Ironman Lake Tahoe Training · Training

Week 27: 4th of July in Lake Tahoe

Happy 4th of July! I spent the long weekend in Lake Tahoe with some great friends for some training, beach, sunshine, fireworks, BBQ, beer, and tons of laughs. I had a blast! I’m so grateful to be surrounded by such fun, healthy and goal-oriented people, mostly from the Golden Gate Triathlon Club.

Front row for the Fireworks!
Front row for the Fireworks!
The weekend wasn't *all* about training
The weekend wasn’t *all* about training
Can't wait to be back for IMLT!
Can’t wait to be back for IMLT!

Ironman Lake Tahoe Bike Course Preview

On Saturday Tami and I woke up early and set out to do 2 loops of the Ironman Lake Tahoe bike course (race day will be 2.3 loops for a total of 112 miles). The course is a basic clockwise circle/triangle from Kings Beach to Tahoe City to Truckee and back to Kings Beach. Ironman threw in a few detours into neighborhoods and Northstar Resort, but it’s mostly Highway roads with large shoulders, fast descents, straightaways, and of course some climbing. A few takeaway points from the day:

  • Brockway is not easy. The Brockway Summit climb, which you have to do twice during the race (~5 miles, 1,400 ft of elevation gain, 42 minutes) was a little longer, steeper, and hotter than I was expecting. I was in my easiest gear and going a very slow 4 mph on some sections. It makes me wonder if I need to think about getting a new cassette that’s better suited for climbing. But generally I was fine, sat up tall, dropped my heals, and just took my time. Also, riders beware: there’s a false summit on Brockway! Once you think you’re done, you’re only about half-way there. Also be aware that there’s no shade.
  • Flat and fast sections. The loop has more straight-away and flat sections than I was expecting. Sure there’s a fair amount of climbing (Brockway twice and Dollar Hill 3 times), but 89 North is flat, downhill, straight and perfect for the aero position. I was cruising at 21+ mph in this section without much effort. I use a road bike with aero bars but I’m seriously considering buying a TT bike for this race and future races.
  • Sharp turns. The north neighborhood detour near Truckee is a little odd. The course is full of sharp turns, and even a narrow bike path with a boulder in the middle (they better remove that on race day!). I think this is going to be a pretty slowww section.
  • Fast descents. The descents are amazing, especially after Dollar Hill and Brockway, but I really need to work on my descending and bike handling skills. I’ve been watching some YouTube videos but lately I’ve been a little more cautious on the downhills and I think I’m losing out on some free speed. Brockway isn’t a total straight-away descent, there’s a turn in there and you have to be careful, but it’s a lot of fun.
  • Insane views. Creeks, mountains, green trees, blue lake… the views don’t get much better than this. Unbelievable.
  • Windy. There was some headwinds and crosswinds on the course. It wasn’t horrible by any means but I felt a little wobbly in a few sections.
  • Traffic control? The course is mostly on fast Highways and through downtown districts with a lot of car traffic. I really hope they close the roads during the race, or control the traffic somehow. The bike lanes on 89 have many drainage grates which often forces you into the road a little.

All-in-all Tami and I rode 83.5 miles in about 5.5 hours. The first loop we stuck to the course map but cut out Northstar because we accidentally added 7 miles when we went North on 89 at the round-about (ignore that section on my map!). The second loop we cut out the neighborhoods and Northstar.

I feel much more confident for race day and I’m so happy we had the chance to preview the course!

Strava IMLT bike course
Strava IMLT bike course
Hallelujah!! We made it!
Hallelujah!! We made it!
Tami and I at the top of Brockway climb #2
Tami and I at the top of Brockway climb #2

Swimming — Lessons Learned

Over the holiday weekend we did 2 open water swims in clear Lake Tahoe to practice long distances in a wetsuit and sighting. Swimming in the lake is absolutely spectacular — it’s fresh water (obviously), you can easily see the bottom, and the mountain views are amazing. It makes for a very pleasant (albeit cold) experience! The water level was really low so it took a while to get waist-deep which should be interesting for race day. I wonder if they’ll change the swim course at all to account for this.

The second day I swam with swimming extraordinaire, Katie, and she gave me some incredible and much-needed tips for my swim technique. I’m going to be working on these very hard over the next few weeks!

