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.
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
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 Stephen Fortner
As the 13th annual Grandman triathlon approached, I grew excited for the local race in Fairhope, Alabama. Despite the weather forecast not looking too favorable, the race conditions could not have been better on the morning of the race.
As I walked down the long hill towards transition, I thought about the pain I would feel when in a few short hours I would be going in the opposite direction starting the bike and run legs of the triathlon. Upon reaching transition, daylight revealed a heavily overcast morning sky and a calm swim course, opposite of what was advertised on the news just days before. In the packed transition area, everybody performed their own pre-race ritual, some rituals for good race weather and others for good race performances. In years past, the race has started with everyone in an extremely long line allowing people to start one after another, but this year starting procedures changed to utilize two lines to start people cutting the time it takes for everyone to get in the water by half. The calm water created a swim course that was both fast and safe for all racers. After completion of the swim and a short run to transition, I put on my helmet, mounted my bike, and headed up the notorious first hill. After killing my legs going up the evil hill, there was a wonderful 17 mile bike course filled with rolling hills. The bike course this year had no wind, and with the freshly paved scenic 98 it was as if you were riding on a cloud. After finishing the bike and beginning the run, I immediately realized the pain I was in as I ran up the abusive hill. With the first mile being mostly uphill, I was rewarded with being able to turn around to run the second mile downhill. As I approached the finishing shoot after the flat third mile, the music and cheer of spectators grew louder with every stride I took for the final sprint to the finish line.
Great race. Great venue. Great sponsors. Great weather. Great spectators. Great time.
Complete results link.
by Spence Cocanour
So when the Team announced that Crawfishman Triathlon (1000m swim, 18 mile bike, and 4 mile run) was going to be on the circuit this year I was excited remembering the race as a lot of fun. My wife and I raced it in 2007 and 2008 when she was stationed in New Orleans . The big thing I remembered was the margaritas post-race (hell, some of the folks I think were drinking them before the race but who knows). Being a Gulf Cost Tri Team race is great because you get to hang out with the Team, the bad news is all your fellow team heavy hitters show up, many of them in my age group. So the Gulf Coast Triathlon Team; Caleb, Brian, Tyson, Allen, Evan, Scott, Matt, Lance, Johnny, Terry and myself descended on the race to fight for the team competition award.
Starting Wednesday before the race we started receiving ominous e-mails to the effect of, “we are in contact with the National Weather Service…..might shorten the race or cancel the swim…..or we may cancel the whole race….”. Not giving a warm feeling the race is going to go off without a hitch. I felt pretty confident that I would be fine if we got hit with a thunderstorm, I’m pretty sure there are a couple people further up on God’s “lipstick list” if he is going to strike someone down. Maybe not as confident if Knerl (a.k.a. public enemy #1) was still on the team, but still.
So race morning arrives and it is actually fairly cool for Louisiana and the roads are mostly dry, morale soars! We arrive at the race site (very cool people host the race on the lake on their private property) and the race announcer says they are shortening the course to a super sprint to fit a window of good weather, morale plummets. The race was shortened to 400m swim, 8 mile bike, and 2 mile run. The race now favored poor swimmers and fast runners but a race is a race and people look at you odd if you start drinking beer at 0900 without doing one so we are committed. Besides, a race this short decreases the odds dramatically of Johnny, starting in a later wave, catching me during the race.
Warming up in the coffee colored water you find yourself thinking this is a perfect alligator environment. Mindi asked, “do you think there are alligators?” to which a group of us replied, “oh yes, and probably snakes too!” I’m here to help set folks’ mind at ease. We are all trying to figure out the best strategy for the race which is really just go as fast as you possibly can. In a lot of ways, a super sprint is actually more painful than a longer race since you have to race anaerobicly the whole way and your ability to recover from a mistake is limited.
The race was fast and furious with a few minor rolling hills on the bike and run. Ominous clouds were building but there was no rain during the actual race. Each Gulf Coast Tri Team member was pushing it hard, chasing or chased it was full on from the sound of cannon. For the team event, the men’s Gulf Coast Tri Team won handedly with plenty of depth after the first five scoring guys. Unfortunately the women’s Gulf Coast Tri Team was a couple ladies short or they would have most likely won as well….next year.
As we all waited for the transition area to open to grab our stuff, the dark clouds started rolling in. We just finished stowing our gear when the skies opened up and it was an absolutely downpour. Luckily it was shorted lived and we were back at the post race party and awards.
Louisiana takes post race parties seriously. The jambalaya, smoked sausage, and vegetables were not to be missed along with a serve yourself beer trailer. While it was disappointing to have a short race, the festivities afterwards kept the disenchantment short lived. Highly recommend making the trip for the race next year.
Complete results link here:
by Dom Zambrano
The alarm goes off at 4am, my feet seemingly set to autopilot drag me to the car, and my two state journey from Florida begins. For those of you who don’t know the Traditions triathlon is held in the beautiful Traditions subdivision in southern Mississippi.
Transition opens as the starry night sky gives way to the warm orange hue of sunrise. The athletes flock in and begin their pre-race routines which include everything from heavy metal in the car to yoga on the lawn. Finally, the clock strikes 7:50 and the National Anthem is played while the flag is waving and teeth are chattering. The air is 50F and the water is hovering above 70F. The athletes are all in neoprene and lined up like seals at Sea World. One by one being released into the lake. The bike leg is just as we all remember which is hilly and quite spirited. The hum of the carbon wheels echoes through the trees as the riders navigate the out-and-back course. A quick lap around the parking lot and it’s time to hop off the bike and onto the trails. The run course takes a scenic tour through the neighborhood where families are cheering from the porches and the cowbells ring. This inspiration soon fades as athletes are tossed into the short section of technical dirt trail eventually spitting onto Traditions main drive. One small hill, an aid station, and a wooden bridge later one can hear the finish line cheers and music. Straighten up and put on a smile for the finish line because you are outside doing what you love with 300 of your new best friends.
Thank you to the GCTT sponsors and especially Run-N-Tri for putting on such great early-season event and to Pro Cycle & Tri for providing bike support! This was my first triathlon in 2015 and has been my season opener ever since. The great volunteer and event sponsor support make for a safe, fun, and fast event! I guess you could say it has become quite the…wait for it….tradition.
Until next time be safe, have fun, and race hard!
Results link: http://www.splitmastertiming.com/assets/2017/Traditions%20Final%20Splits.pdf
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.
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.
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!