Tammie and I were approaching our 30th anniversary and were considering how we may celebrate the occasion. Back in August 1989 we did a triathlon during our honeymoon, an event called the Northern Triathlon Weekend in Orillia, Ontario. For the record, Tammie raced the sprint and I did the half. Since we’re both from North Carolina and were considering a trip to Asheville for our 30th, I checked the race calendar and found the Lake Lure Triathlon on our anniversary weekend only 50 minutes away. Since we were going to do additional riding while there, including the famous Blue Ridge Parkway and the epic climb to Mount Mitchell, we elected to take our road rather than tri bikes, which turned out to be a good choice for the race as well.
Lake Lure is a small lake in the NC Mountains. The race was hosted at a resort and put on by the same event management company, Set-Up, that we raced with when we lived there from 1994 to 2007. It was neat to see the familiar logos, equipment, and even some familiar faces on race morning, even if I didn’t remember their names. The water was somewhere in the low 80s so wetsuits were not a consideration. I warmed up for the swim and noticed the muck on the bottom which is typical of lakes in that area. The pre-race talk warned of a gravel section on the bike course. The road had washed out and been repaired, but wasn’t yet paved. The comedic race director asked that we not blame him, but to take it up with Jesus (presumably for the bringing the storm that caused the wash out). It was funny in the moment even if it doesn’t sound so here.
The 750 meter swim started in time trial format with a swimmer going off every 3 seconds. I seeded myself around 10th and struck up a conversation with the woman in line behind me (the eventual women’s winner), asking about the M-Dot tattoo on her calf. Turns out she’s done 15 Ironmans and had just qualified for Kona. Guess I’ll just shut up now. After a moving rendition of the Star Spangled Banner performed by a solo trumpet player and veteran, I was soon was on my way. There were plenty of buoys marking the course and navigation was easy. I was never bumped and soon found my rhythm and lots of open water. Due to travel and recovery from Santa Rosa 70.3 two weeks earlier, I hadn’t been swimming as much as usual and had to push through some fatigue in the last few hundred meters. I came out in 13:31 which ranked first in my AG and 20th in the field of 187.
With no wetsuit to take off I was quickly out on the bike and heading for the hills. The 14 mile bike course is never flat, ever. The first half is a series of punchy climbs and descents, with a pretty serious climb to the high point at about half way. I traded places a few times early on with two strong guys on tri bikes, but once the climbing began in earnest, I pulled away and never saw them again. That morning we had driven in on the second half of the bike course and noticed some pretty sketchy descents (that got me excited but made Tammie nervous). It had been cloudy all morning and about the time I got to the downhills it started raining in earnest, meaning those descents would be done on wet pavement. At about this point I was caught by a younger guy on a tri bike who was "swim challenged" but was very fast on the bike and run. He would gap me on the climbs only for me to pass him back on the descents. In a friendly exchange as he’d say “coming around you” and I’d say “see you on the next descent.” We chatted after the race and he said I was a “beast” on the bike. He was a sweet guy with a really thick southern accent and also said “Man, I thought wee’s gonna wreck out there.” I finished the bike in 42:55 for an average speed of 19.6 mph, slower than I would normally race but not bad considering the 1200 feet of climbing over just 14 miles. My bike split was best in my AG and 6th best in the field.
The rain continued through the 5k run which was out and back, or more appropriately described as up and back down. We ran thorough the resort and climbed all the way to the turnaround, which meant a quick return trip to the finish line on the beach of the lake’s swimming area. I finished the run in 22:32 (7:15 mile pace), good for first in my AG and 13th in the field. I hung around the finish and had the announcer shout out during Tammie’s finish that we had come all the way from California to celebrate our 30th anniversary. Several people came up to us after the race with congratulations, including an older gentleman who said his dad grew up in Chico and graduated from Chico High in 1941; and that he had been there to visit. The event was wonderfully supported by the local community including all the post-race homemade goodies, highlighted by the uniquely southern pimento cheese sandwiches. There was also free beer from New Belgium (Fat Tire and Voodoo Ranger were the choices), a Colorado brewery that, like Sierra Nevada, has built an east coast brewery in Asheville. I ended up finishing 1st in my AG and 7th overall in a field of 187. Tammie also had a solid race, stayed safe on the sketchy, wet descents, and took 2nd in her AG.
As we packed up our soaking wet gear after the race, I recalled that my race list used to include a plastic bag to keep clothes and other gear dry in case it rained during the race. I simply haven’t needed that in California and didn’t think to bring one this time. So we gathered up all of our wet gear for the drive back to Asheville. All in all it was a great event and a lot of fun to race. Who knows, maybe we’ll make the trek back here someday to do it again.