- My first panic attack on the swim
- Man down on the bike
- Where did that time come from?
- Greatest post race meal ever
- The things I'd do for a free wine glass
The Luray Triathlon is actually a weekend long event, since there are 2 races; the International distance on Saturday and the Sprint distance on Sunday. I was racing the International distance and Rebecca was racing the Sprint.
To save a few bucks, we decided that we could make the trip down for the Saturday race the morning of. Unlike most of my races this year, the start time was 8 am, which is at least an hour later than the rest of them, so it gave me a little more time to get to the race venue, which is about a 2 hour drive. So you are probably doing the math in your head. Need to get to the race site at least an hour before, if not more, 2 hours to get there...yea, that's pretty early. The alarm was set for 3:30, with pretty much everything packed up the night before, except for the bikes and a few random things that could not be packed the night before. I prepared my breakfast, wrapped it up for closer to the race, loaded all remaining gear, and we were out the door by just after 4 am. The drive was going fine until we got a bit closer to Luray, when the fog was just terrible. It was dark still and visibility in spots couldn't have been more than 10-20 ft. I was definitely seeing things that didn't really exist, because for the next 30 minutes of the drive, all I starred at was white fog. Made me go a little crazy. But we finally made it and arrived at Lake Arrowhead Park just after 6 am, leaving plenty of time to check in and set up for transition. My rack was not in the greatest spot, since it was on 3 rows from the swim in and run out, and probably 30 rows from the bike out and bike in, but I got there early enough to be able to select a good spot on my rack, with plenty of transition space. With about 15 minutes to go, I headed down to the beach for the race start.
The first wave of the International distance consisted of male elites and all 29 and under males. I seeded myself a few people back and on the far left, since the swim was all right turns. The swim course was a triangle loop of 750m done twice for the International distance, once for the Sprint. Water temperature was 74 degrees, but felt much warmer since the air temperature at the time was only about 60 degrees. It was actually quite refreshing.
The countdown began and the horn sounded to start the race. I took it easy on the first loop, just hoping to get through the swim cleanly. After I made the turn for the first buoy, I was faced with my first obstacle of the day: the sun. This section of the course headed straight into the path of the sun, and between the glare of the sun reflecting off the water and the yellow turn buoys, it made it a challenge to sight properly. The other thing was that in my mind, I thought this section of the course was much more of a straight line, but it turned out to be a bit more diagonal, which made my swim pretty far wide about half way through the length. For a while, I was sighting off of people near me, but for a period of time, I couldn't find anyone, so I just kept swimming where I thought I should go. Eventually, I found myself about 25 yards wide of where I should have been and began correcting course and I neared the next turn buoy to make it back to shore. I finally made it to the end of lap 1, rounded the buoy, and then some person from one of the later waves swam on top of my to pass by. I've had this happen plenty of times. Usually, I just let them go, try my best to move out of my way, and go back to swimming my slow strokes. Not this time. This speedster decided that she (I believe - it's so hard to tell in the moment) would not only swim on top of me, but karate chop her stroke into my back. You'd think the neoprene of a wetsuit would cushion the blow, but it did not. I got hit so hard, it halted my breathing and I swallowed a big gulp of water down my throat. For what seemed like the next minute (probably less), I tried to tread water, while simultaneously coughing and gasping for air. It wasn't pretty and it felt worse. I nearly threw in the towel and swam to shore, since I was only about 50 meters away, but I just decided that this wouldn't be a great day, and I'd just continue on and see what happens.
The 2nd lap was much better than the first, in terms of sighting and contact. Maybe the sun moved, maybe I had more people to keep watch of on the bad part of the swim...either way, I was able to stay on a straight line with the course. The only thing I'd change about the 2nd lap was in the last hundred of so of the swim, I sighted way too often. I feel like I do that in every race too. I know I am going in the right direction, but I keep looking to see how much closer I am. It's stupid though, because if I just put my head down and swam, I'd save myself some solid time. But at least in this case, I wanted out of the water more than anything in the world after having the swim experience I did, so that is how I am justifying it. Once I got to the ramp, I looked down at my watch and was absolutely shocked at what I saw. I don't recall the 2nd two digits, but the 1st two read 28. As in 28 minutes! My PR on Olympic distance swim courses is 29:51 at Columbia this year and the mat was right at the end of the water. My official time was 29:22, but that was after a jog across the beach, so this was a huge PR for me by probably close to a minute. And after having gone through the swim I did, I was ecstatic to see those numbers. maybe this day wasn't going to be so bad afterall.
