2013 Lake Tahoe Ironman [Race Report]

Ironman / Race Reports

Beauty and the Beast

If I could pick a title to describe Ironman Lake Tahoe it would be Beauty and the Beast. The swim took place right off of Kings Beach in North Lake Tahoe (near Reno, NV). The water was absolutely breath taking! Not because it was so cold, but because it was unbelievably gorgeous.   Crystal clear turquoise blues extended out into the horizon as far as you could see, giving the appearance as if you were at the ocean. However, the lake made for an exceptionally calm swim with very little current to help move you along. The beach at the swim start extended far into the lake making for a shallow running start for about 50 meters, which was pretty long. Swimmers ran as far as they could before dolphin diving. After about 5 dives you would collide with another sandy bank where you would run again until finally getting to the deeper part of the lake. This is where you had to start swimming. Because the tide was so low they moved the buoys out into in the deeper water so that swimmers on their second loop would just swim around a set of buoys instead of running on the shallow beach.  After a second loop the athletes exited the water completing the 2.4 miles.

I was very pleased with my swim start and managed to stay with the main pack of girls for the first 200 meters or so. Once I settled into my pace I could see the lead women’s ‘stand up paddler’ slowly disappear into the fog. The water temperature was about 61 degrees in the warmest areas. But the air temperature was a mere 33 degrees Fahrenheit, making for amazing photos of an epic lake glazed with endless fog.

The start of the women’s professional race was at 6:33AM. This was before the sun decided to crest the mountains and shine upon the swimmers. The beach was lined with over a thousand age groupers all bouncing and jumping up and down trying to stay warm and limit the time their feet had to endure the ice cold sand. Meanwhile in transition, ice continued to form on athlete’s bike saddles. To say it was by far the coldest Ironman I have ever seen or done is an understatement!

Usually, everyone is dreading how cold the water is going to be in mountain lakes but in this particular situation, everyone wanted to get into the water as quickly as possible. I was so grateful to have my Blueseventy wetsuit! In my opinion it is the very best wetsuit you can get. I used two swim caps to keep my head a little warmer and placed my swim goggles on in between the two caps to help them stay in place for the entire swim.

I felt strong on the swim and was very pleased with my time of 1:05:31, only 4-5 minutes behind the main pack of swimmers.  I swam with another professional woman the whole time.  We exited the water together and it was the moment of truth that this was going to be a freezing cold race! As you exhaled you could see your breath. I ran as quickly to the changing tent as I could and I made the decision to put on every piece of dry clothing I had to try to stay as warm as possible. This was a gamble because as a result of putting on so many layers I was losing considerable amounts of time on the leaders, who by this point, were leaving the changing tent or were already out on the bike course.

I had three incredible women volunteers help me get changed as fast as possible and try to dry my hair with a towel the best they could. I completely changed, out of my wet swimsuit into my dry Wattie Kit. I put on arm warmers, leg warmers, booties (since every bike store in town was sold out of toe caps), ear warmers, and gloves with hand warmers in them, back warmers, and a jacket. This entire process took a ridiculous 7 minutes and 26 sec. I had to put my Smith Optics on my helmet for most of the bike because they would fog over so badly I couldn’t see a thing.

Once on the bike, the air temperature pierced through my clothes. I couldn’t believe even with so many layers I was still shivering on the bike! This also made drinking interesting. I have all my calories for the bike in liquid form but my bottles were ice cold, contributing to the goose bumps and shivering frenzy. I kept telling myself that I would warm up before I knew it and would regret having so many layers on. (This never happened)

The bike course consisted of 2 and 1/3 loops. Starting at Kings Beach it has a climb up ‘Dollar Hill’ and then slightly rolling terrain to Tahoe City. We then went up Truckee River Valley passed Squaw Valley Ski Area and again stayed on rolling terrain with a good tail wind into the town of Truckee. In Truckee the road was lined with spectators and music playing to lighten the mood. As we turned through town we made our way onto a bike path and into the neighborhoods. As we exited and made our way onto the highway towards North Star Ski Area it was our last chance to catch our breath before making our way up the first major ascent into a gated community. The bike course then took us past the Ritz Carlton Hotel before descending back to the highway. Almost immediately once you turned back onto the highway we were greeted with the second and last major ascent of the course. Finally, we descended back to Kings Beach for our second loop and did the whole grueling course again. Then our third time through Kings Beach we made our way up to Squaw Valley where they had T2 strategically placed at the base of one of the most exquisite mountain faces I have seen.

The true ‘Beast’ of the course came out in the cold weather temperatures on the bike but was drastically elevated by the endless climbing and frigid descending.  I kept looking down at my SRM power meter and was shaken by the low numbers I was producing. I knew it was going to be a hard day but never was I anticipating going over 6 hours on the bike. I only started to warm up by the last major climb of the second loop.

