Triathlon Across the USA: State #39-Georgia

Buford, Georgia; September 23, 2018 – Lake Lanier Triathlon, Lake Lanier Islands Resort.

About an hour’s drive northeast of downtown Atlanta is the “something for everyone” Lake Lanier Islands Resort, home of the Georgia triathlon in our Triathlon Across the USA adventure.

Getting to the Georgia Triathlon

The Georgia triathlon was the third of five triathlons completed in as many states during consecutive weekends in the fall of 2018.

Following the Dixie Triathlon in Huntingdon, Tennessee, Joy and I drove to The Villages, Florida where we relaxed in the hospitality of our friends, Don and Sue.

Before we knew it, the week had passed and it was time to make the drive to Georgia.  We said our farewells on Friday morning and headed toward a suburb a little south of Atlanta, where our nephew Joe, his wife, Alaina, and daughter Ruby treated us to a wonderful evening.

After brunch on Saturday morning, we headed toward Lake Lanier Islands Resort for the triathlon.

14th Lake Lanier Islands Triathlon

While the race took place on Sunday, the race director required that we drop off our bikes on Saturday afternoon. In hindsight, this was probably necessary given the number of racers (around 550) and the parking restrictions we found on race morning.

A Lesson in Bike Maintenance

During the Dixie Triathlon, the chain of my bike had come off while down-shifting before a steep hill. I was concerned this had occurred so soon after a bike tune-up, so I had taken my bike to a Trek bike shop near The Villages, Florida, for a checkup.

The technician found nothing obvious that would have caused the chain to come off. However, he pointed out that there was a significant drag of the rear brake on the rear wheel. 

He explained that since the brake is ‘buried’ within the frame, adjusting it would require disassembling the rear portion of the bike. There was nothing he could do to fix this quickly given our short time in The Villages.

(After returning home after the last triathlon of this trip, I learned that a crack in the carbon fiber frame caused this problem.)

Walking my bike to the transition area for the Lake Lanier Triathlon on Saturday afternoon, I noticed even more drag than I had remembered. Joy suggested that we have the bike mechanic on-site at the packet pickup look at it.

The young mechanic was confident that he could make the adjustment, though found that he had not brought the correct socket with him. I went back to our van and grabbed my socket and torque wrench set. As it turned out, my toolkit had the correct socket for the adjustment.

Even with the correct tool, the technician could not fix the problem. However, he thought that adjusting the wheel could possibly reduce the drag.

After the initial adjustment made matters worse, I asked him to give it another try. The vision of climbing the hills along the course with the brake effectively on, especially in heat and humidity, was not at all appealing. Fortunately – and much to my surprise – the second attempt significantly reduced the drag.

Even Though the Bike Had Been Recently Tuned

The irony of this situation was that I had replaced the front gear set and the bike had been ‘tuned up’ before the trip. However, I had adjusted the position of the clamp on the wheel skewer (which no doubt affected the alignment) before the Ohio triathlon. I had not realized that such a change could affect the wheel-brake alignment.

In hindsight, I should have made the adjustment and ridden the bike before leaving home.

While I cannot swear to it, I am sure that the brake was dragging during the previous two races in Ohio and Tennessee, those during which I had found it necessary to walk the bike up the steepest of hills.

Triathlon tip: Make sure you give yourself time for a thorough test ride of your bike after a tune-up and before your next race with it. During the test ride, simulate the triathlon as much as possible.

A Mix of Athletes

The Lake Lanier event, managed by Georgia Multisports (Marietta, Georgia), included both sprint triathlon and aquabike (swim and bike; no run) competitions. There was also a relay option for the sprint triathlon.

Distances for the individual legs of this USAT-sanctioned sprint triathlon were:

  • Swim: 0.23 mile (400 yds or 366 m)
  • Bike: 13 mile (21 km)
  • Run: 3.1 miles (5 km)

The triathlon was unique in my experience in that there were male and female triathletes from several universities – Auburn University, Clemson University, Emory University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Oakwood University, University of Alabama, University of South Carolina, and University of Tennessee – competing alongside us in the triathlon.

