It's that time of year again. The first weekend in May and the 31st annual running of the Wildflower Triathlons at Lake San Antonio. Two days, three races and it attracts triathletes of all types, plus a healthy does of Cal Poly San Louis Obispo Mustangs.
Where is Wildflower? It's just inland from California's central coast in Monterey county, about 45 minutes from Paso Robles.
The location of the event makes the logistics very simple. Its a camping trip! Last year I tent camped. This year, I rolled in style. Clark W. Grizwald style! I rented an RV and packed up the whole family.
Putting the P5 on the back just did not make sense. That was clear as soon as I saw it there that it was a location unfit for such a bike. So, she rode up front with us instead.
Because Wildflower is sooo far out there, just about everyone camps. The camp ground is huge and just seems to take all comers. The other issue is that there is only one road in or out. That road is part of the course, and as such, is closed on race day. So, once your in, you are in for the day. The vibe in the camp ground is so cool. Tri club banners are all over the place. College club teams camp together. The whole place becomes a little community. It is the reason Wildflower is known as the "Woodstock of triathlon". The event is also gigantic. Unlike many other events, they don't sell it out. Wildflower takes all comers and makes for a really big race. You can even register on site race morning. In the middle of nowhere, they have the space for thousands.
We got in the RV early on Friday morning and made good time. We made it to the lake at about noon and were able to score a great location in the main area of the Redondo Vista camp ground not far from the walking path down to the Start/Finish/Expo area.
The first order of business was to pick up my packet and then get in a quick swim on the course. It was about 100 degrees and everyone needed a cooling off.
Friday was basic. The RV shut down pretty early and we had the kids to bed by 8:30. My son slept like a baby in the RV table that converted to a bed. He woke up at midnight crying.... like a baby. A bad dream? Then at 2:00 AM, he rolled out of the bed and landed two feet below screaming.... like a baby. He is still only a few months out of the crib. My daughter, sleeping 4 feet away, slept through the whole thing, both times. My wife and I, not so much. I am not sure about nearby campers.
Everybody was up about 6:00 AM and the camp ground started to come alive as people started getting ready to head down to transition. The Pros started at 8:00 AM. I woke up tired and feeling a little off. I got a bit of cold on Tuesday prior to race day and as a result, I took the week off from training to rest and get better. On Saturday, I felt better, but i felt totally flat. I went from build, to nothing, to the starting line.
Breakfast was the usual; scoop of protein with water, two slices of toast with peanut butter and jelly and a bottle of water. Later in transition, about 45 minutes before my start, I would have a protein bar and a few swigs of gatorade.
All dressed and ready to go, I headed to transition at about 6:45. My wave start was 8:45.
Note that the seat in the picture above is different from the one where the bike is in the bed? Yeah, I changed it. I like to live dangerously. The Adamo seat was really cosy sitting up, but was too wide when I was on the tip in the aero bars. I gave it 40 miles and then decided to pull the rip cord.
The little headaches and "friction" started right away. I got to T1 easy, set up my stuff and then set about to pump up my tires. Front was a cinch, but as you can see above, I run a disk cover. That means that the rear is generally a bit of pain. My hand pump would just not grab it right. I unscrewed a couple of the screws in the cover around the valve, but this didn't work either. I found a community pump and tried that. I only succeeded in breaking off the valve stem tip. WTF?!?
It was about 7:00 AM and I had plenty of time. I got frustrated with the cover and decided to just take it off. The PowerTap hub makes this easy - no tools! Once the disk cover was off, I changed the tire and was good to go finishing my set up. Hopefully, that was the little glitch of the day.
I ran into Trevor Garson in Transition. Like me, he was on a brand new bike with a 3-4 day old , not ridden very much set up. We shared common concerns and wished each other "luck".
I was feeling pretty confident headed down to the water. I had not seen my family yet, but figured they were around. I got to the line at 8:40 to see the wave ahead go off. After they were gone M40-44 Group A (PINK CAPS!) were OK'ed to get in and splash around for 4 minutes. I lingered getting out and as a result, I had a front row seat for the start.
The start is basically a boat ramp into Lake San Antonio under a blow up arch. Here is a shot of the kids and I hamming it up the day before.
The course goes out this little area between these two docks, then it dog legs right and does an out and back. The swim exit is narrow and just to the right of the entry. Here is a look at the course.
