Tahoe City XTERRA: Home field advantage | SierraSun.com

Tahoe City XTERRA: Home field advantage

Keith Sheffield/Tahoe WorldThe pack of competitors in Saturdays inaugural Tahoe City XTERRA off road triathlon splash their way into Lake Tahoe at the 8 a.m. start. Competitors swam a course off Commons Beach, mountain biked their way through Burton Creek State park and completed a running course before finishing back at Commons Beach.

The first time I saw the Tahoe City XTERRA on the calendar, I was excited. Who doesnt love a race in his or her back yard?After a successful top-three finish in my first race of the season, I knew I had a chance of taking home a win in Tahoe City, my first ever in a triathlon. I thought about winning this race while training and it always lifted my spirits at the end of a long workout. It was great not having to drive a day to get to a race venue AND getting to sleep in my own bed.It was 35 degrees when I left my house at 5:45 a.m. to head to the race. I knew the air would warm up by the 8 a.m. start but not the water, which was hovering around 50 degrees. Diving into the cold water with the group of 150 racers was shocking. I felt the air being sucked out of my lungs. It seemed like a long way zig-zagging between swimmers to the first buoy. As we rounded the corner we were blinded by the early morning sun. As I came out of the water I heard cheers from the crowd, which turned out to be some of the Truckee masters swimmers I swim with during the week. It was great to hear them cheer for me doing well as they usually lap me during workouts. Sorry Emma! I heard as Tom Lyons clipped my heal running around me on the sand between laps. He was one of the top male competitors, so I wasnt doing that badly. As I ran back in the water I felt nauseous after running on the sand. Once I got back in the rhythm of swimming it went away. I emerged from the water after the second lap and I started to unzip my wetsuit as I ran; it was hard because my hands were numb and my suit was stuck on my hands. An approximate half-mile run from Commons Beach, including a steep climb to the swim-bike transition, was tough, especially in a wetsuit and no shoes. Luckily I was also numb in my feet so I couldnt feel the rocks on the pavement. The first two miles of the bike were uphill again, first on pavement and then on a fire road. I was trying to pace myself as it was a long climb. Is that you Emma dog! I heard from Cliff Millemann, one of the top racers in the 45-49 age group, as he spun past me up the hill. After a two-mile climb we started to descend. It was hard to see the rocks I was riding over due to the dust from other riders. The dust also caused me to miss the second sharp right turn, along with a few other riders, and I had to turn back. Next was a sharp left turn and a steep, rocky climb. I was determined to make it up the hill without coming off my bike, as it was hard to get back on and I would lose precious time. I survived. The hill reminded me of Maui, a lot of loose rock that can easily throw you off your bike. Luckily it wasnt as hot; in fact, the temperature was perfect for racing.Then we got onto single track twisting through the forest. I was trying hard to not get too comfortable when I was out there by myself. I assumed I was in the lead but wasnt sure because no one was saying anything about placing. On the last descent before the bike-run transition, I passed one section where we could see the top men on the run. I saw Tom, and right behind him was a woman running. I felt my heart sink. I was not in the lead and the woman was miles ahead of me. I quickly racked my bike when I got to transition, slipped on my running shoes and managed to pass a few riders ahead of me in the bike. Again, a long two-mile uphill from the transition area made the run tough.I passed Cliff and Incline racer Eric Ronning on the uphill, and I was hoping I would catch the woman I saw in front of me but knew it was unlikely. As I reached the top of the course I tried to go as hard as I could because I would be running two miles downhill to the finish. I soon heard Eric running behind me on the downhill. Apparently me passing him made him step it up after he lost motivation getting a flat at the end of the bike.I was wearing light cross-country flats and I could feel every rock under my feet on the downhill. As I ran along the boardwalk to the finish I heard the announcer say my name. I was glad to be done but was unsure if I could celebrate.Oh yeah, you won by a lot, Gene said, as if I should have known. Apparently the women I saw in front of me was from the shorter race. I still wasnt convinced until I saw results later. I finished first among women with a time of 3:06.53, and 19th overall.As for other racers, I cant name every North Tahoe competitor because there were too many, which is a good thing. Incline couple Ross and Sarah McMahan both placed third overall in the full-course triathlon, and Matt Chappell was the top Truckee finisher, placing 15th overall and second in the 25-29 age group. Chris Griffo of Homewood was the overall winner in the short-course race with at time of 1:53.34. There was also a lot of first-time XTERRA athletes who braved the cold water and long climbs; hopefully they will come back for more. Among them were Patricia Hickson, who swam backstroke for most of swim and placed third in the 25-29 age group, and Amanda Conk, aquatic coordinator for the Truckee-Donner Recreation & Park District, who placed second in 25-29 age group. The race ran smoothly thanks to the great organization of Todd Jackson and all the volunteers, although they could have used a few more, keeping us on course and hydrated. After the race I hung out at Commons Beach enjoying burgers off the grill and cold beer and looked out over the lake. Like most racers, I hope this race is here to stay.Emma Garrard is a photographer for the Sierra Sun. She may be reached at egarrard@sierrasun.com.

While many of the entrants were local, nine states as well as Puerto Rico were represented in the inaugural XTERRA Tahoe City, said Todd Jackson, executive director of the Big Blue Adventure Series, which put on the event. Jackson said he hopes the event will grow annually, attracting more national and international athletes and professional racers. He also hopes to get more local athletes and novice racers involved by way of the short course triathlon, which was part of this years event, and possibly a relay race involving area high schools in the future.

For complete results go to http://www.bigblueadventure.com.

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