Race Day

The morning started with a walk to the transition area in near pitch darkness. However, once the sun rose, we looked into clear and calm skies with an air temperature in the mid-60’s °F.

The race director held a pre-race meeting near the location of the swim start. He concluded the meeting with the playing of the national anthem, during which one of the collegiate males held the USA flag.


The swim took place in the Margaritaville water park within the Lake Lanier Islands Resort. Starting from the sugar sand beach, swimmers within a wave walked into the water to just beyond the roped-off area and awaited the start signal, a blast from a compressed air horn.

The official water temperature was 81.7°F. According to USAT rules, anyone competing for prizes or awards could not use a wetsuit.

There were fifteen waves, or groups of swimmers, beginning with collegiate males. Waves continued with groups of males by age from youngest to oldest. My wave, the last group of males, comprised the 69 males aged 50 and over.

It was then time for the female collegiate swimmers to start their race. As with the males, they followed with age group females, from youngest to oldest.

The swim course involved two turns (see the inset in the picture below). After swimming away from the starting area in a direction opposite the exit, we reached the first turn buoy. From here, it was a nearly straight shot toward the exit. The last turn was just before heading to the beach.

Location of the swim start and exit. This picture was taken from the elevation of the transition area. The inset picture on the lower right is my actual path from the GPS watch worn during the race.

Once out of the water, it was a few steps to the dock that led us across the water onto a long and steep concrete path toward the parking lot and into the transition area.


We mounted the bike on a flat area just outside the transition area. From here, it was down a short but steep hill out of the parking lot, followed by a right turn onto the parkway. A block-long flat stretch gave me time to slip my feet into the bike shoes. It was then up the first hill.

The picturesque ride followed a series of gently rolling hills on an open course, one we shared with normal automobile and truck traffic. However, we were protected from the traffic by the many volunteers and police stationed along the course.

The course eventually left the resort property and continued onto a loop on local roads before returning to the resort. While a small stretch of the course was under repair, most of the roads were of good quality.

There were a few areas of congestion caused by the mixed car and bike traffic. Thanks to one area of congestion within the resort, I actually passed a black sports car which had slowed while following another biker.

Scenes from the bike course of the Lake Lanier Islands Sprint Triathlon.


The run course was within the resort and separate from the bike course. The first half to three-quarters of a mile was relatively flat. However, it became progressively hillier as we went through this leg.

Late in the run, I was reminded of the encouragement that characterizes triathlons, especially among us ‘age groupers’ and weekend athletes.

A young lady, who I recognized to be 35 years old by the magic marker labeled left calf, slapped me on the back as she passed by, turned, and said with a big smile ‘Way to go! You’ve got this!’.

The embarrassing part of this for me was that as she slapped my back, I noticed a sloppy, splashing sound. Appreciating the encouragement but feeling embarrassed, I yelled out to her, “Sorry for the sweat.”

Her comeback was precious. Still smiling, she replied, “That’s lake water. Right?”

“Right”, I replied, now also smiling. The memory of that exchange still brings a smile.

My sprint to the finish line at the Lake Lanier Islands Triathlon 2018. The picture was taken by Tim Nettleton for and provided compliments of Georgia Multisports.

Joy met me at the finish line with a bottle of cold water. We headed over to the food table for a couple of banana halves, a slice of pizza, and some more liquid refreshment.

After the Race

After collecting the gear from the transition area, it was on to the Atlantic Coast in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. As we left, we wondered what we would find in the wake of Hurricane Florence.

Race First’s

  • First time competing with collegiate triathletes.
  • First time with a swim at a water park beach.
  • Longest distance from the exit of the water to the transition area.


Tell us about a memory from a past triathlon that still brings a smile. Let us know in the Comments below.

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