The 34th Heatwave Classic Triathlon in Ridgeland, Mississippi (outside of Jackson), is another of the more well known traditional triathlons in the South, only this one is an Olympic distance race with a little extra on the bike course which is mainly on the beautiful Natchez Trace Parkway. It's also a Saturday race which for many people like me is a bonus, especially those of us travelling to North Mississippi from the Gulf Coast, about a 2.5 hour drive. The race is held at Old Trace Park next to the Ross Barnett Reservoir. The swim is typically an 800yd distance but this year it ended up a little over 1000yd. You start in a 'beach' entry format with swimmers entering one at a time several seconds apart (seeding is by number and based on registration date - earlier the better). It was about a 75yd walk before you could start swimming and the water is cool and calm with a simple rectangular format up to a boat launch into transition. The bike is a two mile ride to the Natchez Trace with an out an back that is cool, windy in some spots, shaded and open, with incredible visuals along the reservoir. Police presence is high but there are cars on the trace. The run is where the heat kicks in, hence the name 'Heatwave', and it was as usual hot and humid once you left Old Trace Park for an out and back paved trail run, then back through the park, up the finish hill to the finishline. The good news is the volunteer contigent is incredible, with multiple aid stations stocked with water, Gatorade, ice and popsicles, so it helps you push through it. The after party and awards are very well done too. They always have a full buffett spread with chicken, hamburger steak, mashed potatoes. vegetables, desserts and more. The awards were custom designed pottery plates shaped like the State of Mississippi, and the mayor was on hand to pass them out and take photos. It was a great day all around. If you want to race a challenging Olympic distance in the South, Heatwave is one to consider.
As for my race, this was probably my 5th or 6th Heatwave, and although I finished 5th AG M50-54, I still had a great time. This race always give you a good mental and physical challenge, and a sort of 'welcome to summer' blast in the heat and humidity. I do wish my run would have been better but the heat jumped up and bit me around mile 4 and I had to push myself to the finishline. My swim was very solid, felt great - thanks to Cam Dye for the swim coaching - and my bike was where I wanted to be so I felt good on course. There is always room for improvement and this race made me realize I need more run off the bike, and run/speed training as well. So my summer run goals are now in motion - more efficient, quality running with a few bricks thrown in for good measure!