Coach Jim and I pre-race. Thanks TriStateRacer for the photos!
IMMEDIATELY I began thinking about how I could detour off my return trip route and join him!!
For years, he has talked about this very special triathlon in Richwood, WV that he has raced many times since the early 90's. On June 24th this year, the area was devastated by flooding and the 31st annual race was rescheduled for August 28th. I couldn't believe they hadn't just cancelled. I was compelled to go and support this race and this strong community.
Luckily my race bag is always packed so it didn't take me long to throw it in the car. The plan came together pretty quickly!
I had a great time with my mom and sister doing odds-and-ends new house jobs. My race "taper" consisted of a 60 mile bike ride on the Emerald Necklace trail on Friday and about a 6 hour drive on Saturday to Richwood.
I met up with Coach Jim and his family where they treated me to dinner at the Oakford Diner. Then we headed to the Four Seasons Lodge for the night. The Cherry River runs just behind it, and we soaked our legs and enjoyed the tranquility.
This race is unique in several respects:
- It's a late start - 10 am - which gives the fog a chance to clear (and athletes a chance to sleep in!)
- There are two transition areas 17 miles apart. One numbered bag is used for your post-swim gear, and another numbered bag contains your run gear. Both are transported to T2/race finish. It sounds confusing but in actuality it's a smooth process!
- There are no assigned racks, no swim caps, and no race bibs, just our body markings and a hand-written paper tag for the bike. There's an air of informality.
- No turn buoys - the swim is up one side of a rope/swim noodle lane and down the other.
- The course is hillier than any I have ever done. Yes, it's scenic, but the word "Mountain" is in the race name for a reason!
- There's pretty much no cell phone coverage in the area, and I have to say that was kind of refreshing!
This is the only time all year people are allowed to swim in Summit Lake. I was in wave 2 with Coach Jim but lined up opposite him to race my own race rather than just tuck in on his feet (which was tempting). With my preferred breathing side to the right, and the rope to the left, it was not the straightest swim I could have done! Coach Jim came out of the water a good 45 seconds ahead of me. I quickly got my bike and then discovered there was no official mount line. Eventually I realized that and got on!
Below is the bike course profile [Garmin Data]. I LOVED it! I zoomed down that first hill in the 30/40mph range, then got to work heading up the mountain! My summer training with a lot of sustained high-power work had prepared me well for this.
Coach Jim's family cheered at several stops along the bike course which helped spur me on. (Both of his children are triathletes too.) Despite a very uncrowded course, I managed to pick up a drafter along the way. I shot him a few nasty glances and he eventually detached and I left him far behind (3 minutes). I averaged 19.2 mph and 196w.
photo by Spencer gives an idea of one of the climbs
As I approached T2, I saw a volunteer ready with my run bag, and another took my bike. I was off on the run and soon joined fellow runners Krystal and Brandon, with whom I chit-chatted a bit (which if you know me is very unusual) as we all tried to take the first half easy. The course is an out-and-back, so as you are enjoying an easy run DOWN to the Cranberry bogs gate, you just know it's gonna hurt coming back UP.
The three of us traded off leads but just past mile 4 I fell of their pace [Garmin Data] and I allowed myself to walk a few times (exactly 12 steps each time). I let them go, feeling fairly certain they had been in the first swim wave and thus actually 5 minutes behind me. I felt better again in the final mile and finished up netting an average pace of 7:54.
photo by Spencer - heading down toward the bogs!
the grass beyond the finish was very inviting
We were all treated to a wonderful post-race cookout with chicken, hamburgers, hot dogs, sides, and plenty of drinks. I enjoyed browsing through the nature center, and as promised, awards started moments after the final racer finished. I finished 4th overall, 1st female [Results at TriStateRacer.com].
Afterward, my bike and I got a ride back to my van with the McGehees - it was still at the lake!
I for sure want to return to this race and to this community again. It's a tough but rewarding course that has inspired me to improve my hill running. I would encourage my friends to join me next year!
Thanks to Coach Jim and his family for all of their help on race day!