Friday, October 11, 2013

Ironman Lake Tahoe Race Report

It's been three weeks since the race, so I've had plenty of time to recover and think about my experience in Tahoe.  Why am I waiting so long before writing this?  Short answer: School is *ROUGH*.


Leading up to the race, things were generally pretty awesome.  My parents decided to drive 2000 miles from Chicago to come support me.  First off, they are beyond crazy for doing that, and second, THANKS PARENTS - YOU ARE AWESOME!

I met my parents Wednesday night, and we had a blast hanging out before the race.  This included ultra stress-free race prep (things were so laid back,) sight seeing, and a lot of great food.  Life is pretty good when you literally don't have to think about anything.

Day before:

Things got interesting the day before the race.  A storm moved in, temperatures dropped, and I was scared.  It's pretty unnerving when the rain is traveling more horizontally than it is vertically...when the waves in the lake are breaking boats loose from their anchors.  Yep - scared!  Thankfully things cleared up for the race, but the COLD remained...

Race day:

We decided to stay as close to the start of the race as possible.  Turns out, this was pretty cool.  I had just over a mile to walk to get down to the start, and due to the temperatures being in the 30's, I decided to put my SLEEVELESS wetsuit on in the room.

I got down to the start around 6:15 and saw that it was kind of a mess.  I rushed around to drop everything off, set up my bike (which had ice on it!,) and was ready to go around 6:35.  The swim starts at 6:40...  Talk about cutting it close!  One nice bonus was that I ONLY had to stand on the ice cold sand for five minutes, so not bad.  Note to self: You made it, but damn, give yourself some more breathing room next time!


The gun went off at 6:40am, and within seconds I was in the water.  In the water...slowly walking the first 100m out to the buoy.  Yea, that water was like ICE.  People will say that 59 degree water is nice, but not this guy.  I took my sweet time getting used to things.

I finally made it to a swimmable depth and took a dive.  Ok, face-deep in water - the tough part's over.  Only 2.35 miles to go in this frozen hell.  This train slowly got moving, and I managed to warm up a bit.  Sighting was rough due to a visit from Karl the Fog (Karl is what we call the SF fog out here.)  Visibility was maybe 50 meters??  Not bad, but the buoys were 100 meters apart.  Usually I would just follow the other swimmers, but people were all over the place.  Not cool amigos!  This made things challenging, and since I was freezing my butt off due to not having sleeves, I wanted out ASAP!

Eventually I made my way out of the water.  I looked down at my watch to see if I met my goal of a sub-1hr swim (thinking there was little chance of that given the conditions,) and I read 0:00:00.  NICE.  My frozen/numb fingers must have missed the button.  Turns out it was a 1:06 swim.  Not bad, but I had a better time in me.  Sadface. :(


As soon as I got out of the frigid 59 degree water, I was hit by 30 degree air temps.  Queue iceberg-fingers.  I immediately froze up.   I got to the tent, T1 bag and wetsuit in-hand, and I tried to find a seat.

Thankfully there was an unsuspecting volunteer ready to help me.  I dumped out my stuff and tried to get things going, but my fingers and body said, "No thank you," which meant that this volunteer had to do EVERYTHING for me.  He had to pull up my biking shorts, zip up my cycling jersey, push up my arm name it.  I stood there while this guy dressed me.  I felt like a three year old, but I had no choice.  NINETEEN MINUTES later, I was out on my bike.  No joke - it took that long.


Ok, I'm F'ing cold at this point as you can imagine, and I'm getting on a bike going 20+ mph in 30 degree temps.  The situation seemed pretty grim, but you know what??  TIME TO DO WORK, FRIENDS!

I put in a lot of time on my bike this summer, so I was pretty confident in my ability to wreck this bike ride.  I had a rough strategy in mind: First lap, take it easy, second lap, crush it.  I did just that.

