This race had a doozy of a lead up which probably played a big role in how my race day played out.
As we usually do, we opted to drive to Indian Wells. We left on our journey Wednesday morning and arrived in Tucson that evening to stay the night and spend the following day with friends who would also be racing Indian Wells. Thursday we all met some friends at a trailhead and set off for a bike ride.
Once we arrived back at our vehicle we noticed our car had been broken into.
Stolen were Tif’s ID and check card, my phone, purse which had my ID, check card, credit card, both of our vaccine cards, a fair amount of cash and as well as an Ironman Texas backpack which had some of our race day gear inside.
As you can imagine, this created quite a bit of stress going through this and all that is involved when something is stolen. Friday as we continued our drive to Indian Wells, Tif managed to get copies of our IDs and our vaccination records as this was needed to obtain entry into the race venue.
As the day went on I remembered more and more that was in the bag that was stolen. It was all things needed for someone going to a race but meant absolutely nothing to a non athlete.
We owe so much to our friends that joined us on this adventure as they were a constant reminder of how good life is, even when shit things happen.
But even with all the support we received, the stress was still there, as well as the lack of sleep each night.
Putting all that to the side, it was an absolutely beautiful venue and we were still both pumped to race. My big race day concern was the fact that the water temp would be 58 degrees. It turned out though that our Airbnb had a community pool that was not heated. The water temp was 60 degrees. So Friday evening we got into our wetsuits and into the pool to keep our swim streak alive. Walking into the pool you could immediately tell it was cold. I doggy paddled around and then I told myself I had to get my head in. I dunked in and got going. It took my breath away for sure but I was able to quickly control my breathing and begin swimming normally. This swim certainly calmed some nerves about the water temp on race day.
Race morning there wasn't a whole lot to be done at our transition area since this was a "clean transition" race. Meaning all of our gear was bagged and dropped off the day before. We put our hydration on our bikes, aired up our tires and made our way out of transition and toward the swim start area.
We got into our wetsuits and then had to wait about 30 minutes before the race would start. My bare feet began to get really cold as we were standing on cold grass. I tried to keep moving as much as I could as well as turn my attention away from my feet.
Tif and I lined up in the swim line together and gave each other encouraging words before it was time for us to get into the swim start chute.
Beep, beep, beep, BEEP!
Tif and I each started high stepping into the water at the same time and then I dove in. I was actually surprised by the water temp as it did not seem quite as cold as the pool we swam in. I stayed calm and 'cool' (🤣) the entire swim. Just past the halfway mark it did seem that the water was starting to get colder and my face, hands and feet were starting to feel the effects.
The swim finish arch was in sight and I continued to swim as long as I could. I stood up and was a little wobbly going from horizontal to vertical while being cold. I made my way through the bag racks, quickly spotting mine, and made my way to the area where they had chairs available to sit while you got into your bike gear.
At quick glance I was not able to spot an empty chair so I opted to stand to the side to get my wetsuit off. I hopped around a little bit as I did this as my equilibrium was still off. I dumped my T1 bag and went straight for my towel to dry off as best as I could. I easily get cold so I knew this would be vital. I wrapped my wetsuit, goggles and swim cap in my towel and shoved it back in my bag. Helmet on and took off running toward my bike with my bike shoes in my hand. Once at my bike I got my shoes on, unracked my bike and took off running again toward the mount line. Big thanks to Kenny Withrow who gave me some Team Saunders love as I went running by.
At the mount line I heard a voice saying "keep going". So I kept going thinking that there would be a better place to mount ahead. I was wrong. By the time I started to mount I was at the bottom of the hill just outside transition. I couldn't seem to get both feet clipped in without feeling like I would fall over so somehow I got up the hill with just one leg doing the work. At the time I may have said a curse word or two, but I can now look back at it and laugh. And feel free to have a laugh as well.
Once getting going on the bike I managed to put some gloves on that I had stashed in my bento box. This helped some but I was still cold from the swim and I had a hard time putting out any power. All my attention seemed to be on the noise my chattering teeth were making and the sensation of my tongue in the back of my jaw between my teeth.
I drank some nutrition from my torpedo bottle between my arms but I did not feel confident enough that I could safely reach for my water on my down tube and be able to put it back. So it was almost to the first aid station that I finally took in some water but I think it may have been too late. I had taken in too much of my concentrated hydration mix without chasing it with some water. I could start to feel a little discomfort in my stomach.
Toward the beginning of the bike Tif and I crossed paths and I could see her day was going good. That lifted me up some knowing things were off to a great start for her.
It wasn't until the second aid station that I finally warmed up and I felt like I was able to get into my rhythm and push some power. I was then saying 'on your left' quite a bit and I watched my NP steadily go up.
Past the halfway point is when the fun really came as we entered into a speedway. There was a cyclist a bit ahead of me and he seemed to be quite experienced so I followed his line. Coming around one of the bends was a race photographer and the photo he captured of me, I was at such an angle that my cleat almost clipped the ground. Hands down that stretch of the course was my favorite.
Coming out of that area Tif and I crossed paths again which is always fun for us to see each other.
