Wildflower is about the whole weekend. It's not only about whatever race one does. It's about the camping the wandering aimlessly around for a day waiting for your race (or after your race depending on which one you do) and hoping...hoping...hoping you are hydrating properly if you are racing on the second day. (I do have some pics for the post...but I forgot my cable at work...so I'll update a little later) So...even though I only did the relay of the bike leg of the Olympic distance...this is a long post. Scroll down to Sunday if you only want to read the RR. Pretty long RR for *just* the bike leg of a relay...but whatever.
Friday I got off work at 12 and headed up with my friend N and her boyfriend T. It is about a 6 hour drive from SD up to Wildflower...I had no idea where I was going so far north until I saw signs for Fresno and said "where are we?". The ride up was pretty uneventful for us, unfortunately the car that had my bike had difficulties with one of the bikes and it ended up needing a new wheel when we got up there. Yikes. We set up camp, met up with a few people my friends knew and then eventually called it a night.
If you venture to Wildflower, it is camping in higher elevation. It may get hot during the day, but it sure gets cold at night. I slept poorly and was pretty cold that night. When really really early in the morning came, I was awakened by someone running....what? Out for a jog at dark 30 o'clock on your race morning? OK...who knows if that person was racing, it was all a little odd though especially since when the sun actually came up it was more like 6am which meant they were running at 5 something am. Go back to bed people.
Saturday, we spent most of the day hanging down at race central area where we did manage to watch some of the pro's come in. Reading about protriathletes and then seeing them is always a disjointed affair for me because they just look like any other skinny, tan, superfit-triathlete in a tri-suit out there...they just are coming in first place in 4:00:43 (that's just crazy fast)for 'Macca who from the sounds of the announcers had been battling it out with Chris Lieto and Eneko Llanos from Spain as the announcer said at 3:40...that Lieto was in first at that point. McCormack was checking his shoulder down the whole shoot...so it appeared that it had been a pretty tight race.
The race central was pretty cool with some bands playing and the food not being too, too bad. We ventured out for a swim at one point. For me it was to cool off as I would not be swimming the next day, but everyone else was swimming the next day so sorta a warm-up...as they were all ex-swimteam superstars they zoomed around as I just sorta flopped around in the water...as I do...and called it a swim stroke. We headed back to our campsite for dinner and as we were finishing up...about 30...yes 30...streakers, men and women came running through our section of the camp site. They don't call it the 'woodstock of triathlons' for no reason. There had been some 'practice' streaking the prior evening, but it was dark the previous night and it was not so dark on Saturday.
(total elevation gain +2219/-2219 ft, lowest point on this map 800ft highest point 1175ft, no it is really hilly, it doesn't just look that way)
People had completely freaked me out about the bike at Wildflower, even for the Olympic distance. I had heard heard: "Ohmygosh it is so hard" "The hills" "The heat" and on and on and on. I had studied the bike course profile. I went so far as to map out every freaking hill on the 40K and figured out their % grade. And then obsessed over where to put the map on my bike. I admit it...I can sometimes be overly
dramatic...because I think it is sorta funny...so saturday when we decided not to drive the course I got slightly overly dramatic. Needless to say, I felt like a dork, because how do you explain that you were actually 90% kidding only 10% serious about your own neurotic behavior, I mean I had obsessed all afternoon about how to tape the stupid map I made to my bike...if I were on the other end of it...i'd think "freakshow"...but whatever, i digress. That's me...a bit type A, slightly a dramaqueen, and a planner. Because at the end of the day...I knew it would be fine. I'd feel better if I got to see the course but I also knew it wouldn't be the end of the world if I didn't see it either. Besides, i didn't have to run after the bike so I could just go as hard as I could possibly sustain and just deal with the ramifications later.
But I will admit...all the studying of the map, and succumbing to other people's fear mongering of the bike course I had no idea how fast I could go, or even if I would be 'swept' off the course. Being in a relay, we were in the last heat of the day which meant no one behind us...so that wasn't a good thing either for someone freaked out about how hilly the course was. I figured that since I'm not a very fast biker on the flats, (I only average between 15-17mph)...that the supposedly hilly, hilly, ohmygosh hilly course, might even kill me. I was hoping to both finish in one piece and under two hours. I figured I might be able to do 12.5 mile avg speed for a hilly bike, right? RIGHT? I had a few deep seeded fears that I might not even make that.
