A very belated, way too long 2013 Ironman Lake Tahoe race report

Ironman Lake Tahoe.

Yeah, I did it in 2013. It is 2014, and now practically a full year later. Wish I could say this report reflects a year’s worth of writing, but it is not. Regardless, perhaps it is useful to an Ironman hopeful somewhere down the line.

Preparations:

I am so fortunate to be friends with so many amazing people, including quite a few other triathletes/endurance folks. A group of us ladies created our own little training group, complete with kits and regular weekend adventures. The IronMinxes trained in Tahoe, Yosemite, Gold Country, East Bay, Marin, South Bay, and the Peninsula. Good times, lots of laughs, many Coca-Colas.

We didn’t train with a coach, but instead used our own experiences (and existing events) to create our training plan(s). All of us finished, and given the high DNF (did not finish) rate of IM Tahoe 2013, I think we did a great job planning! If interested, check out the events I discussed last year, or feel free to reach out via comments if you have questions.

I managed to get up to Tahoe once a month, which helped me get a good grasp of the challenging bike course, and how to calm down my breathing on the swim. Hugely helpful, and my top tip for any local-ish triathlete looking to finish IM Tahoe.

Week of the Race:

Altitude prep –
My iron levels are typically low (borderline anemic), which I don’t think helps my acclimatization. I started taking Mega Food Blood Builder in the spring, which seemed to help. Then in August I switched to Floradix, a liquid iron supplement for the last month. From August 2012 to August 2013 I did have an increase in my Ferritin #s (despite all the endurance stuff), which I credit to these two supplements.

Hamburgers are also a great source of Iron and a lovely Sunday recovery dinner. Props to Kwik Way in Oakland!

I took Diamox on Monday and Tuesday of race week, just to help speed up my acclimatization – note that I had already taken Diamox previously, so I knew how my body reacted to the drug. I got up to Tahoe on Wednesday, super late, but still got in my first night of sleep up “high” that night.
Accomodations –
Squaw. Close to everything race related except for swim and T1. Much thanks to Jamie for making this reservation early.
Day before:
There was a small watercraft warning. The lake had white caps. It poured. The wind was a-howlin. Snow was sticking that afternoon at Donner Pass and Soda Springs.
Still, the storm was supposed to clear overnight, so the race was presumed to be a go.
We double and triple-bagged our transition bags, which were all completely filled with every sort of warm-weather gear imaginable. We covered our bike saddles and handlebars with plastic bags so they wouldn’t be covered in ice. We did not leave any nutrition on the bike, lest it be a target for bears – or a frozen mess.
We ate our pasta and stared out the window at the storm. I thought about my snowboard as snow accumulated on the mountain top just outside our window. Heather, creative genius behind Feather West had the brilliant idea to bring inspirational temporary tattoos from Tattly.
“Everyday I’m Hustlin” tat on my quad, upside down so I could read it.
And… to bed.

Day of:

Conditions: Still cold. Woke up to temps right around freezing, but no rain. So that’s good. Expected to get up into the mid-upper 50s? <- here’s where it would have been useful to have written this earlier.
Morning eats: Perpetuem, rice, peanut butter, banana
Swim: NOT COLD
When I talk about the race now, people usually react by asking about the water temperature. HA! Warmest part of the day, seriously. Thanks to a super hot summer, the lake was balmy. So warm that the cold air + mild water = hella fog, which created some interesting sighting here and there. Sun came out during lap two, was in my eyes for a short time. Overall the clear lenses were a good call.
The rolling swim start was pretty solid. I walked in with the other 1:20-1:30 folks. Minimal contact. I’m not gunning for a qualifying spot and figured that I would either DNF in spectacular fashion, or make the cut-offs pretty easily, so the lost/gained time due to the rolling start was not an issue for me.
Gear: Champion seamless sports bra, swim suit bottoms, wetsuit, double swim cap (goggle strap under the first one), Barracuda goggles – clear, ancient Orca wetsuit. Wool socks that I ditched on the beach <– these were to protect my feet from the frozen sand. They failed.
T1: CHAOS
So the swim was super calm. The T1 tent. It was not. IM Wisconsin was super cushy – indoors, everyone got their own volunteer, plenty of space. This was a madhouse. Some areas were flooded due to the rain, not enough chairs, not enough volunteers, too many people in general. Why? Usually you don’t need to do a major wardrobe change at T1. Here, everyone had frozen hands and feet and needed to fully change. I managed to swing a volunteer (no idea how, just right place/right time) who helped me with my stuff, but it was not pretty. Upon leaving, I saw men fully changing outside of their tent. Later found out that my friend Ryan had all of his cold weather gear lost and ended up wearing a HUGE windbreaker… not ideal for a dude who’s really into being aero.

