Lake Tahoe 2.4 Mile Open Water Swim Results!

On August 24, 2019, I competed in the Lake Tahoe 2.4 mile open water swim and finished as the top overall woman in the event!

Race Venue

Getting ready before the Lake Tahoe 2.4 Mile Open Water Swim on August 24, 2019.
Photo Credit: Dennis Bonilla

The race, put on by Big Blue Adventures, took place at the Ed Z’berg Sugar Pine Point State Park in Lake Tahoe, California. During the same weekend, the Lake Tahoe Triathlon was taking place. The location was perfect for this type of race because it provided plenty of shade for the athletes with plenty of viewing area for the spectators. Besides being a great race venue, it is a stunningly beautiful place with tall pines, green grass, with the water glistening light beams through the trees.

The swim start was slightly up the lake with a nice gradual decline into the water. The beach was a cross between sand and larger rocks making it a bit tough on the feet, but something you get used to after a few minutes. The water temperature was reading 69°F which wasn’t too cold, especially for those of us wearing wetsuits. Many athletes chose to do the race without a wetsuit and I applaud them for their bravery. I am not quite ready for that, but in retrospect didn’t think the water was that cold. Maybe next time.

The race course was in a trapezoid shape with large yellow cylindrical buoys marking each turn point. The swim start was straight west from the first set of buoys, took us out past the first buoy, a right turn at the second buoy, then parallel to the coast to a right turn at the third buoy, and back to the first buoy for a second lap around. Once we made it around the 4th buoy the second time, we swam at a diagonal in to the finish line just south of where the start took place. To finish, we had to run out of the water and cross the timers to stop the clock.

Course Map

The 2.4 mile open water swim course is the light green which has the second loop occurring around the trapezoid shape.


Race Recap

The open water races and the sprint triathlon races all took place on Saturday, August 24, 2019 and the weather was spectacular! The temperature was around 60°F in the morning and rose up to 80°F by mid-day. The skies were bright blue, the water was crystal clear (and not too cold) and we couldn’t have had a better setup for the race.

The sprint triathlon races started first, then we had the race briefings for the open water events. The half mile distance was sent off, then unfortunately, a tragic event occurred right as we were getting ready to go. I speak more about that at the end of this post.

Loop One

I knew going into the race that I needed to get up in front of the group because I always perform better if I am in a leading position. I gave it a good push past the first buoy until I rounded the second buoy. I then calmed my breath, kept a good rhythm and tried to keep my sight on the far buoy. The distance between the second and third buoys was quite far and I would frequently lose sight of it and have to recalibrate. I passed a few people on the long stretch and right as I approached the third buoy. I noticed the few people that were ahead of me started to pull away on the long stretch back for the second loop.

Loop Two

As I looped around the second time, I started to swim harder knowing I didn’t have that much more to go. As I swam along, I was having a really hard time sighting the third buoy. All of the safety support kayaks were in between my line of sight and the buoy and were the exact same color yellow. After half of the distance back, I realized I had been sighting off of the 4th buoy and not the third and had to cut back in the right direction. That added a significant amount of distance to the race. As I came around the 4th buoy, I turned on my legs (aka. my propeller) and sprint as hard as I could into the finish. One thing that threw me off right at the end was a guy I had been swimming beside the entire time headed to another buoy and not toward the finish line. I doubted my direction for a second and decided to just stick to my gut and head to shore. Thankfully I was correct. The guy came over to me afterwards and we laughed about our general sighting issues the whole race.

As I ran out of the water to cross the finish line, my husband and puppy were there cheering me on. Such a nice thing to have people you love there at the end of a tough race. Shockingly I wasn’t as tired as I typically am after other races. This is OK because it means I have much more room for improvement.

Biggest Lesson Learned?

Don’t wear a necklace under your wetsuit… OUCH!

Race Results

Lake Tahoe 2.4 Mile Open Water Swim Race Results Sheet
The full race results can be found on the Race Roster website.

After getting out of the water, I was looking around to see other people wearing the yellow caps for our distance. I saw a few, but they were all men and I wasn’t sure if they were leftover triathletes hanging around the finish line. I knew I had done well, but had no clue where I stood in the full list of competitors. We decided to hang around for the awards ceremony to see if I made it into the top 3 in my age group, which was a goal of mine going into the race.

To my surprise, I finished first place overall female in the 2.4 mile distance wetsuit category and first place in my age group (30-39 years old). My finish time was 1:07:06 and I am very pleased with the results. I know I have lots of room for improvement and am setting a new personal goal to break that 1 hour barrier. Overall it was a spectacular race and I definitely want to return for next year.


I want to give a shout out to my triathlon team, Racelab, for the training plans leading up to this race and for being an all-round awesome group of people. Head coach, Bettina Warnholtz, is an incredibly knowledgable and versatile triathlon coach working with athletes across all spectrums of experience and sport preference. Her training plans are based on scientific research and 20+ years of personal experience in the field. She cultivates a team of passionate, caring, and hard working athletes who all support each other while we strive to push ourselves to our limits. I am thankful to have found a team that helps keep me working hard toward my goals and is a hell of a lot of fun!

If you have been thinking about joining a triathlon training team (remote or Phoenix area local), Racelab is legit and I couldn’t recommend them more. All experience levels are welcome, so let me know if you need an introduction.

Now the sad news

As we were getting ready to start the race, we heard people yelling “MEDIC MEDIC!” We look over and see a water rescue jet ski pulling a swimmer back to shore as another was doing CPR on them. We all watched in horror hoping the person would revive soon. They told us to hang tight as the situation unfolded. My stomach dropped. 10, 20, 30 minutes had gone by and they were still doing CPR. From my years of CPR training, I knew this was not good.

The thing next I saw was the EMS crew getting them off the shore and into an ambulance. All I could hope for was that they were ok and EMS was able to revive them. They started our race 40 min later than scheduled, but they did get us underway.

After the race, I learned that my husband was unfortunately standing right next to it all unfold. That is a hard thing to see and I’m sorry he had to witness it. He said the ambulance was still there an hour later, so the end result could not have been good.

I haven’t found a race organizer statement about the situation yet, but I’m sure we’ll hear something soon about it.

Just another reminder of how precious life is and to love and appreciate those around you. ❤️

Featured Photo Credit: Lake Tahoe Oper Water Swim / Lefrak Photography

About the author

Erin Bonilla

I am a curriculum developer, technical trainer, communicator, and adventurer with a passion for human space exploration and training. I am actively involved in science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (STEAM) educational outreach efforts and advocate for the deep connection between the arts and science education.

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