After last year’s Santa Rosa Island Triathlon being canceled due to a potential storm, our team was excited to get back to the Island as one of our key events. The morning on the eve of the race, the water was smooth with little wind, looking to be a really fast race but Mother Nature had other plans. Arriving at packet pickup at 6:00am, the wind was picking up and the Gulf began to swell. After receiving my race packet, I made my way to transition to get my bike set up, meeting up with team mates along the way. Evan and Mindi (Sister Chain) came over to help me analyze the transition area and we noticed I had an awesome spot on the end rack with swim in, bike out and run out right by my bike setup, perfect!
Walking down towards the swim start, watching the sun rise on the horizon was a beautiful site. Jumping into the water to test it out before the race began, the temperature was perfect but further into the waves it became a challenge to get past the surf. I suppose a triathlon isn’t supposed to be easy or everyone would do it. Lining up for the start of the race on the wonderful Pensacola Beach, we were lined up two-by-two ready to pounce into the water. Every 5 seconds another group would enter the water and finally I came up to the starting line. Go! I raced into the water dolphin diving to get past the surf as soon as possible. Being one of the first ones in the water turning past the first buoy, I was alone the rest of the swim. Finally turning the last buoy, attempting to body surfing the rest of the way onto the beach was a must.
After treading up the beach to reach my bike I was finally able to breathe a “little.” Knowing Logan was on the prowl to catch me, I attempted to put as much ground between us as possible. I knew he was going to be coming in hot. Not knowing how much traffic would come from the 2 loops on the bike course, it was very quiet before the “storm.” Making the first U-turn on the loops it was a breather after having a headwind. Now it’s time to fly on the way back to Portofino. Starting the 2nd loop with the turnaround being at the Portofino, the rest of the field were just beginning their first loop, it was crowded real quick. Knowing Logan was not far behind, I felt like I was flying, until Logan came zooming by like I was a sloth on the bike. The crowds did not seem to faze Logan at all. Finally making our way back to the big beach ball in the sky, the crowds and volunteers were awesome, cheering us all on.
Attempting to speed through transition, I decided at that moment I needed a nice massage. Having all of the volunteers and crowds cheering us on, made the pain a little easy to handle. After having my watch break the night before and not having a backup, I felt a little lost on the run. The phases of the run were real for me: 1) I feel great. I might set a PR today. 2) I can make it to that next light pole without walking. 3) I’m about to die. Thank you marching band at the water station, you are the real heroes. You gave me the bounce to make the next light pole. Headed back to the finish line, I have never been so happy to see the huge beach ball in the sky.
The team had an awesome showing with Logan taking the crown and Aaron with a respectable 2ndoverall.
Thank you to the race director and volunteers that put this great event together.
Sandestin Triathlon is one of those must-do races on the Gulf Coast. The first time I raced it was back in 1995 when it was still the Elephant Walk Triathlon, Destin and Sandestin have changed a little bit since then.
Normally there is a huge contingent from out of state which use this race as a "destination race" but this year seemed a bit lean. The fact it was held the same weekend as Alabama Coastal and Beach Blast triathlons didn't help either. However, there was still a solid turnout of over 200 athletes for the event. One of the best parts of the race is the post race food (BBQ and chicken sandwiches, Grayton Beer Company, and other stuff) and the post race pool party. Seems like it is right out of Caddy Shack where the triathletes totally take over the pool area awaiting the awards ceremony.
Morning dawned with almost perfect conditions. It was a bit warm but moving the race to September vs. August was an outstanding decision. The Gulf was flat with just a little current and no jellyfish to be found (unlike a couple years ago that still haunts people). Being in a later wave was helpful since you were able to see the athletes ahead of you test the current, it was apparent there was a slight east to west current so you could plan accordingly.
The horn went off and Dave Shearon and I hit the water. As we rounded the turn buoy, we were swimming directly into the rising sun. This made spotting the far turn buoy to swim straight was next to impossible. Looking at the results I must have guessed pretty good on my line since I had a solid swim split (always gaged off Evan's). Unfortunately as I'm running up to the transition area, I could hear Dave's wife yelling, "go David!" Normally I like hold him off a bit more on the swim to make him catch me on the bike. We both entered T1 together and I think he was out before I even unracked my bike.
As I hit the bike, I have a pretty simple goal, "get as far on the bike as possible before Johnny Rocket catches me." With a 20 mile (actually 19) bike course and a five minute interval between waves, there was no time to slack off. I ended up catching Kat from Sister Chain and told her to stay with me, which she did (not drafting of course). Bad part of offering encouragement to Kat is I know she is a faster runner than me. Luckily my fragile male ego is pretty resilient as she went sailing by me during the run. Solid bike with very little if any wind made a nice ride.
