September 23, 2010

Aflac Iron Girl Lake Tahoe (Race Report)

Well folks, I survived! I didn't drown, crash, or trip and managed to have a fantastic time at my first triathlon. And not surprisingly, I'm addicted and already looking forward to what's next!

I was up before my alarm and let reality settle in - in just a few hours I would be plunging into chilly Lake Tahoe and starting my first triathlon! Since I had all my stuff laid out the night before it made getting ready a breeze and ensured that nothing was left behind. I stuffed all my gear into my bag and we set off into the semi-dark morning. We reached transition with just 15 minutes left til it closed. I spotted my coworker, Heather, who had come up to support her roommate, and was also volunteering. She was in the middle of body-marking so I had her quickly mark me up (do they have to mark you that much!?) and then hurried into transition to set up my station. Surprisingly Heather's roommate, Kellie, was only a couple bikes down from me so I had someone to share my nerves and excitement with : ) Once I had everything laid out I headed back out and had Heather help me get into my wetsuit before we all walked down to the lake.
 getting body marked
 early morning transition
 my transition area : )
 those things are not easy to get on!

The swim had a wave start based on age and Kellie and I, along with other 14-29 year olds, were in the last wave. So once down at the lake we had plenty of time to hang around, take pics, and wait. You couldn't ask for a more beautiful setting to start a race. We watched the sun come up over the mountains in the distance, the suns emerging rays sparkling on the clear lake. It was amusing to see so many people in wetsuits - we looked like a herd of seals! The course was rectangular and marked with big yellow buoys. For me, a lot of the swim was mental, and luckily the course didn't look longer than I had been expecting. At 7:30am we gathered at the start to watch the 45+ wave take off! Before we knew it, the next two waves had entered the water and we were lining up to wait for our turn. I was starting to get nervous, but I knew I could finish even if I had to doggie paddle. More than anything I just wanted the race to be underway before my nerves could get the better of me.
the swim course
beautiful morning, beautiful Lake Tahoe : )
Kellie & I practicing our Iron Girl pose!

I put my goggles on and then the countdown began...."Three, two, one, AFLAC!!!" And we were off! Kellie and I had positioned ourselves in the middle of the pack toward the outside. Since the lake was pretty shallow you could actually touch the ground (and see the bottom - thank goodness for clear water!) all the way to the first buoy. I walked til I was about waist deep then plunged into the water and started swimming! The water temp was around 62 degrees but actually didn't feel very cold at all. My wave wasn't too crowded, thankfully, but it was nice to follow others instead of constantly raising my head to sight. I reached the first buoy before I knew it but I was pretty out of breath. I switched to breast stroke and continued on toward the turn buoy. I reached the third yellow buoy and just did not want to put my face back in the water. I still couldn't catch my breath and I was tired. I switched back to free but kept my face out of the water as I headed back toward the shore. The sun was directly in front of me so I really couldn't see anything - I just headed in the general direction of the beach. I kept expecting to be able to touch the bottom but I was further out that I thought. Finally I could touch and I stood up, my wetsuit full of water, and staggered drunkenly onto the sand. My legs were like jello and I couldn't breathe. But I was SO glad to be done!
waiting to start!
swim start video
off we go!
red caps mid-swim
swim finish video - I look drunk!
yay, done with the swim!

swim time (400m): 9:26

I staggered up the beach to where my flip flops were, slipped them on, then dunked my feet in the baby pool they had laid out. My dad had followed me and ran along side me as I jogged the quarter mile to transition, the whole time saying how tired and out of breathe I was. Apparently, though, I had finished the swim in the middle of the pack which I was pleased with. Kellie had finished a little ahead of me and was just taking off on her bike when I came into T1. I peeled my wetsuit off, threw it on the ground and then took my time getting ready for the bike. I put my socks and shoes on, pulled on my tank top, put my sunglasses and helmet on, and scarfed a few Chomps (I stuffed the rest down my shirt for later, but never got to them on the bike). Then I pulled my bike off the rack and and jogged to the bike-out chute!
getting ready for the bike in T1
heading out!

T1 time (including .25 mi run): 10:06

I was excited to be starting my second leg of the race, but I was still out of breath. I think the altitude did me in because I never fully caught my breath the entire race. The bike course was a straight out-and-back to Cave Rock and was absolutely beautiful, but holy hills! I was not expecting such a hilly course. It was great cruising down them at like 30mph but I couldn't help thinking how much they would suck on the way back, and suck they did. There were 2 killer hills in particular, almost a mile long each, that everyone literally was crawling up. The only reason I kept going is because I was afraid if I stopped I'd start rolling backward! On one gnarly climb an SUV pulled up alongside me and as I looked over I saw a video camera aimed right at me! I was just chugging along and the guy yelled, "Come on you've got this!" I just wanted to yell back that we could swap places if it looked so easy, but I just smiled and kept pushing. I think the video was part of a company that makes souvenir videos, so I might have to check it out : )
 off I go!
such a serious face!

