Ironman Indian Wells 70.3 Recap Part 1
Part 1: a short recap to this past weekend's race in Palm Springs, Part 2 will be my thoughts and analysis coming soon after.
Coming off some amazing training, I had some high hopes/expectations for this past weekend's race. Yes we had the hiccup in Oceanside about 5 weeks before when I travelled out to race but instead ended up in the hospital with completely random unrelated to triathlon issues. But, when I got back home the great training I had going into Oceanside just got even better. Some huge workouts, but well crafted ones, ones that never once put me into a hole. I felt great. The days leading into the race were pretty flawless. The day before was really only one I wish went little different. The day got away from me a bit and lunch ended up being very light with the pro meeting being in middle of day, and needing to do various things before and after. We were staying about 45 minutes from the race so once we got there at 9am we stayed until something like 5:30pm doing all the pre-race things, and just didn't have much time in between everything, poor planning on my part. Nonetheless massive pasta dinner in the evening, flawless race morning and was ready to rock and roll. What did I hope to get out of the day. Pretty simple, execute what I've been doing in training for the last 3 months. If I did that, I believed Top 10 was in the cards. My swim fitness felt great, bike power solid and maybe more importantly comfort in my aero position was way better than previous races, I felt like could sit in my position pretty much indefinitely. For the run fitness, the last time I raced on this course in 2019, I ran a 1:15 run split on the very challenging course (6th fastest on the day in strong field), and this year just as an example my peak run workout was about 6-7/km faster for more than 20% longer distance, and was done on much more fatigued legs. I'd add that for that workout prior to the 2019 race, I remember being pretty much dead after it. It was basically an all out effort by the end probably since I had only been back running for about a month after an injury. This time I'd been running good mileage and consistent workouts for months, so after this year's peak workout I had a tonne lot left in the tank. So 2019's peak vs 2021 peak I could go longer, faster and with less effort, a very good combination. 1:12-13 was what I was going to pace myself for. All workouts indicated that was for sure possible, if not faster.
So my confidence was very high. Unfortunately it ended up being a very disappointing way to end a season, a season quite frankly I feel never really got underway with such little racing. Here's how the day played out:
The start took me a little by surprise so was pretty slow to get off the “blocks” but busted it for next couple hundred meters to just barely hold contact with front pack. Was agonizing really as was about 2m off the back guys feet and for life of me just couldn’t close it no matter how hard I tried. When we hit first turn bouy maybe 300m in, there was a vicious acceleration in pace by the front guys. I was still not yet fully in the draft and so very quickly the 2m became 5m, 5m became 25m and then commenced the strangest feeling swim I’ve ever done. In a massive field of I believe 54 guys I swam completely on my own for the next 20minutes. I kept thinking how is this possible? Where in the world is everyone! Then the thoughts start swirling in your mind of maybe that wasn’t the front pack maybe that was the second and now I’m in last. I have no idea how fast I’m swimming, but the stroke feels good, I feel like my sighting is pretty solid and holding very tight line to the bouys (too tight couple times nailing them with my right arm as going by swimming directly into the sun). But kept swimming along holding a high threshold effort and then around the final turn bouy a swimmer came up on my right shoulder. For a second I thought I guess the women who started 2 minutes after us are now catching me. Then another swimmer on their feet, they had facial hair so my initial assumption was wrong I guess, then another on theirs with a green LS logo on the shoulder. Okay wait a second so your telling me that I’ve stayed ahead of the second group that included Lionel and few other heavy hitters for pretty much the last 20min solo. Don’t know how that’s possible but I did get a big morale boost seeing my position in the field. I did expend a huge amount of not only physical but a lot of mental energy in that solo swim but getting out I was happy where I was. Went through transition and ran to bike on painfully frozen feet with a good group. Things were shaping up for a good one. Got to mount line right foot into shoe, left foot...LEFT FOOT hello wake up little buddy. Couldn't for life of me manipulate my foot to slip into shoe being frozen solid, thing was pretty much numb. Tried about three times and just before I completely lost my mind decided to just dismount and run the bike up the steep hill immediately out of transition. Hoped by time I got up the foot would wake up and get act together. It did and was underway but lost a downright stupid amount of time, I'm guessing a minute and half just past the mount line, and so of course the group was long gone. No worries we’ve been here before -too many times, but I got this, in fact I prepared for this scenario. I did multiple workouts the last few months that on my TrainingPeaks I named "Had a bad T1." I knew what to do.