The first lap was tough due to my still-numb hands.  I literally could not shift with my fingers.  I had to move the levers with my wrists.  How does that work?  No idea, but I figured out a way.  Secondly, cold fingers meant getting to and opening my Milky Way bars was near impossible.  I managed to get one down while climbing through the Martis area, but I almost went into sever oxygen debt while breathing and climbing with a cycling glove stuffed in my mouth (used my teeth to take my glove off to open the candy bar.)

Lap two was much better.  And by better I mean more comfortable.  I could feel my fingers and toes now!  I also stopped at my special needs bag for something..."special." :)  Time for lunch!  I had a PB&J sandwich stashed.  Good choice, dude.  That thing tasted incredible.

Things continued to go well, and I was crushing it up these climbs.  I felt good and was passing a lot of people with relatively low effort.  I still had no idea what my swim time was or what place I was, but based on how many people I was passing, it couldn't have been good.

6:02 for the bike.  I was pleased with this.  I was also pleased that I managed to start my watch again!  Small victories...


I had a decent T2.  I managed to change my own clothes this time, and the vanilla Ensure that I drank went down as smooth as...a thick vanilla Ensure!  I did forget my handheld water bottle though - bummer.  -$20 and -some potentially useful electrolytes.


Things started off well.  I felt like I had the bike ride that I needed to have.  I started the first few downhill miles at 7:15's.  This was a little hot, but the effort felt right.  I rolled with it.

It took me until mile three or four for the day to catch up with me.  I slowed down a bit just to make sure that I could save as much energy as possible.  Around mile four or so, I could feel a code-brown coming on.  I had a decision: Do I take care of business or suffer?  I convinced myself that ironman is all about comfort, so I addressed the situation.  Timed myself: 60 seconds - not bad!

I hit mile five in under 40min.  I was right on my goal pace, so I decided to walk a bit to conserve as much energy as possible.  8min miles was the goal, so I convinced myself I would walk at 5mi intervals and walk until I hit that pace (80min for 10, etc.)

Well, this lasted until mile 10.  I'm pretty sure I was still on pace, but around mile 12, my body was ready to take a nap.  I had a serious case of "full body exhaustion."  Nothing was really hurting.  That was pretty encouraging, but man was I tired!  One more mile to special needs.  I grabbed another Ensure and offered my PB&J to some volunteers.  They declined (their loss!)  I desperately wish I could have stomached a PB&J at that point because I was deeply saddened to have it go to waste.

From that point on it was damage control: Walk for a bit until someone passes you, run until you re-pass, rinse, repeat.  No idea how, but I still managed a decent overall pace.  8:43/mi I think.  I thought I was going much slower with all of the walking I did, but hey, that's ironman-brain for ya!

Post-race thoughts:

My finishing time was 11:16.  At the time, I was bummed that I didn't break 11, but after finding out that I got 6th in my age group, I was PUMPED.  I went to the awards ceremony, but naturally the rolldown gods didn't favor me on that day.

I decided to sign up for next year.  I decided that this course really suits me: The cold was tough to deal with in T1, but that's better than cooking during the run.  The climbing on the bike was awesome.  Best of all, I can drive to the race!

A few notes for next time:
- FULL. SLEEVE. WETSUIT.- Eat more on the bike.  And during the run.
- Eat more in general all the time.  Food is awesome regardless of the situation.

Thank you's:
- My parents - As mentioned before, they are incredible.  Would your parents drive 2000 miles to see you for a few seconds during an 11 hour race?  Didn't think so.  Mom and Dad, you guys are rockstars.
- Rachel - Thanks for putting up with my rockstar parents!  Thanks for running along with me up Brockway.  It was awesome having you cheering like a crazy person all day long!
- Maria, Matt, Ambrus - Thanks for driving up FOR ONE DAY to see me race.  It was awesome to have you guys cheering.
- Dan - Thanks for being an awesome training partner throughout the year and thanks for letting me use your condo!
- Thomas - Your Shiv was incredible.  Thanks for letting me borrow it.  I still owe you something!


  1. Congrats on a great race! I heard the conditions were absolutely brutal. Way to fight through!

    1. Nice - I think you're my first comment ever. Booyah!