Luray Triathlon Weekend
When One Door Closes, Another Door Opens
I was so fortunate to stumble upon the Luray Triathlon Festival, produced by Racine Multisports. Although the race has existed for a decade, for some reason it’s never been on my race radar. This year would have been more of the same, as I was originally planning to compete at Challenge Poconos with a large Snapple contingent. However, once the Challenge Family announced that the pro race would be eliminated, I decided to look elsewhere for a race. The Luray event seemed absolutely perfect. They were offering a decent prize purse for both the Olympic and sprint distance races, and the trip to Luray wasn’t extraordinarily difficult for Tori and I to make Friday afternoon.
The rest of this blog could be devoted to what an amazing event was put on by Racine Multisports. Instead, I’ll leave it at this: do this race. It was awesome. I’ve been to races all over the country, and this was absolutely one of the best. I loved every aspect and would do it again in a heartbeat.
Now to the races. I decided to compete in both the Olympic and the sprint, which is dubbed the Devil’s Double. I knew there would be some stiff competition, so I came in to the weekend mentally ready to give it a go.
The Olympic took place Saturday, and there were more than a handful of pro/elite competitors in the first wave, enough to make the swim start a bit rough for the first few hundred meters. I hung tough from the start and found myself placed in the second pack halfway through the loop. I felt comfortable and smooth, so from there I pushed the pace and broke the second pack up, resulting in not only making up some ground on the three leaders, but also creating a buffer between myself and the rest of the group. I exited the water 5th and quickly set about trying to make up the 30 seconds or so that I lost in the swim over the long run to transition. I was a bit rusty in transition, but got out decently well and found myself in second on the road within a mile of the bike course.
Nick Brodnicki had executed a very nice swim and a very quick T1, and he was just far enough ahead of me that I could spot him on long stretches of road. His cycling was on fire, though, and he gradually distanced himself from me over the 26 mile course. I was happy with my effort, and for me, I executed my race plan well. I just didn’t anticipate that Nick would be three minutes ahead of me going into the run.
I will admit that the gap immediately made me quite nervous. Three minutes in a full or half isn’t too much, but that’s a lot of ground to make up in a 10k. I wasn’t going to do anything stupid, though, so I set out running within myself. I figured if that effort could get me to within 90 seconds at 5k, then I had a legitimate chance. Nick started off strong, and in the first two miles I had made up about a minute. Then at 5k the time gap was 1:10. I felt good, I was relaxed, and I was ready to roll. Over the next 2 miles I pushed hard, caught Nick just after 4.5 miles, and then kept the pace for another mile or so to attempt to create a gap. The effort worked, and with half a mile left, I was able to come into the finishing area smooth and steady, and enjoy the victory.
After a couple of media interviews, I went for a cool down in Lake Arrowhead with Tom Wood, attended the awards ceremony, and went home to put the legs up and prepare for the Sprint.
Ouch. I knew racing two triathlons in two days was going to be tough, but holy moly my legs felt rotten when I woke up Sunday morning. I kept having to tell myself that all the guys who raced the Olympic were feeling the same way, so expectations for my own race execution were just going to have to be moderate. I opted to cut my run warm up short and instead did most of my warm up in the water.
There were about the same number of athletes in the elite wave as the day before, but the race conditions were a little different. There was a massive glare from the sunrise that made sighting eastward almost impossible. It was strange because the day before was clear (and I would have assumed the sun would have been rising at the same time and at the same location), but for whatever reason, it was causing a much bigger problem today. The start was hectic again, and there were a few who jumped off the front right away. As soon as we turned the first buoy and looked east, BAM! nothing but sunshine. The leaders continued on course, and I worked with one other athlete a few ticks back for about 100m, and then the leaders unexpectedly turned right and started heading towards the finish. I stopped for a brief moment, got my bearings, realized that there was one more buoy before the turn and continued on. The three leaders realized their mistake after 15-20 seconds, and then corrected their line, meeting me at that turn buoy. So I kind of lucked out in that I ended up right in the dead middle of the front group, as the front pack and second pack merged just 250m from the finish and they didn’t create another gap in that short period of time.
That gave me a bit of confidence, and I stormed up the hill to transition, looking to be as efficient as possible onto my bike. All of the major players were there, and about 8 athletes hit the bike course within 15 seconds of each other. I was determined to stick with Brodnicki on the bike today come hell or high water. The sprint distance for Luray is a bit bike heavy, so I was concerned that if he put even 90 seconds into me on the bike that I wouldn’t have the time to catch him. Brodnicki, Tom Wood, and I separated ourselves from the group quickly, and soon Tom made the pass for the lead. I was content to sit back and stay within range of them both. I kind of yo-yoed between 5-15 seconds of their pace over the next 5-6 miles, but when we hit the false flats, Tom really put the hammer down and I decided to make a push and bridge the gap. I passed Brodnicki who wasn’t having the ride he had hoped for, and caught up to Wood with about 3 miles to go. From there I stayed put and we came in to transition together, about 20 seconds ahead of Brodnicki.
Tom had run strong the day before (actually passing Nick at the line to take second), so I made the decision then and there to go out of the gates hard and make it as tough a possible the entire way. We exited transition side by side, but after a few hundred meters, I had formed a gap. I kept the pressure on until the turnaround, where I saw that I had a sizeable margin, and then was able to relax a bit and run controlled for the last half of the race. It happened to be the USAT Mid-Atlantic Sprint Triathlon Championship, so I was able to add that title on top of my two wins.
Overall it was a great weekend, I was able to get to know some of my competitors, many of which race for US Pro Tri, and they represented their team extremely well. I was able to meet up with some Snapple teammates, and I was also able to meet some new triathlon faces some of which were completing their first triathlon. Congratulations to everyone!
Thanks to Tori, my daughter Cassidy, and my incredible support from Team Snapple, Xterra Wetsuits, LG Apparel, Osmo Nutrition, and Rudy Project.
Up next: Going for my fifth win in as many tries at the Patriot’s Half in Williamsburg, VA.