Back in December when I registered for Wildflower I was scared. I stared at the final page before clicking the button to pay and register for at least ten minutes. I switched to other things to look at, like Facebook and Twitter, to stay calm about it (obviously I eventually clicked the button and registered). See, I had been hearing about Wildflower since I started with Team in Training and ran my first marathon a couple of years ago. From everything I had heard this was an insanely difficult course and the whole idea of it scared me. A friend told me about a year and a half ago that the long course would be too difficult for me (ever), but I should probably try the olympic one day, after I had done some other triathlons. This conversation happened before I was even thinking about joining the Ironteam. But, I joined Ironteam and trained my ass off and was ready and getting excited.
Wildflower is like the Woodstock of triathlons. So, I was excited. There's camping, and a festival, and lots of hot men wandering around (seriously, so many attractive triathletes). I was not excited about the idea of camping, so I jumped on board with a couple of teammates and we rented an RV for the weekend. Best idea ever. I don't really have a problem with camping, I just prefer not to.
|Our home away from home at Wildflower|
I left for Wildflower early Thursday morning, carpooling with two of my teammates (two of my other teammates took my bike up for me since my car only has a rack for two bikes). I was hoping that we would get there by 11ish. But, we had to make a couple of pit stops. Well hydrated triathletes need multiple bathroom breaks. And, after we were north of Santa Barbara, Cecy realized that she had forgotten her sports bra at home. So, we found a running shop in San Luis Obispo and stopped to get her a new one. Crisis averted.
We still arrived early afternoon and we were able to go for an afternoon swim in the lake, which was lovely, not too cold and felt great in the hot afternoon sun. I was also able to take my bike out for a short ride to make sure it had traveled well. Seemed fine, and I followed it up with a 30 minute jog. I spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out at the campsite, welcoming in friends as they arrived.
Wildflower Ironteam HQ
The next morning we all headed down to the lake for another open water swim. Also nice and the temperature was still good despite the earlier hour. After the swim the coaches split us up in to long coursers and olympic racers (those training for Hawaii did Olympic, training for Vineman and Canada did long). Coach Jason took us through transition and showed us the basics of what we needed to know about Wildflower. The transition area was MASSIVE. Seriously, so big.
|the finishing cute I never ran down|
After the expo there were more workouts to be done, a 6 mile ride for the long coursers and a 20 minute run. After I finished that up I prepped for the next day. Three of my RV mates were doing the olympic, and they had a 40 mile bike ride on Friday. So, I took advantage of the empty RV and got ready for Saturday. I was calm, focused and ready. I had a small route slip with some notes about where I needed to be when and when to eat, when to stop eating, etc. I was ready.
After dinner and a short team meeting I headed back to the RV to get ready for bed, with a bottle of Nuun and a nalgene filled with water at my side (I had been hydrating like crazy all day, it was hot and dry). I went over my notes again one more time. And went to sleep after a quick visit and chat with one of the coaches. I knew it was going to be a long, hot day, but I felt confident. I could do this. I would do this.
I woke up early and got ready, ate oatmeal with peanut butter and banana for breakfast, with a bottle of nuun on the side. We headed down to transition with our stuff and coaches and prepared to sit around and wait for a couple of hours. (My transition was set up a full 2+ hours before my wave started at 9:15am). I wandered around, figured out every possible way back to my area, looked for landmarks, chatted with teammates, took pictures, got my hair braided (thank you Sarah!), ate a second breakfast, luna bar and more nuun (yes, it was necessary it had been close to three hours since my first one), did a warm up jog, used the restroom, watched the pro athletes start and finish their entire swim, and then finally got my wetsuit on.
Me and my teammate Marvin - he's one of the people who convinced me to do Vineman.
Madeline, me, Jasmine and Janelle waiting for body marking
My nice and neat transition area - ready to go.
Pre swim, I swear I don't have 12 chins normally.
I waited on the ramp to start, took pictures and did a quick warmup after the wave before me headed out. The five minutes between waves seemed to take forever. I was still not nervous, just calm and ready. Then it was time. My wave, women 30-34, headed in to the water. I started in the middle of the wave because I'm not the fastest swimmer, but not the slowest, seemed like a good place to start. I've only done one other triathlon before, and I was not ready for the battle swimming that ensued as the race started. Holy eff. It was crazy, there were elbows and kicks and it was just uncomfortable. By the time the crowd thinned out a bit it took me some time to settle in and find my rhythm. I started to catch up with some of the wave in front of me and then shortly there after the faster swimmers from the next wave caught me (and the wave after that and the wave after that). But, once I found my rhythm I was good. I just swam. (Next time I'll start off to the side, the middle of the middle was no good.)
This is not my wave, but you get the idea. Battle swimming.
