“The Ironman Tahoe swim course is incredibly scenic, with some of the clearest water in the world. You can literally see the bottom in 70 feet of water,” says Truckee resident and Boost Swimming coach Jeff Pearson. The swim, which starts and finishes on Kings Beach, is expected to be between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit on race day.
From the shoreline, there are approximately 100 yards of small sandbars to maneuver over before athletes merge into deeper water. Pearson, who hosts swim clinics several times a week at Kings Beach, suggests Ironman Lake Tahoe athletes practice their shallow-water maneuvering skills: “Moving through shallow water is very taxing and can spike your heart rate very quickly. It is also a great place to gain time if you work on your surf dash and porpoising skills. Those doing IM Tahoe should be incorporating entries and exits into their training to prepare and to formulate a plan for race day.”
Because swimming at altitude can be more difficult for athletes, it will be important for racers to train in high-altitude conditions if possible. It is also advisable to arrive in North Tahoe at least 72 hours prior to race day to acclimatize, says Pearson.
The first ascent of the bike course is Dollar Hill, a one-mile climb at a steady 7 percent grade. Athletes will return to Dollar Hill three times over the course of the Ironman bike leg.
After descending Dollar Hill, athletes will have several miles of mostly flat or gradual downhill cycling before approaching several short, steep climbs near Truckee. As with almost all of the bike course, this section offers smooth pavement and protection from the wind.
Martis Camp, a private residential neighborhood, granted Triathlete magazine access to the roads utilized for Ironman Lake Tahoe. The Martis Camp portion, ridden twice during the race, will require the use of a “granny gear” for most athletes – climbing is technical and variable, with several sections at 11 percent grade.
Martis Camp takes athletes to 6,600 feet, one of the two highest points of the course, before rolling down a blazingly fast descent.
GPS data from the Martis Camp ride shows the variation in climbing for this portion of the Ironman Lake Tahoe course.
The third major climb of Ironman Lake Tahoe is known as Brockway Summit. Though offering similar gain to the Martis Camp climb, the ascent is consistently spread over 3.5 miles.
The Ironman Lake Tahoe course favors those who are patient and self-aware. Though Brockway is not technical, the relentless nature of the climb requires physical and mental strength. Athletes will visit this climb twice during the 112-mile bike leg.
GPS data from the Brockway climb shows a consistent ascent. As with the Martis Camp climb, a long, fast downhill allows for recovery.
“The run course is picturesque and mellow,” says Valli Murnane, a 41 year-old Tahoe City resident training for the race. Upon leaving Squaw Valley, athletes face a gradual downhill until they meet with the Truckee River.
Once athletes hit the run path along the Truckee River, the course is almost completely flat, with a gentle uphill near the turnaround at Tahoe City.
After turning around in Tahoe City, athletes will retrace their steps along the Truckee River to return to Squaw Valley.
Squaw Valley Olympic Sign
The final two miles of the course are a gradual uphill to the finish line in Squaw Valley, site of the 1960 Winter Olympics.
If the scenery doesn’t take your breath away, the hills and altitude will.
Excitement and curiosity has reached a boiling point since World Triathlon Corporation’s announcement of the inaugural Ironman Lake Tahoe. In addition to selling out within 24 hours of opening, social media and triathlon forums have been abuzz with speculation about the difficulty of the course and challenges with altitude.
At 6,000 feet, the race boasts the highest starting altitude of any Ironman with plenty of climbing, it may also earn the title of “toughest” Ironman. Triathlete was recently allowed full access to the course, including the closed-off Martis Camp portion of the bike route, as part of a course recon. The 2013 event is set for Sept. 22.
Photos: Susan Lacke