Set off at just torrid pace. Legs felt perfect, the speed came so easily lactate was staying at bay. I got this. A small group of about 4 up the road now in sight and closed the gap to them very very fast. Unfortunately not quite fast enough as I caught them right before the first turnaround and wasn’t sure if could make pass in time. A painfully slow minute went by (looking at strava actually around 2.5minutes at 37kph - about 8-10kph slower than I was going catching back up). We were moving real slow, I needed to go now or the big group that was organizing ahead would be gone for good. Went hard and past the group right before the turnaround and was back in hunt. Past a few more solo riders, went right past this time with no delay and kept chugging along. The big group unfortunately was always going to be very difficult to catch as let's just say that the 12m draft zone looked how should I put this, it looked like an interesting interpretation of 12m. I already got little heated on my IGTV video right after the race on this topic so for now I'll leave it there. Ironman obviously has no interest putting a stop to it, so no point in me complaining especially when people higher up in the ranks have already done that to no effect. Anyways my legs felt good and kept pushing, but as I’m going along I catch glimpse of my shadow in the low morning sun. I literally think to myself wow nice that bike position looks just mint way to go, this is a good one we got going on here. Hold on a minute where’s my nutrition. Reach back for a feel thinking maybe my eyes are playing some sick trick, ya no so that’s gone. All of sudden I'm slightly in panic mode. It's no secret I’ve had some major nutrition issues this past while going all way back to Europe in September, but was now very dialled in on my race nutrition. Over past few months I have done a lot like a serious lot of bike workouts at race pace, and I know exactly how much I need to perform at full capacity. The strategy was pretty dialed in, but now it was improvisation time. I was not happy, but okay I'll grab Gatorade at aid stations and make due. I know I need atleast 100g/hr, my engine burns very hot not only with very high sweat rate well over 2.5L/hr, but needing just a tonne of sugar to support the system. With gatorade, it will still work out to less kcal then I know I need but it should get me through okay. First station- miss the Gatorade bottle. Son of a …! Goes through my head. Next station same thing. People were just standing way too far from road, and with the bottle tight into their body. It was difficult to grab on the fly especially as I'm still anxiously in chase mode. This is one of my big regrets from the race. When I missed the first, I should've just accepted the fact I'm going to lose like 30s, and just stop at the second aid station grab a bottle of water and like 5 gels or something and been gone. I mean I already lost like 2 minutes on the bike fumbling with my shoes past the mount line what's another 30s. So anyways can probably see where this going. By 70km the tank was empty and started weaving pretty significantly. Glycogen was tapped out. At the race track I was taking turns pretty darn awkwardly and even unclipped and just pushed my way around two of the u-turns. If you've ever bonked before you could imagine the feeling. My hands were clammy on the bars, felt like I could just fall off the bike at any moment. Weak. Feeling very very weak. Last 15-20km was not good. Still past maybe 3-4 solo riders in the final 20 but it was pretty slow going, now going up a slight grade and into wind for this long stretch to T2 (it is point to point course), with nothing in me. Onto the dismount, that atleast goes well and run gingerly to my rack. As I’m running I’m thinking oh my lord am I actually about to run a half marathon like this. But then maybe the super shoes will be truly super, hopefully downright magical today and just run for me or something. Shoes on, fumble with some of my things, run out.
Only 2min in and I’m wanting to drop out. 2 minutes into a half marathon! That's an awful mindset, especially when based on work I've done these last few months this is where I should be in full on attack mode. I feel dreadful. Just take your first gel and give me five minutes I say. Let it work it’s magic and then let’s reassess. Around the first turn all my gels fall out of pocket. Like really?? Guess the house of carbs were just out to get me or something today 🤦. Bizarre as I’ve only ever said positive things about you and this is what I get in return. I run on back and pick them all up. I've already gone two legs of a triathlon on fumes, ain't going to make it three (it looks like on bike I averaged around 30-35g/hr and would've been about 7% dehydrated starting the run). Anyways first couple miles go by I’m getting wisps of energy here or there but it's just in and out. Feel good for a minute then the next like I’m going to collapse into the sand trap on the hilly little golf course. Kept having my gels stopping and walking through aid stations hitting the whole gamut of fuel sources. But once you’ve blown completely through your on board glycogen it’s almost an impossible task to get back into the black - and the problem is compounded by fact that got off bike incredibly dehydrated and now running in pretty decent heat. It was pretty textbook to how that run would progress. Body just straddling the line the entire time. Hamstring cramping on downhills, being slowed to a shuffle on the ups, struggling to run in straight line on the flats. Eventually made my way to the final km. And it’s amazing (amazing is not right word) feeling really. At that point of course I’m not stopping. Your mind is starting to almost believe again, and starts to beg your legs to run faster. Open up, just open up and rip this last little bit to make me happy. But in this case the body had final say, there was no pickup in pace instead was locked in this pathetic gear. Crossed the line in 19th (4:03:24). Second Canadian of the 6 or so on the start line. First being the race winner Lionel Sanders who smashed the day. Finished with a run that is honestly about what pace I’ve been doing my easy long runs at. Explains why here the day after I have almost zero soreness in my body. Only thing that is little tight is my neck, but legs.. legs could run a half marathon right now (the day after) if you asked me to no problem. Which honestly makes me even more annoyed with the day, knowing that was no where close to my peak performance. Was just completely capped by the nutrition issues, and never got a chance to really hurt. Like hurt in the good ole ways: high heart rate, lactic legs, etc. Instead it was mostly just running in a daze, trying not to fall over. Not a good day in the office.
Part 2 will have my deeper thoughts and analysis on the day. Thanks for reading and for the messages of support after the race really appreciated.