A Big Storm was predicted to hit Lake Tahoe during my Ultimate Tahoe Tri. No option to delay swim more then a day and that would put us right in heart of storm. Brainstormed with all my friends who have swam or piloted Tahoe swims searching for an option. Karen Rogers an amazing open water swimmer who has swam Tahoe found me a 10 hr window from 12:00am Sat night Oct 2 till 10:30am Sunday Morning with winds at 8 mph. A 10 hr window would not be enough to swim 22 mile length of Tahoe and even 8 mph winds would make the middle of the Lake treacherous for me and my boat crew!!! So my friend Dean Moser who has piloted numerous Tahoe swims designed me a 15 mile course along the West Shore swimming from Camp Richardson to Sugar Pine Point. The Course was designed to try to protect me and my crew from the wind. The wind was predicted to be 5 to 8 mph during that 10 hr window.
The first hour was smooth everything was going according to plan. But then the 2nd hour the wind suddenly kicked up to 25 mph. Even with our protected course, me and my crew in the tiny speedboat were being bombarded by White Caps. My crew went from being on the Love boat to Being on the Minnow from Gilligans Island. Ms and the boat were being banged all over the place. It was pitch black due to it being a near moonless night. I could not see the white caps coming. Numerous times when I went to breath I would get hit in the face by a whitecap and take a big breath of water causing me to roll onto my back coughing up water and trying to calm myself down so I could resume the swim. We would try to get closer to the shore to get calmer water only to have the strong wind blow us out further into the middle of the lake. On top of the rough water the air Temp dropped to bone cold 34 degree F. The wind chill was in the high 20’s. Mixed with the 61 degree F water temp. I was freezing right through my wetsuit. The guys on the boat had it worse the water was warmer then the Air!!! They were now felt like they were on the Titantic looking for Ice Bergs. I was taking feed breaks every half hour. When I would stop to eat I would sit on the back of the boat for a few minutes then continue the swim. I had to get back in the water to warm up!! I would start shivering on the back of the boat!!! Crazy Cold!!! Part of our course was to swim Emerald Bay!!! We tried to get into the Bay but there was this super strong current coming out of Emerald Bay that the wind must have been causing. The Strong current would not allow us to get in. After 25 mins of trying we had no choice but to continue on.
The cold was really getting to me when the Sun finally came up and the air temp rose about 10 deg. It was Huge!!! During the Final part of the swim the wind was pushing big swells from behind me that would pick my feet up and then torpedo my head under water!
After 8 hrs and 20 mins I finally swam onto the Beach at Sugar Pine Point!!! To say I was excited to be on Land would be a major understatement!!! I definitely consider myself a land animal!!! I wasn’t the only one!!! My friend Cliff who had been on the 8 1/2 hr boat ride from hell was asked when he would be getting on a boat again. He replied” Never would be to Soon!!! “
I had a pre-race goal of getting on my bike and riding right after the swim!!! Didn’t know if I would have the energy to do it or not, but that was the plan. I fell as I was getting out of the water as I was getting the blood flowing into my legs. Once I started walking though I knew I had not totally shot all my energy during the swim. I was able to change into my bike clothes get on my bike and I was off!!! Way happy to be on Land!!! I would make it to dark before I finally had to take a sleep Break.
After 48 hrs I had swam 15 miles and covered 197 miles on the Bike and gone over 6 Mtn passes including the 5 mtn passes of the Death Ride Course. After I climbed the 2 Ebbetts Passes a ranger informed us they would be closing Ebbetts Pass the following day do to the Big Storm coming in. We were racing Mother Nature. As I was heading up Carson Pass Pass at Dusk my sixth pass in the first 2 days the Big Dark Storm Clouds were rolling in. 70 mph wind gusts would have me unclipping my shoes from my pedals and standing to stop from being blown off my bike. As I pedaled up Carson pass at twilight it was covered by a huge Dark ominous cloud, all I could think of was please don’t snow!!! We knew it was going to snow on us I just wanted to be off the Bike before the snow hit!!!
Fortunately I would make it to Tahoe City and had only about 30 miles left on the bike before the storm broke loose. We were now at a low enough elevation that we just got hit with a hard rain as I finished the Bike leg. We were hearing reports of the Big Passes getting dumped on with snow. So far we were staying ahead of the worst of the Storm.
I started the run almost immediately after finishing the Bike. I wanted to get as far I could on run before the that nights predicted snow now would hit at Lake level. By mile 6 on the run it was snowing. After a sleep break I would be heading out into the teeth of the storm!! Lucky I had brought all my Alaska snow gear with me. I did not however bring any Gortex waterproof shoes. My crew was able to buy me a pair of North Face Gortex water proof running shoes while I was still on the Bike. The store had only 3 sizes but one of them was my lucky number 11 1/2 size. I was living right!!! As the snow started to come down heavy I was glad to have my new Good luck waterproof shoes on!!!
At the 4 day mark I had swam 15 miles and Biked 300 miles over 8 mtn passes over 20,000′ of climbing a total of 13 hours going uphill!!! I was now 5 miles into the run and the sky was opening up. It was cold enough and windy enough that I had my hardcore Alaskan Bacalava over my head to keep me warm. I would end up power walking most of the first 40 miles of the run as I did not have enough energy to run!! But after 40 miles I got a surge of Mojo and was able to do a run walk strategy. It would snow at night and rain intermittently during the day!!! At mile 60 on our way to Tahoe City there was a large propane gas leak right behind us causing evacuations for several miles. It would delay our day crew from getting out to us for several hours.
With 10 miles to go a car pulled up and and a gentleman introduced himself as Gordon Haller the first Hawaii Ironman finisher. He still looks in great shape. He was a great guy and it was way cool to meet him. When I crossed the finish line in front of Classic Cue in South Lake Tahoe. The clock read 5 days 16 hrs to complete the 15 mile swim, 300 mile bike and 100 mile run course.
I want to thank my crew without them obviously none of this would be possible. My rookie crew chief Nancy did phenomenal!!! The Boat crew Tim, Dave, Cliff and JB what can I say??? Thanks Brothers!!! It definitely wasn’t in the Brochure!!! Way to hang in there in Deadliest Catch conditions!!! Thanks to My sister Leslie who had given me a breath of fresh air when she arrived during the big climbs on the Bike!!!! Great job Ron and JB catching it all on video!!! And doubling up to help with crewing!!! Thanks again to Cliff for being in charge of the ominous night Shift!!!! Your the Man!!!
Special Thanks to major sponsor WBE and to Courage Juice, Alto Labs, Polar Water Bottles, SportsBasement, Smiths Rent a Car, Wetsuit Rentals for their sponsorship!!!! Also a Big Thank you to my Cousin Linda who was a Gracious host to us at the Classic Cue for the Bike to Run transition and Finish!!!
Thanks to all of you for your Support!!! Show up and Suffer!!!