Indian (Not So) Wells 70.3

A little over 2 months after IRONMAN Chattanooga I threw my hat in the ring to race at Indian Wells 70.3. And following the tradition of the past few years of racing a 70.3 at the end of my season, it did not go well. Not quite how I wanted to end 2020, but I still pushed it to the finish despite my mind and body screaming at me to stop.

Following Chattanooga I took 3-4 weeks pretty much off of training. I kept up some light activities occasionally, but mostly enjoyed the extra family time and worked some extra call shifts at the hospital. I eventually picked things back up with a heavier focus on swimming than normal. Within a couple weeks, my fitness seemed to have kickstarted itself with a few exceptional workouts here and there. Overall, things seemed to be clicking along nicely to have a decent showing in Indian Wells. Despite some 50 hour work weeks in there, everything was going according to plan and about a week out from the race I was feeling pretty confident.

I decided to make the 11+ hour drive to Indian Wells rather than dealing with the hassle of packing my bike, flying, and getting a rental car. I have been in hopes of working with Grand Junction Subaru since arriving in town here, and they were generous enough to let me use one of their new Subaru Foresters for the drive to and from the race. This is a huge step up from what I normally would have driven, and made the scenic drive go by super smoothly! I arrived in the afternoon on Friday with just enough time to get a quick shake out run in before heading to a dinner with the local triathlon club and my homestay family.

That’s a good looking Subaru right there.

The next day went pretty smoothly getting all the pre-race logistics done, as well as meeting up with fellow TriRig Omni Pro riders Mikael Staer Nathan and Ben and Summer Deal. I eventually settled into an afternoon/evening of relaxing with my homestay family, AJ and Julie. Interspersing my time between chatting, watching different sports, and eating before finally heading to bed.

Fun shakeout ride the day before with AJ!

I somehow magically woke up just before my alarm set at 3:45 am on race day. Especially considering I normally wake up 5 hours later than that without an alarm on a typical day. But I was feeling relatively okay and headed out for the race. It was a little chilly out, but pretty much the exact temperature I like to race at. I had more than enough time to get everything set and got some strokes in using the stretch cords before getting in the water. After the National Anthem, I lined myself up pretty much dead center of the large Pro Men’s field right next to Ben Deal and Joe Gambles.

The start was the typical chaos of whacking arms and a little bit of body surfing. Two packs seemed to initially form on either side of me with me in the middle in no man’s land. I eventually chose left, but kept having difficulty staying with anybody for any length of time. By the second turn buoy, I was dropped from the pack I was attempting to hang with. While I didn’t feel particularly terrible, I just couldn’t seem to stay on the gas enough to stay with anybody. It was frustrating to watch the pack drift away from me, but I just focused on keeping my effort and speed up and finishing the swim without losing too much time. I know I am a good swimmer, so it has been very disappointing to not be able to execute on race day for pretty much every race this year.

I eventually exited the swim in 27 minutes and some seconds, but pretty much all by myself. I felt pretty dizzy exiting the water and had difficulty removing my wetsuit while remaining upright. I found my way to my bike and finally headed out in hopes of making my way up on the bike as normal. Once I got my feet in my shoes and starting doing some work, I was once again surprised to see that my power was a good bit down considering the effort I was putting in. Power that at home at altitude was relatively easy, was now taking pretty much all I had to achieve. I just didn’t understand what was happening. I continued to make the best of it hoping that it would turn around, but it was still throttling me to put out watts that I would typically easily put out during an Ironman. After maybe 40 minutes, I made a quick stop to tighten a bolt on my aero bottle that had jiggled loose and was passed by a few riders. I carried on without a huge interruption, but my mind, legs, and lungs continued to act like they didn’t know each other. I was losing what felt like massive chunks of time, and by the last 30-60 minutes of the ride, it felt like I was barely able to soft pedal.

I was relieved and anxious to finish the bike. I really wanted to pull the plug. There would obviously be no pay day for me, and the thought of running a half marathon with how I felt was not appealing. I slowly made my way to my rack before standing there for what felt like an eternity. I even told one of the volunteers that I was going to call it a day. But I kept going through the motions anyways. I somehow had gotten my shoes and race belt on, and I saw fellow Pro Jim Lubinski approaching. The thought entered my head to just head out for a run with Jim. That sounded reasonable enough to get me going. So there I went, headed out on the run course to make it as long as I could.

I found myself running with friend Conrad Sanders for the first couple miles. I eventually made my way into a bathroom to relieve myself which put me alone for most of the remainder of the first lap. I wasn’t feeling as terrible as on the bike, but the lack of available energy was still ever present, with my legs now getting a solid beating. As I finished the first of two laps, my friend Alissa Doehla was approaching from behind. She was in a tight battle and in second place at the time, so I drew some energy off of her to keep going with a decent rhythm. We stayed together for pretty much the rest of the run. Me normally in front mentally fighting to keep going, and trying to encourage her as I could to hold on to her second place position. Without her there I know the second lap would have been a lot more miserable and lonely!

I was finally able to pick things a bit in the last few hundred meters of the run. Probably because I was pretty fresh after not being able to push all race unfortunately. Obviously, this race ended up being a pretty big disappointment for me. I wish I could pin it down to  know what caused this so that I could prevent it in the future, but I don’t have any concrete answers. It felt very similar to my race back in March in Campeche, where I was also just left strangely unable to push the effort at all. I attributed that poor race performance to overwhelming life stress. While I certainly have my fair share of stressors in my life currently, I certainly felt like I was in a pretty good state leading into this race. Maybe just a little flat in the last few days, but nothing that concerning. I’ll certainly be analyzing everything I can, as this experience is not one I want to repeat.

Wrong turns = scenic side roads

After a short break, I’ll be looking forward to starting the long build to 2020 and seeing what the season brings. I have a lot to look forward to for next year, and will share my plans soon!

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