In this year’s inaugural Lake Tahoe IRONMAN, Kara LaPoint, a Truckee native and North Tahoe High School Nordic ski coach (and Moonshine Ink contributor), had her best race ever, winning the amateur division of the 140-mile triathlon. Based on her time in the Tahoe IRONMAN, LaPoint qualified for her professional triathlon license and in November made the decision to turn pro.
LaPoint’s winning amateur time of 11 hours and three minutes was only an hour and change behind the winning pro woman’s time, but about two hours faster then the next Tahoe woman to cross the finish line. Only the top three overall amateur finishers are invited to become pro triathletes.
The Tahoe event was considered to be the most difficult of all the IRONMANs, with competitors entering the water in freezing temperatures and then climbing the almost 1,000-foot elevation gain over Brockway Summit, twice. While LaPoint said the Tahoe IRONMAN was one of the most challenging events she’s ever done, she was buoyed by the sound of friends cheering her on.
“It made a huge impact, seeing all the support out there and feeling all the positive energy from the people I knew and community members I didn’t know,” she said. “It gives you the energy boost that you need. It was kind of a treat.”
LaPoint has always enjoyed challenging herself. The 27-year-old began competitive swimming when she was 8, and in both high school and college she competed in cross-country skiing, including six trips to the Junior Olympics where she placed in the top 10 in her age division five times. During the off-season, she trained for skiing by road biking, swimming, and running, and ran for the University of Nevada, Reno track team. But she credits the Tahoe/Truckee Nordic skiing community with helping her become a pro athlete. “They are what instilled my passion for sport,” she said.
After college, LaPoint began looking for a new athletic adventure, and in 2009 she decided to try triathlons. “On a whim,” she said. “I absolutely loved it.” In less than a year she moved from short distances to IRONMAN-length events (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and 26.2-mile run), as well as competing in the off-road Xterra triathlon (1-mile rough water swim, 18.89-mile mountain bike, 5.9-mile trail run). In the Xterra World Championship in Maui in October, LaPoint took first place in her age division.
Perhaps the toughest part of being a pro triathlete is making it work financially. The costs of traveling and entry fees to these events are high, and the time commitment necessary for training makes holding down a full-time job impossible. Thus, pros must find sponsors. One of LaPoint’s main sponsors has been LUNA Chix, as well as Paco’s Bike and Ski and Alpenglow Sports.
For now, LaPoint makes it work by piecing together a series of part-time jobs that are flexible for her training hours and the 15 triathlons she competes in each year. She does public relations work, reps for several athletic gear companies, and is a freelance writer (see her article on the previous page). And she coaches North Tahoe High School’s cross-country ski program. Last year, the NTHS boys team won the state championship before becoming the highest scoring high school team in the nation at the Junior Nationals.
Whether she is cajoling a high school kid to ski another lap or racing over Brockway Summit, LaPoint always enjoys herself. “I’m having a blast. I love to train,” she said. “It really is fun for me. If I had a choice, I would do it every day.”
Tim Hauserman works at the Tahoe Cross Country ski area.
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