Athletes from 12 states across the country will be in Grenada Saturday for the Second Annual Southern Firecracker Ironman Triathlon at Grenada Lake.
Thomas Walls and Rock Star All-Access Event Management hopes to build on the success of last year’s event. Last year, a total of 80 athletes competed. The Grenada Tourism is the sponsor of the event.
“We are excited about being back in Grenada for the Ironman Triathlon,” Walls said. “The competitors enjoyed their time in Grenada for the event and are looking forward to Saturday.”
The swimming portion of the triathlon kicks off the activities at 7 a.m. at the North Abutment Campground area. Athletes will swim 1.2 miles and transition to their bikes for the long and grueling 56-mile bike portion of the race across Grenada and Tallahatchie counties. The competition concludes with a 13.1-mile half marathon to determine the winner.
“The swim is the fun part of the triathlon,” Walls said. “It’s what we call the ‘washing machine’ part of the race. When I did my first triathlon, I was fully surprised how much I got run over by so many people jumping in the water at the same time trying to swim. People get kicked in the face and get run over, get swam over the top of. The key is not to get kicked in the face and get your goggles knocked off. You have to give yourself enough room to swim and not have to struggle constantly with other athletes.”
Following the swim, athletes jump out of water and begin searching for their bikes to get ahead of the rest of the field.
“Knowing where everything is when you get out of the lake is a key when you get ready for the bike portion,” Walls said. “When athletes check in on Friday, you will see them making sure they know where everything is visually, which is key. When you come out of water, it is a little disorienting.”
Athletes then begin the toughest part of the competition, biking for 56 miles through Grenada and Tallahatchie counties. The course has its challenging parts.
“It’s a challenging course with some hills and false flats,” he said. “The first 10 miles of the course is getting you out of Grenada. After getting to Holcomb, you head toward Cascilla where there is about an 800-foot climb, then it levels out back to Highway 51 and back to town.”
Once completed, competitors return their bikes to their spot at the lake and begin the 13.1-mile run to the finish line.
Last year’s winner, Robert Langer of Illinois, will not be competing this season. Locally, Rafe Armstrong of Grenada finished fifth with a time of 5:05:21. He will not compete this year due to an injury. His wife, Kathy Armstrong, will return to the competition this season. She finished 10th overall with a final time of 5:58 and is looking forward to this year’s competition.
“Looking forward to the second annual Southern Firecracker 70.3 miles in my hometown of Grenada,” Kathy Armstrong said. “Last year’s race was a huge success and one I consider it to be one of the best in the region. Thomas Walls, Grenada Tourism and all the local law enforcement and volunteers were amazing.”
Armstrong is a veteran when it comes to taking part in a triathlons having competed in these races for 30 years.
“It’s a sport I share with my husband, Rafe, and many friends I have made and raced with from all over the South,” she said. “Triathlons have allowed us to compete in numerous states and even into Canada and Puerto Rico.”
Grenadians Mark Davis and Jonathan Davis will also compete in the event.
Walls invites Grenadians to come out and support the guys and girls competing in the event.
“It means a lot to the athletes to have people cheering them on all throughout the course,” he said. “When we completed last year’s race, a number of athletes commented on the support they were getting from the people all throughout the course.”
Walls also said volunteers are still needed to help this weekend. Those interested can contact him through the website or to him at (901) 472-4630.
Grenadians are asked to use caution Saturday morning particularly during the bike portion of the event as racers use Highway 8 to go to Holcomb and eventually back to the lake through Cascilla and Rosebloom.
For more information on the triathlon including course maps, visit https://southernfirecracker.com