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.

One Comment on “Race Report – Donner Lake Half”

  1. Kristina Vetter says:

    Oo boy- hillier AND higher altitude than Wildflower. This is kind of freaking me out, but I appreciate the tips and heads-up.

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