39th Donner Lake Triathlon – July 20 & 21, 2019

Donner Lake Aquabike Race Report 2018

DLT Half Aquabike Race Report from BBA Ambassador
Jonalyn Forman

This race was my first aquabike race ever AND my first race back post hip surgery. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but overall felt prepared. Boy, was I wrong!

I showed up early for packet pickup and hoping to get a good spot in transition. After setting up my transition, I headed out to the lake to warm up pre-race as I waited for the briefing. I remember looking off into the distance at a buoy that seemed FOREVER away and thinking, “They’ll be moving that in. That’s too far away.” Nope. That buoy was our first turn in the 1.2 mile swim. Directly across the lake was another buoy that also seemed way too far. I must just be really bad at judging distance especially when your destination points seem like little floating yellow tennis balls from your vantage point.

As I started the swim, my main goal was to stay as relaxed and steady as possible and to sight well. There was a bit of a glare, and it was kind of hard to locate that floating tennis ball. I hoped that the swimmers in front of me knew where they were going and got onto the heels of one who thankfully led me fairly straight to our first turn. It was easier to sight the 2nd buoy in the distance, but again I depended on those in front of me to lead the way. I rounded that 2nd buoy and headed to shore thrilled to be on the final leg of my first ever 1.2 mile swim in a race. My one complaint about the swim – sighting. I wish there had been more buoys to guide us. Maybe even just one more midway between each of the turn buoys to help keep us on track. Even though I did end up swimming an additional 260 yards (yikes), I pulled out a respectable time of 37:34.

As I exited the water – I stumbled to regain my land legs and ran off into transition. I stripped off my wet suit, suited up in my cycling gear, grabbed my bike and headed out for my 56 mile ride. The run out from transition was tough! Slogging through deep sand to the road proved to be more difficult than the athletes I had cheered on the day prior in the sprint made it look. After mounting the bike, I immediately started my first ascent of the day – 3.61 miles up to Donner Summit gaining 1078 feet. Yikes! It was tough. Not even gonna lie. BUT then I got to enjoy 12 miles of beautiful rolling downhill which temporarily took my mind off things . . . . until I saw the cyclists who had already passed the turn around and were headed back up! Fortunately – the 12 miles I knew I had to ascend (twice) was a much milder grade and a gain of about 1385 feet. I passed a friend on the course as I neared my turn around to go back down the hill and shouted “This is stupid” as I passed her. We laughed. I think hers was genuine. Mine, not so much. Even though I grumbled about the elevation gain, I was really still doing pretty well. On my way back down, I managed to get back up to a nearly 16 mph average on the ride, but the smoke had started to roll in and the day was getting hotter by the minute. And then, I made the turn for my final 12 mile ascent. About 3 miles into that, my legs no longer wanted to turn over, my core was killing me, my quads were on fire! The smoke was making it difficult to breathe. I quit about 20 times in my head on that final hill. I kept talking myself into “just making it to the next rise” or “you can make it to that flat section”. Reaching that final peak was the most glorious thing ever! I LOVE bombing down hills, and, while this was a seriously switch-backy and steep descent, I had an absolute BLAST at over 40 mph. Reaching the bottom of the hill, I dismounted, slogged my way back through the sandy path and crossed into transition – 100% beat and 100% proud of my effort.

I’d love to say I had some amazing sprint to the finish. I did not. As far as races go, aquabikes are apparently anticlimactic that way. You cross into transition, and your race is over. I will freely admit that at that very minute, that was OK by me. It truly was all I could do to rack my bike, slump to the ground and start to dissect the race in my head. LOL – isn’t that how we work?

If I ever plan a return to conquer that Donner Lake Tri ride, I will need to get much more training on hills. While this race didn’t defeat me, it did give me a good kick in the pants, AND a really good confidence boost going into yet another Big Blue Adventure Lake Tahoe Half Distance Aquabike race in a few weeks. Bring it on!

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