I exited the transition just ahead of Scott and right behind Evan. I started out with the goal, "keep Evan in sight!" This quickly was reevaluated and modified to, "need to hold off Scott!" This was again modified to, "keep Scott in sight!" It is all about proper goal framing. The run was hot but at least a lot of the course was shaded. The water on the course was ice cold which was awesome. Dumping a cup of ice water over your head on a hot race day is about as close to heaven you can get.
The Team dominated the event! Dave Sharon pulled the "Babe Ruth" of triathlon by posting on social media how he was out to win the race. To his credit, he followed through and crushed it to include the fastest run split of the day. He also made an outstanding gesture by nominating Scott Christmas for his own Scott Christmas Award. Scott has had a rough year but continues to preserve. Great job by Dave on words spoken and looking out for his fellow athletes.
Aaron finished 3rd overall (missing 2nd overall by 1 second) and letting Johnny take Masters overall in 5th place OA.
The rest of the team finished:
Spence Cocanour 6th, 1st AG
Billy Striepeck 7th, 1st AG
Evan Malone 10th, 1st AG
Scott Roberts 15th, 2nd AG
Sister Chain's Kat Karpitskaya finished 1st overall and Mindi Straw finished 1st AG
Great event and fantastic racing by the team. Can't wait to see everyone at Santa Rosa Triathlon!
The 2018 Cultivation Nation Triathlon took place on August 25th at the beautiful Flint Creek Water Park located in Wiggins, MS. This was also the venue for our team camp which was held in March. I was excited to return to the area and compete in a race which I had never participated in. It was a last minute decision as my family and I planned a weekend getaway to the area and booked one of the rustic cabins for the weekend.
We arrived Friday night before athlete check-in closed, so I was able to get a view of the swim start and the transition area. I always like to familiarize myself with as much of the race as possible due to the fact that I have a history of taking wrong turns on a few bike and run courses!
Saturday morning the weather was nothing short of perfect. I arrived to the race site and immediately found several of my teammates. We caught up quickly, as I haven’t visited with many of them since our team road trip to the Chattanooga Waterfront Triathlon.
The transition area was convenient as it was on a first-come, first-served basis. I got my bike racked after carefully searching the entrances and exits. Transition was due to close at 7am and we were to make our way down to the swim start area for a 7:30 race start.
The swim was set up so that all bouys would be on the right as you swam out 500 yds then made a right turn towards the shoreline for the last 100 yds. The water temperature was hovering around 82 degrees. We were allowed to self-seed for the swim start, which I really like. Around 7:15am there was a pre-race prayer, the RD made a few announcements followed by the USAT referee. At 7:20am we watched as Ainsley’s Angels began the swim. At 7:30am the first swimmer hit the water and each athlete followed roughly every 5 seconds. The swim was pretty uneventful for me as few people had entered the water by the time I began. However, all that would change on the bike course.
After exiting the swim we ran around 100 yds to T1. Trying to be quick in transition is something I think is acquired with experience in triathlon. My main focus is to execute without worrying about what’s going on around me. I exited transition with a decent split then hopped on the bike for an exciting and fast 17 mile ride though the Stone County countryside. A lot of people reflect on their bike split after a race and say “oh, what a beautiful ride, did you see such and such” ah, no I didn’t. It wasn’t long before myself, Allen Stanfield, another triathlete had a heck of a bike race going on. We exchanged places several times throughout the rolling hills and flat straightaways. I enjoyed mixing it up with these guys and it helped to keep it fast and push each other back into T2.
After returning from the bike portion we made quick time of shedding the bike gear and heading out for the run. The 5k portion of the race began on pavement but soon transitioned to a single lane dirt road. This run course is an out-and-back layout (so you can’t get lost!). I was thankful that the rain had held off for a few days and the run course was dry. The run course was mostly flat with a few small rollers mixed in.
Chain Tri Team had 8 members racing and one who was there to offer support but unable to race due to a injury. Each member raced well and took home some hardware at the end of the day. We were also accompanied by Sister Chain Tri Team which took several podium honors as well.
All in all, Cultivation Nation is a great family venue. We stayed trough until Sunday morning and the kids had a blast. Staying in a cabin close to the lake is a must if anyone plans on participating in the future. Thanks to all the volunteers, law enforcement, USAT officials, and race directors for putting on a great event. Your hard work didn’t not go unnoticed!