  1. Don’t cross the center line! Apparently when I swim my arm enters the water in the middle as opposed to straight ahead. I “cross the center line” so-to-speak. This is not ideal because it strains the shoulder and slows you down. So Katie suggested exaggerating the movement by staying outside. This felt so weird at first but I started to notice better efficiency.
  2. Hands closed. The hand is believed to create 2.5 times the hydrodynamic force as the forearm! But a bad habit I have is spreading my fingers when I pull through the water. I have no idea why I do this… obviously it makes sense to use your hand as a paddle and keep your fingers together, but it feels more easy and natural to spread them out in the cold water. Katie suggested using tape to hold them together to practice the feeling.
crossing the ‘line’
Hand positions
Hand positions
A little underwater fun after our workout :-)
A little underwater fun after our workout 🙂

Training at Altitude

The air is thin at 6,000+ feet and I definitely notice a difference in my breathing and as a result, my pace, during training sessions. I can’t say I notice a huge change while swimming, but biking uphill and running are proving to be the most difficult in Tahoe.

I’m glad I’m having these experiences so I know how my body reacts to the altitude instead of just ‘winging it’ and seeing how it goes. I already knew the Ironman run was going to be slow but I know it’s going to be even slower than expected.

I don’t know much about the physiology of training at altitude (anyone care to drop some knowledge on me?) and the effects on the body but I have heard that it takes about a week to acclimate to the altitude. Not sure how true that is, but I plan on going up a week before Ironman to get my body ready for the demands of altitude.

This past weekend I struggled while running on Day 1 of my trip after our long swim. It was a hot day and I wanted to run 8 miles but could only handle about 5. This was totally fine and I’m actually glad I didn’t over-exert myself early in the weekend but wow that was tough.

Here’s some more info on the topic from the interwebz.

Feelin' the effects
Feelin’ the effects


On Sunday morning I had a decision to make — get up and run 14 miles in Tahoe then hope and pray that traffic isn’t egregious? Or leave at the crack of dawn then hope and pray that I have enough energy to power through a 14 miler in SF. I chose the second option because let’s be honest, there’s nothing worse than heavy traffic on a warm summer day.

I got home, unpacked, took a quick cat nap then laced up my running shoes for a long run. If I hadn’t been training for Ironman there was almost no way I would’ve done this; I was pretty exhausted from the drive. But I did it anyway, because you can’t overthink it… you have to JUST RUN!

I wanted to try and avoid ultra-touristy areas (very difficult in SF) so I started in Golden Gate Park, headed towards Lands End, then back down Ocean Beach and back through the park. It was a hilly but scenic run and I’m happy I got out the door!

If you ever think you’re too tired/unmotivated/whatever… try not to overthink it. Just take the first step and see where it takes you. #JustRun

Run map
Run map
Sutro Baths. View from my run.
Sutro Baths. View from my run.
View of the Ocean from my run
View of the Ocean from my run. I ❤ SF!

Training Recovery

To recover quickly from a long workout I focus on stretching, foam rolling, lots of water, sleep, and a nutrient-dense snack or meal. On Sunday I made a delicious smoothie in the Vitamix with Vega protein powder, banana, berries, chia seeds, maca powder, water, and fresh ginger. Amazing and a great way to re-hydrate an re-build those muscles after taking such a beating!

Vitamix smoothie
Vitamix smoothie


This Week’s Training Log

  • Sunday the 6th. Run. 14 mile run in GG Park, Ocean Beach and Lands End. 9:53/mi
  • Saturday the 5th. Run. Brick run after the long bike. 40 minutes. 10:23/mi
  • Saturday the 5th. Bike. Ironman Lake Tahoe course preview. 2 loops. 83 miles. 5 hours 24 mins.
  • Friday the 4th. Run. Post-swim run around the Tahoe neighborhoods. 4.8 miles 9:50/mi
  • Friday the 4th. Swim. Open water swim in Lake Tahoe at Kings Beach. 1.2 miles.
  • Thursday the 3rd. Run. Post-swim run in Tahoe. 5.8 miles. 10:17/mi
  • Thursday the 3rd. Swim. 1.5 miles in Lake Tahoe at Sugar Pine beach.
  • Wednesday the 2nd. Bike. Morning power cycle class at M2. 1 hour 20 mins.

Thanks Everyone. Swim. Bike. Run. Eat Plants.

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