Well, I seem to be perfecting my 6th place finish. I thought for sure I’d break the top 5 at Indian Wells 70.3 but it just wasn’t in the cards today. Coming up to my last mile of the race, I was checking my watch, calculating my run pace and whether I’d make it under 5 hours, which would be a big PR for me and a goal I’d had for the race. With about 50 yards to go, I was at 4:59 and I thought, “YES, I’ve got this, I’m going to break 5 hours!” Only to find out that my official race time was 5:00:52. Later I realized that when I’d come out of the water, I accidentally hit the Pause button instead of the Lap button (to change the watch into Transition 1 mode) on my Garmin 935 and that’s where those seconds mysteriously disappeared to. UGGGGH!
I took a short 3 week break after the World Championships in September, regrouped, recovered, and made a game plan with my coach for next year’s goals. I really wanted to improve on my bike so we decided it would be best to try a bike block – so , for the 2 months before Indian Wells I was riding 6 days a week up to 16 hours, while the swim and run took a bit of a back seat. The plan was to go out and ride this course like it was a bike race that just happened to have a swim before and a run after; no expectations except to ride like a mad woman! Friday was spent checking in, perusing the vendors, getting my hair battle-braided at the awesome Women for Tri booth, and another interesting activity that is particular to this race – dunking the wetsuit. When we all went to the lake to check our bikes and T1 gear in, we also had to dunk our wesuit (and whatever else we were swimming in – my neoprene cap) into a tank of chlorinated water. The lake is very clean and they want to prevent contamination. After the dunk, the suits got a tag on the zipper which was not to be removed (they said if your suit didn’t have a number the next morning you weren’t swimmin’!) and we left them on a numbered rack in T1 to dry overnight. It kiiiiiind of worked.
Woke up and ate at 5am – my usual breakfast of PB&J on white bread with coffee. We stayed in a hotel a couple miles from the race start, so I had my husband drive me to the drop of point at the Tennis Garden where I would catch my bus. It took longer than usual to get on the buses and get to the lake, which was what should’ve been a 15 minute drive out, but by time I got there it had been over an hour! Luckily I’d planned ahead and was OK. Hit the port-0-potties and in true Christine fashion, I dropped my pre-race gel in the toilet. At least it wasn’t my phone? Needless to say, by time the 7am start rolled around I was definitely hungry, like…stomach growling hungry! This actually did worry me a little bit because I really don’t do well when I’m hungry and I thought it might distract me during the swim or hinder my performance. Luckily the adrenaline took over and I forgot about it. Ditched the sweats and hand-warmers I’d had in my pockets and suited up in my slightly damp wetsuit.
SWIM – LAKE CAHUILLA
The announcement came that morning that the water was a cool 59.7 degrees. In my head, I was preparing for frigid water in the low 50s, so I was happy to hear that! I wore my usual Roka Maverick suit and a thermal cap. I definitely contemplated wearing booties but my coached advised me not to as they can be difficult to get off afterwards and I run pretty hot anyway, so I didn’t wear booties. There was a small “acclimation zone” of roped off section of water to the left of the start where athletes could get in and dunk themselves (but not a place to fully warm-up). I stay dry and do not use these areas on cold races – some may disagree with this but I think it’s a personal decision. When both the water and air temperature are that chilly, I find that getting myself wet and then having to stand around causes me to waste a lot of energy shivering and bouncing around. I know that I would rather just attack the water at the beginning of the race and by time I get going I really won’t even notice it.
The entrance and exit to the swim were probably my favorite to date! The start line was directly on the water’s edge so we hardly had to run at all before we were into the water. No steep climbs, rocks, sand, or other obstrudtions to navigate. The swim was a large right hand circle, easy to sight and navigate, and the water was crisp and clean. The exit was just as easy as the entrance with great colunteer support to get us out. I always used the wetsuit strippers because it works and I also find it insanely comical. I always look for big men and this race I found one BIG man who stripped me in less than 2 seconds and about threw me across the way. Thanks to that guy for making my day!!
Before the race I cracked an additional set of 2 hand-warmers and left them in my T1 bike gear bag, along with arm warmers, helmet, and extra emergency gels. The plan was to put on the arm warmers and stuff the 2 handwarmers into my bra/kit for a little extra warmth. Now you’d think I would’ve kept to this plan but NO, I came out of the water feeling good and warm from my swim and thought, “I’m hot, I don’t need those things anymore – I’ll be fine.” Maybe this was race brain or the lack of food?! Whatever the reason, it was a bad decision! I was a popsicle on the first 20 miles of the bike course, cursing myself for not sticking to the game plan, but sometimes you have to learn the hard way. I DID at least put on my socks to help keep my feet warm, something I don’t normally take the time to do. I had a long run down to the end of T1 where my bike was and a smooth mount. There was a small hill directly after the mount that upon investigating the day before (and with advice of past participants) I decided to pedal with my feet on top of the shoes before sliding my feet in.
As mentioned above, it was a chilly ride the first half of the course. The course is very flat and the road condition were OK, some patches of roughness and definitely some bumpiness going through interssections but I think overall I’d give it a B+. Maybe it was because of the flat course that I noticed a LOT of drafting… like, huge packs of people flying past me at 25+ mph. Frustrating – that’s all I’ll say about that. This was the first race I’d switched to “Christine’s Vegan Bike Blend” from Infinit Nutrition, a personalized mix of carbs, electorlytes, caffeine, and a small amount of protein in my bottles. My goal for this race having come out of the bike block was to hold at least 21 mph, and I just missed it at 20.9 mph!