BRO Athletes: Jessie Johnson takes Second Over-All at Turtle Crawl

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In the past few years, I’ve abandoned my road-tri roots and only raced in off-road events. This really makes no sense because one broken collarbone, two surgeries, and an impressive collection of scars should have tipped me off that mountain biking is not one of my greatest talents. However, my husband and I moved to St. Simons Island on the Georgia coast recently, and I realized that our canoe was going to get more trail time than our 29ers. (We have an amazing water trail system down here, by the way.)

If I wanted to overcome island life inertia, I needed to dust off my aero bars and do a road triathlon. There’s an amazingly scenic race on Jekyll Island called the Turtle Crawl and the name alone was enough to get me to raid my margarita-fund piggy bank and register. The sacrifices we all make for our sport, right?

We moved into our little island cottage just in time to get some solid training in, but I’m not sure riding to the Harris-Teeter to get more limes counts as training (despite having to dodge kids and senior citizens on beach cruisers.) Anyway, I was used to racing in the mountains, which tend to be, you know, mountainous, and I think the total elevation gain for this race might be six feet (and that includes speed humps). AND the race has “crawl” in its name. Need I say more?

giant turtle turtle crawl 2015

No need to sand-coat it: the race was hard. I did well (second woman overall), but was reminded that whether it takes place on a mountain, island, or the local county park, every race is a personal adventure. My 4:30 a.m. wake-up was rewarded by a beautiful fiery beachfront sunrise. I dolphin-dived through waves, ran barefoot through the sand and leap-frogged with my super-fast husband on the bike. And I’m still chipping off layers of sand and salt from my body.

I also learned not to hate on the flatland race. Do you know what happens after you slog your way up a hill on a bike? What goes up must come down (my hill-climbing mantra) and, for those few moments of down, you get to do this momentous thing: coasting. Ironically, while the coast was almost close enough to reach with a solid snot-rocket for most of the race, there was none of that going on in this race.

My grocery-store time trials hadn’t quite prepared my legs (or any other part of me…ouch, sitting) for 29 miles of constant pedaling. And if there was such a thing as “off-road swimming,” it would be an ocean swim. Motorboat wake on a lake has nothing on an ocean current and wave crests. You also end up bumping into a lot of wildlife and it is NOT the bearded, tattooed, craft-beer-scented wildlife I’d previously encountered on my off-road tri swims. I’m trusting that I’m not being subjected to new-islander hazing when locals tell me that those Cannonball jellyfish that blanket our beaches are not poisonous. (Okay, just looked it up. Mostly true.)

I’m not going to hang up my fat-tire bike for good, but I am looking forward to more road triathlon adventures…as soon as I can sit on a saddle again.

turtle crawl bro mag 2015






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