Why the Greenbrier River Race is Great
I participated in my first Great Greenbrier River Race this year and I think the event is accurately named. The race is great because of the concept, organization and execution.
The concept of the race is challenging, yet achievable. Racers begin with a three-mile run, followed by a four-mile boat paddle and a 10-mile bike ride.ﾠ The race is sufficiently challenging to attract serious competitors, but achievable for families and people who are not in tip-top shape.
I fall into that latter category. I've been working to get back into shape for about a year, but I'm not there yet.ﾠ I stuck with my workout program throughout the winter and I decided to give the race a go.
The run was the most difficult event for me because I haven't been running enough. It was nice to see racers encouraging each other. One girl I ran with for awhile was superb and boosted the spirits of every runner she encountered.
When I got to the boat launch, 90-plus percent of the boats were gone. I had really fallen behind on the run and, in the boat race, with the river running low, it's almost impossible to make up that lost time.
The run was tough and I was glad to get in my little orange kayak that I had rented from Appalachian Sport. But it wasn't the easy paddle down the river that I expected.
Although I have experience in military Zodiac boats, this was my first time in a kayak. I got the hang of it rather quickly and paddled away briskly. About 100 feet down the river, I got stuck on the rocks. I had to get out and pull the boat into deeper water and paddle away again, wasting time and nearly capsizing in the process. About 100 feet later, it happened again. I thought it was going to be a terrible ordeal dragging the boat all the way to Buckeye.
But the river ran better just past Marlinton, probably because of the added water from Knapps Creek, and I did a better job avoiding the rocks. I watched the people ahead of me (who were much more numerous than those behind), to see where there was clear sailing. I only got grounded about five or six times on the way to the beachhead. The paddling became tiresome and I was glad for my time in the gym this winter, when I worked mostly on upper body strength.
At the Buckeye beachhead, I jumped out of my boat and stormed ashore like the Marines at Iwo Jima. But my legs had cramped up in the kayak and I walked it off a few hundred feet to the bike parking lot. My old mountain bike's not a speed racer, but it's good and sturdy. I plan to use it next year and just put a little more air in the tires. Maybe get a seat with a little more padding, too.ﾠ
After a quick drink of water, I started pedaling down the Greenbrier River Trail. You have to ride the wrong way about three miles before you turn around and start the six-mile home stretch to Marlinton. The bike ride wasn't bad and I enjoyed it, although my legs became fatigued. It was a perfect, cool day and the scenery along the trail is just great.
The bike ride is a better opportunity to make up lost time than the boat race. I passed a couple people and chatted with them as I chugged on by. A couple people passed me but they were in too much of a hurry to chat.
As I entered the Town of Marlinton, there was Mayor Dennis Driscoll himself, directing traffic. I told him to tell the rescue squad to set up an oxygen tent for me.
By the time I crossed theﾠ finish line, the fastest racers were already digesting their complimentary lunch and telling stories. I wasn't disappointed with my time, which was more than two-and-a-half hours. My goal this year was to finish and enjoy a great day in the great outdoors. Mission accomplished!
The concept of the race provides a competitive event for a wide variety of participants, from world class athletes to families with dogs and kids.
But turning a plan into reality requires good organization and execution.
A record 445 racers participated in this year's race. The popularity of the event is a result of the hard work of the people who organize it and run it - not just this year, but in years past.
This was the first year the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) took the lead in organizing the event and, from all accounts, they did an outstanding job. In previous years, the Greenbrier River Trail Association (GRTA) was in charge and built a solid foundation to hand off to the CVB.
The event has always been a partnership of several groups including the CVB, the GRTA, Parks and Recreation, the Town of Marlinton and dozens of volunteers.
I hope the pink-shirted volunteers and all the other helpers know they were seen and their work greatly appreciated.
Challenging yourself to compete in a race is a great way to stay healthy and remind yourself that you're still alive. Now would be a great time to start a program to get ready for next year's Great Greenbrier River Race. You'll feel like a million bucks when you cross that finish line. Anybody who wants encouragement or advice, give me a call at 799-4973.
I'm challenging myself to set a world record next year - my personal world record. I want to shave at least 15 minutes off my time. I have a whole year to prepare and so do you.