WARNING: This blog post may contain long-winded, poignant moments that may cause some readers to ugly cry, followed by humorous and possibly graphic descriptions of bodily humors. Read at your own discretion.
Ironman Indian Wells 70.3 was not on the training plan…
I was not supposed to sign up for this race.
I was not supposed to attempt two half Ironman races, less than 6 months apart from one another.
I was not supposed to run a half marathon a week before a 70.3
I was not supposed to tumble down wet stairs before two races… (Explanation to follow)
But as any runner or recreational athlete has experienced the “pull” of a race…
There was a jacket….
A special medal….
No fog that would cancel the swim event…
And most importantly a team of inspiring people who were raising thousands of dollars for blood cancer research. Since Ironman Santa Rosa 70.3 was not a sponsored Leukemia Lymphoma Society event, Indian Wells 70.3 would be my first “team” event as I’ve been fundraising for LLS as an individual.
Sooo lets just throw caution to the wind and…RACE ON….
Of course, I waited til the last day of entry because who wouldn’t doubt their sanity before putting their body through another 70.3 miles of madness just for fun right? #teambaddecisions.
I officially signed the race registration “dotted line” at the last day of entry, as there were also questions and details to be ironed-out with my current fundraising efforts for Santa Rosa Full Ironman. (Please click here for my fundraising website and more info)
But before I can dive into the full race recap, the highs the lows, the race day drama, etc I should probably outline some of the training and pre-race craziness where some of you can feel fully justified at scolding me through the computer…
Ahem, you know who you are…
My training for Indian Wells 70.3 was admittedly a haphazard mish mosh of virtual team in training workouts sprinkled around some rides and race commitments. We also had a lot of “life” hit us hard this fall (and family is always first priority over any race).
Then came the Camp Fire, which displaced some of our family and a whole lot of friends. The loss of life and homes was not only catastrophic, but just plain hazardous to our entire region. Schools cancelled all classes, employees sent home, races cancelled, swimming cancelled, long group training rides non-existent, etc. Suffice it to say there were A LOT of athletes stuck indoors running on treadmills and tapering for the California International Marathon, therefore I was missing some of my amazing training partners and sole sisters. Nor was I about to approach them during the taper crazies either 😉….
T-minus 1 week before Race Day…Disaster strikes…
On the Friday afternoon of packet pick up for CIM (two days before the half marathon) I thought it would be a good idea to rake and blow wet leaves from our porch….My foot slips on the wet steps, and CRASH…BANG…FUUUU-DGE…I am on my back, dazed with the blower on top of my chest. My right lower back, sciatica and hip took the brunt of the impact as I had landed on the perfectly spaced, but sharp edged steps.
Yep that’s me…
Luckily my neighbor who ran to my aid was a nurse practitioner and we determined nothing felt broken and that it was a soft tissue injury versus bone. Of course instead of resting properly or going to the ER I gingerly iced then limped to packet pick up with the hubs. (Mistake #1)
Saturday, I wake up completely black and blue from my last right rib to the base of my spine and hip. I dismiss the CIM 5k shake out event, as I attempted to rest again, ice, Epsom salt bath, NSAID, etc. But family were in town for holiday events, so I was on my feet for half the day. (Mistake #2)
Finally Sunday, CIM half marathon relay is here. Despite us both feeling lousy, the hubs and I are stubborn and we run the half marathon anyway.
Six months ago when you see only race day dreams of rainbows and unicorns, my original plan was to PR the half marathon. But now I’m injured and have a half ironman race in 7 days. I run slow, stop frequently and take selfies with all my sole sisters, friends and family. AND I actually get to enjoy the second half of CIM, instead of being in utter misery. The back and sciatica definitely hurt but with race adrenaline it wasn’t debilitating. I do rest after the run with alternating heat and cold therapy, but now I have a dinner plate sized contusion and bruising on my back. (Mistake #3)
The week leading up to race day is a blur…Between tons of work obligations, I am packing, cleaning, race prep, etc. I am still trying to rest but don’t come home till 7pm, and 8pm most nights. I quickly figure out that standing feels the best for my injury and I don’t put any pressure on my right side. The bruises are now all colors of the rainbow and my husband has lovingly nicknamed me “rainbow butt” (Mistake #4)
We decide to leave early morning Thursday, and quickly realize southern California is getting ransacked by a winter storm. The grapevine is closed and we find ourselves on the Tehachapi summit driving through sleet and snow.
