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Ironman Lake Tahoe - Triathlon

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Lake Tahoe, California
United States
World Triathlon Corporation
37F / 3C
Total Time = 11h 48m 15s
Overall Rank = 183/2300
Age Group = 40-44
Age Group Rank = 27/460
Pre-race routine:

We arrived in Tahoe four days before the race. Previewed much of the course from the car. Swam in Lake Tahoe. Rode up Brockway once. Enjoyed our child-free vacation.

On race morning I was up at around 4:10 (after going to bed at 10 PM and sleeping pretty well). I ate my usual breakfast of two packets of oatmeal with raisins, a banana, two cups of coffee. I felt pretty full but knew that I had plenty of time until the gun.

I had mixed all my nutrition and packed all of my bags the night before. Clothes were laid out in the order I wanted to put them on. Everything was ready and easy on race morning. Two deviations from usual: I did mix my morning nutrition drink with warm water right before leaving and I did not refrigerate my fluids over night. I figured things would be cold enough.

Caught the bus at 4:45 and had an uneventful trip down to T1. Traffic was already getting backed up at 5 AM. Drank about 400 calories of Infinit/Ucan on the bus ride and chatted with my seatmate.

At transition my bike was covered with ice. Dropped off my bottles, put on my computer. Uncovered my seat and bars. Went to my bag and confirmed that clothes were dry and still in the order I wanted to put them on. Opened my chemical warmer packets and stuffed one under each toe cover on my shoes and one in each glove so they would hopefully be toasty warm by the time I got out of the water.

Squeezed in to my wetsuit. Brrrr it was cold when I disrobed to put on the wetsuit. Wore booties, purchased at the expo, for the first time ever. They were very nice while standing around but I did not really like them for the swim. Wore a pair of fuzzy socks on my hands that cost a buck so I could keep warm and just throw them away as I got in the water.
Event warmup:

Squats. Jumping jacks. Arm swings.

I was not crazy enough to get in the water because once you got out you would have turned in to a popsicle.
  • 1h 19m 11s
  • 4224 yards
  • 01m 52s / 100 yards

Standing on the beach, looking up at the snow covered peaks (shivering a little) and watching the steam come off of the water was amazing. Simply one of the most beautiful starts to a race, ever.

I was really not very concerned going in to the water. I knew the water would be warmer than the air and I knew I could go the distance. I was ready to get started.

I lined up at the back of the 1:10-20 group. Went under the arch and waded casually in to the water. When it was about waist deep I went horizontal to start swimming......and......immediately had a cold-water gasp reflex. I could not catch my breath. My chest felt tight. I certainly could not swim. Holy cow that was weird. You want to panic in that situation but I KNEW that if I just stayed calm that it would pass. I just had to get through it. I started side-stroking along with everyone. I'm sure that they all thought I was some dork who way mis-seeded himself for the swim. What was really amazing to observe was how fast I was moving. The current created by a 1,000 bodies all moving through the water in the same direction is pretty significant. It took me about 100-150 yards to get everything under control. I put my face in the water again, no issue and so I got to work.

A bunch of us had drifted way to the left of the buoy line because the steam off the water made sighting difficult. It took me a few minutes to find the buoy line but once I did, sighting/navigation was not an issue.

I just got to work and swam my usual pace, which is slow. At altitude that is probably a good thing. I was so far from my threshold swim pace that I never again felt out of breath. The water was amazingly clear and quite comfortable. Every once in awhile I would look up at the mountains and appreciate the beauty. I was quite warm in my new wetsuit, a stark contrast from last year at AZ where the water was the same temperature and I felt like I was freezing to death for the whole swim. I even remember thinking that I was really warm. Made me very happy.

As I said, I wore booties for the first time. They were great on the beach in the cold sand but I did not like them for swimming. If I had it to do again I would skip these.
What would you do differently?:

Skip the booties.

Get my face wet while wading in to try to avoid that gasp reflex.

Swim faster :)
Transition 1
  • 14m 41s

Most of you have heard someithing about this T1 experience. Crazy is all I can say. When I ran in to the tent with my bag in one hand and my wetsuit in the other I encountered literally hundreds of guys, in various states of undress packed together, shoulder to shoulder, back to front. You had to find a sliver of room and get to changing, which is what I did. Most were in pretty good humor and you had to laugh about the whole situation. There were a couple (and there always are) who were unpleasant and yelling at those around them. Obviously this was not ideal but everyone who finished the swim between 1:10 and 1:30 had to deal with it so at least it was fair.

