2013 Ironman Lake Tahoe – Steve Hall: Suffers through the cold to beat the Siren Song, high fives a blow up doll

The Sirens of Lake Tahoe called many to their shores.  This beautiful, ridiculously scenic event was a mere mask to the entrance of the pain cave.  I bet many athletes experienced many pains that didn’t have on their lists when they signed up for this race.

Leading up to the race, I really was looking forward to meeting the good EN folks and the Thursday night dinner was a welcome.  One it was a welcome to meet everyone and it helped get my mind off that all my bags were lost from the plane.  They were delivered the next morning and stressed was relieved.

I finally got my bike from TBT and was able to eventually get everything set up.  I went easy the week of the race and was really rested and ready to get going for the race. I rode up Brockway summit on course recon day Friday.  It was a little late since I had just finished getting my bike together and getting family from airport. Since it was late, I didn’t want to go too long or too hard.  I did drive most of the course, some Marist Camp I didn’t go through or the bike path but the rest was covered.

The day before the race was a complete reversal from the weather leading up to the race.  In my mind, that was a circumstance I couldn’t control so I would wait until the morning to plan for what that day had.  It looked like it would be suitable for the entire race and I went to bed thinking that.

The morning of, I went to the race start.  I went to my bike to prep that first before getting all my gear on.  There was ice on my bike and seat.  I brought a towel with me and wiped everything off and I put chain oil on the chain.  I didn’t put any of my liquids in the fridge the night before as I thought the morning off would be cool enough.  My plan, which I prepared for was to leave DeSoto tri shorts on during swim but put on bike shirt, cool wings, arm warmers (funny, I know), jacket and gloves, socks, calf compression and shoes.  I had practiced several times on the layering plans and discovered that it would be easier not to roll anything like socks, arm warmers etc…just slide them on and move.  So I finished my bike and went to check on my T-1 Bag.  It rained on the bags the day/night before and I wanted to make sure my stuff was dry and to see if I had to replace anything.  Everything was good and I changed into my wetsuit.  I was in a good place mentally and was ready for the race.

Simon the great, had a prime spot in the event center, which is where a lot of us gathered to finish all of our final thoughts.  I walked out to the race start and started jumping around to keep warm.  The ground was very cold and it was painful to the feet.  I had bought water socks but took them off too early and stood there for around 7 minutes on that cold ground.  While looking over the water, I could see the first buoy and the steam coming off the lake obscured the rest.  While very cool to see it made you think about the start.  The pro start is always exciting.  You know these guys and gals are there racing for their livelihood is fun to be part of.  Soon, it was the AG turn.  I aligned myself in the sub 60 range as that was what I had been swimming at masters of late and when I practiced swimming non wetsuit at altitude I figured it was right about at 60.  I was hoping for a 58-1:02.

The start was just so cool but sighting just wasn’t gonna happen.

2013 Ironman® Lake Tahoe Swim - Steve Hall

2013 Ironman® Lake Tahoe Kayaker - Steve Hall

2013 Ironman® Lake Tahoe Swimmers in Fog

I followed feet and I saw buoy 2, 5, 6, 8 on the first loop going out.  Second loop was better except for a jet ski that was doing something with the red turn 1 buoy who took off as a pack of us were getting there.  I had some contact in the swim but felt it was not crazy.  The temperature drops noticeably as you get closer to the shore and it was cold outside.  I had planed on not getting my wetsuit stripped on the beach as I didn’t want sand anywhere.  I ran up to the parking lot and found folks with cardboard squares stripping suits.  I had already taken off my Desoto top and let them work my bottom.  I ran into the sausagefest I will call T-1.

So the first set of (pun intended) males had taken the first few seats in transition.  Then people piled on near the entrance while many seats were available further back in the tent.  I heard a volunteer say that no one was going to the back.  I pushed through everyone and went back to a clearing where a volunteer was and I changed on a seat while many were standing around the entrance.  I knew this was going to throw a lot of folks off still coming, but it happens.  So a guy was standing next to me decided to completely changed all his clothes.  Yes, I was sitting and yes he was standing.  I only looked once to the left and let’s leave it at that.  I had practiced my routine and it worked out okay for me.  I changed but did not put on my shoes until I got to the bike.

