Ironman Lake Tahoe · Toughest in North America

By Tim Hauserman




Ironman Village

Sept. 17-19 | 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Sept. 20 | 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Village at Squaw Valley


IronKids Fun Run

Sept. 19 | 9 a.m.
Village at Squaw Valley


Ironman Awards

Sept. 21 | 10 a.m.
Village at Squaw Valley




Thousands of athletes will once again be tested in the Ironman Lake Tahoe competition on Sept. 20. After last year’s cancellation due to heavy smoke from the devastating Rim Fire, athletes are chomping at the bit to get on the course.

In the wee hours of the morning, they will plunge into the chilly waters of Lake Tahoe at Kings Beach. After a not-so-leisurely, 2.4-mile swim, they will emerge into the colder-than-the-water air and quickly transition to a bike, where the pain really begins. The 112-mile bike ride, which twice makes the grueling climb over Brockway Summit is what gives this Ironman its reputation as the toughest in North America. When the ride finally ends in Olympic Valley, the racers switch to running a marathon, traveling back and forth from Olympic Valley to Tahoe City along the Truckee River corridor, to a grand finale finish in the Village at Squaw Valley.

This year, the race comes with a new twist: A 70.3-mile version or Half Ironman. It will be conducted at the same time and on the same course as the full Ironman.

“Hosting an Ironman and Ironman 70.3 on the same day in Lake Tahoe adds excitement to the event this year. This is the first time we are hosting two events on the same day in North America. Tahoe represents the perfect venue for this format as the mountains provide a true challenge to the Ironman athletes and the 70.3 event increases the accessibility to a broader range of participants. This format allows friends and family with different goals and fitness levels to participate together,” said Ironman operations manager Keats McConigal.


Fun time for spectators
While the event is a enormous challenge for the participants, it can be a fun day for spectators and volunteers to enjoy the amazing perseverance of the athletes. The long course covers the entire North Tahoe-Truckee region, providing plenty of great locations to enjoy the spectacle. Perhaps the best strategy is to find a place close to your home, since if you must drive on the day of the Lake Tahoe Ironman be aware that a number of road closures, delays and detours will be in place.

If you live in Kings Beach, get up early and come watch the hordes of swimmers churn their way through Lake Tahoe, then emerge for a run for a quick transition to the bikes. Tahoe City is a great place to watch the riders roar through town, then later catch them up close and at a slower pace as they run along the Truckee River Bike Trail. The Village at Squaw Valley is both the transition zone for biking to running, as well as the place to see the grand finale.

The bike route through Truckee and Martis Valley has changed this year, creating several new locations to watch the ride. The racers come through downtown Truckee then head out to Glenshire before returning on the narrow Truckee River Legacy Trail to Highway 267.

Another spot that would be interesting to watch would be the top of Brockway Summit. This steep climb is not only the crux of the ride for the racers, but also an opportunity for spectators to see the riders at a slow pace.

In addition to being a fun and challenging event for those who participate, Ironman Lake Tahoe has a huge economic impact on the region. The North Tahoe Resort Association estimated a $10 million economic boost to the area during the event’s first year. The benefit comes not only from the large number of racers who are in town race weekend, renting homes and hotel rooms and eating out at restaurants, but the fact that many racers come here throughout the summer to train. And while long bike rides and swimming in cold water are certainly part of that training, many are also having a great time at Lake Tahoe.

Lend a hand
Watching the event is certainly a great experience, but why not be one of the thousands of volunteers who give their time and energy to make the effort a success? Whether you are handing out water bottles, directing traffic or helping frozen swimmers transition to their bikes, you can really feel like you are an integral part of the experience. Volunteers are organized by nonprofit organizations that receive financial rewards from the Ironman organization. For more information, visit the Web site.

For those of us watching the event, Ironman Lake Tahoe is a great spectacle. For most of the athletes, however, it is the final culmination of years of training and planning, and the accomplishment of a dream. Come out and cheer them on.

IronKids Fun Run
The IronKids fun run offers young athletes the opportunity to feel the excitement of competition while enjoying the outdoors and promoting healthy living. IronKids takes place on Sept. 19 at 9 a.m. in the Village at Squaw Valley with categories for ages 3 to 15 years. The Fun Run includes quarter-mile and 1-mile courses. The cost is $15 per child. For more information, visit



The Swim


The Swim | 2.4 miles

Start 6:30 a.m. | Kings Beach State Recreation Area

Cutoff time | 2 hours 20 minutes after last athlete starts

The Ironman course begins with a 2.4-mile swim in Lake Tahoe from the Kings Beach State Recreation Area. When the racers emerge from the chilly water (averaging between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit), they will transition to the bikes on the beach and begin the ride.



The Bike



The Bike | 112 miles

Start 7:30-9:30 a.m. | Kings Beach State Recreation Area

Finish | Village at Squaw Valley

Course 21/3 loops
Kings Beach to Tahoe City to Truckee and back

Cutoff time | 5:30 p.m.


Racers head to Tahoe City on Highway 28 detouring around downtown along the backside of Tahoe City, and turn on to Highway 89 north following the Truckee River into Truckee.

Here the course heads down West River Street along the Truckee River and turning at McIver Crossing to head through downtown Truckee before turning onto Glenshire Drive. The course turns back along the Truckee River on the Truckee River Legacy Trail through Truckee River Regional Park before heading onto Brockway Road and to Highway 267 for the grueling climb to the top of Brockway Summit at 7,200 feet.

Next up is the thrilling downhill into Kings Beach, followed by a second complete lap back around to Kings Beach, followed by one more leg from Kings Beach through Tahoe City to begin the run in Olympic Valley.


The Run


The Run | 26.2 Miles

Start Noon | Village at Squaw Valley

Finish | Village at Squaw Valley

Truckee River Trail | Squaw Valley to Tahoe City

2:30-3 p.m. | Top finishers complete Ironman

Cutoff time | Midnight


From the transition in Olympic Valley, the runners head toward Tahoe City on the Truckee River bike path for a relatively flat run. At the bike bridge just before entering Tahoe City, runners turn around and run back to Olympic Valley. The second lap heads back along the bike trail with the turnaround before Alpine Meadows Road for the final push to the finish in the Village at Squaw Valley.


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