Wildflower Triathlon - Long Course - TriathlonLong Course

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Lake San Antonio, California
United States
72F / 22C
Total Time = 5h 43m 31s
Overall Rank = 397/1966
Age Group = M35-39
Age Group Rank = 96/310
Pre-race routine:

Packing for a tri is enough work, but packing for a tri and packing for camping takes a little work. Consequently, DW and I left a home a bit later than we had planned. We stopped off at Safeway to pick up food and snacks and we were finally on our way a bit after 1:00pm. Our drive was uneventful and we arrived and found the rest of the Golden Gate Tri Club camping at Redondo Vista campground, H loop. It was already about 4:30pm so we quickly set up our tent. The camp areas are huge, there is no Cingular or T-mobile cell phone coverage, so sadly, we wouldn’t have the time to meet up with any online peers.

We then headed out to the expo and registration. A lot of nice stuff out at the expo, but we didn’t really have time to look. I did find a nice day glo yellow Pearl Izumi visor (I’d been looking for a decent visor for awhile) to replace my beloved day glo Pearl Izumi cap.

We had also purchased the prepaid “pasta party” dinner. DON’T BUY THE PASTA PARTY DINNER. This meal was a joke, esp. for $10. I had primarily purchased this for DW and myself because I thought that it would be a good way to soak in some of the ambiance of Wildflower at a pasta party. First, only a handful of people do this and secondly, it’s AWFUL. You get a Styrofoam plate with the little dividers in it. You get a little bit of pasta with some very bland marinara sauce, some iceberg lettuce, a piece of bread, half a banana (mine was green and inedible), and two cookies (cheap package cookies). Lastly, the plate is not nearly enough for carb loading for a hungry triathlete. I ‘m sure I could have eaten two plates and still been hungry (and I’m not a big guy). Fortunately, DW and I had also brought along some food for dinner.

Back at camp, we met up with some of the other tri club members. It was windy and we commented about what the weather was likely to be tomorrow. I was quite tired from two weeks of a heavy work schedule and a little light on sleep (not exactly the taper for which I had hoped) and I hadn’t been focused on the race during that time and I still wasn’t into it yet. When DW asked me if I wanted to take my bike for a test ride to make sure it was okay, I felt so blasé about it so I just blew it off.

Because I was tired and didn’t want to cook the pasta we brought, we just ate the pita and hummus we brought. After that, I was ready for bed so we did our nightly ablutions and went to bed. It was still fairly loud in camp, so earplugs came in handy.

Woke up at 5:30AM. I made the hot water for the coffee (yes, peets). I had a couple bars for breakfast, a banana, and some oatmeal. I set my bike up and had to figure out what to wear. The sun was coming up and it was quite noticeably warmer. I had to rack my bike by supposedly 7:15AM (I’m sure I and many others were late).

Event warmup:

Heck. None for me. I figured it was long enough not to worry about it and, like I’ve said earlier, I was feeling mentally disconnected from the race.
  • 37m 21s
  • 2112 yards
  • 01m 46s / 100 yards

I’m in the M35-39B wave, which starts at 8:40 I, of course, had to pee about 30 min. before my wave so I waited in line. While waiting, I was trying to get an idea of the course. I was told it was an L-shaped course – out for awhile, turn right at the buoy , go along for a couple buoys, turn around and come back. By the time I finished, it was already 10 minutes before the start or so. It still hadn’t sunk in that I was doing this race. I just felt like I was just standing around in my wetsuit. I see TS from the tri club and we chit chat a bit. We’re glad the water is warm (65 degrees) and not at all like swimming in the bay.

Soon enough the wave before us leaves and our group jumps into the water (as do I), but we start out of the water so I took about 3 strokes out and back (how’s that for a warmup) and peed in my suit for good luck. We all line up on shore and soon enough the horn sounds and we’re off.

I figure I’m fairly slow so I take the outside left on the middlish row. It’s pretty crowded for a bit and I’m swimming up on people and being swum up on. It’s hard to see because we’re swimming into the sun. It thins out a little bit, but gets congested again near the first buoy where we have to turn.

My body is somewhat on auto pilot. I mean, I’m not pushing myself very hard. Part of me feels like I’m just out for a swim in a lake (thrashing about with a few hundred people…). I figure it’s a long day and my goal is just to finish, so I’m not going to kill myself to “race.” I think this mindset gave me a very relaxed feeling that actually benefitted me in an endurance race.

