Summer in Tahoe is a time for playing, be it mountain biking, hiking, boating, or just soaking in the views with a large drink in hand. For competitive types it’s also become a pretty full race season. From July through September, masochists of all flavors can push themselves in running races, bike races, triathlons and open water swims. While I enjoy a variety of sports that lend themselves to such events, I’ve never participated in any of them (save the Kokanee 10K, but that’s a fun trail run that attracts more locals than elite athletes). So I’ll preface the snark with the disclaimer that yes, I’ve considered entering a local triathlon once, many years ago. However, my lack of a wetsuit (Tahoe’s water averages 55 degrees, and most competitors wear them) and the price tag of obtaining one were prohibitive enough to encourage me to challenge myself in other ways. Like doing 40 some odd mile mountain bike rides, for example.
That said, I admire those that put in the time, effort and money towards competition. Kudos to you, and don’t mind my smart-ass comments from the sidelines.
The summer kicks off with America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride(AMBBR). Admittedly not a race, this ride is an opportunity to see masses of humanity fulfill their Team in Training pledges, and in many cases wobble their way around the lake, usually while sporting stuffed animals or other spiritual talismans on the helmets.
From there on it’s a blur of options. Enjoy running while hallucinating, or looking to drop some weight quickly? Then you’d love the Western States 100 , a 100 mile race that begins near Squaw Valley.
If you’d rather share the pain with friends or loved ones, there are two relays, one around Lake Tahoe, and the much longer Reno-Tahoe Odyssey (RTO) clocking in at 178 miles . Both road races include the potential for blisters, recurring knee issues and great memories.
July ushers in more races than you can shake a cramped calf at. Like to run long distances on dirt trails while enjoying spectacular views and you missed entering Western States? The Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance races include options beginning at 50K and going up to 100 miles.
Roadies who love punishment know the Death Ride, aka Tour of the Californian Alps, is a must do. With 5 passes, over 100 miles of riding and 15K worth of vertical, it’s truly for the craziest/hardiest of the spandex wearers. While not technically held in the Tahoe basin, its close enough to be considered a local race.
There’s also the first in a series of 3 triathlons, this one at Tahoe City. If you love the excitement of the transition area, there’s also the Donner Lake triathlon and the Xterra Lake Tahoe tri (which includes a mountain bike section on the famed Flume trail).
For the aquaphiles, Tahoe does have two open water swims. The Trans Tahoe Relay is for the hard core only, a USMS event that prohibits wetsuits. Did I mention that lake temps average 55 degrees in the summer? The inaugural Lake Tahoe open water swim is this Sunday, with distances ranging from ½ – 2 miles. Wearing a wetsuit to this event means you’ll be warmer than your competitors, but you won’t be eligible to win any prizes. Nearby Donner Lake is also home to an open water swim this Saturday – same wetsuit rules, different lake.
Runners looking for a different type of race really should check out Squaw’s 30th annual Mountain Run, a sprint distance 3.6 mile run that includes 2K in elevation gain. I hear running uphill is less bad for your knees…
Assuming you’re not exhausted by the time September rolls around, there are yet more races to be entered, and more race shwag to collect. The new AFLAC Irongirl triathlon will be held in South Lake Tahoe, providing the distraction of casino entertainment at the transition zones. (Disclaimer: I’m a volunteer at this event. But I’ll try not to heckle you if you’re competing.)
If you miss riding in AMBBR in June, don’t fret – there’s a reprise in September. Dubbed the Tour de Tahoe, this is a nearly identical ride, designed to address the ride’s popularity. To me it’s always seemed a bit less of a shit show than AMBBR. But I’m talking as a driver trying to avoid hitting a wayward cyclist, as opposed to being an actual participant.
Finally, Lake Tahoe Marathon Week rounds out the summer, with 5 days of endurance races. Beyond the classic marathon, there’s a 72 mile race, a triathlon, relays, speed golf, a kayak race, a fun run, and for the ones still standing, the Super Tahoe Triple.
So what are you waiting for? There’s still time to train and enter some of these events. After all, since I’m not competing, you have a pretty good chance.