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Haile competes in triathlons to stay fit

NATCHEZ — Having a child can be life-changing on many levels, and for Natchez resident Andrew Haile, it gave him awareness that he needed to live a healthy lifestyle.

As a result, Haile took up training to be a triathlon athlete, and last month, he put that training to the test. On April 18, Haile traveled to New Orleans to compete in the Ochsner Ironman 70.3.

“A little over a year ago, when my daughter was born, I figured I needed to get in shape,” Haile said.

“I had to have a goal in order to do that, otherwise it would have been something that would have fizzled out. I chose a triathlon because I don’t really like running enough by itself to stay a runner.”

Luckily for Haile, the running distance of 13.1 miles at the Ironman event was much shorter than the 56 miles he had to ride on by bike.

“I love biking, and I’m a member of the Natchez Bicycle Club. I started cycling about three years ago, but got away from it because of my job,” Haile said.

“I hadn’t been on a bike until about nine months ago when I started back riding. (Bike club member) Scott Hanson helped me out a lot when I started back riding. He’s who I did most of the high-paced riding with.”

To start off the event, Haile had to swim 1.2 miles out to a point in Lake Pontchartrain and back to shore. After that, the 56 miles on the bike began.

“From the swim you go to a transition area, peel off your wetsuit, jump on your bike and ride out to a point and back. It was very hot and windy,” Haile said.

From there, the 13.1-mile run from the University of New Orleans campus to Jackson Square in the French Quarter began. And that’s when things got interesting, Haile said.

“About mile nine, I hit a wall. My runs were becoming shorter and my walks longer,” Haile said.

And if it wasn’t for the availability of snacks all across the running portion, Haile said he wouldn’t have made it.

“They have these 150-calorie goo packs available at the water stations, which are every mile apart on the run. You can also get water, Gatorade, energy bars and wet sponges,” Haile said.

“Nutrition is a huge factor. You’re burning so many calories when you do it that, if you don’t eat every 45 minutes to an hour, you won’t make it.”

But Haile finished, and he was more than an hour ahead of the eight-hour time limit.

“My time was six hours and 24 minutes. I don’t know where I placed in my age group, or overall. I didn’t go out to ‘race’ in the event, I just wanted to finish,” Haile said.

“I knew I would finish within eight hours, and I would have liked to finish faster than I did. When I looked up at my time initially, I was upset, but that dissipated quickly when I reflected upon the fact that I did finish.”

Even though he wasn’t too worried about his placement in the final standings, Haile admitted that he had trouble not letting other competitors get to him.

“The hardest part was focusing on the individual race, and not worrying about other people. When you’re passed by someone, you’re natural instinct is to pass them back,” Haile said.

With his first Ochsner Ironman under his belt, Haile said he hopes it won’t be his last one.

“It was a learning experience, and I definitely want to do it again,” Haile said.

“In the meantime, I plan to do smaller, more local triathlons in the Mississippi-Louisiana area, and possibly in Florida as well.”

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