(And holy smokes! I love all my So-Cal peeps but some folks need to learn to drive in inclement weather!)
We were stuck for hours sitting in gridlock traffic. The pressure exacerbating my very bruised back. (Mistake #5)
Ok…So there you go… I’ve set the stage for race weekend. I know all my physician, physical therapy and nurse friends are shaking their heads at me, knowing what comes next. Hindsight is indeed 20/20, and looking back now I can see the error of my ways…But in my defense I was in complete denial of the injury severity, and next time ya’ll have permission to sit me down and we can have that “come to Jesus” race discussion😉
And the race weekend was one big glorious, beautiful, amazing, painful and even scary experience that was absolutely unforgettable. As I write I am still at awe of my fellow athletes and friends who shared this wild ride with me.
Now since it wasn’t my first 70.3 rodeo, I was able to relax a bit and not rush the packet pick up Friday. One of the best decisions we made was to bring our dog Sierra.
The resort was gorgeous, quiet and dog friendly, and if you are traveling to Palm Springs we highly recommend the Miramonte resort and spa.
Sierra also became the pseudo “team mascot” and “therapy pup”. I hadn’t realized until this trip how calming a dog is.
Honestly folks, ditch the sports self help books, and meditation music, nothing is better for pre race jitters than puppy kisses and petting a dog. Plus you can’t be too full of yourself and turn into a “tri-ass-lete”, strutting around the race expo, when you have a doggy doo doo 💩 bag in your hand.
Also Friday night I was still patching holes in my wetsuit and tacking on snaps to my tri kit so I never had the chance for the pre race nerves to truly kick in…But I did notice some sharp twinges in my lower back.
Saturday… T- minus 1 day
Saturday was AMAZING!!! I finally got to meet the full LLS Team in Training team in person (versus just stalking them on Facebook.)
Hey at least I’ve been described as a lovable stalker people!
We met up with the group on Saturday for run bag check in a short run around the tennis gardens. I finally met some of the wonderful ladies, Dominique, Heather, Beth, Angela and Allison in person and talk Tri. Terri A was there too and I saw Sena, so it was comforting to have these two amazing athletes there as I had at Santa Rosa. Also running with the Team in Training gals, chatting and laughing was like being back home with my S/MRTT sole sisters.
Nerves totally forgotten. Except there was a little insidious twinge and cramping that started in my lower back about the vicinity of my kidney. But I just mentally blocked it, and told myself it was a muscle spasm….Tis just a scratch right?
Afterwards was mandatory athlete briefing and of course I wasn’t listening because…
Oh yeah people, that is Mr. Mike Riley himself, the “Voice of Ironman”!!!! 😱 And yes I chased him down, and was that crazy fan girl.
He was incredibly nice and let me gush all over him like a huge nerd. He also gave me his email address should he not be announcing at Ironman Santa Rosa this year… Swoon
Once the athlete briefing was over, we rode the short 11 miles to the reservoir as a team. This was to drop off our bike, T1 gear and wetsuit decontamination.
Yes folks we had to decontaminate our wetsuits.
Well considering it was the community of Indian Wells drinking water source, I’d want 2,500 athletes to clean their wetsuits too!
But I was actually excited that I could wear my swim suit for the race and do a full transition versus just laying out gear by the bike.
I purposely planned for long transition times because it would be a good dress rehearsal for Ironman Santa Rosa in May. Swimming in a bikini versus tri kit… ummm GAME CHANGER!!!
