Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Luray Triathlon 2011

Luray International Triathlon logo

The Road Trip:

We dropped the girls off at the grandparents and left the congested highways of Northern Virginia behind us, exiting I-66 at our first opportunity and watching the concrete jungle recede behind us. From Front Royal, we traveled on rolling country roads, with mountain views to the East and West, directly into the town of Luray.

The digs:

We pulled up to the Mayneview Inn, a Victorian B&B that would serve as our home for the weekend. The Inn boasted what had to be one of the best views in Luray, looking East over the town and toward the mountains. The house, historic and unique, was cozy but a bit overdone in its decor and tapestries. Mayneview's proprietors, while accommodating and efficient, played second fiddle to the Inn's warmth and charm.

The town:

After checking in, we headed to Main Street to pick up our race packets and fuel up. The main drag was short and compact; one quick drive or walk down and back and you'd pretty much seen it all.

Packet pickup was held at Appalachian Outdoors Adventures, , a surprisingly trendy (and expensive) outfitter, with a laid-back vibe. Dogs roamed freely through the store, which included a small coffee bar in the back. The Life Is Good, Keen and Vibram Five Fingers brands dominate the front of the small shop.

A short diagonal hop across the street landed us at Gathering Grounds, which had a French patisserie theme and a surprising amount of Tour de France memorabilia.

Dinner was a vegetarian wrap with a garden salad, kettle chips and a side of pasta salad (our nod to carb loading). The food was nothing special but certainly hit the spot and was delivered with a smile by our server.

After dinner, we headed back across the street to The Sugar Shack for the biggest pre-race ice cream cone ever!

Stephan's Sugar Shack

There were a zillion flavors to choose from, including dippin dots, and the small, family-run shop offered outdoor seating as well as a beach-themed section inside the store--sand and all!--where little ones could sit in mini beach chairs to enjoy their sweet treats.

The Race:

Scenic Lake Arrowhead - Luray, VA

We arrived at the venue, Lake Arrowhead, feeling optimistic; the weather was favorable and logistics running smoothly.

(Transition area)

My only concern was my knee and how it would hold up during the run. I had a goal time in mind and, based on previous int'l distance races and the finish times posted at Luray 2010, a top three finish was within my grasp . . . then I promptly chided myself for once again viewing this event as a "race" instead of what it was intended to be: a "training tool" for the Iron Man. It's hard to take the competitor out of the girl . . .

(Feeling optimistic before the race)

The swim:

(Me--purple cap, black top and shorts--ready to start the swim)

Not much to say on this. The lake was beautiful. I felt smooth and strong; no panicky feelings. Could I have been faster? Sure. There's always that. But overall, I felt really good about my swim and finished 3rd in my division on this leg.

The bike:

(Cresting a hill and kickin' that guy's booty ;)

Just out of T1 and I slipped my chain, which then got jammed in the derailleur. The 2-3 minutes I lost here cost me third place, and I dropped to 4th in my division on the bike and in the overall division standings. Misbehaving chain aside, it was a great ride, the second loop feeling stronger than the first, with beautiful mountain views.

I've always felt that triathlon is actually more of a quadathlon or quintathlon, as the transition area is as much of an event as the swim, bike and run. I have lost podium spots in races, not because I couldn't bike or run fast enough, but because I couldn't transition fast enough. There is an art to it and at Luary I felt I'd finally mastered it, or at least, made great strides. I was in and out of T2 in one minute flat. Record time for me and one that earned me the 1st place position in my division for T2. I was vera vera happy about this tiny achievement :)

The run:

(Possibly ill-advised, but going for a strong finish, despite major knee pain)

Oh, the dreaded run. Sometimes I think I was built for Aquavelo, not triathlon. The run is my weakest link and my biggest challenge. Luray was no exception. Despite being surprisingly hilly, I was motoring along pretty good for the first 3 miles, averaging approx 8.5 mins/mile. Then came the telltale tightness behind me knee. The little angel on one shoulder whispered, "Remember, this is a training race. You don't want to injure yourself. Maybe you should walk." The devil shouted, "Hang in there. Run through it. Maybe it will work itself out. You're half way there!"

