Sunday, October 13, 2013

Ironman Lake Tahoe: Race Report

This report is long overdue - but I’ll chalk it up to lots of life changes: new job and new home for starters.

Some background before I dive into the nitty gritty: Ironman Lake Tahoe was an impulse registration last year. I already had Ironman Texas on my calendar and thought this would be a good opportunity to qualify for 2014 while still in the “easy” AG (even though this race would be a few weeks before Kona)… I went into 2013 with a single-minded purposeful focus to podium at Kona but how can you say no to a hometown race? Worst case if coach really decided to outlaw this, I could always drop my registration and get a measly $150 back.

It turns out my 2013 season didn’t exactly go according to plan. I almost cancelled my Tahoe registration a few times, but after my DNF in TX and the very long recovery (3 months) that followed, it became increasingly clear that there would not be another 2013 qualifier on my calendar. I’ll be honest that this was super hard to stomach. I was fit enough for a ridiculous performance at TX and I knew I could do a lot of damage in Kona -- what gives? 

The months that followed IMTX were a drudge. One foot in front of the other, doing the work but with no clear motivation. No Kona what’s the point? Coach turned me around and we rekindled the love of the sport for the sake of the sport. I started having fun -- I went into Tahoe knowing I wasn’t especially fit but would do my best to enjoy the day.

Pre-race: This was the most relaxing of the 5 Ironman’s I’ve attempted. I only had to take 2 days off and didn’t even pack until the morning we drove to the Sierra’s. No stress, low expectations - this was starting to feel like a vacation!

My mom is always excited about my competitions, but she went above and beyond on this one booking us a room at the host hotel a year out and failing to cancel despite my every intention NOT to race in Lake Tahoe (I was bitter about kona). Unfortunately the whole family couldn’t join to watch (Jerry can’t miss swim practice @ Cal, MP was on a recruiting trip, and Larry is studying abroad in AUS). So it was myself, ma, pops and the two dogs.

I’d been having shin issues leading into the race so my Mom drove the 280 miles to Tahoe (she was worried I’d aggravate it with the gas pedal -- yes i’m a speed demon). On arrival we were happy to be upgraded to a 3 bedroom suite overlooking the expo (sweet! my QR would get a room to itself!). Full size kitchen, fireplace, balconies scaling the walls… I’ve never had quite this level of paradise at a race before! I don’t know how I will possibly go back to motel 6 after this…

If I had anything going for me at this race it was my laissez-faire attitude. I didn’t get caught up in any of the pre-race hysteria (swim cancellation rumors, snow storm) because it honestly didn’t matter to me. I couldn’t run for the 2-weeks leading into the race (my shin) and that never phased me either. Nothing was going to keep me from having fun on this course. Winning was nothing more than a pipe dream. That said, I DID nearly go overboard with my mellowness by planning on racing in a speedo and singlet all the way to race eve. Thank the tri gods coach muddy mentioned the forecast and made me promise to wear arm warmers and a jacket. I cut up some old socks and was lucky to have stuffed my sleevless champsys Timex thermal in my gear bag. While everyone else was freaking out about conditions I wasn’t even worried about not having sleeves.

Rare morning: woke up at 2:30am with the mother of bloody noses. I had niagra falls flowing from my face… took me a good hour head down in the bathroom (and a waste basket of bloody tissues) to get the thing under control. Slipped back into bed and got another 30 min of shut eye. not even phased.

Woke up to my alarm at 4am and made myself a bowl of oatmeal and had a banana. Got my pre-race jams going, cut up my cliff bars, and mixed my EFS bottle. Gun was going off at 6:40 and I figured we could leave at 5:30 with plenty of time to spare (worst case scenario 30 min drive would leave me with 40min in transition).

We got out the door a little late at 5:40. The drive from squaw to kings beach should take ~20 minutes but we got stuck behind a bus and the traffic just started piling. Time was ticking and my nerves started kicking in. I need to get to the start line to have the chance to have a fun race!!

