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Gerad Suyderhoud
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Lake Tahoe Triathlon Race Report

After the misadventures preceding my last triathlon (https://plus.google.com/107158830423026024350/posts/8LpFWgFa5T7) the  days leading up to this race were rather uneventful.

The race took place Sunday morning in the lovely Sugar Pine Point State Park, right on the lake, and roughly 2.5 miles from my family's cabin. I actually jogged over to pick up the race packet on Saturday, and rode my bike (with all my gear in my swim bag) to the triathlon on Sunday morning.

There were two race lengths, a sprint distance and an olympic distance (with a 7 mile run).  It was a small race. Just 126 people in the olympic distance, and probably a few more than that in the sprint.

Packet pickup at the transition area on Saturday was a breeze. Well organized and no lines.

The transition area opened at 5:30am on Sunday morning, but it didn't get light enough to bike over until about 6am. By the time I got there, the part of the transition area near the bike entrance/exit was totally full, but it was weirdly empty near the swim entrance and run exit, so I setup there.

It had been warm but humid and stormy all week, but the weather cleared up for the race on Sunday. By the 7am start it was probably in the mid-60s. Unlike my last race in Tahoe, the water was super warm. They said it was in the high 60s.

They started the sprint distance race first, and waited until they had completed their swim before starting the olympic distance. They also removed the sprint distance swim course markers to make the olympic swim super clear.

The swim started around 7:30am. The water was super warm. Warmer than the air outside. Nervous with race excitement, and up in the altitude, it took a few minutes for me to get my breathing locked in, but after that the swim was super enjoyable.

The swim was a single lap. It started by going out directly into the lake for a short distance (annoyingly directly into the sun, which made sighting hard and my choice of clear goggles unfortunate). Then it turned and ran along the shore line for maybe 3/4s of a mile. Finally it came back in towards shore a little way, then back along the shoreline for a bit, finishing back at the beach maybe 250 feet south of the start.

The clarity of the water was awesome. Way better than the pool.
I could see far enough though the water to find a pair of feet to draft behind. I spent the first half of the longest part of the swim behind one pair of feet or another, picking a new target to follow once I had taken full advantage of the feet in front of me.

By the second half of the swim, I found myself on my own. There was a fast group well in front of me, and I had a sense of people behind me (as I had passed a number of them), but it felt like I was one of the few people between the two groups.

Being alone was just fine though. The water was smooth and felt like butter. It was so warm that I kinda regretted having a wetsuit. I could see the occasional crawdad on the lake floor. It was really, really nice.

After the second turn, I met up with another swimmer. We were almost the exact same speed and we bumped and jostled each other all the way into shore.

I came out of the swim in 24th place (27:49). Apparently one person (19 years old!) did the swim in 18:40. Amazing! He came in dead last overall though, so I guess he was mostly focused on the swim.

There was a short run from the swim up a grassy hill to the transition area near the parking lot. Coming out of the swim and sprinting up a hill in high altitude was not fun!

I had decided not to wear socks, so my transition to the bike was pretty quick.

The air was warmer by the time we got out of the water, maybe in the 70s, but the first few moments of the bike ride, with no socks and cold lake water were pretty chilly.

Since the ride is so near my family's cabin, I've done it a few times, and I had recalled it being fairly flat.

This was not the case at all. It was a steady climb with some small rollers that followed 89 south along the lake, eventually hitting a peak at the south side of Emerald Bay (gorgeous).

One guy on a crazy high-end tri bike passed me on the ride, but aside from that I mostly passed people. After about the first 1/3 of the ride I caught a guy (or he caught me, I don't remember) who was about my speed, and we ended up trading places for most of the rest of the ride. I was faster than him up the hills, but he was faster on the flats and some of the descents.

After the peak at Emerald bay, there was a crazy descent with some wicked switchbacks. I had flatted on my taper ride on Saturday (due to a pinch flat from a poor tire change the previous weekend), and I had done a pretty bad job of putting the new tube in, so I was a bit worried that I might flat during the race. I was especially worried about that descent, as a flat at the wrong time could get pretty nasty! Fortunately my tires held up.

