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Athletes put their bodies through test of endurance

Lake Anna was the scene of a torture test last week.

And some paid more than $1,000 for the experience.

Several dozen athletes came from all over the world last week to take part in the ultra triathlon known as the Anvil, a rare competition that has drawn an eclectic group of athletes to Lake Anna for more than a decade.

The level of extreme competition varied, but a few of the competitors went the distance in the competition—running, swimming and bicycling five consecutive days. All told, those “quintuple” competitors swam 12 miles in Lake Anna, pedaled 560 miles and ran 131 miles.

Christine Couldrey, a 39-year-old molecular biologist from New Zealand, was one of the extreme competitors.

Late in the morning on Saturday, looking exhausted, she rested in a chair, drinking coffee and having her legs massaged by a friend who came from Washington to help her through the ordeal.

She had just 13 laps to run in order to complete her five-day triathlon.

“I’ve come too far now,” she said.

The Anvil race, organized by Virginia Beach resident Steve Kirby, has been held at Lake Anna regularly since 2001. He also holds the Anvil event in Florida, and plans to run another one in Oregon.

There aren’t many races like the ultra triathlon, which is similar to an Ironman competition.

Michel Gagne, a 57-year-old Canadian and regular at the Lake Anna events, said there are about eight such ultra triathlon events worldwide.

The Lake Anna Anvil competitors completed events over the course of five days.

Couldrey and other competitors said an extreme race like the Anvil is a way to challenge themselves.

“I mostly want to see if I can do it,” said Couldrey, who has raced and volunteered before at the Lake Anna ultra triathlon.

The competitors say another draw is the camaraderie.

“Each year we’ve met new friends,” said Gagne.

The tightness of the community of athletes was evident along a stretch of road where the competitors and their helpers set up a sort of tent city.

Equipment and clothes were strewn about many of the tents. And tables were covered with with assortments of food and medical supplies.

On Saturday, the runners made their way along the course, continuously receiving encouragement and offers of food and water.

After days of constant physical punishment, many of the competitors moved slowly and stiffly. Some looked as though they would keel over at any moment.

Lynchburg-area doctor George Wortley was there to make sure everyone survived.

He treated such ailments as heart palpitations, and hamstring and abdominal pulls. He worried that one quintuple competitor was showing early signs of a stress fracture in his lower leg.

Because of the rain, blisters were a problem. Wortley used Super Glue and duct tape to treat those.

Also, he said, because of the extreme toll on their bodies and lack of sleep, many of the quintuple competitors experienced hallucinations.

As Couldrey continued to rest in her tent early Saturday afternoon, she said sleep deprivation was a big challenge. She started on Tuesday and didn’t get “proper sleep” until about 1 a.m. Thursday.

And, yes, she had some bad blisters on her feet.

“I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to anybody,” she said with a fatigued laugh as her friend continued to massage her legs. “You need really good friends if you’re going to do this.”

 

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436

sshenk@freelancestar.com

 

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