It's been exactly one week since the Wildflower long course triathlon and finally I'm able to string a few words together about my experience. All that happened during the weekend festival has overwhelmed me to the point of bloggy silence. It's not that there was lack of experiences to write about, it's quite the contrary, actually. Each time I begin to type about the race all of the memories rush into a cerebral flash flood. Words either crash through the door and knock me down or come so fast I can't run quick enough to catch them. So, here goes an attempt to record what made it through the mental deluge.
A Bit of History and Some Words of Advice...
I've been in the sport of triathlons for only three years. During this time I've raced in three half-Ironman races and one full Ironman race including twice completing the arduous and very hilly St. Croix Iroman 70.3 Triathlon. My personal best at the distance stands at 6 hours, 7 minutes. In that short time I have learned much and, after last week, understand much learning remains. Wildflower's reputation proceeds her and, as I learned, for good reason. If completing Ironman Florida is like completing a Bachelor's degree in Ironman completing the Wildflower long course is like earning a Master's degree.
"Wildflower can be hot," I was told. Yeah, but I've raced in Caribbean tropics and The Hotter N Hell 100 miler in a 107 degree late Texas August. So, bring the heat. "Wildflower can be windy," they said. Uh humm... so is Panama City Beach in November during the bike leg of Ironman Florida. "Wildflower is hilly," I was warned. Well, it can't be any worse than the 18% grade of The Beast and the numerous 10% plus grade hills of St. Croix, right? Right?? "Many a hardened athlete cracked in them there California hills," was the last thing they told me.
Undaunted I boarded at plane in Dallas headed for Los Angeles. Once the plane touched and I met up with members of Team RaceAthlete there was no turning back. It was race-on.
Tranquility Base Here. The TBA Has Landed...
Photo Courtsey of Yong Pong/Chris Phillips
Morning came into the campsite at Lake San Antonio like a father walking into his newborn's nursery. Quietly, calmly, peacefully, and with a twinkle in its eye. Slowly the light filled the hills surrounding the camp. They were rolling tan velvet dotted with patches of green, brown, and black. A shallow morning fog hugged the sapphire blue water of the lake fading into the soft-lensed vistas of saddled mountain slopes.
The nucleus of the Tri Blogger Alliance established a base the night before and its athletes arose on this most unique earthscape. They were enthusiastic, yet calm. Relaxed, yet task-minded. Bawdy, yet polite. Accomplished, yet humble. Happy. A collection of people -- containing the rare DNA combination of extraordinary athletes, wordsmiths, poets, musicians, and artists -- such as these, has rarely been assembled. To be invited to be a part of their camp (although completely undeserved by me) had me beaming with pride and grand expectations.
On race eves of the past I've been nervous, irritable, tacit, and anxious. Not this time. I was calm, unworried, and at peace before the race. The people and the fun of the camp put me in a good place.
Photo Courtesy of Yong Pong/Chris Phillips
Unlike my running abilities, my swim has been my relative strength allowing me to exit the water in the first quarter of swimmers. I've had this theory that if I could somehow avoid the brawl of the mass open water start I could improve my times. If given a pair of fast feet I could hang on and draft my way into the upper tier of swimmers. So, with theory in mind, I placed myself at the front of the pack.
When the horn blew I darted into the water and began to swim like it was a 25 yard sprint. I was untouched by the others and soon found a pair of feet to get behind. Assuming my guide knew the way, I didn't need to sight so I ducked my head and did my best to stay in his churn. Soon he pulled away but another pair of feet appeared just ahead of me and I got into his bubbles for as long as I could hang on. This continued for the entire swim and before I knew it I was coming up onto the swim exit ramp. I looked at my watch: 33 minutes. 30 - freaking - 3 minutes. That was two and a half minutes faster than my 1.2 mile personal record. Also, it put me in the top 10% of my age group.
Things were looking good.
Now, let's get on the bike and see what all of the fuss is about.