IM Lake Tahoe 2015
A change in altitude requires a change in attitude. Racing Ironman Lake Tahoe on September 20 meant competing at an altitude that started at 6000 feet so I knew it would be a challenging race and not likely to result in a personal best.
The crystal blue water of Lake Tahoe provided a swim course like I have never seen. Even with a few hundred people thrashing about around me, the details on wet suits and goggles were clearly seen. At the farthest turn I could still see the bottom and all along the course the divers there to ensure our safety. Most times the water is murky and it is difficult to distinguish black neoprene from shadow but not in this lake; each swimmer was outlined with tiny shimmering bubbles. Even with this clarity there was still the usual pushing, shoving, and careless swamping that is typical of triathlon swims. I caught glimpses of the dawn of a glorious day on my second loop.
Thanks to winter training on my Computrainer I had an idea of what lay ahead. The Sierra Nevadas are beautiful but were serving up a mix of short steep and long gradual climbs with a few rollers thrown in. Looping this many times means you get to know what's ahead so it was important to stay mentally strong and focus on the miles that had passed. Special needs was offered three times but it was situated just before a short 12 or 14% grade which made actually eating my beloved PB&J sandwich nearly impossible. We visited Truckee and after a few more climbs turned onto a path with some technical switch backs, steep downs and a few "no pass" zones. Several miles later came the long haul up to Brockway Summit at nearly 7200 feet. Pacing and getting cozy with your granny gear was crucial as oxygen was rationed. This 5 mile, 9% grade portion of the course was preceded by a two mile climb that taxed your legs and laboured your breathing. The summit sign was the happy place because now it was time to fly. What goes up comes down so time to get aero and soar down to Kings Beach and on to lap two. Needless to say, all those hills the second or third time around seemed longer, steeper and just mean!
The last 20 miles of the bike I could feel the day and environment catching up with me. I started to feel slow, my cadence and power were down and I started to worry about the marathon yet to come. The cold I had been battling the last two days was winning and depleting my confidence in being able to finish this event. Electrolytes now burned my throat and everything was aching. I was in a dark mental place and struggling to find my way out of that funk. At this point I didn't know that I had actually rocked the bike and was 9th in my division.
Into T2 in Squaw Valley and I still wasn't sure I had a marathon in me. I handed my bike to the valet and walked to the change tent. The speedy volunteer got me ready to run but I needed to sit for a few minutes and figure out just how I was going to do this. I exited the tent, saw Rob who was ready with a hug and encouraging words despite my tears and moans about feeling awful and got myself onto the run course. I have a new appreciation of the marathon walkers and slower runners because that 26.2 miles was a LONG way. The miles ticked by slowly, my walking pace was only 40 seconds to a minute slower than the pathetic run pace I managed when I did run so this only reinforced for me that I was ok to walk. The hydration focus earlier in the day caught up to me and my belly was not happy being sloshed around so even more justification in my mind that it was ok to walk.
So walk I did. I ran a bit, sometimes for 100m and other times for 40m but I kept trying. I fist bumped lots of other Hammer clothed athletes and found that my speed walk was faster than some of the runners. The best motivation came from a volunteer who encouragingly reminded me that I had completed 127 miles and only had 13 to go. Those words were golden. I found Rob at mile 17 of the run. He had been searching for me on the course and in the medical tent as the athlete tracker was behind and didn't show me moving forward anymore. He offered me an out - the truck was right there and I could stop. Through my tears (yes, again) I told him I only had just over 9 miles left and really wanted to finish so on I went into the now dark and cold night. This was not my plan! I had nothing but throat lozenges in my run special needs bag when really I needed a shirt and headlamp. Rob found me a few more times on the course and was there to greet me at the finish line. I finished this ironman in 14:08:11 and after all that was 16th in my division. It took courage and a lot of grit but I did it. Phew! So...when's the next one?!