Sunday, July 24, 2011

Tri Training in the Mountains of Blacksburg

Ellett Valley, where I often ride
Where we live - the terrain, weather, population density - is a significant factor in our training. On my bike ride yesterday, my thoughts turned to what it would be like to train in other locations. Sometimes I think it might be nice to be closer to a lake or ocean, or maybe have a more temperate climate, or have at least a few flatter places to run, but I'd never give up my mountains!

Yesterday's bike ride came at the end of a tough week in terms of training, car issues, family logistics, and some stressful work issues for my husband. I couldn't get out for Saturday's ride at my normal early hour because we had our season-ending championship swim meet all morning. Despite being worn out and facing some hot weather conditions, I could hardly wait to get out and hit the shady back-roads of our mountains and valleys. The valley roads curve gently as they follow along streams and creek beds. The mountain roads can twist sharply to follow the contours of the land, often concealing steeper grades that suddenly appear to challenge the legs and the heart. Then you are treated to the sweet reward of the descent on the other side! Deer are abundant and I get within feet before they dash off into the woods. There are old homesteads, farmlands, and country cottages. It's simply....beautiful. (Disclaimer: there are also rusted-out cars, couches on porches, and planters made from bathtubs and toilets...all part of the SW VA charm!!)

About 24 miles into yesterday's ride a downpour hit and stayed with me for about 6 miles. I love riding in the rain. All you can do is surrender to it. At this point the road was moderate rollers and because of the storm, I passed through shifting air masses with striking differences in temperature, some quite cool and others steaming!  Where else, but on a bike, could you experience weather up-front and personal like this? The storm passed as quickly as it came and it was back to sunny and hot.

I was somehow just profoundly grateful throughout that ride and that feeling kept me strong from start to finish. I am so glad I live here in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

New River in McCoy - I can bike to this spot
We live in the small-ish college town of Blacksburg, Virginia, home of Virginia Tech.  It's a tight-knit community that is great for families and nearly ideal for triathletes. For open-water swims, we have the New River (about 15 miles away) or Claytor Lake (about 30 miles away). There are three pools within 12 miles, one of which is a state-of-the-art 50m competition pool and diving well. I can hop on my bike at the house and ride for hours in many directions without encountering a traffic light.  Running options include cross-country courses, rails-to-trails paths, and trail systems in the very nearby Jefferson National Forest (where I ran this morning with friends Tanya, Becky, and Jennifer.)
Our swim meet was at the newest pool - the Christiansburg Aquatic Center
The downsides of living here would be the lack of nearby open water and the challenging winters which can bring significant snow and ice....and trying to dodge the tailgaters if you run through town during a home football game! 

We make do, and it's all worth it for the beautiful mountains.

candid swim meet picture courtesy of my husband -
Boys and I warming up in the sun between events!