The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Life!

May 14, 2014

Tri it … (You’ll like it)

The Glade Springs Charlie Williamson Memorial Triathlon

— The Glade Springs Triathlon happening June 14 at The Resort at Glade Springs is now in its seventh year of testing the limits of athletic endurance for entrants in it to win it overall, those fighting for a new “PR” and ones just happy to be there and to finish.

The abbreviated “sprint” version of a full-fledged Ironman, the race will begin at 9 a.m., with group and individual competitors going the distance in three stages: a 750-meter lake swim, a 13.3-mile hilly bike ride and a final, energy-depleting 5K run (3.1-miler).

By reputation, this beauty is a beast indeed — a trifecta of “no pain, no gain,” the course is scenic enough to distract and strenuous enough to challenge, but not brutal enough by design to take procrastinators entirely out of the race. Say two of the event organizers, Dr.     E.J. Salon and Mark Rotellini, novices and masters are both welcome and needed to keep Charlie Williamson’s legacy of athleticism going strong.

“You could just about come off the couch and do this,” Rotellini states, only half in jest, indicating the race that now has more competition from other scheduled competitive events can still use more participants.

“If you partner up,” Salon adds, “that’s not an exaggeration. If you don’t swim, find a swimmer; if you don’t bike, find a cyclist. We can help if you want to relay as a group and not have to do all three events by yourself.”

One of the founders of the Glade Springs Triathlon, Salon explains how it came to be named in memory of Charlie Williamson.

“Williamson was one of the original committee members for the event. He was training for the triathlon when (the accident that took his life) happened.”

When Williamson passed away, the Glade Springs triathlon committee worked closely with Charlie’s widow, Gail Williamson, and the Williamson family, to re-establish the triathlon in Charlie’s name and to give the proceeds to Charlie’s Fund established through Beckley Area Foundation.

“The family uses the funds to support area kids, especially to help them get into sports and stay active,” said Salon.

The fund, directed by Charlie’s family, has supported Mac’s Toy Fund, purchased helmets and bikes for children and supported other children’s activities, like special bike classes for exceptional children.

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Described by online racing sites as one of the most beautiful and challenging courses against which to go the ultimate distance, the USA Triathlon-sanctioned Glade Springs Charlie Williamson Memorial race has earned bragging rights as a well-organized swim, bike, run and a worthy testing ground for weeks of participant training efforts.

Jason Skaggs, 36, of Mullens, is a regular participant in the event. By day, he works in the coal mining industry, having begun his training for triathlons just four years ago. Now, he uses sprint series events like Glade to train for larger venues, including the biggest item on his menu for this year, the full-length Ironman Maryland triathlon — a 2.4-mile swim to start and a 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run to follow.

Skaggs credits a former trainer at the Beckley YMCA, Tom Hamilton, with transferring the competitive fever.

“Tom was a triathlete and we just started talking. He told me to try the Richwood triathlon and I decided to do it. I thought that would be my only one.”

Skaggs has now completed 23 triathlon events, including four half-Ironman races (a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile cycle ride and 13.1-mile run to the finish line).

As for many who enter the field of triathlons, swimming presents   Skaggs with his biggest challenge.

“I’m still working on form. You can’t just jump in and go. It’s like being in a big washing machine. Especially in the half-Ironman where there may be 200 or more people in your age group. You get kicked, punched, slapped in the water. The sprints aren’t as bad, though.”

A former boxer for Butch McNeely, Skaggs says he’s taken considerably more of a beating as a triathlete than he ever did inside the ring.

“It challenges you — it’s only you against you. Sometimes you can be your worst enemy.”

Also a dedicated father to 10-year-old daughter Kaylea, who succinctly confirms Dad as “awesome,” Skaggs’ typical day is up at 4 a.m. to work, training after and home by 9 p.m., five or six days each week.

“My ultimate goal is really to help other people like those who helped me when I was getting started. Hopefully I can inspire somebody to get out here and do this. It beats partying and a lot of other things you could be doing.”

This will be Skaggs’ fourth consecutive year competing in the Glade Triathlon.

“It’s a beautiful course, but it’s also pretty challenging. The bike makes or breaks you at Glade, in my opinion.” Skaggs finished fifth overall at last year’s event and is vying for a top three overall finish this year.

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Seasoned athlete or someone looking to launch a campaign for personal fitness while helping out a worthy charity, those interested in the Glade Springs Triathlon can still sign up as individual competitors or they can share the burden with a couple of friends.

Salon and Rotellini confirm their committee has done everything possible to ensure a sporting event like none other in the area.

“This year, we have a pool party planned for Friday, June 13, and a picnic for Saturday, June 14, after the race,” Salon states.

The triathlon committee is also excited to welcome young competitors from the Mid-Atlantic Talent ID Series.

“It’s an organization designed to foster the development of young athletes ages 13 to 19. They will be at our race this year,” said Salon.

A Kid’s Fun Run rounds out the day’s activities, following a separate 5K race. New this year is a challenge issued to area gyms and fitness centers.

“The Glade Springs Tri Fitness Club Challenge 2014 trophy will go to the gym with the best member performance average overall,” said Salon.

Participants, gym-affiliated and not, will also receive a goodie bag with entry, including a tech T-shirt, with sizes for both men and women.

If food, fun and swag aren’t enough enticement to sign up, how about cold, hard cash? Male and female overall triathlon winners will receive $500 for first place, $200 for second and $100 for third.

Registration is $70 per person or $100 total per group. To register, visit jonesracingcompany.com/glade-springs-triathlon

— E-mail: lshrewsberry@register-herald.com

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