Demon Be Gone!
This weekend was the 26th annual Wildflower Triathlon festival at Lake San Antonio, CA. Wildflower has three different events – a long course (Half Ironman distance), an Olympic distance, and a mountain bike Sprint race. I’ve done various events at Wildflower 6 different years. I attempted the long course distance in 2000, but failed to finish. I made it halfway through the run before falling apart from dehydration. Therefore, I had a pretty bad attitude about Wildflower. Dave (my coach) encouraged me to compete and get over my mental “demon.” It was also to be a confidence booster for my upcoming Ironman (less than 50 days away!).
Part of the Wildflower “experience” is the fact that Lake San Antonio is in the middle of nowhere and you have to camp. Now, I’m all for camping. I enjoy it, actually. But, camping the night before a grueling 6 hour race just isn’t for me. So Dave and I drove down to Paso Robles and stayed there. We drove from Paso to the race on Saturday morning and it was a cinch. We got to sleep (in a comfortable bed) until almost 6am and were able to park near the race without a problem.
The race started at 8am, but my age group wave didn’t go off until 9:20am. I was done setting up my transition area by 7:30am. So I had plenty of time to hang around and chat with people, get nervous, stand in the porta-potty lines, and rearrange my tri gear dozens of times. Should I tuck my socks into my biking shoes, or lay them on my transition towel? Should I balance my bike helmet on top of my handlebars and risk someone knocking it off (along with my sunglasses), or set it on the ground? Whatever. It really doesn’t matter (although my coach would beg to differ). It’s not like I was trying to win or anything. I chatted with a friend, Tana, and she helped the time pass quickly. She’s a total Ironman guru – she has done 18 Ironmans since 1998! – and yet she still gets nervous at these things.
We finally lined up for our swim start. I warmed up a little. Eh, I didn’t really warm up. I just get in the cold water (they said the temp was 63 degrees) and splash it on my face a bit, to get that shock over with. For some reason, I lined up right in the front. That’s me, on the far right in the grey-stomached wetsuit, next to the balloon archway. I like to swim on the edges, out of the thrash. Otherwise, I expend too much energy worrying about everyone else or getting kicked in the face. It worked out well for me. The girls in my wave really didn’t take off that quickly and I managed to stay in front through to the first buoy, and by that time, all the swimmers had spread out. My swim was average. I felt awful the first 5 minutes (as I always do) and then felt great the rest of the time. I didn’t push it that hard; I just wanted to remember how it felt to do an open water swim. My goal was to swim 1.2 miles in 30 minutes. I got out of the water in 30:16. Fine with me!
The bike ride went pretty well. The first 20 miles felt effortless – I was riding nearly 19 mph and my heartrate was too high, but it felt so good, I kept going at that rate. “Nasty Grade” starts at mile 41 and when that is over, you hit “Heartrate Hill.” But, other than those two climbs and some rollers, the ride is beautifully scenic and not devastatingly difficult. Some poor girl crashed on her bike right in front of me. She wasn’t paying attention and hit the curb with her pedal and went down pretty hard. She said she was fine. And she must have been, because during the run she passed me like I was tied to a tree. I was hoping to finish in 3 and a quarter hours and my time was 3:14. Fine with me!
Wildflower is infamous for being difficult. And really what’s difficult is the run. It is brutal. I’m not a strong runner. Heck, I barely enjoy running. But this was 13.1 miles of yuck. Hill after hill after hill. Dirt trails, which, when placed in a canyon are dusty and sweltering hot. The temperature was well above 80, but some of the canyons just store the heat better. I gave myself permission, before the race ever started, to walk the difficult hills. And I did. I don’t think I would have gained much against the effort spent running up the steep parts. I hit several “low points.” And Dave, still snapping photos, cheered me on in several locations. I went past the TRIbe Triathlon booth. Those guys were spectating, drinking beers and and cheered very loudly (bullhorn and everything). That silliness boosted my energy for a couple miles. The devil that came up with the run course had the brilliant idea to run down a road for an entire mile just to turn around at the bottom and run back up. That depressing segment started at mile 9.5. Anyway, it was all fine in the end. I was hoping to run about 2 hours and 10 minutes. I ran 2 hours and 20 minutes. That was fine with me.
After the race was over, we drove to Paso Robles. My parents were kind enough to babysit Kevin on Friday afternoon through the race. Then they drove down to Paso Robles to meet us Saturday night. We stayed at a friend’s cottage called “Under the Oaks.” We had a great pasta dinner, a fancy brunch at Panolivo, and then drove home.
I’m tired, and sore, and happy I conquered my demon. I really didn’t care much how I placed, but I’ll admit I looked. I was 15th in my age group, out of 70 something. Again, fine with me!
Here is a clip of Heather starting the swim. She is on the far right. At the end of the clip she is the one in front on the far side of the pack.