Wildflower Race Report
The Wildflower Triathlon is held in the stunningly beautiful golden wilderness a 2 hours drive south of San Francisco. It is held in Lake San Antonio State Park with ample camping grounds. The camp grounds are divided into two sections with the partying student volunteers down by the lake and the resting competitors in an area higher up. This is an experience not to be missed. The nearest motel is 50 miles away so you need to camp out. There is a store with limited supplies so come prepared. The race gets it's name from a long standing Wildflower Festival put on by the park. The visitor center collects all the wonderful native wild flowers and puts them in little jars for display. This was an added bonus to the great weekend for me.
Wildflower was great for me again this second time around. I went down early Thursday to find and save a good camping spot for my fellow members of the Golden Gate Triathlon Club. I got so involved with them and new friends I made I didn't pay close enough attention to see anything about an RST (rec.sport.triathlon) encounter so I missed out on meeting any of the newsgroup gang. I really would have liked to and so I missed out on some chocolate chip cookies baked by Tri-baby. I had such a good time with my triathlon club I forgot to think about looking at the message board.
After getting acclimated for the two days prior I was looking forward to
a hot race and better my time over last year. I decided not to wear a wet suit and
the heat can be in the 90s but I had trained in hot weather. I felt confident. I happened to find a camping spot next to a great outdoors man and we enjoyed each others company for the next few days.
The race start took way too long what with all the different age-group waves. I was
in the seventh wave and thought it a good omen. I milled around and chat-
ted with a fellow GGTC member and others. I spend a lot of restless energy just walking around and checking everyone out. Last year the water was chilly and the air
was freezing. This year the air was warm and the water felt like a bath
mostly I'm sure because of my swims in the SF Bay sans neoprene. That didn't stop the swim from seeming it went on forever. I had not been swimming much since catching a cold two weeks prior and it really showed. The good news is I didn't get as scared as I usually do in the crowded conditions. The start was really hectic as there's no room to
spread out in the narrow channel that's about 150 yards long. I didn't
tie my swim suit tight enough and it started getting pulled down. I had
visions of it wrapped around my knees. After the swim was half over for me and I was in a groove. I started passing people and felt good. Just about that time 2 of the fast swimmers from the wave that started after me flew by. I could tell because of the differant colored caps. Finally the dock and spectators were in site.
At Wildflower you have a long run up the paved boat ramp, a case of steep stairs and then another 300 yards to the bikes. There is a large crowd that really cheers you on. Lots of people line their shoes or sandles to help protect their feet but it's hard to find them in the crowd and I don't know that their is that much time savings. The bike area is immense in size and I finally found my bike, washed my feet and got into my hula-skirt and donned a lei. I had flowers on my aero-bars and on my helmet. This was going to be an interesting 56 miles.
The transition was smooth and I headed out on the bike, surprisingly, I was not cold. This was my only worry since the mornings can be cold and last year the wind on the bike made the chill factor an issue. I knew eventually the sun would heat things up and sunburn would the major problem. I did find my tightening hamstring to be a problem and had to keep easing up. I sometimes get a knot when crossing my legs at the desk and it came back to haunt me. At around the 30 mile mark I realized I wasn't stroking right and began pulling up more on the pedals and started passing all who passed me at mile 20. The hills that they warn you about at around 40 miles weren't all that bad for me. The hills in Marin I train on had done me well. There is an incredible view of the Lake and surrounding mountains. It was breathtaking. I descended down one and almost lost control. The front wheel started wobbling at around 45mph and I couldn't stop it. I've since learned that aero-bars can be the culprit. Next time I'm going to
try and grab the top rail with my legs and try to stabilize it that way.
When I left the transition area I heard more screams and hollers than I ever had before. I had been waiting to get up enough guts to actually wear a hula-skirt and leis in a triathlon. I've run 5 runs this year and many Bay to Breakers in the garb but this was my debut in the triathlon world. I had waited too long. People were fantastic. And I used the excitement to propel me. We I lifted my arms in the air I felt free and glad to be alive, the crowd responded in kind. Being a runner first I passed alot of people but not without a word of encouragement. Some did
a double take, some chuckled, and some said they were glad someone had a sense of humor.
Wildflower has an interesting aid station that caught me by surprise last year. I was determined not to miss it this time around. I'm referring to the top-less aid station. I came around the corner and there they were, top-less women! Being immature at the time, I had to ask for a hug. She said yes and I'm sure that was the last time she did that as she exclaimed in disgust. After all, I was sweaty and somewhat gritty from the bike. I actually do feel some guilt but it seemed like the fun thing to do at the time. Everyone was having so much fun!
An official photographer got some photos of me as a hula and wanted to know why I was doing it. I said I was raising awareness of ALS\Lou Gehrig's Disease. My Grandfather died of it and it strikes 10,000 adults yearly. It's fatal in an average of 2 1\2 years.
When I was running along the lake, up the hills, and through aid stations, all I could hear were words of encouragement and laughter. This was the best crowd ever for hulaman, I was so thankful to all.
I finished 1 minute slower than last year but considering the heat and some mild asthma, the choice not to wear a wetsuit, and the fact that I wore a costume, I am happy with a 5:36.
And the best part of it all was knowing I had already won a lottery spot for Ironman in Kona!!! Yes, I'm going;-))) Will I wear the hula-skirt?