In a sport that has existed less that 45 years, the Memphis in May Triathlon is among the world’s oldest continuously-running events. This year marked the 37th year for the swim-bike-run event. The weekend event featured a sprint-distance race on Saturday and an Olympic-distance race on Sunday as well as an expo and clinics throughout the weekend.
There was a fun, yet competitive atmosphere as participants, organizers and support staff were friendly and helpful. The event was professionally run by PR Event Management who thoughtfully covered all the things necessary for a successful multi-sport event.
Edmund Orgill park in Millington, TN was the site of the start, finish and transitions. Transition space was ample-sized, well-organized and marked with signs and chutes to help direct athletes. That same care for the safety and direction of participants was displayed throughout the course with good marking, course marshals and police support. The course featured rolling hills through a variety of rural and suburban roadways.
In true Memphis style, ‘the king’ was an ever-present encourager and supporter of participants. I’ve heard many called the hardest working performer in show business, but Jeff Sass lived up to that title, clothed in Elvis jumpsuit finery. He greeted athletes as they arrived to set up transitions, he sang the National Anthem prior to race start, he pointed the way through transition, he cheered on finishers and was readily-available for selfies and podium pictures. Through the heat of Saturday and the drizzle of Sunday, he was always working it.
Support personnel from registration to the timers, aid-station volunteers, caterers, photographer and master of ceremonies, performed professionally and courteously which added to the positive vibe. Attractive shirts, nice medals and unique awards also contributed to the first-class event. Pam Routh of PR Event Management knows what athletes want and quickly acknowledged that her great staff was responsible for the event’s success.
I raced the ‘amateur challenge’, which included both races. The sprint distance race left me wanting for more and by the time I finished the Olympic distance the following day, I had enough. I did the same challenge two years ago with the thought of racing the sprint and using the Olympic as training. I learned that I have a hard time training when those around me are racing.
Both races featured a time trial start by race number, assigned in order of registration. This provided a less-intimidating and safer swim start. It did require reading calves along with a bit of logic and math to figure how you actually compared with other athletes on the course. Results could not accurately be determined until all participants had finished.
As with any race, comparing myself against prior performance was the key metric. For the sprint, I swam about 20 seconds slower than two years ago. My time on the bike was about 20 seconds longer as well. Run portion was about five seconds slower but my transitions were a bit faster for a total time about forty seconds slower than the last time I ran this race.
In the Olympic distance race, my swim time improved by over a minute, but both bike and running times were slower. Again, my transition times were a bit faster, even with swapping cold, wet socks for a dry pair in transition two. The results from both races were good enough to garner me third place in my age division.
In addition to the races themselves, I enjoyed catching up with friends I hadn’t seen for a while. Norm Seavers and Pam Routh were two specific reunions. Norm is a triathlete in south Florida. We met at the YMCA in Sikeston, MO a few years ago while Norm was visiting his mother. I see him a couple times a year, always at the Y. So, I was surprised to see him carrying his bike to the transition area. We had talked in the past about triathlons in southeast Missouri but had no idea we were both participating in Memphis.
Pam was my printing sales rep when I lived in Memphis over twenty years ago. Plus, we swam together at the university pool. She was active in the triathlon community and hooked me up with a cyclist and runner to do my first-ever relay at a Memphis in May triathlon several years ago. When I signed up for the race two years ago, I was surprised to see her as the principal for the race management company. It was good to chat with her and see how hard she works to make her events successful. I look forward to participating in more of her events in the future.
Good people, good times and good racing combined for an exceptional Memphis in May weekend.