Red Hills Sprint Triathlon
March 25, 2017
Jared Moore, GCTT
The beginning of my relationship with the Red Hills of Tallahassee was exciting - abbreviating the morning workout on January 22 every year to ensure my registration was one of the first 300 in order to secure a slot in the sell-out event (almost like a close-to-home Kona or Escape from Alcatraz), traveling into the state capital with a large contingency of racers from my hometown (and collectively trying to take home as many of the coveted pottery podium-awards as possible) and enjoying what is just a great venue and overall race experience.
What I believed to be my final experience with the Red Hills Triathlon, however, was not so pleasant. And to be clear, I don't participate in the sport of triathlon for pleasantry nor comfort. The discomfort I believe to be a forging of the holistic man (or woman) and is more what keeps my interest. I genuinely enjoy the challenge and sweat and burn. The near-mile long hike through darkness, abundant pollen, and climbs that reduce many a rider to a pedestrian are welcome and what made the Red Hills Triathlon an annual, anticipated fixture several years consecutively.
However, in 2015 pedaling upon a fellow competitor sprawled out motionless along the side of the road, drawing conclusions from the accompanying, visibly damaged automobile idling a few feet away, and wondering with uncertainty as to his fate as the swirl of light and siren came rushing by were a strong factor in my resolute decision - I WILL NOT DO THIS RACE AGAIN!
And in 2016 I didn't.
Now it is not my intention to be overly dramatic or overstate its significance but I believe multisport to be on some level the rehearsed simulation of conquering metaphorical death, staving off its accompanying evidence - atrophy - as long as possible by continuing to push when the part of the brain responsible for survival begs for respite. But it's mostly just that - a metaphorical battle simulating the defeat of death. There are obviously risks we acknowledge implicitly (and explicitly when signing the USAT waiver during registration) but the belief that it's a simulation creates a sense of safety. To be more concise, the risk of injury is real but I personally do not wish to confront Death whilst vulnerably clad in spandex and decorated with a pointy aero helmet.
Reckless drivers hate Joe Zarzaur and I obviously told myself a lie because when the decision to add the race back onto the team calendar was made, I reluctantly signed up. After all, the race organizers had wisely altered the bike course to two roughly-9-mile loops on roads with much lower traffic volume.
And it didn't take long to validate the decision to return. Race morning resonated nostalgic reminders of why the demand for this race was so high in years past. The formations of racers marching to Transition by light of LED headlamp creates a nervous excitement that culminates with the starting countdown. It all equalizes once finally wading out through invigorating chill and lillypad into the fresh water of Lake Hall (I love swimming in fresh water!). The water temperature here is in that sweet spot that creates freedom to choose - wetsuit legal but not absolutely necessary. The swim waves are sized proportionately so that the groups stretch out enough to minimize congestion at the turn buoys. And the perimeter of trees keeps the morning sun from posing a blinding buoy-sighting obstacle.
The bike was the bathwater that caused me to toss out the baby the year before so I focused on it a little more intensely. The first, and most obvious, attribute is that it requires all the gears in the cassette. I believe some of that holistic forging I mentioned earlier occurs on those two loops. An interesting chain of thoughts occurs when fighting the Red Hill gravity. As the grade increases and the legs begin to burn and breathing becomes more labored, the brain reacts by making some biased proposals. It highlights the discomfort as it builds its case. It advises shifting up just another gear or two. It counsels on the risks of injury and their increasing possibility if intensity is not decreased. It rationalizes compromise - those goals were probably too lofty anyways. Fear. Compromise. Comfort. You find out if your instinct is fight or flight. But the top of the hill is visible. If you're able to convince yourself to keep pushing, the brain reminds you that you have to do this climb AGAIN on the second loop. Shut up legs and shut up brain.
It should be noted that although it is still an open bike course, the only dangerous conditions reported this year were created by this race-report-writer/racer by crossing over the double-yellow line (acknowledgement of gratitude to the head race official for the variable time penalty in lieu of optional disqualification).
