Wildflower race report….Or, “At least I’m learning to swim and run!”
First, now I know why everyone talks about Wildflower as the quintessential triathlon experience, the “roots” of our sport. It’s something about the race venue…So beautiful, so remote, so far away from everything “real life” including cell phone service and the internet. It’s also something about the race organization and the family feel that pervades the weekend.
|San Luis Opispo county|
I have never done a Tri-California event, and now I really don’t know why! As a pro, I was treated like a VIP, but more importantly, I was treated like family. The race directors and organizers knew my name and made sure everything was taken care of for us. I had a sweet pad on Lake Nacimiento with Samantha McGlone & Marilyn McDonald, two amazing ladies I am lucky to now call friends. Any stress, performance anxiety, and honestly, disappointment I felt in the days before and after the race was totally buffered by Sam & Marilyn’s positive attitude and constant reminders that we’re so lucky to just be able to do this and enjoy an amazing weekend with our tri family.
|Pre-race swim with Sam in our Zoot Prophets|
Ok, down to the race business…..
Pre-race things were going well. I felt like I had a good easy taper week and was ready to go. I was hoping the legs and arms would do their job and show up. Race morning, I went with 2 pieces of Cinnamon Raisin gluten free toast (Udi’s this time but I like Rudi’s too) with almond butter. I had a banana at some point to. And, of course, A LOT of coffee. I always remember to pack a travel mug so that I can bring a cup of coffee with me to the race site. Thanks to Tri-Cal, I had perfect VIP parking and plenty of time to get all my stuff done. I wasn’t even rushed for my 2 mile jog and actually had a little bit of a swim warm-up (the lake temps were PERFECT in my Zoot prophet I think it was 68 degrees)…
The SWIM: 1.2 miles - 26:33- a new swim PR! (1:22/100 meters)
|Pro women's start (i'm the one in the Zoot Prophet leaning back and looking to my right)|
Ahhhhh….the swim. To be honest, I wasn’t excited about swimming. I don’t know what my problem is, but my pre-race anxiety can get so overwhelming that I usually line up with the “why do I do this to myself” kind of attitude. Luckily, 2/3 of the way through the swim, this has usually gone away. I lined up with the 20 pro women and got ready for the start on the boat ramp. The start chute was pretty narrow, but also CONCRETE. I kept staring at it, thinking I’d fall on my face running in there. The horn sounded and we were off. I ran ran ran, dove, and swam swam swam. I just tried to swim ALL OUT to the first buoy (maybe 200 meters?) because I knew this was my chance to get with the pack. Somehow I made it. I rounded the first buoy with 7 or 8 girls and I knew I was “in”. I could see Sam McGlone, Melanie McQuaid, Rachel Challis, and Linsey Corbin and I knew I was in a spot I wanted to be in. The lake swim was easy to navigate and I kept my sole focus on staying on the feet. I knew I wasn’t strong enough to pull around the group, so I focused on finding a good spot where I could breathe comfortably and not whack other people too much (this took until the return trip). As we rounded the ½ way point buoys, I reminded myself that this is where I had been dropped in Oceanside and I prepared myself for surges and changes of directions. My mental preparation helped and I was able to stick with the group. I felt as though the pace overall was pretty comfortable after the first 500yds. It never felt “too hard” although the last ¼ mile I did start to feel a bit tired and was ready to get out. I didn’t wear a watch, so exiting the water I had no clue what our time was, but I did get a glance of the swimmers around me and thought I’d done good. I resolved to not blow it in transition this time.
|Our pack exiting the water|
I didn’t blow it! I whipped off my wetsuit, threw on my helmet & glasses and wheeled out my bike. I started with my shoes on my bike, knowing I need to get comfortable with this.
The Bike: 56 miles- 2:51:15
|Grinding up the hilll|
Oh, the bike….grrrr….Ok, first, let’s cut to the chase, I was not happy with my bike ride. I know part of it is bike fitness. But, I am not realizing that part of it is the strategy game of racing in the pro race. Nobody is going to wait for me. Period. And I can’t let myself get left behind. I really feel like the first 6 miles of the bike ride decided my fate on this day.
Wildflower was my first pro race with the “stagger” rule- which is pretty nuts in my opinion- As a pro, you not only need to be 10 meters (or 12?) behind the person I nfront of you, but you also need to be a meter or two to the left or right of them. So, even if I am 100 meters behind the girl in front of me, and say she’s riding on the white line, I cannot be within a couple meters of the white line. AND, you need to complete all your passes within 15 seconds. After the first mile out of transition which is pretty technical with lots of twists and turns, you start climbing for a few miles. At this climb, a couple girls started passing me. One of them who passed me wasn’t climbing very fast. In fact, I had to totally stop pedaling and sit up in order to try to keep my distance. A big error I made was to think, “oh well, I’ll just drink and chill a little and then move up in a bit”. Then, I realized we were climbing for a long time. And all the other girls were riding away, and I was stuck behind one girl and also surrounded by motos (some draft marshalls some photographers). I was also freaked out because you need to stagger and not draft all the motos too. It was all a mess in my head. Then I also realized that I could not pass the girl in front of me within 15 seconds because climbing, it just takes longer. So we went backwards backwards backwards for the next few miles and I know I missed making some critical moves and taking some critical risks in this part of the race.
|Thanks to Kevin from Trilounge.com for all the awesome photos|
Ok, live and learn. Once we turned onto the flatter road (mile 5/6), I passed the other girl and tried to get my move on. Well, my “move on” wasn’t so spectacular. I was alone and having trouble gauging my effort. My heart rate monitor was not picking up and I’m not racing with power right now (I’m hoping to get a Quarq for this bike very soon!). Anyhow, eventually more than halfway through, Marilyn McDonald came by and I had also gotten my heart rate monitor working. I know I picked up the effort and was able to stay within very distant sight of her all the way to transition.
