Authored by: Zabeth Billingham
2021 was my first White Mountain Triathlon, and I’ll definitely be back! As expected from the name, this is a hilly triathlon, not a fast one, but a great challenge for your climbing ability.
The venue is located at Franconia Notch State Park, NH, at the base of Cannon Mountain Ski area. Transition is set up in a parking lot just above the gorgeous Echo Lake. I was really glad to arrive Friday afternoon for packet pick up, in order to soak up the views of Franconia Notch and Cannon Mountain, and get a chance to drive the bike course. There are many rental properties and campgrounds to stay at nearby, including some RV campsites overlooking transition, but I was lucky to room with Nancy in her mountain hideaway near Conway, NH.
This well-run small Triathlon offers Sprint, Olympic, and Half-Iron events, as well as an Aquabike option at each distance. Nancy signed up for the Sprint (her third time) while I chose the Olympic Aquabike for my first time.
The swim in Echo Lake definitely felt chilly in the low 60s; at 1900 ft elevation, the lake serves as the water source of Cannon’s snow-making. Though ordinarily very clear, a brisk wind turned the lake a hazy green with mild chop. The rectangular course provided into-to-the-wind, crosswind, and downwind swim legs, and I appreciated the extra help from the breeze pushing me back to the beach at the end.
A short uphill run put me in transition, and I was soon out of my wetsuit and on the road. Both Olympic and Half-Iron courses start with a short uphill past the Cannon Ski resort parking lots, then an exciting 3+ mile 10% descent on Route 18. I loved the fast downhill, though needed to pay attention to avoid a few frost heaves and the light traffic on the open course.
Once in the little town of Franconia, the course turns south and rolls along scenic Route116, past farms – one with shaggy Scottish highland cattle — and magnificent views of the woods and mountains. Just after mile 13, the route turns on itself. I greeted the cows again before turning right at Wells Road to start the winding climb back. I and relieved to see the less direct return climb averaged only 3.4%. At mile 20, a 2 mile Strava segment up Rt 141 provided an extra KOM challenge for those with the lungs and legs for it, but I was glad just to arrive at the top and follow the bike path back to transition.
Finished with my race, I headed to the face finish to photograph Nancy on her final climb. While we enjoyed our post-race barbecue and free craft brewery beer, we heard both our names announced! We collected our handsome slate coasters and baby pine trees – some of the most creative prizes I’ve ever seen, and had our photos taken.
Highlights of the White Mountain Triathlon for me were:
- The spectacular mountain scenery
- The challenging hilly course
- The sweet lightweight grey hoody in our SWAG bags
- Sharing podium finishes and a well-earned beer with my teammate Nancy!