Steve Hall runs to his bike after a cold swim during 2013 Ironman® Lake Tahoe

The start of the bike was cold.  Everything was just cold and shortly down the road things got super cold.  The hose to my drink bladder was frozen and I couldn’t tuck it anyplace.  So I pushed it between my bike computer and aerobar. I didn’t realize it but it had turned off my computer.  I noticed it when it was turning back on.  Anyway, my lower legs went numb.  I just told myself to pedal even though I couldn’t feel anything. So, in my plan, my main calories were to be in liquid form.  Well, once it is cold you don’t use/need the liquid like you would or your body just treats it different.  I drank according to plan.  I didn’t have any side stiches or burps to back me off but I peed probably every 30 minutes and that is not an exaggeration.  I decided to let it flow on the bike, but I had to roll my hips back to release some pressure for it to go.  Holy cow, warm pee turns frozen really fast and my legs got cold all over again and again and again and again…..Until you start the climbing.  The bike path climb was a short hard jab.  My plan was to go as easy as possibly on all the steep climbs.  I couldn’t keep it at my planned race wattage 205-220 range as the hills were too steep but I went as easy as possible.  Once we slowed down and started the climbs, Marist Camp and Brockway, I warmed up a little.  I dropped my fed ex letter envelope I was wearing under my jersey, at the top of Brockway.  My upper body was just great.  My lower body was just not. One of the things that was a little different was I was continually hungry during the bike.  I had packed two power bars just in case.  I had never eaten more than 1.5 on any rides and mostly only 1.  But I think the cold and shivering made me need more calories but not in liquid form.  When I first reached for a power bar the dang power turd chunk was frozen.  It took 30 seconds to bit off my first little nibble.  I think I could have hammered a nail with it.  I figured it would warm up in time but early on it was no bueno. At the top of Brockway second loop I ate a gel, bonk breaker quickly as I was starving. Also, something on my bike made a clicking noise and a slight rubbing sound the entire ride.  It was there when I coasted and pedaled.  But was not really timed with speed so much so that will be an investigation once I get my bike back from TBT, who are freaking awesome by the way.

A funny thing as I started to descend Brockway on the first loop.  I had not realized I had started Brockway much less finished it.  I thought I was still in Marist Camp.  I was thinking that at the end of this descent I had another 20 minutes of climbing and my time went to the clock and I thought holy cow this will be a really long bike instead of just a long bike.  So I go flying down the descent.  I stayed aero for just a little.  As the speed got up, I stayed low but on the bull horns.  I see the red light at the bottom and realize I had just descended Brockway.  From dark sad place to happy place….Then the cold, pee, and the pain started all over again.

I went flying along looking at my power numbers working to keep the numbers right and not try to blow up.  One thing I forgot to do, even though I reminded myself right before was to recalibrate my quarq during the ride.  I didn’t even think about it until climbing in earnest on Marist Camp number 2. I had planned on going as easy as possible but my 11-28 compact was never under 220 the first set up of climbs.  While this doesn’t register at first, at hour 4 I get that aha moment.  Recalibrate!!!  I did it pedaled backward and my 190 ish went up to 270-280ish.  I didn’t think that was really accurate as the RPE did not correlate.  I did it again and back down it went.  I thought these last 2 hours have to be good or my run will suck.  So I stopped and did the bike computer to recalibrate.  Calibration failed and it showed my starting calibration number.  This to me made me think my numbers would be around 10-20 points low and I would have to ride accordingly. I didn’t try to redo it, I just went on the adjusted plan.  Quarq says their PM’s will not have a 50 point variance doing recalibration or the unit is bad.  I think it is in their software that if there is a variance that big it will fail.  I have noticed it on some rides with some temperature swings. This ride I registered around 32 to start and 72 at the top of Brockway 2nd loop.

So onto the finish.  The variation of getting aero and getting on the horns so many times took a big toll on my low back and neck.  They were really screaming the last half of the ride.  I did what I could to get to the finish as fast but as fresh as possible.  While I think I had paced okay.  I think that second loop climbing threw me off as I initially kept pushing to hold the power numbers until I realized the recalibration mess up.  So fresh was just relative.  I came into Squaw Valley happy the bike was over.  One thing to note.  When you pee a lot on the bike mixed with Chamois butter it becomes tacky almost sap like, which is not pleasant in your underworld.  I am still feeling those benefits today.

The transition was really easy as I came in with another guy.

