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Wildflower Triathlon Race Report

Wildflower Triathlon

The One and Only begins!

Wildflower is truly the One and Only.  Having done this race three times, I can say it is by far one of my most favorite events.  However, I must start this race report with a pretty depressing statistic.  You see, Wildflower has a historical reputation of being somewhat of a party.  The Expo is more festival than than anything else.  The energy of the event, while extremely high, is very mellow.  The vibe exudes laid-back coolness.  Oh, and periodic nudity.  That’s right: naked college kids.

Now, the rumor is that Tri-California (the event organizer) has tried to quell some of the more outrageous antics that have been part of this event for decades.  For instance, the naked aid station around Mile 4 of the run is, well, sadly very clothed now.  In fact, my first two years, I have seen exactly zero naked things.  Sure, there’s tons of dudes without shirts and ladies wearing skimpy bikinis.  But, exposed lady parts and male apparatuses?  While I have no interest in seeing the latter, I have sadly also never seen the former.  Until this year….

However, let me be completely clear and open about this using math: One topless girl = two breasts.  That’s a Plus-2.  Two pantless fellows = two… well… male parts.  That’s a Minus-2.  Combine those and you get a net of ZERO.  (And, arguably, lower than zero since two dudes’ junk is much worse than the assets found on one topless female.  Again, using math: 2 dudes’ junk > 1 topless girl’s assets.)  Thus, after the race, I created the following summary:

2 boobies + 2 penises = NO BUENO

Sigh…  If I have to see the male bits, please o please, do me the favor of at least including the complementary female expositions!  With that, onto the report…

Pre-Race

Having done this race twice previously, I felt very comfortable getting ready and mentally preparing for what lied ahead.  Unlike every, other race though, I had zero concrete time goals.  Yes, I would have loved to swim sub-30, bike sub-3 hours, and run sub-1:45 (spoiler alert: NONE of those happened yet I loved my day.  Go figure…)  But, Wildflower is a beast and you cannot tame this one.  You have to accept what you face and do your best.  So, my real goal was to have a good, positive run.  I wanted to run and run well, but not fall apart at Mile 6 (as I did at Oceanside 70.3 this year).  Yes, I watching my time but I was really monitoring how I was feeling.  I just wanted to have a good race and feel like I performed well.  (Additionally, that goal had some added pressure since Wildflower has a partnership with Wattie Ink, the team for whom I race.  Feeling like I seriously underperformed at Oceanside 70.3, I wanted to submit a performance that was worthy of me wearing the Wattie Kit, Tattoos, and Gear.  I knew there would be a large contingent of Wattie athletes and supporters there and I wanted to earn my place with a solid performance.)

Wildflower Triathlon Pre-RAce

The morning of was very mellow.  The race starts later than most (8am rather than 6:30-7am).  I awoke, ate some oatmeal, finished prepping my gear and headed to transition.  Another wonderful thing is that transition stays open all day.  As long as your bike is racked prior to the first wave start, you can set-up at long as you need.  Yeah, I love this event.  Setting up took all of ten minutes so I spent my time chatting with other athletes, even meeting some new friends in person for the first time.  I just love the triathlon community and how genuinely friendly almost every is.  Each race, I feel like I get to make a few new friends and, thanks to the power of social media, stay in contact with them after the race.  I just think it is way cool.

Soon enough, my wave start was approaching so I donned my wetsuit and headed over.

Swim

Given my relaxed approach, I opted to start a few people back rather than push to the front.  Wildflower is a beach start (rather than a deep water start) so people will literally sprint a few steps before diving to begin their swim.  I wasn’t concerned enough about gaining those five seconds, so I opted to let those people have at it.  I did, though, find some feet to follow as I mistakenly decided to use clear goggles.  I prefer clear goggles and, after thinking about the swim course and path of the rising sun, thought I would have relatively glare-less swimming.  I have always struggled sighting at Wildflower and thought that clear goggles might help.  Put simply, I was wrong.

Reaching the first turn buoy, my sighting improved a bit, but I was still largely following a few green-capped swimmers (those are guys in my wave) and did my best to stay on their feet.  Pretty quickly, we began catching and passing swimmers from earlier waves.  This broke our little group a bit but I quickly found another set of feet and stayed right on them for most of the rest of the swim.

In general, I felt very comfortable, relaxed, and smooth in the water.  I never felt like I was working or struggling.  The water was pleasant, the air was cool, and I was enjoying myself.  As I made the last turn towards shore, I decided to up my effort and cruise into the exit.  As usual, many swimmers stood the moment they could see or touch the bottom.  I never understand that.  I may not be the fastest triathlete, but I certainly am a more than competent swimmer.  I know that most of the guys exiting around are racing for time yet there’s always some that just throw away time wading through ten to fifteen feet of waist-deep water.  I, on the other hand, swim until there’s only about six to twelve inches of water.  When I spring to my feet, I can immediately start sprinting to my bike.  Sure, I may gain a mere 5-10 seconds, but for people racing for a podium spot, that can make a difference.

In any event, I hit the shore and was off.  My swim time was 30:59 (24th out of 286 in my age group and 164 out of 2,087 total age group athletes).

Transition 1

Nothing like swimming for a half-hour or more and than being vertical.  Oh wait, how about having to run up a very long and very steep boat ramp.  Yep, that’s what you get when exiting the water.  Just a little taste of what Wildflower holds for you.

