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Lake Tahoe Triathlon - TriathlonOlympic

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Lake Tahoe, California
United States
Global Events Management
36F / 2C
Total Time = 4h 04m 34s
Overall Rank = 57/70
Age Group = 45-49
Age Group Rank = 4/6
Pre-race routine:

We rented a house in the Tahoe Keys area, which was about an hour's drive away. I woke up at 3:30 AM to a howling south wind. The day before, the same wind was blowing, and the swim area had 3 foot swells with whitecaps. This was my biggest fear, that the wind would continue, and that we would be forced to swim in horrible conditions. The gremlims in my head told me that I could just go back to bed, and blame the wind, but I fought them off - thinking that if things were that bad, the race director would probably cancel the race.
I had a bagel with peanut butter and bannana, and a cup of coffee. Got all my stuff loaded up, and we got on the road about 4:45 AM. It was a drop-dead gorgeous drive up Hwy 89, as it was a full moon shining across the Lake, and we only saw one car the entire drive. I had a power bar about 6:00 AM, and then a gel about 6:30 with some water.
They were just starting to set up the transition area and the race areas when we got there, so I had plenty of time to set up my transition area and to get marked. Air temperature was frigid, at best. Temp's ranged from 34 to 38 on the trip over, with about a 10-15 mph wind, but just friggin cold. Even with the wetsuit on, everyone was shiverring and trying to keep warm.
Event warmup:

This was the weirdest race - it was frigging freezing cold, so they had eveyone stand by the timing chip mat - made everyone get out of the water to stand there, and then led the swimmers into the water, across the timing mat, in waves. Once in the water (which was also frigging freezing cold), they only gave you about 2 minutes to get acclimated. So, I essentially got zero warmup - a few seconds with my face underwater, and we were off.
  • 51m 15s
  • 1640 yards
  • 03m 07s / 100 yards

This was a tough swim for me. I knew going in that the distance and altitude (6400 feet) would make this a challange - and then the damned south wind had to blow all night. The swim portion was at Kings Beach, which is at the far northern end of a 22 mile long lake - so the waves had lots of opportunities to get big. Once we started, everything seemed to be ok - but the waves were bad. If asked to give odds, I would have placed them and less than 50% that I would finish the swim. I had done a practice swim in similar surf conditions and gotten a bad case of motion sickness after about 20 minutes. I remember thinking - OK, so can you swim and vomit at the same time? - then I thought about the poor next wave that might have to swim through that - then, OK, so if I decide that I can't make it - how do I flag down someone - what if they don't see me.....
Finally, I realized that this line of reasoning was not helping me. I told myself to focus on moving my arms, breathing, and trying to get a little "coast" into each stroke, and to make sure I took full strokes. After what seemed to be forever, I made it to the first pylon (1/3 of the way). That was a big boost, as at that point I thought that my odds of finishing improved a bunch.
Sighting on the second leg was nearly impossible. All the swimmers from my wave were long gone, and most of the wave behind me were now way in front of me. We were looking directly into the sun, which had just came up, and I could not see anything. I was able to make out a couple of swimmers a few hundred yards in front of me, and lined them up with a "saddle" in the mountain range - and that was what I used for the entire second leg to sight. Once I passed the second pylon, it was the greatest feeling - I knew I was going to finish this swim. Of course, about the time I started feeling really good about the race is when my calves started to tighten up - and that sinking feeling when you know you have a cramp coming on, and there is not a damned thing you can do about it. I'm sure it was caused by the cold water, but the last leg both of my calves completely cramped up, and I could not even do a little flutter kick without making it worse. So the entire third leg it all about my arms - I remember thinking that "this water is cold, I have to get out quick before something bad happens". So, I focused on swimming really hard, with long hard strokes. I knew that my heartrate was probably going to spike, but at that point I did not care, because I just wanted out of that damned cold water. At then as I get about 100 yards off shore, I start seeing huge rocks on the beach - and I'm have to swim in-between these damned rocks. It seems that I had strayed a bit off course, and kinda missed the nice sandy beach approach. I was able to diagonal my way in, half swimming half walking and finally made it to the beach.
What would you do differently?:

I need a real wetsuit if I am going to do these cold lake swims - I'm sure I had most, if not all the signs of hypothermia by the time I got out.
Transition 1
  • 08m 8s

Wholly smokes - I have never been so cold in my life!!! I remember fussing with my wetsuit zipper on the way in off the beach, and struggling with it. I remember trying to run, but my legs felt like they were wooded sticks - only they were very painful wooden sticks. I made it across the timing mat, and saw my wife there cheering me on - that helped a little bit. Once in the transition area, it was almost surreal - it seems that the swim and the cold had drained everyones competitive edge - and we were now in survival mode. I was pleasantly suprised to see quite a few bikes still in the transition area - what I didn't know is that most of these people didn't make the swim, and were plucked out of the water by the rescue boats. I got the wetsuit off, washed off my feet, and dryed off - and then painfully started getting my bike stuff on. I had purchased a new wind-vest and armwarmers the day before, and man was I glad. It felt so good to get something warm and dry on at least part of my body. Even though I had meticulously laid everything thing out in transition, and practiced on several different occasions, this transistion was a disaster. I believe that I was way beyond the point of being cold, and was close to serious hypothermia - my brain just couldn't seem to make decisions, or to follow the routine that I had practiced. I finally got all my stuff on, had a gel and a shot of water, and walked my bike out to the outgoing timing mat. The lady at the end of the transition had to tell me twice to mount my bike - I guess I just didn't quite process it the first time she told me. I remember that my feet had no feeling at all - no pain, no cold, no nothing - just a couple of wooden sticks attached to my body.
What would you do differently?:

Find warmer water to swim in, and a better wet suit
  • 2h 07m 25s
  • 24 miles
  • 11.30 mile/hr

Out of the transition area was tough - trying to keep the bike going straight, when your whole body is shivering. Luckily the event had CHP's at the traffic signals, which gave us the right of way. I remember telling my self to unclip as I approached the intersection, just in case - but they flagged us right through. The first part of the bike was uneventful - just keep plodding along. This was the stangest thing - normally I am very, very competitive - I don't care if I'm riding next to last with another guy - I want to beat that guy. The "survival instinct" imparted upon me by the swim completely changed my outlook - now I just wanted to finish the damned race, and not bonk or crash. The ride up Brockway summit required climbing a 3 mile long, about 8-9% road grade. Finally, as I approached the summit, I started to warm up a bit. I still didn't have much feeling in my feet, but I could wiggle my toes and such, so I figured that they would eventually warm up also. Going down the other side of Brockway was an exercise in braking, and the roadway was pretty narrow, with lots of traffic and lots of debris on the edge of the roadway. I saw lots of people off to the side of the road changing flat tires - and I was so glad that I had just put new gator-skin tires on (they have a kevlar belt) to keep junk from puncturing the tubes. Oh, I forgot to mention - in all my races, I freeze my waterbottles the night before, so that was they are really cold during the race - note to self: do not freeze water bottles when the air temperature will be close to freezing - they do not melt nearly fast enough. Anyway, did a good job with hydrating and fueling - switching between water and accelerade, and a couple of gels on the bike, a then a power bar once I got down the other side of Brockway and into the flat section. Turnaround was uneventful, then headed back up Brockway summit from the Truckee side. First couple of miles was tough but OK, but then I hit the steepest section (and also about a 10 mph headwind). My legs were pretty much shot, and with only a double chainring, I just could not keep spinning fast enough to keep moving. So, I said the hell with it, I unclipped and started walking my bike up. I hated to do this, but it seemed to be the only option at the time. They changed the course about 3 weeks out from the event, and I had been training for about a 1300 foot vertical, not the close to 3000 feet of vertical that we were now asked to do. So, I walked about 1/2 a mile - which really wasn't that big of a deal, just a little slower that riding, and it gave me a chance to refuel - gel and 4 fig newtons.
What would you do differently?:

Train more on long steep hills.
Transition 2
  • 02m 4s

Again, nothing happened fast or good here. After being beat up by the bike ride, my focus was to just keep moving, and get it done. Luckily my wife was standing near the transition area, and she suggested that I take my helmet off before I run - otherwise that would have been a very funny series of pictures. I had taken off the armwarmers on the downhill, so just had to rack bike, take off vest, change bottles and shoes, and go.
What would you do differently?:

  • 55m 43s
  • 6.21 miles
  • 08m 58s  min/mile

This was by far, the best part of the race for me. I knew at this point that nothing short of being run over by a bus was going to keep me from finishing. I passed a runner on the way out, and then started running behind another runner going up into the residential section. As the roadway grade got steeper, we both started walking about the same time (to keep my heartrate down). We chatted a little bit, and then started running together. She seemed to enjoy the company, and it certainly made the miles go by a little easier. We ran together the rest of the way, stopping at every water station, walking up the steep uphills, and trying to keep each other motivated. We talked about other races we had done, and what had brought us to Tahoe. She told me that at three separate times that day, she had been ready to walk off the course and quit, the most recent just before we had started running together. That really made me feel good, to know that in some small way, I had been able to help another triathlete finish this very challenging race. We came across the finish line together, gave each other a hug, and took a few photos. The feeling of elation when we crossed the finish line was unbelievable. To take on a challange like this, and to be able to complete it, was a very emotional experiance. Now, this morning I see that Christina (the person I was running with) won her age category!!!
What would you do differently?:

Nothing - run went very well. If I was better acclimated to the altitude I probably could have trimmed a few minutes off - and better hill training would have shaved a minute or two - but neither would have changed much in the big picture of the race.
Post race
Warm down:

Lots of walking, bottle of powerbar recovery, bananna,

What limited your ability to perform faster:

Lack of training in high altitude was my biggest problem - from living at 220 foot elevation to 6400 foot base, with two trips to 7200 during the bike portion, really slowed down all of my abilities.