One of the steepest hills is Lynch Hill...that is about oh, 300m into the ride. It's 7-10% grade for about 3/4 of a mile. As I was riding my bike down to transition I thought "This is lynch hill??"...I was UNIMPRESSED. Now, don't get me wrong...it is a solid hill, but sorta unimpressive at the same time. Knowing that this was the steepest hill, I sighed a bit of relief.
Now being in a relay we had TWO HOURS from the time the race started til our heat left. I had gotten there early as I had an irrational fear that even though for the long course they hadn't closed transition to people with their bikes later in the morning, I irrationally thought they might this morning. So I got down there way too early and had to sit around for quite awhile.
And the memory of why I enjoy racing started to come back. The scores of people looking anxious and excited. The relay teams that take themselves WAY too seriously as their biker is warming up on a trainer. There just is a great excitement that just bubbles everywhere. It made me smile to be a part of it.
Finally our heat was up. My friend took off, she thought she'd be done around 24mins...so I watched her take off...and made my way back to my bike. The first swimmer from the relay heat came out in something stupidly fast...like 18 minutes. AND:
The relay teams were bouncing around looking anxiously for their swimmer as people started to come in. My friend showed up and I was off.
I got up Lynch hill and thought 'hmmm this isn't too bad'...and proceeded on my merry way. Most of the hills I tried to just keep the cadence high and if i started to feel the lactic acid burn more on the uncontrollable side of things I employed the 'waltzing' technique. I managed to drop my chain in a stupid section...i wasn't even on a hill...but my gearing was acting a little odd all day long and had me worried at times (but i think it was more operator error than gearing problems). The miles were flying by and I was having a lot of fun. I should point out that aside from not having driven the bike course I also had managed to misplace my HRM so I really felt like I was flying blind. And it was the BEST thing for me. I just pushed until my legs burned and I was breathing hard and tried to hold that as best as I could.
I was getting near the turn around section and an aid station was up ahead. I was running low on one bottle of fluid so I decided to try to take a bottle of water from a volunteer. I've never done this before and was slightly unnerved with the thought, but I just pointed at the guy holding the water, said "WATER" held out my hand...he ran with me, and I got it...easy peasy. I know this sounds storta stupid, but it is something that has always sorta freaked me out. Completing such a smooth hand off made me feel even more like a rockstar. Icing.
After I got to the turn around, on the way back I could feel my legs starting to complain a little more, I waltzed a bit more up the hills. For the most part I typically would pass a bunch of people on the hills and but not get passed too frequently on the flats so my fears of being swept off the course were put to sleep early on. Being in the last wave can be a confidence booster as there are not as many people behind you to potentially pass you either. I'll take it.
As I flew into transition down Lynch hill that rush of adrenaline that comes from a race well executed came back to me...and left a smile on my face that in all honesty hasn't left me. I looked down at my time to see I was WELL under 2 hours and even had an average speed close to 14.5mph. I was pretty ecstatic.
I handed off the chip to my friend who was doing both the swim and the run...and reveled in my accomplishment for the day. My thoughts on the hills: They deserve respect as they can be a bit relentless at times, but WAY over stated. I trained on hills and in lots of headwinds (and lots of squats:-) ) preparing for this race so I was prepared physically for them, but overall the course reminded me more of the hills in Western MA and in VT...and what I typically used to train on. I also grew up biking every.single.day of summer up a mile long 7% hill as that is what I lived on, so being 12 and refusing to walk my bike up the hill apparently was a good for future mental hill training. No i'm not fast on the hills, but I don't let them boss me around either.
Most importantly I started to remember why I love tri's and racing. I've been in a muddle lately with recovering from my injury and just adjusting to a new surrounding and I rediscovered the joy of race mornings, mental preparations, training, and tri's in general this weekend. I'm looking forward to Wildflower next year I will definitely at least do the Olympic. I am also more pumped to race this season.
To sum it up: The weekend rocked.
My oh so sweeeet FREEE Headsweats visor I scored.