Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Wildflower Triathlon Festival!

 While I raced in Oceanside a month ago, the real start of the tri season for everyone in NorCal is Wildflower.  So many people put this on their schedule due to its location, 2.5 hours from Bay Area, and atmosphere, "Woodstock of Triathlon!"  Fits pretty well with everyone in the Bay.
Great setup for the weekend

Down at Lake San Antonio Recreation Area, Tri-California puts on one of the best race experiences in the country with different distances, mountain bikes, kids races, and a music festival to keep everyone entertained.  A lot of preparation goes into this weekend for the participants as well since you almost have to camp (car camping), and bring everything you need for spending a few days and racing.

This was my third year, so I was probably a little over confident (new lesson learned later), but took Friday off work to have a chill day down at the lake and get my normal pre-race mini triathlon in.  Getting in late Thursday wasn't a problem, and had the campsite set up and ready for bed by 10:30.  At SF Tri we have an "Advance" team that goes down and sets up everyone's tents a few days early so we have a dedicated group campsite.  Dan, Faith and Paulo deserve some huge credit.

Friday and good weather seemed to be blessing us, but the wind was howling.  A group of us went for a quick run and then we walked (no driving allowed down the hill) to the Expo for a little swim warm-up and packet pickup.  The water was almost warm enough to be comfortable with no wetsuit.  I finally got the chance to try out my TYR Torque speed suit.  Very cool, but WAY different feeling in open water as I'm expecting the wetsuit lift.  Back to the campsite after the long hike back up from the lake and time for a short bike ride to make sure everything is working right and to keep loose.

Dinner time, some socializing as everyone gets into the park and time for bed.

Adam, Tim and Dan
Race morning!  Fire down some coffee, bagel with peanut butter and honey, final bike check, and off to transition.  Got in early enough to avoid the big backup and found my nice well marked spot.  I love that Tri-California gives you a designated spot on the bike racks.  Transition set up and time to do some "business".  Mulling around to find some friends from Scottsdale and others from the bay.
Dwight and Lewis from Tri-Scottsdale

Tim Dan and I go off for a little warm-up run and then down to race start.  Its such a scene here as the boat ramp forms a HUGE natural amphitheater for everyone to see what's going on and cheer.  Your nerves and excitement start up and when its your wave start, mass chaos ensues with the narrow water entry and sprint to the first buoy.  Trying to stay wide to the first buoy, I keep my shit together better than last year where I freaked out for the first time.  Felt so much better in the water and heading to the turnaround I had a nice rhythm in the water and cruising through the earlier waves with good sighting.  No real drafting opportunities, but a huge 4 minute improvement over last year and a minute faster than Oceanside!  Swim time 31:23. (32nd AG) Much better than when I freaked out in the water last year.
Courtesy of Loren Geller

Through T1 smooth and onto the bike.

Heading up out of the lake, I try to control my effort with my Power Tap.  Such a great purchase.  Got passed by a lot of people charging the hill, I'd see many of them later:)  No reason to try to crush a hill right out of the water, besides, my coach preaches consistent effort, no matter the terrain.  My goal was to hit 300 watts average for the ride, which meant trying to hold 320-340 watts on flats and climbs.

The temperature was perfect, but the winds were not.  20 MPH head winds coming out of the park, with the worst just before our major turn onto Jolon Rd.  Speed down to 15 mph for the last two miles.  Some draft packs started forming ahead of me and just on que, the Referee bike!  Never so glad to hear the motorcycle roll by and the packs disintegrate and I go cruising by. (Ref's were doing their job, you can see a huge amount of penalties in the results)  Making the turn onto Jolon and now time for some wicked cross winds.  My new deep rim Williams 85 mm wheels were holding the line fairly well, so no worries in that aspect, but when I take an arm out of aero to try to get a drink or food, not feeling so good.  Definitely lead to some inadequate fueling on the bike.  (might opt for an aero bottle with straw next time in winds)  The ridiculous part of the ride started when a military convoy and 18 wheeler rolled by the other direction.

