The 35th annual Heart O' Dixie Triathlon was metaphorically as well as literally marked and marred by an epic fight between Justin Nunnery and Zane Hodge. Nunnery, the latest contract athlete signed by Big ASS Endurance, won the Association's World Triathlon Championship with a close, hard fought victory over a complaining and pugalistic Hodge.
The battle started at 6:30 am on Saturday, July 26th, as the athletes were ushered, one at a time, into the water for a half mile swim in the beautiful Lake Tiah O' Khata. Hodge, starting only a few positions behind Nunnery, quickly caught and passed his almost-as-tall-as-Randy-Beets rival. Hodge's swim margin over Nunnery was an astonishing 1:56.
|Hodge emerges from the water after kicking |
Nunnery's hinder parts.
When the race moved to the road, however, Nunnery quickly made up the deficit and then some. On his bicycle, he caught the slow-pedalling swimmer before Noxapater and was out of Hodge's sight by the time they passed through the tiny town.
Hodge never threatened Nunnery again, during the race that is. After the race proved to be a different story.
With no Nunnery in sight, on the run Hodge began a desperate battle with an unidentified fat lady. The two took turns passing each other until Hodge finally settled that struggle on a steep hill at mile four of the run course. Hodge passed the big woman near the top of the hill and expanded his lead over the next mile. He was later to say, "I whupped that fat lady like she was my red-headed step child."
Hodge stumbled onto the half-mile dirt track at the Neshoba County Fair and finished his race in 3:17:01, a good three minutes ahead of the fat lady, but a disappointing minute and forty-eight seconds behind Nunnery's 3:15:13. The fireworks started soon afterwards.
When Nunnery was announced the 2014 Big ASS World Champion, an irate Hodge began a yelling match with Nunnery and several others.
"He cheated!" a furious Hodge yelled. "When he passed me, his wife was towing him and his bicycle behind her car!"
|Nunnery plays to the crowd as he clebrates|
At this point, Hodge ascended the platform and faced up with Nunnery. There were more accusations from both athletes, some shoving, and then the fight broke out. Nunnery placed Hodge in a headlock and the two then tumbled down the platform steps onto the red dirt track below where there was punching and pummeling and eye-gouging until order was restored at the arrival of a Neshoba County Deputy Sheriff.
Hodge was ushered off the fairgrounds and ordered not to return until the 2015 race.
"I'll be back," Hodge yelled over his shoulder. "I'll be back, and I'll get even!"