All in all, I had a less than mediocre bike ride, and I know I messed up on the strategy and execution of the race. NOT saying my legs had that much of a faster race in them, but I am saying I could have raced smarter to get myself to T2 a few minutes faster.
What I CAN say about the bike ride was that my position was great (thanks to Studeo DNA), the Slice is amazing (clearly because my Cannondale/Zoot teammates Heather Jackson & Charisa Wernick demonstrated how to actually ride it), and it was a beautiful day on an epic course. Despite my issues, I stayed really positive, had fun, and did really well on my nutrition (630 calories on the bike including 180 calories of Skratchlabs Secret Drink Mix, 350ish calories of EFS Liquid Shot (new Kona Mocha!) and one mini clif bar (100 cal).
T2: Another good one. Pretty solid. 2:17
Run: 13.1 miles - 1:28:42 (6:46 mi/mi pace-)
I could see Marilyn out of T2, but in front of her, I knew there would be a pretty big gap to the next women. I stayed positive and reminded myself that I had caught 6 girls at Oceanside and not to give up until the end. After I went by Marilyn, the course went into the middle of nowhere and up, up, up. Wow. I had expected a hilly run course, but this went beyond my expectations. Most of the climbing is in the first 10k and it’s pretty brutal. But, it’s beautiful and I was alone running some awesome trails in the middle of California. It was easy to just ease up and enjoy, but I tried to remind myself that despite the fact that I could see no one (I mean, not a soul!), I was still in a race. At one point, I was running through a campground and some guys were beating a drum and yelling at me and I kept running by. About 50 meters later, one ran up beside me screaming I had gone the wrong way….Whoops. turn around and back on track. Maybe I lost a minute, but it didn’t end up being a make or break kind of thing. I ended up being caught by my friend Brandon, a fast age grouper around mile 5 and I tried my mightiest to keep his red race kit in my sights. This was a huge motivation and really helped me get through the middle miles.
Near the end, mile 10-12 is, there is this evil out and back section that I named the Energy Lab of Wildflower. The Energy Lab is the portion of the run in Ironman Hawaii where you run downhill for essentially 2 miles and then have to run back out the way you came. This Wildflower rendition was somewhat shorter, not quite as hot (but still really hot) and also evil/awesome in that you can see your competition heading the other direction. I did the math and saw that I was almost 10 minutes behind girls like Charisa Wernick and Melanie McQuaid. I also saw that although I could catch one more girl (I had passed 2 so far), there were probably not any others in reach as they had 3-4 minutes on me and we had less than 3 miles to go. D’oh! So I ran this energy lab section as hard as I could just in case. I caught the one girl and then had the last mile-long pounding descent to the finish. I could see no one ahead and had made a strong pass behind me so I more or less cruised it in. I wasn’t totally cruising and I stayed aware of what was going on behind me, but I decided that completely crushing my quads would be a poor return on investment at this point in the game and I’d rather better my chances for a quick recovery before Hawaii 70.3 on June 3rd.
I crossed the line and was happy to see my San Diego North County friends & Zoot teammates who had just crushed it. HJ won the title and set the course record, Charisa made a huge improvement to 5th place (from 13th last year) and Rachel Challis came right in at 6th…Pretty impressive.
My results were : 4:50:23 - 13th out of 20 female professionals.
|Charisa (5th), Heather (Champ!), Me (13th)|
I was pretty emotional at the finish because I think I was disappointed in myself as I truly thought I had a top 10 finish in me, but of course my friends helped me to smile it off and I remembered that this is supposed to be fun. I decided to get over it and on with my day….
Which happened to include campfires, friends, s’mores, and beer….Yep, no complaints here.
Congratualtions to all that raced and thanks again to Tri-California for putting on such and incredible event and welcoming me to the family. Can’t wait for the next reunion ;)
*Thank you to Zoot for taking on the local girl and supplying the best gear & shoes out there. I'm swimming better than ever in the Prophet wetsuit. Cannondale- my Slice is the perfect ride decked in SRAM, & the perfect Zipp firecrest carbon clincher 808/404 pair of Race Day Wheels. Thanks to Nytro for keeping it all in working, blinging' order and Studeo DNA for my bike fit & so much more.
*Thank you to Dan Selstad, Rehab United, & MRM for helping me build my chassis, recover quickly and stay healthy-.I use so many MRM products, but I couldn't function without my Hydration Factor & Reload. Rehab United- functional strength 2x/ week, ART with Selstad every other week...the secret sauce!
*Many gracias also to ISM saddles, Betty Designs, & Beaker Concepts for making sure I'm comfortable, stylish & fast.
And last but very much not least, thank you to James for always believing in me and being there for me. Thank you to all my friends who have shown me how important our "family' is and who have supported me through thick and thin (hopefully more THIN for the Hawaii heat...haha)