Hiking, Traveling, and Racing

Every weekend since moving from NC to VA about a month ago has been packed with a variety of activities. This past weekend was no exception. Since E is working on a Masters in Physical Education, it’s no surprise that the majority of his classmates are interested in activities that require a lot of physical exertion. The guys in the class decided that we should try out an 8 mile hike up to the summit of Old Rag Mountain. As soon as E told me about the weekend plans, I clicked over to the state parks and rec website to do some research on what this hike would entail. 

The website showed pictures of amazing and breath-taking views; however, it also stated that this hike would be difficult and involved rock scrambling. When I think of hiking, I think of walking along dirt-packed paths and slowly ascending to the top of a hill/mountain/what have you. The rock scrambling element was new, but I’m trying to be open to new and different experiences, so I agreed to try it out. 

A group of about 15 of us arrived at the parking lot around 9:30 on Friday morning. The hike started off in a typical fashion. We walked about a half mile from the parking lot to the trailhead and then began walking along a dirt-packed path. Shortly into the hike, it started getting more challenging. The hills became steeper and I had to work hard to keep up with some of the other hikers in our group. I stopped every 20 minutes or so to take some pictures. Even though the hike was difficult, the scenery was amazing. How could I not document the incredible views?

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ImageAfter hiking about 2 miles, we reached the beginning of the rock scramble (which honestly seemed more like bouldering). Now when I say rock scramble I mean using your whole body to hoist yourself up the sides of giant boulders, crawling through rock tunnels, slipping your body through narrow gaps in the boulders, and climbing down boulders only to find more boulders waiting to be climbed. 

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ImageWhile the rock scramble portion of the hike only lasted for about a mile, it seemed like it lasted for an eternity. I don’t think I’ve been more physically challenged in my entire life. By the time the scrambling portion of the hike was over with, I was drenched in sweat and my arms, shoulders, legs, hands, and feet were screaming at me. 

Finally though, we approached the summit. We walked up a teeny, tiny hill and there it was. The top. An amazing feeling of accomplishment washed over me. Even though the journey to get to the top was extremely difficult, it was worth it. Just when I thought the views couldn’t get any better, they did. Our group spent about 30 minutes at the top – eating, drinking, talking, and congratulating each other on making it up there. 

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After an extended rest, it was time to head down. The hike back down to the trailhead was about 5.2 miles and took about an hour to complete. After all was said and done, our total hiking time came in at 5 and a half hours. Not too bad considering that most of the hikers had never climbed boulders before. The website suggested allotting between 7 to 8 hours to hike up and back, so I think we did a great job.

Despite being sore and slightly sunburned, E and I hopped in the car the next morning and headed up to Williamsburg where he was to compete in a half I.ronman distance race on Sunday morning. After visiting the expo and picking up his packet and goodie bag, we walked along the sidewalks of Colonial Williamsburg to find a place for lunch. After eating a delicious and filling lunch, we explored the shops in the area and then headed down to the James River area to rack his triathlon bike in the first transition area. Much to our disappointment, within minutes of pulling into the parking lot, it started to rain. We covered up the bike with plastic bags as best as we could and left it in the transition area to sit overnight. 

After completing the drop off, we headed to our hotel to check in and to find a good spot to eat dinner. Due to an early morning wake up at 4:30, we decided to turn in early and get a few hours of decent sleep. 4:30 rolled around quickly and we were headed down to the second transition area so we could catch a shuttle to the swim start. Even though it was raining as we were driving from the hotel, it stopped as soon as we got out of the car. 

Since this was the inaugural triathlon in Williamsburg, there was bound to be glitches. The first one was the shuttling. Clearly there were not enough buses for all of the athletes and spectators. Due to the shuttle delays, the event coordinators had to push back the swim start. I think E ended up getting in the water about 20 minutes late (no big deal). 

The swimmers were warned before the race began that the water was incredibly rough and choppy. I waited at the swim finish so I could snap a picture of E as he emerged from the water. E typically has his times estimated fairly accurately. I started to get worried as 30 minutes went by, then 35, then 40. I finally saw him in the distance after 42 minutes had passed. After the race was over, E explained that the water was very rough and this swim was the most challenging swim he’s ever experienced. 

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After the swim came the 56 mile bike ride. As E biked and biked and biked, I walked a mile back to our hotel to grab some breakfast and watch some TV before checking out. After inhaling a delicious cinnamon roll, I walked the mile back to the race site and checked the transition area to make sure that I didn’t miss E coming in to start the last leg of the race. His bike wasn’t there, so I waited by the transition area in order to snap a few more pictures of him coming in. 

After a short time, I spotted him biking up the hill and noticed that one of his knees was covered in blood. I came to learn after the race that another rider passed him very closely and startled him. This caused him to lose control of the bike and he went flying off. Don’t worry though, he’s okay and so is the bike. 

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After the bike, came the run. The last leg of the race. While E was busy running a half marathon, I finished up a library book. Around the 5 hour mark, I made my way over to the finish line area. After waiting only 23 minutes, I saw E coming around the corner. He sprinted towards the finish line and officially finished in 5 hours and 23 minutes. This was his fastest half I.ronman time yet. 

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I don’t brag about E and his accomplishments often, but this is a major accomplishment. He trains long and hard for these races while working full-time plus some. Seeing him finish faster and faster (and actually just finishing in the first place) is amazing. 

While I do enjoy watching E do his thing, triathlon spectating is hard work. I’m not so secretly glad that his next out-of-town race isn’t until September. Until then, he plans on running in some local races and training, training, training to beat this time in September. 

 

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