Triathlon Across the USA: State #32 – Mississippi

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!”. The Mississippi triathlon, held near Elvis Presley’s birthplace, was testimony to this reality.

Planning for the Mississippi Triathlon

For 2017, Joy and I decided I would complete two triathlons in the spring and two in the fall. With these, we would stay on track for completing a triathlon in each state by age 70. It made the most sense to do these in adjacent states on either back-to-back days (such as Saturday and Sunday) or back-to-back weekends.

In early January, we started choosing the first two triathlons for the year. Here is a picture of the process that we followed:

  1. Identify candidate states in which to complete races. We focused on states in which I had not completed a triathlon.
  2. Look on the Running In The USA website for triathlons that fit our schedule on back-to-back days or weekends in April or May.
  3. Document all potential races. At this point, we were still considering races in several states.
  4. Confirm the race dates listed on the website and the date for registration to open with their race directors.
  5. Double check our schedules for availability to travel during these dates and make the final selections.
  6. Complete the registrations.

For more information on this process, check out another post titled How to Choose Your Next Triathlon.

In the end, I registered for the Tupelo Sprint Triathlon and the Baptist Health Capital Of Dreams Tri in Montgomery, Alabama. One week separated the Mississippi and Alabama triathlons.

Travel to Tupelo for the Mississippi Triathlon

We left our home in the Minneapolis, Minnesota area on Thursday morning in the thick of rush hour amidst a light rain 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 pickup the race packet.

As typical before a triathlon, it was ‘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. Mississippi triathlon run passed this house.
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)

How Would Weather Affect The Mississippi Triathlon?

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 the 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 thinning 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. Would it still be raining 35 minutes later when I finished the swim?

Aaron kicked off the race with a prayer that included a request for the rain to let up and for safety of the participants.


Swimmers lined up by race number along the deck of the pool. The race crew had assigned race numbers according to the swim time each person estimated during registration. Faster swimmers started first to avoid congestion in the pool during the triathlon.

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 exited the pool using metal handles and steps cast into the pool wall.

We then headed out the door of the aquatic center to the transition area and onto the bike.

The swim leg of the Mississippi triathlon 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


By the time I had finished the swim, the rain had stopped. Hallelujah!

While I clipped my bike shoes into the pedals as normal, both were hanging downward to avoid the rain from collecting inside the shoes.

Normally, the right shoe is supported horizontally using a rubber band looped through a safety pin run in the strap on the back of the shoe. I then connect the rubber band to the locking clamp on the wheel skewer. This makes putting the shoes on easier while on the bike.

With the change today, it took me longer once on the bike to get my feet into the shoes. Having a focus on keeping the shoes dry, I had not taken time to open them as I would normally do.

By this time, the roads were only damp with a few puddles. In fact, the only time I noticed water remaining on the road was as I passed another bike 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 relatively flat course had only 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 last part of the bike course returned to the transition area from this second turnaround.


The run for the Mississippi triathlon followed a trail along the edge of Veteran’s Park next to the Aquatic Center. The trail eventually led to Elvis Presley Parkway and past Elvis’s birthplace.

The run for the Mississippi triathlon 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, Mississippi Sprint Triathlon.

The first piece of “small world” evidence came from the man who won my age group, who was also of Dutch ancestry.

His daughter had lived north of the Minneapolis area where we were living before she and her husband retired. Now, they spend summers in northern Minnesota.

The race director provided another example. In calling my name and home city and state (Maple Grove, Minnesota) 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, within a couple of miles of our home.

Race Firsts

  • First triathlon involving biking around a dead possum lying in the road. (Does it seem like I am becoming desperate for true ‘Race Firsts’?)
  • Running past a famous musician’s house was another first.
  • First triathlon in which the age group award was a bag of locally roasted and ground coffee.
Awards for the Tupelo Mississippi Sprint Triathlon 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

What Are Your Small World Stories from Triathlon?

Do you have a ‘small world story’ from triathlon?

What has been the most unique venue for a triathlon? Have any passed a celebrity landmark?

Tell us about your experience in the Comments below.

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