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Lake Tahoe Half Triathlon 2017 Race Report

Created: Saturday, 26 August 2017
 
Pre swim-bike-run at Lake Tahoe
This 70.3 mile swim-bike-run was beautiful, and tough! Lake Tahoe has to be the most beautiful race sites possible in the world. The lake is breathtaking. But that altitude, at over 6,000 ft, makes receiving enough oxygen while racing very challenging. The quick summary, is that I performed beyond my expectations, 7/14 in my AG, 45/83 overall. My goal was to not be the slowest swimmer, as I used to be. I was 7th, at a 2:04/100yd pace. Very fast for me in a lake. I shined at T1, with the second fastest time! I was the 4th fastest on the bike. I know I would've been faster if I could switch to my road bike on on the climbs. My TT bike was blazing the flats and downhills. T2 was awesome again, 2nd fastest time. I was hurting on the run. But so was everyone else. I was 9th fastest (slowest). When I look back, I'm extremely pleased. I competed against other beasts and represented well.

The Detailed report:

 
I was finishing my 6 month work assignment, which coincidentally (not really) ended after this race. I drove up from the L.A. area to Northern California on Friday. This would give me a couple of days to acclimate to the altitude. Saturday was a busy day, as I went for a practice swim at the lake, a run through the woods to prepare for the trail run, and rode my bike to ensure everything was in perfect order. I had no problems on the swim and bike, but I recognized right away that I was having trouble breathing while running uphill. Oh-oh.
Check-In was quick, mainly because parking was a premium. A 30-minute parking pass made sure of that. Picked up my packet, and checked out the lake. It was clear that I needed to arrive very early to avoid any parking distractions. Afterwards, I drove the bike course. The first half was pretty flat, no worries there. The back half was pure punishment. I studied the climbs and turns so I would know what to expect and come up with a strategy. I knew then it would be a very tough 25 miles.

Race Day

 
Transition set, swim, bike, and run
I woke up extra early to ensure a stress-free morning, 3:30. Breakfast was simple, fruit and juice. All my Hammer nutrition, hydration, and supplements were prepared. Pre race, I ate 2 bars, 1 Gel, and Heed. Since I’m really training for a Full Ironman, I used Perpetuem on my bike. Since I was having trouble getting to my supplements in my bento bag, I taped Endurolytes and Anti-Fatigue tablets to my bike. My run belt was filled with Gel packets. I was ready. I will also add that the days leading into the race, I was taking Hammer Race Day Boost. Extreme racing requires a little help to get the body to conquer amazing distances.
I arrived early to find a prime spot to set up my transition area. There racks were not numbered by bib, but rather all of the half distance competitors were on the same row of racks. I looked around, and I was the only African American racing. It’s time to represent! Since I was early, I was able to take my time ensuring everything was set properly, and visually the strategy I was about to execute.

Swim (1.2 mi)

Lucky me, I was in the first wave, 8:00 AM. I arrived with enough time get a practice swim in. The lake was beautiful, crystal clear. The water was chilly, but felt great in my Zoot Prophet 2.0 wetsuit as long as I was moving. 8:00 came and past. The lifeguards didn’t get place until 15 after. I was starting to get chilly standing in the water.
 
Climb from the lake to T1
The wave was all of the men 40+, which was half of the race. I started on the outside, but not quite in the very back. I allowed anyone with guts to stand in front of me, as I rather not have a fast swimmer trying to swim on top of me trying to pass. It was a crowded start, but I commanded my free space, but I encountered a new problem that I’ve never experienced.
I was in groove, stretching for long glides, real long strokes. Even though it was an easy stroke, I was out of breath! I wasn’t even a quarter of the way into the swim! The high altitude with less oxygen was having an early effect on me. Knowing it wasn’t me that was overexerting, I continued with long easy strokes until my breathing relaxed, which was about halfway through the swim. I heard stories of folks being pulled out of the swim the day before in the Sprint race because racers went out fast and got exhausted.
Relaxed, I was able to implement all the skills I’ve been learning in my Masters Swim Class. There were only buoys at the turns. For a 1.2 mile rectangular shaped swim, that means the buoys were very far apart! I saw several swimmers swimming towards the wrong buoy. When I finally reached the second turn, I peaked back and saw there were lots of orange caps behind me. I was so excited, knowing I was in the middle of the pack. There was one swimmer who really annoyed me. I’ve never seen someone swim a mile+ using a side stroke. He would swim on the left for 3 strokes, then flip over to his right for 3. Problem was, he wasn’t swimming straight. I was real close to pushing him away from me. He eventually stopped to sight, that’s when I separated from him. I finished the swim with my strongest & fastest lake swim ever. Was very close to my 2:00 pace goal.
  • Rank: 7/14 Pace: 2:04/100 yd Time: 42:19

