I wrote 90% of this
report and then lost it ALL to my computer
randomly rebooting! Guess I'll
save and save often this time around.
The Heart O' Dixie is
still one of my favorite triathlons and the
2009 event didn't disappoint. I
guess what I like about this race is the
hometown feel and the uniqueness of the
course. This is the only point
to point to point race that I've done and
I'm not sure that many exist due to the
logistical complications. The
swim starts at a resort in Louisville, MS, a
resort that very much reminds me of the
vacation destination in the movie "Dirty
Dancing". After leaving T1 on
the bike you ride 30 miles to T2 which is on
the outskirts of Philadelphia, MS.
From T2 you run to the Neshoba Country Fair,
make a lap around the horse track to the
finish line. It's well supported by
the local communities and the course is very
challenging to boot as you have to conquer
plenty of hills on the bike and the run.
This report just wouldn't
be complete without the night before
adventures at the carbo-loading midnight
picnic and the Louisville Motel experience.
Kelli was accompanying me to Heart O' Dixie
on her second experience with triathlon.
She prepared an amazing picnic basket filled
with pasta (just the way I like it), veggies
and a salad. She even found some
Hawaiian bottled water. She
knows all about my dreams of Kona so sipping
on some island water was a nice touch.
We stopped at a campground for our picnic
that was just off the highway between
Jackson and Louisville. The
dinner was most excellent and we were even
offered a 'few lil' ole catfish' by some locals that looked to be
noodling in the little river that skirted
the campground. It sure was great to
have her there to share the experience.
She's a great photographer, spectator,
cheerleader and was even so kind as to help
carry all my nasty, sweaty gear after the
race on our long trek from the finish line
back to my truck. Thanks Kelli,
So what would Heart O'
Dixie be without a little overnight lodging
at the Louisville Motel. Staying
at the Louisville Motel is like literally
stepping back into 1954... Well,
stepping back into 1954 with the smell of
curry and Indian spices filling the air.
From the dark wood paneling to the
mismatched furniture that looks like it was
collected from garage sales throughout the
last 5 decades. It's unique,
it's awesome, it's the LOUISVILLE MOTEL!
Surprisingly the bed was quite comfy but as
usual my anticipation of the race made me
restless and I didn't sleep much. My
Will Jones of 4th Dimension Fitness, had
me well rested and tapered for Heart O'
Dixie so I felt good... and prepared.
Memories of last year's race flashed through
my head as I envisioned what I could to do
improve over last years time. I
was surely in store for a PR on the H.O.D.
course this year right?
Sunrise turned the hazy,
purple sky to a dark blue and revealed the
cloudless, beautiful day that was in store
for the triathletes that would be
participating in the 30th annual Heart O'
Dixie tri. Time always seems to
fly by on race morning and even though we
arrived 1.5 hours before the first person
was scheduled to hit the water it only
seemed like 15 minutes. I picked
up my packet, prepared my T2 bag with my
shoes, race belt and hat, setup my T1 area
and prepared myself for the swim start.
I was chatting with Kelli and Mandi not
realizing that it was already 6:40 and the
race had begun 10 minutes ago.
The swim was starting in a different
location from last year so I rushed to the
start with only a couple minutes to spare.
The timer motioned me
forward to the timing mat as my number was
next to get in the water for the time trial
swim start. He gave me the
thumbs up, said GO and I ran down the
carpeted ramp into the water. A
couple dolphin dives and I was in deep
enough water to start my crawl for the half
mile swim. My heart rate was a
little elevated before I got in the water
but that was mainly due to the excitement.
I was extremely calm for the entire swim and
exited the water in just over 16 minutes.
I improved over my time from last year by
over 6 minutes! I would have had an
even better time had I not gone off course a
couple of times.
T1 wasn't very organized
and the area that I was in was quite
crowded. There was literally only 6"
between my bikes front tire and the row
behind me. Thankfully most of
the participants to my left and right were
still in the water. Imagine that, I
actually beat some people out of the drink!
