I found it interesting
that the Heart O' Dixie triathlon, going
into it's 29th year, is the oldest
consecutive triathlon in the continental
United States. The distances were a
1/2 mile swim, a 27.5 mile bike and a 7 mile
run. The race, which started in
Louisville, MS, and ended at the Neshoba
County Fairgrounds in Philadelphia, MS, was
an extremely challenging and VERY hilly
point to point to point course.
The hills on the bike and run were tough to
say the least since the 'hills' I train on
involve running up and down the incline at a
parking garage at Southeastern Louisiana
University which is near my office.
and I headed up to Louisville, Mississippi
on Friday evening because I thought the 5.5
hour drive from Baton Rouge would be too
much to make on Saturday morning.
Being the thrifty miser that I am I found a
hotel in Louisville for $45 earlier in the
week. All the hotels listed on
hotels.com and travelocity.com were either
sold out or they wanted $150 a night so I
figured I found a deal. The Louisville
Inn wasn't listed on any of the big Internet
hotel finder websites and would come to be
part of what made the Heart O' Dixie
We arrived at the hotel
at 10:30PM. The smell of what I can
only describe as "Indian spices" overwhelmed
me as I entered the lobby to check in.
For some reason the innkeeper had lost my
reservation but thankfully she had a couple
rooms left. As we unloaded the
car I noticed that we weren't the only
triathletes staying at the Louisville Inn
this night because 3/4 of the
in the parking lot had bike racks hanging
off the vehicles. As I crossed the
threshold of the hotel room door it was like
stepping back into 1956. From
the shag carpeting, the weird dark oil
paintings to the wood paneling we definitely
were getting a taste of yesteryear.
Even though the room was noticeably old and
all the furniture, fixtures and furnishings
were older than me, it was surprisingly
clean. The A/C and the TV worked and
the bed was comfortable so what more could
you ask for in a hotel room?
Heh, they even had a pineapple scented car
air freshener hanging off the lamp near the
bed which was a nice touch. When
I do Heart O' Dixie again next year you can
bet your butt that I will be staying in the
Louisville Inn again. It's tradition
The Louisville Inn
provided me with a got a good nights sleep
but 5AM came quickly. I arose before
each of my 3 alarms started going off.
Beth growled at me as I turned on the lights
and started bouncing around the room trying
to contain my nervous energy as I prepared
my bike and the rest of my equipment for the
race. I got a chuckle out of her
as I grabbed a roll of toilet paper and
affixed it to one of my aero bar extenders
on my bike. I stuffed a copious amount
of toilet paper in my race belt and the
bento box on my bike just in case.
Heart O' Dixie would be my 2nd longest
course after TriAmerica and I wanted to be
prepared for the worst just in case I had
gastric distress again.
swim and bike started at the Lake
Tiak-O'Khata Hotel which reminded me of the
vacation resort in the movie Dirty Dancing.
I fully expected Patrick Swayze to bounce
around the corner at any moment and lift
Baby up in the air as "I've Had the Time of
my Life" song played on in the background.
After registering and getting body marked I
loaded up my T1 bag with my running gear and
turned it over to a volunteer that would
transport it to T2 which was 30 miles down
the road at the end of the bike course.
This would be the first race I've done which
was a point to point for the bike and I was
a little nervous that my running gear
wouldn't arrive or that I was forgetting to
put something in my transition bag. I
rolled my bike into T1, loaded up my water
bottles and then stripped down for a warm-up
swim. The water had a faint
earthy smell to it but the temperature was
perfect. I swam out to the first
buoy and back as the race director was
calling for everyone to get out of the water
and get lined up for the race.
Even though the swim was
open water they had a 5 second delayed start
for each participant. I was
seeded #114 so my swim would start roughly
10 minutes after the first swimmer hit the
water. A faint cheer erupted as
6:30AM rolled around and the first swimmer
ran down the short pier and jumped into the
water. That 10 minutes seemed to
take forever as my heart beat with
excitement to start the race. I
finally reached the front of the line and
was fumbling with my watch as the official
gave me the signal to go. I
jogged down the 25 foot pier and jumped into
the water. I had officially
started my 35 mile journey to the finish
line of the Heart O' Dixie triathlon at the
Neshoba County Fair.
didn't know how deep the water was so I went
in feet first. Well it wasn't
deep at all and my feet sunk into the nasty,
squishy lake mud substrate. I
wrestled my feet free from the muck
and started out to the first buoy.
Amazingly, I passed at least 3 or 4 people
on the way out to the first buoy.
One of them was using a snorkel and one was
doing breast stroke but the other ones were
swimming freestyle. Am I getting
faster in the swim? Heh, probably not
but I judge my swimming quickness on weather
or not I can make the cutoff time for the
2.4 mile Ironman distance swim. I'm
always 20 - 30 minutes under that cutoff
time of two hours and fifteen minutes.
