I have always heard such amazing things about Wildflower, and I finally got a chance to experience it this year! Wildflower is truly a “one and only” race. A race that is still being run by the same family that founded this race 33 years ago should explain itself right there. It’s not just a race; it’s a whole weekend of fun for everyone. If you haven’t gone, I strongly suggest that you do! You won’t regret it!
This was the first race I have done without any family or friends on the sidelines to cheer me on. I flew in on Thursday afternoon and was super excited when I found out that my housing was right on-site! I was bunked up with another Pro, Nate Dressel, and his Family and their friend Steve Cassingham who was doing much of the video coverage for the weekend. This worked out perfectly as I was able to get some race insight from someone who had experience on this course, and I had a chance at getting some good media exposure!
Race Day Morning: Up at 5am, had my traditional coffee, coconut oil and a banana. I got my gear together and headed down to transition. That was the bonus of staying on site- I could check in my bike and everything on race day morning. As soon as I stepped outside, I was in shock- of the temperature that is. 2 degrees Celsius (or what ever that is in farenheight….never did figure that conversion out). WHAT?! I didn’t know it could get that cold in California! I was tempted to wear my wetsuit all morning just to keep warm. After bike check in, we all hopped on the shuttle to the swim start, which for those of you who don’t know the course, is 4km (2.2 miles) from T1. Yep, you heard me right- Swim-run-bike-run. Unfortunately California is in a state of drought and their water levels are dangerously low, so the course had to be modified, as there is no longer water at T1. The bonus is (there is always a bright side), that 4km is taken off the run at the end.
T1A as they call it, is set up on the boat ramp close to swim exit- This is where you put your first pair of shoes to run to T1B. WE all waited for the announcement of wetsuit or non… Fortunately (I’m a wetsuit lover), it had gotten cold enough over the last two nights to bring the water temp down!
Ok, quick warm up, just to see how the wetsuit felt, as I hadn’t been in one since last September. Yes, I am from Canada where we live in igloos in sub zero temperaturesJ Really though, our lakes here don’t warm up until mid June or so.
Pro Men took of at 8am with the women to follow 5 min later. I was slightly hesitant getting in the water as the last open water swim start I had a panic attack. I managed to jump on some feet, but unfortunately weren’t the really fast ones, as I was blocked and couldn’t get into the lead pack. Oh well, I told myself- just go with it-you’ve got a whole race ahead of you to figure this out. I tried to pull ahead to the person in front of me, only to find that we were swimming at the same pace. Back on the feet and I just chilled- might as well conserve that energy for the rest of this “nasty” course. Out of the water at 29min and change- I was happy (swimming is not my strength, but I’m working on it). Up the ramp to my shoes. Wet suit off, shoes on, and I was off straight up the 500m steep boat ramp to the trail that would take me to my bike. I settled into a comfortable pace one I got my heart rate under control. I was passed by a couple of women, but wasn’t going to get hung up on it, as I knew I would catch them on the bike.
Into T1B….awesome…the majority of the Pro bikes were gone. That was enough motivation to get my ass in gear and I took off on a mission. I picked off 4 or 5 women in the first 5 miles….perfect! I was anticipating this “nasty” bike course, and found myself holding back as I was warned by everyone that if I hit the bike too hard that I would die on the ridiculous run. Keeping this in the back of my head, I still managed to pick off quite a few women along the way. Once we got out on the main part of the course, it was really quite a beautiful rolling course- nothing crazy. Just after the 40 mile mark, I hit the big hill called “nasty grade”, which was fairly steep, but much shorter than I was anticipating. After passing 2 more women, we had some good hills (both up and down) from “nasty grade” back to transition. I know I could have hit the bike a bit faster, but I’ll take the 2:40 (5th fastest split) for a course that’s not flat.
T2-out onto the run course. We ran back past the swim start –on the road this time (thank God!). Unfortunately the “YAY Pavement” didn’t last very long as we were back on trails. Up and down, up and down….and UP! Holy crap! I swear this hill never ended. It was so steep that you could walk faster than you could run! (oh, and this was all on trail, if I didn’t mention it before. I was passed by one woman around mile 8, and kept her in sight. Around mile 10, I started to get goosebumps…a sure sign of heat stroke. I shook this off and took in as much as I could at the next aid station, trying to cool off with cups of warm water dumped over my head. We got just past mile 11, and as I was catching the woman in front of me, I could hear some footsteps behind me. I was caught and passed by Mackenzie Madison, (I kind of expected it as she is a strong runner, but was hoping I had gained enough ground on the bike). I passed the other woman on the last hill and tried to keep on Mackenzie’s tail. I was almost there but couldn’t quite stay with her. The worst part of the run was the last mile into the finishing chute. Straight downhill at the end of a race this tough is rough on the legs. I just tried to keep under control and not do the “tuck and roll” down to the bottom. I had no idea what place I was in by the time I got to the finishing chute, but was happy to be welcomed in in 9th place. Top 10 at my first Wildflower was nothing to complain about, especially against the field that I was in. I was happy with my race, and will be back next year, ready to rock it now that I know what to expect!
A huge congrats to Liz Lyles who passed 3 time champion, Heather Jackson, in the last second of the race, as well as all the other women I was up against. A though day on a tough course! I would also like to thank my sponsors- The Bike Barn for taking care of my bike and setting my up with my awesome kit, Skechers for creating my awesome shoes and Hammer Nutrition for fuelling my day.