Grandman Triathlon Recap: 13 Years Going Strong

Grandman Triathlon Recap: 13 Years Going Strong

by Casi (kc) Callaway, Mobile Baykeeper Executive Director and Grandman Triathlon Race Director

Great recap video of #Grandman2017 by John Oldshue!

We are excited the 2017 Publix Grandman Triathlon is officially in the rearview mirror. This year was touch and go with water quality concerns and severe weather forecasts the entire week before the event. We finished with three water tests by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) all coming in clean from Tuesday through Friday and though it was gray, we were fortunate to have glorious, rain-free weather. Another successful race in the books!

For the first time this year, we divided racers into two different finger piers to jump off to help speed up the swim start. It turned out great!

For the first time this year, we divided racers into two different finger piers to jump off to help speed up the swim start. It turned out great!

We also made another change this year - jumping off two finger piers to speed up the swim start. From everything we have heard thus far from racers, the majority of racers were very pleased with the change. Each year we try to continue making improvements to the race so we can make the Grandman the best event it can possibly be and this was something we felt was a necessary change. What did you think about it? Let us know how your race experience was by taking our racer survey! We truly value your input. 

When it was all said and done, we ended with a grand total of 725 racers and nearly 150 volunteers. What another fantastic year! Have you seen the race results yet? Click here to see how you stacked up against the rest of the field!

Did you know?

We had three myTeam Triumph teams race again in the Grandman this year!

We had three myTeam Triumph teams race again in the Grandman this year!

In case you are unfamiliar with this event, the Grandman Triathlon is Mobile Baykeeper’s largest fundraiser, raising nearly $100,000 for our efforts. We support myTeam Triumph: Southern Alabama and Delta Bike Project as they help support us in pulling off a safe and well organized race. 

Mobile Baykeeper chooses to host this annual event because we want to see our entire community outside safely enjoying Mobile Bay, breathing clean air and swimming in clean water. Outdoor sports are the key to healthy communities and that’s exactly what we work to accomplish – clean water, clean air and healthy communities.

Special Thanks

We were lucky to have a wonderful group of volunteers from Ralph Lauren Polo help us set up the race course on Friday! 

We were lucky to have a wonderful group of volunteers from Ralph Lauren Polo help us set up the race course on Friday! 

The Mobile Baykeeper staff and the team of volunteers are now seasoned with at least two Grandmans under their belts and their enthusiasm was high and full of joy fo­­r the many days running up to the event. They each brought a new energy, excitement and enthusiasm for their jobs and made all the hard work seem effortless. We also had incredible interns join the team and last all the way through to the bitter end. The Mobile Baykeeper Staff, Board, Young Advisory Council, friends, families and volunteers are tired, but love putting on this event for our community year after year and we are so grateful for all of your support.

We had a great time partnering with Eastern Shore Triathlon Club to co-host the Jubilee Kids Triathlon this year!

We had a great time partnering with Eastern Shore Triathlon Club to co-host the Jubilee Kids Triathlon this year!

Mobile Baykeeper also embarked on a new race weekend adventure this year - assisting with the Jubilee Kids Triathlon on Sunday. The races have shared resources since the Kids race was established seven years ago, but this year we did more cross marketing and created a website and similar communications systems to the Grandman. With continued support of the Eastern Shore Triathlon Club, we hope to make the change more comprehensive and permanent next year. That means we’ll need more amazing volunteers again in the future!

Volunteers - We are excited to announce the volunteer appreciation party will take place on the evening of Monday, June 19th at the home of Carl and Chris Blunck. Be on the lookout for more details to come! 

We especially want thank our sponsors without whom this race wouldn’t be possible - PublixCoca-ColaPoweradeDasani, Waterkeeper Alliance Splash Series presented nationally by ToyotaPoarch Band of Creek Indians, Lyon Fry Cadden, Southern Light, Austal, and many more.

