Thursday, October 22, 2015

Ironman Lake Tahoe 2015: Race Report

The 2015 Ironman Lake Tahoe was a goal race for me - really dating back to 2013.  When I did Leadman in 2013 - the original plan was to do Ironman Lake Tahoe.  That didn't pan out. In 2014, I planned to do it but after getting hurt at Vineman, I pulled out.  So getting the chance to do the race in 2015 was a real treat for me - regardless of me not being at my best.

Before I get into the race report, I feel the need to mention that Ironman/WTC has cancelled this race for the future.  I'm not sure of the politics or reasons behind it (there was a staggering number of people doing the race this year - far more than I initially though - so I'd imagine it wouldn't be a numbers thing), but the decision came out the day after the race ended - which indicated it was made some time in advance.  I'm pretty bummed about this, because it was a great race and one I would do again next year if given the opportunity (which was a sentiment shared by several people whom I've spoken to about the race).

Anyway, on to the race itself.

2015, in general, has been a pretty tough year for me athletics wise.  There's a lot of factors - some things that I could control and some things that I couldn't - but the bottom line is that I haven't gotten the training in that I should have in order to perform at a race of this caliber.  Because of that, I had lower expectations than what I initially had - but you play the cards that are dealt to you and hope for the best.
Particularly, my lack of training showed up in the swim.  After Ironman 70.3 California earlier in the year (where I had a horrid swim), I hit the pool hard and put in a lot of work.  My intention, at that time, was to be the guy who always smelled like chlorine who you knew was going to swim well because he put in the hours at the pool.  Unfortunately, that lasted all of 5 weeks or so.
There's a few reasons this fell apart.  We had a situation with my family which resulted in a surgery for my wife - and that made training nearly impossible while I was at home.  This, in turn, bred a bit of "training laziness" on my part and I got into a rut where I would come home and sit around instead of doing work.  Now, that's not to say I didn't train at all.  I would still put in an hour to an hour and a a half a day during my lunch break, and I still would occasionally hop on the trainer for an hour or two and maybe go for a run after work.  Weekends, I normally averaged a workout (1 to 3 hours or so) once a weekend.  However - pool time was scarce, open water time was even scarcer, and I put in only 3 or 4 truly long bike rides in the time leading up to Ironman Lake Tahoe.  All of that put together, isn't going to cut it when you're looking to have a fast Ironman race.
Basically, none of it was ideal in terms of my training and I took shortcuts (and sometimes altogether just dropped workouts) from my plan.  I can lean on whatever excuse is out there and tell myself that the only reason that happened was because of this or that - but the real truth of the matter is that I just got lazy.  I had every opportunity to keep my training going - even if it met doing it in a not so ideal way (for example, I could help care for my wife during her recovery and get a workout in after her and my son were asleep - yet I didn't do this a single time).  I just didn't put in the required effort to keep things consistent.  When I did train, I trained hard - the consistency just wasn't there.  And when the consistency isn't there - you can't expect results.
All of that said - the race still came and I was there for it.

I wasn't the only one there for it.  Some of my mates from Team BSR were also on hand, and they all killed it out there!

Making the long drive to Tahoe.  Well, it was a ride for me.  I got to chill in the backseat the whole way there.
We arrived the Friday before the race in the evening, and that was by design.  I've read a ton about altitude sickness (to the point where I was somewhat freaking out about it) and wanted to make sure it didn't have an effect on me.  Basically, the general consensus is that you either arrive two weeks beforehand to acclimate to it or you arrive a day or two before and hope for the best.  I chose the latter since arriving two weeks ahead of time just wasn't in the cards for us.
The view during our lunch/dinner when we arrived to Tahoe.  Simply beautiful.

We stayed at a pretty sweet cabin about a ten minute walk from the swim start, which, in my mind, was the perfect location for this event.
Dropping everything off was relatively painless - although we caught some incredibly traffic coming back down from Squaw Valley (which is there T2 was).  I did run into an issue where my T2 bag disappeared (which meant my shoes disappeared with it).  After a brief panic - I was able to secure another (somewhat similar) pair of kicks and got everything checked in and was good to go.
Big shout out to the guys at Newton for their support of the Big Sexy Racing team and for helping me in a pinch at IMLT.
Packet pick-up was a pretty easy process, and the swag (as always with Ironman events) was pretty sweet.  The Tahoe backpack this year was especially good - and a big upgrade from some of the previous 2015 Ironman race backpacks I've seen.
The pretty sweet Ironman Lake Tahoe backpack.  Complete with Beet Performer - love the stuff.
The drive down to King's Beach to drop off my bike in T1 was a bit of a bear (no pun intended), but I eventually made it and got everything racked up and ready for the next day's race.
All nice and racked up and ready to roll.  For the record, I retaped my gels in the morning the next day.
Once everything was racked up and all the transition bags were dropped off - it was off to get a good meal in my stomach and get some rest for the next day.