Wore:

Same wet sports bra (easier T1, not so smart though)
IronMinx Jackroo bike kit
Jackroo arm warmers
Target women’s knee socks fashioned into arm warmers
Oiselle clear run/bike vest
New Pearl Izumi full-fingered gloves
Smartwool short socks
Cannondale neoprene toe covers
Specialized BG bike shoes
Smith sunglasses

Should have added knee warmers, at a minimum. Another outer layer on top would have also been good, in addition to warmer gloves and something else on my feet. And maybe an ear warmer or hat.

Bike: JUST MAKE IT AROUND TO BROCKWAY SO I CAN GET WARM
I knew the course pretty well – it’d be flat/rolling for a while. Some small climbs in Truckee, then around to the Big Climbs at Brockway and Martis Camp. I knew that I needed to get around past mile 40 to the climbs, I would probably make it… as long as I also forced myself to eat and drink – even when it was hard to unwrap frozen Bonk Breaker bars on the bike and I wanted hot tea, not cold Skratch.

Toes and fingers thawed out around the halfway point. I think I ditched my vest at some point because the plastic-y coated fabric was a little too warm on the climbs, maybe also lost the fakey sock armwarmers – kept everything else (there was a drop section where you could get your gear back – special needs bags were not returned).

Saw some friends on the bike – Heather, Ryan, Kevin, Jamie. Lots of great spectators and tons of people I knew! Graeme, Tiffany, Stefan, and Scott in Truckee. Steve was out with his parents – great to see him coming back into Squaw at the end. Matt & Liza were at the swim/bike transition – good to get early love, too. Kate, Laura, and Lara – tutu much! Caren – on Brockway, driving so she could get back to Kevin.

T2: LET’S DO THIS
Compared to T1, T2 was super chill. I had a volunteer to myself, as expected. I got to pick through my gear and select as needed, apply some sunscreen, no big deal.

Wore:

IronMinx (Jackroo) run singlet
Same sports bra
Athleta running skirt
Smartwool socks (perhaps the same ones as on the bike?)
Same Smith sunglasses, eventually stored on top of my visor
North Face Ion Blue run visor
Brooks Pure Cadence shoes
Yanks speed laces
Kinesys sunscreen
Mini Aquaphor on hand for chafing needs
Run: BROTH AND COKE
Started the run with the sun still up, but not terribly high in the sky. Got my butt out there and just started picking off miles. Slowly. Fortunately, no real low points here. I walked the aid stations and started in around mile five (?) -ish on a good Coke & chicken broth regimen. Totally worked. Even if I didn’t want to see Coke or broth again for a really long time.

Grabbed arm warmers, mini gloves, and an ear warmer from my special needs bag early on (you pass it twice on the course). Left the ear thing and the gloves with a volunteer somewhere with about six miles to go since I was nearing the finish and it was clear that someone would be able to use my stuff.

Spectator support was so key! Jenni’s parents were out there on an aid station. Kate and Lara with their light up tutus and Ryan Gosling posters. Steve and Bob. Steve, seemingly everywhere. Graeme, Tiff, Stefan, & Scott found a time portal so they could catch me back-to-back by cutting off a corner in the course. Mary’s mom and her IronMinx/Go!Running poster. AND seeing so many of my Minxes on the out and back part of the run course.

Seriously though, key here was slow and steady, walk through aid and pick up both broth and Coke. Could I have run faster? I don’t know. Maybe… but I also did not blow up at any point along the way.

AND THEN FINISH

!!!!!

And then get really, really, really cold. Steve and his many puffy jackets were true rockstars here. He bundled me up and got me upstairs to our room where I took a hot, hot shower. Got some hot chocolate. And pizza. And hung out on the balcony where we could see the finishers chute! So rad!

