Last Sunday marked my final race of the year at Ironman 70.3 Indian Wells La Quinta. We were “lucky” to get to race the full distance due to cold temperatures and water almost combining for a modified swim. On race morning, the swim was on in the crisp numbing 57 degree water of Lake Cahuilla. That was just the start of the fun.
The alarm went off at 3:40 am, but I was already up. That internal race clock was set. I had all my items laid out and the coffee set so I wouldn’t be stumbling around in the dark and waking up Jessica. It was one of the easier wake-ups I’ve experienced for a triathlon race as I am not a morning person nor wanting to get out of a warm bed to go swim that early.
At Ironman 70.3 Indian Wells La Quinta, there are two transitions. Race morning includes a trip to park at the famous Tennis Garden and a bus trip down to the lake for a series of events including bike set up, wetsuit pickup due to drying overnight from a pre-race decontamination ritual, and in my case, changing a rear flat.
Eventually my bike was all situated and it was time to change into the wetsuit (trying to gloss over these 3 hours between arrival and swim start). I had lost my decontamination tag so while getting a new one I was pushed back in line for the rolling swim start and was starting with a few people who didn’t seem too comfortable in the water. Luckily, I pulled away quickly while the icy water seared my face and hands into numbness. The problem quickly became evident with the water temperature, my hands were completely numb and cramping causing an awkward choppy and poorly control stroke. Eventually that led to hip and leg cramping by the end of the swim before the merciful 50 degree air welcomed my body back to where it could slowly thaw. I stumbled and bumbled with my body to apply my helmet, put my wetsuit in my gear bag, and get to my bike to start what I thought would be a fast and fun rip-roaring wattage fest through flat smooth desert roads.
At the start of the bike, I assume like most people, my legs were achy, crampy, and rigid. It took until mile 15 until I could use my hands enough to open my bento bag to take nutrition. The good part was despite the early pain, I was holding my watts relatively well and feeling fast. I will not go into a ton of detail for the sake of length, but the biggest disappointment occurred on the bike course. The cheating was obvious, rampant, over-the-top ridiculous with full draft lines. On multiple occasions I buried myself with as much power as I could muster to ride draft lines and other riders off my wheel. It really breaks your heart when you’re trying to compete and people you’re competing against are receiving a huge time and energy bonus that you are not. I would have loved to sit on a wheel for two hours before the run as well; the difference is, I have self-respect, and maybe Ironman needs to find some. The bike course ended up being choppy and dirty chip seal that sucked the speed out of you the best it could and had some dangerous holey uneven 90 degree turns if your wheel wasn’t heading to the right spot. At one point, three dogs ran in front of me and a few other riders on the course and tried to come up and say hi to each bike as it passed. We were all swerving in different directions as the dogs shifted their attention to each oncoming cyclist no matter which way they were trying to get around when it was their turn. To my knowledge no victims came from the friendly canines besides a handful of seconds.
Off the bike, much slower than I was hoping and a little angry, I entered the run still feeling well and tried to finish off everything this season strongly. The golf course which is most of the two loops (about 10 miles) is a bunch of small turns and rolling hills as you follow the cart path. It is pretty, but is tough to run evenly. Despite a fall off in the later miles due to some stomach failures I ran my fastest half ironman half marathon of the year and passed through the chute in 4:22.
Afterwards, we soaked up the warming days in Joshua Tree National Park and in the resort hot tub. Joshua Tree is a unique and pretty park, but without a mountain bike it only takes about a full day to cover the main highlights. Check out our instagram pages @nickparton85 and @jlparton7 for more pictures!
Thank you to SLF Motion, TriSports, Fossil Craft Beer, Honey Stinger, and Criterium Bicycles for their support this season. All great companies with great people that deserve your support and business!