So it’s been a full week since this year’s GGRR – a run, paddle, bike triathlon held in Marlinton, W.Va., on the Greenbrier River Trail and Greenbrier River. It’s hard to believe that just one year ago this race seemed like such a big new challenge and now it feels like a staple of our family calendar. Last year my husband and I trained for this race by running and biking as much as we could – weather doesn’t really permit us to paddle before the date of the race! On the day of the race last year our parents took the kids downtown to watch al the festivities and cheer us on. Something struck a chord with our oldest son right away. He’d had his own kayak already for a season or two and takes naturally to the water. He REALLY wanted in on this race.
We talked about being a family team this year from that point on, but the rules are a little funny and as a team we can’t do the race together. So we decided to all sign up as solo competitors and each complete the entire race. We would stay together and help him through at his pace.Tucker is 8 1/2 and this was the first race he’s ever signed up for. We did some couch to 5k runs, but really only just a few times, so he didn’t do much training at all.
But he finished the entire thing! Running was super hard for him, he got side stitches almost immediately and struggled but was determined and ran as much as he could. By Craig’s watch we finished the run portion in roughly 40 minutes – running across that mat to our boats I got really emotional because my son was being so brave and tough – just that part was a huge accomplishment. On our boats we faced the wind and moved slow, but Tucker was having an awesome time. We finally made it to our bikes and by that point I think we were behind all the other racers. We got on our bikes and made it a few easy miles before Tucker really started to wear out. He started breathing fast and losing his composure, saying he was too tired and he couldn’t do it several times. Craig cheered him on, and he continued to struggle. Finally I made him stop his bike for a pep talk – we had I think 4 miles left of the 10, and I explained that he would be so proud if he just kept going but it would feel awful to give up now – he was almost there! He looked straight ahead and started peddling his heart out. I turned a Fall Out Boy playlist on on my phone and rode beside him, and we finally rounded the corner back into town a little while later. I don’t think he could believe his eyes! And once again I was all tears. He’d never done a 5K before but managed to do one (in close to the same time as when I ran my first 5 years ago!), then paddle for 4 miles, then ride his bike for 10 more!
Just last year I took this challenge super seriously and now he had conquered it. We were the last finishers, but he was the only 8 year old to complete the entire race. Tucker sat down right away, and we got him some food and lemonade and he bounced back to life almost immediately – and said he would do it again next year!
I later found the race director to confirm that he was the youngest finisher, which she did, and she gave me a 1st place coffee mug for him and said the were proud and expect him back next year. You should’ve seen him when I awarded him with that cup back at our truck in front of all our family. The whole thing was such an emotional experience, and I’m so glad we went for it.
Notes about the race: they have the best atmosphere of any race I’ve done. The whole town participates, they do a fun warm up pre-race, the food is amazing. Love this event so much. One weird thing I don’t understand is the timing. The men start, followed 5 minutes later by teams and then 5 more minutes later by women, and your timing chip doesn’t account for the different start times really. Each year we’ve started with the teams wave so we could run together and our times have been incorrect. A plus, is this year we didn’t even show in the results at all, but when I emailed an inquiry they fixed it within maybe an hour and emailed me back right away.
That evening we celebrated our littlest boy’s 4th birthday to round out the weekend. We love this little getaway, and I think it’s officially a family tradition.
Former journalist, full-time wife and mom of three boys, native West Virginian and amateur adventure seeker