Shortly after finishing Ironman Boulder (as in hours), I was informed that WTC would be consolidating prize money to fewer races in North America and that some of the races would no longer have pro fields. One of those races is Boulder; another is Ironman Lake Tahoe.
Last year, I spent the summer focusing on racing Tahoe and that race ended shortly after it began. I had to register a DNF in 2013 around 30 miles into the bike because of an unfixable mechanical problem with my bike. Despite the problem being out my hands, I was devastated.
With those two points in my mind, I made the decision to go back to Lake Tahoe this year before the pro field was pulled in 2015. I wanted to walk away from this race with a different feeling. It meant a quick turnaround in training which is one of the reasons this blog has been silent. With only seven weeks between events I had to refocus very quickly and before I knew it, it was time to race again.
Last year, the Tahoe area had been affected by heavy smoke from a large fire to their south. It resulted in the canceling of triathlon events over Labor Day weekend; however the smoke had cleared before last year's race. Prior to this year's race, I heard of a new fire, called the King Fire, that was situated to the southwest of Lake Tahoe and was beginning to grow in size. Athletes in the area had been reporting smoke in the days before I left Colorado.
When I flew into Reno on Thursday, I could see heavy smoke across the mountains and across the city of Reno. Heavy winds and low visibility from the smoke actually caused our pilots to abort their first landing attempt. After deplaning, I could smell smoke throughout the airport and the drive up to Lake Tahoe saw the conditions get worse.
While driving up, I was listening to the radio and I heard that someone had been arrested and charged with arson. This fire was started intentionally putting people's lives, homes, businesses, etc. in danger. Extremely sad.
The conditions in Squaw Valley and everywhere else were hazardous and there is no way the race would have taken place on Thursday. However, the forecast called for winds to shift to the east in the next days and on Friday and Saturday the area cleared out and it looked as though we would be racing.
Unfortunately, on Saturday evening in Truckee (where I was staying), it began to get smoky again and in the evening we had to close all the windows, but even then, I could smell it in the condo. On race morning, the smoke looked like fog in Truckee and I was concerned about whether the event would be a go. While it was clear at the swim start in Kings Beach, I heard that the conditions in Squaw Valley (run course) were very bad.
I went about my business of setting up the bike and waited until about 6:00 a.m. to put on my wetsuit (6:30 start). After another 10-15 minutes I started to warm up in the water, but I could tell something was wrong as the announcers weren't going through the normal motions of race morning, in terms of timing. In my mind, they were at least going to delay the start. However, at 6:30, they made the announcement that the race was cancelled.
A lot of athletes were devastated, but almost everyone completely understood the decision. The conditions were very bad, to say the least. As we drove over to Squaw to drop off my bike at Tribike Transport and get my run gear, you could see just how severe the smoke had become. Ironman had no other choice, but to cancel the event.
I managed to get a flight change on Southwest out of Reno and around the time I would have been finishing the marathon, I was touching down in Denver.
There have been many wildfires in Colorado in the years I have lived here and in 2010 the Four Mile Fire affected Boulder and its surrounding areas directly. My heart goes out to the folks in California that are being run from their homes and I hope the firefighters can resolve the problem soon and return home to their families safely.
I also feel for the athletes that put so much time into preparing for this race and did not get the chance to see it through. But there will be other races, and the work you put in is not diminished because of this. You will toe the line again soon.
I don't know what the future of racing in Lake Tahoe will be. Last year the race was confronted with extremely cold conditions causing an unusually high number of DNSs and DNFs. This year the race was cancelled altogether. I hope the race can continue in some capacity as it is an amazing venue and course. However, this situation reminds me of 2002 and 2003 with IM Utah in Provo. After two challenging years to start, they pulled the event for good. We'll have to wait and see what WTC decides to do.
With Hawai'i coming up in 19 days, I am having to put together a new plan of action in moving forward. I'll see you all in Kona soon.