Friday, June 15, 2012

Mad Scramble! + Lake Tahoe?!

Local triathletes are buzzing about the newly-announced Ironman Lake Tahoe event that is scheduled to take place in September 2013. We've been clamoring for an official, Ironman-branded California race for some time now, and that wish has finally been granted.

The course looks tough, but what Ironman course doesn't? There's a two-loop 2.4 mile swim in Lake Tahoe itself. From there, participants will head inland for a two-loop 112 mile bike ride before returning to the shores of the lake for an out-and-back 26.2 mile run. The bike and run course profiles are somewhat daunting; there are a few sustained climbs on the bike, but I think it will feel like mostly rolling hills and total roughly 5,200 feet of elevation gain.

The real problem isn't the elevation gain, though. It's the elevation itself. Lake Tahoe is situated at 6,200 feet above sea-level. At its highest point, this race tops 7,200 feet. For an athlete who trains in the lowlands, this kind of altitude prove to be an enormous challenge.

When this race was announced, I could barely contain my excitement. It's a good thing registration didn't open today; I would have signed up in a heartbeat. As my initial blind enthusiasm began to fade, I started to think more logically about the race itself. The altitude, which I hadn't factored in originally, is no joke. Unless I'm completely over-estimating the challenge of performing at altitude (which I totally could be!), Ironman Lake Tahoe will probably go down as the hardest Ironman event in history.

Decisions, decisions

Now I have a problem. Registration for Lake Tahoe opens on Monday and entries are going to sell like hotcakes. If I want to do that race, I'm going to need to know by Sunday night. That means I have a lot of decisions to make over the next two days. My better half, support crew and triathlon travel buddy, Kristine, is away this weekend, so my brain is spinning in overdrive trying to weigh all of my options and figure out what next year will look like.

Here are my full Ironman options for 2013. Note that this list does not include the "don't actually do a full Ironman in 2013" option, which I have been weighing as well.

Ironman Coeur d'Alene (Late June)

I'd like to do this race purely because I think a lot of my training partners and triathlon clubmates will also be there. San Francisco seems well-represented at Coeur d'Alene, and there's a good chance I could run into fit friends from other parts of the country there as well. CdA seems like a super popular race.

Because Cour d'Alene is so early in the season and two full months before any other race I've got my eye on, I could do it as my "low-key" or "B" race next year. Once I decide whether or not I'm doing that one, I'll probably need to pick one* of the following:

Ironman Canada (Late August)

I've been shying away from Canada because of it's spectator-unfriendliness, but now that I think about it, 2013 might be the right year to tackle this one. If there's one Ironman race that seems to attract a lot of (very talented) California triathletes, it's Canada. And with a shiny new Tahoe race only a few weeks after, I can't see many people opting to do both. Tahoe could actually leech a lot of talent from the Canada field... making Kona qualification in Pentincton slightly more attainable?

Pros: Gorgeous course. Normal level of difficulty. Depleted field?
Cons: Travel. Single loop bike and run might mean boredom for spectators.

Ironman Lake Tahoe (Late September)

The bay area will be buzzing about this race for months. I think everyone I know is going to try to secure a spot on the start line; registration is going to be absolute madness! As I mentioned before, this race will be very hard. If I chose to do this one, I would be doing it almost solely to race close to home alongside many of my local training buddies. (Oh, and there's always the prestige/bragging rights about having finished a first-ever/hardest-ever race...)

Pros: Gorgeous course. Three hours from San Francisco.
Cons: Extremely difficult? Altitude will require lots of weekend training trips to Tahoe.

Ironman Cozumel (Late November)

Kristine and I have talked about Cozumel a few times. It sounds like a great place for a little vacation, and we all know how vital a vacation is after a hard day of triathlon. A week on a beach in Mexico after burning out my legs sounds like a very good idea!

Pros: Beach/vacation paradise!? Late in the year.
Cons: Travel. Late in the year/Thanksgiving weekend.

Canada + Cozumel (Late August + Late November)

Doubling up here would definitely be possible, if a bit expensive. If I choose this option, I think I would actually make Canada my target race, and do Cozumel as my no-pressure outing. Though now that I think about it, I'd actually have three full months between races... which might open the door for some fast racing in Cozumel, too.

Tahoe + Cozumel (Late September + Late November)

Doubling up here might be a bit more affordable because the Tahoe race is local. In this situation, I would be making Cozumel my primary target, with my motto for IMLT being "just freakin' finish this beast."