I heard about the Lake James 50 event (by Set Up Events) from a nutrition athlete of mine (thanks Stephanie!) a few weeks ago. After giving it some thought and talking it over with Karel, I figured it would be a great opportunity for me to get out some nerves before Rev3 Knoxville.
It was only 2 weeks ago when Karel mentioned that he was interested in the race too so we thought it would be a fun opportunity for us to both race together on a tough course.
And for only $100 as the registration fee, it was hard to turn this race down, even if just for a "tune-up" race.
The event featured a 1 mile swim, 40 mile bike and 9 mile run (although it was shortened to 8.4 miles on race day due to logistics of the run course in the state park) which was just long enough to test our endurance fitness before our key races next weekend. Seeing that Karel and I will only be racing together in Ironman Austria this year, I looked forward to the opportunity to race with Karel - as he has a special way of helping me suffer better on race day.
The race course was absolutely beautiful and the event staff was great. We couldn't find one thing about this event that we didn't like. Then again, we both absolutely love really hard courses that include a lot of hills.
This course did not disappoint our expectations!
The weather was low to mid 50's when when arrived to the race around 6am and by the race start at 8am, it was in the 60's. The high for the day was predicted to be in the mid to low 70's and sunny. The water temp was 73 - so wetsuit legal.
The swim was a two loop triangle swim with ample buoys to stay on course. After one loop, we exited the water for 5-10 steps and then ran back into the water for loop two.
After exiting the swim, we ran up a sidewalk (uphill) to T1. With this being a small race and only around 100 athletes, the transition was easy to navigate through. Karel and I have always been big fans of smaller races as it provides a very fair and low stress racing experience. Plus, we like to support the smaller event companies.
The bike course started in Lake James Beach park with around 2.2 miles on undulating terrain, which was also our run course. It was hard to establish a nice riding rhythm from the start so once we exited the park, we had 2 loops of 18 miles of rolling hills (with a few longer climbs) to get into "race" mode.
The course was very well marked with orange arrows on the road and very little traffic. The course only had 3 turns which made it very easy to navigate (and each right hand turn had a volunteer and/or police officer). We felt very safe on the course and overall, the road pavement was great (then again, anything is better than our pavement near the mountains in Gville :)
When Karel and I drove the course on Friday evening before the athlete meeting (the day before the race), we kept saying out loud "this is going to be hard, this will be so much fun!" If that is any indication of how much we love hard courses.
Karel and I both prefer hilly and technical courses which allow us to use our bike skills and muscular endurance. While my cycling has been a work in progress over the past 10 years, I am constantly finding myself feeling more and more comfortable executing well on the bike on hilly courses. Karel, on the other hand, is made for hilly, hard and technical courses thanks to his lifetime of bike racing.
The 40 mile bike course was filled with mountain and water views with a sprinkle of farms and the occasional farm animal for me to say hello to (yep, those furry ones always get a hello from me, even on race day).
After 36 miles of riding, the bike courses finishes with 2.2 miles in the park with another preview of the run course.
If you like running up and up and up hills, with the occasional downhill (this run course feels like it has far more uphills than downhills), this is your run course. For Karel and myself, this run course was made for us. Although it's never easy running hills off the bike, our legs favor the change of rhythm of running hills vs just running flats as we can run strong on hills and we don't have to be "fast" (although Karel would say that he likes hilly bike courses and a flat run but he doesn't mind a hilly run too).
Whereas the bike had one aid station with water (per loop), the run course had two aid stations (so about 1 each mile). With the run course being two loops (out and back twice), it was easy to break this run into segments.
And if you love running loops like I do (or out and backs), you will absolutely love the turn around which is a scenic look-out point at the top of a hill. It kinda made you want to stop and enjoy the view!
The finish of the run lead us down to the beach (where we started) and it was a straight shot on packed sand to the finish.
We plan on racing this event next year as we absolutely loved the course, the venue and the Set Up Events staff (and state park staff) was very welcoming, helpful and caring.
And, with the race venue only being around 40 minutes from Asheville, NC there are many places to eat at (and yum) before and after the race.
This race distance (longer than an Oly and shorter than a half) is perfect for any athlete who is looking for a long distance tri early season to build confidence on hilly terrain, to use as a supported training day, to dust off some rust after several months of winter training or to shake out any pre-race nerves before another key race.
Karel - Overall Male Winner -
26:57 swim (4th fastest male swim)
1:47:19 (1st fastest bike)
54:53 (2nd fastest run)
25:19 swim (1st fastest female swim, 2nd overall fastest swim)
1:58.20 bike (1st fastest female bike, 7th overall fastest bike)
1:04.03 (2nd fastest female run, 9th overall fastest run)
A big thank you to our amazing 2016 Trimarni sponsors.