Sunday, August 3, 2014

A Donner Lake Race Report

I had a title selected for this blog already - a week before the race. It was going to be called, "Always a Bridesmaid, Never a Bride," in response to a 4th place age group ranking. This is usually where I end up in an Olympic distance triathlon - just shy of the podium - usually because of a slow swim time. My plan was to wrap up a race report with memories of being a bridesmaid. Kind of like the movie "27 Dresses": only less dress, more sweat.

That would have been a really funny post. But, I'll have to save it for another time...

The Donner Lake Triathlon was a planned "A" races this season. The event is a smaller, local event, but the course is challenging, and many seasoned triathletes come out to race it. I'd spent the last nine days at altitude already with some awesome training under my belt: Trans Tahoe Relay swim, a practice ride of the Ironman 70.3 course, and a few running opportunities. On the flip side, I'd also spent nine days eating everything in sight, and drinking some gin (also beer, wine, and a Wet Woody....). Don't judge. I was on vacation too!

After checking the results from the previous year, it seemed I would need to finish in around 3:00 or 3:01 to be on the podium for the DLT. My goal was to listen to my body, and start each leg easy. After spending nine glorious days at altitude, training and vacationing, I could still feel the lack of air, but knew I could manage if I could also relax into each event, and not hyperventilate. Plus, I've never really raced up a major climb before...

The Donner Lake Triathlon is mega scenic. The .9 mile swim in Donner Lake is a rectangular course with buoys to the swimmers left side. The bike ride up Donner Pass, passed the Sugar Bowl, into Kingvale and back is absolutely gorgeous, but also a challenging 2,100 feet of climbing over 24.8 miles. The 6.67 mile run around Donner Lake starts out flat, has one significant hill half-way through, then rolls to the finish line.

Swim: 34:21
The water of Donner Lake is clean and lovely, slightly chilly. The sun had risen high enough that the buoys were not completely out of sight, which was nice. The lake is very deep in the middle, so it suddenly goes from sand to a black abyss below. The ghosts of Donner Lake were messing with us swimmers because apparently no one was able to swim the course straight. (Thanks to Jimmy for putting the image of dead bodies in my head.) I never swim the course straight, so it was an average swim for me.

With Randi before the swim. She's a real swimmer. Like really awesome n' stuff. 
Bike: 1:31:12
There was no choice but to start out slow on this bike course - the course begins with a 3 mile climb up Donner Pass. So, I went into my lowest gear and churned at a comfortable pace. Such a gorgeous climb! The absolute best scenery of any climb I've ridden. Breathtaking. Lovely. . .

When I got to the top of Donner Pass - it was ON like DONKEY KONG! I knew there were only a few miles to take advantage of the downhill, so I got low and jammed down the other side into Kingvale like it was no body's business. Just before the turn around I saw a group of really strong women coming up the hill and I really wanted to catch them. I had taken it easy long enough, so I cranked it up a notch up the longer ascent up the other side. There were two short downhill opportunities where I saw other cyclists stop pedaling, but I knew I needed those few extra pedal strokes to make up some time.

This is the first year that I've felt comfortable descending, but I would typically ride the breaks a bit more doing down a hill like Donner Pass Road on a training ride. Not today, folks. That hill was mine! All mine! Wah ha ha! *evil laugh* I was shooting for 1:30, and it wasn't too far off.

Coming in from the bike. Photo credit: Pim K.
Run: 55:24
My first practice run at altitude was brutal. I thought my sports bra was on too tight, then realized it was just the lack of oxygen. I was prepared for this feeling again. It was difficult not to look at my watch, but I tried to run by feel instead of by the pace on my Garmin. The run would not be a sub-8:00 mile run unless, for some reason, I felt awesome a couple of miles in. The first 3 miles are typically difficult as my legs adjust to the road. I calmed to my 3 (in) - 2 (out) breathing cycle repeating:

This. Is. Your. (in) A. Race. (out)
This. Is. Your. (in) A. Race. (out)
This. Is. Your. (in) A. Race. (out)
This. Is. Your. (in) A. Race. (out)

I never felt "awesome" per say, but it was a good run despite walking one hill at mile three. No one passed me on the run, and I closed the gap between me and a couple of other women in front of me who weren't in my age group. Isn't it funny how during the race you think, "Oh my God, I can't go any faster." Then the second the race is over you think, "I could have caught them." Hindsight 20/20.

It would have been great to have been the sub-8:00 mile range, but I was happy with the run overall.

Photo credit: Pim K.
During the race, I didn't see a lot of women in my age group at all. This is a typical scenario. I always assume they get out of the water before me, and I never catch them. The only thing that kept me motivated during the run was knowing that I had set out to give it my all.

Finish time: 3:04:12

After the race, I found my compadres and awaited the results that (I thought) would put me in 4th place in my age group again. I didn't think my time was enough for a podium finish, and I definitely wasn't expecting a first place ranking - shit, third would have been really great! So, I was very happy with a first place age group finish at the Donner Lake Triathlon.

Finally! I'm a bride!! Er... podium finisher!

Podium ceremony, without a podium.. or the 3rd place AG finisher. Photo credit: Pim K.
Getting fresh with sweaty people after the race: With Jimmy, Kathy, Rune. Photo credit: Pim K.

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