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Club Member: Sharon McNary
Race: Lake Tahoe 3-Day Triathlon 2007
Distance: Other
Race Date: 09/27/07
Submit Date: 03/07/08

Hello L.A. Tri Club from Sharon McNary --


Yesterday I finished a really tough event, the three-day triathlon at Lake Tahoe. It took me a combined 13 hours, 23 minutes and 5 seconds to complete a 2-mile swim, 72-mile bike ride and a marathon, one event per day. Here are my splits:

Thursday 2-mile swim: 1:37:30
Friday 72-mile bike: 5:43:19
Saturday Marathon: 6:02:06

I wasn't the fastest, and I wasn't last, not even in the swim, so I was pretty happy with that. Best of all, by participating, I got some real-world information on how I must improve in order to survive my Ironman race in June 2008.

I was most nervous about whether I could get through the swim distance. It was four half-mile laps in the lake off sandy Zephyr Cove. I've never gone that far in training. I had done the 1.2-mile open water swim in two previous half-Iron distance races, and knew I would not have a problem staying afloat, so I wasn't worried about safety, but about exhaustion. To my amazement, the longer I swam, the faster I went. My first mile took 55 minutes, the second took 42 minutes.

The day before the race, I met this man named Tom who is among perhaps a dozen people who have swim the length of Lake Tahoe. He did it in under 17 hours, beginning before the sun was up and finishing in the dark. He told me that during his swim he actually took a nap. I asked him how that was possible, and he said he turned off all the noisy, advanced portions of his brain and just used his "lizard brain" to swim.

So that's what I did in the second half of the swim, and it worked well. In the first half, I kept stopping the freestyle in order to get my breath back and do some breast stroke to lower my heart rate. But it was taking too much time. Also, I could tell that my balance was getting more impaired the longer I swam. If I turned over on my back, or stopped to tread water for a few seconds, I felt very off-balance. I understand now why so many people say they get nauseous during the 2.4-mile Ironman swim.

Once I got into lizard brain mode, I just kept on going. I had to do some mental bargaining to not get out of the water after the half- and one-mile laps, but by the time I was into my third lap, I was pretty sure I could do the fourth and final lap.

As I neared the shore and got close enough to stand, my right calf cramped up as soon as I put weight on it, and I yelled out in pain. The people on the beach must have thought I was cheering, because they smiled and applauded politely. I shook off the cramp by pulling my toes up toward my knees, and walked in to shore. All I had to do was run ten yards to a couple of yellow cones that marked the timing mat, but the farther out of the water I got, the more disoriented and off-balance I got.

I must have looked drunk as I staggered toward the cones, and a friend's husband caught me as I passed over the timing line. It took about ten minutes of leaning up against a boat dock before I could take off my wetsuit and walk unassisted. Clearly, I'll be working on?the swim-bike transition?over the next several months.

After the swim, I met three friends who had finished the first leg of their Tahoe Triple (three marathons in three days circling the lake) and they were chilling their legs in the 57-degree water. They had lunch, I had a hot chocolate, and a peanut-butter sandwich, and then we returned to our base of operations at Meeks Bay on the Tahoe west shore.

Next day was my 72-mile bike ride starting again at Zephyr Cove circling the lake clockwise. The first half was not too hard, except for some brutally steep switchbacks that I had decided in advance to walk up. I hit 40 mph going downhill at Emerald Bay Inspiration Point. It was at that point that I wondered, fleetingly, if I had made sure to engage the brake cables after picking my bike up at the mechanic shop.

Starting at the north end of the lake, the wind really started to pick up and the ride got a lot harder. More uphills, more headwinds, more traffic. I was fine on the uphills, because you just have to grind them out. At one part of the course where traffic was stopped by a road worker for pavement resurfacing, I was passing the parked cars and decided to drink some Gatorade. With the bottle in my right hand, my bike drifted left and I ran into some guy's equipment trailer. I felt pretty stupid, but wasn't hurt.

Later in the bike ride, we had gigantic downhills coming from Highway 28 to Highway 50 but the head and side winds were so strong, it felt like they were going to flip my bike on its side, or even into the guard rail. Meanwhile, the traffic on the four-lane freeway-style highway is passing within a few feet. I actually stopped my bike three or four times on this steep downhill just to get my nerve back for another gravity-aided descent in the wind. The worst was the wind that blows through the short tunnel at Cave Rock, it was like a wind funnel blasting gusts of 30 to 40 mph at me. I got off my bike halfway through and decided I would rather walk my bike through the glass next to the curb than get blown into the vehicles roaring up behind me.

I finished the bike ride in 5 hours, 43 minutes. Another peanut-butter sandwich for recovery, and I went back home to rest up for Saturday's marathon. Meanwhile my three friends finished their second marathons, and seemed no worse for wear.

It snowed overnight, putting about four inches of snow on the ground. Our departure for the start line was delayed when we realized that we also had four inches of snow on the minivan I was driving. Searching the house for snow scrapers, I found a couple of toy plastic sand shovels, and they worked okay.

What can I say about the marathon? It was beautiful, that combination of snow, lake and mountain scenery. It has a lot of really tough hills, steep downhills. It wasn't too cold as the day went on. My legs felt fresh, but I had not eaten enough after my swim and bike to keep up my energy in the marathon, and my shoulders and back hurt, so I pretty much walked it in from mile 17 and finished in 6:02:06.

I take away from this event three (!) medals, one for each event, and a lot of real-world knowledge about what I need to improve to get through my Ironman triathlon in Idaho in June. I need stronger arms, back and shoulders, more miles riding in the hills, better nutrition, and less staggering out of the water. It's the drunkest I've appeared since New Year's Eve 2000.

Thanks for reading,

Sharon

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