I had never been so happy to see the turnaround, but looking at my Garmin it seemed like the course was a little short (24k = 14.9 miles, right?). No matter though, I slowed down, made the turn, and got my second wind on the way back. That is until the first big hill hit. At times I seriously considered what would happen if I just stopped pedaling. My legs burned. My lungs were on the verge of bursting. I would crest the hill, sucking air, only to see the next monster waiting in the distance. On the flip side, it was awesome to cruise down those hills at speeds I've only ever reached in a car! I felt a little badass : ) I kept leap frogging the same women, but I eyed the numbers on their calves and I never saw any in my age group. Finally I made it to the home stretch and pedaled my heart out. I went through the chute, spotted my folks cheering on the side, hopped off my bike to jello legs, and jogged back into transition.
 coming in from the bike
back to transition one more time...
bike time (24k): 52:41

I racked my bike, removed my Garmin, and made sure to switch the setting to running. I ate a couple more Chomps, took a swig of water, pulled on my visor, and took off - only to return 10 seconds later to grab my race belt when a volunteer asked where my number was : /
T2 time: 1:59

Although my legs felt like jello they weren't as heavy as I was expecting. From the start I was cruising at a pretty decent pace. We headed down to the lake where the swim start had been, and I was treated to a gorgeous rainbow arching over the lake. Talk about inspiring! But then just before mile 1 the hills started. They weren't huge, but when you're already running on fatigued legs they felt like mountains. I'm not ashamed to admit that I took a few brief walk breaks, mainly to catch my breath, which was still eluding me.

Despite the breaks I maintained my pace, and at mile 2 we mercifully reached a nice long downhill and then it was all flat to the finish. Once again, my watch showed that the course was going to come in a little short, and I'm kind of curious what other athletes recorded. Anyway, an older woman caught up to me on the final stretch and we exchanged words of encouragement and joint complaints over the hills. And then I was on my own, picking up my pace, heading toward the turn into the finish chute. I heard my parents yell but I was focused on the finish, my legs carrying me as fast as they could. I smiled big, heard my name announced, and passed across the finish line, emerging as a triathlete!
on the home stretch!
so smiley : )
 almost there...
I did it!!
finish line video

run time (5k): 28:00

As soon as I stopped moving, I got a splitting headache that lasted the next few hours (I blame the altitude and my lack of water). I found my parents, Heather, and Kellie, who had finished a while before me. Both glad to be done, we exchanged our thoughts on the course, mostly just complaining about the hills on both the bike and run courses. Per usual we took plenty of  photos to commemorate the moment. Then I went to collect my preliminary results and was pleased to find that I had come in under my time goal!
 officially a triathlete and Iron Girl  : )
 my biggest fans : )
 thanks for coming Heather!

total time: 1:42:12

I also discovered that I had come in 7th in my age group out of 22 - not bad for my first triathlon! Unlike after running races I was actually hungry, so I took advantage of the awesome breakfast spread they had which included fresh fruit, yogurt, eggs, potatoes, muffins and bagels, coffee, and oj. It was pretty impressive! Then we all sat around waiting for transition to reopen so we could grab our stuff. After finally retrieving my bike and my gear we set off on the road back home. I managed to enjoy some of the spectacular views (and capture a few shots of them) before I passed out, bent over sideways, the rest of the way home. My headache finally faded away but I was left with ears that kept popping the rest of the day.
endless trees
 such a gorgeous drive...
 oh Tahoe, how I love thee : )

All in all I don't think I could've asked for a better experience for my first triathlon. Considering my far from extensive training, I think I did well, and I'm eager to see how I could do with adequate training. It was such a different experience from a road race, but it made for a nice change. I'm a proud new triathlete and there will definitely be a lot more swimming, biking, and running in my future!
swim, bike, run


  1. Well done- you're utterly amazing!

    I started running last year and have done some 10 and 5Ks but I'm running a marathon next year. I love how you write and you're my inspiration to just keep keep keep going!


  2. this was great to read! i've been training for one but haven't signed up...honestly my biggest fear is transisition, how silly!

    what an amazingly beautiful place for a race too!

  3. Good race report, it is detailed and entertaining. I want to read a race report like this. Good job!!!

  4. OMG your triathalon experience sounds so fun. So proud of you! Congrats! Another great thing under your belt. ;) I'd love to do a triathalon by 2012. Next year will be my first time doing a full marathon and I keep thinking which event I should do.. I'm sure you can give me some suggestions! Hope all is well dear!

  5. Hi name is blanca and I live here in south lake tahoe and there will be another iron girl this Sunday Sept 18 2011 unfortunately I didn't have time to train for it because I just found out but I plan to train for next year hopefully there is another one here. I want you to know that your experience really inspired me so much thank you it really gave me the push I needed to think that I can do it too....