We arrived in Lake Tahoe on Wednesday, allowing me to get acclimated to the area at least three full days prior to the race. I’m glad we did that as I was able to get a practice swim in with my Friends Who Tri club team on Thursday after buying much needed aqua booties for my feet after athlete check in. The water was shockingly cold but once my face went numb it wasn't so bad after all. (Crazy, I know.) On Friday, I woke up with a headache, stuffed up sinuses and a dry throat so I didn’t go for a swim that morning instead rested and hydrated so I could go for a bike and run that afternoon. I had a blast on the practice ride and run checking out the scenery and it also gave me the confidence that Sunday was going to be a great day.
|Bike Drop off in the rain the day before|
Race morning, I woke up at 4am to eat breakfast and get dressed. We agreed to leave the house at 4:45am and to our surprise hit no traffic getting to the swim start at King’s Beach. My family dropped me off as they went to search for a parking spot and as I walked to drop off my special needs bag, guess who twisted their ankle on a crack in the road? Me! Luckily, I didn’t fall but I couldn’t believe that had just happened as earlier in the week during our practice swim in the lake I turned the same ankle but much worse as I was practicing running out of the water. I made sure I was okay and continued to walk into transition where volunteers were body marking all the athletes with our race numbers. I went to my bike to air up my tires and put all my nutrition on my bike. I’ve never been so popular in my life as everyone asked to borrow my pump and then they probably hated me as I said my friends had priority.
I couldn’t find all my buds doing the race before the swim start but I did see my long time friend Missy in the bathroom line so asked her to wait for me so we could at least be together. We couldn’t seem to get out of the transition to get to the swim start without walking all over the place. We finally decided to stop where we were and start putting on our wetsuits before the race started without us. I then saw Anthony walking by so was able to have him help us get it together. The air temperature that morning was in the 30’s and I couldn’t keep from shivering as I put on my foot booties and suit. I didn’t really realize it until Anthony firmly said you need to start moving around and do some jumping jacks because you are shaking way too much. At that moment, I realized how cold it was and had a very minor freak out moment that reminded me that I was about to do an Ironman in these conditions and also get into cold water too.
Again, it was a very minor freak out moment and I started jumping around to get my core temperature up to let my body know that these conditions were not going to stop us mentally or physically. It was time to get ourselves into the appropriate timing corrals and I chose the 1:21 to 1:30 swim time. I figured I would start towards the back of this group and hopefully find a good rhythm with people around me at my same speed. As soon as I got in line, I realized I had forgotten to put my ear plugs in! In cold temperatures like this you definitely want to wear ear plugs to prevent you from getting vertigo as you exit the water. I kept scanning the crowd of spectators looking for Anthony and he was nowhere to be found! What was I going to do???? Thankfully, my ear plug angel arrived in the form of a fellow training buddy, Myrna, who didn’t think twice and gave me pieces of her ear plugs to use. Thank goodness! I didn’t want to be the drunken looking girl coming out of the water that people would talk about for days to come.
As they moved our group forward and we continued to wait to get in the water, I started jumping around again to stay warm. If you know me at all, you know I love to dance and I don’t mind making an idiot of myself in large crowds so for some reason the “running man” seemed like the most appropriate thing to do to keep me warm. Plus, it gave our group of Sherpas something to be entertained with. After dancing around a bit I focused on the task at hand and couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the thick fog above the lake. Even further beyone the lake were the snowcapped mountains. What an incredible backdrop for the start of an Ironman!
