Thursday, October 3, 2013

Ironman

We woke up to a light drizzle in Tahoe on Saturday morning. Two sets of twins plus a singleton dressed in ski clothes. Paige and I threw on whatever warm clothes were left and piled the litter into the car and headed to the Treetop Adventure Park at Granlibakken. Rain or shine, we were going ziplining. Although it was cold and wet, it was not as cold and wet as our athlete friends were going to be the next day during the inaugural Lake Tahoe Ironman. That kept us going as the drizzle turned into a full downpour.

In case you need a refresher, an Ironman is a 2.4 miles swim followed by a 112 mile bike ride followed by a marathon. I've always thought it extreme. After seeing one I think the willing participants do have more than a few loose screws. More on that later.

The Adventure Park is very well done and we can't wait to go back on a warm day. It's a series of ropes courses and you are harnessed in. Thing 2, Monkey Girl, loved every minute of it because she left her fear gene down in the Bay.

A full downpour at elevation 6500 F means snow not too much higher. And we were not disappointed by the beautiful snow that followed. The Ironpeople, not so thrilled. I choose to believe that this is a sign for an early and wet winter. In all, this storm brought four inches of snow to the upper mountain.

We had five friends compete in the Ironman -- and all five finished. That is an amazing feat given that 20% of the people who started the race did not finish.

Squaw was Ironman Central so we were well-situated for the fanfare. On Sunday, race day, we positioned ourselves at the bike to run transition and then four times along the marathon course, which passed through the Village twice. We also saw all five friends finish. These athletes began at 6:30am and the fastest, a multiple-time Ironwoman, finished in 12 hours, 30 minutes.

Yes, we were still warm in our beds when these crazy people started and finished the swim. In fact, I'd say we'd only progressed to drinking our Starbucks in our PJs (fetched by some subset of the five girls) while most participants got the first 50 miles under their wheels. By the end of the day I was grateful for my peaceful, caffeinated start.

Although I'm know that competing is stressful and that this next part is going to make me eligible for the Super Ninnie Award, we didn't have much downtime once the participants started passing through the valley. It is a lot of work tracking five athletes online and then taking the right poster to the right spots on the course, watching for them, and then screaming until you are hoarse. I had no energy left to drive home Sunday night -- the kids and I were completely spent. We left Monday morning.

It is a beautiful thing to become an Ironman, one that our friend Sherman got talked into by a childhood friend and achieved with a dance across the finish line and then tears streaming down his face. I am in awe of him, our other friends and frankly, all the participants. It is an enormous physical and mental challenge. We saw lots of people quit after the bike ride. And lots of people being assisted off the course in various forms of distress. This race, at elevation and with an especially punishing bike ride, had the slowest finish times and highest DNF rates of any Ironman event this year.

The very last picture on this blog post is my favorite - us cheering on Sherman at T2. His smile is genuine and the emotions on all of our faces are raw, pure joy at the being in the moment of achievement.

One other thing of note. There are two routes from the Village to our condo. One passes in front of the Olympic House, between it and the Cable Car building. The other passes around the back, the mountain side, the side with the ski lifts and sun deck. After we cheered our last friend across the finish line and gave him the requisite and well-deserved praise, we headed back to the condo to meet up with the kids. Brilliant moi suggested we take the mountain route. While we were the only ones walking that way and it was unlit, the Village, not 1/4 mile away, easily had 2,500 people mulling around and very loud music playing. As it turned out, Paige and I were not alone after all: I spotted a bear climbing a tree not even 10 yards from us. I then proceeded to forget everything my father taught me about being in the wild and screamed BEAR!! as I high-tailed it toward to condo door. Paige followed suit, trying to outrun me because, in the end, only the slowest person gets eaten.

Another day in the life of two ski-obsessed suburban mommies.

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