Steve Hall on the bike in 2013 Ironman® Lake Tahoe

The tent was pretty empty.  I grabbed my stuff had a quick change and was gone.  I went outside and got some quick sunscreen on my neck, nose and face area and I left the run out. I immediately saw my family and asked where I was.

Steve Hall meets his family on the run during 2013 Ironman® Lake Tahoe

The run was a down hill which pulled you quickly.  I really really backed off trying to slow down.  The early paces show fast splits but the NGP was in the low 8’s.  I really held back until mile 6 where I just let the run come but, unfortunately, did not push.  The run was awesome, chilly at times, warm at times but very scenic.  I stayed within myself and ran up to the perform person grabbed the drink finished the drink and then started to run.  Went well and no hiccups.  Mile 3 I had to pee again and boy this was ALOT.  I ran and peed and my first thought was Ruprick on Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.  The next set of characters on the course, I asked if they had seen the movie.  I told them, right now, I am Ruprick! I got weird looks…Maybe I should have done the old Oklahoma Oklahoma Oklahoma routine. I always love the characters on the run course.  I talked to a girl about my pits, I high fived a blow up doll.  But really the rest of the time I made deals with myself to just go.  To me the run was nice but solidly difficult.  Not crazy hard but solid.

Steve Hall high fives a spectator during 2013 Ironman® Lake Tahoe

At the start of the run.  I had asked my family where I stood in my AG.  They said the splits weren’t up but thought 10-14th.  I thought if I just kept going I would be good but had to keep going.  I only saw and passed one guy in my AG and saw a couple of others further ahead.  This made me think I was pretty far back.  When I came back for the second loop they said you’re doing good just keep running.  I asked where I was and they said just finish.  To me, this meant I really couldn’t catch up, which I will chalk up as a rookie mistake as I should have and could have pushed harder.  So I just kept running HR stayed steady and kept the plan.  The guys that I ran with early on fell off late.  I felt pretty good and strong on the run.

Steve Hall feeling good during the run at 2013 Ironman® Lake Tahoe

But one big thing is I should have run and biked with my inhaler.  Holy cow was that a mistake.  I took it before the swim which was good but the impact was there for the run.  I didn’t feel it as much or notice it as much on the bike.  The run, yes.  But, chalk it up as another rookie mistake.  The run was pretty cool through the village and it was super exciting to be finishing with all the mayhem and noise.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

I was walked to the med tent with a bought of hypothermia at the end.  Not too bad I don’t think core temp of 95 and change.  But I was shivering badly.  When the started to warm my feet and hands, that was a whole new set of pain that I got to enjoy.  Once done and I sat up, I had that lovely urine smell all over.  Med tent folks were great though and one of the volunteering doctors who stayed with me said she lived in Truckee and was going to sign up for the race and we talked about it.  I said hard but fair.

Steve Hall comes in to the finish at 2013 Ironman® Lake Tahoe

All these awesome pictures were by a friend and Incline Village resident, Willow Cornelius.  She took them and posted them on Facebook, which I just love them.

The funny thing about electronics is sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t.  My swim on my 910 said allegedly 4.6 miles in 1:02/3.  I am apparently going for the Olympics next cycle.

My bike power metrics. Show an NP of 204 and AP of 192.  I figure this was a little low based on the recalibration Looking at the two climbs with similar speed and cadence was but I could be wrong there too. 306.6 TSS and 11,357 ft of climbing.  Uh, apparently I climbed to the peaks too.  1st climb: NP 220, AP 209 1:05 for 14 miles 2900 ft of gain 144 HR 82 cadence || 2nd climb NP 204, AP 191, 1;05:50 14 miles 2950 ft of gain with an avg HR of 145 80 cadence. WIth the similar times, HR, cadence those numbers seemed a touch off, which I attribute to the recalibration.  Maybe, maybe not.  They’re a tool, just a tool to work with.

My run HR was a 150 average, which was going to be my low end range with a high of 165.  3:39.00 with 922 ft of elevation gain. Again, I was not outside of myself.  Just not enough, I don’t think.

But, I am not much on getting race gear or finishing gear.  This race, damn straight I did.  I am proud to have come to this race.  It kicked me in the balls but I was lucky, the Sirens didn’t get me to the rocks.

Photos by Willow Cornelius

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Coach P

All stories by: Coach P
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