Ray's Blog

Sunday, February 26, 2006

2003 May 3: Wildflower Long Course Triathlon

This was my first ever triathlon. I had been looking forward to it for a long time, in part because I had to register so many months in advance. (I don't remember how many months, but it was at least half a year!)

Wildflower is [self-]described as the "Woodstock of Triathlon". It's not "just" a race; it's a race and festival and entire weekend (a way of life?) at Lake San Antonio. Most of the participants camp at the festival grounds (if you don't camp there, you'll have to do a reasonable amount of driving before the race). Over the course of the weekend, there are three triathlons-- a long course (half iron-length), a sprint (Olympic distance) course, and a mountain bike triathlon course.

Lauren and I drove down Friday afternoon. It was rainy, and it kept on raining until mid-day Saturday. We camped out in a borrowed tent, and neither of us got much in the way of sleep. Early in the morning, I threw my stuff together and went to the starting area. Things were wet and muddy enough that the race organizers announced that they had re-routed the run course so that it was all on roads (instead of being largely on now-slippery trails). Dang! There went my secret weapon-- I was going to be running in fairly serious trail running shoes with very good traction.

The swim went pretty well overall. Prior to the race, I had been expecting that the 1.2 miles of open water would be more than enough for me to get some space; this turned out to be erroneous. There were enough participants that I was surrounded by flesh for the entire journey. This is kind of unpleasant-- being surrounded by people means that you're constantly being hit/kicked/crawled on. Despite the nastiness, though, things went all right, and I emerged from the water happy and energetic. Not yet victorious, mind you.

The bike ride was kind of tough. It was pretty hilly, and the rain kept on coming down. I muddled through it as best I could, drinking a fair amount of whatever the designated sports drink was. I have to say that they could have placed more Port-a-potties on the bike course! After around 16 miles, my cyclocomputer, a Planet Bike Protegé 8.0, decided it had had enough water and sports drinks slopped onto it, and so it gave up on me. (A day later, after it had had a chance to dry out, it was fine again.)

The most egregious part of the race (by far!) was the run. Somehow, in my training (or what passed for it) before the race, I had never gotten around to doing any bike/run bricks, where one goes for a bike ride and then goes for a run immediately afterwards. So at Wildflower, I started running, and it was instantly apparent that my legs weren't very fresh. Added to that was the fact that the run course was brutal-- there was a ton of very steep climbing to be done. (Apparently the usual course is much less hilly. Ah, well.) The (re-routed) course went twice around a circuit, so the first time around was a preview of the joys we'd get to experience yet again. Even the first lap I did some walking uphill, and by the time I got to the second lap, I decided that I would walk anything that was even vaguely uphill (and run the flats and downhills). That worked OK for me. Towards the end, I realized that if I didn't start moving a least a littlebit, I wouldn't break a time of six hours (overall), so I managed to start running a touch faster.

My final official time was 5:58:49. More detailed info is available here.


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