Monday, July 15, 2019

Return to Scenic Mountain Triathlon

(photo credit: Rob McKenzie Photography)

With Nationals less than a month away, I really needed to get my butt to a triathlon, so I picked the Scenic Mountain Triathlon in Richwood, WV, a race I had done three years prior (race report here). It's a small but very well-produced race which has been offered for 34 years, including in 2016 when the town was ravaged by flooding and the race was rescheduled, but not cancelled. This year the race was also the USAT WV State Championship. The event draws from Morgantown, WV, Cumberland, MD, Roanoke, VA and many other regions. If you are within 250 miles of this race, it should absolutely be on your race calendar!! 

How'd I do? I was pleased to again win the women's division, by a good 12 minutes. I was 6 minutes slower than in 2016, but I was happy with how I managed my own race. (Results here)

The most exciting part of the day for me was when I saw a black BEAR run across the road in front of me on the bike descent - maybe 20m ahead. Just a week ago I had told my friend Kristen that I was always on the lookout and hoping to spot a bear on the back roads we cycle (I've seen just one prior). I considered it a really good omen and it put a huge smile on my face!

About the race:

The race takes place in the Monongahela National Forest, starting with a half mile out-and-back swim in Summit Lake. Then it's onto your bike to drop down the mountain briefly, then spend most of the 17 mile bike ride pedaling up the Kennison Mountain to the Cranberry Mountain Nature Center. Then you top it off with a 10k run that is downhill to the Cranberry Glades, and uphill back, with generous amounts of shade. When you finish, you've really accomplished something. This isn't some pedal and stroll around a park!

The race info doesn't tell you what is so great about traveling to Richwood, about staying at the Four Seasons Lodge with the Cherry River out your back door. It doesn't say anything about the great race sponsors and cash prizes! How many races do that? The natural beauty is spectacular and touring the Nature Center to see all the snakes and wildlife info is a finish line bonus. There are kind Forest Service Officers who get you into your car when you've locked the key in (yup) and helpful Chamber of Commerce race director/staff who transport your forgotten camp chairs down the mountain (yup).

There are wonderful dining options where people are not staring at their phones (limited cell service which is a good thing ;-) Sherpa Bryan and I ate a fantastic dinner at the Whistle Punk Grill and Taphouse and then I had some a-mazing chicken and dumplings at the Oakford Diner.

If you want more details about the race, or how I personally approached it, read on! If you just want to go eat chicken and dumplings now, I would not take offense.


We self-seeded into a faster and slower wave. I was a little worried about being clobbered at the swim start of the faster wave (mixed gender) but I quickly found my own space. I remember thinking "where did everyone go??"

Photo credit: Bryan Walsh

This photo shows the swim line really well - we swim up one side and down the other. Some people were way right. (photo credit: Rob McKenzie Photography)

My approach:

  • Swim strong but not frantically. I always remind myself the time differential between all-out effort vs just a strong stroke is not that much. 
  • Swim smart: sight frequently and stay on the shortest, most efficient line

photo credit: Appalachian Timing


I chose to ride my road bike for this race. I haven't yet done a triathlon with it and it's what I'll be racing in Lausanne. I was grateful for the extra climbing gears!! 

My approach:

  • Go fast but not recklessly on the first descent (maybe saved me from crashing into the bear!!)
  • Drink (Gatorade) every two miles
  • Have a gel half-way
  • Keep heart rate above 160 (don't slack off)
  • Keep watts around 200 but don't spike much over 240
  • ENJOY!!!! 
I did hear on the bike course that I was the first female, but with two swim waves, one never knows. I certainly didn't let up on the gas. 

T2 is cool because a volunteer grabs your bike, hands you your run bag, and takes your shoes and helmet! It's so easy!

Photo credits: Bryan Walsh


My approach:

  • Stay cool. For the first time ever, I put a bottle of water and small towel in my run bag. I put the towel around my neck and drenched myself and the towel then drank the rest. I passed my bottle off to the volunteer 1.5 miles in, and she offered to refill it and have it ready for me on the way out! I totally took her up on that. To whoever that volunteer was...THANK YOU!!!
  • Stave off cramps. I had a mustard pack on the way out and another on the way back. I thought to slightly pre-tear the tops so they'd open easily.
  • Go conservatively downhill and then run consistently back up. Don't worry about pace, just slow down as little as you need to. Keep running! 
Probably no surprise...John Denver's Country Roads was on repeat in my head for most of the run!

