by AJ Petrillo
Distances: 600 yard Swim, 18 mile bike, 3.1 mile run
Location: Blue Ridge GA, Start at the Lake Blue Ridge Marina and finish in the middle of Historic Downtown Blue Ridge.
I have been training in this area since 2007. Every time I crossed the Lake Blue Ridge Dam and see the crystal clear blue waters along with the towering mountains in the background, I would get a sense of peace and calm about me. I was able to train in one of the most picturesque locations in GA and I wanted to share this with the rest of the triathlon community. I shared this vision with 2 other people and we decided to put on a race. We recruited 3 more enthusiasts and formed a race committee.
One of the many views that inspired the race
From the beginning, it was important to us to provide the best race experience possible, from start to finish. 2015 will be our 6th annual race and we have grown from 280 racers our first year to nearly 400 ever since. Because of this success, we have been able to donate Thousands of dollars ever year to local charities and the city of Blue Ridge has come to embrace this great event.
This is the only flat part of our race. The swim is a basic triangle and we have waive starts so the swim never gets too crazy. We have been very fortunate and have had smooth conditions for all 5 years of the race. This is in a very protected part of the lake, yet you have big Lake and Mountain views all around you. When the sun rises over the lake, if you don’t experience something magical, we might need to check your pulse to make sure you are still alive. There is a fairly steep boat ramp for the exit. Exit smooth and jog or walk if needed up the ramp.
Running up the boat ramp
The bike is very fun and can be fast if you are used to riding hills. It is an out and back course with no sharp curves. It is NOT closed to traffic. We do our very best to have volunteers at every intersection and the road is a very lightly traveled back road. Most of the road surface is smooth and is swept the night before and rechecked it in the am.
The first climb is out of T-1. Do not hammer this climb, spin smoothly up it so you can start to get into your rhythm once you make the right hand turn out onto the main part of the course. You will have a mall downhill and then a nice flat section across the dam. Look to your right and take in the sights, that view is what started it all!
As soon as you cross the dam, you will have the first of many climbs, nothing is over a mile. The longest climb will be towards the turnaround where you will have a short steep downhill right before you make the turn to come back. The course is faster coming home, so save some energy to really go fast on the down hills.
There is only 1 bump to worry about and that is as you are coming back across the dam towards the end of the ride. There is a sign there, but PLEASE get out of aero position and be ready for it.
The run is tough. It is a point-to-point run with more elevation gain than loss. Do not expect to run a PR on this course. Make sure to take it slow up Marina drive from T-2. This hill crushes a lot of souls.
Once you crest the hill, turn on the afterburners and enjoy the 1 mile downhill. After that, you will climb back up to downtown Blue Ridge and then have one last downhill. The course will flatten out and then have a slight grade from Main Street to the finish.
The finish is slightly uphill. You will be greeted by a live band, cheering spectators and a full meal! The awards usually take place by 10:30 and we have a free kids run at the finish.
Race day tips:
Arrive early. Parking is one of the toughest things we deal with and it can get backed up quickly. Car pool if you can and leave one car in downtown Blue Ridge and then drive to the race start. We have busses shuttling racers from the finish to the start starting around 9:00, but having your own car makes it nice.
Pre-ride the bike course. This is a great ride to do anytime and a part of my training rides. Start at the Marina and turn right onto Old Hwy 76 for approximately 9 miles, then turn around.
Drive the run course, unless you do it early in the a.m. This road is busy on a normal day and we run against traffic once we hit Main Street.
SMILE and thank your volunteers. We have over 50 volunteers that are here to make sure you have a fun, safe day. There is nothing worse than a poor attitude from a racer, remember, we don’t get paid to do this.