Extreme Tahoe: Sports, Fitness, Outdoors
Ironman Lake Tahoe just announced that the race is changing its start to a “rolling start” similar to a marathon, dropping the traditional mass swim start that has been a symbol of the ironman series but also a major source of anxiety to the racers.
The rolling start was tried in Couer d’Alene and Lake Placid this summer and got positive reviews, so the Lake Tahoe organizers are adopting it for the Sept. 22 event, which starts with a 2.4 mile swim at Kings Beach.
Earlier, the race had said it was going to go with self-seeded corrals while still maintaining a mass start.
Instead, racers will be encouraged to self-seed by their estimated swim time, but not required to do so. They will line up on the shore and then cross a mat as they move over the beach and into the water. Timing chips on their ankles will activate as they cross the mat, and each racer will have his or her own individual start time.
The one downside to this approach, if there is one, is that two racers sprinting for the finish in Squaw Valley ten or twelve hours later won’t necessarily have the same time. One might actually be two or three minutes ahead of the other even as they run (or stumble) step for step. But sprint finishes are not exactly common in an ironman.
The race organizers did not say if chip times will be used to qualify top finishers for the World Championships in Kona. In some running races, only the gun time, not the chip times, are used to award podium spots and age-group winners. On the other hand, the Boston Marathon accepts chip times to meet its qualification standards.
Stay tuned for more updates on Ironman Lake Tahoe…
This past weekend one of our authors, Nicole Dolney, participated in the National Championship race for Marathon distance mountain biking. Here is her race report:
I don’t remember why I pinpointed this race, or what spurred the idea, but I do recall the first time I said it publicly. It was at a pub in Auburn sitting across from Chris McGovern (Cycleution Coaching) back in September of last year. I was looking for a coach, my first ever, and I was sharing with him my goal of getting on the podium of USA Cycling Marathon Nationals in 2013. That was the first day of my journey here – my stars and stripes jersey in hand. And while I sit here very proud of my accomplishments it was the voyage that mattered most.
So let’s go back to the moment at the pub. After meeting with Chris, and his lovely wife Hollie, I knew getting coached by him would be a great fit. Not only was he an accomplished cyclist himself, I very much appreciated his low key approach to mentoring. I’m not saying that the workouts were low key, but that Chris has an approach that keeps work, life and being on the bike in balance. This approach has been so valuable during the past year, both when things were going well and when they weren’t. Balance keeps everything in perspective.
Along with a great coach I have a very supportive team, the Los Gatos Bicycle Racing Club (LGBRC). The women’s elite team is focused on road racing, but they welcomed me with open arms despite my addiction to dirt. The women on the team are amazing – supportive, kind, enthusiastic, dedicated and very hard working. It was inspiring being on the same team with women who also balance personal life and their time on the bike – and kicking some serious butt while they’re at it. Support for our team comes from the Los Gatos Bicycle Racing Club and all of our wonderful sponsors. With all the time and money it takes to train and race having this support can mean the difference between being able to race and not. Fortunately our team rocks it and we’re able to return the favor by getting stellar results at local, regional and national races.
My season up until the month leading into nationals couldn’t have gone any better. My training and race readiness saw me to first place finishes in every mountain bike with the exception of a race in Reno, NV where Olympian Katerina Nash took first place honors. But then things took a turn for the worse. A month and half before Sun Valley work and life was stressful and my power dropped. I did my best to find perspective, rest and do everything I could to improve my state of mind. In fact, the weeks leading up to the race were primarily spent recovering, mentally and physically, instead of training. I would put my trust in all the hard work I put during the winter through the spring. It was a hard pill to swallow, but I couldn’t argue with success.
I flew into Boise Thursday afternoon and drove 2.5 hours to meet my friend Sarah (who was kind enough to drive my bike out the week before) at the ski resort in Ketchum. My work schedule made it impossible to arrive earlier in the week. With only a day and a half before the actual race I made the decision to only check out the last half of the course. We loaded our bikes onto the gondola and headed for the peak of Mt Baldy. I was smitten with everything around me – the beautiful scenery, winding single track, the crowds, and the endless blue skies. We jumped out of the gondola and to my surprise Sarah informed me that we weren’t at the summit. We would need to take a chair lift the rest of the way. “What?!, I exclaimed!” The magnitude of the climbing on the course hit me like a ton of bricks. We would need to ride to the top of this twice!
