Share |

Sunday, July 10, 2005 -- Richwood, WV
Scenic Mountain Triathlon (iPO Event Id#: 6659)
Story and photos by Jason Black

[Details] [Coverage]

Pictures: [Set 1] [Set 2] [Set 3] [Set 4] [Set 5] [Set 6] [Set 7] [Set 8] [Set 9]
[Overall Results] [Results by Class]
Past Coverage: [1998] [1999] [2000] [2001] [2004]

Photo by Jason Black
The triathlon begins with a splash in Summit Lake
When the excitement and challenge is as real for the spectators as it is the contestants, then you know you put on a successful triathlon. That is exactly what happened during this past weekend's event. Said to be West Virginia's oldest and longest running triathlon, the Scenic Mountain Triathlon lives up to its name. It's scenic, it's surrounded by West Virginia mountains, and it's beautiful.

The beginning of the race started as it has for the past twenty years. The contestants started on the swimming leg of their grueling day. After a flurry of water, arms, and cheers, I hopped in my car to head to the transition point to get my next set of pictures.

Photo by Jason Black
See any bears out here?
As I approached the area some 17-miles down the road, I encountered a Rainbow Family Gathering. Rumored to be the largest non-organization of non-members in the world, the Rainbow Families traditions are said to be based on Native American traditions. Every year, this "non-organization" of thousands gathers in National Forests and for 2005, their annual gathering happened to be in the Cranberry Glades of West Virginia, the exact same location of the triathlon.

There are mixed emotions about these types of gatherings, especially for the U.S. Park Service who's trying to publish regulations to make the Rainbow Gatherings illegal. The triathletes were certainly surprised to see numbers of Rainbow Warriors in addition to the many spectators who were positioned at the start and finish.

The first thing I heard as I stepped out of my car was "Did you see that BEAR?!" Apparently one of the volunteers of the race, Gary Hewitt, was driving his Volkswagen bug along the same stretch of road that the athletes were going to be coming down and a cub and it's large mamma jumped into the road. The mamma bear was not to intimidated by Gary's Volkswagen and feared for her cub. The bear turned, arched it's back and let out a roar at the vehicle. Can you imagine if it had been one of the bikers who stumbled on to this once in a life time situation? Luckily, no athletes encountered the bear, but it certainly would have changed dynamics of his race. Welcome to the hills of West Virginia.

Photo by Jason Black
Williamson's 19th Triathlon
Participating in his 19th Scenic Mountain Triathlon was Charlie Williamson. Williamson, 67 years young, appears 15 years younger when you meet him in person. You'd never know that he's 3 years away from 70. He looked very strong and finished his race without missing a beat.

In another impressive showing the first place overall trophy went to Morgantown native Brandon Merritt with a blazing time of 1:40:54. When I asked him what the toughest part of the race was he passed along the same information that a number of other athletes did. "The last few miles of this race are uphill and it just about killed me!" The second place person to find the finish line was Robert Smith with a time of 1:43:55. The third place honors went to Jeremy Bartley (1:47:10).

Photo by Jason Black
The ladies strike a pose
The race for the women's title was a little more of a battle, with first place going to Staci Aulick with a time of 1:51:02. The second and third place trophies went to Donna Elder (1:52:51) and Amy Robbins (1:56:33) respectively.

For the Record...
In all of the races I've covered this year for iPlayOutside, I rate this as one at the top of my list. It's truly one of my favorite events. I enjoy coming to this part of West Virginia to enjoy the Monagahelia National Forest and the small town of Richwood. Getting to see a wonderful event like thus is just a bonus next to all of the other things this place has to offer. Next year, do yourself a favor and spend some time in this gem of a place. It doesn't matter if your racing, watching, or just enjoying your surroundings you, won't be disappointed.