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.
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!
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.
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
The Gulf Coast Tri Team raced in the Sandestin Triathlon yesterday during it's 27th year. The men had a great race overall after having a few months off since their last team race, Fairhope's Grandman Triathlon. It seems that no one has let the summer heat stop them from training! The team placed all 10 racers in the top 24, and 5 out of the top 10! A big congrats to our top finisher, who is on a roll lately, Allen Stanfield!
Full results can be found here.
The team members' results were as follows:
3rd - Allen Stanfield
4th - Rob Felty, 1st AG
5th - Jared Moore, 1st AG
7th - Johnny Harrison, 1st AG
10th - Joey Pocreva, 1st AG
13th - Andrew Rothfeder, 2nd AG
18th - Billy Striepeck, 3rd AG
19th - Evan Malone, 1st AG
21st - Lance Steed, 3rd AG
24th - Eric Larson, 1st AG
Great work guys! Our next team race is only a couple weeks away. Hope to see everyone out at the Brett Robinson Alabama Coastal Triathlon in Gulf Shores, AL.