A brand new Ironman 70.3!! In the desert? Season closer? Sign me up! I still think it is SO cool that I got to race an inaugural event! As many of you know Indian Wells proved to be a tough and disappointing race for me. Some things were out of my control and some were lessons learned. Still, I strive to help next year’s athletes know and prepare for this race as best as possible even though I didn’t finish it. This was really one of my favorite races I’ve participated in. I have always loved the mountains and there is something about the desert mountains that is extra cool.
This race was super fun because my coach, Audra Adair, and some of the other Race Relentless athletes were all in it together. We rented a sweet Airbnb near the race site to use as our home base. Before the race we all got out and rode the course together. Winds were mostly non-exsistent however I have heard mixed results on this. I suppose it all depends on what you consider a “windy” ride. I didn’t feel like there was any wind at all. The temperature was cooler at night, low 50s, and higher during the day upper 60s / low 70s.
The Ironman Village was located in the Indian Wells Tennis Gardens. It was overall pretty easy to find, park, and walk over. They had a pretty cool selection of vendors there – beware with this race being so close to Christmas! I had to make sure I made a wide birth around some of the vendors so I didn’t spend all my money. Check in was super easy and the volunteers were so friendly and helpful. This race actually did a great job of streamlining things so you moved through the queue really quickly.
Race Specific Notes
The swim takes place in Lake Cahuilla (pronounced cah-lee-ah) in Indian Wells. Due to the protected nature of the lake they don’t give you a chance to do any warm up swims prior to race morning. So we did some rides on our bikes and some runs then tried to rest and hydrate. The day prior to I was having a lot of trouble with my appetite. I was continually feeling nauseous and felt a sore throat/cold coming on. Requiring TheraFlu to function is no way to prepare for any kind of race day.
Some of the pre-race differences at Indian Wells include the pre-race staging of all of your gear for both T1 and T2. You also had to take your wetsuit and anything else going in with you on the swim (in this case, neoprene cap and booties) to a dunk tank the day before to get disinfected in a diluted bleach solution. Then they go to the T1 tent to hang and dry. * hopefully * Below you can see the wetsuit tent and T1 gear bags hanging up to dry.
Race Morning: 5 AM
I slept fine the night before but really couldn’t stomach any food that morning. I hadn’t eaten any real substantial dinner the night before so I knew I had to choke down something. This was the first race I had done where you had a race bag for each transition area that you dropped off the night before. This kinda threw me off – having some stuff at the race site and a handful of gear at the house. Unfortunately, it was not until my hubby and I were almost at the Tennis Gardens after sitting in stiff traffic that I realized I had left my goggles & cap at home.
Beware the traffic around this race. Because all of the athletes and spectators had to be shuttled out to the lake and many roads were already blocked off getting to the parking area was EXTREMELY congested. I was very worried I was going to miss the last shuttle since we had to turn around and brave it all again. When we parked and saw the very long lines of people waiting for a shuttle my nerves increased. However, rest assured because they had a line just for athletes which made sure we all got over there in enough time.
The Swim: 7:20 am
Be prepared this is a cold race 3/4 of the way through. It was pretty chilly while we waited to get in the water with the air temperature around 54 F. I was really grateful to have a sherpa to toss my coat and hand warmers to before we lined up. This is a race you will definitely want to invest in a neoprene cap to wear under your swim cap. Honestly, it made a huge difference for me. My hands were definitely cold but never as numb as I was expecting. I also brought my dive booties and wore those as well. In hind sight I may invest in some longer ones but for this race they worked okay. The water temp that morning ended up being a cold 57 F.
Swim Course Notes
You got in the water you from a run in beach start. The water was cold but not that shocking at first. After a few minutes however it definitely caught up with me and I started to feel those effects of very cold water. As per usual I felt it in my breathing. My wetsuit felt suffocating, I couldn’t move my legs and felt like I was needing to breathe every stroke. I was really really struggling and thought I’d never finish. Remembering wise words of a previous coach, I just made it one buoy at a time. I would then breast stroke for a minute at the buoy and catch my breath.
