Photo | Courtesy Mobile Dockmaster
For a quarter of a century, Mobile Baykeeper has been a community-driven environmental organization on Alabama’s Gulf Coast. The stated mission of this membership-based organization is to provide citizens with the means to preserve the beauty, health and heritage of the Mobile Bay watershed and coastal communities.
As a non-profit association, they rely on fundraising and donations to support their cause. Their biggest event of the year is the Publix Grandman Triathlon presented by Altaworx, scheduled for May 21st in Fairhope.
“We took over the game in 2004,” said Caine O’Rear, Baykeeper’s communications director. “We’ve been doing this for 18 years now.
“Grandman truly embodies our mission. Not only is this our largest fundraiser, but it also underscores the importance of healthy waterways.”
The combination of swimming, running and cycling is the perfect embodiment of Baykeeper’s mission.
“Baykeeper is looking for clean water in coastal Alabama,” O’Rear said. “Grandman allowed us to show what we’re working towards.”
Like most events, Grandman has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. After not being held in 2020, the event returns in 2021.
“After a one-year hiatus, we had a great game last year,” Oriel said. “We have about 350 racers participating.”
While that’s about half the number of participants in most years, the Baykeeper team didn’t disappoint.
“We’re very happy with the turnout,” O’Rear said. “The racers are excited to be back there.”
The first person to complete the course was Caleb Earhart at 1:15:17. The first woman to complete the course was Julie Martin at 1:26:16. Both racers are from Slidell, Louisiana.
The fact that the game was held in Baldwin County didn’t let organizers lose.
“This is the hometown triathlon on the Gulf Coast,” O’Rear said. “We want to make sure everything is just right. We test the water before the game to make sure everything is clean.”
O’Rear said the race was considered a “sprint triathlon,” meaning shorter distances than an Olympic triathlon. The United States Triathlon Association (USTA) sanctioned Grandman.
“The racer swam a third of a mile, biked 18.6 miles, ran 3.1 miles,” he said. “Swimming is the most daunting factor for most racers, especially in open water.
“Anyone can do 18.6 miles on a bike. The run is essentially a 5K race, but it can be rough because of the hilly course. It follows currents in some of the most beautiful places in Fairhope.”
According to thegrandman.com, Grandman has six categories. These are individual sprints, relay team sprints, Clydesdale, Athena, fat tires and first timers.
Individual Sprint categories are divided into age groups. The Relay Team Sprint is open to teams of two to three participants, and there is no age limit.
“The relay team option is very popular,” O’Rear said. “People can be afraid to do triathlons. You can do a team option and one person can do each leg. We have a lot of families that love to do that too.”
Clydesdale and Athena are heavyweights. The Clydesdales division is for men over 220 pounds. The Athena Division is for women over 165 pounds.
Fat Tire is the mountain bike division. First Timer is the category for all new racers.
Changes this year
The day after the Grandman, on May 22, the children’s race has been re-added to the schedule.
“This year we’re going to resume children’s games on that Sunday,” O’Rear said. “Last year’s COVID-19 protocol was very strict. We postponed the game at the time, but we are very confident in this year’s game.”
The kids’ race is very similar to the Grandman, but it’s played on a short course.
“It’s another way to encourage family-friendly weekends,” O’Rear said. “A family can come from out of town and stay here all weekend. We want to have a generational fan base for our game.”
Another new addition this year is Cece Pless’s first Baykeeper competition.
“This competition uniquely demonstrates the importance of our work at Mobile Bay,” said Pless, Baykeeper’s development coordinator. “Inviting people from all over the region to enjoy and participate in the beauty of the bay highlights the shared values we hold in our community.
“My role this year allows me to help curate this experience, both on behalf of our work on the water and as a safe and fun experience for racers, sponsors and spectators.”
big weekend plan
Registration for the individual sprint competition is now open. The fee is $95 through April 30, then increases to $105 before the game. The last day to register is May 21st.
For relay teams, the fee is $185 through April 30, then rises to $195 before the game begins. The last day to register is May 21st.
“We’re seeing a really strong interest in the game,” O’Rear said. “People are very excited about it.”
Changed package pickup times for Grandman and Kids competitions. They’ll be on sale Thursday, May 19 at Pro Cycle & Tri at 510 Fairhope Avenue. The packages will be available at the Fairhope Municipal Wharf on Friday, May 20. According to USAT rules, each entrant must collect the package in person.
“We want future generations to experience Mobile Bay as we have in our lifetimes,” O’Rear said. “It’s our greatest resource for playing, fishing, swimming and working.
“Grandman is a tall order, but one we’re very proud of.”