This is my 2nd time racing Wildflower, last year I raced the Olympic distance as an amateur. I would have preferred to race the long course (1/2 ironman distance) in 2011 although with my recent foot injury and surgery a 10K was all my doctors would allow me to run at the time. The Wildflower experience is truly unique and I knew I’d be back for many years to come.
Wildflower is a triathlon weekend located outside of Paso Robles, it really is 80 miles from any town. Therefore logistics getting to the race are more challenging. We flew intoSan Francisco on Thursday night, spent the night with Owen’s family (thanks Tom & Katy!) then made the 3 hour drive Friday morning. Because I work full time I try to maximize my time by arriving as late to races as possible. This tends to make for a stressful pre-race day and I’ve decided now to start arriving a minimum of 2 days early to ease stress levels.
Wildflower sure makes pro’s feel like real pro’s. They organize cabins for us to share and feed us throughout the weekend. Owen and I were bunked up with Josh Hadway and Tim Marr plus significant others. Our “cabin” was a 3 story house with 3 balcony’s overlooking the lake. Not bad, I usually prefer to camp but decided against it to eliminate checking camp gear while flying.
Race morning was warmer than the previous year, temps were over 50 degrees. While the water temp Friday night was measured at 71, per usual it was measured just below wet suit legal temp of 67.8 on Saturday. I went through my normal pre race routine with much calmer nerves than my first pro race.
As we toed the start line I positioned myself next to Emily Cocks knowing she was who I should be swimming with.
The start gun shot and we immediately pulled away from the field. Emily and I were on the left, Leanda Cave on the right and a huge gap in the center of the pack. Leanda pulled away before the 1st buoy, shortly afterwards Emily also pulled away from me. I ended up swimming alone yet again, but was ecstatic I was able to site well the entire swim. I didn’t have to stop and clear my goggles (I’ve been testing out many brands to find which fog the least). So I swam at a decent and consistent pace but know that I can still push harder and come out with the leaders. I exited the water in 4th.
The bike course begins with the 1st 5 miles of twisting and turning through rolling hills and one major climb. Coach Curt warned me not to push hard up this climb and burn my energy too early into the race. I followed directions and had a few women pass me going up. I stayed with them while also making a few passes of my own. I was mixed in with the lead pack of 5 passing one another back and forth. The next 5 miles were quite chaotic between the official motorcycles, numerous photographer motorcycles and other racers. Wildflower enforces the stagger rule; meaning you must stagger off the rider in front of you no matter how far ahead, if she’s in your line of sight you must stagger without crossing the yellow line. The stagger rule does allow riding side by side as long as there’s 2 meters between each rider. At mile 12 I was ¼ mile behind the girls in my sight. They appeared to be riding side by side while heading up a climb, therefore I chose to stagger to the lest. As I closely watched them to follow the stagger I was stopped by an official issuing me a red card for a stagger penalty. The penalty was 2 minutes with both feet down. As the female field rode by me I inquired with the official what I’d done wrong. He informed me that I chose to stagger off the wrong girl, while I saw them riding side by side, one actually had her wheel slightly ahead of the other. (I later found out my house mate Tim Marr also received a stagger penalty as well as many other pro men) The 2 minutes felt like 2 hours passing by before I was off again. I pushed hard to catch back up and was successful in catching the back half of women. Although the extra energy it took caught up with me by mile 45. I began to feel the burn in my legs and knew I’d gone too hard. I wasn’t completely fried but I hadn’t followed my race plan.
Heading back into transition we descend a steep hill which doesn’t allow much time to get my shoes off. It was a “one shoe dismount hill” I ran through transition with one bike shoe still on and one on my bike. (Owen did the exact same thing as did Gavin last year).
I struggled to get my running shoes over my bad foot and remember thinking to myself, it doesn’t matter anyways you’re not in the top 10. I tried to block the penalty and my current placement out of mind.
The 1st 1.5 miles were so confusing, apparently the sprint mountain bike race and the long course run course overlapped. I found myself running through masses of people until they turned around and I was alone. I passed one runner and was passed by another I wasn’t able to keep pace with. The next 5 miles were on trails with some extremely sharp climbs. Temperatures were rising and as I hit an aid station manned by fraternity boys my tri top was whipped off and thrown on the ground. They enjoyed this thoroughly :)
After mile 7 the course flattened out and we were now running through campgrounds. I was feeling awesome, I’d nailed my updated nutrition plan. I picked up the pace through the remainder of the run but unfortunately was unable to make up any ground on the field. It was very difficult to dig deep knowing I was out of the race positioning I had hoped for. I crossed the finish line feeling fine and hardly out of breath. Perhaps this is because I didn’t push hard enough or due to my nutrition success but most likely a combination of both.
Overall it was a disappointing performance at Wildflower mainly due to the stagger penalty received. I’m able to take a lot away from the race which is important as I learn how to race against these amazing female pro athletes; Happy with my swim but can push harder, Need to work on T2 and adjust my shoes accordingly, nailed my nutrition for the 1st time ever!
Mad props go out to housemate Josh Hadway for the fastest run split of the day, teammate Nick Thompson for placing 10th with a flat, Ben Greenfield placing 3rd age group, Owen for a very impressive performance after a year of MBA school and a recent broken arm, and Steve Zawaski for his 2nd overall amateur finish.
We thoroughly enjoyed our race weekend experience in Paso Robles. Saturday night was spent in our cabin with wine and pizza. Sunday we were able to visit with more of Owen’s family before heading back to Boulder for more training.