Hooray for Luray! I returned for the Luray International Triathlon after two years (since I and several co-workers had gone up to Mont Tremblant last year) and it was just as tough as I remembered it to be! Well, I guess I can really only say that for the bike course, since I didn’t do the run last time. While the run course in itself wasn’t tough, coming right after a monstrous bike ride left my legs feeling like… well, feeling like they couldn’t move after the race. It’s like that “oh it hurts so good!” feeling ;-)
I left DC headed towards Luray on Friday afternoon with a couple of co-workers and we got stuck right in the middle of rush-hour traffic. Yuck! This is what people deal with every day, twice a day??? No thank you!
Once we got to Luray, right about 6pm, we headed to packet pick-up at Appalachian Outdoor Adventures, where we were greeted by a bear, and I just had to get a picture (or two or three, as you’ll see later).
And then we headed to our cabin. I was curious to check this place out, since we had stayed at a hotel (more likely a motel) last time. We had to drive up a gravelly dirt road, and it took a couple of tries to find the place. Let’s just it’s a good thing it wasn’t dark yet! But the cabin itself was pretty nice and spacious, aside from the sick taxidermy fetish.
Then we went to dinner at Mimslyn Inn- I remembered seeing the menu last time and it wasn’t very vegan-friendly. Nothing had changed. A substandard vegan meal, combined with very slow service, some guy wailing on his guitar (or whatever instrument it was), and my sleepiness means that I wouldn’t recommend this place. By the time we got back to the cabin, I just put my things together for the next morning’s race and then went to bed.
Race morning, yay! I woke up early, as I always do, and got race-ready. When I stepped outside I discovered that- yikes!- it was kind of cold out there! I was definitely feeling like it should be wetsuit weather. Imagine being wet and then stepping into the cold air. Not fun.
When my cabin-mates were ready as well, we all headed down to Lake Arrowhead. We were very close, only about a mile, but the road was gravelly, and riding our bikes there wouldn’t have been smart. Lake Arrowhead, as I remembered it from last time, was still so pretty.
Ok, enough background, let’s get on to the actual race!
The Swim: The water temperature was a nice 77°F, in contrast to the 55°F air. Since the water was still within the wetsuit-legal limit of 78°F, I decided to wear my wetsuit. The past two triathlons I did this summer, I didn’t wear a wetsuit and my legs had just felt like dead logs on the bike and run, because I’d expended so much energy kicking to stay afloat. Well, I didn’t want to make that same mistake again, even though I was worried about the amount of time it takes me to get the darn wetsuit off. I’m happy to report that I swam what is very likely my fastest 1500m open-water swim ever, though it was by no means fast by other people’s standards, just by my standards. And that’s all that really matters.
In addition to the wetsuit, what helped was having the various swim waves start only two minutes apart. What that meant was that I was always surrounded by people, and oh boy I didn’t realize that open-water swimming was such a contact sport! I was jostled from every which side, even knocked on the head twice, but at least the proximity of other swimmers helped me to stay on track and not let the current carry me too far off course. Right near the end, some guy waved his arm into my face and my goggles got shoved a bit. Still on my face, but I don’t think I had a tight seal anymore, but I was right at the end, so I just kept my face above water.
T1: Oh, the long slog from the lake up to transition. The path was really gravelly (noticing a theme?), so I’d kept my flip-flops by the beach. As I got out of the water, I ran through a sandy path and put them on (so now I’ve got sand stuck on my feet, great) and continued on the path, up the stairs (stairs, in a transition!) and to the transition area. Unlike in most triathlons where I have this crazy problem of not being able to find my bike, I quickly found my bike because I’d laid a bright pink towel on the ground next to it. And I’m glad that, while my wetsuit did not effortlessly come off, my legs were only stuck in it for a few seconds and was able to pull it off. Maybe the BodyGlide helped? Who knows, but I think I need to buy a sleeveless wetsuit, because it definitely felt like a lot of work to be swinging my arms around, encased in all that neoprene.
The Bike: From last time, I remembered the bike course to be tough, but I was still rudely surprised. Especially by that last hill, er, mountain. Maybe it wasn’t that steep, but after about 25 miles of hills, it was not a pleasant sight for sore legs. The course itself was nice and scenic, though. Small homes, large farms, cows grazing by the side of the road. Of course, with animals come smells… One thing I definitely did not like seeing was a sign at someone’s farm for “Broilers”. “Broiler”, of course, means broiler chickens, which means a factory farm. And, sure enough, I saw a long, low row of buildings inside which I am certain must have been hundreds of chickens being fattened for imminent death.
I can’t say that I passed many people on the bike, but at least I didn’t get a flat! At one point, though, in the second half of the course, I started to hear a flapping sound, so of course my first thought was, “Oh great, I got a flat!” But I didn’t want to stop and actually check it because, and it’s really weird logic, I didn’t want to know if my tire had started going flat. Ignorance is bliss, or something like that. Well, several miles later, the noise stopped. My best guess is that something from the road got caught in the spokes or something. I’m glad the trouble-maker dislodged itself! I’ll just say that that’s the reason I was being passed by everyone, including people in sneakers.
T2: Nothing too memorable here, except we came in the same way we’d gone out, so that meant some of us had to cross the whole transition area both before and after the bike. Not that the race staff could have done it differently, since the other side was coming up a hill from the lake. Anyways, I was glad to get rid of my bike, but I wasn’t quite sure how I’d hold up on the run, since my legs already felt spent. But the good thing is that they didn’t feel like dead weights (as in the past two tris I did), thanks to the ol’ wetsuit. At this point I was just going on momentum, so it was easier to just follow through on the rest of the race than to consciously assess myself. That’s probably what most people do, because if we actually stopped to ask ourselves how we felt, 75% of the people would just stop and take a nap ;-)
The Run: Not too tough on its own, but after that bike course, these rolling hills were challenging. The run course wasn’t all that scenic, just basically going up and back on one road, twice. Plus a tiny detour up and down a gravel path. I’m assuming that was done to get the distance, but I’m sure it could have been done better another way. The run course was the most fun part because of all the people I got to see (most were ahead of me, and were on an opposing leg of the loop). There was a woman who called out my name—well, she said, “Heena”, but close enough—and I’m not 100% sure who she was. She didn’t have DC Tri gear on, but I have a guess as to who that was. What I should have done was emailed her this past week to confirm that!
The weather at this point was warm, but definitely not as bad as a certain other triathlon from two years ago (General Smallwood, I’m looking at you). The aid stations were still quite helpful though, since I’d decided not to carry my own water bottle. At one point I took a cup of HEED and—I don’t know what that stuff really is, and it seemed really watered down—but it tasted that unsweetened liquid cotton candy, if that makes any sense. Or, how I imagine unsweetened liquid cotton candy would taste. Yeah, um, no thanks. I’ll stick to water from now on.
The finish line was a nice site, and it’s always fun to see and hear throngs of cheering spectators. I don’t know if the announcer said my name as I approached the finish line. If he did, I’m absolutely certain he mispronounced it. The bane of my existence. Well, this makes it all worth it:
Mission accomplished. All in a day’s work.