Gulf Shores, Alabama
Meteorological Magic & Team Magic
by Jared Moore
What looked sure to be, at best, a soggy morning (or worse, a cancellation) turned out to be the most pleasant of conditions for this race in recent memory. The imminent rain showers that had been hovering over the area for the days leading up to the race literally departed moments before the scheduled start time. LITERALLY MOMENTS! I know a guy who knows a guy who didn't show up race-morning because he was so sure it would be cancelled due to weather.
The time-trial lineup for the Tri-It-On sprint race took formation first for a 400-person train snaking up the beach. The Olympic-distance race of 250 commenced seamlessly after the final sprint-distance racer hit the choppy Gulf waters.
Because this triathlete did not participate in the sprint race in Sandestin three weeks prior, little mention will be given to the random spattering of jellyfish tentacles that ignited face, hands, arms and legs like silly-string of electrical current. No substantive description will be provided on how incredibly soothing that mysterious patch of cold water near the shore felt on welted limbs. No, there will be no recount of a completely made-up estimate of the exact number of racers who hailed a jet ski ride back to shore to make the unjust, throbbing, painful stings stop. Certainly any mention of the 2 or 3 mild jellyfish stings this triathlete received during Alabama Coastal's 1500-meter, 2-lap swim would illicit a choir of protests from survivors of the aquatic invasion at the Battle of Sandestin. I'm not as sensitive as most people so the marine life didn't really bother me. ;)
At the other extreme, the antithesis to these haters of the native, gelatinous sea-invertebrate is Doug Jones. Although the source of the rain showers had evacuated, there was still a fair amount of moisture on the roads. The bike course is designed for fast times consisting almost entirely of straight, open road. Mr. Jones held his open-road watts during one of the two turns on the course and unfortunately lost a great deal of flesh (and rumored bone fracture??). Well wishes for a speedy recovery, Doug! (again?!?!) Aside from Doug's misfortune, I think most everyone enjoyed the mostly great road-quality, flat, fast cycling course. As a testament to the quality of venue, the bike turnaround doubled as the run turnaround for a neighboring 5K event.
The run course for this race is what has seared itself into the minds of many racers and is usually the determining factor for finishing placement. The 3-mile out-and-back on blacktop with the only respite an occasional, fleeting shadow from a passing car has melted many racers to a puddle of humility over the years. I will reluctantly confess that I distinctly remember one year struggling to muster enough willpower NOT to make hateful hand-gestures at the Sun. This year, however, was blithe. The temps capped out around 80-degrees, which allowed for some quicker run splits relative to previous years (overall winner clocked a 34:xx 6-miles).
After the final racer had crossed the finish line, GCTT had claimed 2 of the 3 overall podium slots (head nod, Sam and Allen...and the state of Mississippi) and topped 6 age divisions. It was another great opportunity to enjoy racing along the Gulf Coast.
On another note, GCTT offers sincerest condolences to the family of Tim Jenkins. Although he passed doing something we all love, the sting of death is heavy. May the memory and impact of his life carry on.