Event comments:

I sent an email to the race director after the race - first time I have ever done that. Global Events Management is a large firm specializing in events like this - but it was probably one of the worst organnized events I have ever seen. Friday we were supposed to pickup packets/numbers, at Kings Beach at the Sports and Fitness Expo there at the beach. We showed up, no-one around anywhere, no sports and fitness expo, finally asked at the local bike shop - he told us to check at the blue onion restaurant, he had heard they had "moved it". Sure enough, no sign, no email, no nothing. As I mentioned, the made a significant change in the bike course, too late for anyone to compensate for it in training. Also, the bike portion is all on state highway 237, which has very heavy traffic on Saturday - and with the steep uphills, it seemed like you were breathing more vehicle exhaust than oxygen.
Would I do this event again next year - maybe, if they change the bike course to get if off the state highway. Also, maybe a local tri-club will pick it up - I really believe that they would do a better job.
To be fair, GEM did give us the opportunity to back out once the changed the course - but after training for the better part of 6 months for this race, there was no way I could not at least try to complete it. The director also replied to my email, and explained what had happened (the email somehow was not sent out, and the website not updated to reflect the changes), so at least they did acknowledge that mistakes had been made.

Last updated: 2005-09-20 12:00 AM
00:51:15 | 1640 yards | 03m 07s / 100yards
Age Group: 0/6
Overall: 0/70
Performance: Below average
Suit: water ski - shorty
Course: Out to three white "Red Bull" pylons - counterclockwise rotation. They used orange "sighting pylons" in between the main ones, which helped us see the course
Start type: Wade Plus: Waves
Water temp: 66F / 19C Current: High
200M Perf. Good Remainder: Average
Breathing: Average Drafting: Below average
Waves: Average Navigation: Average
Rounding: Average
Time: 08:08
Performance: Bad
Cap removal: Good Helmet on/
Suit off:
Wetsuit stuck? No Run with bike: No
Jump on bike: No
Getting up to speed: Below average
02:07:25 | 24 miles | 11.30 mile/hr
Age Group: 0/6
Overall: 0/70
Wind: Strong
Course: Up from Kings beach, west on Hwy 28, then up 237 (up brockway summit), down the other side almost to Truckee - turnaround out past the airport, then back up brockway summit again.
Road: Rough Dry Cadence:
Turns: Average Cornering: Average
Gear changes: Good Hills: Below average
Race pace: Hard Drinks: Just right
Time: 02:04
Overall: Below average
Riding w/ feet on shoes Bad
Jumping off bike Average
Running with bike Average
Racking bike Average
Shoe and helmet removal Average
00:55:43 | 06.21 miles | 08m 58s  min/mile
Age Group: 0/6
Overall: 0/70
Performance: Average
Course: Out from Kings Beach, to just west of 237, then up through some residential, to a bike path, then back down 237 to finish.
Keeping cool Good Drinking Just right
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Bad
Mental exertion [1-5] 3
Physical exertion [1-5] 3
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Too hard
Organized? No
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Bad
Race evaluation [1-5] 3

2005-09-20 11:37 PM

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Durham, CA
Subject: Lake Tahoe Triathlon

2005-09-21 12:15 AM
in reply to: #250695

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Bay Area, CA
Subject: RE: Lake Tahoe Triathlon

I've been waiting for your report on how you did.  Man, that sounds like one tough race.

Good job getting it done!

I am now very glad I did not do this race, I don't have a wetsuit and I think, based on your experience, that would have been a major disaster.

2005-09-21 6:04 AM
in reply to: #250695

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Subject: RE: Lake Tahoe Triathlon

You are a true triathlete...pushing thru in difficult circumstances, overcoming, and finishing in style. Plus helping another triathlete finish to win her AG.

Awesome Race!!

Being in cold water long does strange things to your body and your rr reminded me of my first 1/4 IM. I did a tri in 57 degree water and was last out of the for over 40 legs on the hilly part of the race about 4-5 miles in, felt so awful...felt like the brakes were on the whole time.

2005-09-21 10:31 AM
in reply to: #250695

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Subject: RE: Lake Tahoe Triathlon

Congratulations on finishing Dennis!

I visit Lake Tahoe every June and I'm quite familier with the wind that can generate on King's Beach.  I can't imagine swimming in the Lake with conditions like they were for you.  Way to hang in there. 


2005-09-22 7:04 PM
in reply to: #250695

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Stairway to Seven
Subject: RE: Lake Tahoe Triathlon
Wow, fantastic job on this tri! I wonder how well I would have fared with a 3000 foot climb on the bike portion. Nice that you could finish the run with a partner, sounds like you both did well considering the conditions.
2005-09-23 7:15 PM
in reply to: #250695

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Durham, CA
Subject: RE: Lake Tahoe Triathlon

Thanks for the nice comments, everyone. Went to the gym this morning for my first light workout since the tri- and everything except for my calves felt really good.   I was able to get a short swim in, and about 30 minutes on the bike. My calves are still a little tight, so I took it real easy and only did about a half mile on the treadmill, and then quit to focus on stretching.  I will probably do a little longer run on Sunday, and by the end of next week start ramping up for my marathon training (my first one of those, also).

Happy training, everyone,


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