Saturday, October 4, 2014

Ironman Lake Tahoe, Sort of… (Troy)

September 21st, 2014 – Lake Tahoe, CA
Swim 2.4m – Bike 112m – Run 10K

8:17 (1:06-10:00-5:58-5:00–4:13:11)



This was it, the week of Ironman Lake Tahoe. I drive up to the cabin 5 days before the race, run a couple miles in the evening, and then get locked out of the cabin, requiring me to drive home for the extra key. Not the early bedtime I was hoping, but God will make it all work out.

The next day I swim with Teammate, Flor Hodges, have breakfast with Flor and friend, Chad Moore from Texas, and then ride 14 miles, still adjusting my bike seat. Even when I’ve said it’s perfect, I continue to look for a better position. It’s become an obsession. The bike is so important on this course. My family arrives in the evening and all is right in the world.

WP_20140918_006On Thursday, we register and experience the first heavy smoke. Fortunately we have dust masks. Unfortunately we didn’t bring enough for everyone that wants WP_20140918_001them. I’ve always been caferful about the air I breathe in order to keep athletically healthy the best that I can.

Friday is Iron Prayer.  I spend time with God and prepare for my talk. I really feel the Lord putting “Let Faith Bridge the Gap” on my heart. I’m convicted about my lack of faith in details for the race, particularly my bike WP_20140919_001position. I feel Him telling me to let it go and have faith He’ll make it right. The Iron Prayer goes great. I share about having faith that God will bridge those “gaps” in our plan. My friend, Troy, had reminded me often that the “gaps” were opportunities for God to show his power in. Like with my concern that my run training wasn’t enough after recovering from the broken ribs. Then Pastor Dan Perkins shared about how much we have to give, when God blesses it and multiplies it.

Saturday Anna & Ariel did the Iron Kids race and did great.







WP_20140920_019Despite wanting desperately to ride my bike some more and change the position lower, I committed to God that I would trust Him and turn my bike in as-is… which I did. Then we enjoyed some time on the beach. And a great carbo-load (or protein load for some) at the cabin.

Race morning

WP_20140921_001Everything is going well. It’s 51 degrees! With 10min to go, I put my wetsuit on next to the VIP tent where Robin & the girls are having breakfast. They give me hugs and I head off, finally ready, after a year in the making, to put myself to the test and push harder than I have in years.

Then everything stopped and they announced the Ironman was cancelled. Due to bad smoke on other parts of the course. You can imagine the looks of disbelief. 2000 athletes from every state and around the world. We were sure it was just as difficult for the directors to cancel as it was for the athletes to hear it was cancelled. Air quality for hazardous. It was the right call to make.

For me there are always 2 responses to racing. 1 side of me doesn’t want to go through extreme difficulty, and therefore is relieved the race is off. The other side knows that pushing through the challenges is important and excellent training for the challenges of life.

The swim course was clear. There’s always a chance wind or rain will clear the air. My family has been helping me train for this since the day after Robin raced last year. After today, it will be 1 or 2 years before I test myself this way again. Before giving up, we gathered together and said, “We could still do it? You sure you want to spend the whole day supporting?” My family said, “That’s what we came here for”. Anna & Ariel’s tears turned to smiles of excitement. This would be very hard, but I would race it just as planned, in hopes of qualifying! We prayed about it and would be ready to stop if conditions & breathing were too difficult.

The Swim

WP_20140921_003WP_20140921_002At 6:50am I said to myself, “Go!” Others were also swimming unofficially.  Although the race venue was being quickly disassembled, some of swim support staff, including friends Desiree Swift and her dad Bob in their kayaks, remained in place along with the buoys. Thankfully they looked over the dozens swimming the course. They were told they could leave but they stayed instead.

The water was calm and clear.  I didn't get too cold and was able to push well.  The 2nd loop was the same as the first. I was happy with my time of 1:06 (although I didn't beat Robin's time last year).


I organized my clothes well so they went on fast.  But transition was still 10min.  Robin handed me the painter's mask and Anna handed me my phone.  I was off! 

The Bike

Temperature was good.  Air was good... until Tahoe City.  There was quite a bit of smoke so I quickly put on the mask.  Other than my glasses fogging up, it worked well.  I breathed through my nose and out my mouth to help with filtering the air. 

