Volunteer Veterans

#BayBlog: The Grandman Series

Volunteer Veterans: Terry and Jennifer Hartley

Husband and wife Terry (left) and Jennifer (right) Hartley are pictured above with the map of the Grandman race course. 

Husband and wife Terry (left) and Jennifer (right) Hartley are pictured above with the map of the Grandman race course. 

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 some of its most loyal supporters over the years, including the husband and wife duo of Terry and Jennifer Hartley. As a former Grandman Race Director and racer, respectively, Terry and Jennifer have been heavily involved with the Grandman since day one. 12 years later, they continue to serve as the backbone of a core group of volunteers who work tirelessly behind the scenes to make the race what it is today.

1. Both of you have been part of the Grandman since Day One. Tell us about the early days of the race, and how it has progressed over the years.

Terry: I started with the Grandman from the first year as a spectator. I did some photography, and I had several friends racing in the event and decided to go down to the original location and take pictures, down at Pelican Point on Weeks Bay.

From there, the two people who originally started the Grandman were experienced triathletes and were moving away from the area. The race had really grown and it was the only local triathlon. They approached Mobile Baykeeper, and I was President of the Board at the time. We saw it as a nice way to expand the brand and mission of Baykeeper as a fundraising event, and we took it over from there. They donated so many of the materials to us, so that was a big help to get the race started.

The problem was the original venue was not the best though. The bike course was a big challenge – closing down access to the boat ramps was difficult. We started looking for a different venue, and then the new course took on a life of its own. Since then, Casi and the Baykeeper team have helped it grow it into what it is today.

Jennifer: I raced in it the first three years at Pelican Point. The fourth year, we helped Jeff and Erica (the former race directors) because they were transitioning. Then Terry took over as race director for the next four years. I know I still have the t-shirt from the very first race from Pelican Point, which is now Mullet Point today.

2. What roles have you had with the Grandman in the past, and what do you currently do for the race?

Terry: I started out as a spectator and photographer, then served as Race Director for a few years. Since then, we’ve done pretty much everything in the Grandman – made signs, put them out, mark the swim course, mark the bike course, mark the run course, make an alternate plan if the race has to be a duathlon, you name it. I don’t think there’s a job we haven’t done. We’ve done races of all sorts and sizes from all over the country, and we’ve had experiences with how the good ones are done, and especially how the poor ones are run. It’s an absolute year round team effort to put on a race of this caliber.

Jennifer: After racing the first three years, I’ve had many different volunteer roles over the years. One of my jobs the last few years, along with Chuck Hollingsworth, another volunteer who has been part of the core group, is waiting on the last swimmer to get on the bike and start the course. Then we get in the truck and follow the last cyclists. After the bike, we get on bikes and follow behind the last runner.

It is a very safe course, just about as safe as you can humanly make it, but my role has always been to think of every single thing that could possibly go wrong, and how to minimize the chances of it happening. I always try and look out for the first timers because they won’t always know what to expect. It’s about taking as much chance out of it for them and making sure they have a safe and enjoyable experience.

3. Everyone always says how the Grandman is the perfect race for first timers. Why do you think this is?

Terry: The Grandman is made for first timers, and that’s always been a big selling point for the race. The course itself is one of the best courses in terms of being scenic and challenging, but not too bad to where a first timer can do it. We’ve always tried to make sure it is as organized and safe as possible to encourage more first timers to participate.

Jennifer: For many first timers, the open water swim can be the scariest part. Luckily, Harriett Ingraham and the Mobile Bay Canoe & Kayak Club have been very active and involved with the race, and help make it one of the safest swims because there is someone watching the swimmers at all times.

4. As former racers and current volunteers, you’ve seen the race from both sides of the spectrum. Why do you think this is important?

Terry: We have many friends who race every year. I always say, guys, one year you need just need to come help us out and volunteer. If you really want to get a taste of what it’s like, come help me in the transition area. And see what you racers are like from a volunteer perspective. It might surprise you.  

Jennifer: Over the years, there has been such a strong core group of volunteers that help run the race year after year. There are lots of things we know to do that people don’t necessarily think of doing. I think every racer should volunteer at an event at least once. It changed my perspective of racing and what a race is like. And most importantly, it made me more appreciative of the volunteers. Most races, small or large, are put on by volunteers just like us. These people aren’t here to get paid – they are here because they love multisport, their family is involved in the race, or they want to get involved and help make a difference.

5. Why do you keep coming back year after year? What’s your favorite part about the Grandman?

Terry: We’ve raced in a lot of different places, and there’s not a better venue for a race than this. Just look at the number of spectators that come. You would see a fraction of the people you would see at other races compared to the Grandman. People want to be there, and it’s just such a great place. Some of the USA Triathlon officials that come here year after year talk about how this is one of their favorite races to come to, if not their favorite.

My favorite part of the race is when transition is cleared out and everyone is getting ready to start on the pier. I usually walk up the hill and look down to see the whole site with racers and spectators everywhere. To look down and see how a year’s worth of work fully comes together is really neat.

Jennifer: I’m from Fairhope, and I grew up on the run course right on the bluff. Racers run right by my old house every year. So this race is very special to me. But the thing I enjoy most about the race is the first timers, and seeing them able to start the race and finish the race. That’s not an easy thing and that’s an accomplishment. Terry and I are in the trucks following the last biker, and we’re on bikes following the last runner. I wouldn’t have as much guts as some of those people do. They don’t quit, they don’t stop, and they finish the race. And that to me is more important than winning the race any day.  

6. We work for clean water, clean air, and healthy communities at Mobile Baykeeper. Why do you think the Grandman is especially important to the work we do? 

Jennifer: There is no doubt the health of our environment plays a role in our health as human beings. It is invaluable to have an organization like Baykeeper focusing a constant eye on our environment to ensure it remains as healthy as possible. Grandman serves that mission in several ways. First, it reminds everyone what a fantastic resource Mobile Bay is, and how wonderful it is to be able to enjoy it. Second, it brings Baykeeper's mission into focus - protecting this resource so it can be enjoyed. And third, it helps raise funds to continue that mission. 

To register, volunteer, or become a sponsor, visit www.thegrandman.com. For more information, please contact grandman@mobilebaykeeper.org or call 251-433-4229.