Triathlon Across the USA: State #32 – Mississippi

Triathlon Across the USA: State #32 – Mississippi
We often hear, and maybe even use, the phrase “It’s a small world!”.  This triathlon, held near Elvis Presley’s birthplace, was testimony to this reality. Tupelo, Mississippi, April 22, 2017 – Tupelo Sprint Triathlon, Tupelo Aquatic Center, Veterans Park We often hear, and maybe even use, the phrase “It’s a small world!”.  This triathlon, held near Elvis Presley’s birthplace, was testimony to this reality.  

Planning for the Mississippi Triathlon

Registration for the Tupelo Sprint Triathlon and the Baptist Health Capital Of Dreams Tri that would be held one week after the Tupelo event were both part of the early January planning session. This year, Joy and I decided to do two triathlons in the spring and two in the fall in order to stay on track for completing one in each state by age 70.  It made the most sense to do these in adjacent states and on either back to back days (such as Saturday and Sunday) or back to back weekends. In early January, we started the process to pick the first two triathlons for the year.  Here is a picture of the process that we went through:
  1. Identify candidate states in which to complete races.  At this point, we were only selecting states in which we had not completed a triathlon.
  2. Check to see if there were races that fit our schedules and were held on back to back days (such as Saturday and Sunday) or back to back weekends in April or May.  Races were identified using the Running In USA website.
  3. Select candidate races – at this point, we were still considering races in several states.
  4. Confirm the race dates listed on the website with their race directors and check our schedules for availability to travel during these dates.
  5. Make the final selections and complete the registrations for these.
For more information on this process, check out “How to Select the Location and Specific Race for Your Next Triathlon”.  

Travel to Tupelo

We left the Minneapolis, Minnesota area in the thick of rush hour amidst a light rain on Thursday morning and arrived in St. Louis later that day on the opposite end of the rush hour cycle. After checking into the Holiday Inn Express in Festus, Missouri, we ate dinner at the Main & Mill Brewing Company where we enjoyed burgers (try the Maple Bacon burger if you have opportunity), fries, and green beans that tasted just like those made by Joy’s mom, Velma. On Friday, we completed the trip to Tupelo, arriving mid-afternoon in plenty of time to find our way to the Tupelo Aquatic Center, check-out the Elvis Presley Birthplace Visitor Center, and pick-up the race packet.  Early to bed.
Statue of young Elvis Presley at the Elvis Presley Birthplace Visitor Center. Elvis began singing specials at the First Assembly of God church at age 9.

Statue of young Elvis Presley at the Elvis Presley Birthplace Visitor Center. Elvis began singing specials at the First Assembly of God church at age 9.

   

3rd Tupelo Sprint Triathlon

Distances for the individual legs of this USAT-sanctioned sprint triathlon were:
  • Swim: 0.19 mile (300 m)
  • Bike: 11 mile (17.7 km)
  • Run: 2 mile (3.2 km)
 

Race Day

The pre-race e-mail sent by race director Aaron Ford set an ominous tone for this triathlon.  Two days before the race, he wrote:

“The race is still planned to go as scheduled due to the weather, however, there is a possibility of changing start time or modifying the course.”

Race morning brought rain, sometimes coming in downpours.   As the morning proceeded and race time approached, we noticed the clouds beginning to thin and small patches of blue sky peaking through. It was still drizzling when we went into the aquatic center fifteen minutes before the start of the triathlon.  The big question – would it still be raining in the roughly 35 minutes when I finished the swim? Aaron opened the race with a prayer that included a request for the rain to let up and for safety of the participants.  

Swim

Swimmers lined up by race number (which was based on their estimated swim time) along the deck of the pool.  Once the triathlon started, swimmers jumped into the pool at 10 second intervals to complete the 300 meter swim. The course involved swimming to the opposite end, moving under the lane divider into the next lane, and swimming back to the other end.  Except for the beginning and the end, swimmers went under the lane divider at each end.  At the end of the six laps, we each exited the pool using metal handles and steps cast into the pool wall. It was then out the door of the aquatic center and to the transition area and onto the bike.
The swim leg was held in the 50 meter long pool in the Tupelo Aquatic Center

The swim leg was held in the 50 meter long pool in the Tupelo Aquatic Center

 

Bike

By the time, I had finished the swim, the rain had stopped.  Hallelujah! Since it had been raining earlier, my shoes were clipped into the pedals but both were hanging downward to avoid them collecting water inside them.  Normally, I support one shoe horizontally using a rubber band looped through a safety pin run through the strap on the back of the shoe.  The rubber band is then connected to the locking clamp on the wheel skewer. It took me longer once on the bike to get my feet into the shoes.  I think this was because I had not taken time to open the shoes as I would normally do.  My focus was on keeping their insides dry. By now, the roads were only damp with a few puddles.  In fact, the only time I noticed the water remaining on the road was when I came too close to a bike that I was beginning to overtake and felt the spray from her wheel on my face. The view through the lenses of my glasses was clear except for a few raindrops that clung to them. The course was relatively flat with a few small hills.  There were two turnarounds, one at the end of a side road off to the right of the main road and a second on the main road that ran north of the transition area.  The final shot went from this second turnaround back to the transition area.  

Run

The run followed a trail along the edge of Veteran’s Park next to the Aquatic Center.  The trail eventually led to Elvis Presley Parkway and – you guessed it – past Elvis’s birthplace.
The run took us past Elvis Presley’s birthplace.

The run took us past Elvis Presley’s birthplace.

 

It Really Is a Small World

At the beginning of this post, I mentioned how we often find that we live in a “small world”.  Following are two examples from the Tupelo Sprint Tri. The first piece of “small world” evidence came from the man who won my age group.  (By the way, he is also of Dutch heritage.) His daughter had lived north of the Minneapolis area before she and her husband retired.  Now, they spend summers in northern Minnesota. The race director provided another piece of evidence.  In calling my name and home city and state for the second place age group finish, the race director announced “believe it or not I know where that is having run around a lake in Maple Grove”.  His wife has family in Maple Grove, Minnesota. Later, Aaron shared the maps from his Garmin watch that showed that he had run around Cedar Island Lake and, in a separate run, Eagle Lake, both in Maple Grove.  All within miles of our home.  Small world.  

Race First’s

  • First triathlon involving biking around a dead possum lying in the road.  (Maybe I am becoming desperate for true ‘Race First’s’)
  • First triathlon that involved running past a famous musician’s house.
  • First triathlon in which the age group award was a bag of locally roasted and ground coffee.
Awards for the Tupelo Sprint Tri were a package of ground coffee from High Point Roasters, New Albany, Mississippi

Awards for the Tupelo Sprint Tri were a package of ground coffee from High Point Roasters, New Albany, Mississippi

 

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