Hurricanes have been the bane of my triathlon
schedule for the last month as race after race
was cancelled. Sandestin, Nicholls
State Bayou Tri, Cajunman and Holy Toledo all
fell victims to Hurricane's Gustav and Ike.
The Hi-Fi tri at the end of October is yet to be
decided but I'm sure that it will be cancelled
as well because it's in Galveston, Texas.
Last I checked, what's left of Galveston is
still recovering from its bout with Hurricane
Ike. With all the race cancellations it
sure was nice to have a tri on the schedule that
was still on.
The 2008 Meat Pie Triathlon
in Natchitoches, LA was that tri and this is my
account of it.
So what is a meat pie?
Meat Pie - A savory pie with a filling of meat
and other savory ingredients, usually made of
beef, pork, venison or lamb but may also contain
fish. Meat pies are included in a
tradition of savory pies made with the intent of
being served as the main course rather than a
dessert option. The basis of the pie if,
of course, MEAT, which is cooked before being
mixed in with the other pie ingredients to
ensure that it is thoroughly cooked and soft
enough to cut with a fork.
So how, as a former fat boy, could I pass up
a triathlon that was named after two of my
favorite foods? MEAT AND PIE!
I had to do this tri!
The Meat Pie Triathlon is held in
Natchitoches, LA which is situated nearly
halfway between Alexandria and Shreveport in
central Louisiana. Natchitoches is known
for it's meat pies and more recently as the
fictional city that the movie Steel Magnolia's
was filmed at in the late 1980s. I admit,
the town does have a special ambiance that you
won't find in most towns of its size.
Maybe it was just me still being excited that I
was about to run a race named after meat and
My tri club, Baton Rouge Tri, was donating
rooms to members that were participating in the
event. This year the Meat Pie Tri
would be the site of the USAT State Club
Championships. The more members we
had in attendance for the race, the better shot
we had of taking home the coveted USAT State
Club Championship trophy cup. After close
to a 3.5 hour drive from Baton Rouge we arrived
at the hotel. Beth joked that the Holiday
Inn Express was a major jump up in quality from
the Motel 6 jobs that we usually stay at.
We had just enough time to unload my bike and my
gear and head down to the riverfront to meet up
with some fellow BR Tri members.
After picking up my race packet we grabbed a
quick dinner before the LSU vs Auburn football
game started. We had originally
planned to watch the game at the restaurant but
it was too noisy and I forgot my glasses so we
went back to the hotel just after the first
quarter ended. We watched the remainder of
the game on the big screen in the lobby.
The outcome was favorable as LSU pulled out a
win in the 4th quarter. I despise
Auburn but I always enjoy the game because they
always seem to play LSU tight.
I knew the race kicked off at 7AM so I made
sure to get in bed for 10PM to ensure a good
nights sleep. I planned on getting
up at 5AM but, like clockwork, I was up at
4:30AM, wide awake, excited and ready to race.
I stared at the ceiling and contemplated my race
strategy in my head. What I really
wanted to concentrate and improve upon for this
race was my time in transition. I
played out both transitions over and over in my
head going over the small stuff such as putting
on my shoes, donning my glasses and snapping my
helmet. The small stuff adds up and I know
that I could move up a few slots on the finish
time list if I improve my transitions.
I had a goal to go sub 2 hours in the race so I
knew that having good transitions was a MUST.
Before I knew it, 5AM rolled around and all my
alarms started blaring. I hopped out of
bed, loaded my gear and was ready to go in
record time. Beth? Not so
much. She didn't care too much for the
early rising but she got up all the same.
We still managed to get out of the hotel for
5:45AM or so after a quick bite to eat at the
breakfast bar in the lobby.
It was still dark as I rolled my bike into
transition. The race director
announced that the water was 77.9 degrees which
meant that the swim was wetsuit legal.
(78.1 degree water and wetsuits aren't allowed)
Shucks, I didn't bring my wetsuit so I would
have to deal with the chilly water.
I meticulously arranged all my gear and was
proud that my transition area is no longer
'diva-like'. I would even say that
it's almost rather minimalist now. I
don't wear socks anymore so the only thing I had
out was my bike shoes, my running shoes and my
Team 464 jersey which I slip on when I leave T2
for the run. After filling up my
water bottles and going for a quick run I
grabbed my goggles and strolled over to the swim
start to line up.
The swim start at Meat Pie is similar to what
Heart O' Dixie did as a time trial.
The swim was open water in the Cane River but
they still do a time trial start which means
that the first person starts then five seconds
later the second person starts then five seconds
later the third person starts and so on.
