I was really looking forward to this the Luray Triathlon this year, actually I had wanted to compete in the International/Olympic distance, but that race sold out before I had a chance to register. So I registered for the Sprint distance, which still provides a great challenge.
I ended up having a great race, perhaps my best ever!
I didn’t have a specific goal for this race, it was the first since completing the EagleMan 70.3 in June, and a good test of my training progress before my ‘A’ races at The Nation’s Triathlon, and the Beach to Battleship HIM later this year.
About 6 weeks before the race, I completed a training ride out on the Luray course (completing both the Olympic and Sprint courses). I had heard that it was hilly, and it turned out to be a good tough ride with a mix of hills, but not as scary as I had imagined. For both rides I managed to average 18.7mph (with my training tires), completing the 17.5 mile sprint course in 56 minutes. After some recent rides in the mountains @ Skyline Drive I knew that my bike form was good, and hoped for a good result. I have also been putting in some decent runs recently, so I was hoping for a strong showing on the run too.
My swimming on the other hand has suffered a bit lately – having only averaged <1 swim session per week since in the last 6 weeks. Realistically I wasn’t expecting much there.
I didn’t really have a time goal, other than the following:-
- Swim – around 15 minutes
- Bike – beat my training time by a few minutes
- Run – somewhere around 23 minutes – beating my last sprint 5k time
Since this wasn’t an ‘A’ race, I really didn’t taper much, completing some hard run and bike intervals earlier in the week, and a long run (long for me anyway) of 14 miles on Thursday.
The weather forecast was terrible, large chance of rain all morning. We arrived at the race site shortly after 6am, as the on-site packet pick-up was starting up, and before a lot of the crowds arrived. There was some light rain falling, however it looked like it might clear up. It turned out to be great weather for racing. The sun even came out by the end of the run.
One thing that I thought was cool, was that the numbering this time went in reverse alphabetical order. Having a surname in the W’s always meant a high number – but this time I was number 8, which positioned me on the first rack nearest to the bike exit. That was really nice.
I got the bike setup and covered my running shoes and bike helmet/glasses in case it rained during the swim leg. I was positioned under a tree, so it was very likely that my things would get a little wet. It didn’t cost me any time to move the covers during T1 & T2, and meant that my glasses had no drops of water when I got on to the bike.
Swim – 15:11 (750m)
My swim time was decent, considering my lack of consistent swim practice. I really wanted to come in under 15 minutes, and actually I exited the water just under 15, but it was 20meters or so to the timing mat. I was happy with my effort, but could really feel my legs dragging in the water, which surely slowed me down.
Earlier in the morning, it was announced that the Swim was wetsuit legal, by .5 of a degree. The rain from the night before had cooled the water off just enough. Stupid me didn’t bring the wetsuit, which would have made a significant difference in my time, but not to my AG placing.
One interesting thing to note is the great venue that was chosen for this race. Lake arrowhead is clean and clear, a pleasure to swim in, and much better than some other local races.
T1 – 1:31
the jog across the beach, up the stairs and through the transition area is quite long, and mostly up-hill. I’m happy with my transition. There really wasn’t much to do, put the glasses and helmet on, grab the bike and go with a flying mount. I was first in my age group in transition (a first for me).
Since I was in the 2nd swim wave (3 mins after the first), there was not a lot of traffic in the transition area, that was nice.
Bike – 50:25 - 17.5 miles
My thoughts for the bike leg was to go out pretty hard, and see if I have anything left for the run. Since this wasn’t an important race for me, it was a good time to experiment a little. After exiting the transition area, you hit the first of the hills. I went quite hard, but stayed in the saddle and kept a little in reserve, and was passing a lot of people. After the first hill, which is a decent climb, but not all that steep (average of 4% for 1/2 mile), you get a great downhill section. I glanced at my Garmin and saw it at 48mph, checking the log after the race my max speed was 48.9! The bad thing about this hill, is that you have to climb it on the way back. It is a 9% average grade for just under 1/2 a mile. And only 1 mile from Transition.