Holy naked body madness! The changing tent was a disaster. It was so small compared to what I remember at Ironman Canada where I had 3 volunteers helping me get dressed. This time I couldn’t see a volunteer nor a chair or any space for me to get changed. I made my way through women flinging around body parts and saw about a 12x20 inch space for me to set my bag down and open it. Oh wait, my hands were frozen and I couldn’t get the bag open! Who double knotted my bag? I know it wasn’t like that when I dropped it off as I had put an extra plastic bag inside to protect my clothes from the rain the day before but I guess they tied it thinking it would help stay closed. I then saw a volunteer and shouted to her asking if she could open my bag. It took her at least 3 minutes to open my bag which had my towel to dry off with so I just stood there patiently trying to squeeze out excess water from my hair. When it looked like she was about to get it, I pulled my wetsuit off and she helped me get my clothes on. I then realized I was standing right across from a tent opening where a male volunteer was standing. Now I know why that space was available and sorry you had to see me change. Or maybe I should say “you’re welcome”!
I glanced around to see how many layers people were putting on as I knew it was cold but didn’t want to overdress and be hot. The more I thought about it though, I knew I would rather be warm since I trained in the Texas heat anyway and didn’t want to risk being cold and miserable. So four layers later, I was out of the tent and jogging carefully to my bike where I heard my family cheering for me which again, made me smile.
As I mounted my bike, I heard more of our Iron Sherpas cheering loudly for me and continued to smile. How can you not smile or embrace the day when you have so much love and support on the sidelines and back home. I was ready to take on 112 miles! The first stretch from King’s Beach to Squaw Valley (Squaw Valley was where transition 2 and the finish line was located) would be completed three times so I knew the first time I just wanted to get warmed up and see how my body would handle it. My feet and face were cold but my upper body and ears were warm making the wind bearable during this fast portion of the bike. The first time I tried to use my brakes, I noticed I needed to squeeze very tightly for the front brake to work. I tried to take a peak around my aerobottle and noticed that the brake lever was open! Eek! I slowed down and quickly closed it while carefully riding trying to see if the brakes were rubbing my wheel at all. It wasn't on one side but I couldn't see the other thanks to my bottle so I just played with the brakes a bit trying to feel that they were good to go. It was all good and I continued along making a turn heading into the town of Truckee, I was focused on making my passing moves on a few people in front of me when a car on the side of the road began screaming my name. It was my family! They got to a part of the course I didn’t expect to see them at which again, made me smile. Some people don’t understand why there are spectators at endurance events when you see the person for a split second as they zoom by. But that split second means the world to the person participating and I’m so thankful we had so many familiar faces on the course.
When I got to mile 25 I knew I had to take a bathroom break and there seemed to be a great aid station equipped to do so. Volunteers hung my bike on a rack and I used the bathroom and grabbed some water to refill a bottle. When I got to Martis Camp on my bike, I sat back and put my hands on my elbow pads as I knew I’d be climbing for a while. This neighborhood was challenging but since I had driven it the day before, I had mentally prepared for it to be very much like the monthly Mt. Scott rides we had been doing in Oklahoma during training. Just when you thought the climb was over, it wasn’t and all you could do was keep on pedaling. (I can’t thank Steve Holstein enough for finding this gem of a training location!) The down hills of this section were very technical and there were bright orange markings around manholes that you had to steer around while descending. I was able to pick up speed in this area but constantly had to be aware and brake often. Instead of getting annoyed that I couldn’t go faster, I made it more of a game and would choose to miss these manholes by going around them on a different side each time I saw them.
After completing the Martis Camp neighborhood, we then started our climb up Brockway in which the Summit is at 7179 feet. It was a long steady climb and I stayed in my easiest gear the entire way up. I’m so thankful I listened to friends recommendations and got a compact crank with 11-28 gearing. Training with less gears made the 11-28 feel like heaven. I kept my cadence as high as possible and controlled my heart rate. By the time I knew it, I was flying down the other side of Brockway hitting 40 mph. I like going downhill but it was a bit scary when a gust of wind would catch my Zipp wheels so would lightly tap my brakes to stay in control. When I got to the bottom, I was so excited to see many of our FWTri Sherpa’s at the corner screaming loud and proud. This was the end of the first loop and I now knew what the course was like for the next loop.
