Whew, another Wildflower long course (half iron distance) in the book. Let’s recap the race with far too many words:
Pre-race: Alarm goes off at 5:45AM Friday morning. A friend is picking me up to drive me to pick up our rental minivan (one of the perks of being on a team!) so we can leave by 8AM for the 6 hour drive to Lake San Antonio. While all this sucks (especially the 4 hours of sleep two nights before a big race when you’ve had a sore throat all week), I managed to nab what has been deemed “the best car ever” or, alternatively, “a car full of assholes.” Bryce, Dave, Daniel, and I all would be racing Long Course (1.2mi swim, 56mi bike, 13.1mi run), are all outspoken, and are aggressive aggressive (as opposed to passive aggressive). Needless to say, the car ride was excellent. We got to the race campgrounds by 2:30PM, at which point it was a cool 97F. I created a pool of sweat in the 5 or so minutes it took to set up my tent. Not fun. Bike down Lynch Hill to packet pickup, swim around in the water for 10 minutes, bike up Lynch Hill, eat dinner, 10 min run around the campground, shoot the shit with Scott for a bit, eat dinner #2, and go to sleep.
Alarm goes off at 5:45AM. Sore throat still there. Brush teeth, bathroom, coffee, breakfast, bathroom, ride to transition at 6:45AM. All is well, but I can tell already it’s gonna be a warm one. Kick it in transition for a bit with Daniel, zip up the wetsuit, and walk down to the water. I hop in the water for a 5 or 10 minute warm up and feel fine, but get out of the water to realize my heart rate is slammed, so I sit down until the male pros start. M Pro wave goes off, W Pro wave 5 minutes later, and now us…
Swim: 39:17. Ouch. Thanks to the adrenaline, I stick to my plan of going to the first buoy hard (for the first time ever). It felt great. But upon arrival at the buoy, I find out that I actually am still sick. As soon as my breathing was labored, I went into a coughing fit. Swimming through my coughing fit turned into inhaling some water, which, um, wasn’t fun. I recover and pick it up again. Start breathing hard, start coughing, start inhaling. Well this sucks. I resign myself to swimming slowly (somehow ended up slower than my recovery pace in a pool?), but make a concerted effort to use this as an opportunity to really sight well. Mission accomplished, so that’s cool. Post-race discussions on slowtwitch seem to conclude that the swim was 1-2 minutes slow this year (as opposed to ~1 minute fast last year), so although I swam about 30s slower this year, it probably was a bit quicker pace. Regardless, I left many minutes in the water.
I also had the weirdest mid-swim experience of my short triathlon career. Open water swims can be rough and I don’t shy away from that. I’ve been kicked in the face, elbowed in the back of my head, swam over, you name it. I’ve done the same to others (and I’ve puked on course which probably is worse than anything). At Wildflower, I got a new one: about a quarter into the swim, I had a guy stop, turn around, and shove me. If I was poorly swimming on his feet (I wasn’t even drafting off him), I would expect a swift kick to the face. But this guy stopped his race, turned away from the direction he wanted to go, and shoved me. It was ineffective and I obviously swam right past him. Just really strange.
T1: 2:59. Ran slowly up the hill to transition. For the second race in a row, struggled to get my wetsuit off my butt. Glasses on, helmet on, socks on. Off to the races.
Bike: 2:48:26. Hey guys, I don’t know if you heard, but Wildflower was hot and dry this year. The bike was pretty uneventful. A nice, young lady was topless about 3 miles into the race. My hydration (and heat management) plan relied heavily on on-course water, which is typically cooler than any water that has sat on your bike since 6AM. Well the on-course bottles were nicely chilled, but the volunteers were only filling them halfway or less. This was pretty subideal: I would run out of water pretty soon after each aid station. I purposefully dialed back on some of the big hills, knowing that when the thermometer is pushing 90, there is 0% humidity, and I’m short on water, the last thing I want to do is put myself further behind in the hydration game. I was aiming for an average power of ~200W on the bike and ended up averaged 194W (not including coasting down Lynch Hill into transition), with a normalized power of 199W (in other words, paced pretty well). The ride itself was typical for Wildflower: hot, dry, hilly, and windy with terrible road surfaces. Couple interesting notes:
- There was a caravan of 12 or so very VERY large military trucks (one was a flat bed with two HumVees on back to give you a sense of size) that were driving the other direction on the back half of the course. When one would approach, I had to position myself near the center line. The wind gust from the passing truck would then push me clear across my lane to the shoulder. Lather, rinse, repeat.