The 2018 team road trip landed the team back in Chattanooga, the 2015 team outing redux featuring a bit of a different mix of team members in attendance and new bike and run course layouts for this event hosted by Team Magic.
Fourteen team members would make the haul but the traditional van + pickup truck + enclosed trailer (i.e. bike transport) would be abandoned given a somewhat fractured array of travel plans amongst the multiple team members. The team made it work with and around such commitments and goings on as family vacations, job duties, summer mission trips, professional school, training injuries, food-borne illness, etc…
It truly is a team effort on coordinating this team road trip: hotel reservations, transport vehicles, bike transport, pre-race meal, hounding everyone to remember to register for the event. This is how the annual team road trip manifests every year. That said, as the dust has barely settled on the 2018 outing, an unofficial polling of Chain members would indicate excitement in planning and preparing for the 2019 version of the annual trip.
In an attempt to break away from a hackneyed “race report” this author offers a bullet-pointed summary of the activities surrounding the trip and raceday:
All that said, this is a top-notch event which served as a great destination for the annual team trip. So much so that USA Triathlon partnered with the deserving race directorship group to designate it as the Mideast Regional Championship which made for a fast, competitive field of athletes. If you haven’t gotten around to racing in Chattanooga in June, put it on your list of “must do” events.
The members of Chain Tri Team enjoyed this event and appreciate the effort which goes into conducting an event of this scale in the center of a large metro area. Many thanks to the race directorship, event volunteers, event sponsors, local law enforcement, fellow athletes, and USA Triathlon for making this a memorable outing for the team.
Now, with fourteen members making the trip this year and with a different combination of team members attending every year seems there has been enough data collected over time to entertain an FAQ on the team road trip… Beyond that, if you have never road tripped to an event with a handful of fellow athletes (club, team, training partners), please consider it. Memorable and rewarding…
Until next time!
What is the requisite distance for a team roadtrip?
400 - 500 miles, beyond that and someone starts getting a little crispy, anything less than that and the vibe and camaraderie of the trip experience wanes almost in a linear (maybe exponential) manner.
What sort of vehicle or vehicles get(s) the job done?
A large rental van, heavy-duty pickup truck, and enclosed trailer usually do the trick. If travel demands dictate, multiple trucks and a few borrowed bike racks sans van or trailer can also fill the gap. Expect 3-4 travelers and 3-5 bikes per vehicle, save for the post-race dinner outing wherein 10+ athletes may perhaps ride in one vehicle so as to minimize the risk of parking tickets administered by local governing bodies. Pro tip - some jurisdictions enforce parking on Sunday evenings.
What is the attire?
Triathlete casual - old race t-shirts, khaki shorts, sandals which may also double up on yard and lawn duty in the home environment; ideal for the time spent in the vehicles
Triathlete formal - team kit, post-race team shirt, race flats, aero helmet; requisite for raceday
Triathlete casual dressy - race shirt (perhaps one from an epic event serving as the backdoor brag when amongst fellow athletes), jeans (i.e. well-worn pair of Wrangler for instance), shorts not used for lawn duty, maybe a collared shirt (may also feature a race logo or “finisher” inscription), sandals (keep them clean and you can use the same pair the entire trip); ideal for post-race dinner and social time
Recreational outing - boardshorts, extra workout clothes, double duty on the travel clothing is an option; one should not confuse swim briefs as an acceptable substitute for boardshorts
How do I make myself a good travel companion?
Bring snacks and drinks to share. Back seat drivers are frowned upon. Willingness to share phone chargers earns points with the group. Also, be willing to share stories from high school, prior race experiences, your job, or your family members - truthfulness not a requirement, embellishment welcome and encouraged.
What sort of fare can I look forward to?
Looking back at every team road trip since 2014, this would make at least the fourth trip which included a minimum of one stop at Chipotle. Pre-race group dinners depend upon the venue, Chattanooga 2018 featured the aforementioned Italian feast hosted by team member Chad Hon and family - that one will be tough to beat in future years. Beyond that some fun establishments with a variety of menu items is clutch when traveling with 12-15 guys (i.e. Chattanooga’s Community Pie or Urban Stack). Finally, a hotel with a complimentary breakfast makes for a great morning rally point.
What sort of weather conditions might one encounter?
Traditionally, the team road trip lands between late-June and early-August so 80F - 90F (100F+ heat index), pop-up thunderstorms, and high-humidity are par for the course. 2018 would include relatively pleasant 75F temperatures and low humidity on raceday morning, climbing to the mid-80’s by the end of the event. The reliability of the weather (translated - basically hot and humid) makes for ease in packing and also saves on hauling space as there is no need for layers upon layers of clothing.
