Tahoe athletes compete in ‘Ironman Do-Over’ | SierraSun.com

Tahoe athletes compete in ‘Ironman Do-Over’

Bob Wright
Special to the Sun

Athletes enter the water at the start of their "Ironman Do-Over."

This past Saturday, eight hearty local athletes met at 7 a.m. in Kings Beach for a completely unofficial "2014 Ironman Do-Over."

Ever since the King Fire and the subsequent cancellation of the official Ironman Lake Tahoe event two weeks ago, this small group of locals had been waiting for the smoke to clear so they could complete the race and hopefully earn, as the Ironman organizers promised us, "a lifetime of bragging rights."

Saturday dawned clear and calm, perfect conditions for a multi-hour endurance event. Of the eight participants, four were aiming to complete the 140.6-mile full Ironman and four had their sights on the 70.3-mile half Ironman.

When the starting gun went off — actually someone just called out, "ready, set, go!" — we jumped into the cool, glassy waters and began the swimming leg of the race.

“Seeing them smile coming out of the water was pretty spectacular. The enormity of the occasion was unreal.”
Liza Muhl, spectator

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The air temperature hovered around 48 degrees, downright balmy compared to last year's Ironman event but still pretty chilly for an early morning swim. The first two swimmers came out of the water in just over an hour, and the others were not too far behind.

"Seeing them smile coming out of the water was pretty spectacular," said spectator Liza Muhl, whose husband Richard participated. "The enormity of the occasion was unreal."

But after more than an hour in the 62-degree water, we were all pretty cold as we struggled to get into our bike gear.

Riding down Highway 89 past Alpine and Squaw for the first of two and a half laps around the bike course was downright frigid. My feet didn't actually thaw out until somewhere around mile 90 of the 112-mile bike course. And by the time I finally reached Squaw after six hours in the saddle, I was more than ready to get off that bike and put on my running shoes.

The first lap of the 26.2-mile run took us all the way from the Squaw Valley parking lot to Tahoe City. And I have to say that portion of the run was absolutely delightful. The afternoon light reflecting off the Truckee River, the aspen trees changing colors — it was a perfect autumn afternoon run in Tahoe.

And, of course, by then the Ibuprofen had fully kicked in and the all too familiar aches and pains from a long run had become pleasantly numb.

By the time we returned to Squaw, some 18 miles into the run, the sun had set and a beautiful three-quarter moon had risen over the valley. At that point we learned that two people had abandoned the full and had settled on the half-distance race and the rest of the 70.3 folks were already on their way home. That meant that there were just four of us left running in the dark somewhere on the bike path between Squaw and River Ranch, our last turn-around point to complete the full marathon distance.

I'd like to say that the remaining portion of the run was as delightful as the beginning, but that would be a stretch — quite a stretch, to be honest, because I can't really remember too much of those last 8 miles.

Luckily, someone loaned me a headlamp and my friend Rob Lauries, who organized and supported this Ironman Do-Over event, saw that I was a bit too zombie-like to be running alone, in the dark. Rob ran with me those last 8 miles and put up with an exorbitant amount of my moaning and groaning. There may have even been some whimpering, considerable whimpering most likely.

Sometime during those last few miles of the run another full-distance participant had to abandon the race because of digestive issues. He was well on his way to finishing far ahead of the rest of us, but the stomach cramps had become too painful to ignore. He was a mere 8 miles from finishing a 140.6-mile day.

Shortly thereafter, my friend Judy Anderson ran past Rob and me and returned to the Squaw Valley parking lot to claim first place in this unofficial Ironman Do-Over. She had a fantastic race and completed the Ironman Lake Tahoe course in less than 13 hours! Truly a great, inspiring accomplishment.

Sometime between 8:15 and 8:30 p.m., on the final stretch before the unofficial finish line, I saw Tory Polich, the third remaining participant. It was pitch black except for the moon hovering over Squaw Valley, the temperatures were chilly and dropping steadily, and Tory still had 6.5 miles to run. I was stumbling my way toward the finish line, not at all sure where it actually was because I couldn't see straight, and Tory was headed back out into the darkness. Alternately running and walking down the bike path, Tory said he was hoping to finish sometime around 10 p.m.

I'm sure it was Tory's own determination to finish that got me to run those last few hundred meters to my own finish line. I was a wasted, whimpering, zombified mess of a runner, and Tory was going back out for another lap. If Tory had it in him to run another 6.5 miles, I surely could muster enough energy to run another 100 meters. In the end, I made it to my finish line for a not-so-graceful yet thrilling second-place finish. My total time was around 13 hours and 15 minutes.

Several hours later, at approximately 10:25 p.m., alone and in the dark, without any fanfare whatsoever, no high-flying corporate-sponsored banners, no loud speakers announcing the names of finishers, no music, no celebratory high-fives and thumbs-up from strangers in the cheering section, no enthusiastic support or encouragement from anyone other than himself, Tory Polich crossed his finish line of the unofficial 2014 Ironman Do-Over.

I wasn't there, but I can imagine it was probably one of the sweetest victories ever achieved. And I am positive that it is one major accomplishment that surely earns bragging rights for life.

Full Ironman distance

Judy Anderson, Tahoe City

Bob Wright, Kings Beach

Tory Polich, San Francisco

Pike Reardon, Gardnerville 

Ironman 70.3 distance

Richard Muhl, Tahoma

Monika Mala, Reno 

Tim Manship, Reno 

Natalie Silvia


Rob Laurie, Incline Village

Mojo Rogers, Incline Village

Alisa Ashbaugh, Gardnerville

Editor’s note

In addition to the athletes who participated in Saturday’s “Ironman Do-Over,” Tia Rancourt of Incline Village completed the 70.3-distance course on Sunday, while her husband Marc Rancourt and friends Dave Noble and Jim Kaplan all completed the full Ironman Lake Tahoe course after the event was canceled.