Welcome to Bladen County, North Carolina
Updated: Jul 5, 2022
On behalf of TriRiot (as much as I’d like, I can’t really speak for anyone else), I want to extend a warm welcome to all the athletes coming to North Carolina for the WithoutLimits® Half Pro-Am. It should be understood from the get-go, however, that TriRiot has no official affiliation with the race, so please don’t ask me for a refund if you can’t make it.
In less than two weeks 53 athletes will toe the line for 1.2 miles of swimming, 56 miles of cycling and 13.1 miles of running in the tiny Bladen County town of White Lake, North Carolina.
Thirteen years of training and racing on that course has conferred upon yours truly the wholeheartedly accepted position of welcoming committee chairman: a self appointed title you won’t find in the athlete guide.
So where do we begin?
Ah yes, let’s do a Mike Reilly pre-race dinner welcome: without Mike Reilly because I’m sure he has other things to do.
“Let’s have a big round of applause for everyone from North Carolina! You make up almost half the field with 24 participants.”
The next most represented state is Colorado with eight athletes, followed by Virginia with three. After that, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and South Carolina are sending two athletes each. A total of 17 states will be represented and with so many athletes coming from other states, I thought it might be interesting to write about what to expect when coming to Bladen County, North Carolina.
White Lake is a small town, a very small town. I don’t know if it even is a town. But it is definitely a lake surrounded by residences and a few businesses that cater mostly to vacationers and weekenders. There are two convenience stores, a campground, a water park, mini-golf and a slew of motels. They must love us triathletes, because they let us race there multiple times each year.
For services from a larger town, you’d have to go either to Elizabethtown (7 miles away) or Clinton (30 miles)
Remember 15 years ago when the CIA was criticized for waterboarding their suspects? Well, not much has changed, because the CDC wants everyone wearing masks and in this humidity, that’s like waterboarding an entire population. My point is that it can be quite humid and hot here. In fact, the White Lake races are affectionately known as White Bake. The lake itself is clean, clear and refreshing, but part of the run is notoriously hot. However, the middle of October may be quite pleasant this year. Some of you reading this have probably raced in Hawaii and I hear conditions there are brutal, so you’ll be fine here.
Food applies to everyone, so pay attention. You’re coming to the “South” even though there is a “North” in the state’s name. Food is a huge deal here. Not always a healthy deal, but a big deal. I know you will want to partake in the local cuisine, but let me warn you. It takes a few years of training rides and stopping at the Wam Squam convenience store buying chili dogs from the back room before you get used to southern cuisine. My advice is to bring some food with you and/or pick up some fresh food at the Food Lion in Wallace or at the Fresh Foods Market in Elizabethtown. Wait until after the race before you hit the Country Buffet. But if you like biscuits (which are relatively harmless before a race), stop in to the Hardees in E-Town. For a fast food joint, they make pretty good biscuits.
You say you like hamburgers? Go to Melvin’s in E-town.
I have to mention the tacos around here. Because of our latino population, we have our share of taquerias and tiendas that serve up an amazing eating experience. Rose Hill is a bit of a drive from White Lake, but Enrico’s taqueria (Rico Taco) on the corner of Railroad and Church Streets is worth every mile driven. Buen provecho!
The entire bike course of the race is on rural highways and a giant part of the economy in this state is the hog industry. You will pass, and probably smell, at least one of the hog farms. There’s a big one between miles 40 and 50 on the bike course. The smell of a hog farm, however, is nothing compared to the rendering trucks that drive those highways.
Yes. They pick up dead pigs and chickens from the farms and they look like dump trucks. The backs of the trucks are covered with a cloth material which, I suppose, is there to keep body parts from flying out on the road, because it does not help contain the odor. You’ll know if you pass one. In all the races I’ve done on that course, it has only happened to me once on race day, so you may not have to worry about it at all.
Just pedal faster!
Welcome To Our Corner
Seriously, I want to welcome everyone from the other great states of our nation. This race course is beautiful, flat and challenging. Tom and his group at WithoutLimits put on good events. Scratch that. They put on great events. And the competition here will make you earn your money. So if you will be here on October 17, 2020, I look forward to hurting with you, because…
For many athletes, the greatest amount of pleasure is before and after an event such as the IRONMAN® Triathlon. In between, it just hurts. Scott Tinley, 2015
And if you see me in transition, come say hello. You’ll know me. I’ll be the oldest guy out there.
Until next time…
References ↑1 Tinley, S. 2015. “Finding Triathlon: How Endurance Sports Explain The World.” p. xv. Hatherleigh Press. www.hatherleighpress.com