In the morning, my wife and brother in law accompanied me to the start at sometime very early before the sun rose to help me make sure I had everything covered.  Arriving at transition, I felt about as calm as I've ever felt before doing a triathlon.  I suppose that's the result of not having any expectations for a race that you know you can finish - but aren't gunning for any particular time.  I had abandoned all hope of having a "fast" time - so I was there to just enjoy things and I had the right mindset to do just that.  So, in my mind, there was nothing to be nervous about - even with reports of a bear tearing into transition bags the night before.

Before the swim looking at my brother in law with a "I'm naked under here, why in the world are you taking a picture?" face. haha

The swim start was crowded with spectators from the get go.

Me and the misses before I head off to swim 2.4 miles.

The swim was the swim.  As I alluded to before, you can't expect much when you aren't training for the swim, and my swim was virtually non-existent for the better part of 5 months or so leading up to this race.  
Right before the swim start for the full.

Nevertheless, I managed to swim relatively straight and felt pretty good throughout the entire swim. I wasn't fast, but I also wasn't as slow as I thought I would be.  The swim felt a lot faster than my time (which was 1:30:00ish) but I came out of it feeling fresh, and that was the important thing.
A thumbs up AFTER a swim?  Things were looking pretty good.

Running up to grab my bag and head into the changing building to get ready to get on the bike.


Transition from the swim to the bike was a breeze - and not an issue at all.  I did have to do the whole "Sorry boys, but now's not the time for modesty" routine and got butt naked while changing - but that's how it goes in Ironman.  I didn't have a towel in my transition bag, so that's that.
Running out of transition with my bike.

Another transition shot.
The bike was going really smooth - I was staying on my power target pretty well until about at mile 40 I hit a bump and my front tire popped.  Not a huge deal, I hopped off and got it changed rather quickly (~4-5 minutes) and was back on my way.
Within a few minutes after the tire change, my chain dropped.  I had to hop off the bike again, manually adjust the chain, get it back on and moving, and then I was able to ride again.  
Fifteen minutes later - it happened again and I realized this was going to be a problem.
Fortunately, it wasn't immediately.  I was able to ride the next 20 or so miles about at the pace I wanted and at target power before I got another flat on the bike path right before you reach Brockaway for the second time.  This time, I didn't have a second spare tube (my front wheel is a clincher and my rear wheel is a tubular - I brought one spare for each wheel).  I was waiting and asking people if they had a spare tube.  It didn't take too long (~15 minutes) for someone to swing by and hand me one.  Which was awesome and I was incredibly thankful.  I cleaned off my tire as best I could, got the tube installed, and started riding again.
Which lasted all of eight or so miles until, about 90% up the Brockaway climb, POP!  The same tire burst again.  This one was bad.  I was tired (pun intended), frustrated, hot, and feeling downright miserable.  To top that off, the pity party I was about to have for myself was over shadowed by someone who legitly needed help (he passed out and crashed at the top of Brockaway on the bike).  I helped him (along with one of the cheering spectators) to a spot on a rock in the shade and waited for the medics to arrive (which took them all of 3 minutes or so).
After that, it was another wait asking people if they had a spare tube.  Unfortunately for me, no one did this time.  I was out in the sun waiting for just over an hour (with repeated attempts to flag down marshals to see if tech support could come aid me to no avail) until someone came by and gave me one (and I eventually caught up with him on Facebook and thanked him - he was a godsend!).  He even helped me get it on and I literally couldn't thank him enough for saving my day.
By that time, however, I was basically done.  I had around 30 or so miles left and I wanted nothing more than to be off my bike.
I ended up rolling into T2 with a 7:15:00(ish) time - a healthy chunk of that spent waiting in misery and begging for a tube.

The back end of the run course is beautiful.
I felt extremely good getting off the bike and getting into the run.  A quick stop to fill up my bottles with water and off I went.
The run went really well for me.  I help my pace throughout the entire thing right up until after the first turnaround by the finish line (at about mile 18 or so) when things started to slow down for me.  I managed to keep that slower pace throughout the rest of the run and finished pretty strong.
The run was easily my favorite part of the race and I would do an open marathon on this same course.  It was really beautiful.  Running through Squaw Valley and down by the riverbed provided not only a scenic course, but one that was challenging as well.  There was a variety of small climbs, some different terrain, and twists and turns - but all in all, it was a fairly straightforward course that was fun to run.

I finished the run in under four hours, and crossed the finish line in 13:16:31 - which, considering everything on the bike, I'm more than happy with.  

Crossing the finish line.  I was pretty stoked to finish this race - as it seemed like it wouldn't happen at some points during the bike.

All in all, it was a spectacular race that I was super stoked on and wish I could make a return trip to do it all over again.
My wife and son (and the rest of my family at the race) braved the cold and waited for me to finish - which was awesome of them and I can't express how grateful I am.

As with any Ironman or long race similar to this - I was pretty thrashed at the end and pretty much done.  However, that simply meant taking some time off from training on a daily basis and relaxing with the family.  And lots of pizza.  And Yogurtland.  

Pizza right by the finish line?!?!?  You know where I immediately went!  As always the medal from Ashworth Awards was top notch!
And, at the end of the day the only thing that matters besides pizza and frozen yogurt, is family and friends.  And my son couldn't give a crap about the Ironman - as long as he gets to play in the water and be dirty.

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