It’s been a long five or six months from registering for Canaan Valley to when I finally arrived at the Canaan Valley Resort on Friday afternoon.
Back then it was late October. I had just ran the Columbus Marathon and was gearing up for Indy. While I was gearing up for my fulls, I was thinking ahead to my spring races. 30 was going to be the year I started venturing to new places, and I had decided on a second life goal related to running. In addition to 50 full marathons before my 50th birthday, I had a new goal to run a half marathon in every state before I die. I was feeling optimistic and hopeful again after experiencing depression, losing my old job and ending my relationship.
Then December hit with Grandma going to the hospital and Grandpa passing away. The optimism disappeared after that and is now slowly peeking its head back out. Kentucky was that first glimmer and a needed escape for Mom and I.
But West Virginia this past weekend was all for me.
Canaan Valley, nestled in the northern part of the state, draws people from all over. In the winter it’s a skier’s dream and in the warmer weather, the resort boasts a beautiful golf course. I’m getting a little ahead of myself though, so I’ll first tell you all about the drive in.
I knew West Virginia was mountainous, but I didn’t realize it was that mountainous. Pretty much from Hocking County (at this point still in Ohio) on, my ears kept popping. There weren’t many stretches of flat land on my way in, and I figured the four and a half hours wouldn’t be too bad, since I was thinking of the road as a straight shot. I was wrong on the “straight shot” part – curved, curves everywhere the locals were comfortably passing me on.
And yet this was one of the most beautiful drives I’ve ever been on. The mountains, the lush greens, the big clear blue sky … That drive was long and it was Heaven.
After almost five hours and a pit stop to get gas, I finally made it to the lodge. The Canaan Valley Resort and Conference Center was the lodging of choice for all the runners coming in from out of town, since the race is on the lodge grounds. I’ve been to a few of the Ohio state lodges before, which tend to have a woody, rustic interior. My brain expected Canaan Valley to be the same, until I got in there and discovered how bright and inviting the lodge is. My room was one of the nicest ones I’ve stayed in, and boasted a nice view of the mountains off in the distance. Since I had some time to kill before dinner and the expo, I decided to take care of some shopping I wanted to do in the lodge gift shop and wander around the lodge.
Dinner was at the Hickory Dining Room. A part of me thought about wandering into Davis, the town just north of me, but I also wanted to eat as early as possible and decided to try the restaurant on site.
While trying to decide on my entree, I ordered the small Canaan salad. I’m not a big salad fan – since I have to cover it in the high-calorie stuff to make it taste good and stick with me – but this particular salad was one of the best I’ve ever had. Greens, Granny Smith apples, cranberries, walnuts, celery, shaved onion and Bleu cheese tossed in a honey cider vinaigrette was perfect. It turns out in small doses I like Bleu cheese.
My entree was the New York strip with a side of mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables. My entree was good, but I still can’t get over that salad. Which is rarely something I say, so that ought to tell you something.
After dinner I made some stops to the expo, the hot tub at the pool and finally to bed after talking to my mom and grandma. It was anyone’s guess what the half marathon would hold the next day, but I was feeling good so I wasn’t worried about it.
The race recap
The short ‘n sweet is that this race is my slowest to date, finished in 2:50:54.
The course weaved through the grounds of the lodge and on the golf course, which I enjoyed and was glad for since the last place I wanted to try running was uphill on the state routes. The morning was perfect weather for a race, and I calculated my finishing time at around 10 am (start time was 7:30 am) so I’d be able to shower in peace afterwards.
Here’s where your girl is stupid.
I figured the hills in West Virginia couldn’t be like Kentucky, with the constant up and down. There were stretches of flat out here, which wasn’t present for me in Kentucky, so I had to be alright and maybe beat my Kentucky time.
I’m telling myself this standing in the starting chute to a half marathon in the literal mountains. We were off and started immediately downhill and to the left …. To climb up a gigantic hill in the first turnaround. I realized how stupid and unprepared I was in the first half mile up hill.
The major down-and-up hills were at miles 1, 3 and 9, with some gravel roads thrown in for good measure. If we weren’t going up and down a steep hill, then slight elevation changes on the golf course and main road were catching up to all of us. I noticed nobody was hauling tail, if that tells you anything about the course.
I felt good during the first loop and okay starting the second. However, the second down-and-up on the gravel told me my body was almost done. By Mile 10, which was preceded by a neverending uphill on the golf course, I bonked. I was done and ran-walk the last 5k.
The run itself was rough, but if nothing else, I did have some beautiful scenery unlike any other. Seeing the sun come up over the mountains is indescribable. I tried to take pictures during walk breaks, and frankly, those were a bigger un-success than trying to beat my Kentucky time. The blurry mess I got didn’t do the beauty of the valley any justice.
So overall, the race was tough, but one I’m glad I did. State #4 is still State #4, and I made a mental note that if I want to come back and run in Canaan Valley again, I’ve got to buckle down on my training.
After a shower and getting a bite to eat, it was time to check out. But I wasn’t ready to head home quite yet. I had another stop I’d been wanting to make since the fall.
Blackwater Falls State Park – Davis, WV
I don’t know how to accurately describe how magnificent Blackwater Falls is.
I saw pictures on social media, of Blackwater Falls and Lindy’s Point, so I knew it was going to be beautiful. However, what I saw in pictures didn’t really capture the entirety of what I saw. The falls and the gorge are massive, and being in the presence of them just served to remind me how small I am in the grand scheme of nature.
Instead of trying to explain myself and flubbing, I’ll just share the pictures for your viewing pleasure.
Final thoughts and recommendations
A piece of my heart is still in West Virginia, and while I don’t know when yet, I know I’m definitely going back to Canaan Valley/Blackwater Falls/Tucker County.
For lodging, I cannot recommend the Canaan Valley Resort and Conference Center enough. The resort is well-maintained, the staff friendly and professional, and everything you could ever need or want to do is available on the grounds.
Blackwater Falls State Park and the town of Davis are two must-sees. I wish I had gotten some pictures of Davis before I left, since it’s quaint but pleasant. Blackwater Falls is beyond words and a place everyone needs to visit once in their lives.
As for the race itself – I would recommend it for the experience. Running in mountains really is unlike anything else. However, unless you already live in a hilly terrain and regularly train on hills, don’t expect to go fast here. I could be wrong of course and maybe runners have PR’ed on those hills. But I’d be willing to bet their shins hurt the next day.
So with all of this being said, I hope you all have a wonderful day ahead. Until the next adventure!
Yours in reading and running,