I can’t really see where I’m swimming and don’t know how many buoys there are, but lemming-like, I just follow everyone. I haven’t worn my wetsuit much so the little extra resistance it has as I bring my arms forward is noticeable because of it’s newness (not to self, do more OWS with my wetsuit). Eventually, we reach the turnaround buoy, a triangle one. I make the run and again just mindlessly follow everyone else since I’m not exactly sure where to go. After about 1200 yards or so, my upper body has finally warmed and loosened up. Hmmm…maybe that’s why I’m an endurance athlete and not a sprinter. I pass some folks in previous waves (actually, I swam up on some of them). The rest of the swim is uneventful as we cut back toward shore. I can see the large blue and white balloon gateway that shows where we return to shore. I start the jog up to the transition area. I hear DW cheering me on, but I can’t see her amidst the sea of faces.

Transition 1
  • 03m 56s

I had a bit of trouble getting my suit off of my right ankle (usually it’s the left with the timing chip) and I took my time to make sure I had everything squared away before taking off on the bike. I didn’t feel like rushing anything, so this ended up being relatively slow. I grabbed two Perfect Zone bars, a Powerbar Harvest bar, and a caffeinated Clif Shot gel and stash them in my tri top. I must have spent 30 seconds or more of my transition just trying to find the friggin’ pockets on these, which feels quite different when wet.

  • 3h 10m 49s
  • 56 miles
  • 17.61 mile/hr

So, I cross the white line out of the transition area where we’re allowed to hop onto our bikes. One guy immediately falls over. I keep going and for the first couple miles, we’re winding along the lake. It’s laid back as I and the others around me are getting our bike legs warmed up, but soon enough we hit Beach hill. My “plan” (if you can call anything I did a “plan”), was to not burn out my legs at any point. So, I only had a double on my tri bike and I don’t have brutish leg strength, so I didn’t want to grind it out in the saddle, so I just climbed the hill out of the saddle. It takes a minute for my legs to get used to this motion again, but its kinda like running so my legs don’t mind.

Soon enough, I’m over the top and we make a right and head out along San Antonio Drive. Then we make a right on Interlake Road were we have rolling hills for awhile. We also have wind, in front and sometimes to the side. So, I stay in aero position as much as possible. I’m also using my Specialized tri-spokes (a bargain purchase on craigslist list!) wheelset which, based on my test run using them in my last century, seem to be very wind cheating, which is good.

I get passed by a lot of folks, esp. those on fully decked out tri bikes and aero wheels (wait, I guess that’s me too). It’s fun zooming down the hills, but that which goes down, must come up. My strategy, again, was not to burn my legs up so if I found myself slow enough to be in my lowest gear or two, I sat up and sat back so I could engage my glutes just a little bit more and when necessary if my cadence slowed and I found myself grinding, I just cranked it out of the saddle. This may not have been the fastest way to go, but it was my endurance strategy.

At about mile 5, I decided to eat a bar. It’s always fun to try to unwrap a bar while riding (okay, maybe I’ll try the tip about cutting them up beforehand and keeping them in a baggie), but I know I’ll need the calories. I bought one of those Profile Designs aero bottle and tested it out on my last century. Now I got to use it for real. I wasn’t sure how the aid stations would work on the bike, but they worked exactly as I expected. Aid volunteers stood holding out water bottles or bottles of Gatorade. I just slowed down and grabbed one of my choice from them and learned to call out what I wanted. With the aero bottle, I did a good job of hydrating. It’s convenient to be able to just refill the bottle by squirting the contents of another bottle through the top. The disadvantage is that it’s messy. Sometimes I missed a bit when I refilled and if the bottle was fairly full, bumps did cause the contents to somewhat end up all over the bike.

Before the turn onto Jolon road (approx mile 19), I catch up to TS. He seems to be suffering a bit in the headwind (on a road bike), because I know he’s always been a stronger cyclist than I am (although to fair, I’ve improved a lot) and I didn’t expect I would ever catch up to him on the bike (he’s also a faster swimmer than I am, so I knew he was out of the water before me). I say to him “this wind sucks!” He agrees. I pass him and soon the turn onto Jolon road comes up. So, I was hoping for a tailwind, but we didn’t quite get that, at least it didn’t feel like it. I’ve been passing some of the slower riders in the earlier, younger age groups, so that’s always fun.

Something more urgent though…I have to pee. So, I haven’t seen any portapotties anywhere and I’ve seen people stop off by the side of the road. After awhile, I make the decision to pee on the bike. Now, I told my wife I wasn’t going to do this because I wasn’t racing against anyone, but I rationalized it to myself that there were no facilities and I already pee on myself when using a wetsuit, so what the hell. Peeing on the bike is not as simple as just deciding to pee. First, when you’re in the aero position, it ain’t gonna happen. Second, when you are exerting yourself (i.e. your legs are cranking), it’s difficult to make it happen. So, you have to be coasting. You also want to be courteous of anyone behind you (i.e. not have anyone behind you). Lastly, you want to have a nice fresh water bottle that you can use to clean up. So, that’s exactly what I did on a nice downhill stretch on Jolon Road at about mile 24. It was so liberating. It was like being a baby and not having to worry about social norms and just doing what you had to do at the moment you felt like doing it. Perhaps this was my moment of Zen enlightenment.