After the run across the beach, everyone crosses the timing mat and then runs across some grass before heading up a long wood staircase. Some people walk this, others run. After looking at my watch, I decided to run, as I peeled down my wetsuit. I bounded to the top and ran over to my transition area. The one mistake I made here was that as I was peeling down my wetsuit, I forgot to use my feet to mash down the neoprene from my legs, before hitting ground to pull the rest off. I spent a good deal of time trying to peel of the wetsuit from my legs and eventually around my ankle. But once I did, I put on my socks, shoes, glasses and helmet and was on my way in 2:43. Not all that fast, but it included the climb up the stairs.
The bike course for Luray is hilly. Luray is set at the foothills of the Shenandoah Mountains and the course contains mostly rolling hills, a long false flat, and 2 or 3 big climbs. Oh and there is 1 big downhill, but that is it. My watch measured the course at 26 miles even, with 1660 ft elevation gain, which is pretty significant for that distance.
The course starts out with a big climb, less than 1/4 mile out of transition. As I began attacking the climb, I came upon a guy I've casually spoken to a lot since we train at the same pool and go to the same cycling hill workouts. As I was chatting with him while we were climbing the hill, this woman came up on my left, but without announcing herself. Since we are on a big climb, her control was shaky at best and she not only came up on my without saying "On your left" so I could move over, but she rocked her front tire right into my, and forced me down. The good news was that were were only going about 10-12 mph at the time, so there wasn't any major damage. Just a couple of bumps and scrapes that looked way worse from the eventual dried blood that accrued on my arm. The bad news the fact that in the crash, my aero drink bottle spilled out all its contents, which was my planned calories for the bike. The other bad news was that the strap I used to hold the aero drink in the bracket in place tore, so when I made an attempt to just put the empty aero drink back into place, I pedaled for about 10 seconds before it fell off again. It was at this point that I had to make the executive decision to ditch the aero drink and tossed it into the grass on the side, so nobody would hit it while they were climbing up the hill. But that just means I now get to buy new gear! Following that ordeal, I was pretty raging mad, because the women that hit me, didn't even stop or bother to slow down to make sure I was ok. All I know is, is that it was 100% her fault. There is nothing else I could have done differently. Had she announced to me that she was there, I would have moved over or at least been more alerted that someone was right there. Instead she just rammed into me and left me for dead. Fortunately, I wasn't and plenty of people who were climbing past me slowed enough to give me room to compose myself and I can't even count the number of people that asked to make sure I was alright. Thank you to all the kind triathletes who weren't idiots trying to ram their bikes into me like a weapon. I appreciated your concerns.
Raging mad, I hopped back onto my bike after checking to make sure the bike was working ok, and climbed the 2nd half of the hill. The only positive out of this was that I probably rode a bit harder than I normally would have, because I was passing a lot of people to make up the time I lost due to the spill. Eventually, I caught back up to my buddy and told him about the ordeal and continued on my way. The course is in the shape of a lollypop, where you do 2 loops of the top part of the lollipop for the International distance and 1 loop for the Sprint. Once making the turn on the first part of the loop, there is a short, but steep uphill, followed by a nice long downhill where you can really pick up some speed. After I climbed to the top, I bombed down the backside, pushing speeds well into the 40s. The only problem at this point was that because this part of the course, went into a valley, the fog came back. I was wearing my sunglasses at the time, because the sun was out, but the fog was just really nasty and I was having terrible issues seeing well. I took them off and stashed them in my back pocket until later in the race, when I was riding into the sun. The rest of the bike course went pretty smoothly. I played cat and mouse with a few people and ultimately won in the last 8 or so miles, passing them both on a false flat leading back to transition. There was one final hill, the largest of the course, which gets you right back into transition, that was piled full of people when I approached it. Last year while watching Rebecca race the Sprint, I stood at the top to cheer on competitors and watched many people walking their bikes up the last 1/4 of it. I was well aware of the hill and just pushes as hard as I could, passing a bunch of people. I rolled back into transition, where I perfectly executed a flying dismount in a time of 1:22:16, for an average of 19.1 mph according to my watch. And of course, this included my spill, so I pretty stoked about this numbers even though I would have liked to come in closer to 20 mph.
By far, my best transition ever. I rolled my bike all the way to the other end of transition to find my spot, slipped on my shoes, took off my helmet, grabbed my race belt and visor and was on my way in 50 seconds. After last race, where I forgot to take off my helmet, I made sure to nail it this time.
One of my goals for this race was to go hard on the run. I've felt like with each Olympic distance race, I go out way too tentatively. In previous years, this was because I would always cramp up, but with better fitness, and the discovery of Endurolytes, I seem to have solved my cramping issues. I knew I could push harder on the run and with all the long runs I've been doing, I knew I could PR the run too. I just didn't know what that pace would be, having swam 1500m and biked 26 miles. The International distance run course is 2 loops of the 5k course for the Sprint race. The good news was that I'd know where to push hard on the 2nd lap. The bad news was that I'd be about 20 feet from the finish line when I would hit the turnaround for lap 2.
