TriCalifornia Events and Wildflower in particular have been a huge part of my triathlon career and all of the races I have done with them have been very special to me. This year was no exception and I am again left with a greater appreciation for the fact that I get to do a sport that I love, supported by the most wonderful people one could ever hope to know and in such beautiful places.

Wildflower can sometimes be an incredibly hot weekend but this year a nice breeze and fluctuating marine layer was keeping it cool and clear. It turned out to be absolutely beautiful and the night before the race hanging out at the camp grounds overlooking the lake was so relaxing. I had not been feeling great coming into race weekend but catching up with friends and watching the moon come up, enjoying laughs and food put me in a much better place.

It cooled off overnight and we a bit chilly even in the morning which brought the water temperature down just enough to make it a wetsuit swim for us. I was excited about this because I just got my new ZOOT Prophet2 and had not had a chance to try it out yet. The atmosphere was amazing in transition and on the shuttle to the swim start with everyone excited for the day, the wonderful volunteers were as always enthusiastic and supportive and I kept bumping into friends, some of whom I had not seen in months! I went for a quick jog around the campgrounds and felt surprisingly good and figured with the big group of professionals racing it might not be a bad day.

I jumped in the water early to get loosened up and adjust my new wetsuit a bit...the water was clean and warm and the suit felt great! I cruised back into the starting area and joked a bit with other friends warming up and the volunteers. I jumped up on the dock for a quick chat with the race director before the start and thanked him for having all of us and supporting our passion by running such a great event then scooted back into transition for a quick hug and kiss from my girlfriend before the long day got under way.

Not having done any races yet this year and having gotten a late start on training my main goal for the day was to stay within my limits, run my own race and keep things in control. Wildflower can break you down really bad if you aren't smart or if you give it too much too early and being a little unsure about where my fitness is at I resolved to just stick to what I knew I could do and push it later on if I felt good. With that in mind I let everyone line up for the swim and then took a place in the back...when the starting horn went off I waited a second or two and then jumped in after the flailing mass of swimmers fighting for position. I never liked getting pummeled in the middle of a group and I didn't want to sprint right from the start so I just slowly got going and once the pack was stretched out I worked my way up the side of the group until I found a small group of about 6-8 that was moving along at a good pace and slotted in behind them. This group ended up being pretty strong and I had to work to stick with them. I got gaped at the turns but worked my way back to them and it was a good solid pace. The water was warm so the last third of the swim I felt a little toasty in a full-sleeve wetsuit but only a bit and I dropped my head a couple of times to let some water into my suit to keep my cool.

We came out of the water in a little over twenty four minutes which is good for me and I felt like I had not over-exerted myself which I was pleased about. Everyone had been telling me for weeks how bad the run up transition 1A was so my plan was to just take it really easy and jogg up. I was a bit slow getting my suit off and shoes on, maybe because I am out of practice but wasn't too worried as I realized that there were a lot of strong guys still around and I would still be in the mix. I took it easy going up the boat ramp and when I crested the top of the hill I just let my legs open up to a comfortable pace. I had lost the group I was with in transition and on the run back to transition 1B there was a steady stream of people passing me every minute or two. I kept an eye on my watch and I was moving at a decent pace so I just let it go that I was loosing places. Transition 1B was smooth and I took the time to put some socks on for comfort. There wasn't anyone around me when I hopped on my bike and I felt pretty good right away so I was glad to get out on the road and get some work done.

The first big hill comes at only two miles into the bike as you climb out of the lake basin and right away I realized that I should have taken the time to swap out my cassette. I had to stand and grind for most of the climb and even though it didn't force my heart rate up too bad my  legs were getting achy from the low cadence. Once out onto the flatter rolling section I felt smooth and fast but something was off. In the first fifteen miles of the bike almost the entire men's field passed me. Sometimes in groups and sometimes one at a time but there was nothing I could do to stay with any of them. There were guys that I know I can ride with too and I just couldn't get that extra gear to go with the pace. This is always a struggle for me because self doubt and frustration sets in but I knew I had to just stick to what I could do and keep on. I kept the nutrition going and stuck to an effort level that was strong but in control, knowing that it was a long day and things can always change. I spent most of the ride alone but it was a beautiful day and there wasn't too much traffic so I enjoyed the scenery and kept the food and drink going in. The volunteers were amazing and did a great job of passing off bottles and cheering us on!

The last ten miles of the bike were a little tough with the lower gears and a bit hot but I felt ok coming into the park and felt like I could run which is better than I had anticipated feeling. Once I turned into the park the lead two women caught me and I knew then what kind of day I was really putting out. I followed them into T2 and no longer feeling rushed to race I took my time getting everything together to run. I grabbed some nutrition and water and used the bathroom. After that quick break I felt good and got out onto the run at a pretty good clip. The first couple of miles felt great and I was running at a pace that I was kind of surprised and happy about. A couple of miles where the run heads back into the canyons and hits some of the harder hills I took a PowerGel from the aid station but not enough water and when I ate the whole gel it bogged down my stomach. I slowed to a controlled jog in hopes that it would pass with time.

The really hard middle section of the run was a bit demoralizing and the woman who would eventually go on to win blew by me on a hill where I was walking as if she were running on flat ground. I was feeling pretty beat up but I grabbed a water bottle and carried it to keep myself cool...I was hurting but never got to the place where I was broken down so I kept up a nice steady trot for the rest of the run and finished feeling relatively controlled, tired but strong and positive about getting through the day with a decent time. I had worried going into the race that it was going to be a real struggle and I was going to have to walk for miles just to finish but even though I felt flat most of the day, it ended up being a pretty solid finish.

The aren't too many feelings greater than a cold towel on your neck and shoulders and a cold spray bottle on your face when you are hot and tired. Once again the Wildflower volunteers were above and beyond in terms of energy and enthusiasm, support and encouragement and I am so grateful for all of them! It was great to catch up will all my fellow athletes and hear about how their day went, their plans for the season and what they were up to in life. The feeling of euphoria that sets in under the recovery tent as your body begins to pump the recovery endorphin's and you put some normal food in your stomach is something so unique and I am still on a high a couple of day later as I write this from it.

Photo Credit: Slowtwitch
I hung around the finishing area and cheered for girlfriend and a bunch of other people as they finished...the finish line is always such a great atmosphere and somehow no matter how your day went even if you have to have a little cry, being around all the other people seems to make everything ok again.

After getting cleaned up and cooled off everyone was hanging out at the expo and we lounged in the shade with a nice breeze, ate a ton of food and listened to some great music and I was happy to be back into another racing season and more motivated than ever to get back on form and shoot for some solid results this year. We finished the night around a campfire making s'mores and listening to the music and parties happening all throughout the campgrounds...the full moon lit up the lake basin and we stargazed, talked and laughed until we were all too tired to sit up (8:45pm) before retiring for a well deserved nights sleep. All in all it was a great day...not much of a result but for me, right now it showed promise that I might be able to make something happen this year and that hope is all I could ever ask for!

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