The numbers…
RACE SUMMARY
Swim 01:24:03
Bike 07:33:12
Run 04:33:01
Overall 13:50:30

SWIM DETAILS | Division Rank: 47

SPLIT NAME DISTANCE SPLIT TIME RACE TIME PACE DIVISION RANK GENDER RANK OVERALL RANK
Total 2.4 mi 01:24:03 01:24:03 02:10/100m 47 255 1173

BIKE DETAILS | Division Rank: 33

SPLIT NAME DISTANCE SPLIT TIME RACE TIME PACE DIVISION RANK GENDER RANK OVERALL RANK
Total 112 mi 07:33:12 09:10:40 14.83 mph 33 178 1028

RUN DETAILS | Division Rank: 26

SPLIT NAME DISTANCE SPLIT TIME RACE TIME PACE DIVISION RANK GENDER RANK OVERALL RANK
Total 26.2 mi 04:33:01 13:50:30 10:25/mi 26 122 751

Transition Details

T1: Swim-to-bike 00:13:25
T2: Bike-to-run 00:06:49

IM Tahoe… let’s get some of this stuff out of the way.

My Ironman Lake Tahoe race report is well beyond overdue. And this still isn’t it. 

I finished. Overall, I’m proud to have finished the inaugural Ironman Lake Tahoe. Slower than IM Wisconsin in 2011, but that seems pretty standard among all participants who have done nearly any other Ironman (barring other complications).

To confirm what you, dear reader, may have already heard:

  • Yes, the swim was surreal with all the steam rising off the still-warmish lake
  • Yes, it was challenging to sight through that steam and mist
  • Yes, the changing tents in T1 were beyond over-crowded (including the women’s tent)
  • Yes, it was cold
  • Yes, it snowed the day before
  • Yes, the sand was frozen and there were plenty of bike seats covered in ice
  • There was a dude out there riding his bike in his wetsuit
  • Yes, it was beautiful
  • And made more challenging at elevation
  • And the bike did include a lot of climbing
  • Yes, the headlamp was necessary for the run
  • And no, we did not get our special needs bags back

 


Race Report – Donner Lake Half

Race Report! Donner Lake Half Iron – July 28.

 
Yep. Another practice race. This time, bonus! altitude. And a slew of other challenges (like a bike ride with more climbing than Wildflower). I was fortunate to do this race with a group of friends/training buddies. Since none of us were terribly impressed with our performances, I decided to turn our post-race email recap into a list:
 
Here’s what I learned.
 

What worked:

1. Getting most of my “breakfast” in the form of a liquid – Perpetuem
2. Realizing that Jenni was near me on the swim and following her (not sure how to replicate this)
3. Slow and steady up Donner Pass – no need to burn out early on the bike (keep this in mind on the first half of the first loop)
4. Chucking my extra bottles for the second trip up the backside of Donner Pass road – no need for extra weight up that bi-yatch (or up Brockway)
5. Not waking up in the middle of the night to tend to a sick cousin (like poor Jenni) – get to bed early, dark room, quiet
6. Prepping my bike #s, bottles the night before – less AM stress – thanks Heather & Jamie
7. Having a buddy for the second loop of the run. Duh. Also not sure how to replicate for sure.
8. Our awesome new kits!!!
9. Double espresso shot Clif Shot halfway through the run
10. Pre-medicate with anti-gas med, take another after the swim – thanks Jenni!
11. Swim on Saturday to get a feel for water temp
12. Being around friends that morning to help reduce stress 
13. Crowd support from our cheerleaders!!!!
14. Stowing a tiny tube of Vaseline in my pocket for underarm chafing on the run and dry/cracking lips
15. Having Mary help me into my wetsuit – loved the trick of yanking up on the back and shoulders
 
What didn’t work:
1. All gel nutrition on the bike. I know I can’t chew when I’m at high output, so will again do Wisconsin nutrition plan – Perpetuem, Ironman Perform, potatoes in the special needs bag, bananas on course, pop tarts, couple of gels. 
2. Second half of the bike – being all alone = lack of motivation. Seriously. This should not be an issue at IM.
3. Need more time to acclimate. Planned.
4. Big ass side cramp/stitch at the start of the run. Had this to a lesser degree at HITS Napa. On the second loop when I got it again, Heather suggested I breathe through my nose only to reduce it, which seemed to work. Would love suggestions for other tricks to prevent/heal this – it’s rare for me, but sucks when it happens.
5. Besides our cheerleaders, general lack of support on the run, and bike – again, shouldn’t be an issue at IM
6. Freak out at swim start. Unusual… maybe b/c I didn’t know where I was going (shouldn’t be an issue at IM), maybe b/c of lack of O2 (definitely an issue at IM). 
 
