Triathlon rolls on Saturday

Clay Curtis wouldn’t mind having a peaceful time around the firehouse tonight.
The Tupelo fireman will be on a 24-hour shift that started at 6 a.m. today, will get off duty at 6 a.m. Saturday and head to his Plantersville home long enough to pick up his gear for the King of the Hill Triathlon at nearby Tombigbee State Park.
“A quiet night would be nice,” Curtis said.
At 8 a.m. Saturday, he’ll head out on a half-mile swim, 20-mile bike ride and 3.6-mile run.
It’s just another day for Curtis, the defending King of the Hill champ.
“All the training I do is to stay in shape, to be healthy,” Curtis said. “The racing is the social part.”
If so, then Saturday’s event is a party at the Curtis house, at least figuratively speaking, on roads where he regularly trains for events such as the Ironman Triathlon in Idaho on June 21 and the July 24 Heart O’ Dixie Triathlon, which started in Louisville and ended at the Neshoba County Fairgrounds.
Curtis, 35, finished seventh in the 35-39 age group in the Heart O’ Dixie, with the second-best time (11:37) in his age group for the half-mile swim. The bike course was 27.5 miles and the running course was seven miles.
His time of 2:10:05 contrasts with the 111⁄2 hours it took to complete a much longer course at the Ironman Triathlon in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, where he finished 467th overall in a field of more than 2,100 finishers.
“Everything seems easier compared to that race,” said Curtis, who won last year’s King of the Hill – the course was slightly longer, with a 22-mile bike race – in 1:37:08, winning by about four minutes.
Other veterans of the Idaho race will be in the King of the Hill field, including Gene Pierce of Amory, Mark Shepard of Saltillo and two former locals, Jay Gibson and Roger Weldon.
Two other Idaho Ironmen, race director Mark Bresee and Johnny Miles of Tupelo, will work behind the scenes to assure the event is a success.
Bresee was meeting with race volunteers on Thursday night to map out final plans. “We get such good support for this event, from the sheriff’s department to the hospital, the folks out at Tombigbee and all the volunteers,” Bresee said.
With Saturday shaping up as the hottest day of the week – the heat index is forecast to hit 91 degrees by 11 a.m. – Bresee said “trying to keep people cool” will be the top challenge.
A field of about 175 competitors is expected, Bresee said; the results for last year listed 111 finishers.
“We’ll be up in participation from a year ago because of the racing calendar,” he said. “A year ago, we were just a week after the Heart O’ Dixie, and that was a mistake. We want to be two weeks after that race if we can.”
The race setup is the same as in recent years with the exception of the bike course, Bresee said, which was shortened slightly to avoid one potentially dangerous slice of the Old Mooreville Road.

John L. Pitts/NEMS Daily Journal