Lake Montclair is a private lake in northern Virginia. It is controlled by the community’s Home Owner’s Association. It used to be the location for an annual triathlon (of varying lengths – sprint to almost international, from what I can tell) until some incidents a few years ago closed it down. Through the hard work of the current HOA and a group of dedicated athletes, the Montclair Triathlon was back in business on Sunday!
The distance was a true sprint – 750 yds swim, 12.4 mile bike, and 5K run within the community. The race was capped at 500 participants and I don’t think they quite hit that cap this year. I’ll just put it out there now that I was not able to complete the race but here are some of the details for the event.
Packet pick-up was a low key event at VA Road Runner in Woodbridge, VA. The race director gave a short briefing a bit after 3 where he outlined the course and explained the one tricky part of the bike course. Everyone received a nice, light-weight cotton shirt with their numbers. There were safety pins on the table but not in the envelopes – not a problem for me as I had a race belt but I saw several participants who were carrying their numbers on the run.
The weather was absolutely perfect for NoVA. High 60s, low humidity. The lake was 79.5 degrees. I saw a small number of people in sleeveless wetsuits but most went without. The course was well marked with large yellow balloons every 100 yds, paddle boards or boats in between, and rescue personal around the perimeter. There were also residents who were spectating from their pontoon boats.
The swim, a water start, was seeded by age and gender so I was in the first wave – women under 40 – followed by men under 40. This was my first open water swim so I swam out and back a few times, probably 50 yards each time, just to get the feel for things. I was feeling good but decided to go to the back and outside of the wave to stay out of the main craziness. Around 100 yds in, I was kicked pretty hard in the shoulder. I gulped quite a bit of water and came up sputtering. I spent the next 200 yds swimming with my head up because I couldn’t take a full breath. I made it to a paddle board at the 300 yd turn and tried to catch my breath. Every time I tried to breathe deep, I started coughing and I know I had water in my lungs. I told the guy on the board that I wanted to try to make it to the next buoy but I could only go about 5 strokes before I had to doggy paddle back. I knew that even if I did managed to float my way to the finish, there is no way my lungs could handle the bike and run.
A very nice group was nearby on their pontoon boat and asked if they could take me back. I was a crying, wet mess but the gave me a towel, calmed me down, and even offered me a Bloody Mary! I wish I had gotten their names but I will be forever grateful for their kindness.
Back on dock, the medical personal checked me out a bit and sent me on my way. I turned in my chip and sat in the grass for another cry while waiting to get into transition to collect my things. I then packed out my stuff and loaded it in my car. My car was on the dead-end side of transition so I knew I was stuck for a good 2 hours. Instead of sitting and feeling sorry for myself, I put on some dry clothes and went to help direct athletes out to the run and hand out water.
The Bike and Run
While I didn’t do the rest of the course, I do know that the bike was a double loop with a significant hill (5-6% grade) at the start. There were 17 police officers and 17 volunteers on the bike course. The run was a single loop with three water stops (including the one at the start). In other words, a very well supported course!
I only have a few qualms with this race. First, I couldn’t find the start to save my life. The neighborhood is very confusing with a lot of loops. Quite a few athletes were local to the neighborhood or friends of locals and I felt like those from outside the area were at a bit of a disadvantage. Just a couple of signs would have made the world of difference. Second, the seeding on the swim was tough. I do wish they had seeded by estimated times. Third, the hill on the bike/run out of transition was very slick and I saw a lot of people slip and fall on it. There should have been a mat on it to give a bit of traction.
Like I said, minor quibbles. Since this was the first year, really, for this race, I give it a solid A. I really do hope they are able to make this a yearly event again.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention the cat who was hanging out and watching the bike/run exit. He seemed quite amused by our antics.