Once I finally hit my last time through Kings Beach I couldn’t wait to get off my bike and start the run. I did my best to get in all my calories throughout the bike and even had to stop at the Special Needs station because as I was putting my new bottles on my bike I dropped one. I knew it would be a mistake to proceed without it and luckily a volunteer came running over to assist me. My Cervelo P3 rode great and was race ready because of Wheat Ridge Cyclery. I was trying out a new bike fit that Ryan Ignatz from Colorado Multisport had put together for me. My chain was super smooth because of the treatment it received from Friction Facts.  The spectators that lined the bike course bundled up in jackets and even sleeping bags were lifesavers, shouting encouraging words that would fill your head with an “I can do this” mentality.

As I made my way up to Squaw Valley I knew I needed to run my butt off to have a hope of getting any money at all.  I quickly dismounted my bike and ran into the changing tent and took off my jacket, arm warmers, leg warmers and ear warmers. It was time to run and I was actually really excited. Boulder Coaching is coaching me, and our strategy was to go more conservatively on the bike so that I could have a solid run. I did go conservatively on the bike and with hindsight being 20/20, perhaps too conservatively, but I was feeling good and ready to run a marathon.

I had a decent T2 time of 1:37 (if only my T1 could had been that fast). 🙂

As I ran out of the tent I downed a GU Energy Gel and made my way through the ski town. It reminded me of Beaver Creek, Colorado. The first mile is down hill and then you start down the bike path mostly downhill to about mile 2.5. It is at this spot on the course were you get back onto the road, and make a loop by the golf course which includes the biggest incline of the run. Then you hit the Truckee bike path, which heads out until you are almost to mile 10 of the run before running all way back to T2 and finish line. The second loop is substantially shorter then the first.

Jeff was the best spectator anyone could ever ask for! He would bike on the main road and stop at certain points were the road and the bike path would meet to provide me with updates of how far back I was from the girls in front of me. Each time I saw him, I was pleasantly greeted with the knowledge that I was making up considerable amounts of time. I continued staying up on my fluids and GU Energy Gels throughout the whole run. I finally ran my way into 8th place but was making huge gains on 7th and 6th place. I was getting reports that I could catch them if I maintained my current pace. But with 10k to go in the race both 6th place (held by Jessica Jacobs) and 7th place (Dede Griesbauer) stepped up their game and made it impossible for me to overtake them. I still managed to run a 3:20:31. My goal was to run a 3:20:00 so I felt I had hit it almost spot on.

Above Photo Courtesy of Freeplay Magazine

 I crossed the line with a bittersweet smile. I was so happy to have finished what I believe to be the hardest Ironman to date (I did compete in both the 2011 and 2012 St. George Ironman’s). I was really pleased with both my swim and run performances. But I had wanted to show what I could do on the bike on a hard course and I felt I had not done that. The ‘Beast’ of the course had over taken me this time. 🙂


Immediately, I was taken to the Medical Tent were I was given an inhaler for the God-awful cough that started once I stopped running. The medical staff was absolutely amazing and so kind. I had two volunteers massaging my legs to help with the cramping and the sweetest lady giving me what seemed to be gallons of chicken broth to warm up my uncontrollable shivering body.  After an hour I was finally allowed to leave the medical area and see Jeff for the first time after the race. I am so very blessed to have the most amazing fiancé and the love of my life there to help me every step of the way!

Thank you so very much to all my incredible sponsors, for without your support this journey would not be possible; 10xtalk.com, Thompson Family Foundation, Z-Health, Guy Chemical, Core4 Nutrition and for a complete list please visit my website at: www.kehoeracing.com/sponsors/

Huge thanks to the Hamilton Family who were an absolute delight to stay with and made Jeff and I feel so welcome the whole time we were in Lake Tahoe. They are a truly wonderful family with big hearts.

Thank you so much to Krista Lewis, Transformation Massage, who is my massage Angel and always manages to bring my legs back to life.

Thank you so much to all my incredible family members and friends who are always there, providing me with support and prayers every step of the way. Thank you so much to God who is my strength and shield, leading me down a truly incredible journey!

Danielle Mack is professional Triathlete residing in Boulder, Colorado. She found her passion for triathlons at a young age. However, it wasn’t until she turned sixteen did she really start training strictly for triathlons. Through various paths God has lead her through the years including Xterra’s and Adventure Racing she discovered her ultimate love, long course triathlons, especially Ironman’s!

1 Comment

  1. Randy Jordan
    04 October 13, 5:55pm

    Thanks so much for the race report. Much appreciated!

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