I did this in T1: removal of wet trisuit and dry off with towel. Dry tri shorts and top. Arm warmers. Leg warmers. Long sleeve lycra/spandex top. Tight fitting wind vest. Garden gloves, worn backwards so the rubberized palm would block the wind and with a chemical warmer in each glove. Shoes on with toe covers + a chemical warmer stuffed under the toe covers (done before the race started). I had also taped all vents on my helmet and actually placed tape around the front opening to reduce air intrusion. It made for really dorky race photos but my head and ears were warm.

I had measured it out the day before, it was almost 400 steps (at around a yard a step, almost a 1/4 mile) to my bike. When I got there my computer had fogged up and had a layer of ice on it so it was still darn cold. I couldn't see the screen....

Ran with my bike to the start line, jumped on and got to work.
What would you do differently?:

I have got to learn to swim faster so I can avoid this crush at every T1.

I did the best I could with what I was presented. The longest transition of my life but at under 15 minutes I was one of the faster ones.

It isn't so much what I would do differently but rather, what WTC will do differently in the future. This was a standard size T1 tent but this was not a standard start to the race. Like triathletes need to adapt to the race conditions, so do the race organizers. They had enough forewarning about the weather conditions to plan better for this. Like I said, we all were affected by this so it was fair, just not ideal.
  • 6h 19m 18s
  • 112 miles
  • 17.72 mile/hr

I was nervous about this ride, as were most, except the most confident of super-bikers. I had gone 5:26 at AZ last year and I had a dream of going around 5:45-50 at Tahoe. I knew it would be hard but it is difficult to appreciate how hard until you are out there doing it. That was definitely an unrealistic dream.

I already explained my clothing choices. I had one more layer in my bag that I chose not to put on. I don't regret not putting it on but I don't think I would have been too hot if I had put it on. I got on the bike and immediately felt great. As soon as I started I was passing people like they were standing still. My computer was iced over so it was hard to see power numbers but it felt very comfortable, and fast! I was cool but not freezing cold. I had two layers on my arms, one on my legs, four on my core if you count my tri top. My arms and feet were cool. My hands were freezing in spite of the chemical warmers and rubberized gloves.

The Carnellian Woods out and back was the only bad road on the whole course. Why they chose this totally crummy road to add a mile to the race is a mystery. It must have something to do with logistics/access/permits. I accept there must have been a good reason...... I knew Dollar Hill was coming and it was a mile of significant climbing--it is all cumulative and on this course there is a lot to 'cumulate. Once you crest Dollar Hill, it is darn fast all of the way to Truckee. There were stretches that I was doing 25-30 MPH and not killing myself to do so. I did drop an empty water bottle on this stretch because my hands were too cold to feel accurately where the behind the seat holder was. I was going about 25 at the time but dutifully stopped (stop 1) and picked it up to avoid a penalty or a slowtwitch beatdown.... Cost me some momentum and about 15-20 seconds.

Truckee. This is the other part that I have trouble understanding. This section of weaving around Truckee had a pretty good amount of steep climbing in it. You "burned another match" to get through this on each lap. I am not sure that on an already very difficult course, why they decided to add another fairly difficult section. We all had to do it, so at least it was fair. If I were a race organizer I would look for a way to avoid this section next year.

The Martis Climb. I had not done this or driven this. I just knew that it was supposed to be as difficult as the Brockway climb. It was different than Brockway. First, it was way prettier than Brockway. Tucked in the evergreens on the mountain. Beautiful views on many of the turns. Really spectacular. It also was not a straight up climb like Brockway. You would climb for a couple hundred feet and then descend some and then climb some more then descend, then do some switchbacks and on and on. It took a long time to get to the top. The descent took about four minutes. I had been concerned about the speed of the descent but I felt very in control and it went well. Passed several on the descent.

The moment you get to the bottom of the Ritz descent you turn right and start the 2.6 mile climb to the Brockway summit. This is not as pretty as Martis and is also relentless. There is really no let up. It keeps getting gradually steeper until you get to the top. I established a cadence and went to the top. It was hard but not quite as bad as I thought it would be. Passed many on this section. The compact crank and 11-28 cassette proved to be an excellent decision.

At the top of Brockway I had to pee so bad I made my first stop (stop 2) at a portajohn. Nobody with an ounce of brains was peeing on the bike. Too cold. Time penalty of stopping was much better than being wet and cold. I also picked up a water bottle for the first time (mistake!)

On both ascents I took off my gloves and rolled down my leg warmers to avoid overheating. As I got to the top I pulled up the leg warmers and put the gloves back on to prep for the windchill of the descents.