I sprinted to my bike, legs and lungs on FIRE, ripped off my wetsuit, donned my bike gear, and was gone.  Executing a flying mount, I doubt I could have moved any faster.  T2 time was 2:42, 3rd fastest in my age group by a paltry 12 and 8 seconds!  Yeah, I can’t run a 1:15 half-marathon but I am king of T1!  Surprisingly, I didn’t get a podium award for those accomplishment…

Bike

Having written about this bike course in prior race reports, I will skip detailing how it will make most people cry.  It is awesome but also awesome in its brutality.  Thankfully, I love hills and couldn’t wait to find them…

Wildflower Triathlon BikeOne side note about the first real climb, Beach Hill.  About halfway up, a lone coeds was cheering on us cyclists.  While I would never hope to get a flat tire, if I was going to get one, that would have a sweet place for it to occur as, you see, someone had stolen her shirt!  In spite of that larceny, she still braved the beautiful morning elements to give us a little pick-me-up.  I was impressed by her fortitude.  Not easy to be the victim of serious crime and still give back like she was…

My plan for the bike was just to ride within my zones.  I would work on the flats and uphills while recovering on the downhills.  On the serious climbs, I would simply try to survive but survive strongly.  I may not be the greatest cyclist (and never will be), but I want to develop more confidence in what I can do on the bike.  Monitoring my average MPH, simply to judge how I was doing, I was stoked to see my average up to 19.1 at Mile 42, the start of Nasty Grade.  Five miles later, at the top of Nasty Grade, that average had plummeted to 17.6, a bummer but entirely expected.  Five miles of climbing, the last two-plus being at 6% and building, is tough.

I hoped by riding strongly to the end would creep the average back up again to 18.6 (meaning a 3-hour bike split) but it was not to be.  My final bike time was a clean 3:07 for an average speed of 17.90.  While seven minutes slower than my hoped-for-time, I am still happy with that.  It is my fastest Wildflower bike split yet and done without riding outside of my zones.  Executing a flying dismount, I headed into T2.

Transition 2

Running to my spot, I quickly racked my bike, changed shoes, and was gone.   My time of 1:27 was 16th fastest in my age group, which is awesome considering I stopped for about ten seconds and doused myself with water before exiting T2.  Onto the real challenge…

Run

If the bike course is tough, the run is even worse.  You can read my descriptions of it here.  As brutal and unforgiving as it can be, I love it.  Trails and asphalt, twists and turns, clothed and potentially-naked volunteers, I mean, this run has it all!  I was stoked to feel good and still have my legs.

Wildflower Triathlon Run

Eurostar in effect! Always love the support!

Given the building heat, I decided from the start to run aid station to aid station and, while walking, throw water on my face, head, and body, grab a cup or two to drink, and then run off again.  Keeping the core temperature in control would become more and more difficult and the run progressed and, in my mind, the 5-10 seconds I would sacrifice walking the aid stations was worth the cooling effect I would receive.

As each mile ticked past, my smile just got bigger.  I honestly felt great for nearly the entire run.  Certainly I was fatiguing.  But, I didn’t melt down and I didn’t fail.  Somewhere between mile 10 and 11, I began to have real discomfort and would walk for 10-15 seconds simply to catch my breath and recompose myself.  But, the first ten miles passed relatively easily, given the terrain and the circumstances.

Reviewing my mile by mile splits, it is tough to say if I was truly as consistent as I felt.  There’s just too many ups and downs on that course.  But, removing Mile 5 (it has, by far, the most climbing), my miles ranged from 7:59 (the first one) to 9:03 (Mile 4, another with a serious amount of climbing).  While that seems like a large range, I am very happy with how I ran.  I think I will push more in the future and have more confidence in my ability to run, but on that day, I did what I wanted to do and feel great about it.

I did fade a bit down the stretch.  Miles 10 and 11 have a bunch of climbing and are very tough.  I still ran an 8:54 from 10-11 (which is nearly entirely uphill).  I did walk a few times from 11-12, which led to the 9:52 but I think I gave up at most one minute from the few walking spells I allowed.  Could I have run through them?  Could I have “dug deeper”???  Probably, but in the moment, I was hurting and am pleased at keeping that mile under ten minutes.  Mile 12-13 was my fastest at 7:58 but it is down the steepest hill of the day and my legs were totally trashed by that point.  Without risking a face-plant, barely sub-8 was probably my maximum speed!

Wildflower Triathlon FinishMy final run time was 1:52, good enough for 31st in my age group, which is comically where I finished in my age group too.  So, final tally for the day was 31st in AG (out of 276, plus some DNF-ers) and 189th overall (out of 2,087).  I had a great race, executed my plan very well, and loved every second of it, even when it hurt.

I’d like to thanks those that helped me get ready and finish this event: blueseventy for the awesome sleeveless Reaction.  (Secret note here, everyone will say “Wear a full; it is always faster” and that may be true.  But, in the water, it is not always about time; efficiency, comfort, and more also matter and the Reaction is a perfect balance between speed and those other non-time factors for me.)  PowerBar for keeping me fueled as always.  ISM for keeping sensitive areas of my body comfortable on one of the most brutal bike courses known to mankind.  Triple Sports for always being there with the day-to-day things all triathletes need.  KSwiss for the flat-out kick ass shoes, on this day my Kwicky Blade Lights.  If you haven’t tried them yet, do yourself a favor and do it!  They are a perfect combination of light-weight for real racing but sturdy enough to handle a 13.1 or 26.2 mile jog, even at Wildflower.  And, last but certainly not least, Wattie Ink for having me on the team.  To say I enjoy racing for Wattie is a colossal understatement; I love it.  Thank you all!

I am already getting excited about Ironman Boise 70.3 in June!  Thanks for reading!Wildflower Triathlon Finish

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