Heber Springs triathlon: Racers take on a trio of challenges

Linda Hicks Originally Published October 10, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated October 8, 2013 at 10:02 p.m.
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HEBER SPRINGS — A couple hundred people are expected to put their physical endurance to the test by biking, running, and swimming their way to the finish line for the sixth annual Heber Springs Tri the Lake Triathlon.

On Sunday, competitors from at least six states will swim, bike and run in the event, which will begin with a 500-yard swim at Sandy Beach on Greers Ferry Lake, followed by a 13-mile bike course with one significant climb and descent, and finish with a 3.4-mile run.

“It is exhausting,” said Mary Margaret Couch, executive director of Downtown Heber Springs, an event sponsor. “But only a couple of people haven’t finished the entire thing. Last year, we had 30 mph winds, and 98 percent finished.”

“Safety is first always,” Couch said, “We go rain or shine. The only thing that stops us is lightning.”

However, she said, if it rains and there are slick roads, the course may be altered for safety purposes.

The road is in excellent shape for the bike ride, Couch said, with sections of it being paved in the last few years. But there will be no “aid stations” on the bike course, so participants need to carry what they need. There will be a lead-and-sweep vehicle, though, for safety. On the run, aid stations will be located about every mile, she said, and will be stocked with ice, water and sports drinks.

Couch said the winning strategy is different for all participants. They can compete as individuals soloing in all the competitions or as two-person or three-person teams with only one person competing in the individual challenges.

After a swim, some change into dry clothes, while others “just throw on tennis shoes and get on their bike and ride.”

A USA Triathlon event, Couch said, the competition is produced by DLT Events. For a timed event, she said, participants wear ankle bracelets with chips recording the time.

Each year, Couch said, there have been 150 to 200 entrants from about six states, with the youngest being 12 and the oldest being about 70. Last year, a father-daughter team met in Heber Springs to compete — one traveling from Florida, the other from Nebraska.

From 80 to 100 volunteers will help with the event, she said, including emergency personnel and the Heber Springs High School track team, as well as massage therapists to work on participants’ sore muscles.

Competitors can preregister or register the morning of the event, Couch said. She plans to be on the beach by 5:30 a.m. to take care of last-minute details and registrants.

Spectators, she said, need to be parked by 7:15 a.m. in the Sandy Beach area, and they are advised to bring chairs.

Following the competition, awards will be presented at about 10:45 a.m.

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