 
Overall performance was crap. The run was about 0.4 miles longer than your standard half ironman distance, but still. Longest. Half. Ever. Almost an hour off my PB half – so ridiculous! 4th in my age group (of seven). Happy with my swim time… downhill from there. But, a learning experience.
 
Race thoughts:
This has been an Olympic distance race. The RD, intelligently, added a half ironman distance this year. I’d say 90% of the racers were doing Ironman Lake Tahoe, 5% were considering it for 2014 and wanted to use this as an altitude test, and 5% had no idea what they were in for with this one. 300 people registered for the half – small field. Wish I had a lot of good things to say about this one, but it’s kind of tough when my other half IM distance races have been larger events with a lot more support. 
 
Swim – Very poorly marked. Just two buoys to mark the two turns for 1.2 miles. I couldn’t see either of them from shore. Appreciated the kayakers and paddleboarders, but could have used more of them, and a better indication that they were marking the course for us. Water conditions were good. Calm, temp was great. 
 
Bike – Three mile climb up out of the lake on Donner Pass Road. Then downhill for 13 miles. Go a little bit more past that, then turn around. Climb back up to the top (don’t descend down)… back down, turn around, climb back up, then descend to the lake. Couple aid stations. When the course was more populated (first half) due to the Olympic distance athletes, it wasn’t so bad. But man, that long climb the second time around… when all I could see was one guy ahead of me… y u c k. Nothing to be done about that, but seriously, I was DONE with Hwy 40 by the time I finished. Thought there should have been some sort of safety warning before the big descent down to the lake, or race official nearby in case of an emergency. After that long climb back up to the top, even I wanted to open it up on the way down (and I am a slow poke descender) and it was very steep and twisty.
 
Run – two loops around the lake. The lake looks HUGE, but is 6.75 miles around. Aid roughly at the mile. Limited volunteers, so you’re mostly on your own to grab what you want – Gatorade, water, or Power Bar gel shot. Pretty sure our friends were the only folks out there cheering for us, aside from at the beginning of the second loop/finish area. The bathrooms are all public restrooms for the picnic/lake facilities. People didn’t really seem to know/care that there was a race going on and you’re running in a bike lane/on road/through a parking lot/bike path – so you, as a racer, have to take care of yourself. Understandable for a small event, but a few signs along the route would have been nice to see. Nice mixture of shade and sun and the lake made for inviting scenery.
 
SWAG – tech tee, medal. Nice to not get a bag full of advertisements.

GOOD LUCK!!!

IronMinxes Daphne and Sara are racing at Ironman Lake Placid on Sunday. GO GO GO!!!


Summer camp!

Not that I ever actually went to summer camp as a child, but if it’s anything like last weekend, I totally missed out!

1. Lucked into a spot in a friend’s Kings Beach condo for the weekend. She was there for a family reunion and asked if I’d like to join. Despite many weekends in a row (past and future) of being out of town, I decided to go. Seriously, the answer 99% of the time should be JUST GO. You can do your laundry another time.

2. Spent time with lady friends. Ah. I love my girlfriends.

3. Saturday – slept in, got a late start riding. Really, the only flaw in the weekend. Because it was hot, hot hot outside. So hot that my original ~80 mile bike plan (two loops of the 2.3 loop Ironman Lake Tahoe course) dropped down to just one loop, complete with a panting/heat stroke-ish stop NOT at the top of the major climb, but about 90% of the way to the top. But then, much laziness at the condo, dinner making with my friend Jen, enjoying watching the heat-induced thunderstorm and hail, chatting about boys and dating and business and life. Good times.

