Ironman Week (Mon-Thurs): Will the Race Go On?

Oh the rumors and speculation, the anxiety, the excitement, the preparation, the altitude acclimation, and the attempted relaxation. That’s Ironman week in Lake Tahoe.


As I drove towards Tahoe on Monday the sky looked apocalyptic. It’s a good thing I knew there was a wildfire starting to burn nearby, because otherwise I would’ve thought the world was ending. The dark, brown sky ahead with blue sunshine in the rear-view mirror was bizarre to say the least.

When I arrived to our rental house near Squaw the first thing I noticed was the heavy smell of smoke outside, much like a campfire. I couldn’t believe how strong the smell was and how long it lingered into the night. “Will this continue?” I wondered.

Just arrived in Tahoe!
Just arrived in Tahoe!

The smell of smoke “rolled in” each day this week at around 3pm, which is when the wind tends to pick up. The fire started last Sunday allegedly by an arsonist who is now in jail with a $10 million bond. The fire has spread over the last few days to 115 square miles, or the equivalent of the San Francisco Peninsula from the Golden Gate down to Pacifica and Millbrae.

The implications for race day has been a hot button topic in the IMLT community this week. There are rumors that the Ironman will be canceled because of the poor air quality. Honestly, if Sunday is similar to Thursday or any day this week, I wouldn’t be surprised if they either cancel or significantly shorten the race. It’s really hard to be outside with the relentless smoky smell, much less compete in a 17-hour endurance challenge! But the meteorologists are predicting a shift in the wind starting Friday night which would blow the smoke towards the East and away from Tahoe. That would be great news and hopefully improve air quality so that the race will go on as planned.

The smoke over the Ironman Village in Squaw
The smoke over the Ironman Village in Squaw

I have no clue what’s going to happen. Nobody does. I would obviously be disappointed if I couldn’t complete my Ironman. But that’s life! Things happen out of our control all the time. So what do you do about it? Complain and demand a refund? NO!! You get out there and turn a negative situation into a positive one. I’m not sure what that looks like yet, because I don’t know if the race will be canceled. But I know that whatever happens there will be a Plan B and I will be happy with my Journey to Ironman, whether I get a finisher’s medal or not. Besides, Ironman is more about the journey than the race itself.

For athletes, volunteers, and spectators, assume the race is on! But you can check online with the National Weather Service or local news outlets to get updates on the wind patterns.

Let’s face it, the  bigger issue here is that California is in a serious drought, a fire has evacuated thousands from their homes, and firefighters are risking their lives to help put it out. Let’s not lose sight of that. It’s not all about us triathletes.

The Ironman Village

On Thursday morning Sam, Chris, Colette and I went down the Squaw Valley to pick up our race packets (swim caps, timing chip, race numbers, gear bags, etc) and tour the Ironman Village which is complete with vendors and free samples.

For some reason I started to get nervous waiting in line at registration. I think it finally hit me that this race is happening VERY soon, ready or not!

Later that day we sat outside in the smoke and listened to the mandatory Athlete Briefing. My eyes were burning and I was trying to cover my mouth as much as possible, but that was tough to sit through.


Chris, Colette, Sam and I at the Ironman Village on Thursday
Chris, Colette, Sam and I at the Ironman Village on Thursday. Clear at 10am.
Got my IMLT backpack!
Got my IMLT backpack!
Jesse, Tom and I at the Athlete Briefing
Jesse, Tom and I at the Athlete Briefing. Notice the smoke? This was 2pm.

Swim Clinic

On Wednesday morning I got up early to join Boost Swimming, a local swim club, for a pre-race clinic at the actual race start. The clinic was very informative! I learned how to properly round buoys, how to conquer large waves, how to stay balanced in the water, and how to sight effectively. I got some feedback from the instructor that I was “NASCAR-ing” around our course, meaning I tend to take the turns way too wide. By doing that, I’m adding a lot of extra time and distance, so it’s best to hit the buoy head-on and take the corners tight.

Swim clinic, representing Golden Gate Tri Club
Swim clinic, representing Golden Gate Tri Club
Kings Beach at 8am on Wednesday
Kings Beach at 8am on Wednesday

The Week So Far

This week my training sessions have been shorter (~an hour per day) but necessary to make sure I don’t show up to the starting line feeling like Gumby.

I’ve also been trying to cook meals that are clean and healthy while staying hydrated and rested. I know that I’m better off showing up to race day a little bit over-rested than a little bit over-trained.

Final bike ride on the run path with Chris and Sam
Final bike ride on the run path with Chris and Sam
Sample dinner. Lots of sweet potatoes and quinoa this week!
Sample dinner. Lots of sweet potatoes and quinoa this week!

My emotions have also been on a total roller-coaster. There are times when I feel like Ironman is the most overwhelming thing and I get very nervous… then there are times when I feel like a total rockstar and I feel very confident… then there are times when I see the Ironman trucks setting up and I shed a little tear.

This whole process has been so incredible that it’s actually very sad that it’s coming to an end. It’s more emotional than I thought it would be.

Treat Yo’ Self

My coach, Dorette, wrote an awesome blog post about Race Week prep and one of the things she mentioned was spend time alone and get a massage or find ways to de-stress.  So I did! I got a very nice massage in Tahoe City, focused mostly on my quads and hamstrings. It was fairly painful but I felt great afterwards.

I also got a hot pink manicure to make sure that in the midst of dirt, chain grease, chamois butter, and snot rockets, I can still have a girlie side.

Next Up

My whole family arrives today!! I’m so pumped to see everyone. Tonight is the Welcome Ceremony, then we’re going to have a taco dinner as a family. Tomorrow I’ll drop off my bike and gear bags in transition and continue to hydrate and stay off my feet. Then Sunday is a 3am wake-up call for race day!! Here we go!!

Current morning temps and forecast.
Current morning temps and forecast.


Thank you all, again, for the notes, messages, comments, and support. I love hearing from you and every note is appreciated so much.


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