The last 5-10 miles I couldn't seem to hold my power on the bike anymore and it made me a little nervous for the run.
T2 approached quickly and my dismount was a thousand times better than my mount. I quickly made my way to my rack where my T2 bag was hanging. Racked my bike, cleats off, helmet off, socks and shoes on and then I grabbed my hat, glasses and run belt. I put those last items on as I ran out of transition and toward the start of the run.
Soon into the run I could tell it would be a tough one. But unlike Ironman 70.3 Augusta, I never let negative talk creep in. I stayed positive the entire race and I believe that is what I was most proud of on the run.
The discomfort in my stomach that I had turned into cramps just a few miles into the run. I tried taking in different fluids but nothing seemed to work. My run then turned into a walk/run with more walk than I would have liked. And also for the first time in 2 seasons I had to make a stop in the port-a-potty. There went another 4 minutes but I thought that might alleviate some of the issue and I could pick the pace back up. That was not the case.
Shout out to runner number 751. You came up behind me and said "let's go sister". From there on out we ping-ponged back and forth a bit, encouraging each other as we did. At one point you got a ways ahead of me but I made it a point to catch back up. Thank you for helping me get to that finish line.
When the finish line did come into sight I threw my hands up and motioned the crowd to give some love as I ran down the red carpet.
It was by far not my best time or the goal I had set, but I still enjoyed being able to race and doing it with great friends.
I just received word as I'm finishing this report that Ironman 70.3 Lubbock that we were already signed up for next summer has been canceled. So we each have an entry to use, odds are we'll be using it for Indian Wells next year because besides the obvious misfortune during the lead up, we enjoyed every bit of this race. See you in 2023, Indian Wells!
After the debacle that was Augusta, I knew I wanted to get redemption from that race as well as close out the 2022 season better than it started. In the weeks leading up to Ironman 70.3 Indian Wells, everything was going to plan. My training was the best it’s been all season and my mindset was in a good place as I was eager to celebrate race weekend with Caitlin and some very special triathlon friends.
When race week arrived, I was buzzing with so much positive energy. It was just a matter of getting through a couple days of work before hitting the road to Tucson, then eventually Indian Wells.
Our road trip to Tucson was nice, aside from spending more than eight hours just to get out of Texas. Once we arrived in Arizona, our dear friends Frank and Helma greeted us with a lovely meal and a bed for the night.
The next day, we went and played on our bikes for a bit. Only to realize while on our biking excursion that our car had been broken into. All of the positive vibes I’d been feeling took no time at all to lose. Now, instead of being fully focused on the race, it was now time to get into crisis mode and take care of all the things you have to deal with, especially when IDs and financial items are stolen.
Fortunately, I was able to make sure we had what we absolutely needed for the race, and having our friends sharing the weekend with us helped keep us at ease as best possible. Although high stress levels and poor sleep were almost impossible to avoid.
But let’s talk about the race.
In the weeks leading up to the race all the chatter centered around how cold the swim would be. I didn’t give it much attention because I knew I had experience swimming in waters in the upper 50s and I didn’t want to waste my energy on something I couldn’t control. My only worry was how I would manage if I got cold on the bike - especially with our arm warmers and bike jackets being stolen in Tucson, we didn’t have anything to mitigate the cold on the bike.
Race morning was as easy as it could be. The clean transition made set up at T1 quick and easy. We arrived with plenty of time to situate ourselves and get the wetsuits on. The air temperature was in the upper 40s, so it was actually nice standing around in the wetsuit for 30 minutes or so. My feet were cold standing in the grass, but that probably helped acclimate them for the swim.
Caitlin and I positioned ourselves as we have all season long, around the 35 minute finish time. While we were both hoping to see our swim streak (at the time of the race it was at 65 consecutive days) pay off, I knew the cold water would likely hinder any chance at a realistic PR.
As we made our way to the front of the chute, Caitlin and I shared our final encouragement and then it was the most pro beach start we could have ever had. On top of that, the water felt nice! My focus was to get off to a good start and keep my breathing in check. I figured this would take about 50 to maybe 100 yards and I was right. Once I settled in, I picked up my effort and settled in for the 1.2 miles.
This swim seemed to have more contact than other races this year, but I was able to manage just fine and I had no trouble navigating around the buoys. I’m fortunate to be pretty good with sighting and holding a line, passing traffic and keeping up my pace. As I ticked off the buoys I did take note that my swim endurance seemed better than it ever has. So while my swim time wasn’t the fastest, my conditioning has to be a side effect from the consistent swimming.
When I made the final turn back to shore, I consciously picked up the pace. As I made it to the finish the cold water did make me a bit discombobulated and I needed some assistance to get back to vertical. All day long we had the best volunteers and the swim volunteer was incredible and encouraging!
Coming out of the swim I found my T1 bag and made my way to the changing area. I chose to sit down and take my time to ensure I dried off and was fully prepared for the bike ride. It was not a transition to envy, and I knew that going in. My focus was to make sure I would be comfortable on the ride.
