Friday, October 02, 2015

Ironman 70.3 Lake Tahoe

This was, psychologically, my biggest race for the year.  Ironman Lake Tahoe has a bit of notoriety, having had a near freezing first year with their highest Ironman DNF rate to date, and a cancelation due to smoke last year.  The first was held just as I did my first triathlon (Malibu 2013), and the concept of Tahoe scared me.  After finishing my first 70.3 at Hawaii, and the announcement of a 70.3 at Tahoe last year, I knew I’d be in for this year.  

Overnight, a bear raided T1, picking out race snacks from transition bags.  Yes, really.

We bussed in together, both 70.3 and full distance athletes.  The full started two hours earlier, giving us plenty of time to spectate the full swim, which is something to watch.  After watching the lead swimmers at Vineman, it really struck me how quiet and the front of the swim pack is, and this race was the same.  

It was in the high 50s when we started, with cold water close to shore that quickly warmed up as we headed out.  After hearing most people talking about how cold it would be, I was surprised by how cold it wasn’t; SF bay certainly does a good job at cold acclimation.  I did start with a slightly faster breathing pace to account for the altitude, but after warming up for the first 5 or so minutes, I fell into my normal swim pace and it didn’t have much more effect.  The water was clear blue, and gorgeous, as we could see the large rocks of the sierra on the bottom, along with the intermittent almost-glowing green abandoned swim cap.  Finishing the swim, T1 had a tent, and unlike my last half, I took the time to change into a cycling jersey to avoid the excess sun.  

The bike was fun, fast, and hard.  Well, the hard part, better known as Brockway Summit, was not the fast part, and it’s probably the hardest hill I’ve ridden up.  Not because of the elevation gain, but because of the sustained grade, which felt harder than climbing Diablo.  The rest of the ride, which went from King’s Beach, up 89, through Truckee, and down 267, before looping back to Squaw, was also gorgeous, and a lot of fun.  I definitely trained well for this, coming in on a consistent effort with nothing hurting.

I started the run under-hydrated in warm weather, and never quite made up for it, but I ran the first half faster than expected, suffering the altitude more than anything else.  The hydration issue would have affected me on a longer run, but this was only 13 miles.  Realizing I was way under a PR time, I slowed my pace through the second loop of the run to take everything in and enjoy the course, finishing in 6:59:36.  

A great race, sorry to see it’s going to be discontinued, but that was expected given how it’s gone.  I questioned whether this year would happen up until a few days before the race, given the wildfire situation in California.  It’s a gorgeous and hard enough course, that if it had lasted another year, I would have gone back for my first full.

Things done well
* The bike went really well, about 25 minutes faster than last year, on a harder course.  
* The swim went well too, about 7 minutes faster.  
* No muscle strain/fatigue on the bike/run transition; I was more limited by altitude.  
* Changing shirts and avoiding tri tops makes longer races much more enjoyable. 

Things learned
* I didn’t hydrate enough on the bike.  Possibly because of the elevation, possibly because of staying dry due to speed.  I’ll have to watch this more deliberately if I do a full distance race.
* Running at elevation was the hardest part, even though running’s been the bulk of my altitude training this year. 
* Brockway summit is hard.

Some cool drone footage:

Bike, twice across the bottom. 
Run, 2x.

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