09 May 2009 ~ 5 Comments

Wildflower Long Course ’09 Race Report

Picture 30
Alright friends.  You’ve heard several posts about it, and this actually won’t be the last, but hey, it’s my blog.  Last week I finished my first half-Ironman.  Now, I’m finally getting to my race report.

The more I’ve gotten involved with Tri’s recently, the more I’ve read, and the more people I talked to, the more I came to realize what a big race Wildflower is.  Apparently you’d be hard pressed to find a harder half-Ironman race.  When I signed up, I knew it was hard, but I hadn’t heard that.  You know the old adage – what goes up must come down?  I think this course proves that wrong.  More on that later.  My weekend recap:

One of the fun things about this race is that most everyone camps at Lake San Antonio for the weekend.  It’s considered the “Woodstock of triathlon.”  The lake is about 2.5 hours from me.  So, early Friday morning Rachel drove me out to Dan‘s house where we loaded up his car and I rolled down with him and a new friend now from FCA Endurance, Chris.  Forecast was for rain, so we got there and Dan quickly got to setting up his tent.

I was stoked to sign up cause a couple really good friends from my Young American days were doing the race as well.  I got a ride over to meet up with my old roomie Dave Listenberger and Rich Leist.  I set up my tent pretty much at the speed of light as it was beginning to drizzle as I got all set up.

We cruised down to the expo area for lunch, and Rich and I went for a swim so I could check out the water and get a feel for my wetsuit.  HUGE thanks to Patty at WetsuitRentals.com for hooking me up once again.  Rich actually wasn’t doing the race this year because he’s been training some friends for L.A. Marathon 3 weeks later and didn’t wanna burn out.  We picked up our packets, I ran a few errands, and it was in bed early that night.  As Dave said about the sleep, quanity made up for quality.

After sleeping with the sound of rain on the tent, which I actually enjoyed quite a bit, race morning was perfect weather!  Slightly cloudy, but not too chilly.  Sun came out nicely later.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t expecting sun so didn’t bring sunscreen.  Last time I make that mistake I hope!

Swim – 42:00
After getting all marked up I got my wetsuit on and hung in transition for a few minutes.  Pulled out my iPod to listen to something to get me pumped.  Decided on Fee – We Shine.  Then head down for my 8:30 swim start.  The pro’s took off 8am, so as we were waiting we got front row views of the first men coming out of the water.

Right before my wave I got in and swam a short distance to get my body ready.  Took Rich’s advice and just buried my head in the water for a bit to absorb the cold and get used to it.  Then it was back behind the starting line to get ready.

Picture 13 The swim started and we all hit the water.  I was on the left side not too far back and didn’t rush into the water.  As usual, the start was madness.  But unlike SLO a month back, I didn’t come out of the gate too hard.  I tried to pace myself from the beginning.  The wetsuit was 1000 times better too.  The swim was feelin pretty good, and as we rounded the first buoy, I was stoked to realize I hadn’t fallen off the back at all yet.  I kept on swimming and everytime I looked up I saw quite a few other black caps, so that gave me a little bit of confidence.

Not sure exactly how the drafting thing works for swimming, but I’m pretty sure I was drafting off some dude for a while, and that was kinda nice.  I was able to stay nice and close to the bouys so I didn’t swim any extra distance.  We made our way out and turned around, and by then I was losing some steam and dropping back a little.  I hadn’t swam out there yet, and on the way back in I wasn’t sure exactly where we were supposed to stay in relation to buoys, dock, what not, so I just tried to follow the crowd.  Probably would have been better off swimming right for the dock, but I still felt pretty good about it.

A few times I stopped and kinda pulled up to see where I was at.  As I tread water, I could feel my bad knee kinda gettin to me which wasn’t encouraging.

T1 – 8:29
Being that I’m not exactly trying to be real competitive with others, and it was gonna be a long race, I decided to take my time and make sure I had everything I needed.  As I was taking off my wetsuit, standing on only my left leg while I pulled my right one out, pain shot through that knee, it buckled, and I was on my butt.

Got everything off, threw my bike shoes on, and made sure I had my spare tube, co2, hammer gels, and I was good.  I popped 4 ibuprofren hoping that would do the job and that I’d get the timing right to pop more before the run.  And I was off.

Bike – 4:07:03
I had ridden the course and then some 2 weeks before, riding 65 miles that day.  I had averaged 10mph that day.  Not great but it’s a tough course, so I was OK with it.  But that would have put me at like 5.5 hours, so I was pretty stoked to end up with a much better time.

Pretty much right off the bat at mile 2 or 3 there is a steep 1 mile climb at Beach Hill to get out of the park.  It was good to know what was coming and I took it nice and easy right from the start of the hill.  It actually felt a bit tougher than I had remembered, but still not horrible.   Got that done and it was a lot of small ups and downs throughout the course.

Picture 27 There was a guy in my age group who I had a good time chattin with as we took turns passing each other every 5-10 minutes.  For the most part the bulk of the ride was pretty uneventful.  I tried to enjoy the beautiful scenery and push out what speed I could when I could knowing that Nasty Grade would pull my average way down soon enough.  I was optimistically wanting to hit like a 15/mph avg.  I ended up at 13+, which was cool with me.