Having to hold on for dear life as we get hit with 50-60 MPH wind blasts off the trucks while dealing with 20 MPH cross winds was INSANE!  I didn't see an 18 wheeler coming later, and when the wind blast hit me I screamed like a little girl while I tried to regain control of my bike.  The guy in front of my looked back and we both let out some calming expletives and laughed it off so we wouldn't think too much about how dangerous the conditions were today.  There were reports of a cyclist running a rear disk that was picked up off the ground!  He was airlifted out and I'm not sure what the injuries were, but I did see someone with an obvious broken collar bone.  Crazy day in the wind.

Getting near Bradley and turning into the hills, finally out of the wind (no real tail-wind all day).  Approaching Nasty Grade and I had made up nearly all the time on my buddy Dan (fast swimmer).  Got to within 100 yards as we started climbing and held it all the way up.  I thought I'd get him on the down-hill and then flats if need be, but after cresting Nasty, he took off down and I never got close on the bike again.  Nasty Grade isn't that bad as long as you take a smooth effort into it.  Its protected from the wind, so it heats up a bit, but that about the worst.  Coming down off Nasty is another story.  There is an ambulance stationed there, and with the winds, very dangerous.  Flying down into head, and cross winds as the road turns, I'm still pedaling and not much chance to let gravity do the trick.  I've gotten up to 50 MPH on this downhill before, but not today in these conditions.  Capped out at 44.5, boooo! Bike time: 2:43:32 (14th AG) Slightly better than 2010, with harder conditions. Averaged 295 watts!

Finishing up the bike with two more climbs, yes, two more after Nasty.  Nobody really remembers them, but if you go after Nasty Grade too hard, they can destroy your race.  Back into the park, keeping under control and down to the lake and T2.
3,700 feet elevation gain

Our of transition and along the lake, my legs felt great, what didn't was the extra weight I was carrying as I discover I ate too much, the day before and not too well.  My dinner was and other meals were good, but sitting around the camp site, all those sweets people brought were too appealing and chocolate covered pretzels and other things didn't quite make it through me.  You can actually see a bit of a belly on my in the race pics.  Fortunately I could hold a good pace, even with the brutal bike we just went through.  Passing quite a few people I catch my buddy Dan whose day was nearly over due to a back spasm.  He we smart and pulled back the pace (had some good times with the college kids testing a new hydration system), and I'm proud he finished, even in a lot of pain. You can tell why this race is called "Woodstock of Triathlon".  

Getting to the top of the two steep climbs before the sweet downhill at mile 6 and time to let the legs loose.  This is the first time my legs have felt good enough to take a downhill like this at Wildflower.  Feeling good I could carry the momentum back into the park and into the campgrounds where Golden Gate and SF Tri clubs where cheering everyone on.  So happy to see everyone and I end up charging through, catching the next group in the 30-34 division.  Heading to the out and back section, my quads start to cramp up and I have to pull back on the effort on the hill before descending to the turnaround.  I thought my race day might be over, but the cramps subside while I cruise the mile downhill and start the uphill climb.  This is the most brutal part of the day.  Tired and exhausted, with the temperature rising.  One of the guys running with at the top of the hill says "So this is where the shit show starts huh?"  And he is exactly correct.  A lot of people end up walking this hill after the long day, but I had some time to make up.  Once you get up the hill, there is one more little climb left then a mile downhill to the finish.  There is no reason to hold back so charging the hill I went.  Cresting the hill, my legs could still open up for the long downhill I was dreading with my quads on fire.  Nothing left to lose and I lean downhill and start into my old X-country mode and let it fly. 

1,280 feet elevation gain

Coming into the finishing chute I knew I could have had a better day with a few better decisions, but Wildflower is such a fun event.  This was the first time I enjoyed the finish with a huge smile on my face even while pushing hard to the finish.  Happy with my progress in different parts of the race, and knowing what I screwed up on, its a lesson race.  I met a few of my goals, so I'll take it. Run time: 1:34:01 (15th AG) Slight improvement in time from last year.

Finish Time: 4:53:37 - 46th overall, 11th AG, 4 minutes 7 AG places better than last year!

Tri-Cal does some really cool stuff now, upping their game with free finish video's from their You Tube feed.  Here's mine at about 2:30 into the video.  The one thing I need to do is figure out what the imbalance in my running is that's causing me to be stiff on one side of my body and flail on the other?
Time for one more big week of training , a nice taper (EVIL!) then out to Texas for Ironman.  Feeling good, and a bit nervous.