This past weekend 6 of us – me, Ryan, Pat, Mike, Ben, and Andy headed down to Luray, VA to race the Luray International Triathlon and then get in some good training on Sunday. I have mentioned before that this weekend in particular is one of my favorites. For one thing, it would be my third time at this event and it is one that I really enjoy. The course is tough, the competition is strong, and David Glover does a great job as RD. The other part of the weekend I love is Luray itself. Nestled on the side of the Shenandoah National Park, with Skyline Drive just a few miles away, there are mountains and trails and woods all over. I nominated myself to find us a cabin again this year, and, well, if you know me you would know that I really like being out in the middle of nowhere. We stayed at the Blue Ridge Getaway, in Rileyville and it was absolutely gorgeous. The only catch was that it was a steep drive up a Jeep road to get there – and seeing as I had the only car with 4WD that meant a lot of the party would make a few trips hiking up and down the road with bikes and other important items, like beer and watermelon. But once you were up there, it was definitely worth it.
Friday night Ryan cooked up a pasta dinner that we enjoyed out on the deck before calling it a night. Oh, but not before I managed to miss the bear walking through our backyard! As luck would have it, in the five minutes where I grabbed Ben and asked him to help me as I turned my car around on the steep road, we missed it. Oh well. We made the drive to the race site in the morning, where I was pleased to find out that the water had cooled down a little to 78.5. A much better result than the 89 degrees of NJ a few weeks back!! Right from the gun I felt good on the swim. My placement was right – I knew I was with the lead group and had even found some feet to swim on. That didn’t last past the first couple buoys, but by then we had caught the other waves and people were everywhere anyway. I came out of the water in 26:30 (2 minutes faster than last year) and headed into the long T1. Helping make this transition even longer was me just getting confused. Luckily, when I checked in that morning that had written my race number on my hand (as if I couldn’t read it on my shoulders), and I literally had to look down to remember what my number was. Oh yeah, I thought, and headed to that rack.
Jumped on the bike and got ready to roll. My goal here was to go hard for the first loop and then in the second loop keep up the intensity but try to keep my cadence up as much as possible to keep my legs spinning and ready to run. I had done my homework and knew my competition, and knew that as long as I had good running legs left I had a shot at the podium. This bike course has a lot of climbing, which suits me, so I just settled in and went for it. Because it was a two-loop course I felt like I was passing a lot of people but it was tough to tell who was in front of and behind me. There is one final climb before a descent into the transition area, so I took that time to get some more water, GU and salt in me before the run. As I entered the park I was told I was in second place, then I saw the lead female heading out on the run and knew I needed to keep her within at least 3 minutes if I wanted any sort of shot at running her down. Came off the bike in a whopping 1:14:56, about 10 minutes faster than last year! The thought of her ahead propelled me through T2 pretty quickly and out onto the run I went.
The run course would deviate from prior years; this year instead of 2 loops, it would be one out and back. What I didn’t know was that the extended 1.5 miles of the “out” portion was a gravel road. Luckily, my ultrarunning days of miles and miles of gravel roads prepared me for this and I think I fared well on the terrain. I could tell some others were not so fortunate. (Note: I also always race in flat-trainers….also known as Flainers. I essentially wear my trainers down until, in my head, I believe that they are now flats. I believe this because 1. I have never actually owned flats, so I am able to convince myself of this and 2. I can’t keep buying that many shoes so I have to figure out some way to recycle them! I realize this is absurd. And I realize most people will tell me I’m hurting my feet. And it is, but I haven’t, so I’ll probably continue doing this until I finally swallow my pride and buy a pair of flats. BUT my point is that the soles of these shoes were very well suited to the gravel, as opposed to Mike who had to stop and pick rocks out of the bottom of his fancy-pants flats!)
But, back to the run. The good part about having many friends racing is that there is a lot of motivation out on the course. One by one I saw them as they were on their way home and they all gave me some words of encouragement. And by words of encouragement, they mostly all raised their eyebrows and told me to get moving, because the girl in first was going hard. I hit the turnaround and was able to calculate that I had made up time, but I was still about 90 seconds back. Would it be enough? Unfortunately right after the turnaround is a big hill, which sucked some of the life out of me. So, I wasn’t able to make much more of a gain on the way in, but I did finish the run in 46:33 – another 2 minute improvement from last year!
My final time was 2:30:48, 2nd of 201 females. This is easily one of the best races I have had in the sport. I felt in control of each discipline, and for the first time I hit the run and was ready to run someone down – not just look back and hope I didn’t get caught. It also felt good to be hanging with girls who consider this distance their specialty – and giving them a run for their money. I wasn’t the only one who picked up some wine-themed hardware though (pictures to come) and the group of us packed up and headed back to the cabin.
Saturday afternoon brought burgers, corn husking, and Justin Bieber. I took a nap but that still didn’t keep me from getting to sleep early Saturday as we had a big day on Sunday. I had one more long ride to get in (though it was allowed to be easy). We had talked about getting out to Skyline Drive to ride for quite some time, and finally were able to make it happen. Keeping it easy was actually the toughest part of the day as a 4 mile climb up to Skyline was the start of the day! Since I was always a bit back from the boys, on one of the stops I attempted to enlighten them on another Alyssaism…if you ride slower, you’ll get faster. Needless to say, they didn’t buy it, haha. From there you’ll still find a lot of climbing but the road conditions, and the small amount of traffic – not to mention the views – make it a great ride! It would be really cool to go back and just ride that as a workout.
After the ride we packed up and headed back to Baltimore, where we lucked out and missed the torrential rains that had been in the area. All in all, this was the perfect way to enter my taper mode. Now it’s time to relax and get everything set for next Thursday when Ryan and I roll out to Louisville!