The swim started out great. I hammered for 3-4 minutes and was quickly ahead of the scrum. I was in pretty clear water for the whole thing. I just stretched out, tried to sight consistently and relax. I started picking up and passing slower swimmers from earlier waves pretty quickly. The only thing I noticed initially was stiff and sore shoulders. Because of my cold earlier in the week and had not done any kind of swim workout (prior day in the lake with kids no withstanding) since the Friday before.
Soreness passed and then it was the heat! I wore a two piece DeSoto suit and was way too warm. At 72 degrees they forbid the pros from wearing wetsuits. Had I not wanted the float of wearing the suit, I would have left it in T1. I started to overheat so badly that I kept trying to stretch the neck of the suit open to get some cooler water in. I should have brought and worn my sleeveless TYR wetsuit like the prior year.
I got out of the water and began the long trot up the boat ramp to the T1 area. At the top, there was the wife and kids! So stoked. A couple High-Fives and kisses and was off to find my bike.
Here are the Swim stats: 0:34:13 for 01:46 pace. Rank was 411 overall. This was a pretty good result, but some how slower than last year's 0:32:xx. I think the heat worked against me. I felt a bit "wrung out" at the end. Not winded or with a high heart rate, but just a bit drained and little nauseous.
This transition was pretty vanilla. I took my time, but kept moving parts to a minimum. Wet suit off, sunglass, helmet, race belt, socks and shoes on. Then I trotted to the mount line. Time was 5:47. Whatever...
The ride started off well. I felt like I had exercised a few demons from the morning and was ready to move out.
Here is a shot of me climbing out of the lake area. Note the the wheel cover is missing from my back wheel. This set up may be less aero, but it is just totally worry free.
The picture above is the first little climb leaving the lake area. It starts at about mile 1 and is maybe a mile-ish long. Two unexpected things happened. First, my seat slipped! I am just grinding along, trying to keep the watts down and suddenly the seat slips an inch or two! WTF?!?
I stop, grab my multi tool, and loosen the bolts. The seat post is not marked, and I have no tape measure, so I move it up and start to crank the bolts back down. I get on and immediately know it is still way too low. Back off the bike, repeat the steps above and jump back on. This feels "ballpark" and I call it good. I later measured after the race and I was still a centimeter too low.
What about the second thing you ask? Yeah, half way up the grade a women is holding a big sign right under her chin. As I ride up, she lowers the sign and I realize she is topless! Form over my shoulder the guy behind me shouts "thank you for doing this". To which, the women replies "Of course!" Oh, yeah, this is Wildflower...
The bike course is a simple loop around the lake. 55 miles of up and down. Some how it felt more up on race day.
The bike started to get weird around mile 20. I just felt sapped. I was weak and I was getting worried. I was either behind on water or nutrition or both. Or, perhaps I had some fatigue from being sick earlier in the week? Or, maybe all three? Or, perhaps I am a total poser destined for a nasty explosion? All this starts going through my head.
By mile 30, I am in trouble. I just feel BAD. It's hot and I am tired. Like call a cab tired. This is a new experience for me. Generally, I am just on a bike ride getting ready for a run, but today I am in a bad way.
I start stepping up the water and I am trying to keep the nutrition going. My down tube bottle is a double portion of Stained Energy from Hammer. Generally it works for me, but today it just seems terrible. My stomach just has a weird bloat and feels bad. With a 1/3 of the bottle to go, I juts don't want anymore and ditch the bottle at an aid station. To make things just a little more annoying, the aid stations are giving either full bottles of gatorade, that I hate, or half full water bottles. Half full? What? It just makes no sense...
At mile 40, I am about to cross a little bridge and hit "Nasty Grade". Suddenly, I notice a few people sitting in lawn chairs cheering. Its probably 8 people mixed with guys and girls. From the middle of my nightmare, I notice the 4 women are topless. Oh, yeah, Wildflower....
I hit Nasty Grade, I gear down and just grind it out. It is not much of climb, but it is just making me suffer. I am hot, I am dry mouthed and I just ready to quit. At the next aid station I even start with a little Gatorade hoping that will do the trick. It doesn't. At mile 50 I literally just want OFF MY BIKE.
