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Anything is Possible. The impossible just takes longer.

September 20, 2010
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Iron Girl 2010 South Shore Lake Tahoe Triathlon

Race Report – Cliff Notes

Swim- 19:08 min (4:47 per 100m)
T1 – 11:34 (including the 8 min walk from the lake)
Bike – 1:27:47 (10.2 mph)
T2 – 1:43
Run – 41:20 (13:19 min/mile)
Total: 2:41:32

The Good:
This event was extremely well run and organized. The volunteers were great and I loved that they gave you so much stuff in the finish chute. It was much better than trying to hunt for what you need! You would also be hard pressed to find a prettier setting for an outdoor event.

The Bad:
The swim. It was bad. Thankfully they had lots of kayaks and surfboards out there for assistance. I wasn’t the only person who hopped from one to another. Must get in more open water swimming! The altitude didn’t help either. I found a shirt that said “Lake Tahoe, CA – This whole town is high (elev 10,000)”. So tempting.

The Ugly:
 The hills were long and gnarly. It was a struggle to go up, then froze half to death speeding down.  

The Swag:
Awesome goodies! I’m all about free stuff and loved the reuseable shopping bag, lip balm, hair ties, shampoo, etc. My favorite being the Iron Girl Aflac Duck.

Race Report – Narrative

It seemed like a good idea 10 weeks ago. A friend of mine offered me a free registration to the Iron Girl Triathlon in Tahoe. I hadn’t exercised on a consistent basis in about 3 years, and had never done a triathlon. Still, it’s free. Free has been getting me into boneheaded situations for as long as I can remember. You would think that someday I would learn.

My prior endurance events include 6 half marathons, a handful of 5ks, a 60 mile charity walk for Breast Cancer and a splash & dash.  I have yet to show up at an event on race day fully trained for the event. Not once. So I wasn’t at all surprised when I arrived in South Lake Tahoe unprepared. I had all the necessary gear but my training left something to be desired. I trained like a crazy person in July and exhausted myself. My efforts to scale the training back to a more manageable level didn’t work out because I have a hard time doing anything halfway. I either go 100 miles per hour, or not at all. True to form, I went 100 mph in July and limped along at a snail’s pace in August and September.

I woke up at 5:00am and was at the transition area at 5:40. I was immediately attacked by a volunteer with a permanent marker. The “body marking” process included writing my race number (371) on both quads, my upper arms and right hand. She then wrote my age as of Dec 31, 2010 on the back of my calf.   Definitely stylish. I think triathlon body marking is going to start a new trend.

After getting my war paint body marked, I set up my transition area. This basically consisted of copying my neighbors and hoping that they knew what they were doing. Then I put on my wetsuit and walked down to the beach feeling like a stuffed sausage. The beach was an 8 min walk from the transition area and everyone had to be on the beach by 6:30 for a 7:30 start. The announcer made a point of telling us repeatedly that the water temp was 61 degrees F. Joy.  Oh and the sand at the beach? Freezing cold. It was painful to stand & walk on. I used this time to ponder questions like “Why do they wait until 10 min before the race starts to place the buoys?” and “Are my feet dirty or turning blue?” I found myself comparing my feet to others around me that weren’t nearly as blue. My skin is nearly translucent, which is great for having blood drawn, but kind of wigs you out when you see them taking on a bluish tint.

I was in the last wave and watched everyone else take off and start the swim. Then it was finally time for us to go and the race started with a Ready! Set! AFLAC!  Aflac being the title sponsor.

I started at the back of the pack and waded into the water. It felt warm! It may have only been 61 degrees but it was in the low 50’s outside. The water was a welcome change until I started having to actually swim. I couldn’t get into a rhythm at all between the waves and trying to breathe. It was a total struggle to make it to first kayak where I could hold on and recompose myself. I was halfway to first buoy and felt like I was drowning. Not a good sign, considering I trained more for swimming than anything else! Too bad I didn’t include any open water swimming in that training.  It wasn’t until later that it occurred to me that the altitude and windy conditions could have played  a part as well. I swam from kayak to surfboard to buoy for the whole 400m, stopping each time to catch my breath and contemplate calling it quits. It was the first time that I have ever seriously contemplated a DNF (did not finish). Finally, towards the end I was starting to feel a bit more confident. The only way I could breathe was to swim backstroke, which I haven’t done since being on the swim team as a high school freshman. I finished the swim by alternating between back stroke and a weird back floating/froggy motion. Good thing they don’t give out points for style.