After the descent there was another surprisingly long bit along the lake to the turnaround point.

After the turn around, it was climb back up the mountain (the bike was an out and back). Which, aside from the beautiful views, was fairly non-eventful.

I passed a couple more racers on the climb, but I figured that my fast-on-flats friend would blow by me on the gradual descent back down to the transition area.

He did pass me by a bit originally, but on the climbs on the rollers I ended up passing him, and then I guess my better fitness kicked in. I ended up dropping him in the last 4-5 miles of the ride, then catching and dropping the the high-end tri bike person who passed me earlier in the race a last little climb too.

Given my transition position, I had a bit of a run with the bike to my spot, but it was good as I could run while leaning on my bike and warming up my legs.

I had a comparatively good ride, finishing the 40K with 2500 ft of climbing in 1:22:48 (18mph). I had the 5th fastest bike overall, coming out of the ride in the top 10.

The ride to run transition was difficult. I hadn't done enough brick workouts. I've basically done two brick runs after long rides all year. Sadly, I ended up being thankful that I usually bike the 5-6 miles to track on Thursday nights, 'cause at least that gave my legs a little sense of what it meant to run after biking.

About a mile into the run, I became convinced I was on the sprint distance run course. Because I hadn't seen too many people in front of me in the out and back ride, I knew I was somewhere towards the front, and figured I could have mistakenly run onto the sprint course, so I turned around and headed back!

About 30 seconds or a minute later, I ran into the guy who I had been trading positions with on the bike. He convinced me we were on the right course, and I ended up behind him. (This worked out nicely for him, as he almost missed a turn, and I gave him a heads up about it).

The run was beautiful, along trails along the lake, then away from the lake back away from the lake into the 1960 olympic biathlon trails (yes, that's skiing and shooting). There were 4 aid stations on the run, and most of it was shaded through the trees, keeping out the now intensifying heat.

I know the trails fairly well, as I run them pretty frequently from my house, so it was a familiar run. Though they added a section of single track towards the end that I really need to find again, it was super nice.

About halfway through the run, I finally found my legs, and started to push the pace. I dropped my buddy, only to have him catch and pass me with about a quarter of the 7 mile run left (it was a slightly longer than olympic distance run).

Also, I started to realize that not wearing socks was a mistake in the second half of the run. I started to get really painful blisters on the bottom of my feet. I was totally convinced that my feet were bleeding by the end of the race (they weren't). Though, the blisters I got on both my feet from this race did provide a nice symmetry with the blisters I got on both my hands during my last triathlon. :-)

In the last mile of the run, my better fitness kicked in and I again dropped my friend. I had also closed the gap with a couple racers in front of me. In the last 500 feet, I had both of them in my sights, but there was a big climb up to the race finish, and I couldn't quite pick them off. If only I hadn't turned around earlier in the run! I might have moved up a couple spots. :-)

I finished the 7 mile run in 53:02 (7:34 pace). It was the 7th fastest run. Blisters on my feet aside, I felt really strong after the run, like I could keep going. And, which isn't always the case for me, I didn't experience any stomach discomfort, so I was pretty much ready to eat right after my finish.

Fortunately, there was a nice barbecue after the race. It was still early in the morning (about 10am), so it was a bit weird to be eating lunch, but they had some tasty sausages which I figured worked for lunch or breakfast. I opted for that, and also a nice big beer.

I was excited when my parents (who had watched the race and cheered me on the entire time) told me that I might have come in the top ten.

It turns out I came in 8th place overall, and I also placed 2nd in my age group! The first time I've ever placed in a triathlon! That being said, the achievement was somewhat tempered by the fact that there were only 11 people in my age group in the race.

My overall time of 2:45:37 was amazingly (for me) only 5 minutes outside of 3rd place, though the winner was a solid 11 minutes ahead. Why is it that locals always win these high-altitude races?