Even though it is June, July, August should I bring my wetsuit?
Sure, throw it in the back of the truck. Never know when half the team may trot back to the hotel to grab their wetsuits, buoyancy shorts, etc… if the magical mercury settles under 78F. No trotting back to the truck this year as the 80F water temperature announcement was made early in the transition hustle and bustle, right around when a couple of the team members were locating their relocated bikes in transition (see - 70mph winds and hail as referenced above).
What sort of music can I look forward to?
A diverse selection makes for a successful trip, be willing to offer up your personal play list from your mobile device. Becoming lost in the wormhole of YouTube videos also works well.
Grandman is a race we have both looked forward to for many years. For us, it’s always been the big race to end the first half of our Tri Season! For Allen, it has held a special place as it was his first USA Triathlon race back in 2010 and together we’ve tackled this course a combined 15 times since 2010. It’s always a pleasure to visit Fairhope as it is a beautiful town with lots to see and do. The race has always been a well-run event with a venue that seems like it was built for a triathlon. After some worry about water quality and whether we would “du” or “tri”, we were cleared to swim about 5pm on Friday.
Race morning, we woke at 5am. All of our gear was ready the night before, so we dressed, had coffee, and ate our sweet potato/almond butter concoction. We rode down to transition on our bikes from our hotel. We discussed that air felt nice as we rode, and we laughed because we knew the heat would come. We entered transition smoothly after getting body marked and picking up timing chips. Grandman always has TONS of volunteers that help to make the day run seamlessly. We tend to be notoriously late to arrive for races, so actually being there with plenty of time was a nice change. We were able to talk to friends a bit and then went our own ways to find our racks to set up. We each ran a bit and Amy swam while Allen opted for a 3rd and final porta-potty visit to get warmed up, and then it was time to head out on the pier for race start.
The swim starts on one of two piers that come off of the main, large pier. On the walk out to find our spot in the swim line, we heard a referee say that there were 33 kayaks on the swim course for support. He said that’s the most he’s ever seen. We think that is awesome! We both have always enjoyed this swim venue as typically there is very little to navigate and it’s difficult to get off course. This year, there was a bit of a West wind which really stirred up the Bay. Out of all the times we’ve done this race, we both agreed that the water was the choppiest we’ve experienced. Getting out to that first turn buoy felt long heading straight in to the wind and waves. It was impossible to not drink a bit of Mobile Bay as the waves were coming straight at you. After the turn, there was an immediate relief and an occasional feel of “surfing” from time to time heading in to the beach.
The Hill, we mean the Bike.
The bike at Grandman is something we both always look forward to. It is really a fantastic course, outside of the start and finish, there is almost nothing technical to navigate. The road surface is outstanding which produces some fast bike splits. If you’ve ever done this race you know the one intimidating part, the hill. We always think of the “hill” as being the first 100 yards or so after leaving transition, but in reality the road only slightly flattens after that and continues to go up for over a half a mile. This makes it really difficult to manage your effort to start. Your heartrate is already spiked from the swim, and you are then immediately forced to work hard just to keep from falling over. If you can keep from blowing yourself up and manage a few miles of rolling hills you are rewarded with a big downhill at the half way point. That downhill dumps you out onto scenic 98 which is flat and typically has a tailwind! This is when it’s time to really lay it all out there on the bike! Transition seems to come quickly, and it’s always a bit shocking to come from this flat and fast road to having to make a safe turn and descend the hill while coordinating getting off the bike. We have both witnessed a lot of skin left on the road, so we try to stay extra careful coming in.
Honestly, we believe the Grandman run is the most challenging of any of our team races. Running off the bike is never easy, but immediately running up THAT hill and the subtle grade that continues even after, is a challenge. Thankfully, there are screaming fans that help to quiet the screaming legs as athletes take on the hill. Our teammate, Mary, was strategically placed at the top of the hill, and we certainly needed her there. The other plus is that it is fairly shady for a bit when the hill ends. There are beautiful homes to see on the course if one needs to take their mind off of the pain and heat. There are plenty of volunteers at each water station, and many residents on their porches and in their yards to cheer us on. A personal favorite is when the residents provide the perpetually spraying hose for us to run through. It’s a must to run through that water. Once you make it back to Fairhope Avenue you can let gravity do the job as you charge down the hill. A quick trip into the park dodging geese and a run on the boardwalk finishes out a truly stellar course!