There is some more character to be forged on the run as well. There are equal parts trail and road, up and down. But I find the brain stages less of a protest as it's a bit of a head case; it's just a little too exhilarating running through the trails with the chute of trees pulsing by for thoughts of defeat. You just feel faster.
Speaking to a first-time triathlete after the race, I was struck by his energy. Without a long mental database of race contexts to use as comparison he knew he had just accomplished something noteworthy on a personal level. He had confronted the overwhelming impulse to ease up (or even quit) and had persisted. His character had been forged. He was an absolute stranger but I couldn't help but be excited for him. My kids were excited for him. Of course, they were amped on Daddy's post-race snacks and adrenaline from tree-climbing, rock-skipping and cheering for hundreds of strangers. My wife said something to the extent of this being the most spectator friendly event I'd ever dragged her to.
I assume the directors for this event experienced a similar civil war within themselves in 2015. Certainly, there were moments when confronted with this difficult situation that fear and compromise created an unrelenting longing for release and comfort. But having experienced the reborn version of the event I can't help but respect what the evidence suggests - that they persisted and continued to "pedal". I will have zero reservations when signing up for this race in 2018 and will set my alarm a few minutes earlier in January to make sure I secure a slot.
As an additional highlight seven of the Tallahassee kiln-fired awards will be housed in different cities along the Gulf Coast with 100% of the participating GCTT members claiming podium placement. Most notably was the M45-49 with a team sweep. (Team award pic and Pic of Drew, David and Spence)
**and to avoid any unintended confusion, despite this author's morbid inclusion of the topic of death into the musings on the 2015 bike-course incident, the mentioned rider's injuries were NOT fatal.
Saturday, April 4th, 2015
Red Hills Triathlon, Tallahassee, FL - 7:30 am
The Gulf Coast Tri Team kicked off its third year with an awesome race at the Red Hills Triathlon in Tallahassee on Saturday April 4th. Red Hills always provides a great early season test as it draws top competition from all along the Gulf Coast, Tallahassee and even some racers from the more southern reaches of Florida. This year was no exception but the Team was up to the challenge. Red Hills is one of the more picturesque venues as the swim and run take place within Maclay Gardens State Park while the bike course exits the Park in search of every hill in the vicinity.
Most of the Team arrived early enough Friday to get together for a Team meal and to catch up a bit on what everyone had done during the off season. Looking around the table it was clear that everyone had been training hard through the Winter and looked fit and ready for race season to start.
The weather for this race is always unpredictable....sometimes in the 40s and other times in the 80s. Saturday morning was a bit warm but the overcast skies made it an ideal morning for racing. A quick look around the transition area confirmed that there were a lot of strong competitors and everyone seemed ready to get the day started. After a little more work setting up transition it was time to get a warm up run in and then to head to the Lake. The water in the Lake was low 70s and wetsuit legal. Certainly chilly when you first enter but the chill was quickly forgotten after a short warm up. The horn sounded and the first wave went off at 7:30am. Before long the Lake was full of racers and transition was buzzing with racers heading out onto the bike course.
The bike course is more challenging than what is typically encountered on the Gulf Coast and keeps you working hard for the full 16 miles. While the bike course is a big loop there seem to be far more uphill miles than downhill. Sam Hudson smoked the course with the fastest bike split of the day on his way to winning the Masters division. It is clear that the Team was ready for the course as all 11 members placed within the top 26 bike splits!
The run course has its' own challenges. After heading up a short hill out of transition the course is a series of rolling hills for the first mile before heading into the woods of the Park for about 1.25 miles of some pretty technical trails before returning to the pavement for the stretch to the finish. The trail section always requires runners to slow their pace but Eric Larson navigated it better than anyone else to notch the top run split of the day on the 5K course in 17:15.