Given that I had placed in my age group, I stuck around for the awards ceremony, which took forever, but it was a beautiful day and nice to be outside. Plus I grabbed another sausage and scarfed it. There was plenty, so I figured why not?

They gave away etched drinking glasses to the winners, which was actually a pretty nice award, as it seemed like something I could use day to day (though perhaps it'd be a little boastful).

Overall, it was a fun race. I'm happy with how I felt afterwards, and while my times weren't amazing, I don't think you can expect too much at high altitude (especially with the climbing on that ride). I'd definitely recommend it and would do it again next year.
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Tahoe City Xterra Race Report

My Xterra adventure started Thursday. Elizabeth and I took two days off before the race to leisurely head up to Tahoe and acclimate. My plan was to do a few hill repeats in the evening to get the heart rate up and get used to the (lack of) atmosphere more quickly.

Unfortunately, that was not to be. After a fairly non-eventful drive up the mountain, I pulled off 80 in Truckee to head to the lake and coasted to a stop sign. After the stop, I hit the gas and nothing happened. My car had broken down! For the second time in a week! With the exact same issue that had supposedly been "repaired" the prior Thursday.

Needless to say, I was upset. Elizabeth and I were also stranded, with no lunch and a limited amount of water. Fortunately, we weren't too far from downtown. Elizabeth hoofed it to the nearest restaurant (which actually ended up being a dog food bakery, so she had to go to the second closest), while I called the tow truck and waited for it to arrive, sweating in the summer heat.

There are probably worse places for a car to break down than Truckee (hey, at least you're at the top of the mountain, and can coast down). However, the town isn't exactly a mecca for car repair. The one auto-shop in town basically told us to tow the car to Reno (as it seemed to be a transmission issue, and "nobody in town does transmissions"). So, a $280 one-hour tow it was.

The Nissan dealership in Reno was very helpful, they had seen a similar issue in the past and responded well to our request to replace the entire transmission. Tony, our service manager, called Enterprise to pick us up and get us a rental car. Unfortunately, after waiting an hour for Enterprise to come, we eventually just called Hertz and told them if they got to us before Enterprise did, we'd use them instead. Rental car race!

Hertz won, and we soon found ourselves back in Truckee and very ready for dinner. (I never got lunch, because the place Elizabeth went for food messed up our order and was so ridiculously slow they couldn't correct it in time).

The one pleasant surprise for the evening is that Truckee has a very nice "Truckee Thursdays" street fair where they close the downtown main street and have booths of arts and crafts as well as lots of food (food trucks, etc). We, however, eschewed the overpriced fair food for some really cheap mexican across the train tracks ($9 for both our meals combined).

After enjoying the fair, we headed home. Hill repeats were not to happen.

Friday, I had one goal: get in the lake. I knew it would be cold for the race, and I wanted to be prepared for just how bad it would be. First, I decided to procrastinate (and warm up) by going on a short ride and run. I found a nice little route for both that goes through the ski resort near my house. Score!

After getting warm, we headed to the beach a for a swim. I got in the water and OH-MY-LORD-IT-WAS-COLD. It took me almost 10 minutes to get my face in, and every time I lifted my face out of the water to take a breath I was oh so grateful for the warmth of the sun on my face. I was only in for about 20 minutes total, but very, very happy to get out.

After drying up by the pool, we headed out for the afternoon. Elizabeth wanted to get some new sunglasses (her 8-year old pair broke), and so we made our way to the Oakley store at Squaw Valley. Squaw was infested with extremely outdoors-y looking fit people, it seemed weird. Finally, I figured it out, Friday was the day before the Western States 100, a 100-mile long trail race that starts at Squaw. No wonder I felt like I was out of shape compared to those people!

After Squaw, we headed back home for a big spaghetti dinner, stopping at Tahoe City to pick-up the race packet and groceries. While standing in line for the packet pick-up, with the temperatures dropping and cold weather coming in, I contemplated switching to the duathlon and foregoing the swim.

