I spent the past 3 weeks in the backwoods of Georgia hanging out with my sister and brother-in-law and training with them for triathlons. I was really bummed to miss the Mad Cows Tri-for-Fun, but we managed to participate in two other great races.

 

The first was the Turtle Crawl, an increasingly popular sprint/olympic/half-iron race on Jekyll Island, Georgia. In total, around 700 triathletes showed up for the three events. The three of us opted for the sprint. The beach start for the swim had an interesting twist. People were asked to roughly group together by race number and then form pairs, which were then sent off at about two second intervals—an electronic pad at the water’s edge precisely recorded each individual’s start time. This start method proved to be an excellent way of spacing swimmers and minimizing the washing machine effect. It still was a fairly tough swim because of a head-on current, light wave chop, and murky water, but I enjoyed being back in the ocean having started my biathlon/triathlon career in Hawaii. The combination of absolutely flat, very smooth streets with no sharp turns, long stretches with overhanging trees that provided abundant shade, and light winds made for the fastest bike course I’ve ever been on. The only drawback was that the course was not closed to car traffic. The run course was also very fast – a flat, out-and-back right next to the ocean. Post-race food was plentiful and tasty--in addition to an all-you-can-eat buffet of multiple-ingredient croissant sandwiches, etc., a dozen vendors gave away tons of free food samples – everything from Jimmy Dean sausage to ice cream to beer – yummy! Oh yeah, one thing I particularly noticed about the Turtle Crawl was the camaraderie among all the athletes – the general friendliness of everyone involved is what I’ll probably remember most about this race.


Three weeks later I did the second race: the Macon Rock 'N Roll Man sprint/olympic/half-iron. Again, we opted for the sprint, and it was a good thing we did – by this time the heat (90 ?+) and humidity (80%+) of a southern summer was upon us. The Rock 'N Roll Man is a large, fairly competitive race – probably comparable to Auburn and Folsom. The swim was in a beautiful clear and warm (wetsuit illegal) lake. The bike was challenging because of the many hills—there was only about a one mile section of flat road over the entire course. However, my main issue with the course was the absence of mile markers and clear directions – at one point toward the end I found myself surrounded by nothing except tall Georgia pines, and my oxygen starved brain was convinced that I had taken a wrong turn. Fortunately, just as I was slowing down and preparing to turn around I saw a distant bike coming up the road. The out-and-back run course was also tough if you weren’t prepared – straight up a long hill and straight back. The post-race food was a disappointment after the big buildup on the race Web site—pretzel sticks after a race? C’mon!

I managed to do well in both races – unexpectedly getting kicked up to a higher age group by the weird USAT age group rules didn’t hurt. I’d like to end by extending a big thanks to Kelly and Steve for loaning their bike box—much appreciated! By the way, using UPS to send my bike worked out fairly well. It is not cheap but still less expensive than what many airlines charge nowadays and the fast, door-to-door service is very convenient.

Moo Y’all, Don
p.s. During my Georgia trip I read Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. This is a both very funny and inspiring read, and I would particularly recommend it for triathletes who, like myself, have started to lose the joy of running after many years of pounding the pavement. I tried to channel the running strength and spirit of the Tarahumara during my races with mixed results – looks like I need to do some more barefoot running.

 

 

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