I got to Kings Beach (well .25 miles away at least since the roads were closed off) with 20 min to spare. I ran to my bike, dumped my nutrition, stuffed my jacket into my day bag, hopped several fences and got to the front of the corral with 2 min to spare. Tires weren’t pumped, no pre-race #2, and certainly no warmup. It’s all good! (side note: my only worry was the mom would see the blood in the waste basket and get worried, I didn’t tell anyone about the bloody nose because I didn’t want any anxiety going into the race).

Swim: Gun goes off and I get in my rhythm - just having a good time. I peak at my watch after lap 1 and I’m on pace for a sub 57 min. Lap 2 I get totally thrown off by the fog and swim the course real long. No big deal. I’m still out in close to an hour.

T1: Run to the changing tent, sit down (YEAH, I actually sat down!) and take my sweet time in transition. The tent is pretty empty and I’ve got two guys assisting me. I have them help me put on my gloves, sunscreen, etc. I decide to run to my bike barefoot and put my cleats on at the mount line. All is going well until I try to put my shoes on. My feet are frozen solid and my toes are getting stuck at painful angles (fwiw bike seat had a layer of ice on it too). I sit on the floor trying to warm up my feet and nothing gives. Finally decide to just stick them in my mouth and try to warm them. The volunteers had a riot watching that. After a couple minutes my feet come around and I’m able to get my shoes on. My poor mom figures she totally missed my exit when I’ve actually had my longest T1 in history -- over 10 minutes!

Bike: I can’t feel my body so I just start cranking my pedals. I’m passing a ton of people, lots of female pros. I try to ease up on the hills but I’m still chipping away at the field. I figure I’m pretty far back in my age group at this point… what with my mediocre swim and long transition. But I’m not too worried. This is a fun course and I just want to have a good day. Northstar and Brockway feel great the first time around (with the exception of a bottle ejecting on the way to truckee which saw me without fluid for ~30 minutes). Second lap is another story. The cold cut off all perspective for how hard I was actually pushing and I lost a lot of position. Looking back at my bike file, I added over 22 min on the second go around!!

T2: I knew I’d put out a little too much on the bike and was probably a couple k calories short on nutrition (just wasn’t feeling the cliff bars and since I wasn't in it to win it I decided not to force anything). I had another first here which should give perspective on my mood: I actually stopped in a porta-potty to do my business!

Run: I start off at an easy 8 min clip and am shocked to learn I’ve got 20 min on #2 in my age group. Wow, IT’S ON! I jog by coach and he says to take it real easy: “Lets lock it up without risking a TX repeat.” I slow it down even more and jog just fast enough to keep my competitors at bay. About 20 miles in I hear the gap has closed to 4 min. I’ve got tons of gas left and pick up the pace. Cross into town pretty pumped on life and for the first time ever have some fun hi-fiving and fist pumping at the finish line.

Some take-aways from this race: (1) if you’re not in peak fitness for ironman a good attitude makes all the difference. That said, I am a fierce competitor and I don’t anticipate having this same mindset for a very long time to come. I love being meticulous, confident, and aggressive going into A races and I’ll be bringing my inner demons back out for Kona 14.

(2) the pain comes from the marathon! the day after Tahoe I was feeling a little sore (HIM level) and the day after that (which is usually peak soreness) I felt like I hadn’t even raced. Those extra 30 minutes in the marathon made all the difference.

In parting, despite this being my slowest Ironman (it IS a tough course, and certainly much harder than Lanza) I enjoyed every bit of this experience. It was fun in different ways than when I’m gunning to be the biggest fish in the sea - but it was the right attitude for the occasion. This race is probably the most beautiful of the 5 I’ve attempted, it was great to have so much support on course (big shout out to Tristan who is at nearly EVERY race I do), and nothing beats the ease of a hometown race. I’m sure I will be back to do this one justice one day!

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