At the top of the chairlift we dismounted and rode the gradually descending connector trail to the course. My smile, already ear-to-ear, managed to get even bigger as I surveyed the winding singletrack meandering on the mountainside. I wasn’t sure how I was going to do, but I sure would enjoy the views as the race unfolded. We made our way down the descent sweeping through buffed banked turns, flying through little whoopties, and bombing through leafless trees. I felt confident and fast which inspired confidence and excitement about the upcoming race.
On Friday morning I participated in Rebecca Rusch’s Gold Rusch Tour event. It had been going on all week and included events like pre-riding the course, tips/advice from Rebecca, yoga, and a short track race. Based on the rave reviews from my friend and the other participants I was really looking forward to it. We met in downtown Ketchum where I was introduced to the other participants – most who would be competing in Saturday’s race. There were two women from New York City, Danielle, a journalist writing about Rebecca’s tour and Stephanie, a Specialized Ambassador. Both were roadies with a huge sense of adventure. They not only were they learning to ride mountain bikes for the first time they were also going to race Saturday. It was inspiring to see them embrace the sport and dive in head first. I also met Keri, a singlespeed goddess from Tennessee who would earn second place behind Rebecca in the race. A descending demon like myself, Rebecca’s friend and riding partner Michelle was also there assisting in the activities. She and I would battle it out the following day on the course with her taking a close third place. There were many others, too many to name here, but all left lasting impressions and great memories.
We left downtown Ketchum on our bikes for a short ride followed by an ice bath in Rebecca’s favorite swimming hole on the river. We scampered to the waters edge, dipped our toes in and gave Rebecca a look that said, ‘seriously? you want us to go in there?!’. She dove in and we all followed. Huddled in the sun we sat down for the obligatory 10 min soak – arms overhead or giving ourselves a hug to hold in the last heat the river was sucking away from us. We laughed, chatted and impatiently waited for what felt like more than 10 minutes and jumped out faster than we got in. We beached ourselves in the sun in the grassy lawn at the water’s edge. Rebecca and her team handed out an assortment of goodies including sunglasses, camel backs, t-shirts and hats. I was fortunate to snag a killer pair of Smith Pivlock V2 sunglasses that I wore at the race. What a great pair of glasses – the exceptional coverage provides unrestricted peripheral vision and the mid-range lenses were perfect for the sunny-shady conditions on the course. They also made me look like a total badass, which when I looked at myself in the mirror the next day gave me a little more confidence.
That evening Danielle and Stephanie invited my friend Sarah and me over for dinner. But it wasn’t just dinner with some new friends; we would also be having dinner with Rebecca Rusch. We were jazzed about the invite because we would get to spend more time with such an amazing athlete and person. The evening was spent carbo-loading, talking about racing, and all the fun we were having. Rebecca is not only an exceptional athlete she dedicates so much of her time to promoting women of all skill levels in the sport. Being around such an inspiring person and a great group of women made for the perfect day before the race!
The night before the race was no different than other big races. I had a restless night imagining all the various permutation of events. Mostly they revolved around doing well in my category, but I also threw in the occasional ‘yeah-right’ daydream. You know, the one where you beat all the pro women and men. I figure if I aim for the stars and fall short I’ll still land in a pretty awesome place.
In the morning, we arrived at the staging area, did a short warmup and lined up in our age group corrals. I eyed the competition, trying to figure out who I should keep an eye out for. And after two call-ups from our group they announced the start of the race and we were off. I quickly surged toward the front of the group as the initial paved trail immediately turns into singletrack and I wanted to be prepared for any moves. Unfortunately the leader of our train took a wrong turn shortly into the race which resulted in biking through deep sand, dismounting and running up a steep pitch with our bikes in tow. My legs screamed – they weren’t warmed up for something like that. Thankfully all but one of the women in our group had to do the same thing. As the grade crested I jumped on my Specialized S-Works Epic 29er and surged forward to get on the wheel of the lead woman.