- Post-race data analysis really shows how brutal the wind was compared to last year. For a 14.9mi stretch, I put out 15% more power compared to last year, while riding my bike in a more aerodynamic position, with a more aerodynamic cockpit, and with more aerodynamic wheels. In other words, I should have been flying compared to last year. Over this segment, I went 2 seconds faster. Two. Over almost 15 miles. For the 6.8mi after that, I put out 10% more power and went 66 seconds slower. Scott was joking pre-race that when it’s windy at Wildflower, it feels like it’s a head wind for 75% of the ride, crosswind for the other 25%, never a tailwind. I’m inclined to agree.
- Though my cycling computer’s thermometer skews warm, here’s what it said (keep in mind I was off the bike by 11:40AM):
T2: 1:14. Brutally slow. I knew coming off the bike that coming in sub 5 hours wasn’t likely to happen, so I stopped to catch up on my hydration. But really where I lost time was I totally whiffed tossing my bike up to rack by the brake levers the first time. Stupid stupid. Helmet off, shoes on, race number on, visor (kindly provided by Carlos and Eddie) on the head. Let’s roll.
Run: 1:32:30. A tale of two runs here. I came tearing out of transition, shot up the staircase, and hit the pavement. I know the first 5 miles are brutal and that I can set the last 8 miles on fire, so I forced myself to keep it in check. Felt okay for the first mile, but my stomach started giving me hell after that. Around 1.5mi, I stopped for a quick pit stop, hoping a short break would settle things down. No dice. I start running again and the dry-heaving begins.
Whenever I vomit during a run, there are two doors that appear. Behind door #1 is a terrible world, where every step hurts, the vomit never ends, and everything spins. Behind door #2 is an endless grassy meadow with unicorns prancing through rainbows. The problem in this situation I never know which door opens. So I try to hold back my puke. You aren’t even 15 minutes into this race. Just kick the decision further down the road. The urge will go away. You’re day can’t be over yet.
After about a mile of that, I run through an aid station and drink a cup of water. Hooooboy! That didn’t sit well. I make it maybe another quarter mile and the decision was made for me.
Let me tell you: this was an impressive scene. I unleash a firehose of fluids from my mouth for a good 6 or 7 extended heaves. I can’t even find a video that does justice to what I did on the trails at Lake San Antonio. The entire process took 45s to a minute and 6 people passed me. One of the guys toward the end of my heaving gave me a little pep talk: “Hey man, I’ll tell med at the next aid station that you’re back here!” Thanks, random dude, for the best motivation I’ve ever gotten in a race. No f-ing way medical is taking me out of this one. Within a minute of me finishing my vom-sesh, I had passed back all 6 people that had passed me, I had taken my first gel to make sure my calorie situation was okay, and I the first (well last) pro woman was in my sights. I felt amazing. If college taught me anything, it’s how to boot and rally. But man did I have to rally: I came through the 3 mile mark in 23 flat.
The rest of the run was a blur. I ran through the <35 year old men and half the women’s pro field. My legs really came around as I headed back toward the campground (about mile 6) and at mile 7.5 at the Team in Training tent, I floored the gas. Eurostar came biking past me as I headed down toward to the mile 10 turnaround, raving about how great I looked. I let loose down Lynch Hill, cheered a teammate finishing her bike, and primped for my finish line picture.
While I didn’t feel like my run was anything special, I had the 12th fastest amateur run (not including relay runners). Booyah. Though I do feel like I had a sub-90min run in my legs (even in the heat), this was the first race where I feel like I put together a run that reflects what I should be able to do in a triathlon. Don’t worry: we still have a long way to go.
Finish: 5:04:26, 56th amateur, 13th M25-29
Post-race, I went to gather my belongings in transition and my helmet was gone. So that sucked. Since we’re already well past 1500 words, stay tuned for the non-racing recap of Wildflower…