Getting out of the water - so happy to see my teammates cheering for me
About a mile and a half or so in to the course comes a hill. It sucks because its right at the beginning and you're still trying to find your legs out of the water. I made it to the top and just after I got there my teammate Melissa caught up to me and then we passed Coach Brad. Just as we were coming up to exit the park the elites were racing back in and finishing their bike (they had started their swim an hour and fiftenn minutes before me and were out of the water in 20, but still). Anyway, I set off and settled in. I knew I never wanted to be comfortable on the bike, so I pushed myself pretty hard.
I was doing really good time wise and was ahead of where I needed to be most of the ride, at the beginning 20 minutes ahead. The wind got to be a pain in the ass and was definitely slowing me down. But I stayed focused on my nutrition and moved forward. And, every time there was a downhill, I pedaled, hard, so I could make up time. Before I got to the infamous Nasty Grade I had to refill my bottles, so I stopped for a minute to do that. The volunteers at the aid station were so awesome and asked what I needed and helped me get my bottles filled fast and back on the road. Actually, all of the volunteers all weekend were pretty incredible.
While I was on the road I had to switch my bottles around (moving from rear cages to front) and I didn't want to lose time by stopping on the side of the road to do this. So, I managed to figure out how to pull my bottles from the rear cage and keep moving. Win! This was the first time I've ever pulled a bottle from the rear cages while in motion, so I'm pretty excited about that.
Back to the ride. It's not flat, but it is pretty. You have to push through the whole way, so I did. I was doing well on my nutrition and hydration, I had set an alert on my Garmin to go off every ten minutes to remind me to eat/drink, then I wouldn't have to think about it. So, there was this girl that I first spotted on Beach Hill, walking her tri-bike up the hill. And I kept seeing her throughout the course, she would pass me, and then I would be pedaling up the next hill and there she would be, walking again. I kept thinking to myself, if she would just ride up the hills she would be done so much faster.
When the ride felt tough or long, I would think about all my teammates out there killing it. I knew that everyone was giving it their all and I knew I had to do the same. I also had the motivation of TeamGab behind me, and I had that written on my forearm. I thought a lot about Gabby and all kids with cancer and how much that must suck. Nothing would be worse than being 5 and having to go through chemo. I might not be the fastest triathlete, but I was going to give it my all, no matter what. I'm doing all of this for those who can't.
I knew where Nasty Grade was on the course, and I knew it was coming. I was trying to time my eating and drinking so I would have enough energy to get all the way up the hill. As I was approaching Nasty there was a girl I had seen a couple of times as well right in front of me, moving slow, so I went to pass her and she moved over to the left so I couldn't. Rude. I waited another minute and finally overtook her. (She had been irritating me for a while, and I really wanted to pass her, I was happy when I did.)
Then came Nasty. I was ready, I knew I could do it. It was time. By the time I got to the bottom of Nasty I was about 10 minutes ahead of where I needed to be. By the time I got to the top I was a couple minutes behind. I stopped part way up, I was tired, feeling totally spent (I think maybe I needed to eat/drink a little more before I got there). Nasty just kicked my ass. When you get to the top of Nasty it's not over yet, you turn a corner and there's another climb. I knew it was there and it was still a mind-f$#%. By the time I got to the very top I was about 8 minutes back. I thought maybe I could haul ass and make it, maybe.
There was a Team in Training coach at the top who asked me how I was doing, I said fine and it was time to go fast. He warned me to be careful. Ha, if he only knew how scared I usually am of the downhills. But, that day, I wasn't scared. I pedaled as fast as my legs would take me. I used as much momentum as I could to try to gain back those lost minutes. I glanced down at my Garmin a couple of times and saw speeds of upwards of 35mph. When I got home and downloaded my Garmin data and saw this I almost fell over. Top speed: 44mph.
Directly from my Garmin data. Who would've thought I was capable of that?
Good thing I didn't notice it while riding, I might've had a heart attack. (Also, I
probably wasn't going that fast for that long, but still.)
By the time I got to Bee Rock (close to the end) I was 8 minutes behind, and knew I wasn't going to be able to catch back up. I spent a couple of minutes feeling sorry for myself. And then I thought about TeamGab, and I remembered that no matter what happened that day, I am still strong, capable and healthy. I needed to finish and finish strong. I was doing good until I got in to the park. I saw people along the run course and recognized one, my teammate Amy. I cheered for here and said I knew I was missing the cutoff. About 30 seconds later I saw Coach Brad. I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes. He asked how I was and if I wanted to stop. I said so-so and no. I just wanted to be done. I pedaled back in to transition and had missed the cutoff by 13 minutes. 13 measly minutes.