A few miles after this libation, I need to have something to continue refueling and need to eat another bar. I sure was reduced to the essentials – eat, drink, pee, bike. Around mile 34, after making the turn onto Nacimiento and before I hit thehills, I have to pee again. It takes several tries to get this going (combination of exertion from uphills, people behind me, and just a shy bladder), but I’m thankful that I don’t have to start the climbing with a too full bladder. Fortunately, my legs still feel pretty good.

I’m very thankful that I’m not a pro who has to worry about how their performance compares to others. I feel like I’m out on a weekend ride. I have this misperception that racing is supposed to be painful or I’m not doing it hard enough, but I think that is a misleading belief in an endurance race.

Soon enough, I reach Nasty grade. I gear out (on the low end) fairly soon, so I’m out of the saddle. A steep grade tends to exaggerate the difference in riders. There are a fair number I pass, but I’m also being passed heavily now. Many strong climbers here and some just willing to burn out there legs. This hill actually seems less steep than I remember it from training weekend, but I’ve also logged two centuries since then with steeper hills and some later into the ride than this. So, my training seems to have paid off. Again, I’m far from the fastest up this hill, but I’m able to do what I need to do. I reach the fake top of the climb and there’s a guy dressed in a full on Energizer bunny costume and drum pounding away. Too funny, but then we make the right hand turn up for another climb. At the top, we enjoy a view of both likes, one down to the right and one down to the left. Nice.

• Then, it’s over to the exhilarating/scary downhill. With the gusty winds, I’m too afraid to stay in the aerobars so I stay on the horns for more stability. My eyes tear up from the wind (I wear my prescription glasses, but I really wish I could find a pair of real cycling glasses that could take my prescription). Now it’s back uphill again, and rolling hills again for the next eight to ten miles to the end of the bike ride. I just stick to my strategy and soon enough I get to enjoy the final mile downhill ride down Lynch hill. I pass a guy on this stretch and he tries to keep close. When we get to the white line where we have to dismount, I don’t think he knew that or realized it and he slammed on his brakes locking his rear wheel and skidding until he blew out his tire. That was a dramatic dismount (don’t try that at home!).

I trot to my rack. In my immediate rack area, I’m one of the earlier ones to return so that’s a good sign.

Transition 2
  • 01m 43s

This went quickly. I just did my routine, grabbed a couple extra bars and a gel and I was off.

  • 1h 49m 42s
  • 13.1 miles
  • 08m 22s  min/mile

Almost immediately out of the run, one of my bars fell out of my pocket. Oh well. I shouldn’t need more than one and I didn’t even know if I’d be able to stomach a bar on the run. After about a mile into the run, there are some bushes, so one guy just finished peeing there so I stopped off to pee there. I’d been holding it since about mile 45 on the bike. It was a big relief. I really had to pee. It felt like I was going for minutes (although perhaps just a minute). While I was going, I heard another guy say “that’s a great idea” and he ran to the next bush and started. As soon as I finished, I guy jumped to the bush I just vacated. Okay, now to get down to business.

My legs definitely felt sluggish, which was, of course, expected. This was going to be interesting. The run would show what my training, esp. my tired legs training was worth. It was also quite noticeably warmer and I wasn’t sure how I’d be affected by that. So, the first few miles were to warm up and shake that post-bike sluggish leg feeling. There were plenty of 40 somethings I passed who must have totally cranked on the bike (i.e. they started several waves back from me, but were ahead of me for the run), but seemed to pay for it a little bit here on the run. I just ran within my ability. A few times, someone would come flying by and they were usually fresh legs from a relay team. No problem.

There were aid stations about every mile. I would have a Gatorade and a spray of water from the hose if available and often grab another cup of water with which to douse myself.

After the stretch along Harris Creek, we go up. I run for awhile, but just like on the bike, when I start to feel my quads burn, I just walked it. Yes, I walked. I never planned to do this. When I did the practice run here the month before, I ran it fine, but of course didn’t bike immediately before. Well, walking seemed to be right thing to do and I figured it wouldn’t have much effect on my overall time anyway.

I think it was at the mile 4 aid station where we were greeted by topless coeds and totally naked guys except for a strategically hung paper cup. Funny.

By about mile 7, my legs have finally loosened up like happens on so many of my longer runs. My stride is smooth and easy and I feel like I can run forever…okay, maybe not forever, but long enough to get me to 13.1. I’m passing a fair number of people. We’re passing through the campgrounds so the crowds are cheering us all on. I start to feel like I have the finish in the bag.

When it comes to doing the out and back section called The Pit, I realized that The Pit was not as deep as I did when I practiced it because we didn’t have signs to tell us where to turn around (and we went all the way to the bottom) so this would be easier than expected.