The Brockway descent was really fast. It is pretty much the same grade as the ascent but going down for 3 miles. I let it ride and just sat up to catch the wind a little bit if I felt like I needed to slow down. My water bottle did not fit well in the BTA holder and was bouncing around the whole descent. I was afraid the bottle was going to come out and cause me to crash but I was also afraid that paying attention to the bottle would cause me to lose focus and crash at 50 MPH. I wished I had not grabbed that bottle and made a note to not make the same mistake on loop 2. I jammed the water way back in the holder an unbeknowest to me, unlatched my Joule bike computer.

And so began loop two. My computer fell off the bike on Carnellian Woods, loop two, on all of the bumps. I stopped to pick it up (stop 3).

Dropped my vest at Squaw aid station and peed again (stop 4).

Had to pee right before second Martis ascent (stop 5).

Had to pee again at top of Brockway (stop 6).

I lost a little time and was certainly getting tired by the end of this ride. I also knew that I had blown my legs up in a way that I never had before on the bike. I knew with 20 miles left on the bike that this was going to be a very tough marathon.
What would you do differently?:

I was obviously well hydrated. I had actually adjusted my nutrition/hydration plan on race morning. Normally I start with two bottles, 400 calories each on the bike. When I finish one I drop it and grab a water bottle. At Bike SN I get two more bottles of nutrition for a total of four bottles, 1600 calories. My coach had warned me that I would not feel like taking in nutrition in the cold so I was extra diligent to be sure I was drinking my nutrition. I made the decision to grab water bottles at the aid stations, drink as much as I could get down during the aid station and drop it at the last chance garbage. I did this because I absolutely wanted to be dragging the least weight possible up each of the climbs and an extra 20 ounces (1.25 pounds!) did not seem like a good idea.

I was sweating less because of the conditions. Even without taking in nearly as much water as I usually do, I peed a lot. (about what I have during previous IMs, it was just that we had to stop during this race). All of the stops added about 5 minutes over my rolling time.

Overall, happiest I have been with an IM bike split.
Transition 2
  • 04m 29s

For the first time at an IM I decided not to take off my shoes on the bike. I was so far behind my time projection and my feet were still cold so I decided the 10 seconds in transtition would be worth it.

Again, my goal time had been blown up so I took a little extra time in T2.
  • 3h 50m 36s
  • 26.2 miles
  • 08m 48s  min/mile

This was hard. My legs were blown up from the bike and I knew it. I ran the first three miles then walked an aid station. From that point on I ran variable distances and then would walk 20-30 paces and start running again. I tried to walk fast. When I was walking I would look at the Garmin and when the lag on the Garmin had my pace fall to 10:00/mile I would start running again. This was my slowest, hardest, least satisfying 26.2 ever.

I keep asking myself if I had to physically walk or if I mentally broke. I don't know. What I do know is that I want to combine my Tahoe bike with my AZ run and then I would be happy. Gotta keep working.

I took coke and water at the first 10 or so aid stations. Then I started alternating broth or coke + water for the rest. Never done the broth thing before but it was ok. I had to pee about four times on the run too. At a couple previous 26.2 runs I might have peed once. Again, dehydration did not seem to be a problem :)

Managed to get it together and run most of the last 5 miles. I was doing a lot of mental math on the run and wanted to keep the run unde 4:00 and the total time under 12:00, which I did.

Not proud of this run but I did get it done.
What would you do differently?:

Not mentally break.

Get just a little bit stronger on the bike and run so I can put in a nice showing in both events.
Post race
Warm down:

Saw my wife. Apologized to her for not putting in a performance worthy of the sacrifices of the last nine months. Whereupon she told me I was a dumbass. Which I am. I gave what I could.

We all commenced to freeze immediately upon finishing. The only warm place near the finish was the massage tent and it wasn't full so I got my first ever post-race massage.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

Did I mention that this was hard?

Did I mention that I am still a work in progress as a triathlete?

Did I mention that I am actually pretty proud of this performance now that things have settled?

Did I mention that, after saying I would never do this race again, I am thinking I would like to come back some day and take another shot at it?

Event comments:

First year race. I have made my comments throughout the report.

I hope this did not come off as whiny or bad in any way. Again, I am proud of this race but as always, I want to do better. Type A personality, anyone?

Thank you to all of the people who volunteered for the race. Thank you also to the Tahoe community. I know this was disruptive but everyone I met was gracious and helpful and seemed happy to have us there. Some of the nicer people I have met in my travels.