At about mile 42 we hit Nasty Grade and it was on!  The grade is about 1000 feet of climbing over 5 miles between that and Heart Rate Hill right after it.  It starts off seeming like just a long not too steep climb and then gets steeper and steeper as you go.  When I rode it a few weeks before, I
had to walk a few portions of it.  I was pretty determined in my head not to get off my bike for this one.

Everyone was moving nice and slow up this hill, and I just put my head down and tried to stay in the higher gears as long as I could.  It wasn’t long before I was in my lowest gear and climbing away.  The festival atmosphere makes for an interesting race the whole way.  I came up on the dude in a speedo with his inflatable wife cheering people on and he gave me a gentle push as I passed.  There were a number of people by the 2/3 mark walking uphill with bike in hand.  I’m proud to say I made it all the way to the top as I passed by the “Energizer Bunny,” a dude with a giant drum pounding away and another lady in an Energizer Bunny costume.  As you approach the turn at the top there’s writing on the asphault that reads, “What Hill?”

I was glad that I knew the climb was far from over.  It continues to the top of Heart Rate, then some down hill and a bit more climbing.  Then there is some crazy downhill!  I like to go fast but it freaks me out a bit with those small tires.  I know Dan told me he hit 52mph down that hill.  I think I topped out at 37.  It’s especially annoying cause there’s a rough road section that seems even harder to downhill on to me.  But it was a nice break after a long brutal climb.

After some more flat, and minor hills, the ride ends with a nice mile plus downhill into transition.

T2 – 5:24
The good news is up til this point, I hadn’t really felt my knee too much once I got the legs moving.  But I wasn’t taking any chances!  I popped 4 more ibuprofren, changed the shoes, downed some enduralytes and equipped myself with more for the run, and it was out for a short jog of 13.1 miles.

Run (Walk?) – 2:51:20
Picture 24 I had heard plenty of stories about how difficult this run is.  But that still can’t prepare you for it I think.  I didn’t train on hills much like I had been told I should either.  I know it starts and ends in the same place, but it sure does seem like there is more uphill than downhill!

Right about mile 3 we hit a nice steady uphill pavement section.  As I jogged and walked up it, I figured that must be the hill I had heard so much about.  Boy was I in for a surprise.  At the top of that hill we turned off onto some back trails.  The scenery back there is pretty sweet.  I knew it wasn’t going great for me at one point though when a 51 year old dude with his glasses, shorts, and a short sleeved collared button up passed me.  I swear the dude just walked out of the office and onto the course!

Then came mile 4 or so.  And the trail goes up and up and up for days.  I actually felt more like I was in a hiking club more than a race.  We were pretty much all walking at this point, which was probably faster than it would be to run.  I joked with a few fellow walkers that I was taking it easy cause I didn’t want to set the bar too high to where I couldn’t beat it next year.

After mile 6 or so, the run is a lot easier for a while.  It heads downhill and then back into the main gate for the park.  I was still walking more than I wanted, but once I hit the gate I got a second wind and hit a nice running pace for several miles.  It’s fun running through all the campsites and having all the encouragement, music, and cheering as you keep on goin.

Picture 22 Eventually, around mile 10 or so I think, there is a turn on the pavement to a turnaround to the end.  This is basically the final hill section, and it’s pretty tough too.  It seems like the ups just don’t end on this stinkin course!  Finally, the last mile plus of the run shares the final downhill of the bike at Lynch Hill.  Dan and I agreed that the mile markers were pretty funky.  I hit mile 12 a little before the downhill and was stoked to have well under a mile left.  Then I hit mile 55 from the bike on the way down and wondered how a mile on the bike was the same as half mile or so on your feet.  I think the bike markers were the right ones.

For the final mile or more of descent, I decided it was time to take advantage of gravity and air out my legs.  Figured I’d give it all I had left so there was nothing left at the end.  I actually figured with the downhill that most people would be moving quicker.  But I must have passed 10-15 people on that last mile.  It flattens out and you see the finish line, and I pushed myself to keep going as fast as I could through the finish shoot.  I have to admit, that last section kinda made me wonder how I could do if I learned how to push myself more.

Final Time – 07:54:18
As I came across the finish line the time read 8:19:19.  Since I was supposed to leave at 8:30, I figured that put me about 10 minutes shy of 8 hours, but I guess it must have been a few minutes off too.  I actually was afraid the race could take me over 8.5 hours, so I was actually pretty stoked with that.

I came across the finish line and was pleasantly surprised with an ice cold towel on my shoulders along with the finishers medal.  At one point at the top of Nasty Grade on the bike, I think I realized for me what an accomplishment this was gonna be.  I had finally finished my first 70.3 mile race.  And a tough one at that!  Not gonna lie.  Crouched down and kinda had a moment there.

Overall, I was happy to finish, had a great weekend, and the race was painful and way fun (2 words I never thought I’d use in the same sentence!).  I’ve taken the last week off completely from working out.  Now it’s on to get ready for the big bike ride in August that you’re gonna support me for.  Right?  ;)

Picture 12 Picture 25

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