This weekend was the 30th Avia Wildflower Triathlon festival at Lake San Antonio, a mecca for triathlon enthusiasts. Over the course of a weekend they put on long (half Ironman) & olympic distance triathlons along with a sprint distance mountain bike triathlon. Some 7,500 athletes come to compete, watched by 30,000 spectators, all camping under the stars…Wildflower is often referred to as “The Woodstock of Triathlon”.
I had originally entered for the long course on Saturday, but figured I might just do the olympic distance instead on the Sunday due to a distinct lack of training. That and the fact that the Wildflower is viewed as one of the most challenging long courses out there…well respected by amateurs and pros alike.
Suffice to say, I ended up doing the long course…what can I say.
The long course is a 1.2 mile swim, followed by a 56 mile bike and 13.1 mile half marathon…the swim is pretty standard as it’s in the lake, what makes this course tough is the 4500 ft or so of climbing on the bike…with ‘Nasty Grade’ kicking your butt at mile 41:
and the 1500 ft of climbing on the run, 60% of which is on trails:
My wave started at 8:10am, this was my first open water swim since my Ironman in 2010. Thankfully the wetsuit still fitted and hadn’t perished away. The first half of the swim went well, unfortunately on the way back my goggles started to leak and the baby shampoo I’d used to stop them fogging began to sting my eyes. It got to the point where I thought I’d stop and rinse them out. Bad idea as it just resulted in my calf muscle cramping as I tried to tread water. I had to resume swimming whilst trying to flex my foot to stretch out the cramp, it was like swimming with a club foot…so one armed and one-legged! After a few minutes or so I could resume swimming somewhat normally again and when all was said and done the swim took me 47 minutes, 38 seconds…slower than my Ironman pace where I wasn’t even wearing a wetsuit…not a great start.
Up the boat ramp to transition and a not so quick change (7 minutes) to the bike. This was my first time doing the long course, back in 2010 I had done the olympic course. I’m grateful that I didn’t know what was ahead since if I had I’d have called it a day after the swim. I’d heard how hard this course was and was pleasantly surprised as I peddled along, it really didn’t seem that bad, yea certainly some ups and downs, but all-in-all I was making a pretty good pace. At mile 35 there was a bit of a climb, but I figured there was only 20 miles to go so how hard could it be…then came mile 41. As you can see from the elevation chart it just keeps going up for about 4 miles, then down, then up again, then down and then up again. At this point I was pretty much done. In my mind I was convinced that I’d call it a day after the ride, I didn’t need to complete the run, after all I’d only trained up to 6 miles due to calf issues.
This was my story coming in to transition after 3 hours, 41 minutes and 7 seconds on the bike. I was done! The thing was Kerry was waiting for me in transition and of course figured I’d be heading out on the run…so I kind of went with the flow, got changed, put my running shoes on and headed out for the 13.1 mile run…what was I thinking.
Amazing what you can push yourself to do and how quickly the mind will give up even when the body can continue to go.
I set an easy pace, ran 4 minutes and walked for 1. I walked up hill (of which there was lots) and ran down and tried to keep my heart rate mostly below 163. It’s a tough run, there really isn’t any flat section, it’s either up or down. At mile 4 it starts to climb, gets steeper and just keeps going until mile 6. At mile 9 you figure the worst is behind you, then you start downhill, however there are people running up hill on the other side of the road…that means you have to turn around somewhere. So as you head down hill not being able to see where the turn around is you keep thinking that the further down you go the further you have to climb back up. This is just plain evil. As you round each bend you keep hoping to see the turnaround, to no avail. Then at mile 10 you turn around and climb back up. I was kind of walking at that point.
I must say I surprised myself, given how hard this course is and how lax my training had been things could have gotten ugly. They didn’t and I finished the run in 2 hours, 33 minutes and 42 seconds for a total race time of 7 hours, 17 minutes and 46 seconds. Faster than my Ironman pace and good enough for a podium finish, 3rd in my class. I’m glad I did it, glad I pushed myself and glad I had no idea what the course was like beforehand!
My next race is coming up June 3rd, the AMBBR 100 mile (or maybe just 72 mile) bike ride around Lake Tahoe, it’s all for a good cause, so why not help me out and make a donation.
By making a donation you will directly help a challenged athlete in need.
Help me raise $1,000 for the Challenged Athletes Foundation