Year in and year out The Grandman continues to be one of our favorite races. Hope to see you there next year!
"Dion showed around his property and barn. We talked about family and common friends. This is what triathlon has been for me - meeting people."
"I wore my 1987 t-shirt or maybe it was 1989. Nevertheless, the inventor and first race director Mark Selvetti of Crawfishman Triathlon was there on raceday. Mark loved the shirt. It just brought back great memories for him."
"Hey lets do a triathlon in my back yard."
"Is it going to be a race or practice?"
"I am here to win the backyard tri."
Wayne and Sean McSheehy inspired me to participate in triathlon in 1983. Wayne lived in a deep bayou lot in Fort Walton Beach, FL. We had hundreds of Backyard Tri events over the years. Crawfishman 2018 reminded me of our Saturday morning races.
On the Friday prior to the event I met Dion McKinley the host of the new "Louisiana Backyard Triathlon" called Crawfishman Triathlon. Dion showed around his property and barn. We talked about family and common friends. This is what triathlon has been for me - meeting people. My first Crawfishman Triathlon was in 1987 and was held at the lakeshore in Mandeville. I was 17 years young and a driven triathlete when I came in 7th Overall. To this day I still have the results, award, and t-shirt. In 1987, the top 10 Overall earned entry into the USAT National Championship in Hilton Head, South Carolina. Only a few races in the South were qualifiers so this was a big deal.
Now lets move on to 2018...
Perfect conditions with sun, more sun, and just a little heat and I am not talking about the GUMBO. A stark contrast to the 2017 event where it rained and rained some more. Talk to me nd you will notice that I dream about the past and enjoy the present. I also love math and numbers. For this event, when I received my bid number 3 I thought this was a sign. My childhood baseball hero was Dale Murphy and his uniform number was number 3. All through baseball, soccer, and basketball I had the uniform number 3. The last time I did this race was in 1989 and I came in 2nd Overall. Could I place even better in this race with my lucky number 3 on my arm? I did not get the number 1 placement, nevertheless I had a good race and so did all of my Chain Tri Team mates.
Allen Stanfield 2nd Overall with a time of 1:23:59. Allen was the only person close to the leader. By the way, overall winner time was 1:23:31. Great race Allen!!!!!!!!! The rest of the team included: 5th overall David Shearon 1:31:04, 10th overall Evan Malone 1:34:32, 12th overall Caleb Earhart 1:35:06, 17th overall Andrew Rothfeder 1:37:44, 25th overall Scott Robers 1:40:54, 48th overall Terry Bailey 1:48:16.
As I enjoy memories this had a cross country event feel. I started cross country in 1982, only a few times even coming in the top 10 and at times I was the 5th guy for our team to help out for the team total. Chain Tri Team took top honors in winning team award. Thanks for the cross country memories.
As I enjoy analyzing numbers. Only one number stood out for me. My T1 time: 35 seconds. It made the difference in the final standings among the top 5 overall. That difference allowed me to be Overall Masters!
Chain Tri Team had one top dog to win his age group Terry Baily in the 65 - 69 age group. Great Job Terry!
Here's to the new friends I met. As I mentioned before, I wore my 1987 t-shirt or maybe it was 1989. Nevertheless, the inventor and first race director Mark Selvetti of Crawfishman Triathlon was there on raceday. Mark loved the shirt. It just brought back great memories for him. We talked and became friends. Other friends were there Gabrial Chamblin who is 61 now. I met when he was 34 years old and his parents were there watching him race. Thanks to my team mates. I enjoy racing with you, talking with you, making memories with you. Here is to the future and lets make more memories. See you in Fairhope at Grandman Triathlon!
Take care and I will see you at the races,
David Robert Shearon
Let me start by saying I LOVE the idea of a downtown triathlon in Pensacola. One of my favorite races is the Chattanooga Waterfront Tri (also a downtown intermediate distance) and man would it be amazing to have something similar here in our very own backyard.
This race is only in it’s second year, so needless to say it has some areas of potential improvement. As one of it’s race directors stated, there were a few hiccups along the way. But hey, that is part of what racing is all about. Take what you are given on that day, at that time, and do the best you can. Overcome whatever the challenges are. After having it rain at my last four races I am starting to come to terms with this. There will always be something. If you want a perfect race it rarely, if ever, is going to happen
Now, coincidentally, race day dawned to what could be described as the perfect weather (unlike my last four). It exemplified the reason we live and race in Florida. Sunny skies, 60 degrees, and low wind made for ideal racing conditions. It was just chilly enough to need an extra layer while checking into transition and finding your assigned spot, but was perfect once you put on a wetsuit to line up for the swim.
