Ironman Tahoe - September 2013

Reviewed by - Paco Velo

Ironman Tahoe is part of the world wide WTC Ironman races series.  The 2013 edition was the first year for this race.   See the IM Tahoe Photo Gallery!


The 2.4 mile two loop swim takes place at Kings Beach on the north end of Lake Tahoe.  The beach is fairly wide and well maintained.  There are pavilion areas and amply bathrooms except on Ironman race day.  To say that Lake Tahoe is beautiful is an understatement.  Water is crystal clear at least 20 feet deep.  There are really no lake weed issues.  And the water is a super cool blue color that actually changes as the lake gets deeper.  If there are winds, the lake can get pretty choppy, but if the winds are down it can also be smooth as glass!!  The only real negative is that the water can be pretty cold.  On race day we were in the 58-61 degree range, however since air tems at race start were only 28 degrees the water felt warm.


Amazing in all sorts of ways.  The start of the bike takes you along the lake for about 11 miles.  It is a series of rollers and false flats.  This is probably the 2nd easiest part of the course with only one moderate climb.  The next section is anothe 11-13 miles of general flats with an overall slight descent.  This is the ONLY break you will get on this course - use it well.  As you come up to the town of Trukee you turn and have a short, fun section in town with lots of fan support.  Quick left turn and into the forst serious climb.  Its short, maybe 3 miles of ups and downs but steep - probably top out in the 18% grade area.  The next 25+ miles are the mountains - and I mean REAL mountains, not like anything in OH.  Two big climbs.  The first is a stair step climb with about 1300 feet gained with grades between 4% - 16%.  Once you come down you go RIGHT into the second big climb - a steady state 1700 footer that averages 4% - 8%.  Descent and start for loop 2.  This is actually a 2 1/2 loop course, and the total gain is about 7500 feet.  Serious climbing nothing like what we have here in OH.  Bike course is BEAUTIFUL beyond word.


Again beautiful country to run in.  Course is predominantly on a mulit-use path that leaves Squa Valley resort and then takes you along the Trukee river.  The course profile will show this to be a fairly flat run which is slightly diseaving. While there are only a couple moderate sized hills, the entire fun is comprised of small rollers until you get to the section along the river which is a false flat up then down.


This is a fantastic race, but it is also by far the hardest IM course in N. America, with above a 30% DNF rate in 2013  The bike in particular is very very challenging.  Some things to consider - 1.  The race is at altitude - basically between 6000 to 7400 feet.  That will put a hurt on low landers like us.  2.  Weather - it can be very cold.  Even on a good year I can't imaging the temps getting above mid 70s and only for a short part of the day.  Once the sun goes down expect to race in the upper 40s on a 'warm' year.  3.  Swim will be in cold water, bike will be the hilliest you have ever done and the run will not be horrible hard but more challenging than most.  However, it is a very well run IM, the community is supportive, and Squa/Lake Tahoe area has no problems at all dealing with the crowds.  Hotels were affordable and no problems finding things to do and places to eat.  This is a must do event for the hard core.