I drove a combined 16 hours to and from Lake Tahoe to experience the likely weather conditions for the upcoming Ironman Lake Tahoe.
Was it worth it for only about five hours of training?
If you're one of the lucky folks who signed up for Ironman Lake Tahoe before it sold out, you won't regret that choice. Your lungs, however, may protest as they yearn for air at 6,000-plus feet in the Sierra Nevadas.
First, a full disclosure: I did not get to ride the entire bike course (part of it is situated in a gated community) nor did I finish a full run loop on the Truckee River bike path. But I traversed enough terrain to offer some perspective that I hope can help my fellow IM Lake Tahoe racers prepare a little better.
Even though you'll be sharing with 2,500 of your new best friends on race day, I am confident that the lake swim at King's Beach may ultimately rank as your all-time favorite. It is certainly my favorite after swimming in the calm, comfortably cool and crystal clear water.
The air temperature around 7 in the morning hovered near or just over 50 degrees. Yet the water felt at least 10 degrees warmer, negating my need for a neoprene cap. The surrounding scenery is every bit as pretty as Ironman Coeur d'Alene, but without the worries about shivering and cramping in the icy water.
Better still, the beach is not rocky, you can see to the bottom several hundred yards out and it's incredibly easy to spot feet in front of you to draft. The water level is knee-high or less for about 50 yards from the shore, so stronger swimmers may have to decide whether to fight for position at the front and run straight into the water or even dolphin kick.
The one drawback is that for those not used to racing at elevation, you will probably feel a little more winded from exerting that kind of effort. I tried it out myself and it took a few minutes of swimming to finally catch my breath after sprinting as far as I could into the lake. The swim will be two loops with an exit and re-entry, so I recommend taking some extra time practicing doing that quickly during open-water training sessions.