Wildflower Triathlon – 4th
It had been 9 years but just driving into the park it felt like yesterday. A decade later the place had not changed, tents and campers surrounding pop up tents for triclubs of the region ages ranging from the collegiate athletes and partying supporters to 30 year Wildflower veterans everybody was ready for race weekend. Then I made the left turn and went down the famous Lynch hill down to Lake San Antonio and transition area. Here was the video of me driving in early morning on Friday.
When they said they had to move the swim I thought it was because the reservoir was too shallow or had a huge island in the course, I did not expect the lake to look like the great plains. Thanks to all that showed up to the main stage to check out my interviews with Sean English and Bob Babbitt. At the pro meeting I was a little startled by the number of young professionals that I did not know, a field of 50 and I knew less than 15 left a lot of uncertainty going into race morning.
Race morning was quite routine. I checked and double checked my gear then headed to transitions to set up for the day. After a few minutes I hopped the bus to the race start. My body was electric with excitement, I was fired up for the day ahead. The swim course was very similar to the traditional swim course, just 2 miles away from the normal start…finally it was go time so I slipped into my Alpha 1.5 wetsuit because it was about to get real with the likes of Dustin McLarty and Kyle Leto.
Finally the horn bellowed and we were full gas. Dustin had opted to wear a swimskin because because he feared overheating from the sun blazing sun, but that did not stop him from motoring the first 500 meters. I was just happy that I was able to hold onto superman’s cape for the ride. By the first buoy it was McLarty, Leto, Barrett Brandon, and myself with Callum Millward and Hadley yo-yoing at the back. By the mile mark of the 1.2 mile swim my insides were screaming as the pace was blistering.
The run between the swim and bike was gnarly. It was 1/3 of a mile up a boat ramp, then plummet back to the sandy lake bed and run just under 2 miles in the sand before running up the “normal” swim exit boat ramp into T1. I ran controlled knowing that I could make up more time in the first five miles of hilly terrain on the bike than I could in 2 miles of sand running. I ran just behind Barrett most of the way until he randomly face planted himself in the lake bed. Somebody forgot to tell him that the swim was done.
T1 was routine but required a little extra thinking because it was more of a duathlon than a triathlon, but I was on my bike quickly coming out of T1 in 3rd place with the leader in sight. While was cruising the run from swim to bike Jessie Thomas, Leon Griffon, and others had hammered the run to make up lost time from the swim and were now just seconds back.
I flew through the technical lake shore road motoring toward beach climb, a nasty climb at mile 1 of the bike course, my mindset was not to let anybody recover so they would hit the hill red-lined. It was a great strategy because it worked gaping everybody over the top of the climb. Yet in that first mile I hit a pothole and my seat dropped…not just a little but a lot. I immediately was asking everybody I saw if they had a torx tool. I asked everybody from the photographers, officials, spectators, volunteers, bikers, onlookers, I think I even asked a homeless guy walking along the road.
The first 5 miles and final 20 miles of the bike course favored great cyclist like Jesse, Griffo, and Matt Russell a lot more than me. So I needed to make hay on the rollers from mile 5 to 35 but I just couldn’t roll with my butt on floor.
Finally at mile 35 I got a torx tool. The mechanic asked me if I wanted to wait until after the preme up nasty grade to change it which was 5 miles ways. My response was a quick decisive NO, I need to fix this now, 1:26:18 into the bike I grabbed the brake hoping for a quick 30 seconds fix.
I hopped off my bike and loosened the bolt and tried to yank the saddle up but the electrical tape that marks my saddle location and the number were really jammed in the clamp. I did a power clean with the mechanic holding my bike down and ripped the seat and the clamp came out. I immediately started beating the clamp off with my hand, I had never experienced anything like this in all my years of wrenching, and finally it came off and I put clamp back on the bike and slid my seat post back in and cranked the mofo tight…probably to 3 times the torque spec. I thanked the bearers of the T25 Torx tool immensely and remounted my machine, the adjustment took nearly two minutes but now I was riding comfortably and that meant the power was about to go way up. As I accelerated I glanced at my watch and swore out loud because the quick adjustment took two minutes. When I hit nasty grade the Mavic CXR80’s were like a rockets on rails. I rode in the aerobars up the first half of the climb, everything felt great after being so uncomfortable for 35 miles. It seemed like moments later I was in T2.
I learned in the first few miles that I could run flats fine but I could not run up or down hill to save my life because my quads were so fried. After I got passed the mountain bike turnaround it got very hot, sunny, and dry. I ran though an aid station and the volunteers were playing Frisbee and drinking out of solo cups, the next aid station I ran through and they were all cheering loud which was motivational but they didn’t have any fluid out. I thought to myself Bob Babbitt, you SOB, you jinxed me…because the night before he asked me about aid stations being ready as the leader and I explained to him that it is usually great for the leader because everybody is excited and wants to give the leader nutrition. Finally I got a cup at the next aid station and grabbed the cup and it had 1 mL of fluid in the bottom, but it was the best 1 mL I had consumed in my whole life. A few minutes later Jesse passed me as we waltzed up a steep incline. He told me great job, I won’t say what I really wanted to tell him, but I told him keep it up and congrats. I kept hammering and I could hold him on the flats but every time we went up or downhill, which is a lot, he just drew away. Next Callum passed me on a climb, of course and we exchanged zero sounds. I kept digging on it and had suddenly found a new competitor. Her name was Breezy Bochenek a 12 year old amputee doing the MTB tri. She would pass me on the downhills and I would do everything I could pass her back on the climbs. It truly is the little things in life and this little young lady kept me going, and it was a good thing because Matt Russell was coming quick. We hit the top of Lynch hill and I had 20 seconds and a one mile downhill. I had it until my right knee just buckled under the force of running downhill and I miraculously saved myself from joining the face plant club but my quads locked and I had to stop and try to relax them. I started back up just seconds later but my legs had gone from fried to garbage. Matt passed me and I just shook my head in frustration but it was then that I remembered that this is Wildflower, I love the sport, I am so lucky to be finishing another race top 5 in a strong pro field and all of the bad of the day melted away as I gave a high 5 to all of those lining the finish chute.
After the race I got to hang out and talk with the legends of triathlon, Wildflower is where you can have a beer with Bob Babbitt, Roch Frey, Scott Tinley, Chris Legh, Julie Moss, and quite a few more. I also got to catch up with a lot of the other pro’s and meet a lot of new ones because Wildflower is not a place where you race and leave. It is the place where the finish line is not the end of the day but the start of the party.
The next day morning my hand was swollen from beating on the clamp and I was shocked at how far it had dropped. After more than 100 triathlons I had a mechanical. Hopefully I can go at least 100 more without another one.
Looking forward to coming back in 2015!