We couldn't do it without all of our wonderful bike and tri shops as well - Pro Cycle & Tri (finisher medal sponsor), Cadence 120Run-N-TriEastern Shore CyclesInfinity BicyclesRunning WildGulf Coast Cycle & Tri and the list goes on.

Special thanks to J. Vestal Photo for once again being the official event photographer. Because of their generosity, 15% of photo purchases will be donated to Mobile Baykeeper! Click here to view photos and order yours today! 

Thank you again for another successful Grandman Triathlon. It's never too early to start preparing for #Grandman2018 - it will be right around the corner before we know it!

Faces of the Grandman: Mary Kathryn Levy

Mobile Baykeeper is hosting the 13th Annual Publix Grandman Triathlon on Saturday, June 3 at 7 a.m. at the Fairhope Pier. The event is a sprint triathlon consisting of a 1/3-mile swim, 18.6 mile bike, and 3.1 mile run along beautiful Mobile Bay. Click here to register today! 

In this edition of "Faces of the Grandman", we catch up with Mary Kathryn Levy (formerly known as Mary Kathryn or "MK" Cunningham), previous Development Director at Mobile Baykeeper who served as Grandman Race Coordinator for two years. From her North Carolina home, Mary Kathryn tells us what it takes to plan and prepare for the Grandman, why it's such an important event for Mobile Baykeeper, and also offers a few pieces of advice for both volunteers and first-time racers. 

Mary Kathryn Levy

Mary Kathryn Levy

As former Race Coordinator, what does it take to put an event on of this caliber?

The biggest challenge with planning the Grandman is to make sure you’re doing everything well in advance because you want the race to be the best possible experience for the racers. They spend a lot of time and energy preparing for it and you want to be able to deliver something to them so they will say “That was so great, I can’t wait to come back and race again next year.” To do that, you just have to make sure you’re prepared and ready to go on race day. This is why we really value our volunteers.

What’s so great about the Grandman?

The Grandman is such a wonderful way to get people from all over the Southeast and bring them down to Mobile Bay and see this special place we’re so lucky to call home. It’s such a huge community event and makes a significant economic impact on the city of Fairhope. The race course is so beautiful too – there’s nothing quite like it.

What about the volunteers? Why are they so important to this race?

There would be NO race without our volunteers and the Baykeeper staff. They keep the race going and our staff works really hard to make sure everything is in place on race morning. They are an amazing group who arrive before the crack of dawn on race day to make sure our race is safe, fun, and that the racers are having the best experience they can possibly have. It’s hard work, it’s an early morning, the weather might be hot, but it’s so rewarding at the end as a volunteer to see the racers cross the finish line and achieve this type of great accomplishment. And then you get to enjoy such a fun post-race party.

What advice would you give to first-time volunteers or first-time racers?

For everyone who is volunteering – THANK YOU! I can’t even begin to explain how helpful volunteers are for this race. The volunteers are just invaluable to this race. They make it kick and they make it work. My advice to volunteers and racers would be get to the race site early. Figure out where you need to go and ask any questions. If you have a question as a racer, ask a volunteer. If you have a question as a volunteer, find a staff member. Everyone is going to be willing and able to help you get where you need to be. That’s the biggest piece of being a volunteer is just being able to go wherever you are needed because those are the people who really make this race possible.

Mary Kathryn and Grandman staff honor Ms. Daphne Dvorak at the 2015 race, a long-time Grandman veteran and crowd favorite. 

Mary Kathryn and Grandman staff honor Ms. Daphne Dvorak at the 2015 race, a long-time Grandman veteran and crowd favorite. 

The most important thing to know though, is to just have fun. The Grandman is meant to be a fun experience for everyone involved. It’s meant to be fun for the volunteers to see something as incredible as a triathlon. It’s meant to be fun for racers who train like crazy to get through it so they can be rewarded for their hard work when they cross the finish line. It’s important for both racers and volunteers to know that the ultimate goal of all of this is to have fun. Enjoy spending time outside on the Bay in this beautiful place we’re all lucky to call home.

