Sunday’s race is the fourth Ironman for Cody Ross, 40, who has an M Dot tattoo — worn by competitors who finish an Ironman race — on his leg as a mark of his accomplishments and a reminder of the challenges ahead.
“It’s a painful addiction to test yourself. I ask myself some days, Why do I do this?” Ross said. “I have two kids, and I want them to see that I am busy and if you really want something, you have to work for it.”
Ross will be joined on the Tahoe course by fellow Tracy residents Chad Wood and Jamie Ulloa. Eldred Fountain and Ron Harvey, both of Tracy, are also among the registered racers.
The Ironman is a 140.6-mile triathlon. It begins with a 2.4-mile swim, followed by a 112-mile bike race, and concludes with a full marathon, 26.2 miles.
Competitors begin at 7 a.m. and have until a second before midnight to finish the course or be disqualified.
The inaugural Ironman Lake Tahoe — the first full-distance Ironman event in California since 2001 — will send the swimmers into Lake Tahoe at the Kings Beach State Recreation Area. When they emerge, they will bike a circuit of 21/3 laps, including a trip up to the 7,200-foot Brockway Summit. The race ends with the run looping twice along the Truckee River bike path from Squaw Valley to Tahoe City.
Race organizers said about 2,700 athletes are signed up to participate.
Ulloa, 43, has been training for the race — her first full Ironman competition — since January.
“It’s the ultimate challenge,” she said. “When I first thought about this, I wondered, Will I finish this?”
Ulloa also said the race is inspirational for her family. She said her children often join her for training rides or laps in the pool.
She has competed in several half-Ironman races — 70.3 miles each — and a marathon to get ready for Sunday’s competition.
“It gave me a goal to work for. When you find something you really enjoy, you don’t have to do the training, you want to do it,” Ulloa said. “I look forward to every single day and the training — you have to find your passion.”
Ulloa spends as much as 16 hours a week training, putting in time on the treadmill, swimming laps and taking long bike rides. The owners of Eagal Lakes east of Tracy also offered the local athletes access to their manmade water ski course to practice open-water swimming.
Wood, 40, has been training for about a year for his second Ironman race. He acknowledges that there are many hard moments ahead but said he enjoys the calm he feels on the course.
“It’s a personal challenge, dealing with monologue in my head,” Wood said. “You feel the stress melt away — each mile you go, it falls away.”
He said it’s worth the 15 hours he spends training a week.
“It’s a life change. Once you do it, you have a healthier lifestyle,” Wood said. “The whole process of getting there makes you a better person.”
Ironman competitors race against the clock, but competition with other racers does come into play along the course.
Wood said he expects to encounter racers who have stopped or dropped out along the course and have to stay focused on moving on.
Ross, the three-time Ironman, said there are times when doubt creeps into a racer’s mind along with pain and fatigue.
“The mental part — the mental battles are the hardest part,” he said. “It’s an individual sport, but then there is always competition. It’s truly about what you can do and what you can shut your mind down and do.”
Ulloa said she expected Tahoe’s altitude — about 6,225 feet at lake level — to be a factor, but not the hardest part of the race.
“It’s altitude versus attitude. The race is 90 percent mental. If you don’t have your mental game ready, you won’t do well,” she said. “There are times when your mind is running 100 miles an hour and you just say, Shut up.”
Family and friends can monitor each racer’s progress electronically on the race website, www.ironman.com/triathlon/events/americas/ironman/lake-tahoe.
• Contact Glenn Moore at 835-4252 or email@example.com.