Donner Lake Triathalon – 2003

by on May 13, 2013 at 8:39 pm

Summary Result

My first competitive swim event, first competitive bike event and first triathalon - I finished 17th in my division (only 32 people in the division), 106 overall (out of 313). Most of the true athletes ran the Olympic distance tri the next day.


This was my first time in a wetsuit, my first open water swim and my first competitive swim. I immediately began wishing that I had practiced this before. The ¼-mile swim went by pretty quickly, although I kept stopping to make sure I was going the right direction… I usually wasn’t - I think my drunken stumbles are straighter than my meandering swimming. I actually was in the top half of the finishers (13 in my division). I’m kind of stunned that I wasn’t dead last, although all I knew when I stepped out of the water was that the other corks were still floating.

Apparently they were blasting music in the transition area. I was completely oblivious to the music. I changed pretty quickly and discovered that Nadim’s helmet was too small for my head. I twisted it on and ignored the pain.


A few weeks ago, I was considering running the full Olympic tri, but decided against it after finding this on the web: . Basically, the Olympic tri involes a huge vertical ascent. Sumit can vouch for my poor bike hill conditioning and non-existent training. I thought it was best to avoid this hill after hearing about the horrors of the WildFlower tri hills.

Unfortunately, I didn’t do very thorough research. As it turns out, the Sprint focuses exclusively on the hill. It consists purely of a 1000’ climb up the hill, and then a hopefully quick descent down.

This was also my first time using those clip-on shoes for bikes and I found out they took a bit of getting used to. As I was leaving the transition area, my foot fell off the pedal before I clipped in. Since my other foot was already clipped in (and pedaling), the pedal whipped around and whacked me in the shin. It drew blood, but also stopped me from feeling the pain of Nadim’s small helmet on my head.

My lungs burned all the way up. I almost stopped and yakked when I was about half way up. I had no sense of distance, so I had no idea I was making progress. All I knew was that the climb seemed to go on forever. I was passed by a bunch of people, and I actually passed some people as well. One guy passed me, had a flat tire and then passed me again. If I were him, I would have taunted me.

We turned around at a bridge that overlooked the lake. My vision was a bit blurry. The trip down was really steep. I pretty much rode the brakes all the way. I figured that Nadim would rather replace his brake pads than repair a crumpled frame. I think everyone that I passed on the way up passed me on the way down. A fat guy zipped buy me at the end, shouting obnoxiously ‘On the Left’.

The bike ride clearly made or broke this event. I finished 23 rd in the division, 164 overall. I was pretty relieved to finally get off the bike. This time, the pedal missed my shin and whacked my ankle instead - blood continued to trickle into my sock. My head still hurt.

We drove the hill later in the day to give Nadim a bit of prep for his tri. The views were amazing, and the scenery beautiful. I was quite bitter to find out that we turned around ¼ mile from the summit (200’ vertical). Seriously, why bike up to the top of the mountain, but stop before the peak. So much for my sense of accomplishment. What a bunch of bastards.


The run was too short - only 2 miles. It took me the first mile to get used to running instead of biking. I was able to stride out on the second mile, but definitely could have run farther and faster. Slight hills, nothing much to note.

As it turns out, I finished 6 th in my division and 26 overall. (the fifth place guy ran the exact same time, so it kind of stings that I didn’t beat him). My pace was 7:07 , which is painfully close to sub-7mins and a lot slower than I would have expected. If I had worn a watch, I probably could have pushed myself to at least break that barrier.


I recovered surprisingly well after the race, and ran the 10K the next day. This gave me the opportunity to really discern the impact that altitude had on my performance. I ran it in 45:23, which equates to 7:18 miles (6 th in my division, 31/173 overall). My lungs burned through the whole race and it felt like I ran much, much faster.

One of the race organizers said that the altitude has a 2-3 min impact on run times. In search of something more scientific, I tried poking around online to quantify the impact that altitude has on run performance. Google failed me here, although I did find pseudo-scientific estimates that ranged from 6 to 15% performance decrease. This sort of ties with the guesstimate from the organizer, but I still would like something a little more concrete.

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