Shan Winstead has served as race director of the Heart O' Dixie triathlon for the past three years.

The 34th edition of the Heart O' Dixie Triathlon will be held Saturday. And one thing Winstead has learned in working with the longest running triathlon in the continental United States is that there is always something to learn. The Heart O' Dixie is sponsored by the Philadelphia Sertoma Club.

"I am always having to call someone and ask a question about how we do something," Winstead said. "We have people in our club who have been part of putting on the triathlon on for years. Everyone in the club has a job and works hard to put this event on."

The start time is 6:30 a.m. The triathlon begins with the .5 mile swim at Lake Tiak-O'Khata. That's followed by the 27.5 mile bike race which progresses through the rolling red clay hills down Highway 25 to Philadelphia. It concludes with a seven-mile run to the Neshoba County Fairgrounds. The awards ceremony usually starts around 11 a.m.

Just finishing the Heart O' Dixie is a great accomplishment but there have been some outstanding times. Joseph Curro holds the cross record with a time of 1:48:24. He did the swim in 10:18; the bike ride in 1:03:19; and, the run in 34:47 minutes. Deanna Frank holds the women's record with a time of 2:00:53.

The event has many traditions. The Dickey Nowell Award goes to the first Neshoba County competitor to finish. The award is given in memory of Nowell, former Philadelphia resident and a longtime participant in the Heart O' Dixie. He ran in eight races before losing his battle with cancer. He had many friends in Philadelphia. His family started the award and the club later voted to continue it.

This is the Sertoma Club's only fund-raising project and Winstead said the money raised goes back into the community. The Sertoma Club's mission is to help people who have hearing problems. But Winstead said money also goes to worthy projects such as the Philadelphia Youth Football League, the Boys and Girls Club and for improvements at Northside Park, just to name a few.

"I just want to thank the many people who help put this on every year," Winstead said. "There are so many variables and so many volunteers who show up on race day and help. We couldn't do it without them.

"This will be my last year as race director. Next year, someone else will take it over but I will have a job doing something. This is a great event and I will always be there to help anyway I can," Winstead said.