T1

In every race, my goal is to have very fast transitions. Even with the wetstuit, I was the 2nd fastest in my AG!! **BOOM** Unfortunately, I lost my nice goggles.
  • Rank: 2/14 Time: 3:59

Bike (56 mi)

 
Thumbs up! Blazing the road.
The bike consisted of 2 loops on Hwy 89 on a mostly flat section, then 1 loop up and over a mountain, then returning back up and over the same climb. I was blazing the first half of the race, averaging over 21 mph on my Quintana Roo PRsix. Throughout, I was focused on training for my full Ironman race, consuming my nutrition, hydration and supplements. I recently switched to the Speedfill F1 system, and the R3 rear double cage. Everything was going as planned.
The second half was not nearly as beautiful. I knew from driving the course, it would be a long day. The climbs were relentless!! Overall, it seems like one huge climb, but it really consisted of a series of about 5 very steep climbs. Several road bikers were able to out-climb me. That was frustrating, as I smoked them in the first half of the race. But I was not racing them. In a long race, I’m racing against myself on the bike. Executing my plan. Not overexerting myself, because there’s a long run afterwards.
 
When I finally reached the top of the long climb, it was a very fast descent. When I reached the bottom, it was time to turn around, and climb that same beast of a mountain again. I swear, it was steeper on the return! The toughest had to have been at least a 20% grade. I saw several folks walking this section. In my mind, I briefly thought that was smarter, save my energy. But I’m not a punk, I pushed through. The descents were definitely steeper, and became dangerous with hairpin turns and traffic. My speeds rose to 43.3 mph!!! Several sections, I had to slow from 43, down to 5 mph quickly, to safely make the turns. One fast section, traffic stopped as someone was trying to find a parking spot. There was no shoulder. I biked on the double yellow line with oncoming traffic. Fortunately, the signage made it clear to the drivers there was a race going on, the drivers allowed me to safely pass the stopped traffic. “Thank You!!”
 
Flat first half,climbing mountains for the second half
 
Reached speeds of over 43 mph!
The day before, I practiced a flying dismount. I failed. So I didn’t even attempt it on this day. Instead, I did remove my shoes while rolling on my bike, and prepared for another fast transition.
  • Rank: 4/14 Time: 3:12:15 Pace: 17.5MPH

T2

With my cycling shoes off, I ran barefoot to my transition area. My Zoot Akai’i shoes went on quickly since it has the Boa system on it. No laces to worry about. Just twist the dial, and I a secure fit. Much better option than the quick tie laces. I grabbed my race belt, filled with Hammer Gel and visor, and ran out of the transition area with them in my hand. I put them on while on the run course. Again, another blazing fast transition. I had the 2nd fastest T2 time. The AG overall winner was the fastest in both transitions.
  • Time: 1:36

Run (13.1 m)

 
Hopefully it looks like I'm enjoying the run!
The half marathon run was all on trails. I’m not a fan of trail runs We are in the mountains, so of course there were plenty of climbs. The altitude was having it’s affect on me again. It was comforting to see that most everyone else was struggling too. I was definitely hurting more than others, as I saw several folks that I passed on the bike cruise pass me on the run. I had nothing to challenge them with. Towards the end, the other racers became quite chatty. One guy said he would like to run with me. I just happened to notice that he was also in my age group. I wasn’t fooled to think that this was a plan to finish in front of me. At this point, I really pushed myself to make it hard on him. It worked, he eventually started walking, and did my best to stay in front.
 
Sprint to the finish!
The end of the had the most punishing finish I’ve ever seen. After 13 miles of torture, there was a very, very steep 200m climb to the finish line. One last push to the finish line! When I crossed the line, I was mentally and physically drained. 100% I gave it my all, and that’s all I could have expected from myself. It took a couple of days for me to actually appreciate my performance.
  • Rank: 9/14 Time: 2:40:21 Pace: 12:00/mi

Finish

The run was such a struggle, I felt that I drifted from middle of the pack from the swim, down to the bottom after the run. I was much stronger on the bike than I realized. It allowed me to finish in the middle of the pack as well. My biggest takeaway, is my need to improve my running. Overall though, I am feeling very strong heading into my main race, a full distance Ironman Louisville.
  • AG Rank: 7/14 Overall Rank: 45/83 Time: 6:40:32
Steep climb to reach the finish! 70.3 miles at 6400 ft elevation
 
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