I took off hard out of transition to see how my body responded. Faced with my first hill, I pushed without much issue and found some runners to pace off. Once we hit the first mile marker, I made the decision to look down at my watch. In my mind, I felt that a run PR was definitely likely, and that I may even be able to pull out an overall PR if things went really well. My run PR in an Olympic distance is 19:55, which was on the hilly Columbia course. I was running just over 7:00/mile pace through the first mile and by doing the math in my head, I figured I'd need to run someone slightly under a 50 minute 10k, which if I kept any pace close to this, it could easily be done. Lap 1 came and went, with only a few short 5 second walks at the water stops to take a drink and then I'd pick up my pace again. The 2nd lap was pretty much a blur, other than it felt a lot shorter. With 1 mile to go, I was pretty sure I was going to PR both the run and my overall time, but I kept up the pace just to make sure. With about 10 feet to go to the finish, the course moved from a gravel road, slightly downhill to the grass. Just as the grass began, there was a bit of a ditch that was lower than the rest of the ground. Leave it to me to hit that square on as I sprinted toward the finish, only to find my leg hyperextended, which casued a hamstring cramp just before the finish. One of the catchers at the finish line said "way to push through to the finish" after I crossed the finish line, but I wanted to say "F U, there should be a cone there so people don't kill themselves." Sure enough, on Sunday there was a cone on top of the ditch so people didn't kill themselves. Though I still saw one guy hit a spot close to it and almost eat grass with his face about 2 feet before the finish line, as he tried to recover from the surprise of hitting the ditch. Rough times out there.
Anyways, I crossed the finish line with a run split of 47:09, and a big time PR of almost 2 minutes!
My final time was 2:42:17, also a big PR of 1:45! So in all, especially considering the trouble I had on the swim and bike, it turned out to be quite the successful race. I was shocked at the results to say the least, but happy nonetheless.
So I think that explains 3 out of the 5 alternate titles to this post. Let me explain the last 2. For dinner on Saturday, Rebecca and I went to this place called the Brookside Diner or something like that. We came across it in the hotel booklet of local restaurant and it was described as "a family restaurant with great home cooking." We opened the menu when we got there to find a large selection of burgers, steak, chicken, and salads. In my post race euphoria, it all looked amazing! But one thing stood out and it was one of the specials called the Bobwood Sandwich. This baby was topped with:
- Grilled onions
- French fries
- Swiss cheese
- Fried egg - Thanks Rebecca for remembering!
All split between 2 slices of bread that was grilled to perfection. Oh was it delicious. And I would have taken a picture for you, but it looked too good to have to wait long enough for that to happen, so I just finished it in one bite. Yup. Open mouth. Sandwich gone. Ok not really, but if I could have fit it, I would have. Rebecca got a loaded baked potato topped with broccoli and cheddar cheese, along with a big bowl of salad. It was also delicious. If you are ever in Luray, go here. It was money.
The 2nd alternate title refers to what I could have won if I did both triathlons. Rebecca and I were fortunate enough to win free entry into this race, so had I known that althetes who do both races get a free prize, I would have reconsidered doing the Sprint as well. Turns out, the free gift was a really nice wine glass that was engraved with the race information on it. Pretty nice prize. Maybe next year.
Sunday was Rebecca's turn to rock the Sprint race, but I'll let her tell her story.
Back to the wine though...one of the things that we love about coming out to this part of Virginia is going to the wineries. Last year, in preparation for Rebecca doing the Sprint, we came out here to pre-ride the course and stopped by some of the many wineries on the way back. Whether its going for a ride or hike out in the Shenandoah Mountains, we always try to make it to at least 1 winery. After the Sprint, we headed out to 2 wineries. Well, actually we headed out to 4, but 2 of them didn't really exist. Thanks GPS! So with the 3rd time being the charm, we hit up 2 wineries that were close to each other and managed to buy 4 bottles of the ones we liked.
The drive back to town was a bit of a challenge though, because after 2 wine stops, racing a triathlon the day before, and getting little sleep 2 nights in a row, it all finally caught up to me. Rebecca was nice enough to pass out for the last 30-40 minutes of the ride, so I had to amuse myself by sticking various things up her nose while she slept. Just kidding. I wouldn't do that ;) Sure enough, she woke up about 3 blocks from home and conveniently said "Are we home already?".
Despite the rough drive back, we had an excellent weekend of racing and enjoying ourselves. Can't wait to do it again!
Pictures to come...