Soon enough, it’s the final hill before going down Lynch Drive. I start flying down Lynch drive and I know that my quads will feel this tomorrow. I’m flying down Lynch and get to the flat part and I know the end is so very near. My feet feel light and my legs strong so I pick up the pace. There is a small grandstand to the right and the crowds are loud and the announcer is calling out the runners. It’s a great feeling and I see the clock time of 6:23.

FINTIME - 5:43:31
OVERALL – 397 out of 1966 finishers (including relay teams)

SWIM - 0:37:21
TRANS1 - 0:03:56
BIKE - 3:10:49
TRANS2 - 0:01:43
RUN - 1:49:42
CLASSRANK – 96 (out of 310) in M35-39
SEXRANK - 366 (out of 1397)
SWIMMPK - 0:19:21
BIKEMPH - 17.6
RUNMPM - 0:08:22

I’m ecstatic with these results. I had no idea what pace I was doing on any of the disciplines since I didn’t have a watch with me and there were no race clocks on the course. I was so much into my own zone that I never looked at the race clocks in transition until the end when I was coming in for the run.

My base goal was just to finish. My first level goal was 7 hours and my second level goal was to finish in under 6 hours. I really had no idea how it’d go since this was my first half-IM distance race and it was Wildflower with all the hills. I did give my wife estimates for my race (so she would have an idea of where to be for photo ops) of 40 min swim, 5 min T1, 3-4 hour bike, and 2 hour run, which is pretty close to what I did. It looks like I was in the top third or so, which seems to be what I always do, so that’s great by me!

It was definitely quite a workout, but the mystique of doing a 70.3 is no longer there. It feels very doable, but the full 140.6 lurks out there and it’s difficult for me to imagine what it’s going to feel like to do that…

Post race
Warm down:

So, I had some bananas, some water, and ate the bar that I didn’t eat with me on the run. I went down to the transition area and gathered all my stuff. One funny thing about doing this race is that it’s not just a 70.3 – you have to tack on the 1.5 miles it take to schlep your bike back (uphill and partly on dirt trail) to camp, so make it a 71.8. mercifully, DW met up with me and she pushed my bike for me.

I continued to eat and hydrate back in camp and cheer other runners on. We did this for awhile and packed up our gear. We weren’t staying the night, but we did have reservations in Pacific Grove at the Borg’s Motel, Oceanside, second floor, with an awesome view. For dinner, we started to walk around town and stumbled on to Robert’s White House on Lighthouse. The menu looked good, so we went in. We were a bit underdressed, esp. me with the remnants of the numbers on my hands. I had the lobster ravioli to start, paired with a Voss Sauvignon Blanc. I had a baked onion soup (baked gruyere cheese on top…yum) paired with a Mark West Pinot Noir. (don’t worry, I didn’t drink all that wine. I maybe had a glass total for the evening). For my entrée, I had the duck, paired with a Hahn Merlot. For dessert, DW and I split the tart tatin. All in all, a great day!

P.S. I should have some pictures to post soon thanks to DW.

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Last updated: 2006-12-10 12:00 AM
00:37:21 | 2112 yards | 01m 46s / 100yards
Age Group: 0/310
Overall: 649/1966
Course: If you’re reading this, you probably already know a fair amount about this race. It takes place around Lake San Antonio. It’s one of the largest triathlon events (7000+ participants) and most participants and spectators camp giving it a very different vibe from other tris. The long course is an L-shaped course in Lake San Antonio.
Start type: Plus:
Water temp: 65F / 18C Current: Low
200M Perf. Remainder:
Breathing: Drafting:
Waves: Navigation:
Time: 03:56
Cap removal: Helmet on/
Suit off:
Wetsuit stuck? Run with bike:
Jump on bike:
Getting up to speed:
03:10:49 | 56 miles | 17.61 mile/hr
Age Group: 0/310
Overall: 615/1966
Course: The bike course is hilly for a tri with rolling hills in the first 15-20 miles, a steep climb called Nasty Grade, and then rolling hills at the finish.
Road:   Cadence:
Turns: Cornering:
Gear changes: Hills:
Race pace: Drinks:
Time: 01:43
Riding w/ feet on shoes
Jumping off bike
Running with bike
Racking bike
Shoe and helmet removal
01:49:42 | 13.1 miles | 08m 22s  min/mile
Age Group: 0/310
Overall: 309/1966
Course: The run is 40% road and 60% trail running with it’s share of hills.
Keeping cool Drinking
Post race
Weight change: %
Mental exertion [1-5]
Physical exertion [1-5]
Good race?
Course challenge
Events on-time?
Lots of volunteers?
Plenty of drinks?
Post race activities:
Race evaluation [1-5]