Valley athletes pass Ironman test
A photograph showing mist along the shore off Kings Beach on Sept. 22 tells the story of the Ironman Lake Tahoe triathlon. It was extremely cold.
Three Carson Valley athletes — Pike Reardon, Alisa Ashbaugh and Lesley Tuggle — braved conditions in a race that began at 6:30 a.m. from Kings Beach with a temperature reading of 29 degrees and completed their missions.
Reardon, 49, placed ninth in the men’s 45-49 age group and 84th overall in an international field with a time of 11 hours, 5 minutes and 7 seconds. Tuggle, the oldest female athlete in a field of nearly 1,700 athletes, won the women’s 65-69 age group in 16:50:39. And Ashbaugh finished 97th in the women’s 40-44 age category in 16:48:23.
The race began with a 2.4-mile double-loop swim from Kings Beach, followed by a 112-mile double-loop bike course along Lake Tahoe’s North Shore to Tahoe City and on to Truckee, over Brockway Summit back to Kings Beach and finally on to the finish at Squaw Valley. The marathon course was relatively flat, extending from the Village at Squaw Valley to Homewood and back.
“It was quite the experience,” said Tuggle, a veteran of nine Ironman World Championships. “My back tightened up on the bike ride, so it was a challenge. It took me about two hours longer to do this than normal (for an Ironman).”
Regardless of the conditions, Ashbaugh was simply excited about her first Ironman.
“I absolutely loved the race,” she said. “The sunrise was gorgeous and so were the views. And it was great to see people come out to watch and support us; it was so cold, I didn’t expect to see anybody. I spent the first lap of the bike thanking anybody who could hear me.”
The mist over Lake Tahoe created another challenge.
“You couldn’t see the buoys so all the swimmers were popping up their heads out of the water to see where they were going,” Tuggle said. “Some people were getting lost following one another.”
Reardon, a veteran Ironman competitor, said he was aware of the cold. On the other hand, he came prepared mentally and with proper attire to keep him comfortable on the bike — a ride which he estimates had at least 8,000 vertical feet of climbing.
“I work and train up there all the time so I knew it would be cold,” he said.
Reardon completed the 2.4-mile swim in 1:07:26, followed by a 6:02:55 effort on the 112-mile cycling leg and 3:43:41 in the marathon.
“I wanted to be top-5 (age group) and get on the podium, but I missed that by about 8 minutes,” Reardon said. “I was happy with my race overall. I thought it was a pretty solid performance.”
Reardon had a particularly strong stretch in his marathon between 20 and 23 miles when he ran 22:54 (7:38-minute-per-mile pace).
“The last 6 miles or so, you’ve made the turn and you’re on your way home, you start telling yourself, ‘I can start to push it … I’m going to make it,’” he said. “I’m sure my last mile was right at 7 minutes; the fatigue goes away once you hear the P.A. system and hear the crowd cheering.”
Tuggle finished her swim in 1:35:22, the bike in 8:30:20 and the run in 6:07:47.
Even the transition periods were a challenge, she added. Her time was 24:17 from the swim-to-bike and 12:53 from bike-to-run.
“I just wanted to make sure I was dressed properly,” Tuggle said.
Ashbaugh finished with a time of 1:33:39 in the swim, 8:07:17 on the bike and ran 6:07:47.
“I really went in to have three races to do in one day,” she said. “That way, I knew I couldn’t fail so I could just really enjoy the race.”
By winning her age group, Tuggle earned an invitation to the 2014 Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. One of her training partners, Sandra Wendel, will compete at Kona on Oct. 12.
“I can’t go out with such a terrible race,” said Tuggle laughing. “I’ll go out at Kona in 2014.”