How happy was I to get out of that water?! That smile was also in part of Paul making me laugh as he heckled me. Another little pro tip: get a neoprene cap without the strap! The strap only added to the feeling of not being able to breathe. After getting out of the water, I hustled the 40-50 ft up the beach and into our changing tent.
- T1: 8:02 am
T1 was so incredibly slow. It took me over 8 minutes to get in and out. It took me a while to stumble through getting my wet suit off and even longer to get my gloves, socks, and warm gear on.
The Bike: 8:10 am
The truly tragic part of this section of the race is that I was feeling like this was definitely going to finally be my bike PR. This course felt fast overall. There were a couple sections where you’d turn and hit some headwind. When I got on the bike I was feeling a little funny and so I started into my blocks to get my blood sugar up.
Yet, it wasn’t enough. I started to feel increasingly light headed, dizzy, and weak. There were a couple points where I’d pass a cop and think about stopping and telling them I didn’t feel well. As I reached the 25 mi mark I was really struggling to stay in aero and struggling to “keep it in my lane”. Right at mile 30 I approached an aide station and thought I’ll just slow down and drink some gatorade. Next thing I remember I’m staring up at the sky.
Bike Course Map
As you can see in the map above there are a fair amount of turns. This means there isn’t that many opportunities to put your head down and just go. I’d strongly recommend gloves and a windbreaker at least on the bike. While it wasn’t too windy the air temperature had barely reached 60 F and you’re wet and already cold. The gloves made a pretty big difference in my comfort level on the bike. Even though they were a pain to get on.
Detour to the Indian Wells ER
The volunteers who found me thought I was a heat stroke victim (WHAT?) so they doused me in ice cold water and put ice packs in my jersey. In the already 60 F air I started shaking and behaving shocky pretty quickly. By the time the EMTs arrived – they had a lot of trouble with all the road blockages – I was still in and out of consciousness and couldn’t stand.
While trying to load me into the ambulance they had trouble getting me across the road because the athletes wouldn’t stop or slow down to let us pass. Just as a reminder, no race, no PR, is worth someone’s life. Give way to ambulances and medics!
Hidden under all those blankets is a woman being pumped full of warm IV fluids. The ER ran a bunch of blood work and tests on my heart. Fortunately everything came back positive and they referred me to my doctor at home for a gastrointestinal consult. It took Paul a very long time to make it to the hospital with all the road closures and the fact that none of the police or volunteers knew which roads were open.
Clearly, I didn’t run this course. While, I was laying in warm blankets with tubes in my arms trying to warm back up people were out in the desert sun running a golf course. Yes, this run course takes place within the Indian Wells Golf Course. This course is all over the map with elevation. While I believe it was pitched as a flat, fast run course most athletes I talked to found it to be hilly. Overall it has 457 ft of elevation gain spread throughout a two loop rolling course.
I feel the overall pulse of the run from folks was “like don’t love”. Especially since it warmed up quite a bit by the time people reached the run leg.
The biggest complaint this race from a lot of people, especially spectators, especially my husband, was how messy the road closures were. Apparently, getting all the friends & family from the lake back to T2 was a nightmare. It was taking an hour and a half to two hours to transport people. Most of that spent in stopped traffic. Paul had only just gotten back to T2 when the paramedics called him to tell him which hospital they were taking me to. He checked and it was only 10-15 minutes away. It took him well over an hour to get there and no one seemed to know what was going on.
There was a lot of frustration directed at the race set up. Along that note getting my bike & gear out of the transitions was just a little too easy for my teammates. While it worked in our favor the lack of safety at this race has to be talked about. My coach even had her Di2 stolen off her bike sometime between when we racked to when we raced. Very disappointing.
Would I recommend this race? Yes. Do I want to try again in 2019? Yes, if all goes well this year. The super cool 1950’s & 60’s Hollywood retreat vibes are fun. The scenery is stunning. There are things Ironman can work on and fix (I’ve heard that they are aware of some of the issues) but overall it was looked on as a great new closing race.