Since I DQ’ed at Desert Triathlon a few months ago, Wildflower Long Course was a big race for me. If I finished, I can officially call myself a “triathlete.” Although we were told that this was not our race (because Vineman is my big race), we were to treat this event as training. “Just another day at the office,” as Coach Brad would say. In more ways than one, I did though. I guess it’s from the years of marathons that I don’t get much of the pre-race jitters anymore. I’ve always looked at these events, even if it were my race I’ve been training for, as just another training, because there’s always going to be another one after that. Not too long ago, we had our training weekend here, but it was raining like crazy, so we didn’t really experience the full course, so I think that was probably the only thing I was concerned about.
We swam as a team the day before to get our preview of the lake. Each time I’ve entered the open water I’m a little more and more comfortable each time, so by the time the actual horns sounded that morning, I wasn’t so nervous. It was a wave start, and I was calmly walking at the back of the pack until it was deep enough to dive in. It was an L shaped route – up, right for a long straightaway, short right, then right for another long stretch, then left back to shore. First half was a bit tough to get used to the rhythm, plus I couldn’t get it out of my head that there was so much more swim to go. “Where’s the next buoy?!?”. Once I rounded the corner for the turnaround, I had my rhythm and was able to swim back pretty nicely. Water was rough and choppy, and at one point there was a bunch of debris I guess from all the choppiness, but I eventually got past it. The last turn back to shore, I was pretty much swimming and smiling because I knew then and there, I was DONE (with the swim). Out of the water, I was celebrating as if I finished the whole race!
After the swim was a long slightly uphill climb to the transition area. It was tough because I’m not so used to running on bare feet. After a while I just walked it. Peeled off my wetsuit, then I realized I forgot a bottle of water to wash off my feet. First thing I did was put on my bike helmet, then I sprayed a bunch of sunscreen, then I put on my compression socks, which is also another bad idea because you know how tough it is to put on those things? Double, then triple checked that I had everything.
Our coaches prepared us well with the tools to mentally and physically tackle the bike course – they provided a mile by mile description and strategy, so I knew exactly what to expect. That first mile out of T1, my only goal was to get the cadence high enough to warm up my legs for a rather huge climb at mile 2, called “Beach Hill.” We did this hill during WF Training Weekend, so I knew what this was all about. What I did not expect though, at the top of the hill, my lower left back muscle started to ache, which kept lingering throughout the course. After that was a bunch of rollers, then at the flats which I expected to gain some good ground and step up the speed, we were all faced with a very very terrible headwind. Imagine that, trying to get up a pretty difficult hill, then you have the wind trying to stop you. You know what? It didn’t stop me.
There were some fierce winds up until the infamous “Nasty Grade”, a pretty challenging 5 mile climb. It was slow and steady (and the somewhat bumpy road didn’t help). Once I got to near the top, I saw our coach Arkady in our Photo Captain Louis’ Pikachu outfit, taking photos and video. I’m not exactly sure what happened, but I might of been trying to look good for the camera by resting my hands on my aero bars to climb better, and lost my balance! I knew I was able to fall, so I did the little bike dance and made myself fall to the right where there’s soft dirt and grass instead of left, on the pavement in the way of other riders. Oh man, so embarrassing! I was only STEPS away from the very top! I’ll post the video later when I get it from coach Arkady. Nasty Grade wasn’t the last of it, there was “Energizer Hill”, immediately after you turn the corner to mess with your mind again. After those monster climbs were some other rolling hills, but nothing as bad. I just wanted it to end already, so the last few miles seemed like it took forever! Back to camp, the final descent was Lynch Hill, and you know how happy I was here! No flat tires, no accidents, I finished the bike with no major complications!
This transition was much much quicker because all I had to do was rack my bike, and switch my bike gear to run gear. At this point though, it was getting really really hot, so I put on extra sunscreen (actually finished the bottle). Did the double & triple check, and also made sure I wasn’t running out of T2 with my bike helmet still on!
Yes! The run! At this point, I was well under the time limit even if I walked the whole thing. My hopes were very high that I will be a Wildflower finisher! The heat was getting up there, so I still had some motivation in me to finish as soon as possible because it’s going to get hotter from here. The course was harder than any half, or even full marathon I’ve ever ran. Just like the bike, there were some hills to conquer, and just when you thought you have a nice flat to gain some ground, there were more wind! Some of the desolate parts with no shade were a little boring and there was nothing to get distracted by. I just had to treat it like any other training run, so once I did that, I used the last bits of energy to finish strong! That last mile was the same downhill like the bike – Lynch Hill. It was pretty steep for a run, so I just let gravity take me.
I turned the corner past the transition area, and there was the finishing chute! I felt good enough to
sprint it on home! People cheering on the sidelines, and towards the end were stands filled with people! Music blasting, announcer yelling out names, it was all a blur really. You don’t understand the excitement I was going through! It was a rush hundred times more than my very first marathon!
Wildflower was probably THE toughest event I’ve ever done. It’s tough to compare really, because the training we do in the IronTEAM is levels above I’ve ever trained. Just being able to manage all the sports and finish was a hugh milestone in my training, or in life, actually. It really goes to show that if you really want something, you can accomplish it. It’s my coaches and teammates that inspire me day in and day out these past few months, and I may sound like a broken record, but I really do love this team!