Of course the mermaid in me was happy…Until…
(Apparently if you sign up for the same triathlon as me, don’t necessarily count on the swim happening)
The mermaid definitely threw a minor mental tantrum, but the possibility of a cancelled event did relieve the nerves of swimming in very cold water.
As of Saturday the highest temperature of the water had been measured at 56 degrees. So I snagged a neoprene cap at the race expo, cut off the chin strap and hoped for the best, sans neoprene booties…I also gave a Hail Mary, that the icy water may numb the pain in my back.
Which had turned into sharp twinges towards Saturday evening. However I was again caught up in the pre race/ team euphoria. And when you’re asked to speak at an inspiration dinner, listen to amazing stories of loss and hope, with your Team in Training teammates you ignore the pain.
(Thankfully this video was taken from the back, cause I was just trying to hold it together when I spoke. I’m definitely an ugly crier)
Twinges are minor when you hear about the ravages of blood cancers, and your teammates racing to honor their parent that lost their battle or for themselves as survivors.
This team had so much grit, determination, and were incredibly inspiring, raising almost $200,000 and securing research grants in memory of loved ones. We were just so glad we could contribute a tiny bit and be part of the team. ❤️
Race day morning was an easy 4am wake up, husband dropped me off at the shuttles and promptly went back to bed. I arrived at the reservoir with time to spare, found my gear and just prepared my transition mentally.
Dawn sunrises are beautiful in the desert. And the swim wasn’t cancelled. (Wasn’t sure if I was happy or sad about that) Water was a balmy 56 degrees. I did catch Sena in transition for what seems to be my pre-race tradition now. Also she wasn’t wearing booties so it made me feel better I wasn’t wearing them either.
SWIM: Just keep swimming…
I’ve swam in cold temps before, and at Xterra last year during stormy conditions it was the first time I seriously considered calling for water rescue. Since then I’ve learned when swimming in the cold DON’T SWIM FAST!!! Regulate your breathing, stay focused and swim steady. (Here is a really good article on swimming in cold conditions and avoiding hypothermia)
So my race day strategy was to seed myself incredibly conservative at the start in the 40-45minute group (compared to a chill sub 35 or faster if I could catch a good draft off a masters swimmer) I wasn’t expecting that kind of luck at my first Ironman swim though.
In the meantime, my lower back and abdomen started to burn. I again was amped up on race adrenaline, bonding with new friends like Angela and Missy (Definitely group hugs for warmth were happening) Then the next thing we knew we were off.
After the first 100 yards I immediately knew I had made the mistake of the conservative time seeding. People were not sighting and weaving, I couldn’t draft off anyone cause I was swimming faster than them, limbs were flying, and finally I had to swim through a wall of men blocking my path. (I think I even saw a guy in a full face snorkel mask!)
But I kept at it despite some unintentional throat checks, goggles knocked off and punches to the boobs, I was able to put some distance, between the 40 minute swimmers and gain on the 35 minute group… Until… This guy…
200+ lbs of solid muscle swam over me pushing me under as I cornered the last buoy on my back. I sputtered to the surface and got mad those last yards catching up to him. I did give myself a few minutes at the end to get my vertigo in check before crossing the swim finish (you can definitely see me in the swim pic above trying to get my head straightened out). But I survived despite the impromptu “water polo match” instead of a swim. Lesson learned…
BIKE: The bad….
I started out great on the bike, hydrated, ate, and riding at a nice steady 19mph.
See mom, proof that I was hydrating…
I swear Justin Luau has the most beautiful images until he photographs me😂…In Frankie’s words, “fancy”
My goal was to keep it at a chill 18-19mph cause I wanted to still have legs for my run. But by mile 30 something was really wrong. Like really wrong…My abdomen was painful and my lower back felt like a knife was being driven in. I couldn’t hold aero comfortably and saw my pace crawl to 15mph. Luckily I met Betsy from Oakland tri on the course and chatting with her helped take the mind off the pain. I also had to pee like a race horse. I had never been so relieved to see the T2 arch.