After brief (yet somewhat complicated) swim instructions the self seeded, time trial, swim started. Athletes chug into the water behind Nick’s Boathouse and hug the sea wall of the Maritime Park making this one of the only spectator friendly swims I know of. You could literally walk the length of the out and back swim and watch your athlete as a spectator. As an athlete, it was surprisingly nice to swim in Pensacola’s underused (for racing) and calm bay.
A quick run along the sea wall to T1 gave you time to strip most of your wetsuit before heading out on the bike.
The bike, like the swim, is unique in that it is the only race to use Scenic Highway. The rolling hills and fast descents (or slow ascents...glass half full/empty) were a welcome change to the normal flat beach roads many races use. The course has a bit of everything. Sweeping curves, punchy hills, and flat, fast sections. From what I attribute to the variety of the course the bike flew by. I was coming back down Cervantes towards the stadium before it seemed I should!
Finally, time for the run. I won't say this is my favorite part, but I am always glad to be off the bike and almost done. The run is a fantastic, spectator friendly, course through the heart of downtown. I was able to pass my wife and son cheering me on six times while they stood and one corner spectating.
In the end, it was a beautiful day outside racing, laughing, and hanging out with friends. This race has the potential to be a “Chattanooga Waterfront” type race. A unique swim and bike followed by an amazingly spectator friendly run give it the ingredients to be a must do event. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to wake up and race in my hometown, and look forward to next year!
See you at the races.
Every year around this time, as the clocks spring forward and the temperature begins to rise, I become especially eager and excited to start my race season. Over the years, my season-opening triathlon has taken me up and down the East coast, serving as a testament to my offseason training and a litmus test for the season to come.
This year, my season opener takes me to the beautiful Tradition Village in Biloxi, MS to race the 8th running of Tradition’s Triathlon presented by Run-N-Tri Company, a sprint-distance race featuring a 1/3 mile swim, 17-mile out-and-back bike ride over rolling hills, and a 3.1 mile run through the quaint Tradition neighborhoods and over some hard-packed trail. But there is something different about this year from those of the past. This year I am pleased and grateful to be racing as a member, or “link”, of the CHAIN Triathlon Team!
My alarm starts shrieking at 4:00 AM, a nagging reminder to get up and get ready. I head to the car with my arms filled with race gear, and am met by a heavy, unrelenting rain. When a quick check of my email confirms “the race is on as scheduled,” it’s time to go! The rain begins to lighten during my drive, and just as I announced my observation, the sky illuminates with lightning, followed by more heavy rain.
I arrive to the Village to see racers sitting in their cars taking shelter from the elements, while the intrepid event staff and volunteers fill an otherwise scarce venue ensuring the race goes on as scheduled. Transition showcases the choreatic movement of a single racked bike as it sways in the wind. The race director delays the start by thirty minutes as more lightning fills the dark sky.
Dawn breaks. The lightning stops. The heavy rain turns to a faint sprinkle leaving a cool chill in the air. Racers swarm into transition searching for the perfect spot to rack their bike. After a quick double-check of my equipment, it is now time to don the wetsuit and head to the swim start.
The water is calm and cool, a refreshing 70-degrees. A self-seeded time-trial swim allows for spectators and fellow racers send cheers and encouragement all the way to the first turn buoy. After two quick left turns, I row of bright orange buoys guide me back to shore.
With a short run and smooth transition, it’s time to ride. Fumbling to get my wet feet into my wet shoes made for a slow start, but quickly found my rhythm to take on the rolling hills. To my delight, and I’m sure to the delight of many others, aside from the occasional stream crossing the road (as a reminder of the heavy morning rain), the roads are surprisingly dry!
The sun begins to break through the clouds as I head back into transition to swap my bike for a pair of running shoes. 3.1 miles to go. I have little experience running on trails. The first time was during a cross-country Thanksgiving Turkey Trot in which my mother had mistakenly registered me for, and the other about a month ago. During those races, the ground was frozen (I was living in Massachusetts) and dry, respectively. With that said, I am underprepared for the trail portion of this run. The once hard-packed clay is soft under my feet and large puddles span across the trail. My feet are swishing around inside of my shoes with every step. I hop over puddles, pretending I am a steeplechaser. To my fortune, the footsteps left behind by front-runners provide a perfect route to follow. The music and cheers surrounding the finish line swiftly draw me in with teammates waiting, offering high-fives for a job well done.
