January 01, 2019 -
Race report: Ironman 70.3 Indian Wells La Quinta
I didn’t know what to expect for a destination long distance race, but was itching for a challenge. Being a tri-newbie, I needed the extra time to prepare, so I chose one of the very last races of the year. I grew up a couple hours away in Los Angeles (possibility of parents coming down for the race), and I knew a couple people from CTC who also signed up.
Palm Springs is beautiful, with gorgeous snow capped mountains, crisp cool mornings, and bright sunny days, an oasis in the middle of the desert. It’s always been a golf destination, and now a race destination!
I have no preconceived notions about how an Ironman race is structured, I read and re-read the athlete’s manual trying to put the different procedures in order. There are two separate transition locations 11 miles apart. There is one approved athlete parking at T2 where we finished our race. After packet pick up and athlete briefing Friday, we returned Saturday (after we picked up the bike from TBT at T2, and did a quick ride to check our bikes) at T1 for wetsuit decontamination, drop off of the wetsuit AND the bike gear (flexibility w bike gear since we have access to the bag the morning of the race). Then we had to go to T2 to drop off the run gear, and finish our pool swim since no athletes had access to Lake Cahuilla for OWS until the morning of the race for fear of invasive mussel contamination. Truly, without an experienced athlete-Sherpa with me, like Mark Stopa, I would have been totally lost. Mark correctly diagnosed that I had severely underpacked for this race. I had no shoes to wear once I dropped off my running shoes in my run bag. He remedied this by taking me shopping at IM tent (no appropriate shoes but I did pick up a race shirt and shorts), Walmart where he tried to talk me into purchasing a pink bunny suit a-la Christmas Story, then to Dick’s across town to pick up some cute kicks for me.
Morning of the race, external temperature was in the high 40’s. We parked at T2 and got bused to T1. Due to traffic, it seemed to take forever. We arrived, got body marked, dressed in our wetsuits, put our nutrition on the bikes (had to leave everything in the bike bag—couldn’t set up regular transition), put our morning clothes and shoes in a bag (later to be delivered to T2 except for Mark’s bag not yet recovered) and waited for the race to begin. It was a self seeded rolling start on a beach, which did progress smoothly once the race began. Did I mention that the water temperature was 57 degrees? Even w neoprene cap, booties, long sleeved wetsuit and thermal blanket under my tri-suit, the freezing water hit my face and took my breath away. Fortunately, it didn’t take long to numb and acclimate to the temperature. First 1/3 of the swim was facing west with no problems sighting the buoy. The latter 2/3, we were facing east making sighting difficult for this inexperienced swimmer. The swimmers also seemed bunched up in the latter half and I found myself kicked and on top of other athletes. I wasn’t sure I could even finish the cold swim, but now I am disappointed w my time ??!
The exit chute was no problem. I located my bike bag, and found a location to self-shuck the wetsuit and prepare to ride my bike. I was in such a rush, that I said NO when my bike computer wanted to calibrate my power pedals. I don’t know if this is why I was getting spotty cadence and no power data for the race, but a total race failure from data observing-gathering standpoint. Luckily my heart rate strap came through the entire race and that was my preferred metric for effort, so not all was lost.
The bike course was flattish ride through Palm Springs and surrounding agricultural areas. Some of the roads were pretty rough, and gravelly, even on some of the turns. There was also some cross wind, and false flats according to Mark. There were only 3 aid stations around 15 miles apart.
I was too busy in survival mode to notice much beyond my predicament. Let me explain what happened.
Lots of athletes were bunched up in the beginning. I passed a few, got passed by a few. I had just passed mile 10 marker thinking I need to start thinking about nutrition. I was trying to get a packet of fig bars out of my pocket when I drifted off the side of the road and crashed big. Luckily it was just dirt and mud so no broken bones, but spectacularly muddied up my white tri-suit, broke the left elbow pad off completely, broke the front brake cable, and managed to screw up my left pedal-clip. I still had use of my rear brake, couldn’t go aero so had my hands on the upright braking handle bars (very awkward position, leaning forward with arms extended), and couldn’t clip in on the left so I had to position my shoe carefully on the pedal and tried not to slip off. I got going, and tried to grab nutrition from my bento box which was opened to allow easy access. Don’t know whether my new bike position was off enough that I veered off the road again and crashed a second time. This time, I landed in really muddy patch, lost half my nutrition, and muddied up my bottles. Tried to wipe up the bottle top and my speedfil straw, but I tasted dirt every time I took a sip of my drink. I stopped a couple more times to adjust my brakes so didn’t rub on the wheel, and off I went. I stopped at each aid station. STOPPED COMPLETELY OFF TO THE SIDE. Refilled my bottles. Ate something. I knew since I had only three total aid stations, I was bound to fall short on nutrition so tried to increase my calories through the drink. I managed to hit my zones for the bike, small victories!
I got to T2, and started my run (two laps through the Indian Wells golf course). I passed Mark on his way back (second loop for him?). Run was not very flat. Golf course had undulating hills as well as a couple steep climbs over sand-dirt. And totally exposed no shade. It may have been 75 degrees and dry heat, but I was feeling it. I hit all the aid stops almost every mile and put ice in my suit, water on my head, and drank water (I had concentrated drink) and later water and coke. I saw Mark again twice on the course when he came to cheer me on! Gave me a boost for sure! I managed to hit my zones until about mile 7 or 8. Then it became much more difficult. I suspect it was the nutrition. Around mile 10, I had hamstring and Achilles cramp and forced to walk (until this point, I ran the course except for walk through the aid stations). My hands were getting numb. A nice lady offered me a hit of base salts. This got me through the rest of the run. I couldn’t push it any more, because I felt the cramp coming when I tried. I managed to jog through the rest and joyously crossed the finish line. I am grateful that Laura saved the video of my crossing the finish line, because I frankly didn’t hear them announcing me.
I am blessed to have so many wonderful people who helped me on this journey. First, I have to thank Ryan McCready, my coach. I trusted him to get me here with reserve in the tank. Can’t really prepare for two crashes and riding w broken bike, but I knew without a doubt that I was prepared to finish strong. Shout out to my girl posse, Laura Watling Jones, Jennifer Borovica, Barbara Thomas, Jessica Katherine, Krystol Krystol Renee Mayer, Patty Banks, Mayra Gonzalez Saldaña , Catherine Catherine Steiner Branch, Catherine Viola, Melissa Braskie, Meghan Garst , Anita Anita Schafrick Woods, Dana Blasey, Priscilla Thayer, Alexandra Delzoppo, Kristen Kristen Worley Thalman, Joanne L. Siegel, Dee Boyd, Tina Marie, Deb Deb Reed Balika, Beth Darmstadter and others I forgot to mention. Thanks also to the guys who extended your helping hand and friendship—JD J.D. Thalman, Rob Reddy, Jon Kevin Curtis , Mladen Simovic, Don Cain, Ryan Croft, James Robertson , Chris Clymer, Ken Beech , Mickey Rzymek , John Sustersic, Brent Dube, Mike Sofka , Rick Manella, Mike Michael Eldred , Tom Roach , Andrew Andrew M Peko and Mark Durno. And special shout out to Mark Stopa who guided me through this weekend—a really exceptional athlete and human being—who made this weekend extra special!
Great restaurants, great weather, minus the freezing cold clear water, great golf for those who love the game. Great course for spectators except the bike course, but my recollection of the bike course miles 11-56 is pretty spotty—see paragraph 8. Would I do this race again? Definite MAYBE, if Mark Stopa, Mr. 4:49, signs up too! — with Mark Stopa.