You were the Development Director at Baykeeper for two years. How important is the Grandman to Baykeeper’s mission?

The Grandman is so incredibly important to Baykeeper for many reasons. First, and foremost, it’s a fundraiser. Proceeds from this event help bring money to the organization so we can continue to work for clean water, clean air, and healthy communities. It’s also important for us to raise awareness of our work and encourage people to get outside and enjoy everything we love about Mobile Bay. It’s a great opportunity for us to promote our work and show people why we do what we do.

2015 was the largest Grandman in the history of the race and you were a big part of it. Any secrets to success you’d like to share with us?

I’m an overly organized person and I like to do things well in advance and then follow up with people several times. I’m that annoying person who is constantly reminding people what they committed to. The race itself is so easy to promote because it’s such a fun event and people love the setting and the race course. It’s just an easy sell. I don’t think there’s one secret though, to be honest. The Grandman is a successful race because it is run very well by people who genuinely care about it. That’s the main ingredient.  

Faces of the Grandman: Jeff DeQuattro

Mobile Baykeeper is hosting the 13th Annual Publix Grandman Triathlon on Saturday, June 3 at 7 a.m. at the Fairhope Pier. The event is a sprint triathlon consisting of a 1/3-mile swim, 18.6 mile bike, and 3.1 mile run along beautiful Mobile Bay. Click here to register today! 

Faces of the Grandman: Jeff DeQuattro

This edition of "Faces of the Grandman" features Jeff DeQuattro, Executive Delta of Delta Bike Project, a local non-profit organization that will be a first-time beneficiary of the Grandman this year. In the interview, Jeff gives us a brief overview and background of the Delta Bike Project, explains the importance of accessibility for cyclists and pedestrians in our community, the importance of collaboration between non-profits, and lastly offers a few bicycle safety tips (in the video above) for Grandman racers. 


For those who aren’t familiar, give us a brief summary of what the purpose is of the Delta Bike Project.

It’s really about helping people with forms of transportation and working on planning efforts to make our area a safer place to ride. These are the two major things we do. We’re also a brick and mortar shop that helps people work on their bikes. If any Grandman racers have older bikes they aren’t using, we’d love to have them at the shop and keep them for someone else to eventually have.  

How did Delta Bike Project get involved with the Grandman this year?

I offered to help out last year. It’s a good event, good people, and a lot of our mutual partners help to put it on. We’ve gotten some great feedback from our own event, Gears & Beers, about how well the whole course was marked, so I thought we could bring some of this expertise to the Grandman bike course. To me, it’s all about making sure the experience of riding is better all around – whether it’s a ride, a race, a triathlon, or everyday commuting.

Why do you think it’s important for non-profits to support each other and collaborate on big events like the Grandman?

I think our organizations (Mobile Baykeeper and Delta Bike Project) overlap a lot in some of our priorities in that the Delta Bike Project was named after our Delta and was created by people who are naturalists or scientists and love spending time in nature. We also work on bikes, and Baykeeper is an environmental organization whose largest fundraising event is a triathlon so there are several components of what we do that match well together. Combining efforts helps leverage different audiences and builds a trust between our constituents. People that follow Delta Bike Project may not know much about Baykeeper, and vice versa. You’ll probably have a lot of riders at the Grandman who haven’t heard of us and might consider coming to our fundraising event in November. It works out well for everyone involved.

How did you get involved in cycling? What do you enjoy most about it?

I don’t even really consider myself a big cyclist – I’m more of a person who just likes to bike. I got involved because I recognized that bicycles have such an impact on people who need to get to work or need to go get groceries but can’t afford to have a car. It costs the average person about $9,000 per year to own a car – gas, taxes, fees, maintenance, etc. and that’s expensive.

Delta Bike Project started as a cooperative, a membership based hobby shop, but we realized quickly that the original cooperative model leaves out people with no money. We started having homeless people come to the shop who needed help and we saw there was a need in the community. Then we shifted our direction to meet that need.

What kind of impact do you think Delta Bike Project has had on our community?