While the racing community is large, it is quite small at the same time. This race kicked off the start of my ninth season of racing and over those years, many of my competitors have become good friends. Meeting up with them at races often feels like a family reunion. This was my first race as part of a team and in turn, the first time meeting many of my teammates. I look forward to a great season and many more races as the unconditional support and encouragement of my teammates immediately made me feel welcome!
Despite the rainy start, the day wound up being quite beautiful. I would like to thank all of the volunteers, Host, and Sponsors (team and race) that made for a great experience!
For the last many years Chain Tri Team has bantered about what non-race gatherings and endeavors the team members could fold into the annual race circuit. These extracurricular activities allow the team members to extend their passion for the sport to volunteering, community building, and perhaps a chance to have some fun outside of the few hours every month where they share in the excitement of raceday during the meat of the season.
In 2013 it was an effort at supporting World Bicycle Relief.
In 2014 it was the introduction of an annual team road trip race outing.
In 2015 it was the establishment of the Gulf Coast Triathlon Initiative.
In 2016 and 2017 it was partnering with Pillars For Promise in continuing to grow the aforementioned Initiative.
2018 would feature the addition of a late-spring team training camp leading into the formal kickoff of the season.
This camp is something which team member Coach Allen Stanfield immediately claimed as his project for coordinating and offering to the team membership - actually it was his idea so he didn't have a choice of not owning it... Drawing upon his USAT Coaching Certification, his 5+ years of experience with Team MPI as a Senior and Mentor Coach, and his knowledge of the various team members (their strengths, their weaknesses, their race season aspirations) Allen took to laying out a productive, fun, insightful, and enjoyable weekend for his fellow teammates.
With the addition of Cultivation Nation Triathlon to the 2018 team race schedule, conducting this camp in Wiggins, MS at the Flint Creek Reservoir would be a perfect fit. The venue offers on-site cabin lodging complete with kitchen and shower facilities, ease of travel to/from the location (athletes attending from Florida, Alabama, Mississippi), quality and ample roads for riding, challenging elevation profiles for running, and a large body of water ideal for donning the wetsuits in preparation for the early-season events. The only unknown would be what the weather would serve up for late-March -- as luck would have it the coldest temperature of the entire camp (7am on day #1) would quickly become a footnote as the remaining ~60 hours duration of the camp would be nearly ideal with temperatures between 60F - 75F with partly cloudy skies and some fickle winds on the bike (fickle = the favorable tailwind never really showed up as anticipated, but we are all stronger for it).
Additionally, the ability to parlay the camp into a professionally-directed duathlon in Perkinston, MS on the final day of the camp was a fantastic opportunity for those attending the camp. Though, certainly somewhere in the mix of the multiple workouts leading up to raceday or somewhere in the midst of the second run of the duathlon there were some reservations -- "why are we racing tomorrow?" "my legs are going to be shelled" "my legs ARE shelled" "whose idea was the race?" "I may be the one to own the 'reverse peristalsis badge of pride' for this event" -- but Coach Allen reassured us it would be a great way to knock off the rust on the more nuanced aspects of the sport such as transition, race gear selection, Strava uploading competency, and raceday nutrition.
The general idea of the camp was to take the opportunity to unplug from the day-to-day grind, spend some quality time together, and drift off into the world of being faux professional athletes for a couple of days. With that in mind... though we were "camping" it was far from "roughing it" - one espresso machine with many more buttons than the base model K-Classic in this author's kitchen at home, three sets of dynamic compressive leg recovery devices, one ultrasonic chain cleaner and wax station (actually I think the device is intended for use in an organic chemistry lab somewhere, but there is no such thing as overkill when watts saved is the bottom line), a water purifier with twenty gallons of water, and a healthy and generous amount of nutrition to feed on (twelve pounds of chicken breast, a dozen avocados, a bag of apples, a bag of oranges, a bag of grapes, three packs of smoked salmon, five pounds of peppers, a few jars of almond butter, two dozen eggs, the big bottle of Cholula, one gallon of egg whites, a bin of cashews, a bag of onions, and an array of gels, protein bars, and chews to round out the mix).
On to the flow of the days...
Sleep. Every camper claimed to have slept much more than while at home. Logging 8 - 10 hours of sleep a night while at the camp was a fantastic benefit. Focus on rest and recovery. Plus, the naps in the middle of the day were nice as well.
Following a full night of sleep, the kitchen was abuzz. Matt served as team barista. Allen was manning the stovetop. And the crew combined efforts on the quick cleanup duty while gearing up for the upcoming ride.
