This past weekend we had 8 family members participate in the Great Greenbrier River Race, a triathlon that consists of a 3-mile run, 4 mile kayak, and 10 mile bike race. Last year 5 of the family competed--this year the ranks grew to include a 3 sons, 2 grandchildren, a cousin, a daughter-in-law, and my niece's boyfriend (we count him as family too).
The race is held in Marlinton, WV, in lovely Pocahontas county. Marlinton is a small town and it seems like everyone turns out for the race. Except for the man directing traffic, who seemed about to have heart failure keeping track of everything and barking orders pretty rudely, the town was welcoming, friendly and made all of us feel at home. (That poor man, though--he needs to volunteer for a different position. Apparently it was way too much stress for him.)
Larry and I opted to drive down early in the morning. Even though Marlinton is pretty much on the other side of the state, we can get there in a little over three hours by taking back ways, which are our favorite way to travel anyway. So the route goes something like this: Rte 33 east to Rte 16; Rte 16 south to I-79 North (I know, it sounds like we're backtracking); 79 north to 19 south (see, we go back the other way!). 19 south to 55 east. 55 east to 219, and 219 into Marlinton. Seems like I might have missed a road in there somewhere, but you get the idea. Many 2-lanes with a few miles on a 4-lane, lots of beautiful scenery, and little traffic.
Since we were in a hurry, I only snapped photos as we drove through the tiny mountain town of Richwood. This is one of our favorite places and it's sad to see so many closed storefronts. I suppose people are driving to Summersville, about 30 miles away, to shop at the Wal-Mart and other chain stores. The downtown of Richwood is virtually dead. Once a thriving lumber town (and with a booming business in wooden clothespins at one time), Richwood was also the home of Jim Comstock and his West Virginia Hillbilly newspaper that was read across the state because of Comstock's wry humor and original take on the news. He also wrote the 25-volume-and-multiple-supplements West Virginia Heritage Encyclopedia that has yet to be rivaled for its comprehensive coverage of West Virginia history and folklore (and by the way, I have a set for sale if you're interested--I ended up with 2 sets somehow).
I badly wanted to stop by Hills Creek Falls, my favorite waterfall in the state with about 500 steps that lead down, down, down to the lower falls and myriads of wildflowers along the descent, but time was pressing so we will have to go back another time. We also had to pass up Cranberry Glades, Droop Mountain Battlefield and all sorts of other really neat places.
In Marlinton, the dogwoods were in full bloom--lovely!
Everyone gathered around the race headquarters to listen to final instructions. After what seemed like an eternity of warnings, advice, comments, and chatter, the racers finally lined up. Then it was more last-minute instructions (really, with all the talk already, how could they have missed anything?) and finally, the runners were off, 15 minutes later than the scheduled start time.
Once the runners left, I knew that I needed to find a place to take pictures. That's my self-designated role. I figure since I can't participate, I can contribute by taking pictures. Last year I took them from the bridge over the river; this year I went for the riverbank so I could get closer photos of everyone taking off.
My nephew Eamon Connelly was first of our family to finish the run, the 4th person to get to the boats. He's a marathon runner but had never kayaked much so he knew he had to make the run fast to make up for what he felt sure he'd lose in the boat. He was 8th on the water so he had a really good start. Next in was my oldest son George, followed closely by granddaughter Haley who beat her dad Derek to the boats. Derek was right behind her though, and then came my son Aaron, grandson Jared, John, and daughter-in-law Jaime.
It's exciting to watch all the kayaks take off--this is Haley in her kayak. Being on the shore was even better than being on the bridge because the intensity of the competitors was so close. The river filled with colorful kayaks and canoes.
Once the boats were gone, we had a little time to kill. We roamed around town a bit then found a place to wait for the bikes to come in. It was much less time than you'd think--for one thing the river was up so that part of the race was a lot faster than last year when there was barely enough water for the boats to float. For another, these guys are just fast!
Eamon was first in again, and again George was behind him, followed by Derek, then Aaron, Haley, Jared, John, and Jaime. Jaime had a pretty bad bike wreck last summer so for her to be racing at all was impressive, and her finishing time was right in the middle of the women racers so for her first triathlon she did well.
We spent a little time with the guys at the house they'd rented for the weekend and then headed home along a slightly different route--this time up Rte 219 to Rte 15 across Point Mountain to Webster Springs and Rte 20 south to Rte 19, then to I-79, Rte 16, Rte 33 and finally, Joe's Run. We were home before 10pm, and more than ready for bed, but my goodness was it a great day.