I actually have two races to report on - a 2nd place at the Possibilities Tri (small reverse sprint triathlon) and 3rd at Wildflower (a much, much bigger race). I did both of these races last year and end up with a 3rd and a DNF. But, last year was a much different story. I had been injured (hip strain) and off running for 6 weeks prior to these two events. This year, I have recovered from my injuries and have been doing some solid, and more importantly, consistent training. Last year I hadn't strung three miles together in training before Possibilities - this year I ran 5:45 pace for my 5k which felt easy?!? I knew my legs were ready for the demanding course at Wildflower. However, in the week between the races I came down with a bad cough. I got in most of my workouts but was having a hard time breathing. All I could do was ignore it and carry on. My mom texted me "mind over matter" and that was the theme of my weekend. I went from googling my symptoms to see what was wrong with me to shining up my Cervelo, mounting an aero water bottle and changing the cassettes on my wheels. Projects of distraction!
Fortunately, I was able to drive (in the perfect camping triathlon vehicle!) to the race - just 4 hours north of LA - so I didn't have too stress too much about travel. I recruited my training partner David Welbey to drive up with me and he spent many hours reminding me of nutrition and pacing strategies. He'll definitely make a great coach if he ever wants to stop designing Princess Sofia dolls for Disney!
Tri California does an excellent job of organizing the Wildflower triathlon weekend. There are thousands of athletes at a giant campground. Most of them stay in tents, trailers or RVs and the pros get placed in houses. I was in a room with two sets of bunk beds (bottom bunk!) and was so nervous about keeping the other girls up all night because of my cough. They politely said it didn't bother them, but I'm pretty sure I caused people to lose sleep. Sorry Alyssa! We had a great crew at our house and I loved getting to meet the other athletes and seeing Hana who I knew from NYC.
The race format this year changed due to the drought in California. The lake (resevoir) was completely dry so they moved the start two miles away to a different part of the lake that had water. Apparently this has happened one other time in the 32 year history of Wildflower. Instead of swimming and then biking we had to swim, run up a GIANT boat ramp (see pics), then run up another hill to a trail and then run through the dry lake bed (sand) and then up the big boat ramp that was the swim exit last year. Two and a half miles of rough running. And yes, you had to wear shoes for that run. I had a very off swim and was a couple minutes off where I thought I'd be and came out of the water in 2nd place. Emily Cocks had a great swim and was well ahead of me.
I took the first run very conservatively and about halfway through Heather Jackson came screaming by me. I wanted to chase but kept my pace- I knew it would be a long hot day. Heather ended up a minute ahead of me getting onto the bikes. The different format of the race made the dynamics of the race very different. Instead of riding and wondering when she'd come blazing by me I rode to try to catch/minimize the gap. I moved into 2nd place on the first climb. I decided not to use my disk wheel and put my Lightweight wheelset on my Cervelo P3. I felt like I was flying up the hills. At about 35 miles Liz Lyles caught me and we went back and forth a bit. I went very slowly through the aid stations making sure to get lots of liquid. When we got to the big climb "Nasty Grade" I passed Liz and kept up a steady pace for the last 15 miles. I was still riding hard and feeling good by the time I got to T2 I had a minute lead over 3rd, but 4 down on Heather. My bike time was 16 minutes faster than it was last year!
I felt strong starting the run despite the coughing and wheezing. I decided to just go a managed pace and was caught by Liz about 2 miles in. She was running faster than I wanted to go so I just followed my plan. We got to the trail section and I immediately rolled my ankle. Not bad, but enough to scare me into just making sure I got through unscathed. Trail running is not my strength, especially with a fragile foot but I knew that Jesse Thomas was doing it and so could I!! Once we got on the road about mile 10 I started running 6:10s and brought the gap to Liz from 1:30 to 1 minute, but I had to dial it back a bit because the last mile is a giant downhill and I did not want another broken foot. I was so happy when that was over and sprinted to the finish.
Wildflower is a tough race! Congratulations to Heather and Liz for 1-2 and to everyone who raced. I really enjoyed the whole experience and hope to be back next year.
Thanks for all the cheers and support!