Then just as I approached they were calling for an ambulance as one of my Team in Training teammates had fallen hard just a couple feet away from the T2 entrance. My heart bled for the guy after he had survived the swim and bike. I heard later he would be ok, but I definitely wasn’t going to give up over some back pain when a teammate is broken on the ground.
Run: The Ugly…
After a long transition I knew I had ample time to finish, so I was kind to myself and walked to the first aid station. I took in more nutrition and used the restroom as I still had to pee….
Ummm yeah that didn’t happen…. I ummm… I couldn’t actually ummm go?…. What the FUUUDGE?!! The burning, and pain had moved to my abdomen, and my bladder was on fire… Seriously?!
So I picked myself up and said FUUDGE IT! I’m WOG (walk/jog) another Ironman and I’m damn well going to finish. So I did.
(Those were some gingerly, painful steps)
I walked through the burning and pain, I hydrated, ate and visited 3 porta potties, but still no… Go….
Thank goodness my husband found me on the course and I could tell him what was physically wrong. He gave me the news of my teammates being hauled from the swim due to hypothermia, the multiple bike crashes, the falls on the run. He asked me if I wanted to throw in the towel and gave me a loving out. Of course I gritted my teeth and said no. I could tell he was worried but he had nothing but words of encouragement and love.
Then I met Jennifer on the second round of the golf course. She was beat, I was beat, and she was doubting a finish. I basically told her if she walked with me I’d get her to a sub 7:30- 8hr finish. (I don’t think she believed me at first until I was pacing her at a 13-14 min walking mile)
We stopped at aid stations, chatted and kept my mind off the pain and yes got caught walking by the race photographers 😂 which is a big no no…
(At least I smiled for the camera)
Jennifer was also from my same local area, knew of S/MRTT and was such an awesome sole sister. I give her so much credit for hanging with me at the end as my bladder felt like it about to explode. We cursed, we complained, we hauled each other to the finish line.
By the finish I was crying behind my sunglasses seeing the Team in Training cheer station, my amazing husband and just from pain. We snagged a couple pics with the race photographer before I politely excused myself to a real restroom.
When things relaxed that’s when I saw the blood and immediately went to the medical tent….
Diagnosis? They think it was some small calcification or an old blood clot originating from my fall the week before, which plugged my urinary tract. I was rehydrated, monitored, and had to prove I could pee again, then released to Kaiser for meds and lab work.
I definitely rested and rehydrated for 2 days…. HARD… And it took us nearly 9 hrs to drive home to allow for proper rest breaks and hydration. I’m also on a two weeks rest for no strenuous activity so I intend to thoroughly enjoy the Christmas holiday.
But I finished a COMPLETE Ironman 70.3…And we raised funds for LLS….That’s all that matters.
As I mentioned before, hindsight is 20/20 and there were some good and bad lessons learned. At least passing the equivalent of a kidney stone during a race, and surviving my first Ironman swim definitely gave me a little confidence. That I actually do have enough mental fortitude (or pure stubbornness) to finish. I watched some incredible athletes this year push through races with gnarly injuries and illnesses, like detached rotator cuffs and 103 degree fevers (ahem you know who you are 😉) and thinking I could never finish a race under those conditions.
I’ve also seen athletes make the horrendously hard decision after months of training and “be smart” to allow their body to heal. (After this week I am now favoring team “rest” and sometimes that decision is much harder to make) I’ve learned now a soft tissue injury can be very severe and to watch for these types of warning signs in the future. After all I would like to keep both my kidneys in working order for Santa Rosa…
(Yeah I don’t want to be that guy)
All in all the course was tougher than it looked on paper and to all my teammates,and fellow athletes you are AMAZING!!! I know for some of you there were factors out of your control and a DNF is heartbreaking after months of sacrifice and hard work. Even if a race doesn’t go as planned you fought the good fight and showing up is half the battle. I was seriously blessed to have the opportunity to race with such inspiring people. Now let’s really enjoy the holiday and see you at Ironman Santa Rosa ❤️
Cheers and hugs, T