This short promenade of steep bike running and switchbacks left my legs aching way too early than they should’ve been. But I was determined to make the best of it so I trucked on ahead getting a bit of a gap between me and the next women in the group going into the flat section before the climb. As the trail pitched up I settled in for the long haul: each loop has an 8 mile climb that reaches an elevation of 8,500 feet. Unfortunately the power problems I was having the month before were coming back to haunt me. Two miles up the climb a couple of women passed me, and half way through the climb another two or three did. It was demoralizing but my lungs and legs wouldn’t let me go any faster if I wanted to finish all 40+ miles. Discouraged, but not defeated, I pedaled along watching the leaders pull away on the neighboring hill sides. As we neared the summit I was energized from the idea of descending and recovering a bit. To my amazement I slowly began gaining on the lead women throughout the 10 mile descent. In fact, just before the final switchbacks before starting the second loop I had passed the lead female. ‘Maybe I could still do this’ was the thought that crossed my mind. I laid my arms on my bars in a pseudo-aero position and cruised towards the bottom of the climb. In my mind the last climb to the summit would be the critical part of the race, and then it would be all survival after that. I started climbing. Too fearful to look back I settled into the pace I thought I could sustain and put my head down. I took mental note of when I was passed on the first lap and each time I passed those points without getting caught I was relieved and encouraged. At two miles in, just before the remaining 6 miles of singletrack climbing, I turned around briefly to see my two nearest competitors a mere 30 seconds back. At four miles in one of the two of them caught and passed me. This time, however, the difference between our paces was less and she was only able to gain a couple minutes on me by the time we crested. Staying within my limits on the first climb assured that I had the energy and strength to put in a consistent second lap. I’m glad I made that choice.
Nearing the summit with less than a 2 minute gap between us I was convinced that I could pull out a victory. As long as I didn’t make a fatal mistake or get a mechanical I should be able to win. I bombed down the hill like a hungry shark taking every corner as fast as I safely could. When we hit the first of the short climbs on the downhill side I was less than 30 seconds behind. I dug deep and shortened the gap such that I was right behind her as we crested. Shortly after starting the descent I passed her. I was elated, but I also knew I still had work to do to make sure I didn’t mess this up. About two-thirds down the descent there is a final one mile long climb then it’s all downhill to the finish. Going into the start of that final climb I had a gap on her, but I worked hard to make sure she didn’t close it. If she was able to pass me there she could’ve blocked me from passing her on the singletrack almost assuring herself a victory. I turned around about three quarters through and knew I could hang on. I hit the top and continued my mad descent for the finish. I crossed the line first, more than 2 minutes ahead of second place and seven minutes ahead of third.
I rushed over to the results tent to make sure I had won. As the result came across the screen I was overcome with happiness and euphoria. I had done it! I walked over to my cooler, pulled out my chocolate milk and smiled.
by Nicole Dolney
On August 24 this year a mountain bike race of epic proportions will start from Soda Springs. The race promoter describes the race as one of the most challenging ultra mountain bike races in North America – and in my opinion he’s right. Here is my race report from last year.
It was almost 6 am, barely light and a brisk 45 degrees. One hundred seventy riders and bikes huddled in a deformed circle in the large dirt parking lot in Soda Springs. In a rather unofficial way, which seems to be the character of race director Jim, he counted down from five and we were off. Of the 70 racers in the 100-mile race, I was the only woman.
The Tahoe Sierra 100 is a 100+ mile mountain bike race between Soda Springs and Auburn. The route travels through the American River canyons along much of the same route as the infamous Western States and Tevis Cup races. Along the way it gains more than 18 thousand feet of elevation. It’s true rugged mountain terrain, and while it’s called a mountain bike race the more appropriate name would be adventure mountain bike race.
The first 30 miles of the course cover a number of forest roads which at times were wonderful and other times pitchy and loose. After that the course alternates between single track and more fire roads. In hopes of being extra prepared I had pre-ridden the last 55 miles of the course and foolishly assumed that the first 40, while involving a fair amount of climbing, would be relatively easy. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The single track we encountered was steep and covered in moon dust, lots of loose rock and the trail was partially covered by manzanita and other brush. It was a slalom course in the truest sense. The descent was similar, and by the time I reached French Meadows my arms and legs were gelatinized.
The next miles follow a particularly famous section of the Western States running course – through Dusty Corners, Last Chance, Swinging Bridge and Devil’s Thumb. The precipitous drop down to swinging bridge, 2,000 feet in about 1.2 miles is particularly challenging. It was all the more challenging after the hundreds of racers from Western States two weeks prior and the dozens of cyclists ahead of me had chewed up the terrain. Dirt and rocks that were firmly rooted two months prior were loosely strewn about, making the riding cumbersome. After the descent you cross swinging bridge and begin the 45-60 minute hike to the ridgeline. This section of trail is too technical and steep to ride – not even the strongest racer is able to ride this section of the course. This steep two mile hike-a-bike section is followed by another short climb to Deadwood, then a four mile descent to the bottom of another canyon. Following another section of combination hike-a-bike and biking you top out in the town of Michigan Bluff – a small old mining settlement northeast of Auburn.
