Tyson Pompelia never considered he had an addictive personality.
But the 36-year-old Meridian native quickly discovered he was like so many other athletes who became addicted to sprint triathlons and triathlons after he competed in his first event.
“It is crazy how you can get obsessed with it, almost,” said Pompelia, who is a veterinarian at the Collinsville Veterinary Clinic.
On Saturday, Pompelia will be at work having fun as part of the fifth-annual Possum Town Triathlon in Columbus. The event kicks off at 7 a.m. with a 600-yard swim at the boat ramp off Wilkins Wise Road near the Columbus Lock and Dam. It continues with a 17-mile bicycle ride and a 3.3-mile run. Participants can pick up their race packets from 5-7 tonight at the boat ramp or from 5:30-6:45 a.m. Saturday.
For Pompelia, the event is another chance for him to stay active and to push himself against great competition.
“I am not addictive personality,” said Pompelia, who ran cross country in junior high school and played baseball at Meridian High School. He went on to veterinary school at Mississippi State. “I don’t do any other thing, but I want to be better every day.”
Pompelia said he started running a few years ago and gravitated toward 5-Kilometer races. He then decided to compete in a half marathon before working his way up to a marathon and an Ironman triathlon, which features a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride, and a 26.2-mile run, raced in that order and without a break.
After competing in four Ironman triathlons, Pompelia said he has signed up for Ironman Texas and has tarted to work with a coach, Allen Stanfield, who lives in Gautier, to help him get the most out of his workouts and to avoid overtraining.
“Triathlon is an individual sport,” Pompelia said. “We’re all out there trying to beat ourselves, or what we did last year, or the time from our last race. You’re just trying to constantly improve on yourself. When those things happen, it makes it worthwhile.”
Pompelia, whose wife, Cole, also competes in sprint triathlons and triathlons, also has two children, but he said he finds time to work out in the morning and in the afternoon six to seven days a week to remain at his best. His work has paid off this year, as he has won the Heart o’ Dixie (Louisville/Philadelphia), Sunfish (Meridian), and King of the Hill (Tupelo) events as well as a triathlon at the University of West Alabama.
Pompelia said 2016 has been his best year by far and that he is looking forward to competing in the Possum Town Triathlon again. He finished second last year.
“I enjoy doing it,” Pompelia said. “My wife does triathlons, too, and she likes to go out there and finish and enjoy the day and have fun doing it. She could care less if she finishes first or last. I am not built that way. If I am going to do it, I want to win.”
Pompelia said his goal is to make it to the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii. After working with Stanford for three to four months, Pompelia said he feels everyone should have a coach to help them maximize their potential. After all, he said every other sport has coaches for those athletes, so why not triathlons.
Now that sounds like someone who has been bitten by a bug and isn’t going to stop anytime soon.
“You don’t have to be an athlete or an ex-pro, or a runner, or anything like that,” Pompelia said. “If you go to a triathlon you will see all walks of life — big, small, tall, fit. There are even handicapped divisions. One of the most humbling things I have experienced in triathlons is I was in the marathon and I was miserable and hurting and I met a guy coming down the road with one leg. I thought to myself, ‘Hey man, suck it up.’
“There are all walks of life out there and this guy had a prosthetic leg and he ain’t whining and he is out there having the time of his life. You see all of it. … The camaraderie of a triathlon is unbelievable. Most people are out there having a good time. None of us are going to the Olympics. It is something to keep you healthy and keep you going.”
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.