This week was all rest and prep for Wildflower Long Course on Saturday. It was my first time doing the long course race there and my first event racing against a really strong pro field. All week I was resting, just tagging my zones here and there and I felt better with each day of rest.
I went into the race with no expectations because training had not been what I hoped the past month, and when I have to many goals going in to a race I tend to loose sight of what I am doing in the moment during the race. I had a lot of trouble sleeping the night before the race and every time I did doze off I would have nightmares about my wetsuit shredding and pealing off or some equally ridiculous catastrophe.
I felt good race morning and got to transition earlier than usual to make sure I had plenty of warm up time. With transition set up I rode my warm-up and then got suited up to go down for a swim. I got some good time in the water and stretched my shoulders out while checking out the sight lines. When I returned to the starting area and just before the start I saw my parents on the hill overlook and was glad to know that they made it for the start.
I did not make it into the front row for the start but I was standing right behind John Dahlz who I know is a very strong swimmer so I was content to follow the leaders out. The start was very aggressive and most of the guys were bigger than me so I got knocked around some in the starting shoot. Everyone was swimming strong for the first couple hundred meters so we were still three abreast at the first turn buoy and I got a little sandwiched there, taking a foot to the face that felt at first like a broken nose but I couldn't taste any blood so I figured I could check it after the swim.
At the first turn the breaks developed...two guys were obviously well ahead of the field and another four went after them. I thought the group I was with were on a good pace but they kept taking an indirect rout to the outer turn buoy so I went on a strait line and in fifty yards went from the back of the group to the front. From there I could see the leading two in the distance, maybe forty five seconds, and the chase group at twenty or thirty ahead of us. I felt good in the water and it felt smoother leading the group rather than getting bounced around in it, so I took up the chase. I settled into a good rhythm and the rest of the went very smoothly.
I came out of the water in 7th position dragging and had a decent group with me. Transition went smoothly and I went out onto the bike with Matt Lieto who I know is strong so I was excited to have guys around me starting the bike who I knew would set a good pace to follow. The bike starts with some twisty rollers along the lake and then makes a sharp turn and climbs 700 feet in 3/4 miles up to the campgrounds. I knew I needed to spin up the climb to make sure I was maintaining my own pace and not blowing my legs up. At first that felt good and the guys around me were not pulling away to fast so I was happy, especially when Tim DeBoom and Jordan Rapp pulled up to me and I crested with the climb with a group of six guys that had all won big Ironman and 70.3 events.
The next thirty five miles were a serious struggle mentally and physically. I didn't feel like I could push that hard on the bike without my legs screaming which is unusual for me. Up until mile twenty or so we were riding strait into a blustery and powerful head wind which at that point turned into a dangerous and frustrating cross wind. Between mile five and mile forty the vast majority of the pro men passed me and there was nothing I could do about it. I don't really know why...I am hoping it was just not my day. The last ten miles of the bike course are tough with big climbs and rollers as well as exposed, hot and windy sections. The last five miles I eased off just to make sure I would not be totally destroyed for the run...and more people passed me.
I had lost some of my nutrition for the bike along the way so I grabbed a few jells in transition and the first three miles of the run I just tried to settle in and get my hydration and sugar in. I actually felt fairly settled going into the back part of the run course which, if you have not done wildflower, is really tough and isolated. There is a really steep section of trail between miles four and seven which was the part of the race that I was most worried about coming in and when I got there I just shortened my strides and kept my rhythm up.
Getting through the tough section of the run and still feeling like I was within myself was a really good feeling and miles seven through ten were smooth and felt great especially getting to see friends and family in the campgrounds. At mile ten there is a turn around and you go up a mile long climb then there is a flat mile...after that it is all downhill to the finish.
Knowing how close I was became a distraction especially when Leanda Cave passed me leading the women's pro race and a minute later Mary Beth Ellis caught me trailing Leanda by such a small amount that I could not help but root for her. I think that excitement and the proximity of the finish line got the best of me and I picked up the pace to the top of the hill. The last two miles I was just trying to stay steady and in control. When I crossed the finish line they had rolled the clock back five minutes already for the female finishers so I thought my time was really good but even with the extra five minutes there were some very good indicators about my fitness and preparation that I am totally happy with.
I have a big chunk of time now without a big race so I am looking forward to getting in at least one huge block to build on my progress.
Swim 10,150 yds
Bike 12.25 hrs
Run 23 mi