I never struggled, nor was I nervous at all
for the entire half mile. I even
drafted off a few faster swimmers on two
separate occasions on the way back in from
the turnaround. I increased my stroke
and sprinted the last 100 meters of the
course. I waddled into T1 after 19:22.
had no plans to go back to Louisville after
the race so before I went to my bike I ran
across the road to where Beth was standing
and tossed her my goggles and earplugs.
I probably could have saved a few seconds by
not dropping off my goggles with Beth but I
didn't want to leave them in T1 and I surely
didn't want to carry them on my bike to T2.
I rushed over to my transition area, slipped
on my socks, bike shorts and shoes. I
put on my new 'alien head' Rudy Project
helmet and then clopped over to the mount
line. My time in T1 was 1:54.
I didn't know what to
expect on the bike course. Being
from South Louisiana we really don't have
many hills to train on and I wasn't prepared
for what the Heart O' Dixie triathlon bike
course had in store for me. I
sped out of transition and glanced down at
my bike computer which showed me going 26
mph. Something must be wrong so
I adjusted my watch to see what it said.
It also had me going 26mph. Hmm...
Maybe I WAS going 26 mph.
I've been training really hard on the bike
for the past few weeks and today at Heart O'
Dixie it's finally paying off.
My speed slowed to a crawl when I hit the
first hill. I geared down to the
small ring and stood up on the pedals as I
climbed towards the crest of the hill all
the while passing the cyclists in front of
people passed me on the swim but only ONE
person passed me on the bike. I
found it amusing that the guy that did pass
me was riding a Trek Equinox TTX which was
IDENTICAL to mine down to the same color.
Since the race was a delayed swim start
based on your race number I was able to see
where I was in relation to the other racers
when I was on the course. When I
started the bike I was passing people that
were in the 200s for their bib number.
Towards the end of the course I passed some
guys that were marked in the mid 40s.
My bib number was 114 so that meant that I
not only made up the time that I lost in the
swim but I gained close to 6 minutes on the
racers in front of me! The last mile
of the bike course into the outskirts of
Philadelphia was up a steady incline.
My pace slowed to a crawl as I crested the
final hill and caught the first sight of T2.
I hammered down on the pedals and coasted to
the dismount point. I'm still not
comfortable with the flying dismount yet so
I slowed to a stop, swung my leg over the
bike and clopped into T2. The
volunteer pointed me to my area and I
grinned when I saw that most of the bikes to
the left and right of my area were still out
on the course. I beamed with
pride knowing that I would be leaving T2
with my bike being all alone. I had
the best bike of my triathlon career and
would set a PR on the bike course at Heart
O' Dixie with a 22 mph average!
I finished the 27.5 mile course in 1:14.51
and left T2 in just over two minutes.
the time I got out on the 7 mile run course
the sun was out in full force. The
road to the Neshoba County Fairgrounds and
the finish line was lined with trees on both
sides which offered a little bit of shade.
The hills were killer! The biggest one
had a steep incline that stretched for at
least 3/4 mile. I tried to maintain a
respectable pace for 8:30 - 8:45 minute
miles but the hills slowed me down
considerably. Beth passed me in
my truck on the way to the finish line at
around mile 4. I managed to
whimper out a hello and offer a wave as she
snapped a picture. This was
definitely the toughest run course I had
ever been on. No amount of my parking
garage hill training could have prepared me
for these monster hills. Thankfully,
the aid stations were
out evenly every 1.5 miles. They
even had an unofficial aid station at the
bottom of the biggest hill that had iced
towels and a guy with a hose spraying people
down. Very refreshing to say the
least. At around mile 6 the run
course made a sharp left turn onto a red
dirt road that was the entrance to the
Neshoba County Fairgrounds. People
standing outside their campers cheered
everyone on as we made our way to the horse
track and the finish line. The
crowd thickened as the course ran through
the little villages that were a unique part
of the fair. I found it hard to
believe that these tiny little houses cost
upwards of $500K or more to own. I
guess they are a status symbol or something
since they can only be occupied during the
45 days or so that the fair is open.
After winding through the fair villages I
emerged onto the horse track. Similar
to the Louisiana Triathlon you
actually PASS the finish line on the way to
completing the one lap circle.
Since the hills were behind me I quickened
my pace to just over 8 minute miles and I
finished strong. Throughout the run I
only had minor intestinal discomfort and
most importantly I didn't have to sacrifice
any socks! I finished the race in
2:49.28. I had originally set a
goal to finish in 2:50.00 so I beat my goal
by 32 seconds.
the 2008 Heart O' Dixie Triathlon will
definitely go down as one of my favorite
races of the year. The course
was challenging and fun and the last mile or
so running through the fairgrounds was a
blast. I'll be back in 2009 and beyond
if my Ironman training permits it.
This race marked my 14th tri of the year and
my 22nd race of the year. People
keep telling me not to burn myself out but
little do they understand that these races
are WHAT I LIVE FOR! Next up is the
River Cities Triathlon in Shreveport, LA
Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed
reading my report of the Heart O' Dixie
Triathlon as much as I enjoyed writing (and
Best of luck on YOUR life journey!!!!
May you reach all your goals and achieve all your dreams!