Run with Eric + triathlon

2008 Wildflower Long Course Triathlon

I'm writing this in the car as we make the drive home from Wildflower. My wife is driving...

Thoughts of the past few days at Wildflower are still fresh, so I figure now is a good time to write my race report.

The Wildflower Long Course is a widely considered to be one of the toughest half-ironman distance events in the world. Two years ago, I did the Olympic distance race and this time around I decided to give the 'big' race a shot, half to take on the challenge and half to enjoy some post-race beers on Saturday night instead of going to bed early to prepare for a Sunday race.

We arrived at Lake San Antonio mid-day Thursday and were able to get a good camp spot in Harris Creek, right next to a playground for our kids, and strategically positioned close to the bathrooms and the showers. Score! Once we got our tents set up, I did a short 1 hr bike ride to make sure the bike was functioning well and to loosen up the legs after the long drive. I noticed my rear derailleur needed an adjustment. Friday morning, we drove the bike course... I've heard horror stories about tough 56 mile route and wanted to get a sense of what to expect. I'm glad I did. Then we hit the festival and race expo, got some lunch, picked up my race packet and I went for a short swim. I also got my bike checked out. Aside from the long walk back to our campsite, it was a pretty relaxing, restful day.

Race morning. Despite the difficulty of the day ahead, I felt pretty calm. Breakfast consisted of cereal with milk, two bananas with coffee and a bottle of water. I took the boat shuttle over to the transition area and was ready to go about 30 minutes before my start time of 8:35. Saw the pro men and women exit the water. This year had a pretty stellar field so as a fan of the sport, it was cool to see some of the big names like Macca, Llanos, Lieto, McGlone and Gallo up close and personal.

Swim: I positioned myself one row back near the center... I would have liked to be in the front row but there were some guys that refused to concede their spots. No big deal, I'm confident in my swimming ability and a little contact doesn't bother me. Once the gun went off, I swam pretty hard the first 200 or 300 yards, than got in a nice little group and found my rhythm. The water was perfect, 65 degrees or so... very comfortable to swim in. Lost the pack at some point, ended up swimming solo on the way back. Swim time was 28:12, about what I expected.

Had some trouble in transition area, for some reason I couldn't get my bike shoes on. T1 time of 3:51. ouch!

Bike: the bike course starts out along the lake front for a mile, than goes straight up the infamous Beach Hill. I set up my bike with a 12-27 cassette and I was glad to have a extra gear to spin up the climb. I saw plenty of guys over-geared out of the saddle struggling to get the pedals over. I slid back on my saddle, put my hands on the arm rests of the aero bars and tried to keep my HR steady. Once over Beach, I relaxed, kept my effort steady and controlled as I left the park and headed out onto Interlake Road. After driving the course on Friday, I knew that the hardest part of the bike course was in the last 15 miles. Very different than Oceanside where the last 15 miles are pretty much entirely flat. I drank only water for the first 30 minutes and after than began taking on nutrition, three Thermolytes an hour, and 1 Gu (Tri-Berry w/caffeine) every 20 minutes. I alternated between drinking GuH20 from my aerobottle and water. Up to mile 40, I just concentrated on keeping it steady. No big efforts, no hard accelerations, just an intensity level slightly above what I would do on a steady effort training ride. Not easy, but steady. Mile 42 marks the left turn up Nasty Grade. Once again, I just alternated between my 25 and 27 cog keeping a high cadence up the climb. Only got out of the saddle once to stretch my back a bit. I said hello to the Energizer bunny as I crested the top. He pounded his drum in return.

The last 10 miles or so are up and down... but I felt pretty good as I rolled back into the park. 2:56:59 bike split. Under my sub 3hr goal. No cramps and no stomach issues. Another slow transition, my stuff got scattered a bit so I had to hunt down my visor and one of my socks. 3:01 T2 time.

Run: Heading out onto the run, I felt pretty fresh... Ran 7 min miles through the first 4 miles, which meanders along the lakefront. The first section was on a freshly paved with pitch black asphalt... it was getting hot out. I poured water on my head at every aid station. I briefly thought a sub 1:35 half might be in the cards, but Miles 4-6 were crazy hilly... I had to walk up a couple of the steep inclines... running up would not have been any faster. A 9 minute mile up the big hill. Once over the firebreak, the course mellows out a bit through Mile 9 as it goes through the massive Redondo Vista camping area. The crowd support was awesome, there were hundreds of people providing support and encouragement. I got into a small group and just hung on, but I really started to feel the day's effort and was fatiguing quickly. I developed a side stitch that wouldn't go away, so I just took sips of water. I couldn't stomach any more gels or Gatorade, which I probably needed. After leaving Redondo Vista, there is a short climb, than a long descent into The Pit. I mentally cracked here... running down a long hill only to turn-around and run right back out. I was toasted and had to walk for a couple hundred yards through the aid station. Once back on the flat I started running again and just tried to get to the finish line in one piece. The course ends with a long descent down Lynch Hill.

Running into the finish chute was awesome... it was a great sense of accomplishment to finish this very difficult course. My run split was 1:45:05, just over 8 min/mile pace and my final time was 5:17:10. 41st in my AG, 176th OA.

All in all, I was very happy with the day. Even though it was my slowest half-ironman ever and my slowest run split... it's really impossible to compare this course with any of the others I've done like Oceanside, Baja or Eagleman. This course is far, far more difficult. The hills keep coming and coming. It was a mistake not to do a full preview of the run course... mentally I was well-prepared to handle the bike, but the really difficult part of this race is the run and that took me by surprise a bit. All that said, its a fantastic challenge and I am really looking forward to giving it another shot now that I know what to expect.

I can't wait until next year...

Oh, and the post-race beers I mentioned earlier? They tasted damn good.

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2008 Wildflower Long Course Triathlon + triathlon