We went to bed early, and I slept very well, despite waking several times in the middle of the night to pee (I was worried about being dehydrated from the car breakdown on Thursday).

Race day started early, my alarm woke me up at 5am. I scarfed a bagel and a banana, filled my thermos with hot water (to be used later), and headed out to the transition area to get set up. Elizabeth decided to bike to meet me there, so she could get a workout in as well. This was good as there wasn't enough space in the rental car for my massive mountain bike and her bike too.

The transition area was on the field of a school in Tahoe City. There was a ton of space for each bike and associated gear, and it was on grass. I decided not to wear my tri jersey under my wetsuit because I wanted it to be dry after the swim. I also brought another towel to dry off after the swim, so as to get rid of the cold as quickly as possible.

After getting set-up, I changed into my wetsuit and a spare pair of shoes I brought for the run to the transition area from the swim (about a quarter mile). I tried to keep warm by sipping my thermos of hot water and doing some light jogging. The customary stomach butterflies kept me busy too.

The air was cold, Elizabeth said she saw the temperature on a bank's sign and it said 48°. Ugh. I was not looking forward to getting into the water.

It was so cold that they delayed the race start 30 minutes, and shortened the swim course.

In the final minutes before the race, I got into the water and tried to get used to it. I put my face in and blew bubbles. I was wearing three swim caps to keep warm, and I had grown out my beard a bit and rubbed extra body glide and sunblock on my face to try and mitigate the cold somewhat. Getting into the water completely, I did a couple strokes and found my face wasn't as horrible as my neck. Cold bit my jugular.

A minute before the race started, the sun made a brief appearance from behind the clouds (it had been overcast all morning). People cheered. It felt warm and great. Unfortunately, it didn't last.

Right before the race started, I poured the rest of the hot water from my thermos down my wetsuit. Warmth surrounded my core! I wished I could do the same thing for my neck.

At the starter's gun, I took off slowly. I'm a slow swimmer and was in no hurry to get swum over, especially in the cold.

The swim was so shallow, and the water so cold that many people waded out to essentially the first turn buoy. Lame! I swam the whole way, and passed a bunch of them.

Making the turn, the cold started to be less painful, but it was still a struggle to breath. I ended up breathing every stroke for most of the race.

The second turn took us back to shore. The wind had picked up some big waves, and I stretched out my stroke and surfed a couple, overtaking some more people. This was the only fun part of the swim for me.

Hitting shore, there was a short beach run and then back in the water for a second lap of pain! What's the deal with the mid-swim beach run? It seems like a miserable idea.

The sprint distance racers were to start 10 minutes behind the full distance (they only did one lap). I made it back into the water before they started, but soon a number of the stronger swimmers from that distance were swimming over me. In general, the swim was quite crowded at the turns. I think the route wasn't long enough for the race to stretch out.

I was really ready to be out of the water when I hit the beach the second time. With ice-frozen extremities, it was a real struggle to get into my shoes. I left my wetsuit completely on during the run to the TA, trusting it to protect me from the frigid wind.

Shoes and the hope of warming up my body helped me overtake dozens on my run to the TA, but I was soon to lose the time in getting out of the wetsuit and into bike garb.

When I hit the TA, I grabbed my towel and dried off. I started to shiver pretty badly. I took the wetsuit off my chest and draped my towel over my head to try and retain some warmth.

As I struggled to get my legs out of the wetsuit, the shivering turned into thick, barely controlled shuddering. Not fun.

Eventually, I got my bike gear on and headed out for the mountain bike ride. I wore a jacket over my tri-shirt, and there was a steep climb to start, so started to get warm immediately.

After a long initial climb, the ride leveled out and I started to enjoy myself. The ride was mostly fire roads with occasional single track. The descents were moderate and the climbs were not horribly intense. It was really fun to just pound on the bike. I had resolved to enjoy myself, so I didn't go too hard, but I also felt like my mountain biking skills were more of the limiter to my speed than my strength or endurance. I just wasn't comfortable going as fast as other people.

