I’ve said this before and I say it again. Lake Lure Triathlon is one of the best races in North Carolina and it’s quickly becoming my favorite race of the year. I did my first triathlon in 1985, and have been racing ever since. So I’ve done more races than I can remember, long and short, near and far. It’s been a great run but unfortunately I’m also a little jaded. Not many races get me that excited these days. So it’s actually very rewarding when I find one that does…a race that gets my blood pumping and makes me look forward to toe the line, especially after having raced it before. Lake Lure Triathlon is such a race.
Located at the base of Chimney Rock, Lake Lure is a beautiful lake and town. Its claim to fame is that it was where the movie Dirty Dancing was filmed. Wyndam Hotels has a resort called Rumblin Bald, which is the site of the Lake Lure Triathlon. The golfing community is extremely well kept and surprisingly welcoming of athletes. As we all know, triathletes can be self centered and not always aware that riding in the middle of the road with aero helmets and tight bright Lycra is not the norm in other communities. Plus, a triathlon can be an inconvenience to the residents trying to get around on a Saturday morning. Yet, the community embraces the event and the residents come out in force to volunteer and cheer the competitors.
In addition to three events in three days (10K Friday, Triathlon on Saturday and 25 mile bike ride/race on Sunday), the resort and area offers a wide variety of family activities. The Kids’ Olympiad entertains kids with competitions such as 100 yard dash, basketball hoop shooting, balloon toss, etc while the resort includes golf and mini golf courses, a lazy river swimming pool, as well as a pristine beach. In addition, within a short drive there are zip line parks, horse stables and water sports opportunities.
I first raced in Lake Lure in 2009, when I finished second behind my good friend and always fast triathlete Jay Curwen. I then went back last year, when I finished fourth behind Patrick Farwell, our own racing machine Robert Van Graafeiland and Michael Mauhar from SC. The field for this race is generally not very deep but as you can see, it always attracts a few fast guys.
After a good first half of the season that culminated with a strong race at the Ironman 70.3 Raleigh, I took some time off in June to go to the World Cup in Brazil with the family. By mid August though, my fitness was coming back around as I got ready for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Mont Tremblant. As usual, I went to Lake Lure with the family so my pre race prep was a little chaotic. Race morning was a beautiful, cool sunny day. In other words, perfect race conditions with the exception of the water being 80 degree…to warm for wetsuits.
My swim was better than expected and put me out of the water in 4th or 5th overall. The bike course was a lung burner with constant ups and downs, but certainly one of the most scenic in the Carolinas. Forgetting constant power output, I attacked the hills to make up time. My strategy for sprints seemed to work once again as I made up some ground on the athletes ahead. I rode into second place as Michael Mauhar dropped his chain on a hill. This was the first time I raced with Di2 and I have to say it was simply awesome: the shifting back and forth from little ring to big ring was flawless and easy. The Enve 8.9 wheels were also the right choice for the course: stiff, aero and light, and yet stable enough for the steep downhills. By the time I made it to T2 I was in first. Not a common place for me these days and with younger ripped looking guys not far behind I was not an entirely comfortable position. As I ran the steep uphill out of transition though, I felt like I still had pretty good legs. As the steepness of the grade decreased, I was able to pick speed. I tried not to look back. I figured I would either get passed or I would see them at the turnaround of the out and back run course. Dan Young said I had about a 45 second lead off the bike. At the turn around my lead was a little over 30 seconds. With 1.5 miles of downhill, my confidence grew as the pain in my legs and lungs also increased. I normally don’t notice the beauty of the run course during races but once again this place surprised me. At the one mile marker, a deer watched as dozen of triathletes ran by, under a canopy of trees. At the end of the day, I was able to pull off the win. Not only first masters but first overall. Yes, that is still important to me as I still haven’t fully accepted the idea that I just can’t race against the young guys anymore. My wife says I should just get over it, but I can at least go down fighting.