I jostled for position as I slipped on my
race jersey and bike shoes. I
hoisted my bike over my head and carried it
to the mount line. The sun was
in my face as I clipped in and started along
the 30 mile course.
So, the plan was to stay
at 140 bpm heart rate on the bike.
I heard Will in my head telling me to stay
on target, stick to the plan and keep my
heart rate down so I'd have something left
for the run. My competitive side
got the best of me and I hammered the bike
keeping my heart rate at 145 - 150 most of
the time. My Achilles Heel of sorts I
guess in that I didn't follow my coaches
instructions and I later paid for it on the
run because I didn't have anything left.
I passed people left and right, powered up
the hills and flew down the backsides.
The thing is, nobody really gives a damn
about the fastest bike split in a race.
Successful triathletes temper their actions
to spread their energy out over all the
events. I didn't do that today
but I made a vow to myself and to my coach
that I will concentrate on sticking to my
race plan at the
Redman Half-Ironman in
September and the
Foster Grant Ironman World
Championship 70.3 November. I want to
be successful. I still race to beat
the course but I now want to beat the course
efficiently. :) So, after
hammering the bike I averaged 22mph and got
to T2 close to empty.
I racked my bike, put on
my running shoes, race belt and hat and
shuffled out of transition. I dumped a
couple cups of ice water over my head but my
legs were tired and I knew I would struggle
up the hills on the long 7 mile journey to
the finish line at the Neshoba County Fair.
Triathlon is a solo sport
and as such I usually train and race alone.
I rarely talk to anyone other than saying
thank you to volunteers and police officers
along the course. No more than
10 feet out of transition, imagine my
surprise when a female triathlete in a pink
trisuit shuffles up beside me and starts
chatting me up. Dr. Tricia
Aultman, a physician from Gulfport,
and I would end up pushing and pacing each
other while talking for the entire 7 miles.
Just when I got the urge to walk she'd
motivate me to pick up the pace and when she
wanted to walk... well...
I don't think she ever wanted to walk. :)
Either way it was fun doing the run with you
doc and I'm glad to have met you.
Chatting with you made the entire run fly
Entering the fairgrounds
at mile 5.5 was a welcome sight.
The last bit of the run course goes through
the little shacks that make up the majority
of the Neshoba Country Fair. These
brightly colored little houses are all
crammed together into little communities
that are strewn with Christmas tree lights,
crazy signs, statues and figurines.
It reminds me of old rickety western towns
that were put up in a few days.
I understand that it's a status symbol to
own the houses and have a place to chill
during the fair. Either way they
looked like fun and the spectators that were
outside cheering the participants on gave me
the little push I needed to make it to the
One lap around the horse
track and the race was complete.
As I made my way around the track I saw
Kelli cheering for me.
"Why are you running so
slow? Speed it up!" Kelli yelled.
I think I half-ass smiled
and grunted something as I ran past.
Glancing down at my watch I was a bit
disappointed that I was going to be very
close to my time from last year.
Even though I made up over 6 minutes on the
swim I lost it on the run because of my hard
headedness on the bike.
I crossed the finish line
a whopping 40 seconds faster than last year.
So much for improving 20 minutes to break
2.5 hours. Truth be told, deep
down it didn't really matter. I
beat a difficult course now, TWICE and had a
blast doing so. Racing is
racing. I'm gonna buckle down
and stick to my race plan at
definitely at the
Foster Grant Ironman World
Championship 70.3. I think
at those races when I feel the urge to go
faster I'll just slow down a tad and monitor
my heart rate a bit closer. I
wanna do well. I wanna make everyone
proud of me as I run the race I know I can
would say the report ends there but there
was a bit more to it that really didn't have
anything to do with MY race but rather with
someone else's race. Since Heart
O' Dixie is a point to point to point race
you had to leave your bike at T2 which was 7
miles away from the finish line. They
had security at the area but I still didn't
feel comfortable leaving my bike there while
we played around at the fair so I decided to
go get it and then go back to the fair.
