By Michael Wetzel, Assistant sports editor, The Decatur Daily
Decatur’s Misti Palmer isn’t afraid of water. She proved that to a nationwide television audience in 2003.
Then in last year’s Wet Dog Triathlon, she swam the 400 meters in Flint Creek in a swift 7 minutes and 16 seconds. It placed her second in her age division in swimming — not bad for her first triathlon.
She finished 86th overall in the female division and 14th in the 30-34 age division.
Now the 34-year-old counselor at Calhoun Community College is trying to better her marks in the swimming, biking and running events in Saturday’s 11th annual event at Point Mallard.
Hosted by the Decatur Jaycees and Big Brothers, Big Sisters, the triathlon begins at 7 a.m.
This time, Misti says her husband Jason will be competing, too.
He’ll be swimming during a team competition, she said.
The Palmers have been swimming laps regularly at the Aquadome Recreation Center’s pool.
Misti said the training helps, but conditions are different on race day, especially your first time in such a grueling event.
“Last year, I was a bit surprised with the swimming portion,” she said.
Misti added: “There is quite a bit of difference swimming in a pool and swimming in the river with a current and plenty of other swimmers starting at the same time.”
The former cheerleader at Austin High and Auburn said she is expecting to improve her time on the bike this year, too.
She said she used a mountain bike during last year’s 15-kilometer ride from Point Mallard to Rhodes Ferry Park and back.
“I’ve been out on the bike a bunch this year,” she said. “I’ve got a bike now more built for speed.”
The Palmers finished second on an episode of ABC’s “Fear Factor” on Feb. 10, 2003. They won $25,000 winning two of the three events of the show.
On the show, they transferred 204 Madagascar hissing cockroaches from a box to their mouths to another box in three minutes. In a water stunt, Jason swam underwater, unlocked three locks of a Plexiglass box holding Misti, who swam to the surface and pulled a flag in 30 seconds.
Misti said competing in events such as the Wet Dog and “Fear Factor” keeps her motivated to set goals and try to reach them.
“It’s a way of testing yourself physically,” she said. “Having a race on the calendar forces you to work at it.”
The Palmers have changed their sleeping habits, too, preparing for the race. Misti said they have been working out each morning before their children, ages 7 and 3, wake up.
“We’re getting an early start every morning,” she said. “We don’t want this to steal time from our children.”
A regular in 5K races, Misti called the Wet Dog a “great event.”
“It’s a great fundraiser for Big Brothers, Big Sisters, and it is a great to train for and compete in. Two great things in one.”
Big Brothers, Big Sisters executive director Leah Brown said the triathlon’s field is maxed out with 600 competitors from 11 states and two foreign countries.
Last year’s overall winner Jonathan Krichev of Huntsville did the 400-meter swim, 15K bike race and 5K run in 46 minutes and 30 seconds. He’s back to defend his title for the third time. In 2008, he won with a 46:47.
Big Brothers, Big Sisters serves Morgan, Lawrence, Winston and Cullman counties.
Spectator admission is free.