Transition 1:
I walked up the beach, grabbed my shoes at the “shoe check” and rinsed off my feet at the feet rinsing station. I pulled my wetsuit down to my waist then continued my short walk back to my bike. I was feeling grateful for not drowning in the lake and thus took my sweet time walking back.

At the transition area, a lovely volunteer helped me out of my wetsuit. It took two of us to pull it off my feet. Then I put on a long-sleeve bike jersey over my tri-suit, followed by my shoes, helmet and sunglasses and was off.

As I struggled up the first tiny incline in granny low, I was very concerned with my ability to tackle the hills that lay ahead of me. Then I realized that I wasn’t actually in granny low. Which also explained why I had to struggle up the hills at home in the days leading up to the event. I thought I was in granny low and wasn’t!  In true granny low, I spun up the incline and out onto Highway 50. They shut down the middle of the road, allowing traffic to continue in the outer lanes. I spun up the first hill and second and stopped. I grabbed an energy chew out of my pocket and contemplated whether or not I was truly an “Iron Girl”. I hopped back on my bike and continued to contemplate a DNF.  As I finished struggling up yet another hill, I saw the 5 mile sign and stopped. I took my bike to the side of the road, and grabbed another energy chew as my blood sugar crashed.  Apparently, my junk food binge nutrition plan needs some work.  I was 100% totally done. The next problem was how to get back to transition, because riding all the way back wouldn’t save me from those hills.  After a couple of minutes and another rider came by and talked me into continuing on with her. So I hopped back on my bike and kept going. This was a “no drafting” race so we tried to stay the required distance from each other. Being on a road bike to her mountain bike, I had a definite advantage and pulled away within a couple miles.

Finally, I reached the turn around point and started the long arduous journey back. I’m not sure which was worse. Spinning and struggling up those hills, or going downhill with the cold wind blowing me all over the place. I alternated between worrying about frostbite and trying to keep control of my bike so as not to run into any of the passing cars.

After I passed the 10 mile sign, it occured to me that despite it all I really was going to finish this thing!  This cheered me up considerably and I started to feel more like myself. By that time, traffic had picked up quite a bit. Given that it was reduced down to one lane going each way, it was backed up for miles. I took pleasure that regardless of how slow I was going, I was still going faster than them! I passed a guy in a little MG convertible and yelled “Nice Car!” with a thumbs up. A few of the motorists yelled “Good Job!” and I waved at them. It certainly didn’t feel like a good job but I decided that even if I finished dead last, I was still ahead of the millions of people who sat on their couch all day.  I finished up the bike ride and was ready to finish this thing.

Transition 2:
This was a quick transition. I don’t have bike shoes and just needed to drop off my bike, helmet, etc and go. A nice volunteer racked my bike for me, I took off the long-sleeve jersey, then secured my race bib and headed out. I got a nice surprise when I saw my Gma and cousin waiting for me! I gave them a quick hug and took off.

I tried to run, then gave up. This was going to be a 5k walk for me.  I ended up walking most of the way with another participant and we chatted the whole way. It was much more pleasant than the other two legs of the race.  This was the first triathlon that either of us had participated in and with her being from the Sacramento area, we commisserated about living & training in the valley for mountain events. One volunteer told us that we were “halfway” done with the run and a few minutes later we passed the 1 mile sign.   That is one thing I that I learned right away for endurance events. Never trust a volunteer when they tell you that you are “almost done” etc. They lie.

We jogged through the last intersection and she took off for a strong finish. I stayed back and continued to walk. I did pick up to a slow jog for the home stretch and was finally finished.

After the race, they handed me water, sports drink, muscle milk, a space blanket and a wet sponge with a duck on it. Oh and of course, my finisher’s medal. I have never had so much stuff handed to me in the finish chute, but all of it was greatly appreciated.  After taking a few minutes to recover and meet up with my family, I packed up my stuff, grabbed my bike and took off. 

I went into this race expecting to be slow. In fact, I had prepared myself for possibility of coming in dead last.  It never occured to me that I wouldn’t finish. Having stopped so many times during the swim & bike portions to consider doing just that, I can’t be upset about any of my times. My swim time was significantly slower that I had hoped, but my bike time was right on par with my speed at home. I told my cousin that I had hoped to be finished by 11:00am, and ended up finishing around 10:30. Despite being unprepared (ha! total understatement) for the event, the altitude, terrain and just about everything else, I can’t consider this event anything but a success.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Kirsten permalink
    September 21, 2010 3:18 pm

    Well Jen, you walk faster than I run, even after a swim and a ride, and I’ve been training for a year! So I think you can feel pretty good about the whole thing. 🙂

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