Thursday, September 22, 2011

Iron Girl Lake Tahoe Race Report

The Short Version: 
Beautiful race, amazing location, great organization, with the fun all-women vibe. Had a bit slower day than I'd hoped due to lack of oxygen, this anemic flatlander really suffered at 6225 feet above sea level. Still, I had the fastest swim of all the triathletes (even while gasping like a fish out of water), and finished 4/63 AG and 30/494 overall (with most of those placing high being from Reno/Tahoe area.) Learned some valuable lessons I want to take forward to Ironman Coeur d'Alene (more on that later).

The Long Version: 
The day dawned dark and early, as race days tend to do. Usually with me thinking "Why am I doing this to myself?" I am not a morning person. I have to take a shower just to get my eyelids to open. I ate my Paleo pre-race breakfast of coconut-banana custard which I'd made up and brought ahead of time and drank my traditional Yerba Mate. Yes, I'm that crunchy.

Walking down to the race start, I was amazed at how many people there were on the streets at 5:00 am. Not people in athletic gear either. Mostly people in slightly-to-very mussed up fancy clothes, wobbling on high heels or leaning on friends or dates, sometimes looking like they were about to puke into the bushes. I guess that's what being in a casino town adds to the early morning hours. Glad I don't drink much, or gamble. All of a sudden, going to a triathlon start seems downright reasonable in comparison.

At the Iron Girl transition area, I got to meet up with Laura again, and her excitement was contagious, it was fun to feel the energy of all the women, so many of them first-timers. I was also very glad to have brought my Oregon duck striped hat and gloves because it was colddddd outside! The transition area was filling up and so we set to getting our gear ready. I thought some of you might be interested in how I typically lay out my transition area, so here's a photo. There's the lucky polka-dotted towel, the Pointy Helmet of Speed, shoes with socks pre-rolled, and my race belt and hat.

I was sure glad I decided to wear my wetsuit, especially since we had to vacate the transition area over 30 minutes before our wave start. The neoprene at least kept us warm as we walked down to the beach. I found Laura again and was very glad for the company, it's much more fun than going to a race all by your lonesome.

So, on to the race:

SWIM: 400 m:  6:35   Wow, have never done a triathlon in a lake this clear. So cool! It was also a running beach start which was great practice for IM CdA, and a little intimidating. I was in the 2nd wave, and I could clearly see the swimmers from the wave ahead of me as I approached them in the water. I mean like see them as if they were floating in the air! It was like some swimming video game where the swimmers would appear in front of me and I'd have to decide to go left or right. As I came out of the water I was well ahead of everyone in my wave, but didn't learn later that I had the fastest swim split of the race. 6:35 seems pretty slow for me for a wetsuit swim, so I'm guessing the course was marked a little long.

T1: 5:54  This is a LONG transition, about a 500m run up to the transition area. The beach sand is very coarse and darn near impossible to get off your feet. I wasted way too much time trying to get the sand off with a washcloth at the "shoe transition" area near the beach. That was dumb. Shoulda run barefoot (after all, I'm used to that!) or just run with the sand in my shoes. Seeing as how I missed both 2nd and 3rd places in my age division by 30 seconds or less, this was probably my biggest mistake of the day. Other than that, I executed a good transition once I got to the main area. I did notice (foreshadowing here) that I could barely catch my breath when I was running from the beach to T1.

BIKE: 24k : 46:09 Lots of rollers on the bike course, I just tried to keep in a groove. The biggest worry for me is that I haven't been doing any climbing out of the saddle due to my injured arm, and I was hoping none of the hills would be steep enough to need that. Luckily, there was only one spot I needed to stand up and then only for a few seconds. Most of the hills were spinnable. Still, I can see how a race course of steady big rollers can be taxing! While I didn't notice the altitude on the bike as much as on the run later, I did note that my average speed was not what I'd hoped. Not sure how much was due to the thinner air, how much to my lack of hill training and how much to my lessened bike volume this summer.  Overall though, the bike course was so pretty I just tried to enjoy the heck out of it! I loved how they blocked off the center lanes for the course, no need to worry about traffic. Also the pavement was beautifully smooth, which makes for a nice biking experience.

T2: 1:30: Not a bad T2 time given that the area was pretty spread out.

RUN: 5k: 29:25: Here's where I really noticed the altitude. I just couldn't speed my legs up on the run, not because my legs were tired. My legs felt fine. It's just that every time I tried to make them go faster I started sucking wind like nobody's business. This is when it hit me that the altitude was really going to become a problem. I was 2nd in my AG going into the run with a pretty comfortable margin on the other runners, but I just couldn't keep up any pace at all. Sadly, I was passed by #2 and #3 in my age group just before the finisher's chute (they beat me by 30 and 13 seconds). You'd think I could just speed up and take them down, but it was simply impossible. As I tried, I started gasping and I started getting tunnel vision. Not. Enough. Oxygen. Wow!

Attending the awards after the race, it was clear that most of the AG and Overall winners were from Tahoe, Reno, Carson City, etc. I was definitely not prepared for how much the altitude would effect me. After all, I just ran a 24 mile trail run at nearly the same elevation. However, and this is a big however, that was at a much more aerobic effort. I could stay aerobic no problem, but every time I tried to push up near my VO2Max, I just pooped out.

Still, I had a great time and a reasonably strong finish in what is unbelievably my first (and only) triathlon of the season! I learned a lot that I can apply to IMCdA (like get to the race site early enough to acclimate to the elevation, and work on getting some more red blood cells, practice biking on big rollers and learn how to deal with them mentally so they don't get me down). So I'm really glad I came and had this terrific experience.

Sarah from Iron Girl was great, it was nice to meet her, and really wonderful to meet up with Laura and see her do such an awesome job in this race. I missed her at the finish line because she told me she'd be happy to go under 2:00, and instead she came in at 1:47, kickin' some booty! I am hoping she will write up her race experience to share here.

1 comment:

Laura said...

Hi Robin!

It was so fun meeting up with you at Iron Girl! I had such a good time. Did I mention that while Jeff was waiting for my wave to start, he heard this voice behind him calling his name. Turns out it was a former coworker / current competitor!! HA! So funny. His wife was doing the race too. =) (tee hee, I beat her by five minutes... =) Stay tuned for my race report! Seems things around here never slow down.