Profile Album

Last updated: 2013-05-07 12:00 AM
01:19:11 | 4224 yards | 01m 52s / 100yards
Age Group: 186/460
Overall: 902/2300
Performance: Average
Suit: Brand Spanking New Aquaman Cell Gold. First Swim!
Course: Double counter clockwise rectangle.
Start type: Wade Plus:
Water temp: 61F / 16C Current: Low
200M Perf. Bad Remainder: Average
Breathing: Good Drafting: Average
Waves: Navigation: Average
Rounding: Average
Time: 14:41
Performance: Average
Cap removal: Helmet on/
Suit off:
Wetsuit stuck? Run with bike: Yes
Jump on bike: Yes
Getting up to speed:
06:19:18 | 112 miles | 17.72 mile/hr
Age Group: 54/460
Overall: 293/2300
Performance: Good
Wind: Little
Course: You can find this anywhere. I think everyone know that it was a two and 1/3 loop course with some small climbs interspersed thoroughout.
Road: Smooth Dry Cadence: 88
Turns: Good Cornering: Good
Gear changes: Good Hills: Average
Race pace: Comfortable Drinks: Too much
Time: 04:29
Overall: Good
Riding w/ feet on shoes
Jumping off bike Good
Running with bike
Racking bike
Shoe and helmet removal Good
03:50:36 | 26.2 miles | 08m 48s  min/mile
Age Group: 27/460
Overall: 183/2300
Performance: Below average
Course: Double out and back with the second one shorter than the first. Along the Truckee river. Reported as flat. Not flat.
Keeping cool Good Drinking Too much
Post race
Weight change: %Nope
Overall: Good
Mental exertion [1-5] 4
Physical exertion [1-5] 4
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Too hard
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Below average
Race evaluation [1-5] 4

2013-09-27 10:53 AM

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ann arbor, michigan
Subject: Ironman Lake Tahoe

2013-09-27 11:11 AM
in reply to: #4865406

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South Alabama
Subject: RE: Ironman Lake Tahoe
Jason-great report and result. What a tough course. Glad you were able to appreciate the strength of your effort upon reflection. You have had a fantastic season. I suspect what you experienced in a tough race like this will pay dividends in future races. Well done!
2013-09-27 1:56 PM
in reply to: slornow

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Simsbury, Connecticut
Subject: RE: Ironman Lake Tahoe

You mentioned before that you apologized to your wife for not doing better- she's right - you're a But we luv ya! Great job on a brutal course!!
2013-09-27 3:45 PM
in reply to: mtnbikerchk

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North Augusta, South Carolina
Subject: RE: Ironman Lake Tahoe
What an endeavor. Great job battling through some tough conditions.
2013-09-27 5:08 PM
in reply to: slornow

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Subject: RE: Ironman Lake Tahoe
Thanks for the write up, great job!
2013-09-28 4:44 PM
in reply to: jetsers

Subject: ...
This user's post has been ignored.

2013-09-28 4:49 PM
in reply to: #4865406

Almaden Valley, San Jose, California
Subject: RE: Ironman Lake Tahoe

Great report - awesome race!

I also apologized to my hubby - he finished 2.5 hours ahead of me, and had to wait in the cold.  He made a similar comment... ;-)


2013-09-28 8:46 PM
in reply to: velcromom

Bedford, MA
Subject: RE: Ironman Lake Tahoe

This sounds like an amazing venue and truly EPIC conditions. It will become one of those IM's that lots of people reference - up there with St George in 2012. Glad you are remaining positive about the experience. Time for a nice rest!
2013-09-29 9:02 PM
in reply to: natethomas2000

Extreme Veteran
Subject: RE: Ironman Lake Tahoe
Again, I'm so very impressed with this performance. I love the detail of the report. It sounds like a beautiful, awesome race to have done, and to have completed it in those conditions is truly inspiring.

The comment about apologising to your wife made me laugh because I did the same thing to my husband at Outlaw when I was failing to meet my pre-determined goals. We can only race the conditions on the day, and it's great that you have put your performance into the perspective it deserves.
2013-09-29 10:16 PM
in reply to: #4865406

Houston, TX
Subject: RE: Ironman Lake Tahoe
Congrats on finishing a great race under such brutal conditions.
2013-09-30 9:08 AM
in reply to: #4865406

Subject: RE: Ironman Lake Tahoe
Congrats on a well executed race. Your wife is a genius btw.

We are always so hard on ourselves...I'm glad with some time to process your day, you reflect on it with satisfaction. We are always ready for the perfect day, but it rarely comes to us. You most definately took advantage of all the day gave you, including on the run.

Enjoy your recovery!!!

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