I think DBP has brought a different level of awareness to the cycling community that wasn’t there before. We’ve helped create and shape a passion for people to want safer streets and a more livable community, better infrastructure and more opportunities for cycling.

What are some things you hope to see as you continue to make this a stronger biking community? What are some of your biggest goals?

I want to see all of these ongoing master plans – Map for Mobile, SARPC Bike Ped Plan, and other large plans that involve some aspects of transportation – to really prioritize cycling or multi-modal transportation as major components of these plans. They need to recognize that providing this level of cycling infrastructure and pedestrian infrastructure will have a positive impact on our community and our environment. That’s really our overall goal.


To learn more about Delta Bike Project, please visit www.deltabikeproject.org

Faces of the Grandman: Harriet King Ingraham

Mobile Baykeeper is hosting the 13th Annual Publix Grandman Triathlon on Saturday, June 3 at 7 a.m. at the Fairhope Pier. The event is a sprint triathlon consisting of a 1/3-mile swim, 18.6 mile bike, and 3.1 mile run along beautiful Mobile Bay. Click here to register today! 

Faces of the Grandman: Harriet King Ingraham

Our latest installment of "Faces of the Grandman" features Harriet King Ingraham, veteran water safety coordinator of the Grandman who has been heavily involved with the race for all 13 years. She talks about her experience with the race, why she thinks water safety is the most important part of the race, and what she enjoys most about being involved with the Grandman. 

You’ve been a big part of the Grandman since Day 1. How did you first get involved with the race?

Well originally it was the Pelican Point Triathlon for the first few years until Baykeeper took it over. I got involved early on helping out with water safety. I was President of the Mobile Bay Canoe & Kayak Club at the time and we were a big active group of kayakers. I’ve always been keenly interested in water quality and protecting our natural resources so it’s great to support an event like the Grandman that promotes the betterment of the bay. Baykeeper has always held a deep place in my heart.

As Swim Captain, what is your primary role on race day?

We’re there primarily for safety, but we’re also there to encourage the swimmers and get them through the race. Some swimmers can only swim a certain distance and they have to hold onto the kayaks. It’s very rewarding in that respect. We encourage every single swimmer that goes by.

Unless you’re out in the swim, you don’t really recognize how stressful it can be on our end. It’s 45 minutes of constant moving and communication. My team does really well. Many of them come back year after year, but for the new ones, I put them through a strong verbal test to find out where they are. It’s not a casual thing, and my team knows that. This isn’t play time – it’s really serious stuff. I think water safety is the most important aspect of this race. That’s our biggest priority.

This isn’t really playtime - it’s serious stuff. I think water safety is the most important aspect of the race. That’s our biggest priority.”

Most first-time triathletes seem to be most hesitant about the swim course versus running or biking. What advice do you have for them?

It’s so much different than swimming in a pool. You really need to get out there and practice in open water before the race. You also have to factor in the turbulence from all of the other swimmers. Your body moves in there differently than when you’re swimming by yourself in a pool.

What do you think about the new swim start?

New to the 2017 race, swimmers will jump from two finger piers to begin the race, instead of only jumping from one pier as in past year. Click the image to enlarge. 

New to the 2017 race, swimmers will jump from two finger piers to begin the race, instead of only jumping from one pier as in past year. Click the image to enlarge. 

I’m excited to see how it works out. Adding the second finger pier will definitely speed the race up. It will be a bigger mass of people going through so I’m very curious to see everything. A lot of it will depend on the wind and where it pushes the buoys. Sometimes people can get disoriented out there. Hopefully we won’t have any wind that morning.

We hear racers often say how safe they feel during the swim course. As Swim Captain, tell us how you make the course to be as safe as possible.

I think a lot of it has something to do with the number of kayaks we have in the water – ideally between 30-35. Swimmers feel very safe when they’re out there and see all of us looking out for them. We make our presence known. Swimmers that aren’t as strong know that they can take a break and hold onto the boats if they need to. I know where some of the critical points are on the course when fatigue or panic may start to set in for some of them. It gives the swimmers an added sense of security. We tell them we’re going to be with them the whole way, and we are. At the end of the race, they always recognize that we’re the ones who saw them in the water and thank us.