Following the race everyone was quick to check the results and it was clear that the Team had represented itself well. GCTT claimed 5 of the overall top 10 finishes and 11 of the top 24! In addition to Sam's win in the Masters division Johnny Harrison claimed Grandmasters. Age Group winners included Allen Stanfield, Eric Larson, Andrew Rothfeder, Randy Walton and Doug Jones. Rob Felty, Chris Knerl and Scott Roberts all claimed podium spots as well. Jared Moore finished 13th overall but just missed the podium in the stacked 30-34 age group.
Everyone seemed pleased with their performance for this stage of the season. No time for rest though as the Team will have a big turnout at the Traditions Triathlon in Biloxi on Saturday April 11th. Always a great event put on by Team sponsor www.runandtri.com Rumor has it that a wager may be brewing between Sam and Allen as Sam, despite his advanced age, was able to resoundingly beat Allen by 1 second at Red Hills. Race fast! Stay safe. See you at Traditions.
Red Hills overall results: http://www.racesmith.com/results/2015results/RedHillsTriathlon040415oa.html
Red Hills age group results: http://www.racesmith.com/results/2015results/RedHillsTriathlon040415ag.html
Checkout the photos on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/#!/GulfCoastTriTeam
Yesterday the Gulf Coast Tri Team kicked off their season with the 2015 Red Hills Triathlon in Tallahassee, Florida. The guys were up against some top notch competition but still managed bring home a lot of hardware. Our thoughts and prayers are with a competitor that was hit by a vehicle while on his bike - we wish that you heal quickly and make a full recovery.
Here were the results from the day:
Sam Hudson 5th OA, Masters Champion
Allen Stanfield 6th OA, 1st AG
Rob Felty 8th OA, 2nd AG
Eric Larson 9th OA, 1st AG
Chris Knerl 10th OA, 3rd AG
Johnny Harrison 12th OA, Grandmasters Champion
Jared Moore 13th OA, 4th AG
Andrew Rothfeder 14th OA, 1st AG
Randy Walton 16th OA, 1st AG
Doug Jones 23rd OA, 1st AG
Scott Roberts 24th OA, 3rd AG
Full results can be found here. Looking forward to anther great race next weekend at Traditions Triathlon in Mississippi!
This race course was located in Tallahassee, Florida in Maclay Gardens State Park. The 1/3-mile swim took place inside the lake at the park, the 16-mile bike was on secluded back roads and one long stretch of highway shoulder, and a 5k run took place on dirt trails inside the park. There were large, overcast clouds which kept the weather around the low-60s and provided for very humid conditions.
The swim was chilly, definitely a wetsuit race, and was great fun after Rob Felty and I broke out of the main pack and had the course to ourselves. The bike was very unforgiving with multiple challenging hills (saddle sores for this local coastie) and thinned out the crowd coming out of the water very quickly. The run was fairly flat and fast with most of the race taking place on awesome trails, which was a nice sight to see for a cross-country runner! Our guys finished excellently with a 2nd place podium finish, Master’s title, Grandmaster’s title, three age group wins, and many other excellent finishes in each respective age group.
This past weekend the Gulf Coast Triathlon Team kicked off the 2014 season with the Red Hills Triathlon in Talahassee, FL. It was a great showing by the team with 7 of the top 16, 2nd Overall, 1st Masters, and 1st Grandmasters. Congrats to Eric Larson who was our fastest finisher. Here are our results:
Eric Larson 2nd OVERALL
Sam Hudson 1st MASTERS
Randy Walton 1st GRAND MASTERS
Joey Pocreva 1st AG 16-19
Rob Felty 2nd AG 25-29
Jared Moore 2nd AG 30-34
Andrew Rothfeder 1st AG 45-49
Lance Steed 3rd AG 45-49
Doug Jones 1st AG 60-64
Terry Bailey 2nd AG 60-64
Chuck Babin 3rd AG 55-59
Evan Malone 8th AG 35-39
Scott Roberts 5th AG 35-39
Complete race results can be found here: http://www.racesmith.com/results/2014results/RedHillsTriathlon040514ag.html
Our next race is Traditions Triathlon which is just a few weeks out. Also this coming weekend we will be volunteering at the Team Semper Fi Triathlon Camp in Pensacola.