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.