I decided to discard my jacket on the second loop as it had gotten warm during the Martis Camp and Brockway climbs but I kept the other three layers on knowing the descents were still cold. When I got to Truckee the second time, I saw Anthony, my parents and aunt/uncle at the base of a bike path which was a no pass zone. They took pictures and asked how I was doing and when I made the turn to head up the hill I saw Anthony and my stepdad again. They ran up the side of the hill to get more pictures of me and at this point I was out of my saddle climbing when Anthony said “You look so good!” Those words out of my husband’s mouth simply make me “tri” that much harder. My spirits were already up but that just gave me an additional boost to keep pedaling.
I stopped at the same aid station to fill up water and use the restroom and got going again. This time, I was ready for Martis Camp and Brockway but I knew I wasn’t moving as fast as the first time. It was pretty uneventful as I made it through Martis Camp again playing my manhole swerving game but as I made it to the top of Brockway, I was ecstatic to see more of our supporters from Fort Worth. Kristina Large took a video of me climbing making me smile again and although it was my day, I truly wanted to know how everyone was doing. She let me know of a few friends who were having a tough day and it just gave me more fuel to continue for me and them whether they knew it or not. I got to the top of the summit and knew I was done with the toughest parts of the bike course and enjoyed my descent again maxing out at 42 mph. Did I mention I like down hills? J This time our support crew was no longer at the hot corner of King’s Beach so it motivated me to keep moving along as I knew I’d get to see them when I got off the bike at the second transition.
I still had about 20 miles to go before finishing the bike portion which included Dollar Hill for the third time. When I got there I got back into my climbing position as I had done before and all of a sudden my right inner thigh started to cramp up. Uh oh! I had issues with my adductors and sartorius muscle all summer due to all the climbing we had been doing but the weeks leading up to the race, I really focused on massage, foam rolling and stretching and was hoping I wouldn’t have any issues come race day. Once I felt that twinge, I freaked for a moment but then quickly had to make a decision of staying on the bike or getting off to stretch. I decided to stay on the bike pedaling primarily with my right leg as I shook out the left while still clipped in. I massaged it a bit, shook it out and manually stretched it as much as I could. Still climbing, it subsided. Thank heaven it didn’t completely cramp up and I made it up Dollar Hill one last time. At this point I knew I was in the home stretch and all I needed to do was cruise in to Squaw Valley where I knew I’d get to start the run and use some different muscles. What I didn’t expect was for the wind to pick up some more on that stretch making it a little more challenging on my legs that were getting tired of cycling. I was patient though and stayed conservative as I didn’t want my thigh to cramp up.
After making the turn into Squaw Valley, it was time to get psyched up for the run. This is the part of the event I had been waiting for and was most excited about as I felt my run had improved significantly over the last year and I had many successful training runs post tough rides allowing me to have the confidence to run a full marathon after cycling for 112 miles. When I dismounted from my bike, I jogged into the change tent where a volunteer helped me get my transition bag. I sat down with another volunteer and she helped me decide what to wear. I asked her if it was still cold outside…really??? I had just been outside cycling but for some reason quickly forgot what the temperature was. I knew I had a running pullover in my special needs bag on the course but I had to make a decision to change into a tri top and stick with my arm warmers and tri shorts from the ride or change into running shorts with a t-shirt. As she explained what it felt like, I heard nothing that came out of her mouth because my thigh started to cramp and I had to jump out of my seat to walk around. I stretched and sat and jumped up again to stretch it out some more. At that point I didn’t care what I looked as I needed to get out there and start running before my inner thigh called it quits. I decided on the long sleeve undershirt along with my TriBike Transport running shirt. I was comfortable but a little warm as I headed out with the sun still out. I started to think the long sleeve shirt was a bad idea but within the next few miles I was happy I had it on. It started to get chilly quick and I was thankful to have a good running pullover awaiting me on the course along with my favorite whole grain goldfish I had put into my special needs bag.
