Meridian Star


July 28, 2013

Iron Tiger

Former Southeast athlete set for world championship

PHILADELPHIA — Deshon Davis was a two-sport athlete while attending Southeast Lauderdale High School in the late 1980s. But 19 years ago, he picked up three entirely different sports and now competes on the Ironman race circuit.

    On Saturday, Davis finished fifth overall at the 34th annual Heart O' Dixie Triathlon in 2:03:16. It wasn't his first and won't be his last.

    He moved to North Carolina for work six years ago, but tries to come back to the area to see family and race as often as possible.

    "This is always a fun race to come back into, it's unique in that you start at location, bike to another and run to fair grounds," Davis said. "This kind of finish area to you don't get at your normal triathlon."

    This year's Heart O' Dixie was conveniently placed three weeks before his next full Ironman race in Quebec on Aug. 18.

    Competing the race near his hometown helped him train, but finishing in the top 10 overall finishers let's him know he's ready.

    "This is kind of a gauge to make sure that everything is where it needs to be from a training perspective," he said. "It's a lot further than 35 miles."

    The Ironman in Quebec is a full 140.6-mile triathlon — 2.4 mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, 26.2-mile run. In September 2012, Davis qualified for the Ironman World Competition in Hawaii this October by running his personal best, 10:07:33, for the three events.

    "That's the big deal," Davis said. "Ask anyone here ... I want to go under 10 hours. A lot of things have to go right."

    The Ironman in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, is the original 140.6-mile course. As racing grew popular, Ironman became a racing brand, creating new race lengths in fractions of its full course, just how marathons have added shorter events.

    Now, Hawaii considered the World Championship and triathletes must first qualify with a different race.

    "It's just like trying to run the Boston Marathon," Davis said. "That demand to want to go has increased, so now you have to do an Ironman just to qualify for Hawaii."

    This year's race on the islands in the Pacific Ocean will mark the 35th anniversary, making it the oldest triathlon in the United States. The Heart O' Dixie is the second oldest US, but oldest continental triathlon.

    His endurance training started after college while working at Anderson Medical Center's fitness center. He heard people talking about triathlons and he wanted to test himself.

    "The first time i swam was when I was training for my first triathlon. It was scary," Davis said.

    He grew up playing baseball and football for the Southeast Tigers before going onto University of Alabama to play baseball.

    "I thought maybe a professional career in baseball was going to work out, and it didn't," Davis said. "I had to, I don't want to say find, but this sort of, kind of came into my world at the right time when I was looking for something competitive." 

    A major league career might not have blossomed, but he has since completed nine Ironman's and held a spot on the Team USA Duathlon – run, bike, run format event – from 2008 to 2010, where he qualified for the World Championship.

    Davis has lost count of the number of races he's ran, tri- and duathlons, but remembers his first: May 1995 in Memphis.

    "I finished," he said. "That was my goal. I didn't want to drown. It was good experience."

    And Davis said he has no plans of stopping because of the health benefits, among other things.

    "It allows you to eat whatever you want to eat," he said.

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