathlon in beautiful Fairhope, AL. The weather was perfect making for a great day to race. Sam Hudson had the fastest overall swim and bike split on the day leaving the field in the dust he secured his 1st place overall finish. Great job Sam! Allen Stanfield had a great and finished 2nd overall. Eric Larson had the fastest overall run split on the day which helped place him 3rd overall on the day. The team placed 9 in the top 10 and 14 in the top 20 spots.
Here is a link to the complete results and below in the gallery is a summarized team result.
Looking forward to our next team race - The Chattanooga Waterfront Triathlon on June 28!
Race Report - Grandman Triathlon 2015
Saturday, May 30, 2015 - Grandman Triathlon
Fairhope, Alabama - 7am race start
By Lance Steed
Let’s go back a ways to see just how far the Grandman Triathlon has come. The Grandman Triathlon started out as the Pelican Point Triathlon back on June 1, 2001. There were around 200 participants. The race was the brainchild of Jeff Pollock, an M.D. who had recently graduated from University of South Alabama and was doing his internship in Radiology. His wife, Erika Pollock, was an outstanding female triathlete who was winning every race in sight - not just by a little but in a lot of cases finishing in the top 5 overall. She had me frequently looking over my shoulder.
Together, Jeff and Erika tirelessly labored to organize and promote the Pelican Point race. I remember seeing Jeff after the inaugural race, bullhorn in hand with a large straw hat, and he told me he was utterly exhausted from the effort. He hadn’t slept a wink the night before. They did not have all the resources and the large volunteer staff that the Grandman has today. They largely pulled this off themselves.
The Pelican Point location was a nice venue but it also served as a popular local boat launch. After a few years and many complaints from local fisherman (and others) – failure to launch. Jeff managed to change the race site to the Fairhope Pier and the name to The Grandman Triathlon.
Jeff and Erika moved away around 2006 and turned over the management of the event to Mobile Bay Keepers/Bay Watch and Casi Calloway. The race has steadily grown over the years and now is much more than just a good local race – it’s a regional event and this year had over 700 participants. Wow!
I am not sure if Jeff and Erika had envisioned their race becoming the event it is today. And of course, Casi Calloway has taken what Jeff and Erika started and truly made it a signature event for our area. Kudos to Jeff, Erika, Casi and the countless volunteers (like the Hartley’s) who have made this event what it is today.
Now about this 2015 race… Perfect conditions. Mild temps (warm but not hot), light winds, calm water, and just a healthy touch of humidity yielded fast times for many.
GCTT dominated in almost every Age Category. We have a fast team indeed:
Sam Hudson: 1:11:19 Overall Winner
Smoked swim and blistered bike (41:07)
Allen Stanfield:1:11:42 2nd Overall
Balanced splits with impressive run
Eric Larson:1:13:06 3rd Overall
Fastest run split of the day 17:37 on a long 5k course (it’s like 3.25 miles)
Chad Hon:Male Master win
Solid time of 1:15:39
Johnny Harrison:Male Grandmasters Winner
Incredible 1:15:00 time. AARP cardholders can’t go this fast – except for Johnny.
Male Age Group 1-19:
Joey Pocreva:2nd in Male 1-19 with a great time of 1:16:26. Joey’s run has really come around.
Male Age Group 20-24:
Caleb Earhart:1st Male 20-24. His time of 1:16:39 is impressive and no one was close.
Male Age Group 25-29:
Logan Roberts:1st Male 25-29. 1:14:16 with a bike time of near 42:00 flat. He may make a run for being the team’s strongest cyclist in years to come.
Male Age Group 30-34:
Rob Felty:1st Male 30-34. 1:14:09.
Strong swim and run for Rob.
Chris Knerl:2nd Male 30-34. 1:14:49
Nice race by Chris. Strong bike.
Male Age Group 35-39:
Aaron Runyon:1st Male 35-39
Solid time of 1:17:15
Male Age Group 40-44: Since Sam was OA, we had no one claim a spot for this category. We need a little more depth here.
Male Age Group 45-49:
Jeff Conrad:1st Male 45-49
Lance Steed - 2nd Male 45-49
Male Age Group 50-54:
Randy Walton:2nd Male 50-54
Balanced Race – 1:17:55
Male Age Group 55-59:Since Johnny won Grandmaster, we had no one claim a spot here. Depth is needed in this age group. Randy will be there before long to help out!
Male Age Group 60-64:
Terry Bailey:2nd Male 60-64
1:26:21 Nice job.
*Doug Jones DNS race to a recent collarbone/cycling injury. This occurred at IM Texas several weeks ago. Doug would have assuredly been on the podium in the 60-64 Age Category. We wish Doug a speedy recovery and appreciate him coming out to support the team even though he could only cheer us on with one arm.
*Another sure-fire podium bet in the 45-49 was Andrew Rothfeder. Andrew went down hard on the Bike, losing 30% of his epidermis on the course but still managed to complete the race. Way to tough it out Andrew!
Post race activities at The Grandman were exceptional. The shaded area near the finish line offers comfort as well as a beautiful vantage point looking out over Mobile Bay. GCTT teammates and friends were able to rehydrate, relax and rehash the day’s events. Food, music, massage tables and cold beer – it was indeed a Good Day! GCTT looks forward to Grandman2016!
The Gulf Coast Tri Team raced in their final team triathlon of the season this weekend at the Santa Rosa Island Triathlon. This is the largest local race the team schedules each year and competition is tough! Ending the season with a strong showing was the teams goal and the guys definitely pulled it off.
Eric Larson -- 4th Elite Division (5th overall)
Jared Moore -- 1st AG division (4th overall)
Johnny Harrison -- 1st Male Masters
Randy Walton -- 1st Male Grandmasters
Doug Jones -- 1st Male Senior Grand Masters
Caleb Earhart -- 1st 20-24M AG
Logan Roberts -- 3rd 25-29M AG
Scott Roberts -- 2nd 35-39M AG
Sam Hudson -- 2nd 40-44M AG
Chad Hon -- 1st 45-49M AG
Andrew Rothfeder -- 3rd 45-49M AG
Chuck Babin -- 2nd 55-59M AG
Terry Bailey -- 1st 60-64M AG
Rob Felty -- 5th 25-29M AG
Jeff Conrad -- 4th 40-44M AG
Look for next year's schedule and team roster to be published sometime around January 2015.
This weekend was the AL Coastal Triathlon for the GCTT. The guys did extremely well in a race that always brings the heat, literally. Congrats to Eric Larson on his overall win! Here is how the guys finished:
1 - Larson
4 - Harrison
5 - Earhart
6 - L. Roberts
8 - Hudson
12 - Malone
14 - Steed
17 - Jones
37 - Bailey
Complete results can be found here: http://onlineraceresults.com/race/view_plain_text.php?race_id=42790
Next up this season is the Santa Rosa Island Triathlon. Last year it was cancelled due to a hurricane - we are hoping for a better weather forecast this time!