How do you prepare your team before the race?

About half of them have come back year after year and know the drill. I usually start getting my team organized by February. Because I know their skill levels, I don’t have to train anyone in terms of kayaking abilities. I stay in constant communication with them leading up to the race. On race day, we always have a meeting an hour before the race begins to walk through everything – how to communicate with swimmers, how to offer for help without breaking any race rules, how to not be in the way, etc. There’s a lot to go over. I have to know everyone’s personalities and whether they can think quickly and make a good judgment call in the case of an emergency.

Do you have any funny moments or fond memories that stick out to you over the years?

About two years ago, one of our kayakers came up to me in the middle of the swim and gave me a wedding ring that a swimmer gave to him. He said a swimmer handed this to me in the middle of the swim and asked us to hold it for him because he was afraid he was going to lose it. It’s that type of thing that’s really neat. Swimmers trust us when they’re on the course.

What can you say about the importance of the volunteers? We wouldn’t be able to do it without you and many others who have been involved since the beginning.

The whole organization of the event keeps getting better year after year. When you have such a veteran group of people that come back each time, it really makes it a well-oiled machine. You couldn’t put this race on without the volunteers, and I’m amazed that such a small group of people is able to pull off an event of this size and caliber. It’s very impressive to me.

What’s the most rewarding part of being involved with the Grandman?

To see these athletes cross the finish line, to me, is one of the best parts. It’s one thing for the experienced racers who race year after year – they’re true athletes and do this all the time. It’s the last pack of racers that always intrigues me. Not all of them are “athletes” and I’d have no idea they could complete something like this. To see them come through – cramping or exhausted – fills me with so much pride for them and respect that they finished the race and achieved such a great accomplishment.

Also, for me personally, the deep exhale once I know the last swimmer is safe. Then I know we did our job. We’re out there on our own in the water. We are on high alert during the swim course and the timing of everything has to be perfect. I’m pretty anxious until I see that last swimmer finish the course.

“To see them come through - cramping or exhausted - fills me with so much pride and respect that they finished the race and achieved such a great accomplishment.”

Faces of the Grandman: Brad Burton, Cadence 120 Bicycles

Mobile Baykeeper is hosting the 13th Annual Publix Grandman Triathlon on Saturday, June 3 at 7 a.m. at the Fairhope Pier. The event is a sprint triathlon consisting of a 1/3-mile swim, 18.6 mile bike, and 3.1 mile run along beautiful Mobile Bay. Click here to register today! 

 

In our first installment of "Faces of the Grandman", we sat down with one of the race's long-time supporters - Brad Burton, owner of Cadence 120 Bicycle Works, Inc. He talks about the early days of the race, what he thinks sets it apart from other races, why it's the perfect race for first-timers, and why he thinks every racer should volunteer at a race at least once. 

How did you first get involved with the Grandman?

Erica and Jeff Pollock approached Cadence 120 Bikes for the very first race and asked us to help out with bike support. It was a real local event and there weren’t any other triathlons in the area at the time that I could remember. We’ve been involved since Day 1. Since then, we’ve done pretty much everything – bike support, course marshall, transition captain – just helping out however we could.

What is your role with the race today?

Today I oversee the entrance into transition area and still help out with bike support. There is a lot going on there. Every year there’s always a handful of competitors that wouldn’t be able to compete if we weren’t there to help them out. We always encourage racers to get their bike checked out before the race, but there are always last minute issues to deal with.

Why is the transition area such an important part of the race?

It’s almost like herding a bunch of cats. I like to call it controlled chaos. You have swimmers exiting the swim and transitioning to bike, and then riders coming down the hill and transitioning to run. It’s always a challenge getting racers to slow down when riding down the hill and getting them off of their bikes and settled into the transition area. Seeing every competitor that comes in and out shows you how truly diverse each racer is.