Each day would begin with a bike ride - basically the cornerstone of the day that everything else was built around. The rides varied in distance based on the particular athlete's ability, choosing, or however long he was able to hang with the pack. The routes included aspects of the Cultivation Nation course, the duathlon course (Sunday's event), and other roads favored by the Stone County athletes. Coach Allen made sure to include a few pit stops along the way - gas stations and roadside stores.
Following the morning ride, the crew would hit the feed again for some lunch or a light snack while planning for the next coupe of workouts. One day there was a run after the bike. The next day it was swim first following the bike, then run. The schedule was loose enough to allow for the momentum of the group to dictate when to begin these sessions but having a group to be held accountable to made it tough to ditch the afternoon swim and/or run.
The run routes basically coursed around the Reservoir. One day it was along the dirt/clay path that overlaps the Cultivation Nation run course. The next day it was up and down, and up and down, and up and down along the paved (and hilly) service road that provides access to the many campsites and cabins peppered along the shore. Somewhere during the run on day #2 (i.e. workout #6 for the camp - the "hilly run") is when the notion of having to go anaerobic for the pending duathlon came into question... it was going to be painful.
Swimming in the reservoir doubled as active recovery, really. With water temperatures hovering around 65 - 68F it was ideal for a wetsuit. In fact, swimming without a wetsuit was left for those who wanted to tiptoe along that line where the body stops shivering, the neurons stop firing on all cylinders, and delirium takes over. That, or for the elementary school kids on Spring break staying one cabin over who had no qualms about playing in the water sans wetsuit - they were having fun and didn't seem to mind the cold water, save for their blue lips and chattering teeth. Anyhow, the swim routes primarily coursed from boat ramp to beach access or vice versa. Some winds late in the day made for a chance to test one's swim form while heading into the chop and then leverage that same chop returning back toward shore. It was simple 1,000m loops or segments, and it worked very well.
The days ended with a team dinner. Yes, everyone chipped in and both kitchens in the two cabins were set to work. Some guys were on veggie cutting duty. Others were on the task of braising the chicken. Those who sat it out on the prep side would be put to work with cleanup duty. Beyond that, there was also the roasting of the veggies and cleaning out of the fridge for any other interesting leftovers that may serve as good additions to the buffet.
The original schedule as laid out by Coach Allen included social hour (cards, games, etc...) but by the ends of the days the crew was whipped and the Elite Eight NCAA games were on the TV, so social hour sort of fell victim to attrition and distraction, respectively.
Speaking of attrition, when Sunday morning rolled around the original crew of eight had dwindled to five. Five Chain Tri Team members would toe the line at Du It At Danny's If You Dare Duathlon hosted by the Gulf Coast Bicycle Club. Sometimes unplugging is only realistic for a defined period of time as evidenced by real world duties beckoning some of the camp attendees to get back to work come Sunday.
Perfect weather greeted the participants - overcast skies, negligible wind, and a cool mist/fog. The event includes a two mile run, sixteen mile bike, two mile run layout. The venue is fantastic - ample parking, easy athlete check-in, plenty of rack space in transition, and literally no other cars on the road besides the volunteers and the local law enforcement. Following the shotgun start - yes, an actual shotgun fired to signal the start of the single wave event, out-and-back was the flavor of the day: one mile out and one mile back for the run on the Southern side of transition, eight miles out and back on the North side of transition, then repeat the run again on the South side of transition. The Chain quintet party line was that the event was a great challenge, a fantastic atmosphere, and certainly a fun opportunity to go anaerobic following two multi-workout days. Race Director Eddie Holmes conducted a great event and the attention to detail was fantastic. Event host Danny Walton and family rolled out the red carpet - fresh fruit, grilled chicken and burgers, and plenty of beverages.
As for this author, I recommend taking part in a camp if you have the opportunity. Besides the objective measures of how many miles, watts, meters, climbs, etc... a camp provides a chance to unplug and shift the focus toward rest/recovery, nutrition, mental preparedness, and perhaps you learn something new along the way.
Many thanks to Coach Allen for the countless hours or prep time involved in this venture. He considered everything. Everything including but not limited to the food selection, the cabin rental, the workout route layout, camp ammenties (nod to the espresso machine and team barista), making sure everyone had bed sheets, pre-camp communication, and many more less-than-rewarding tasks I am sure.
Here's to looking forward to a fun and enjoyable 2018 tri season. Chain Tri Team couldn't do it without our loyal sponsors, our supportive family members, the many race directors and volunteer forces involved in hosting the events we look forward to, and our fellow team members for continuing to challenge one another. Thanks to each and every one of you.
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.