After changing, stuffing everything back in my gear bag, tossing it to the volunteers and heading to my bike, I put my shoes on and continued my path out of T1. One mistake I made was not setting my bike in an easier gear. Immediately out of transition was a short but steep climb which I thought was a little further down the road. Somehow I found it in myself to get up the hill. I was determined not to start the bike segment otherwise.
As I got going, I did a check-in with myself and everything was good. I was proud of the swim even if it wasn’t my fastest time. I hoped for 35:00 on the best day, so 36:12 and 9th in my age group wasn’t a bad start. And I also noticed in the early stages of the bike that I wasn’t cold! That was a huge relief to me and a big motivator for the remainder of the ride. I did opt to wear some cheap gloves on the ride that we picked up at a Wal-Mart the day before (also, RIP to my high-viz orange BOCO Gear converter gloves that were stolen).
While the road conditions were sketchy in a handful of areas, and downright crappy in a few spots, it really wasn’t a bad course at all. It’s almost all flat but there were a couple areas where you did some short moderate climbs. But the best part of the course came around mile 32 - we entered into a developing subdivision with pristine asphalt which then led us to The Thermal Club speedway - an actual car racetrack!
Another fun aspect of this was that I saw Caitlin as I entered the subdivision, which was the second time I saw her on the bike. I could tell she was having fun on this section.
When I exited the speedway I knew there wasn’t much more to go and I began calculating my ride statistics in my head. I knew if I maintained a decent pace that I would easily come in under three hours - which is always the goal.
While I was slowed down a bit in the final stretch of the ride through part of the city, I still managed to reach the sub-3 bike goal with a decent 2:57:33. Next year, though, I’m coming back for a bike PR!
Into T2 I could feel so much energy radiating not just at the bike finish, but waiting on the other side of the run start line. I was ready to get after it!
Another clean transition, I pulled my bag off the rack and made a quick change of shoes and took my helmet off then power walked out of transition.
As I took my first few strides, there was a man on the sidelines cheering for Team Saunders. We exchanged a high-five and I would go on to see him a few more times around the course on the day.
Just past him, to my surprise I saw DJ and he was as amazing as always - shouting out encouragement while simultaneously running backwards with camera and gimbal in hand.
Across the way I heard more shouts for Team Saunders and that would continue at several points in my 13.1 mile trek.
I felt good getting started on the run and my goal was to maintain the fastest pace possible without overexerting. On a good day I was hoping for a 2:20 run. Those expectations changed once I realized just how hilly the golf course trail was.
The first stretch of the run is flat until you enter the golf course. There’s a short hill to climb to enter that section, and I decided that walking here was my best option as opposed to burning a match. Early into the cart path run was another hill, which I also walked. My strategy became walking the hills and brief walks in the aid stations. In hindsight, I think this was the right move for me.
At several points in the run I couldn’t believe how beautiful and scenic this course actually was. I was happy to be racing and happier to be racing in such a beautiful location. This is exactly how I was hoping this race would play out.
Along the run I did actually pass some people. And it always seems I pass some very fit people along the way. While I am fit, the stress and struggles and injury have me carrying around some extra weight than I’d like and haven't been able to lose despite my best efforts, and emotionally it’s been tough looking at myself and not seeing a “fit” triathlete.
I continued the run just staying settled and in control. I saw our friend Frank and DJ as I was completing my first lap and I couldn’t wait to get back to the finish line to celebrate with them. I also passed Caitlin one more time as I was finishing my lap and she was heading to complete her second loop in the golf course. Sadly, I could tell she wasn’t having a great day and when we slapped hands I could feel the coldness in her body. I wanted nothing more than for her to crush the day and I hate that the cold played a role in limiting her success.
With less than half of the run to go, I made the loop at the turnaround, and heard some more Team Saunders cheers - and then got a personal high-five from professional men’s champion Sam Long!
Step-by-step I gained more confidence as I ticked off the miles. I was having fun even if I may have had a few grimaces along the way. Once I passed the final aid station and made the last turn, uphill, to the final stretch, I felt nothing but euphoria.
I made my way through the final stretch, and for once, a race that didn’t have a long deceptive stretch to the finish. Once you made the right turn “to finish” you could see the finish chute. I was overcome with every emotion, and I stayed true to myself in celebrating all the way to the finish line. And then a little bit of ugly crying and from there, all smiles, grateful Caitlin was there waiting for me to share it with.
My run time ended up being 2:31:38 and overall, 6:19:58. All things considered, it was a good day for me. If I could dream up a better race experience, this one would be hard to beat.
I'm not lying when I say this has been the toughest year. Aside from the injury there has been so much more behind the scenes that I haven’t shared. I know I’m incredibly privileged to do this sport and I look forward to being back at full strength soon racing healthy AND happy. I’m ready to put the physical and emotional pain of 2022 behind me and start fresh for 2023. If I learned anything this season, it’s that you know who your true friends and supporters really are - and they were the ones who showed up at Indian Wells.
We’re already all making plans to return to Ironman 70.3 Indian Wells next season, and I’ll be looking to make it a PR!