I pulled into the aid station at Michigan Bluff, just barely, where Dan and Sarah — my crew — and our friend Maureen were waiting with smiling faces. The hot canyons and bike-hiking had taken their toll on me. I was speaking in two word sentences and sat down to drink a coconut water and eat in an effort to regain my composure. Like each of the prior aid stations, the volunteers were truly amazing. As soon as I pulled up the mechanic serviced my bike and the folks at the food tent offered an assortment of tasty treats, ice and water. Sarah and Dan were commendable. Interpreting my two word, barely audible speak and taking care of me as best they could. My state of mind and body was pathetic. With negative thoughts coursing through my veins a volunteer came over to tell me that I had 15 minutes left to leave before the cutoff. My heart sunk. With each of the prior aid stations I was getting closer and closer to the cutoff. At this rate I surely wouldn’t be able to finish. Dan, Sarah, Maureen, and a teammate I met all encouraged me to bike on. I unwillingly obliged and started the 5-6 mile trek to Foresthill where my other good friends Kim and Cory were waiting to greet me.
In between Michigan Bluff and Foresthill is a relatively short climb followed by a screaming descent to Volcano Creek and another combination 25 minute hike and bike section. I was again feeling demoralized and worried that I wasn’t going to make it. I wanted to make it. A hundred feet from the top of the climb I could see Sarah and Dan waiting on their mountain bikes. It brought a big smile to my face, and I felt even better when they told me I picked up a few minutes against the cut-off time. Despite my worries I had kept the pace. Maybe there was a real chance I could do this.
On a positive note, I was looking forward to all the biking that was ahead of me. There would be no more hiking – that was both mentally and physically encouraging. I spoke briefly with Kim and Cory, and after a quick hug was on my way. Now I would be traveling with Sarah, one of my favorite biking buddies who decided to join me from here rather than the bottom of Drivers Flat as we originally planned.
Encouraged with the biking to come and having maintained my pace, my second wind kicked in. Sarah and I hauled ass through the next 10 miles of the course catching multiple racers including two guys that had nearly 20 minutes on me at the last aid station. I was feeling great and so confident that I could finish this thing.
The sun was at its hottest as we descended Ponderosa to the river. The temperatures got progressively hotter and air stuffier the closer to the river we got. At the bottom I heard the temperatures were in excess of 105 degrees. Not record breaking as far as Western States races go but hot – especially for a Michigan girl like myself. I desperately longed to lay in the cold flowing waters as we made our way up Drivers Flat Road but with each pedal I carried myself away instead. I buried my head in my thoughts and didn’t talk much until we neared the top.
It was at Drivers Flat that I really started to feel the physical effects of this journey. I was starting to lose my appetite and my form had gone to hell. I downed coconut water, some coke and departed for the final aid station before the finish. Upon reaching the last aid station I shouted to the volunteer that I wasn’t stopping. My push through the aid station motivated the last few guys resting to jump up and be on their way too. We climbed as a group up Stagecoach all congratulating each other. We especially congratulated the guy on the fully rigid single speed mountain bike.
I crossed the finish line with half an hour to spare before the cutoff. It was far from the performance I wanted, but I was happy to have completed it. The race introduced me to an entirely new level of suffering and accomplishment that I’d not experienced before. Those experiences have definitely come in handy since then.
Rebecca Rusch’s Kokopelli World Record Ride – A Film by Corey Rich and Dane Henry Friday July 19 in South Lake Tahoe
Save the date! Rebecca Rusch will be speaking LIVE at Sports LTD in South Lake Tahoe July 19th on behalf of Tahoe Area Mountain Biking Association. Rebecca will talk about her world record 142 mile Kokopelli Trail ride along with a film and slideshow presented by Corey Rich and Dane Henry. Come out and support the community! The fun begins at 6PM at Sports LTD, tickets are $15 and all proceeds benefit TAMBA. This will be a great night with one of the greatest athletes of our generation. See you there!
If you’re in the area looking for a couple of fun 3-hour long rides light on elevation gain, these rides are for you. The well-known Hole in the Ground (HITG) and less known Yogi trails. Each offers a fun day of technical riding (intermediate level for the Yogi trail and intermediate with some advanced for HITG) with stellar views and terrain that will leave a permanent ear-to-ear grin on your face the rest of the day.
The Yogi trail starts just south of Truckee, off highway 89. From the trailhead you climb up dirt roads and single track to the summit. From here you connect a series of unmarked singletrack trails. Because this area is frequented by motos, most of these stellar trails start about 10-20 ft from the jeep road. It’s an unfortunate necessity as it only takes a few motos going down these trails to ruin them. I recommend downloading the route (here) onto your Garmin, or other GPS device, so that you can easily find your way. Or if you prefer more assistance you can contact a local bike shop like the Back Country store, which offers guided trips in the area. They also offer free guided trips most Thursday evenings from the shop (more info on that in my next post).