Because I had such a bad experience at Donner. I forced myself to drink a lot on the bike ride. This was a bit tricky because my camelback wasn't designed to be operated with one hand. Hence every once in awhile I stopped and drank some water.

My insistance on over-hydration had the expected consequences. I had to stop several times to pee. Go wide open backcountry spaces for doing so! Eventually I got into a rhythm where every time I stopped and peed, I'd drink as much water as I could, ensuring a future stop in the not too distant future.

Nutrition on the mountain bike was difficult as well. Thank goodness I had taped some goos to my frame, as they were the only thing that was easily accessible. I also tried to eat the bars I brought when I stopped, but it was honestly hard to get them down. I only got to the peanut butter bagel I had brought along after the race was over.

Though the bike ride was beautiful, there was only one aid station (at the start/end of the main loop, which my distance did twice). The nutrition options there kinda sucked. I had to open a whole bottle of gatorade for just a couple of swigs, and then toss it. The aid seemed to be geared towards people with water bottle cages, which I don't have on my mountain bike. (And many people seemed not to have).

Midway through the first loop of the ride, I started to be able to feel my pinky fingers again. I hadn't noticed them until the feeling started to come back, but apparently they had been numb with cold that entire time.

At the end of the mountain bike ride, there was a steep descent on open road back to the transition area. They warned us about the descent, because it was possible to get going really fast (which I did, Strava clocks 35 miles an hour), and it was possible for cars to come out of driveways and cause problems, which was fortunately not an issue for me.

My feet still had no feeling from the cold (after 2 hours of mountain biking), so my T2 was also slow. Oh well. I wasn't really pushing for time on this race anyway.

The run started off with another steep uphill that lasted about 2 miles. There was a mile of flat, and then the rest of the way was fairly downhill. The flat part was beautiful, but the ascent and descent kinda sucked. On the plus side, I finally got feeling back in my feet.

The race ended back on the beach, and I had enough in the tank to pass a couple people towards the end. In fact I felt I could keep going for another 10 miles. I guess my training runs have been far too long for a 6 mile race.

After the race I felt very good. No stomach unease (which is often a post-race problem for me). My only complaint was that I had major blisters on both my palms from the mountain bike ride! These have still not healed, so I'm riding around the city wearing bike gloves like a putz this week.

The post-race snacks and BBQ were adequate, but not obscene, like I would have liked / expected, and it was pretty chilly, so Elizabeth and I didn't hang out too long. We didn't see the awards ceremony.

Speaking of awards, I didn't even come close to placing in this race. Usually I'm in the top quarter or so of finishers. This time I was in the bottom half. My swim was below average, but that's to be expected, but my mountain bike was surprisingly below average as well. My run was in the top 25% or so (it's kinda hard to tell).

I enjoy the mountain biking, so it's good to know there's room for improvement there. :)

Post-race, I took it easy. I was kinda wound up from the caffeine in the goos (usually I don't have much), so there wasn't a post-race nap, but I was pretty useless for the rest of the day and most of Sunday as well. I felt it was deserved!

This is already obscenely long, so I won't tell the story of how the car was eventually (and painfully) repaired, but will instead wrap it up by saying that we made it back down from Tahoe on Tuesday instead of our planned Sunday.

All in all, it was a fun race. I'd do it again just for the mountain biking, but I'm going to wait to register until I confirm that the weather will be in the 70s instead of the 40s on race day. (Both the weekends prior and subsequent to the race were in the 70s/80s which makes a helluva difference for the first couple inches of the lake water).

Oh well, maybe next year!
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Good job! Though sounds like you'll do even better next time! Also, there's a mountain bike tri at Wildflower:)

Your bit about the water scared me to death - I can't deal with cold water... But I went in for the first time last night and it was actually just a little bit colder than AP, not too bad. I guess it's been warmer this week, hopefully it'll stay like that till august:)
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