Finally, the last little joke comes. I make the turn off the road to get back into the lake and I forget that there is like another 3 miles to go to transition. There are a couple stupid long grades and the mercury is knocking on 100 degrees. I am SERIOUSLY considering just getting off the bike and going home.
Finally, I reach the top of Lynch Hill and can scream down the steep descent to Transition.
Above is a little power-geekery for those so inclined. My Normal Power (NP) is 10 watts lower than my 2:50ish bike split at IM Cal just 4 weeks before. My VI is high at 1.17 because I coasted on the down hills sort of circled the drain as ride ground on.
Something is definitely wrong here. I have never suffered to finish a 55 mile ride. For comparison, here is look at last year versus this year. The funny thing is that I remember thinking last year, that I had a TERRIBLE ride due to some mechanical issues, but I felt good. And, I was a much newer athlete. After this year, I would happily to take last year's ride. Not so much for the 8 minutes as that I just felt great getting off last year.
This was a pretty long transition. I took my time, did some soul searching, applied a little sun block and searched my soul again. I was not going to fail to finish. Our motorhome was parked near mile 7, so I decided to set out for mile 7 and at least get close to home. Time is T2 was a surprising 00:03:01
I trot out of T2 and go about 400 meters to my favorite port-o-potty. The ones in T2 are busy. This one is always empty. I jump inside, give it a try, nothing happens. A few drops. Thats it. Oh well, back on the run.
The course follows the lake for a couple miles before heading up hill fast. The miles along the lake are basically up and down and more dirt then asphalt.
Looking at the profile in my mind, feeling my bloated stomach, I quickly started walking the uphill sections, then I found myself walking all but the down hills. Each aid station was a cup of water over the head and then one to drink. I thought I could walk through my stomach issues and fatigue, but it just would not relent.
I got to mile 7 and there was the RV. Base camp was so close, I could touch it. But, I decided to soldier on and stayed on the trail of tears. The miles actually begain to tick by and at mile 9 I started the out-and-back section into "the hole". If you look at the profile above, its the big dip at mile 10. Down you jog about a mile before you are forced to grind your way back up and out. Then it is little grades and descents , Wildflower gives nothing up easy, until you are back at the top of Lynch Hill. From Lynch, you are running flat out down hill for almost a mile and then are staring at about 200 flat meters to the finish. This was the only bright stop in my day. According to Strava, there is a segment that measures the Finish Chute. I PR'ed it versus last year.
Here is an interesting data point. I was wearing a cadence monitor. When running, I am doing about 90 steps. When walking, it drops 60. Shocking to see how much I walked.
Here are the splits. This is a really bummer. 4 weeks before, at IM California, I posted a 02:02:xx. My Half Marathon PR is 1:42. Wildflower was a 02:43:56.
The best part of the day was that my family made it into the bleachers at the finish. I missed seeing them as "I PR'ed the chute", but they heard my name called out and I am lucky my kids don't have a real strong understanding of time or it's importance yet.
We caught up in transition and then went for a swim at the swim start. Here is the recap:
After the race, it took me a long time to feel "better". The fatigue I felt was really strong and my stomach was just wrong. I didn't want to eat anything. I was just overcome with thirst. In the couple hours after the race, I had one liter of water, two 16oz Aloe Gloe's and a 1 liter of chocolate flavor ZICO coconut water. To eat, I just had a few bites of what my kids were having. The crazy thing was that I didn't urinate. Even after all that fluid, I just didn't go. In the morning, the bathroom is generally my first stop. When I woke up after the race, it was a few hours before I went and it was very little. I took fluids all morning and didn't start really urinating until after lunch. I suppose I was just that dry or perhaps even started the race dehydrated? Sorry if all that was TMI (too much information), but I am just trying to contribute to the knowledge base. :)
Anywhoo, Sunday AM we got up, packed up camp and got on the road by 7:00 AM to beat the road closure for the Olympic distance race.
Some how, after racing all day the day before, everyone slept on the way home, but me...
So, final thoughts. It was a long hard day, but I love this race and will be back next year. This race was good experience in that I saw for the first time real adversity on race day. It shocked my confidence for a few days, but I have trained well since the race, looked at my nutrition and am ready to keep heading down the road to Coeur d'Arlene in late June!
Thanks for reading....