 What advice would you give to racers to improve their transition?

Practice, practice, practice. Set up your transition area. You can watch as many videos on the Internet as you want, but there’s no substitute for hands-on learning. The more you do it, the more you get better at it like anything else. You’ve just got to get out there and do it.

The Grandman has been fortunate enough to have a core group of volunteers (like yourself) for many years. What kind of impact do you think this has on the organization of the race?

I think it speaks to the stability of the race. We have such a consistent product that we put out there each year in terms of the organization of the entire event. It is definitely something that is earned over the years. People know their jobs and there’s really no guesswork involved. There’s a great camaraderie among all of the volunteers. Everyone wants to be involved and is out there to help.

From a volunteer’s perspective, what advice would you give to competitors to make a volunteer’s job easier?

As a competitor, I would encourage every person who has competed in an event to volunteer for another event. Whatever the type of event is, I think it will definitely give you a whole new insight and respect for volunteers because you will see the race from a different perspective. The Grandman wouldn’t be possible without volunteer support.

How do you think the Grandman has grown over the past 13 years?

The Grandman has grown significantly over the years, but to me, what I still enjoy most about the race is that we get a lot of first-timers every year. It still holds true to the reason why this triathlon started in the first place – to get more people involved with the sport and encourage first-timers to participate. There are also so many local competitors who participate in the race year after year.

Many people often describe the Grandman as “the perfect race for first-timers”. Why do you think this is?

Being a sprint triathlon, it’s a nice distance and isn’t something that is too overwhelming for first-timers to tackle. It’s also easy to get to for many of our local participants. You can spend the night in your own bed and drive over on race morning. That makes it easy on a lot of people in the area. It is very well-known within the community as a first-timer event and has earned a great reputation over the years.

What do you think is the biggest fear or hesitation for most first-time racers?

Many first-timers are scared of the open water swim. It seems to be many of the racers’ weaknesses. Over 13 years though, being such an established event, a lot of that organization is just nailed down. When you have 15 canoes, a boat, tons of volunteers, people see that and it gives them confidence and makes them feel safe. You can say the same thing about the bike course and the run course. People really appreciate a well-organized event and the Grandman seems to get better and better each year.

There’s been a slight change to the swim course start this year. Tell us why this was necessary and how you think it will help improve the race.

Instead of just using one of the finger piers for racers to jump off of and begin the race, we’ll be using two piers and alternating back and forth between the piers as each racer jumps off. This will help speed up the start time and alleviate some of the issues we have had in past years as the race continues to grow. Starting on time is very important when running an event. The faster you can get racers moving is better for everyone involved.

Do you have any fond memories that stick out the most to you over these 13 years?

One year, I had a girl who was in tears. Her bike was unsafe and her wheel was literally separating. She wasn’t going to be able to race, but after making announcements and talking to different people, we were able to find her a wheel and have her bike ready for her when she got out of the water and came into the transition area. It’s always a good feeling to help people out in those situations.

What do you think sets the race course and location apart from other events you have been involved with?

I think the swim is so unique. The Bay swim is much different than the Gulf swim you normally see in other triathlons in the area. Jumping off the pier is also such a unique aspect of the race, too. The country roads and Bay views of the bike course are very scenic and not typical with other races. Fairhope is also such a great destination. You can bring the whole family for the weekend, race in the Grandman on Saturday and sign your kids up in the Jubilee Kids Tri on Sunday, and make a fun weekend out of it.

Why would you encourage people to participate in triathlons in general?

Triathlon is such a unique sport because it really requires you to be skilled at all three disciplines – swimming, biking, and running. They are all completely different sports too. It’s great exercise and so much fun. Everyone is out there to have fun, so if you’re not having fun, you might need to reassess what is going on. I would encourage anyone to give it a try.


Cadence 120 Bicycle Works, Inc. 251-344-7435. www.cadence120.com. 5558 Old Shell Rd. Mobile, AL 36608.