Three decades of triathlon, and another snake!

7 May, 2017             Three decades of triathlon, and another snake!

I was hiking with the dogs Saturday morning when a woman named Pam pointed out a  baby Barred Owl on one side of the trail:

Adolescent Barred Owl at Pony Pasture

And its parent (presumably) on the other:

If you’re watching a young Barred owl, look around – its parent is watching you.

My friend Andrew drove with me to Lake Anna State Park this morning where we tied for first place in the 2017 Peasantman Triathlon. True excerpt from their web site: “As previously mentioned, We allow people to mix distances (i.e., sprint swim, oly bike, oly run or any such combo), cheat, and pull a Rosie Ruiz on the run, so don’t expect any age group awards. The people finishing in front of you, probably cheated.” They don’t give real awards, they just have a podium at the end and you can stand on it as you see fit. Since Andrew and I crossed the finish line side-by-side in first place, here we are standing side-by-side on the first place spot on the podium:

Andrew and me at the top of the podium tied for first place

We’re holding up a “three” in one hand and a “zero” in the other because this was my thirtieth year in triathlon. My first race was the Karen Dudley Memorial Triathlon at William and Mary in 1987. As a long time endurance athlete, I have more than my share of obsessions, not least being a selective hoarder (is that an oxymoron?)0 This is my training log entry from my first race:

The blue line is my first ever triathlon – April, 1987

One more picture of Andrew and me. This time with our bikes. I don’t know if it’s legible in this picture, but on the top tube of my bike it says “Jay” and on the top tube of Andrew’s bike it says “Jay’s 30th.” I knew it was my thirtieth anniversary and I knew I was happy about it but I didn’t know Andrew had done any of this stuff:

Andrew and me with our bikes post-race

Andrew is much faster than me – I’ve been in a number of triathlons with him where he has really gotten to stand on the podium. Not a toy podium. Andrew is serious. But he was so enthusiastic and supportive of my race today, he did the entire bike and the entire run alongside me. And we crossed the finish line together! I cannot say how grateful I was to have an old friend share this day with me. And make an already fun experience even more fun!

Fair warning non-snake people – there’s another snake at the bottom of this post. This time it’s a black snake at Pony Pasture. So as you get near the end of the post, veer off if snakes aren’t your thing.

A lot of other fun stuff has happened this week – good thing I didn’t have to train a whole lot! Evelyn has our roses in extravagant bloom:

Evelyn’s stunning roses

I got my first Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus ) of the year this week. Hopefully I’ll have a better picture soon:

Rose-breasted grosbeak

I’m running out of steam fast. A few more pictures and I’m going to bed. I’m getting plenty of Gray catbirds (Dumetella carolinensis) this week:

Gray catbird


A quick moment so the anti-snake people can see this before they duck out. I’ve always thought about my parents during triathlons, primarily during the swim. My mom was an avid swimmer for her entire life. I was thinking about her while I was swimming today, and that hearing from her post-triathlon was as gratifying and  reliable as hearing from her after a blog post. I did my first triathlon at 25 years old, and I’m sure I heard from her right afterward. She and Dad accompanied me to several. I was swimming in the gorgeous lake this morning and thinking about not hearing from her after the race.

I guarantee – 100% – that I am less athletically gifted than any other long time triathlete, ever. I have one talent that helps me cross all these finish lines, and I get half of it from Mom and half from Dad – I’m stubborn. Since I’m a brain injury survivor, I may more accurately be described at “hard-headed.” Lenin, the communist revolutionary from the early twentieth century said that “quantity is its own kind of quality.” So hopefully I’ll be back in 2018 for year thirty-one. 

Stubbornness can get you far in life. It can get you in trouble, but it can get you far. But the unwavering and unquestionable and unconditional love and support I got from the two of them for my entire existence was really what made all this possible. I talk about it almost never. But I think about it almost daily.  

I’ll put a picture of a chipmunk below this as a buffer for non-snake folk. Then it’s on to the snake. I took a really cool short video with it.


And why not a picture of Mackey, Turner and Yuki taking a hike break at Pony Pasture on Thursday: 

Mackey, Turner and Yuki taking a breather at Pony Pasture:

Chipmunk on our woodpile at home:

Cutest rodent in our neighborhood

On to snakes. I believe – but am not positive – that this is a Northern Black Racer (Coluber constrictor). It may be an Eastern Ratsnake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis); both are in the park. 

Here’s a picture with Mackey in the background for scale: 

Black snake in foreground; black dog in background:

Here’s the snake’s head, closer: 

Cooperating for a closeup

I got a beautiful video of that snake crawling and sticking its tongue out, testing the air. It’s about twelve seconds long and well worth your twelve seconds if you think snakes are interesting. It’s a good video – check it out:

And have a great week! And come back next week! All best,








About Jay McLaughlin

I am a rehabilitation counselor. I have many friends with autism and traumatic brain injuries. They help me learn new things constantly. I hike with dogs at the James River in Richmond - a lot. I've completed an Iron distance triathlon a year for 11 years. My most recent was in Wilmington, NC in November, 2013. I currently compete in mid-distance triathlons. And work and hike and take pictures and write and eat.
This entry was posted in Birds, Dogs, Endurance, Flowers, Fun, James River, People, Pony Pasture, Rivers, Snakes and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Three decades of triathlon, and another snake!

  1. Sheila Wiese says:

    Love this blog!!

    • Thank you! I LOVE writing it! And I REALLY love getting comments! Have a great week,



      PS For those of you who don’t know our family, Sheila is one of my two sisters.

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