The Toughest Race in the Most Beautiful Place

My first Tri of 2010, usually by July I have got a good couple of races under my belt but this year is different.  Completing Ironman Arizona last year in late November followed by a training break thru the Holidays gave me a late start to training for the 2010 season.  Then earlier in the year I spent more time than normal Mountain Bike Racing, so hello transition area, hello wetsuit….it’s been a while.

I chose the June Lake triathlon for a change of pace.  For the last two years I have done the Vineman 70.3 up in Sonoma in mid July, so this year I fancied something different, and with June Lake I got it!  Billed as “the toughest race in the most beautiful place”.  Crystal clear lake water, surrounded by pine trees, with snow capped mountains and cascading waterfalls as a backdrop…this was going to be fun.

Race morning, got to the transition area with just over an hour to spare.  The vibe was very mellow and easy going, plenty of room for set up, not too crowded and everyone just hanging listening to music or chatting to each other.  None of the focused intensity and seriousness of the big Ironman races.

After a quick warm up in the water, (a lake fed by snow melt at elevation is a little cooler than the local lap pool!), the gun goes off and in one wave all the men for the Olympic distance go off together.  With about 200 participants there was plenty of room with none of the washing machine turbulence of bigger races, I quickly find clean water and settle in.  I had expected some breathing problems with the altitude so started a little slower, but with no apparent distress started slowly building my pace.  Loved the swim, it felt quick, the water was sparkling clear and fresh, and I was out, up the beach and quickly onto my bike.

The bike route was the June Lake loop, which was awesome, a little hilly and a little twisty but nothing too difficult.  The biggest challenge was staying focused on my effort and pushing hard.  I often caught myself looking around at the Lakes, the Mountains, the general scenery and getting distracted. Stop it.  Keep pushing, keep pedaling.  Well yea…but I did enjoy the views too.

The Run!  Hahahaha!  We had been warned.  I had been told about it.  It was duly noted on the course profile on the website.  A steep climb at about mile 2.5, with a steep descent at about mile 4, how bad can it be?  Get to the hill, head down and attack it for half a mile then flat and downhill all the way to the finish. Piece of cake.

So what the course profile doesn’t show.

Beach deep sand and major hands on knees rock steps going up, not to mention the elevation. Attack the hill!  No way.  Beg it for forgiveness.  Promise it you will never cheat on another hill repeat workout if you could just get to the top.  That’s more like it.

Anyway, I get to the top to be rewarded with 1.5 miles of awesome single track, slightly rolling hills trail running. Distant figures ahead of and behind me but feels like I have the whole place to myself.  Loving it.  Then I come to the sign.  A cartoon graphic of a person falling off a cliff and a kindly volunteer warning me of a steep descent.  Really?  Surely the sign is an exaggeration.  Something to keep the insurance company happy.  That is until I start the controlled fall that is the descent.  Jumping off rocks, scrambling through loose rock and generally right on the edge of my pace exceeding my leg turnover.  So so much fun!!!  Over too soon.  Onto the flat trails, couple of miles to the finish line and a really cool hand crafted finishers medal.

Overall, my fastest swim split for an Olympic distance Tri, second fastest bike split and a 10K so slow I think it was closer to my half marathon PR than my 10k PR.  Loved it.  Highly recommend it.  “Toughest race in the most beautiful place?”  Absolutely.

Plotting a return next year with some like minded crazies for maybe a couple of days of heavy duty training in Mammoth topped off by the race and another very slow 10k run split.  You in?

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About markturner3501
Chief Strategy Officer SaatchiLA

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