For the rest of the bike leg I felt great, and passed a lot of other riders. There were only 2 people that passed me. This is a first for me too, usually I get passed by the stronger riders in the swim waves behind me.
It really helped to be familiar with the course, so I could concentrate on going fast, rather than guessing what was coming next, especially since the 2 toughest hills were in the last 3 miles of the bike leg.
There was great support on the last steep climb of the day, it is always awesome to have people cheering and with cowbells when you are racing!
As I approached transition, I looked at the time, right around 50 minutes, with an average of 21mph! Awesome, I thought – beat my training ride by almost 6 minutes. The racing tires helped, but a new level of fitness on the bike really made the difference here.
The following picture shows the course elevation on the bike, courtesy of Strava
Some other statistics from the bike leg:-
- Avg HR 165
- Max HR 174 (shows that I went hard, but not all out)
- Avg cadence 85 (from Garmin connect, strava says 89.18)
- Max cadence 128
- Avg Speed 21 mph
- Max Speed 48.9 mph
- Elevation gain 1,217ft
T2 – 0:52
My bike dismount was great, didn’t really slow down much and execute a decent flying dismount. It was a short jog to the first rack of bikes (yay for reverse alphabetical order!). I quickly ditched the helmet and put on my running shoes and off I went. My legs felt great.
Run – 22:24 – 3.1 miles/5k
The run course was difficult, and out-and-back 5k with rolling hills. There really wasn’t much in the way of flat sections. I went out with only my stopwatch with HR readings, so I could just run by feel. Similar to the bike, I had a few speedsters pass me, but I was holding my own with most of the runners, and actually passing a few too.
I looked at my watch after the first mile – it was 7:00. It felt a lot slower than that – but I thought I could keep the pace up – and if I did, I thought that it might be possible to run a sub 23:00.
I did suffer a bit on the run, but in a race this short if you are not suffering, you are not going hard enough.
I ended up finishing in 22:24 – a new PR for me by almost a minute, and on a tougher course!
It was great to see my Wife and Kids at the finish line too – this was a surprise. Since the weather was questionable, I didn’t think they were coming.
Wrap-Up – Overall time 1:30:22
After finishing I talked with a friend who was there for a lot of the race – he said I might have placed in my age group. So I went and checked the times, and thought I counted 4 people ahead of me. I was really happy with the overall time, close to my Kinetic sprint time, on a harder course.
Thinking that I wasn’t in the Top 3, I left with Diane (who came 4th in her division, awesome Job), and didn’t stay around for the awards presentation. To my complete shock, I ended up 2nd in my Age Group!
I got an email from our Masters swim team coach, saying that he had my 2nd place trophy! I thought it was a joke. It turns out that there is a category/award for the top 3 ‘Masters’ – anyone over the age of 40. The top two in my age group (40-44) were 2nd and 3rd in the Masters, which moved me up from 4th to 2nd in the placings. I still don’t know what happened to the person I thought was 30 seconds or so in front of me, perhaps he was disqualified.
So I really finished 4th, it feels like my 2nd was something like a rolldown award, but since this is my first time finishing on the podium in Triathlon, I’ll take it!! If you look at the screen-prints below, you can see that 2nd (#562) and 3rd (#471) in the Top 3 Masters Males both beat my time, but a long way. My run was similar, but they were way better on the swim and bike.
Charlie, Shane and Mike representing the masters swim team finished first in their relay – an amazing effort, especially since Charlie did Butterfly for the whole swim leg.
Here’s a picture of the team, taken from the team blog – I’m 4th from the left, next to Diane in the pink top, with Lake Arrowhead in the background.
Luray is an awesome race, one which I will definitely do again. The venue is first class, great for spectators and racers too, and very well organized. It is also the best venue that I can realistically drive to for some longer brick sessions, since you can swim in the lake, and the biking around the area is great for hills.
This race shows that my training is on-track and I hope to continue improving over the next few months. Hopefully I can get my swimming back on track too, I am going to try to complete 2-3 swim sessions per week, and also cross my fingers that the Nation’s Tri will be wetsuit legal (it helps me a lot).