I never quite understood exactly why they would
do a time trial start in open water. I
understand why they do it for pools but not for
open water. I guess they want to limit the
amount of participants out on the bike course at
one time. My bib number was 115 so I
had a few minutes after the first swimmer hit
the water before it was my turn to hop into the
drink. Pat Keenan and Murray
Fontenot, fellow BR Tri members, were numbered
close to me so we chatted for a bit while the
line edged closer and closer to the starting
point. We joked about the assclown
that grabbed my ankle, pulled himself over my
back and then kicked off on my shoulders at my
last race at River Cities. Time passed
quickly and before I knew it, it was my turn to
start. The race director motioned me to
get ready, counted down from 5, then gave me the
go ahead. Meat Pie for me had
officially started as I slid into the chilly
The water was definitely cold. It
was much colder than anything I had swam in
without a wetsuit but thankfully after the first
100 or so meters it felt comfortable.
I'm sure I wasn't alone sighting the buoys since
a heavy fog lingered over the water.
I drifted way off course and had to be corrected
by race volunteers in a canoe back onto course.
I did my best to sight but I couldn't see the
buoys. I blindly drafted on the feet
of the nearest swimmer I could find, hoping that
they were having a better time seeing the buoys
that I was. After another 100 meters
I saw the orange, triangular goodness which was
the first buoy. I passed the buoy thinking
to myself, even though I drifted off course, I
was making good time. My swim has improved
by leaps and bounds from the beginning of the
year. I no longer am even the least
bit anxious or concerned about or during the
swim. It's merely a warm-up for the
bike and run. I'm very confident that I
can do the 2.4 mile Ironman distance swim now
well within the cutoff time of 2 hours and 15
minutes. My stroke is nowhere near
as efficient as it probably could be if I got
more lessons or swam with a local masters group
but it's not bad. I swim for
distance, not for speed and I can go for an
indefinite amount of time without getting tired.
When I reached the turn around point in the swim
the fog seemed to lift a bit and I could finally
see the buoys on the way back in to the swim
exit. I finished the swim in record time
for me and trotted into transition.
T1 went great. I got all my bike
gear on quickly and was out in just over 1
minute. Compared to my 3 minute or
so average T1 times in my other races this was a
VAST improvement. I rushed up the
big hill that led up over the levee out onto the
bike course. Some people tried to
brave that steep levee hill and from what Beth
told me many had some unintended results by
falling over halfway up.
The first thing I noticed when I got out onto
the course is that my bike computer wasn't
working. Good thing I had my Garmin
Forerunner 50 watch as my backup. I
twisted my watch to my forearm so I could eye my
speed and distance and didn't miss a step.
In short, I had a great bike!
I passed at least 25 people and maintained a 21
mph average throughout the course. I
was passed by one participant but I ended up
passing them back just after the turnaround
point at the 10 mile mark. The course was
much more hilly than I anticipated and I caught
some serious speed going down one of the hills
on the way back into T2. At one
point my watch was displaying 42 mph!
I believe it because I didn't bother coasting
down the hills. I stood up on my
bike and hammered my way to the tops of the
hills and then geared low, got aero and hammered
my way down the hills. Rinse and
repeat and before I knew it I was getting close
to transition. Meat Pie Tri would be
my first attempt at a flying dismount.
I guess someone should have told me not to take
your feet out of your shoes when you are 2 miles
out from transition. Like a dummy, I
slipped my feet out of my shoes and peddled with
my feet on top of my shoes for the last two
miles of the course. I guess I was just
excited to be attempting my first dismount in a
race environment. With about 40 yards to
the dismount line I flipped my right leg over
the bike side saddle and and executed my flying
dismount perfectly as I stepped down onto the
dismount line and sped into transition.
T2 was equally as quick as T1.
Having my feet already out of my bike shoes and
a little running momentum heading into
transition helped tremendously. I
quickly slipped on my running shoes, donned my
Team 464 jersey and I was off to the run course.
Just over 1 minute again for T2.
My average in T2 for all my races this year was
also around 3 minutes so, at just over 1
minutes, it was a great improvement.
The beginning of the run course starts with a
trip up a staircase. I hit the
bottom of the stairs and thought I would "Rocky
Balboa" every other step to the top.
That idea lasted maybe 3 revolutions before I
was breathing heavily and had to resort to
hitting every step. I didn't have the best
run but I maintained a 8 - 9 minute pace
throughout. The course ran across a
bridge that crossed the Cane River then turned
left down the historic Natchitoches riverfront
street that was shaded by an ageless oak tree
canopy. The sun was out in full
force at this point but the weather and the
temperature was perfect. Most importantly,
throughout the entire run, I never experienced
any gastric distress which for me makes a
successful race. I reached the turn around
point and quickened my pace for the remainder of
the run. I crossed the bridge, took
a sharp right on the levee street that headed
towards the finish line. I finished
strong... I finished in 1:56.18...
I broke 2 hours which was my goal for the race.
BR Tri also ended up taking home multiple
first, second and third place winners and most
of all we took home the USAT State Club
Championship trophy. Overall a great race
and I hope to run it again next year and beyond.
Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed
reading my account of the Meat Pie Triathlon as
much as I enjoyed writing (and living) it!
Best of luck on YOUR life journey!!!!
May you reach all your goals and achieve all your dreams!