Triathlon Across the USA: State #33 – Alabama

Triathlon Across the USA: State #33 – Alabama
What did you do last Saturday morning?  I jumped off a paddleboat in the middle of the Alabama River and after swimming back to the dock, hopped on my bike for a ride in the country.  Oh, yeah, then I ran around the Alabama State Capital. Montgomery, AL, April 29, 2017 – Baptist Health Capital Of Dreams Tri, Riverfront Park Just when I was wondering if I had experienced all the ‘race firsts’ (I explain more later), I competed in the Capital of Dreams Triathlon in Montgomery, Alabama.  

Planning for the Alabama Triathlon

Joy and I made a 10-day vacation to the south out of the trip to compete in the Tupelo, Mississippi and Montgomery, Alabama sprint triathlons on back to back weekends, the proverbial “killing of two birds with one stone”.  The planning process is described in the post about the Mississippi triathlon.  

Travel to the Triathlon

Following the Tupelo Sprint Triathlon the previous weekend, Joy and I headed to the Gulf Shores area of Alabama and western panhandle of Florida for some rest, relaxation, and exploration of the sugar white sand beaches of the region. On Thursday afternoon, we made our way north to Montgomery, Alabama, traveling through mile-after-mile of green forests with the occasional batch of flowering magnolias.  On Friday, we explored some of the historic sites of Montgomery, picked up the triathlon packet, and prepared for Saturday’s race.  

5th Capital of Dreams Triathlon

The 2017 Capital of Dreams Triathlon managed by Team Magic was the 5th running of this race.  The triathlon’s name comes from Montgomery’s description as the Capital of Dreams. The name is fitting.  Montgomery is, after all, the capital of the state of Alabama.  It was also the 10-year home of Pastor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Dr. King, one of the key leaders of the 1960’s Civil Rights movement, is famous for his 1963 “I have a dream” speech. "The Distances for the individual legs of this USAT-sanctioned sprint triathlon were:
  • Swim: 0.25 mile (400 m)
  • Bike: 12.4 mile (20 km)
  • Run: 3.1 mile (5 km)
The Capital of Dreams Triathlon began with all racers at the dock in Riverfront Park from which race director Therese Bynum shared pre-race instructions and safety tips. Before boarding the boat, we sang ‘Happy Birthday to You’ for those celebrating their birthday that day followed by the National Anthem.  

Swim

We boarded the Harriott II paddleboat a few minutes after 7am for a roughly 0.25 mile ride up the Alabama River where we started the swim.  With the boat stopped, swimmers started one-by-one by jumping into the river as Therese called ‘Go’. Once the previous swimmer surfaced and was on their way, the next racer was given the go ahead to jump in.
Harriott 2 paddleboat

After taking us up river the distance of the swim (0.25 mile for the sprint distance), we jumped off the side of the Harriott II paddleboat and swam back to the dock.

  The water temperature at race time was reported to be 72ºF (22ºC) making the race ‘wetsuit legal’ according to USAT rules.  While I would have been comfortable without a wetsuit at that temperature, I decided to use it for its added buoyancy. A wetsuit makes it easier for the swimmer’s legs to stay more or less parallel to the surface of the water, rather than dip down slightly which creates drag.  In other words, the wetsuit helps to save the leg muscles by preventing the swimmer from having to kick in order to keep their legs at the surface of the water.  

Swimming in the Alabama River

Aside from a  couple of small branches in the water which caught in between my fingers, the water was free of debris.  I did not see a single snake.  According to the locals, they were probably there.  However, with the commotion we were creating, they chose not to hang around. About three quarters of the way through the swim, my swim cap popped off my head.  I stuffed it into the front of my wetsuit and finished without the cap.   This was not the first time I has lost my swim cap during the open water swim portion of a triathlon. My swim cap also came off during the swim in the Missouri River at the South Dakota triathlon. Upon reaching the dock, I climbed out of the river using a metal ladder similar to that used in swimming pools and made my way to the transition area.  

Bike

The out-and-back bike course was relatively flat with only a few small hills.  My bike computer showed an average speed of 20.6 mph. There were an incredible number of volunteers on the bike course to protect the racers.  I am sure that there was one at every intersection. The drivers with whom we shared the road were also courteous.  As an example, one lady in a car who was making a left turn that would cross the bike lane, stopped and waited with a smile on her face for me to pass before making the turn. This thoughtfulness was typical of what we found throughout our stay in Montgomery.  

Run

The temperature was around 80ºF and humid by the time I got onto the run course.  For reasons that I do not fully understand, I found it necessary to combine running and walking.  I took advantage of nearly every aid station for PowerAde or water. I learned a new technique for refreshment from a volunteer during one of the stops.  While I was drinking a PowerAde, he asked if I wanted some water to help cool down.  I nodded yes. I expected him to pour the water over my head.  To my surprise,  the cold water hit my upper back and run down the back of my triathlon suit.  I instantly became of fan of this. Having water poured down the back is much better than having it poured on one’s head.  In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I had a volunteer at an aid station later in the run repeat the process. Then, there was the traffic volunteer who was directing traffic at one of the intersections.  About two-thirds of the way through the course, I came upon an intersection with a car waiting patiently to cross in front of me. From at least three car lengths from the intersection, I yelled to her that she could let the car pass.  “Let them go. I could use a break right now.” Without hesitation, she came back with “I know you could but I’m not going to be giving you one.  C’mon through.”   I thanked her and passed through with a big smile.  “A cheerful heart is good medicine.” (Proverbs 17:22)
The run course took us past Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church (left), where Dr. Martin Luther King preached from 1954 to 1960, and around the Alabama State Capital (upper and lower right).

The run course took us past Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church (left), where Dr. Martin Luther King preached from 1954 to 1960, and around the Alabama State Capital (upper and lower right).

 

Inspiration from Other Seniors

I am continually humbled by the stories of other triathletes of my age.  While I was finishing the triathlon, Joy was meeting other racers to learn their experience with the sport. She met one man who has completed more than 150 triathlons since beginning in the early days of the sport.  Another man, who began later in life, has completed more than 100 triathlons including 27 races in a single year. Yet another had started triathlon after the death of his wife.  The sport has given him a new focus and opportunity to meet new people. Triathlon is a great sport for maintaining physical fitness.  However, it has also been good for my mental fitness, keeping me humble, grateful, and aware.  

Race First’s

  • First transition area in a covered area (historic Union Station Train Shed)
  • First triathlon with swim start from a paddleboat
  • First triathlon with the run past a state capital
The historic Union Station Train Shed (location of the triathlon transition area) with Alabama River (location for the swim) in the background.

The historic Union Station Train Shed (location of the triathlon transition area) with Alabama River (location for the swim) in the background.

 

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