As I made my way back to complete the first loop, I got to mile 15 which had a steep hill and saw my awesome family again. I also saw our friend Kristina who cracked me up as I passed a male runner with her yelling, “You pass that man!” I apologized to him but did pass him and cracked up at her. Anthony ran with me up the rest of the hill, asked how I was doing and said “Listen to Kristina and keep passing men”! I love you guys for that. Coming back in to where the run started in Squaw Valley, I knew it would be cruel to see the finish line knowing I had to go back out for more mileage but I also knew I’d probably see some more of our support crew which made it easier to get there. As I was heading in to make the loop, I saw my friend Liesel and quickly asked how she was doing. When she said she couldn’t breathe due to her asthma I didn’t know what to do. That’s an awful feeling to not be able to help someone and you’re running in the opposite direction. She’s a tough cookie though and kept moving right along. I rounded the corner and there were our friends hootin’ and hollering just as loud as can be. Happy smiling girl here all over again!
After passing the finish line to start my next loop I got to run by them again and was surprised to see my family and Anthony again yelling how great I looked and how awesome I was. These inspirational words and cheers are what kept refueling my tank and back on the course I went where I got to see my favorite little Mexican, Christa. She was so positive and encouraging as I passed her and I knew I was getting closer to the finish but I had to do the awful uphills we had done on the first loop that I walked the first time. This time it was dark and I was alone as I power walked the hills and jogged the down hills. It was pitch black in some areas and my headlamp wasn’t as bright as I remember so I picked up an extra headlamp that the volunteers were handing out and used it as a flashlight to watch my step. I didn’t need to have another ankle rolling incident so close to the end of the race. I continued to jog most of the way and only walk the aid stations and hills but it seemed like the turnaround for our second loop was taking forever to get to. After making it up one of the longest hills on the run course, I tried to remember how far the turnaround was from that point but couldn’t figure it out and caught a quick glimpse of Liesel as she was starting the descent of the same hill. She looked way better than the first time and knowing she had already turned around I figured she would kick it in to gear and be done soon. To my surprise the turnaround was right around the corner and I was so happy to be heading back to the finish. I stopped at the aid station at the bottom of the hill and had some coke, salty chips and an orange. Maybe it wasn’t the best time to treat myself to a buffet but I guess I felt like I was almost done and knew I had a steep hill that I would be walking anyway so enjoyed the spread.
Going up that hill I told a guy he was going to get knocked out as he yelled to people that it was a no walk zone and we needed to start shuffling. You don’t say that to runners when they are walking because usually they are in the “bite me” zone and anything will come flying out of their mouths or they might start swinging. I wasn't in that zone but was trying to look out for the guy. At that moment, I looked up at the sky and caught an amazing view of "The Big Dipper"! Now everyone around me was able to ignore the guy anyway and take in the beauty of our night sky. Pretty sure he didn’t care and continued banging his noisemakers. I made it to the top of the hill and started jogging again to get away from him. I was on my way back to the village and about to be a two time Ironman! I saw Christa again who had nothing but awesome things to say and she ran with me for a while. She encouraged me to kick it into gear since I was almost done but at that point I had one speed and didn’t feel like I was moving any faster. I told her that was as fast as I could go and laughed as I continued to jog it in. She cut the parking lot to head to the finish line and once I made one of the turns to make it into the finisher cute, I magically was able to pick up the pace. Funny how that happens when you near the finish. There was a guy in the middle of the chute and lots of spectators hands sticking out to receive high fives from him but I needed to get by, so quickly passed him on his right and skidded by the hands to get to the finish when I saw our awesome support crew again and slapped their hands as I crossed the finish line at 13 hours and 51 minutes (chip time). I had just reached my goal of completing this challenging event in under 14 hours and cut an hour and 44 minutes off my first Ironman time. I also set a personal record for my stand alone marathon time and couldn’t have been any happier with my performance and victory. My volunteer, Heather, walked me to get my finisher gear and picture taken and told me I didn’t look like I had done an Ironman. Believe me, Heather…I did an Ironman…and I don’t ever have to do this Ironman course again!
Ironman Lake Tahoe 2013, mission accomplished!