They took my timing tag, I returned to my transition area and sat down and cried for a minute. A big fat DNF hung over my head. My teammate Melissa, who had passed me back on Beach Hill had rolled in just before me. She came over and I cried some more. I was so angry and frustrated. I wasn't sure if I should run, but I felt good enough to do it and I felt like if I didn't at least try that would really be giving up. Melissa told me to go run. I put on my shoes and 8 minutes after I entered transition I started the run. I was feeling down as I headed out of transition, and then I heard the announcer call out a name I recognized, John Webb, one of my teammates who was finishing. That bolstered me to keep going. I was doing okay, but I kept crying. I was so mad at myself and frustrated and I couldn't seem to pull myself together.
As the miles went by I became more dehydrated and slowed down significantly. The last mile I completed was more like a death march - took me 22 minutes. Ugh. By the time I got to the aid station at about mile 6 I was beaten down and exhausted. I stopped. I couldn't keep going. A course official got me a ride back to the shuttle because medical attention would take too long. I drank copious amounts of Gatorade and managed to get myself back to transition in one piece. I honestly think if I hadn't started crying I could have easily finished the run. It would have been hard, but I would have had the energy. I know I had it in me.
When I got back I went and met up with the team who were waiting at the finish line for the last of our teammates to come through. I was trying to be happy for them and not upset, but every time someone asked me how I did or what happened or why they didn't see me cross the finish line, I would break down again. I felt so bad for crying so much, I just couldn't stop. I was angry and frustrated and more than anything disappointed. I know I can do better than that. I wasn't the only member of my team to DNF, but it still hurt. To my teammates, I hope I didn't ruin your celebration by being so weepy and sad. You deserved to celebrate and enjoy the day, and you are all incredible people in my eyes.
I asked Coach Brad what he thought about me doing the olympic distance the next day. I didn't want Wildflower to win. He seemed to think it would be a good idea. Hm. On the way out I asked about registration - $180, I wasn't sure I wanted to spend that. I decided to wait until morning.
Some of the team
I spent most of the evening trying to not be sad and to be happy for my teammates. They had all done such an incredible job and I wanted them all to know that I was so proud of them. I chose to go to bed early because I was still considering the olympic race. I also knew that if I stayed up with them I would want a drink, badly, and I can't put myself in that kind of situation. I woke up in the morning still feeling dehydrated and with a bad calf cramp and decided against racing.
Not racing the olympic wound up being a really great decision. I went with my fellow long coursers to cheer on all of our team doing the olympic at the top of Lynch Hill - a hill they have to ride up directly out of transition and then ride back down to the run and then they run it for the last mile of their run. I had so much fun cheering with my teammates that it made the day before seem like a bad dream. I remembered why I go out there and do all of this and why this team is so important to me.
And, if I had raced that day I would have missed some awesome things with the team. I would have missed this insanity.
And seeing this guy take a beer:
That's MACCA, Chris McCormack, 2 time Ironman World Champion flying past us on the bike and then zooming past on his run toward a win. Ya, he took a beer from my teammate Jasmine. Kind of rad.
And, I would have missed my incredible teammates showing me what this is all about. Cheering for them, and watching them race was more incredible and amazing than anything else from the weekend (even Macca taking a beer). They are all such amazing people and I am proud to call them my friends.
That's our coach wearing that speedo while racing the olympic. We raised, as a team, more than $250,00
before Wildflower, so a coach was picked to wear it, and he was the winner.
To quote the Rolling Stones "You can't always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you get what you need." I think I got what I needed out of this weekend, including the realization of just how far I've come since the season started, even since January. Cause I've come pretty damn far. And, that, in and of itself is worth every bead of sweat, tear shed and cheer screamed this weekend. I think maybe that stupid DNF was for the best. Because even though I've come so far, I still have a long ways to go, and I'm not going to get complacent about it now. Nope, now I'm going to work even harder. And, you know what? I finished a BEAST of a bike course. Not in the time cutoff, but I finished it, and that counts for something. And, I learned that all that core work that I've been doing, religiously 2-3 times per week is paying off, as I had no back pain on that hilly course and some of my teammates did. Glad I've been doing it and I will continue to do it. Its time to focus on the workouts and give them my all (cause sometimes I don't... no more).
And, next year, mark my words, I WILL be back at Wildflower and I WILL have my revenge on the long course. Victory will be mine. Just 358 days to go. Tick tock. Oh, and I have two more words about next year. Double Dip.
Please consider supporting me and donating to LLS. I still need your help to hit my fundraising goals and get across the finish line at Vineman. (Plus, it's my birthday next Tuesday, and a donation would be a fantastic birthday gift!)
*Note - Most pictures were procured from my friends Facebook pages. Thanks team!