I don’t normally write race reports (it’s been 10 years since my last one) because I find them to be at times mundane, boring, etc. but I also don’t often do half Ironmans like the one I did yesterday. And, I often don’t have all the support I did for this particular race!! THANK YOU!!!!!
It’s called Wildflower, commonly known as the “Woodstock” of Triathlons. It’s tough. And the nearest hotel is 90 minutes away. So, you got it, you camp. Not my ideal choice the night before swimming 1.2, biking 56, and running 13 but I thought what the heck. As a “must do” race for triathletes, I needed to check this one off my list. And, if I’m going to do it only once (you never know), I need to do it “right”. I had a pretty aggressive goal to place top 5 so this was a big race for me, a lot of commitment and sacrifice!
I arrived Friday afternoon, not ideal to drive 5 hours the day before a race, but I figured probably not exactly great to camp the night before either. This race was going to be different, I just had to expect that. 7,000 people!!! I set up my camp, got my race bag, ate my pre-packaged meal (yum yum) and attempted to get some sleep…….
The Swim. We started at 9:20. I am in the 17th wave. There are 19 total but for some reason they always put us women last (doesn’t seem fair, does it?). The wind started and it created these whitecaps on the lake that were similar to what I see in the Pacific. I started in the front and a few of use darted into the lead. I felt great!!! I was swimming next to another woman for a while and then lost the blue cap, not knowing whether she was in front of me or behind me. I kept spotting the buoys, and kept feeling great! It wasn’t until I turned at the turnaround that the waves started. WOW. It was like swimming in the ocean. Still felt great. Kept pushing. Smooth strokes. Breathe. Just the beginning. I got out and was thrilled – it’s a good sign when you see a lot of bikes around you in transition (it means your fellow age groupers are still in the water). I later found out I was 1st out of the water (age group). NICE!
Got on the bike and headed out – the first hill hit at mile 2 and it was pretty much a straight up incline for about a mile or so. Not fun to start a race going 7 mph on your bike! Took it easy, I knew it was going to be a long day….. I wasn’t sure which place I was in but I knew I had a good swim, and, I knew they were coming. It’s a feeling like no other – you have no idea how far behind these women are, but you know they are there, and you know they are approaching. It’s like a pack of wolves chasing you down. I focus back on my race. At this point, it has turned into quite the windy morning. Not casual blow your hair wind, but wind that makes you “white knuckle” the handlebars as you are headed downhill at 38 mph. I saw 4 ambulances that morning, something you never want to see. Stay safe. So, it was like that for the next 40 miles. Uphill, downhill, flats against the wind, repeat. More hills. More wind. Then, mile 40. 1 1/2 miles uphill. Not that many of you want to watch a video, but this is a little snippet of about 3 minutes of the 3+ hour course. It’s crazy!!! (see below, although it is a bit deceptive as they “skip” through the uphills and show you a lot of the downhills!! it is gorgeous nonetheless – something I didn’t quite remember!) After you get up that one, you turn right and there is ANOTHER one. Then, finally a little relief. A fast downhill. Only thing, it’s so fast. You can fly. Yet, it was windy, I wanted to stay safe. Gripped on tight as possible, got off my aerobars into the handlebars, and tried to enjoy it. That’s the problem here. The uphills were a bitch because they were uphill, the flats were a bitch because they were against the wind and the downhills sucked because you were so scared the wind would blow you over!!! Sound fun yet? Oh yeah, I didn’t mention — guess this is the “fun” part – I was passing men and women. Don’t get me wrong, people were passing me too, but not many in my age group (the important thing). Only 1! 2nd after the bike (I found this out later after the finish)!
So, I go down the final hill to the transition area, rack my bike, grab my race belt and hat – and head out. SO HAPPY TO BE OFF THAT BIKE!!! My legs felt great! Not “run for the first time in the morning great” or “setting a PR with a 1/2 marathon great”, but really good for what I just encountered on the bike. Then it happened, the hills. DARN THOSE HILLS!! People talk about how hard the bike course is, it’s nothing compared to the run course. Up, down, up, down. And then I realized. I felt great on the flats – not the hills, not really going to help me out on this course! A lot of people were walking up these hills so I stayed on the balls of my feet and did a little “jog” up and over. I didn’t want to get passed at this point. Then I felt the cramp. It’s those damn hills. I stayed good on my nutrition, rubbed it out, then proceeded with caution the next 5 miles. Not only was it hills – it was a trail run. Absolutely gorgeous – but man oh man – there were more hills that I could’ve thought possible! Note to self: run more hills in training. 🙂 Mile 6.5 takes you through camp where people are going crazy – for about the next 2 miles there was no stopping, walking, or going slow, the crowd wouldn’t let you!! It was awesome. Then you get mile 9, a little slight downhill to feel good again, only to turn around and run up this hill for the mile 10. It is unforgiving. I spotted a girl about 100 yards in front of me and tried not to let her out of my sight. 2 bathroom stops and a slight fall in the dirt later and I was nearly to the end of this battle. The best part about the run? The last mile is entirely downhill. I was flying – letting gravity lead me to that finish line. Ahhhhh the thrill of victory!!! I DID IT!!!
My goal? Top 5 age group finish and to be tough throughout. Utilize what I trained for. What did I do? Finished 4th and gave it my all. Qualified for Team USA World Championships. A day that made all the hard work & sacrifice worth it.
And… a few hours later…… for the last time, I walked up that BIG hill with my bike back to camp. This, my friends, is why you camp. I was done for the day.
Thanks so much for your words of encouragement and ongoing support!!! I couldn’t do it without you.