All 2010 Race Reports

Luray International/Olympic Triathlon 2010 Race Report

14 August 2010

by Dave MacLuskie

Short version

swim (1500m, about 0.9 mi) 40:42
t1 2:40
bike (41k, 25.8 mi) 1:28:01
t2 1:45
run (10k, 6.2 mi) 51:20
overall 3:04:26

43rd out of 61 in my age group. 225 out of 373 men.

Photos from the race

Long version

The day started with low clouds and the threat of rain. Air temps were in the mid 70's and the lake was about 81 deg.

It was not my best race start ever. Five minutes into the swim I looked around and I was all alone. The rest of the green caps were nearing the far buoy and I had barely reached the first. I couldn't catch my breath, couldn't touch bottom and was ready to call it a day. If there had been a boat or board nearby I'd probably have climbed onto it. I even tried to calculate which way was the fastest to shore -- swimming back to the start or off to the side. It was the closest I've come to DNFing a race. It's a horrible feeling.

I had done a practice mile swim earlier in the week in the pool; no warmup, no stopping. I finished in about 32 minutes. That's no great shakes but it was solid and steady and I wasn't tired at the end. (It is, however, very boring.) Now five minutes into this non-wetsuit race and I was in the middle of a panic attack; one of my best. Despite seeding myself outside and to the back of the swim start I got bumped around and swum over a bit. It happens and I thought I was prepared to handle it. This wasn't the first open water swim I've done (though it was the first of the year.) Sadly I did not handle it well.

I rolled over to my back and just kicked my feet. The morning was very overcast with low clouds obsuring the tops of the mountains. The skies looked a bit ominous and it wasn't particularly relaxing. I tried freestyle again but couldn't get into a rhythm. I felt as if I was gasping for air. I tried some back stroke for a minute then flipped over again, trying not to see how alone, behind, and isolated I was. I finally got into a groove and was making forward progress.

As I finally rounded the first turn the next wave behind me -- white capped girls -- began to pass. The waves are by age group so there's always fast folks and slow folks in each wave. My slow swim means I get passed by the fast folks in the next wave, and the wave after that, and maybe the wave after that. Fortunately by the time they pass me they're spread out and while there was some bumping, it didn't upset my fragile mental state.

The swim is roughly a "pac man" shape. You swim around the outside edges of the 3/4 of the lake, then cut into the middle and back to the start. That last bit forms the open mouth of "pac man". I was thrilled to start the mouth portion and my swim picked up. I felt stronger. My form was still highly degraded. I wasn't tucking my head and my feet were dragging and nowhere near the surface. I passed at least 2 green capped guys, or the same guy two times; I wasn't exactly swimming in a straight line.


I was pretty thrilled to exit the swim. I had been mentally preparing myself for a time much more than the 32 minutes I had been planning on. I thought 40 was likely and 45 possible. When I stood up it was 39 minutes. Lovely. It hit 40 by the time I ran across the sandy beach and crossed the timing mat. From there it's up a flight of slick wooden stairs into the transition area. No wetsuit means faster transition and it shows in my time for T1. I got lucky and my bike was racked almost all the way near the bike exit. Everyone has to go the same distance in the transition area, but I get to do most of it without the bike. I find that easier. As an added bonus, my rack was right next to the aisle and right by a willow tree. I didn't even have to count racks. Run to the easy-to-spot tree and there's my bike. It was easily my least stressful transition ever. Socks, shoes, glasses, helmet and I was off on the bike.


I haven't spent much time on the triathlon bike and given the serious hills in the race I brought the cyclocross bike. I've been commuting on it and I'm very comfortable on it. It's also geared pretty lowly (34/48 up front) though I left the 11x23 in the back. The 34x23 is still a bit lower than the 39x25 I'd have on the tri bike.

Bike elevation profile. Vertical bars are the mile indicators.

Once you exit the park you turn and go up a hill. It's about as steep as the short ones by Yorktown beach, but 2 times as long. There was already a line of bikes heading up it slowly. I passed a handful up the hill. This would be a theme throughout the rest of the bike portion. I'd like to think it's due to my superior climbing skills, but in reality it's due to my lousy swim. It put a lot of people out on the course before I got there. It does make for a lot of rabbits to chase down though. I didn't see any drafting on the course. I think the hills and the headwind broke things up quite nicely.

After cresting the hill you immediately drop back down and I quickly hit 35mph. There's a bit more up, then more down, a left had turn and a mile or two of false flat. It looks flat but it's uphill. It can be confusing to be going so slow and putting in so much work on what looks like a flat road (hence the term "false flat".) I've ridden the course before so I knew it was coming. It didn't feel all that bad this year.

