Sunday, September 21, 2014

Unofficial Partial Ironman Lake Tahoe

The Ironman was cancelled. 10min before the start. You can imagine the looks of disbelief. 2000 athletes from every state & around the world. But it was the right call. The air quality was hazardous.  However, the smoke covering the course hadn't reached Kings Beach. It was clear.

We thought there was a chance the winds would change and blow the smoke away later in the day.  So we decided I'd race anyway!  I wanted to put the training to the test.  Others were also swimming the course unofficially.  Although the official race venue was quickly disassembled, the swim support staff left the buoys in place and remained in the water to look over the dozens swimming the course.

At 6:50am I started.  The water was calm and clear.  I didn't get too cold and was able to push well.  I was happy with my time of 1:06 (although I didn't beat Robin's time last year).

I organized my clothes well so they went on fast.  But transition was still 10min.  Robin handed me a painter's mask and Anna handed me my phone.  I was off! 

Temperature was good.  Air was good... until Tahoe City.  There was quite a bit of smoke so I quickly put on the mask.  Other than my glasses fogging up, it worked well.  I breathed through my nose and out my mouth to help with filtering the air. 

At 20mi, Robin and the girls had an aid station where I shed clothes and got water.  By 30mi, I had seen about 4 other riders, but they weren't wearing masks.  I was concerned for them as the air seemed pretty bad without it.  My Garmin stopped working so I had to guess my average speed at about 21mph. 

At 40mi, I started up Hwy 267.  I tried not to breath too hard climbing through Northstar.  One thing that was impressive was how fast Ironman removed traces of the course. All the arrows, mile markers, and aid stations were gone, but the porta-potties remained.  I had to jump the locked cable at the top of Northstar.. and then it was all downhill.. until the big climb up Brockway Summit.  Fortunately Robin and the girls were cheering which really helped.

Over the top I flew down and looked forward to the clean air in Kings Beach.  I breathed freely without the mask for the next 10mi.  At 50mi, Robin and girls gave me my needs bag.  Such great support!  I put my mask back on at Tahoe City, but in the distance it looked like the skies were clearing up. 

At 60mi the rain came!  This was an answer to prayer.  At 70mi I was wet and a little cold.  Unfortunately, the rain didn't help the smoke like I thought.  I forced myself to fuel up and drink every 5 mi but it meant taking my mask off momentarily. 

At 80mi I turned into Northstar.  Robin, the girls, Troy & Sara, and Flor & Carson were all there cheering me on and handing more water!  So great!
Now for the final climb up Brockway.  Like Robin said, it's a whole different climb the 2nd time.  I tried to focus on good cadence.  It took forever but finally, at mile 90, Team Soares, Outman, and Hodges were visible at the top.  Happily I tell them I'll be done in an hour, hoping to break 6hrs.

This time flying into Kings Beach didn't bring with it clear air.  The West winds picked up and now smoke covered the entire course.  I realize now that the air isn't getting better and the marathon won't be possible.  The last 10mi were tough but I did manage to finish in 5:58.

After a reuniting with family and friends at Squaw Valley, a 5 minute transition, I started my partial (10k) marathon.

Oh, the legs were awkward for a few hundred yards.  Then it looked more like a run.  By 2mi I was doing better at 9:15 pace.  This pace, probably not good enough to qualify with, was all I had while also trying not to breathe too hard.  At 4mi, at Hwy 89, the team was there, the girls were dancing and cheering loudly. 

I turned around and headed back and Troy joined me (outside assistance pacing) for the last 2.2 mi to the makeshift finish line in the parking lot.  Managed 9:15 pace back up the hill for a 10k run split of 57:32.  Total time 8:17.  The girls put on my finisher medal and hat (these were available to everybody).

It was a great feeling to accomplish part of the race and I'm thankful that I was able to push well, that the nutrition (using Vitargo) worked well, and that the mask worked well.  I'm very thankful for my family and friends cheering me on in the unofficial partial Ironman Lake Tahoe!