Wildflower 2007 - the Long Course
It was the 25th Anniversary of the Wildflower Triathlons this year, two days of racing, three events and 7,700 athletes competing, on no average course. Wildflower boasts on of the world's toughest Half-Iron distance course (the long course), along side a Mountain Bike and Olympic Course.
There was one important thing I had to remember going into the race, unlike last year this was not the race I was training for, in fact the race was now just part of my training. With that in mind I had to be careful not to do any further damage to my legs that were still recovering, having not run in the past three weeks I didn't know how I was going to feel.
I wasn't as nervous the night before as I had been the year before, that is not to say I got a good nights sleep though, still that is part of the challenge of Wildflower. I was up at 5:30am to make the last minute preparations, fill-up my water bottles and double and triple check all my stuff was with me for transition area.
Never change anything before a race, is what anyone will tell you. Having done the whole course twice before I knew that what I had done the previous two times hadn't worked in terms of race nutrition. It is always best to change one thing at a time, but what the hell it is not like I was going to do this again and again, so I changed everything I could and thought I make my best judgment on what worked or not. So I switched from GU to E-Gel, Gatorade to Accelerade and even changed the wheels on my bike to a set of Zipps for the day, a move that made me nervous.
Roll on to 8:15am the race is about to start and I tried one other thing in my Wetsuit that I hadn't done before, and then I knew it was going to be a good race. My goal in the swim was to try and pace with the other swimmers in my wave and draft as much as possible. Drafting definitely was it advantages, but you can also get kicked in the face, which I can now tell you isn't nice, I felt me goggles embedded on my face when it happen. The first half of the swim went well, however the return was tough, it was choppy and nauseating. I made my triumphant exit from the water feeling rather ill, but with the energy of the crowds I ran to the transition and prepared for the next leg of the journey. I changed in my bike gear including my new pair of socks, neon pink with "Hottie" written on them, I got cheers from my friends shouting "Hottie" as I got ready :-)
Out on the bike and my name was called out by the race commentators as I cycled by, that is a great feeling. I was careful on the first miles to not crash out, and made it up the first hill without issue. Over the first hill I was struck by the wind the as I tried to make a quick exit from the park, going forward was taking considerably more effort than it should of been. A couple of downhills leading out of the park helped build speed and confidence. The first 17 miles of the ride were a battle against wind and my stomach which hadn't recovered from the swim. On to Jolon Road things became better and I had a good stretch all the way to Nasty Grade. The ride up Nasty Grade was not too bad but I was sure glad when it was over. Of course the biggest uphill leads to the biggest descent a few miles later, the descent was a dangerous one and the prevailing winds did nothing to improve it. I took it slowly and avoided the cross winds the best that I could. From then on just a number of climbs back to park. I managed to pass a Pro Female who started a couple of waves before me, while I no illusion of maintaining my lead on the run but I had the bike course down.
Next up was run, before I headed out I made sure to correct one of my biggest mistakes of last year. I took some extra time and reapplied my sunscreen, last year's sunburn was not good, an extra minute would not be missed. I made my way out on the run and took things easy, things were going great until mile 4. I had planned to walk at this point to save myself for rest, but as I approached mile 5 I was feeling dizzy, and I could swear I saw things on the run I was not expecting. I reached the top of hill and could see mile 6 down below, the thought of running down the hill seemed like crazy move with the way I was feeling so I took it slowly. After mile 6's rest stop I was feeling better, though my IT band was flaring up again. I met one of my teammates along the run and chatted with him of while before I dropped back to my not quite running, not quite walking pace. As I reached the campsite the only thing I could do was run, all my TNT friends lined the side of the roads and were cheering, this as was last year was the best moment of the race.
By mile 8 of the run, I knew I needed to walk to not damage my legs and undo all the work I done to improve them in the past month. Walking was hardest thing, when you have people cheering and saying things like "Run", "Keep going", "you can do it", while the cheers are great you sometimes wish they would leave you alone, they don't know the pain. I continued the walk/run with more emphasis on the "walk" element :-).
There was just 1 mile left to go and I realized despite the slow run I could still best last years time, so I gave the final downhill what I could. To prevent injury and increase speed, I ran sideways down most of the hills, I did get a few strange looks. I made a final but painful sprint through the finish shoot. It was a great feeling to have completed the course again, although my legs weren't good shape, I was feeling a thousand times better than the year before. I think the key to feeling great at the finish is to walk the run, so to improve my time more next year I will really need to focus on improving my bike time :-)
The Details (Click here to view on Google Earth):
193bpm Max Heart Rate
153bpm Average Heart Rate
A Story of Post Race Stupidity (PRS)
I had a bad case of PRS after the race, I collected all my stuff together from the transition area and headed up to the Expo to return the nice Zipp wheels I had for the day. There was a good mile of walking between the Expo and the campsite with a long climb for good measure, but for some reason I thought return the wheels now was a good idea, "my bike is light and it will be even lighter after I take the wheels off". Halfway up the hill with my bike on one shoulder and my Tri bag on the other, I realized this was the toughest part of the day :-) What helped naturally were people comments, "What happened to your wheels?".