After about 4 miles you enter the loop portion of the course. The loop is done twice, then back along that 4 mile section I just finished. The start of the loop is mainly down hill, though there's a little Yorktown-beach-eseque hill near the beginning. The downhill portions are far too much fun. My bike computer logged my peak speed at 42mph. My main thoughts at the time were how much skin I would lose if I wrecked. Fortunatley the cyclocross bike is a very stable platform and it was quite easy to handle the descent. Sadly the fun ends quickly and there's some rolling hills before a left turn and the uphill portion on the farside of the loop. On race day the uphill portion was combined with a headwind. I was probably in the 12-14mph range for most of that. It's not brutally steep, but it's definitely uphill and the headwind wasn't helping.

Loop two is just as fun and I think I might have scared some girl ahead of me by cackling loudly while tearing down the hill. The uphill+wind was just as unfun as loop one. Once finsihed with the loops, the return portion, now a false-flat downhill, was pretty fun. With a little work it was possible to sustain 28mph which is quite fun. The ride ends with uphill, uphill, little downhill, and ridiculously steep uphill. I was able to maintain about 5-6mph and still passed a few folks. I'm usually faster than that on the Yorktown hills so I'm guessing it was steeper. I know it was longer. Maybe it was the crowd I was with, but the cross bike seemed to climb a lot easier than the tri bikes on the course. That's not really a shock because tri bikes are generally considered poor climbers. It's something about the angles of the bike. On the course I passed at least one P3 with a full disk set up, and many tri bikes on the climbs. Many would pass me back on the descents.


T2 was sufficiently uneventful. Rack the bike, switch shoes and go.


The run started with an almost immediate detour to a porta potty. I noticed one available (green indicator on the door) so dashed in. I hated to burn the time but biology wins those battles. On the plus side, I was probably hydrating better than I usually do. As usual it took about a mile or so get my run legs back. The course is 1.5 miles out along rolling hills. (For the runners, I'd compare them to the hill on the Yorktown battlefields around mile 7.75 of the 10 mile route where you exit the trees and head into the open field.) At the end of the 1.5 miles you turn around and go back, then turn around right by the finish line (brutal) and head back out for another go.

Somewhere around the turn around (I don't recall which one) I must have passed someone with a watch metronome. I'm guessing it was beeping at 90 beats per minute (the theoretical ideal cadence for efficient running for those who don't do a lot of reading about running technique.) I noticed it because it coincided with my right foot hitting the ground. It was uncannily accurate. Hurray for my cadence! I wish I could have thought of something clever to say but all I could come up with was "Why the hell am I beeping?!" and something about hallucinating and hearing noises. As even I didn't think either comment was particularly witty I kept my mouth shut.

The sun was finally out but the temps stayed in the low 80's so the run didn't feel brutal to me. I finally locked into about an 8:30 pace; slower than I wanted but it felt sustainable. At the finish I felt I could have gone another lap, or maybe two if I wanted to push it, but I didn't really feel I could have run any faster than I did. Maybe all the distance work is getting to me and I'm losing what little top speed I had? It could be because it was the end of a 3 hour race.

Overall, it was an ok day. I'm quite disappointed with the swim though I take some comfort that I finished it without assistance and without the crutch of a wetsuit. Speed will come later. My bike split was about the same as 2008. My run was a hair faster despite the potty stop. I still really like the course, though it's definitely not a PR type of course. It has a nice relaxed atmosphere. The lake is much nicer to swim in than the York or James river. The bike course is definitely challenging. You ride by farms (cows) and corn. The run is equally challenging with the near constant rolling hills.

Some stats

Times (I didn't race Luray in 2009)

  2010 2008 2007
swim (1500m, 0.9mi) 40:42 (no wetsuit) 31:31 (with wetsuit) 33:29 (with wetsuit)
t1 2:40 3:32 3:14
bike (41k, 25.8mi) 1:28:01 1:26:21 1:36:25
t2 1:45 1:53 1:42
run (10k, 6.2mi) 51:20 52:10 53:38
overall 3:04:26 2:55:25 3:08:24

Relative placement in 2010

  2010 Mens
out of 373
2010 Age Group
out of 61
swim (1500m, 0.9mi) 314 56
t1 206 23
bike (41k, 25.8mi) 202 42
t2 196 36
run (10k, 6.2mi) 180 36
overall 225 43

I've heard rumors that times were slower this year. Within my age group the median time was 2:52. In 2009 it was 2:45; 2008 it was 2:46; 2007 it was 2:42. That's not terribly scientific but I think something was going on. Maybe it was the wind on the bike? A longer swim course? It's nearly impossible to measure those things accurately.

dave.macluskie AT