Once you start descending you’ll encounter an assortment of terrain features like table tops, gap jumps, logs, etc. Most of these can be avoided if you’re uncomfortable doing them but keep your speed in check to do so.
Another fun trail is Hole in the Ground (HITG) near Castle Peak (Garmin file here). Most riders start near the fire station off Donner Pass Road near Soda Springs. From there you’ll have a short warm-up on Donner Pass Road towards Soda Springs, you’ll then climb a relatively short, but grinding gravel road over the ridgeline towards Boreal. The road will dump you on the southwest corner of the Boreal complex near the Woodward facility. Ride under the freeway to the Caste Peak trail head – this is where the fun begins.
Follow the main trail toward the Castle Peak summit. About a mile in, take a hard left onto the HITG trail; you’ll see a wood sign marking the trail. This part of the trail climbs to the ridgeline between Andesite and Castle Peak. It has spectacular views of Castle Peak and the surrounding area. From here you drop down into the valley. The next 10 miles are some of my favorite in Tahoe. There are rock gardens, granite slabs, optional jumps, fast flowy sections, and multiple stream crossings. And Lola Montez lake toward the end of the ride is a great place to have lunch and chill a while before completing the final few miles. The last section of trail has a very steep rocky stair step section. This is definitely the most technical part of the trail – walk if you don’t feel comfortable doing it.
By now you’ve long since hung up your skis. The poor snow pack last winter closed ski resorts early. But while you’re hanging up your skis, pull out that mountain bike and get it tuned up for some spectacular early season mountain biking. The poor snow pack and high temperatures means more trails are accessible this time of year than normal. The higher elevations and northern aspects are still covered, but many of the lower elevation trails and south aspect trails are almost completely clear. And it’s these conditions that are optimal for mountain biking. Later in the season the trails are much drier.
A couple weeks ago my friends and I explored some amazing trails on the north and south shores. It was one of those trips where everything aligns – great weather, fantastic friends and epic trails in amazing places. Those weekend trips that leave you sad that it ended so quickly, and make going back to work on Monday oh so difficult. Having lived in and traveled to other mountain bike meccas in the country – like Idaho, Colorado, and Utah – we all agreed that Lake Tahoe offers some of the best biking around, and it’s right in our own backyard!
Starting from Northstar we biked a number of forest roads and single track to the starting point of the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) off 267. From there we rode the TRT southwest. The trail is primarily intermediate level with short sections of advanced sprinkled throughout. It’s a beautiful trail that meanders deep in the woods, up along the ridgeline and through Manzanita beside early spring creeks. We did encounter some patches of snow, but in total, we probably only walked the bike about 15-20 minutes. By now, I’m guessing most of those patches are gone, or substantially reduced.
On Sunday we explored the newly updated flow trails near South Lake Tahoe – the Corral and Cedar Trails. All I can say is WOW! They are so much fun. It’s like a playground for adults and the feelings of the group were summed up with ear to ear grins all around. If you’re in the South Lake area you can make a quick trip of these trails – especially if you can find someone to shuttle you to the top of Armstrong. The Tahoe Area Mountain Bike Association (TAMBA) has done a superb job building fun terrain features and maintaining the trail.
If you’re venturing out, pick up a MTB map from the Back Country store in Truckee, and the Tahoe Area Mountain Bike Association (TAMBA) website has up to date trail conditions. Most importantly, be safe, have fun and be respectful of other trail users.
Saturday Jan. 12 2013
Got in a good day of skiing at Squaw and Alpine Friday, including our first trek between the two. Skied out of the gate below KT and down to White Wolf along the Squaw Boundary, where we ran into Troy Caldwell. He’d just finished grooming his short track that is part of the connection and told us he had timed the hike along the track at about 13 minutes. I think it took us a little longer than that but not much, and of course that’s just one section of the connection. The hike back from Alpine via Estelle Ridge was much harder, but still fun. We even found a nice little stash of powder on a north facing slope just before we got back to Caldwell’s track. The trip is definitely worth the time and energy if you want to get in some good hiking and skiing and get a view of Squaw you’ve never seen before.
Ready to get your ski, or ride, on?
You’ll get your chance this week as the season opens a bit early.
Squaw has a special one-day event to support the youth race teams at Squaw and Alpine. Lift tickets will be $20 on Thursday. Then the resort shuts down again until its official opening, planned for Nov. 21.
Boreal, meanwhile, plans to open Friday from 9 am to 9 pm. Tickets Friday only will be $15.