4. Sunday. Another bike ride. This time, I started out solo, and intending to do just one loop. Along the way, I met Jeanne, who was in town from NY. Fellow triathlete and IMLT hopeful, she was visiting for Wanderlust (a yoga weekend) and a little course recon. So fab to have a bike buddy!! Then – some good times swimming with Jen. Lake Tahoe is so amazingly clear and blue and… uh, up really high. Swimming at 6200 feet is ROUGH. But, fun with and without a wetsuit. Later, a Sunday nap. Ahhhhh. Nap. I think this is when I decided I was at camp.

5. Sunday night, I left Kings Beach and went to Truckee, where a friend, Kelly, has a sublease for a few weeks. We enjoyed delicious sushi (ok, not so summery campy) and conversation.

6. Started Monday with a lovely run on the Squaw bike path. Might have even felt the beginnings of a bit of acclimatization? I managed to get in a few miles at a sub 9min/mile (which is nothing to cheer about at sea level, but a huge friggin deal at altitude)! Then yoga. A class called Yoga For Stiffs at the Tahoe Yoga & Wellness Center! How great is that? Delicious Thai lunch. And Thai iced tea. So sweet and refreshing. And then more luxurious chill time on the couch.

6. Eventually, camp ended and I had to head home. The drive back was pretty rad, because I missed Sacramento AND Bay Area traffic. AND got to stop for Pinkberry in Davis. 

7. I love camp. 


I don’t know if I’m feeling ready!

A few days away from being just nine weeks out from Ironman Lake Tahoe. Kind of scary. Friends have been asking how I feel, if I feel ready, how my training is progressing.

I don’t know.

I know that I did a pretty consistent effort ~100 mile ride two weeks ago and felt okay. Ran 15 miles the next day – though not quite as fast as I would have liked. I’ve done two really long run/hike days in Yosemite at elevations far higher than Lake Tahoe, which has to count for something. Swam 2.4 miles about a month ago. Finished, despite forgetting to eat before the event.

But am I ready? I don’t know. 

Fortunately, some friends invited me to join them in Tahoe for the weekend, so I’ll get another opportunity to get out on the course. I’m also doing a half Ironman at Donner Lake (also at altitude) next weekend, which will also be a decent kick in the pants indicator of my training.


Not really close at all to qualifying for a race that is not Kona

Email received from USAT – full text below. Basically, I was kind of not really close to qualifying for some AG championship race. They wants to let me know that I could try to qualify for the Olympic 2013 USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships by qualifying before July 11 (top 10% AG, I assume), or I get in the top 33% (why is it different at this race?) of my AG at one of these regional championship races. OR I could just drop $155 on the Sprint-Distance National Championships, which has open registration.

USAT. Ninja, please. I’m a little occupied. Training for Ironman Lake Tahoe (Don’t you talk to WTC? You know, your evil best friend? I gave them a lot of money. OVER A YEAR AGO). Ain’t nobody got time for this.

But… thanks?!? I think?

Edited due to my own stupidity. Thanks to Lara for pointing out that USAT and WTC are, in fact, two different entities.

……………………………………………………………………………………………..

Congratulations! You’re receiving this email because you’re one of a select group of triathletes in the U.S. who has finished in the 11-20 percentile of your age group in at least one USA Triathlon-sanctioned local race over the past year. But, as you may know, those who finish in the top-10 percent automatically qualify for the Olympic-distance race on Aug. 10 at the 2013 USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships in Milwaukee.

In other words, you’re sooo close.

USA Triathlon would love to see you in Milwaukee, so we wanted to let you know there’s still time to qualify. If you improve your performance slightly and finish in the top-10 percent of your age group at any race distance during just one sanctioned event by July 11, you’re in. So visit our online race calendar today to find a sanctioned event near you.

Or, simply lock-in a race slot for Milwaukee now! Yes, you can grab a spot on the start line by registering today for the USA Triathlon Sprint-Distance National Championships on Aug. 11. Unlike the Olympic-distance division, the sprint features open registration (no qualification necessary) and, based on your finish, you can even earn the right to represent the United States at the 2014 ITU Age Group World Championships in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Click here to register now.

If you have any questions about the 2013 USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships or the qualification process, please emailnationalevents@usatriathlon.org (do not reply to this email) or visit the Age Group National Championships page.

Whether it’s the Sprint-Distance or the Olympic-Distance National Championships (some people even do both!), we hope you’re up to the challenge and we look forward to announcing your name at the finish line in Milwaukee!