Whatever your approach, race your own race and eventually it brings you to....THE FINISH!

photo credit: Appalachian Timing

Thank you to the Richwood Area Chamber of Commerce and the many, many sponsors for supporting this race that showcases such a beautiful area and strong community! 

Thank you to my ace sherpa Bryan and to Coach Jim :-)
Appreciation also goes to Dave at Valley Active for working to get my glute and hamstring healthier and my core stronger! 

Friday, July 12, 2019

The Next Chapter, A Decade in the Sport

I'm typing this from my front porch, as I listen to the birds, watch the goats in the front field (the neighbor's goats), and enjoy a gently snoring dog and a sprawled cat next to me. I finished a short pre-race brick and am cooling down.

I moved across town at the end of April, into my own home, after 15 years in the same house where my ex and I raised our kids. Finding this home was a dream come true for me. It's a lovely wood and stone home on 17 acres, within two miles of the New River, and offers great running and biking routes. As I've explored on foot and by bike, I've met so many of my wonderful neighbors. I am happy to be a part of this community!

It is the start of a new chapter. It is full of promise and hope.
But it is also a bit scary. I'll officially be an "empty nester" in a month. And I am solely responsible.

The last 3+ years have been packed with major life events - sudden death of my dad, selling the childhood home, moving my mom, helping my sister to care for my mom, separation, divorce, my mom getting sick, my mom passing away, job changes, shepherding two kids through high school, going through the college application process, and getting them headed off to college (UVA for one, Carnegie Mellon for the other).

Through it all I trained and raced (very helpful for my mental health), but I was going 100 MPH to make it all happen. A lot of important things slipped - like cooking, eating well, sleeping well, taking care of myself, keeping up with medical appointments, reading - that sort of thing.

I felt like I was on "high alert" constantly and that I had to be productive 100% of the time or I would just get buried. It was exhausting.

No more.

I'm working less now, and have allowed myself the chance to SLOW the HECK down for the summer. But it's not easy to retrain myself. "Just breathe," I have to say often.

I am starting to get back on top of the things that have slipped. June was "medical catch-up month." After one pair of very expensive computer glasses, bloodwork, and a mammogram scare, plus four wisdom teeth removed from the kiddo, we are through that. I've been cooking again and eating a lot better. I renewed my library card and I've read some books. I'm enjoying mowing (only a small part of the property), working in the yard, and doing house projects. My kid and I just finished a puzzle. I'm getting help for a glute/hamstring issue that has plagued me for 6 months. And I'm spending time with friends.

I'm working to recharge my personal batteries.

The hardest thing for me right now? That would be not having my mom to talk to, to share this with, to lean on. We would talk daily, sometimes multiple times per day. She was always my sounding board and advisor.

I recently got a standup paddleboard that I've been enjoying on the river. It's pretty awesome to paddle hard up river and then sit back for a slow, quiet drift back. Those are the times I "talk" to my mom and my dad. The peacefulness from the middle of the river is really healing.

Now back to triathlon, since that is really the point of this blog.

I'm racing the Scenic Mountain Triathlon in West Virginia on Sunday. It will be my first triathlon of the year. Yes, you read that right. My first. I did the Duathlon in April, and then concentrated on the house. My typical 99.5% training compliance dropped to about 85% during the house moving process but it's come back up. I can feel myself getting stronger. I'm not putting down amazing speeds or power, but that's OK. Not every year, not every race needs to be full-throttle.

This August marks one decade for me in the sport of triathlon. The "why" of it has changed for me from year to year. This year my "why" is really focused on being among the community of triathletes. I've been incredibly grateful for my friends over the last few years. As I lost my mom, they have really helped to lift me up, and I hope I do the same for them.

Thank you, friends, for the conversation, companionship, and laughs!

Here's to healing, recharging, and goat snuggles!