If red flags mean warning, what do no flags mean?

By Jeff Bowman
Race # 2 of the 2003 Emerald Coast Triathlon series was held Saturday, May 31st. The event consisted of a 1/3 mile ocean swim, 15 mile bike, and 3.25 mile run. Race venue is the Spinnaker Beach Club and the event is organized and conducted by the Emerald Coast Events Commission, www.emeraldcoastevents.com.

After registration, body-marking, timing-chip placement, bike set-up, tire pump-up, run set-up, warm-up, last minute check, we grab our goggles and head to the beach. Oh my, it's rough this morning. I mean, it's REALLY rough. I wonder what color flags are out, wow, no flags, I guess the wind must have ripped them down. Wow again, white-caps everywhere, strong current, breakers, huge breakers, under-tow, the whole enchilada.

As the crowd of 200+ triathletes gather on the beach, the 'test' case of super-stud blind triathlete David Bigoney with his seeing eye-dog multi-sport adventurer Jim Phillips prepare to enter the surf. The race director, Jerry Lynch, decides to give these 2 tremendous athletes a 5 min head-start over the main field, the real reason for this generosity soon becomes apparent. As David and Jim enter the surf, it quickly becomes apparent that, with the speed of the current and under-tow, the two will miss the 1st buoy and must quickly back-track against the current to make the turn. The mass of athletes on the beach quickly move another 50yds to the west.

The gun goes off, mass hysteria, fists flying, feet kicking, bodies churning, breakers breaking. A struggle, mental and physical to the 1st buoy, temporary respite as we make the turn and head down the beach, with the current. Stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe, breathe, gulp, gulp. Where is the next buoy? Swim, swim, swim, look up, there it is. Wow, the current really is strong. Was that a shark or shadow I just saw? Make the last turn, try to catch a wave, head down, white water, sand, the beach, finally.

Sprint up the beach, up the steps, walk, walk they say, it's slippery. Past the Spinnaker pool, down into the parking lot and transition. Run, run, hard pavement ouch. Bike shoes on, helmet on, sun-glasses on. Sprint with the bike, hop on the trusty steed and go.

Into the teeth of a gale-force headwind. Not a problem but an opportunity, to crush the weak. Spin, spin, spin, mash, mash, spin. The leader, way up there, nobody in sight behind, the wind is my friend. Cars, trucks, not the friendliest folks I've ever met, road construction, cat calls, hey, don't you realize this is a race? Finally, the turn-around is in sight, and so is the leader, hah, I've got you now. Make the turn, some respite, but don't coast now, push, push, push. The 30+mph trip back, is over, and the bike I must rack.

Lightening fast transition, out 1st by a few, if only the race were now done. With the wind again, this time on foot, the leader catches me back, stay close as long as you can. He slowly pulls away, the turnaround coming soon. Around the cone, heading back against the wind, count the seconds, how far back are they? Maybe I can hold. The last half-mile, a quick look back, then again, and again, run, run, don't look, into the parking lot, under the tape, smile for the photo, it's over.

On the women's side, ex-FSU swimmer girl and GWTC triathlete, Mary Gorham-Rowan took the lead on the bike and never looked back. Her time of 1hr 21min was good enough for 21st overall. Rounding out the top-3 women were Susan Lipscomb from Alpharetta, GA., and Susan Maitre from Navarre.

The men's champion was Mark Williamson (the 2003 Red Hills Triathlon winner) from Panama City Bch, followed closely by GWTC Triathlete Jeff Bowman, and Atlanta resident Warren Kitchens.

Age group performances of note were turned in by George Palmer (1st), Gina Hickey (2nd), Maria Vives (3rd), Lena Juarez (3rd), Sherrie Peavey (5th), and Lynn Powell (3rd). David Bigoney and guide-dog Jim Phillips topped the Physically Challenged division. Frank Rudd (2nd) and Wallace Randell (5th), dominated the Clydesdale group. Tom Fugate placed 2nd in the Military Division.

Other Tallahassee finishers were Michelle Ledbetter, Paul Peavey, Harry Detwiler, Marcel Egli, David Henry, Eugene Trunco, Travis Blanton, Chris Dudley, Joel Springer, Garrett Blanton, Jason Mezey, Carlos Veigas, Kristofer Leribeus, Jeremy Ables, Dillon Fritz, and Ryan Dennison.

The series resumes on September 13th for race #3. Complete information and results can be perused at www.emeraldcoastevents.com/tri_info.htm