#BayBlog: The Grandman Series
"Suck it up Buttercup"
On June 4, Mobile Baykeeper is hosting the 12th Annual Publix Grandman Triathlon at the Fairhope Municipal Pier at 7 a.m. The race is a sprint triathlon consisting of a 1/3-mile swim, 18 mile bike ride, and 3.1 mile run along beautiful Mobile Bay, featuring 700-800 racers and requiring up to 150 volunteers.
The success of the Grandman would not be possible without many of the race's most loyal supporters over the years. In this edition of the Grandman Blog series, we sit down with Katie Bolton of Pro Cycle & Tri to talk about her Grandman experiences over the years - how she got started racing in triathlons, what advice she would give to first timers, what sets the Grandman apart from other races, and why she's excited about the finisher medal this year (spoiler alert: it was her idea!). After experiencing the Grandman from the perspective of a racer, sponsor, and volunteer, the Grandman has a "special place in her heart", and she has quite the story to tell.
1. Everyone has to start somewhere. How did you first get started with triathlons?
My dad was the first one who got me into riding bikes. I was a collegiate athlete, and after I graduated, he kept telling me – “you need to get on a bike.” One day I finally said “Okay, I’ll go on your stupid bike ride but if I hate it then never talk to me about it again." I ended up meeting my husband on a bike ride, and now we own a bike shop!
2. You and your husband Joseph have been a big part of the Grandman since Pro Cycle and Tri opened in 2011. Why did you want to become involved with the race?
We opened the shop in April 2011, and Grandman was in June. Grandman was actually my first triathlon ever, so it has multiple places in my heart. We knew we wanted to sponsor the race from the get go and knew it was going to be an event that we wanted to support. It's such an important community event - you'll see everyone out there. You have people that have never done anything active in their life and people who race in the world championships. Everyone is out there supporting each other and it’s a very welcoming community atmosphere.
3. You and your husband have worn a bunch of different hats in the Grandman over the years. Tell us about your different roles in the race over the years, and why you enjoyed each of them.
Both of us raced the first year, so we’ve been able to experience it from a beginner’s standpoint. We were also sponsors from the first year, and this will be our second or third year to host the volunteer clinic at the shop. I’m very excited to step up and help Linda with the beginner’s clinic from an official capacity this year.
I was there once, so it will be great to reach out to those people who are scared to death so we can make them laugh and calm them down. The years we didn’t race – we’ve helped out direct racer traffic, helped with bike support, and helped in any other way we can. It’s been such a blast.
This year, I’m injured, but I’m looking forward to helping out with myTeam Triumph. It’s going to be a great opportunity for me because I will be able to experience the race from another different perspective and support a great cause. Getting to wear all of the different hats is a lot of fun.
4. Pro Cycle & Tri is also the finisher medal sponsor this year. Tell us what we can be expecting from the medal.
We are so excited to be the medal sponsors this year. It’s going to double as a bottle opener and it’s so awesome! I’m taking full credit for that idea haha. You want people to see this medal and say, “hey that’s cool, I want to race in that event.” You also have people staring at your logo all of the time and proud to use something they have. And it’s not something that gets tossed out or hung up somewhere and forgotten about. You’ll always need a bottle opener!
5. What do you think makes the Grandman unique to other races?
For one, it's an extremely well run event. It is very consistent year to year - you know what you're going to experience each time. And you can't say that about a lot of other races.
It’s a challenging course, but still very fun to the point people are excited about coming back and doing it again. It has so much to offer for all types of racers out there. And you get to jump off of a pier! No other race has that – it’s incredible!
6. What about Fairhope? Surely the area itself has to be a big selling point for out of towners.
Absolutely, it's such a great destination event. Fairhope is such a special place. It is a very small community where you and your family have a cool place to go and make a weekend trip out of it. There are great restaurants, hotels, stores, galleries, you name it. The views from the race course are just incredible too. The sun coming up on the water while you're waiting to start is just surreal. There's just something special about it that nobody else can really compete with.
6. What advice would you give to new racers that are on the fence about racing in their first triathlon?
Suck it up buttercup, just do it!
It’s such a great event and well supported. They are tons of new first timers every year, and it’s a sprint so it’s a great way to ease into the sport. If you’re scared or nervous, come and talk to me. I’d love to help anyone out. But just do it – everyone has a first race. If you don’t do it now, you’ll just keep putting it off. Find a friend to race with you, and just laugh at yourself. It doesn’t matter how fast you go, as long as you get it done.
7. We work for clean water, clean air, and healthy communities at Mobile Baykeeper, and the Grandman is our biggest fundraiser. Why do you think the connection between the work we do and the Grandman is important to understand?
If you guys weren’t doing what you were doing, we wouldn’t be able to even get in the water and swim. This event depends on the health of Mobile Bay. It’s important because if we want to keep this going, we need to support you and what your goals are. And that’s keeping the Bay healthy.
We like having a place to swim. People go out there and practice, people take their families down to the beach, we take our dogs down there. It’s important to have a resource like that and to have longevity and work to protect it. We want to be celebrating the 20th and 50th anniversary of the Grandman later down the road, and we have to keep the water clean and healthy to make sure that happens.