Smokin’ XTERRA: Triathlon brings out athletes in Tahoe City even with smoky skies
More than 180 racers dressed in neoprene and baby-blue swim caps lined up on at Commons Beach Saturday for the second Annual XTERRA Tahoe City off-road triathlon.
The water was a chilly 57-degrees and the sky surprisingly blue despite hundreds of forest fires burning in Northern California. The race, like the Western States 100, could have easily been canceled had conditions been too smoky, said race director Todd Jackson of Seventh Wave Productions.
“I was relieved,” Jackson said when he arrived at the race venue Saturday morning. “There was a scare it might not happen, but it was nice and clear.”
The event consisted of two races an short course consisting of a 600-meter swim, 13-mile mountain bike ride and 3-mile trail run and a full course consisting of a 1200-meter swim, 22-mile mountain bike ride and a 6-mile trail run.
Another challenge for Jackson was creating a swim course with low lake levels. The solution was having racers walk some 50 feet into the lake to start the swim, rather than the usual XTERRA 2-lap swim with a beach run in-between, it was more of a lollipop where short course swimmers swam one lap around a set of buoys and back to shore and full course swam two laps and back to shore.
The knee-deep water posed another challenge when returning to shore. Some competitors opted to wear aqua socks making it easier to walk on the rocky lake bottom.
Once out of the water racers ran to a transition area on the baseball field next to Tahoe Lake School and straight up the road to the Burton Creek State Park trails.
After a long uphill climb racers in the full course did two 9-mile loops and short course did one loop. The course was a mix between wider cross country ski trails and single tracks that weaved through pine forests and meadows blooming with wildflowers.
Wider trails made passing easy and allowed racers to pick up speed unlike more technical XTERRA races. It was also a great course for first-time off-road triathletes, although sections of the course were dusty and rocky creating the occasional crash or flat.
Once completed the lap or laps of the bike course competitors had a fast descent on a loose-rocky fire road back to the transition area.
After switching to running shoes racers headed back up the road for the run: a mile and a half of uphill for the short and three miles of uphill for the full directly after bike was tough but not unusual for XTERRA. When the short course athletes hit the turn around spot full course kept going on a singletrack winding through trees and over logs until they reached a meadow.
Now it was three more miles of descent past the transition area and back to Commons Beach for the finish.
Despite conditions, the race grew from last year with competitors from as far away as Hawaii, Minnesota and Puerto Rico. The majority of the competitors were from the Reno-Tahoe area and Northern California, Jackson said.
“The local contingent grew a lot from last year,” he said.
One of many locals who returned to the race was Eric Ronning of Incline Village, who placed first in the 40-44 age group with a time of 2:50:24. He said he did not notice and smoke in the air during the race.
“I knew we’d all be in the same conditions so it didn’t bother me,” Ronning said. “It wasn’t at an unhealthy level in my opinion.”
Although the prospect of racing in smoke was new to Ronning challenging conditions were not something new to the sport.
“I don’t think any XTERRA has ever been canceled. I think the only thing that would cancel it would be if the course was on fire,” Ronning said. “That’s part of XTERRA, the more extreme the conditions the more XTERRA it is.”
As for the race returning the Tahoe City, Ronning couldn’t be happier.
“I’m elated that there’s an XTERRA point series race here at Lake Tahoe,” Ronning said. “It’s a well-rounded, well-run event.”
Men’s Long Course
1. Ross McMahan 2:42:49.9
2. Nick Wierzba 2:46:06.0
3. Tom Lyons 2:49:06.6
Women’s Long Course
1. Emma Garrard 3:00:27.7
2. Julie Young 3:10:30.1
3. Genevieve Evans 3:11:51.4
Men’s Short Course
1. Greg Trent 1:50:15.4
2. Dennis Brinson 1:55:25.9
3. Pete Gauvin 1:58:20.6
Women’s Short Course
1. Karin Whitman 2:07:09.2
2. Elise Fett 2:24:36.9
3. Annie Brinson 2:30:41.2
For complete results go to http://www.bigblueadventure.com.