At 20mi, Robin and the girls had an aid station where I shed clothes and got water.  By 30mi, I had seen about 4 other riders, but they weren't wearing masks.  One was Rory Duckworth who blew by with a friendly greeting (he went on to finish it all in 10:26!) I was concerned for them as the air seemed pretty bad without it.  My Garmin stopped working so I had to guess my average speed at about 21mph. 

At 40mi, I started up Hwy 267.  I tried not to breath too hard climbing through Northstar.  One thing that was impressive was how fast Ironman removed traces of the course. All the arrows, mile markers, and aid stations were gone, but the porta-potties remained.  I had to jump the locked cable at the top of Northstar.. and then it was all downhill.. until the big climb up Brockway Summit.  Fortunately Robin and the girls were cheering which really helped.

WP_20140921_006Over the top I flew down and looked forward to the clean air in Kings Beach.  I breathed freely without the mask for the next 10mi.  At 50mi, Robin and girls gave me my needs bag.  Such great support!  I put my mask back on at Tahoe City, but in the distance it looked like the skies were clearing up. 

At 60mi the rain came!  This was an answer to prayer.  At 70mi I was wet and a little cold.  Unfortunately, the rain didn't help the smoke like I thought.  I forced myself to fuel up and drink every 5 mi but it meant taking my mask off momentarily. 

At 80mi I turned into Northstar.  Robin, the girls, Troy & Sarah Outman, and Flor Hodges and her son Carson were all there cheering me on WP_20140921_009and handing more water!  So great!

Now for the final climb up Brockway.  Like Robin said, it's a whole different climb the 2nd time.  I tried to focus on good cadence.  It took forever but finally, at mile 90, Team Soares, Outman, and Hodges were visible at the top.  Happily I tell them I'll be done in an hour, hoping to break 6hrs.

IMG_3944-LThis time flying into Kings Beach didn't bring with it clear air.  The West winds picked up and now smoke covered the entire course.  I realize now that the air isn't getting better and the marathon won't be possible.  The last 10mi were tough but I did manage to finish in 5:58.

After a reuniting with family and friends at Squaw Valley, a 5 minute transition, I started my partial (10k) marathon.



The Run

Oh, the legs were awkward for a few hundred yards.  Then it looked more like a run.  By 2mi I was doing better at 9:15 pace.  IMG_3967-L

This pace, probably not good enough to qualify with, was all I had while also trying not to breathe too hard.. which was hard around the Squaw Valley Resort.  At 4mi, at Hwy 89, the team was there, the girls were dancing and cheering loudly. 

I turned around and headed back and Troy joined me (outside assistance pacing) for the last 2.2 mi to the makeshift finish line in the parking lot.  Managed 9:15 pace back up the hill for a 10k run split of 57:32.  Total time 8:17.  The girls put on my finisher medal and hat (these were available to everybody).

WP_20140921_011It was a great feeling to accomplish part of the race. After a year of wondering if I could survive the swim, conquer those hills and still be able to run, I’m thankful God allowed it all to work. I was able to push well, the nutrition (using Vitargo) worked well, and the mask worked well.  I fell like God blessed the experience and kept me safe. My attitude was for His will, ready to quit when He made it look unsafe, but not going to quit if it was just me not wanting to work hard. (1 Cor 9:27)

I'm very thankful for my family and friends cheering me on in theIMG_3970-L unofficial partial Ironman Lake Tahoe!

For our family, the Ironman training, racing & supporting is the pinnacle opportunity every 2 yrs. to test ourselves. So thankful I was able to do most of it anyway, accomplish my goals, and see my girls' tears turn to joy. Conquering those hills in 6hrs with a mask & only nose breathing, was a huge accomplishment. It’s not just another training day that can be done anytime, it was an Ironman.

However, it’s important to understand it’s different for everyone. Breathing bad air is a risk. Some do it to earn a living and some had to do it at the Summer Olympics. For us, it was a year-long trek, almost cut short by 11 hrs, but we pushed it to within 3 hrs, until we felt from God it was right to stop. We’re all feeling fine. IM Lake Tahoe was cancelled but I’m not disappointed. Instead, it was fulfilling. For me, the memories of conquering struggles with family support are more valuable than money. And I wouldn’t be able to push like that with a smile if not for Christ in my life.