So I continued on and the downhills, in fact, did provide some relief, though my pace had slowed by about 20 seconds. By mile 4 I'd started to alter my stride a bit in an effort to favor my complaining knee. At mile 5, the pulling/tightening feeling gave way to the familiar burning sensation and tears of pain and frustration sprang to my eyes. "It's time to walk," the angel said.
"No!" the devil countered. "There's only one mile left; you can't walk now!" I gritted my teeth and pushed on, managing only about a 9:20 minute mile at this point and watching sadly, helplessly, as 4th and 5th place ran past me. But I crossed the finish line, stubbornly glad that I did not walk. The angel shook her head, while the devil just grinned.

Walking around the venue afterward, I knew I'd done a bad thing, that my pride had gotten the best of me, and I'd have to get to the root of this knee issue and find a way to solve it. I thought about these things while I sat in a kiddie pool full of ice; a nice perk at Luary.

The Results:

So here's how it all went down:

There were 23 women in my division. I finished 6th overall and about 8 minutes and 21 seconds slower than my goal time, mostly due to the chain jam and the bum knee.

I finished 3rd in the swim and 3rd in T1 and then dropped to 4th in the bike, losing 2-3 minutes to the mechanical snafu. I rallied to claim 1st in T2 and then crashed to 7th in the run.



My husband also had a mechanical--a flat tire that cost him 1o minutes on the bike and a drop of about 20 spots in his division ranking.

Good thing it was only a "training" race :)

(Feeling not-so-optimistic post-race, but misery does appreciate company!)

Non-Victory Celebration:

Licking our wounds, and our wounded pride, we headed back to the B&B for a soak in the hot tub, Coronas in hand, thus starting the ball rolling on the complete fall from the wagon . . .

+ =

Then it was off to Main Street for dinner at the Artisan's Grill.

Artisans Grill in Historic Downtown Luray, VA

The place was hoppin' and we were lucky to get one of the last few seats before a crowd of hungry people, waiting for tables, formed at the front. Owned by a pair of local artists, the menu boasted unique and creative offerings, but the food turned out to be surprisingly bland, if artfully presented. After sending back a glass of Malbec that had completely turned, I enjoyed a nice Shiraz, which tasted far better than my food.

Anxious to escape the crowded, noisy restaurant, we headed east on Main until we came upon a beautiful Victorian restaurant with a large front porch and an eclectic mix of music playing. We decided to stop in for dessert.

Victorian Inn Foyer The Victorian Inn Restaurant

The Victorian Inn was our favorite. Rain had left the outdoor tables wet and the porch was fully occupied, so we ventured inside to the bar, taking in the magnificent decor and an atmosphere that was at the same time upscale, casual and festive. We ordered some kind of brownie topped with sour cream ice cream and ancho chili powder, which was delicious, but the best part was the amazing chocolate martinis: Godiva chocolate and Skye Vodka, with a shot each of Bailey's Kahlua and Butterscotch schnapps, served in a chocolate-rimmed glass. I had two. Heaven!

And if that weren't enough, a trio from the front patio joined us at the bar, which was adjacent to a plush sitting area, and it was like being treated to an impromptu vaudeville performance; the woman, a trained dancer, was dramatic in both appearance and mannerisms to the point of being a caricature of herself, was joined by her two friends, and openly gay couple, who bickered, discussed shoes and boasted about local theater. Such a fun night!

Hair of the dog:

(Ready to ride Skyline Drive)

Sunday morning and we were back at it. And I don't mean with Mimosas. We headed over to Skyline Drive for a 30-mile ride that, at one point, climbed over 1000' in just under 3 miles. The scenic overlooks and breathtaking views were a welcome distraction from my burning quads. All-in-all, a pretty amazing weekend of play in Luray.

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