The Turtle Crawl Olympic Triathlon on Jekyll Island, GA was my first race of the season. It was supposed to be my second, but a mountain-bike-induced busted knee—a good six-stitcher—delayed the start of my race season.

The water was a perfect 76 degrees and the surf was calm. And, for a sunny day in south Georgia, it could have been a heck of a lot hotter. No equipment malfunctions, other than some expired PowerGels (still edible; just a little crunchy) and some difficulty with the race number tattoos (effective but so gross – miss the days of Sharpie body marking).

Race highlights:

Winning the race.

Kind of. Initial results showed me in second – hence, the second place podium pic – but a closer look revealed that the first place woman only did half of the run and bike courses. She must have been doing the choose-your-own-adventure race. I’m not too bent out of shape, though, because I technically only won because the second place woman got a time penalty.

Yep, you get penalties – minutes added to your final time – in USAT-sanctioned triathlons for things like drafting or racking your bike incorrectly or snot rocketing your competition (kidding about the last one, unfortunately). So a two-minute penalty knocked her down a place, even though she was technically faster. Got all that? Results can be tricky in a tri.

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Getting the chance to race locally.

I live on St. Simons Island, just north of Jekyll, which means that I got to sleep in my own bed and sleep in until 4:45 a.m. That’s a good deal for a race morning. It’s fun to see familiar faces and, even better, hear familiar voices. I coach the announcer’s daughter on my Girls on the Run team. Also, it’s a big destination triathlon and a really friendly one, too, so if you’re looking to give one a try, I highly recommend it.

Watching two sea turtles get released into the ocean.

While not technically part of my race, it’s highlight-worthy because it invlolved SEA TURTLES. Jekyll Island has been hosting this series of Turtle Crawl races since 2003 to benefit the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, an educational and research facility that rehabilitates injured and sick sea turtles. Two rehabilitated turtles were released after the race as hundreds of cheering onlookers created a wall of support along the turtles’ path to sea – not unlike race supporters lined up at a finish line.

The turtles’ necks stretched high and their flippers began moving as they were carried through the surf. After a few false starts, they disappeared into the ocean to applause and cheers. While there’s no guarantee of a happy ending – only about 1 percent of these turtles live to adulthood – it was an inspiring end to my race day. (Yes, I cried. I’m not ashamed.)IMG_1473I’m looking forward to getting to some off-road races in the next month or so – hopefully Xterra Knoxville and/or Xterra Tsali – and hoping that my legs remember what to do on hills!