On the way out we saw the person who was
certainly the last athlete, still 6 miles
out, making his way to the finish line.
We got to T2, picked up my bike and made our
way back to the fair, passing the last
athlete only a few hundred yards from where
we last saw him. He was an older
gentleman, a few pounds overweight and he
was clearly struggling. I reflected on
my last place finish at
Tri-America last year and remembered how
humbling it was to cross under the finish
line as the last participant.
This guy was out there
and he was giving it his best shot to make
it to the finish line. I think
we rolled down the window to give him a
shout of encouragement as we made our way
back to the fair.
We walked around the fair
for 30 minutes or so sipping on some fruity
beverages. I wanted to get a
funnel cake but I'm sure that would have put
me over the top and had me on the ground
writhing in pain, running to the bathroom or
even worse, passed out from the sugar
overload. It was past 11AM now and the
heat was in the upper 80s to low 90s and the
humidity was thick. I had all
but forgot about that lone athlete, surely
battling the hills, that was still on the
As we drove back to the
highway I saw a person in the distance still
walking down the backside of one of the
challenging hills that Heart O' Dixie's run
course has to offer. He was
wavering back and forth and looked to be in
a bind. I looked at Kelli and
she seemed to be thinking the same thing I
"I'm gonna stop to offer
the guy some water or Gatorade," I said.
Of course she agreed.
I pulled over, rolled down my window and
asked the gentleman if he wanted some cold
water or Gatorade. He nodded as
he dodged traffic and made his way across
the road clearly dragging his feet as he did
I put down my tailgate,
opened up my ice chest and pulled out some
water and Gatorade and offered it to him.
He immediately plopped down on my tailgate
telling me that he just needed to sit down
for awhile. He was mumbling and I
could tell he was in trouble.
Kelli, a registered nurse, grabbed his arm
to check his pulse.
"I'm a nurse," Kelli told
the man as she checked his pulse.
"I'm a physician," the
He proceeded to tell us
that he was having difficulty on the hills
and didn't know if he could finish the race.
We were within a half mile of the entrance
to the fair and around 1.25 miles to the
finish line. He stood up, walked
a few steps and went to lay down in the
grass. I dunno exactly what he said
but it was some condition called Visi Vigo
or something that Kelli later explained to
me was pre-shock. He wasn't
making sense at this point so we just stood
by as he tried to drink some water and get
his wits about him.
Heh, I know at one point
I tried to give him a fresh bottle and make
my way back to my truck but Kelli glared at
me telling me under her breath, "CHAD!
We CAN'T leave him here!"
I, of course, agreed with
her. We continued to talk to him
and provide him with fluids.
Slowly but surely he seemed to come back to
After around 15 minutes
he sat up and told us that he felt much
better but was still doubting his ability to
finish the race. I did my best
to motivate him telling him about my mis-adventures
and my humbling experience at
Tri-America. The point I
tried to make is that:
"Nobody will really
care if you quit... But you, my
friend, YOU will remember forever! Get
up, finish that race. You are so
Eventually I saw his
attitude take a change for the better and he
got back out on the course. We
followed behind him with the flashers on my
truck causing a huge traffic jam in the
process as people were trying to get to the
fair. I seemed to be able to
read their minds...
"Who the hell is this guy
walking down the middle of the road.
Damn him! I want my funnel cake and
We gave a final wave and
a few words of encouragement as we reached
the entrance of the fair and he made his way
to the finish... He did finish
by the way... He finished last
but HE FINISHED and that is what
really matters. He was surely
battling his mind and his desire to quit,
but he overcame! He climbed that
Great job Dr. Rampulla!
It's not about who finishes first.
It's about beating the course and it's what
makes me so passionate about this sport.
By overcoming the adversity and fighting
back the dominating urge to quit.
Individuals like you keep me swimming, keep
me biking and keep me running! You, my
friend are a HERO!
Did Not Start > Did
Not Finish > Finished Last > Finished First
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!