Ironman Lake Tahoe. Top Of The Bucket List?

Ironman Lake Tahoe went on sale last year as an inaugural event and it sold out in less than a day.  Athletes with dreams of being an Ironman signed up.  Athletes who had already tackled the 140.6 miles signed up for the new course and the beauty of the area.  Everything was rainbows and unicorns on that registration day.  Each athlete went through the process of training to be ready to tackle what the Ironman Lake Tahoe course was going to bring to them. What most did not expect was to have snow and temperatures around freezing on the weekend of the race.  The discussion was routinely around the elevation, both in terms of the gain on the bike course and the lack of oxygen from the course itself.  While the course was challenging there was not one person in my circle that claimed it to be impossible.  Yes it was challenging.  Yes your speed went from 20 mph to 5 mph during the climb but they loved it.  They loved every minute of it and crossing the finish line of Ironman Lake Tahoe made them feel a sense of accomplishment. That sense is nothing short of amazing when you consider the DNF rate at the race.  The DNF rate at Ironman Lake Tahoe was the second highest at a whopping 20%.  Ironman Texas raced earlier in the year had a DNF rate of 17% and that was considered very high, but IMLT dwarfed that number. The first question that came to mind when I read that there were less than 10 people in line to register for next year's event was why?  Why are people not rushing to the tent to sign up, or for that matter online.  Obviously the stories of the temperatures scared people away, but probably more than that was the fact that even the pros were averaging less than 10mph on the climbs (in fact, I saw a lot of 5mph paces).  For me, this race did not run to the top of the bucket list when it was announced and it certainly did not climb up there after the race either. The biggest reason for me is the cold.  I am not a cold weather athlete.  I would rather race Ironman Texas in the 95* heat than Ironman Lake Tahoe in 60* temperatures.  Last year, at the US Open in Rockwall, Texas we face a situation where a cold front came through and while standing on the dock waiting for my age group to go off I could feel the anxiety building inside of me.  My feet felt as if they were going numb and the thought of jumping into the water and swimming was not my first choice.  Once I jumped in the water I froze, not literally, but figuratively.  I could not swim as panic set in.  I swam kayak to kayak for the first 400 meters or so until I cursed myself out and got to swimming. As I exited the water, thrilled to be done swimming, I considered taking my wetsuit off and packing it up along with everything else then going to find my wife grab a cup of coffee a hot bowl of soup and calling it a day.  Being competitive I got on the bike after putting on layers of clothes.  At one point during the bike section I tried to grab my water bottle and with frozen hands it slipped right out and hit the floor.  Not wanting to stop I just kept riding until I was done and started the run.  On the run my calf muscles cramped up, my feet were numb and I was miserable. Coming into the finishing chute of one of my favorite races used to be complete elation.  Last year it was pure misery.  I crossed the line and flopped myself onto some stairs and started to tear up in pain.  Everything hurt and I was cold.  I went to the massage table and it was at that point that I made the decision that if there was ever a cold-front again at any race I would DNS.  In addition to that I would not look for or sign-up for a race that could be cold.  Ironman Lake Tahoe fits that bill to a T right now. I have learned over the years of racing what my strengths are and while I want to challenge myself I also want to enjoy myself while racing.  The training is extremely hard for an Ironman race to then go out and be miserable during the race.  In 2014, I will be racing Ironman Chattanooga which has plenty of climbing (for this Texas citizen) which is the challenge I am willing to accept.  In order to prep for IMTN I will be racing 70.3 Buffalo Springs as well which is known for it tough climbs and what can be extreme heat.  I originally said I would never race out in Buffalo Springs but if we do not challenge ourselves we never grow. Ironman Lake Tahoe will find its way onto my schedule at some point (if it is still around - they do have a 5 year contract but look at what happened to St. George) but until I am ready to race in the cold I will find myself racing Ironman Louisville, Ironman Wisconsin and Ironman Lake Placid first.

Is Ironman Lake Tahoe A Bucket List Event For You?

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Jason Bahamundi

About the Author:

I grew up in New York and lived there for 34 years until I got divorced and moved 1600 miles to my new home in Texas.  I love New York and miss it but that does not mean that Texas hasn’t been great to me because it has.  It was here that I discovered endurance sports and specifically the sport of triathlon.  Triathlon has given me new life through all the challenges it presents.  I no longer look at life the same way and I can say that is in part due to my endeavor into this sport.