One Great Race Experience
By Hunter Kemper
Usually when I travel to races — whether it’s the Olympic Games or a big domestic event — I’m ultra-focused on the task at hand. However, I recently had the unique opportunity to compete side-by-side with all types of age group triathletes and share some of the wisdom that I’ve accumulated over the course of my career at the Sandpiper Bay Club Med Triathlon held at the Sandpiper Bay Club Med in South Florida.
This event allowed me to vacation, train and race at the same time — all while interacting with the amateur athletes that make our sport so unique. I have three little boys and I usually don’t take them all to a race with me; however, with this event I was able to continue my training and participate in a race while my wife and kids enjoyed the amenities of a newly renovated all-inclusive resort that hosts four triathlons a year and truly caters to the on-the-go multisport athlete.
This trip was unique from the start in that I got to spend time with a number of age-groupers in my home state of Florida — something that usually does not happen in the middle of an Olympic year. I spoke with Team Hammerheads, one of the top triathlon clubs in South Florida, and also led a 6 a.m. spin class to raise money for my favorite charity, the A-T Children’s Project.
Once onsite at Sandpiper Bay Club Med, I got back to training and hosted a few clinics with the age group athletes who traveled to compete at Sunday’s event. There are some truly passionate amateurs in our sport and it was energizing to get to spend some time with them prior to race day.
There are very few race venues in the world where the start line is only meters away from your hotel room. I loved just rolling out of bed on Sunday morning and walking down to the water’s edge for the start of the race. This race was unique and fun for me because I was able to start with all the age-groupers. It was refreshing to get on the start line and just focus on producing a good hard effort and practicing the little things that make me a better triathlete.
The race did not disappoint; the atmosphere was great. The Olympic-distance race started first at 7:15 a.m., followed by the sprint race at 7:45 a.m. I was fortunate enough to be joined in the field by many Club Med G.O.s (Club Med employees are called G.O.s or “Gracious Organizers”) competing in their very first triathlon, along with the CEO, VP of Marketing and other Club Med management.
It was a beautiful morning to race. Temperatures were in the low 80s without any wind. I competed in the sprint race because I wanted to have time to go around the course after my race and show my support to all the age group competitors. The swim was held in the calm waters of the cove, which was very well marked. The bike was a flat one-loop course for the sprint racers and featured two loops for the Olympic-distance competitors. The sprint-distance run was one loop on the golf course and the Olympic run was two loops.
As soon as I finished, I was able to head back out to the course and cheer on the other competitors. Triathlon is a sport that prides itself on being inclusive and supportive of everyone that wants to give it a try. The Club Med Triathlon was a race that exhibits that camaraderie better than any other triathlon I’ve been a part of. It was fun to see people of all ages, sizes and abilities out on the course enjoying the beautiful event.
The best part about completing the race was that every competitor was able to experience Club Med’s award-winning breakfast — we’re not talking hard bagels, bananas and energy drinks. We’re talking made-to-order omelets, pancakes, bacon, fresh OJ, plus much more! I don’t know of another race that I’ve been a part of where I could cross the finish line, walk 100 meters and get treated to an all-you-can-eat gourmet breakfast. The food choices are healthy and they have something that meets everyone’s needs. Even my 10-month-old, Case, had the option to eat healthy, homemade, all-natural baby food at every meal.
The food, facilities and race experience were top notch — what more can you expect from a world-class resort like the Sandpiper Bay Club Med? But the highlight of this race experience was the unique chance for me to interact with the age-groupers that truly drive our sport. So many amateurs have supported me over the course of my career, and for me to be able to spend time with them and share a few tips was an experience I won’t soon forget.