EVENT: Wildflower Triathlon | Olympic Distance
DATE: May 5th, 2013
LOCATION: Lake San Antonio [near Paso Robles, CA]
Swim 1.5km |24:28 (102nd/1883)
Bike 40 km | 1:19:15 (18.7 mph | 109th/1883)
Run 10 km | 45:17 (7:18/mi. | 259th/1883)
TIME /PLACE: 2:33:23 | 3rd of 91 in age group (3rd percentile) and 56th of 1883 overall participants (3rd percentile)
The Wildflower Triathlon Weekend is described as “The one and only” or maybe more accurately as “The Woodstock of Triathlons”. This was my first time at this event and I have to say that it was awesome. Lake San Antonio is located about 10 miles away from one of California’s famed “other wine country” Paso Robles. I drove up on Friday and joined several others from the OC Tri Club already there at the campgrounds. Lake San Antonio doesn’t have any developed hotels or other shopping or developments in the immediate area so most of the participants camp there for the weekend. There were tents and campers and motor homes all over the place when I arrived Friday afternoon. It was hot and dry on arrival.
Tri California Events, which sponsors the event did an amazing job. For its size, everything is so well organized. There are sponsor booths, food vendors, beer and wine tasting. The local University, Cal Poly San Luis Obisbo provides hundreds of the most enthusiastic volunteers. I mean it really looks like they are having fun. The students have their own Beach at night with a DJ and are camping and partying too.
I joined the OC Tri Club group at a second, quieter campground about 1.5 miles away from the main camp. It was further, but quieter, I’m sure.
We had a potluck on Friday and the group racing the long course (Half Iron distance) the following morning prepared for their race. I chose to race the shorter Olympic distance on Sunday, so I had all Saturday to watch and observe and just enjoy the setting. Saturday was hot and dry as well. The swim was pretty flat as is usually the case, but the bike course was quite hilly and challenging or so I heard. I was back at the campground to cheer on the racers who were then not quite 2 miles into the race. I didn’t see the elites zip by, but the age groupers did NOT look like they were enjoying it. To be fair, it was still early in the run and they probably hadn’t quite their running legs back, but it looked more like the Bataan Death March rather than an event that people voluntarily paid money to participate in.
With the Long course event completed, I enjoyed an afternoon swim with a few others competing in the Olympic distance race on Saturday. The lake was really pretty warm at about 68 degrees. I started considering swimming without a wetsuit. I have found that most triathletes without a swimming background look forward to racing in a wetsuit (not necessarily looking forward to the swim, though) because of the extra buoyancy. I have a competitive swimming background and train and prefer to swim without one. I like the feel of the water as feedback and do not like the perceived restriction of movement in the shoulders. That said, I am also a wimp when it comes to cold water. So I thought about it, but didn’t commit to it.
The evening before the race I enjoyed listening to the survivors of the long course event regale in their hard fought victory over heat, dehydration, and gravity. I also enjoyed watching them drink their well deserved beers – with unusual restraint and notable envy (for the beer, not for the race). I worried that there might be late night celebration interfering with my sleep before the race. No worries, though. At 9pm, it was dark and everyone was so exhausted tat everyone crawled into their tens to crash. I hunkered down, read a little bit, and fell asleep a little after 9pm. That is notable for me as I usually have the worst sleep the night before a race. I slept 10 hours! It was awesome. I race didn’t start until 10 am, so the morning was unhurried and enjoyable. Unfortunately, or fortunately the temperature had dropped about 25 degrees overnight. Sunday morning was cold and blustery, a complete turnaround from the days before. The decision was made for me – I’ll swim with a wetsuit.
There were about 2000 competitors in the Olympic distance race. There was a lot of carbon “bling” in the transition zone:
THE SWIM 1.5KM: 24:28 (4th in age group | 92/1883 overall (5th percentile))
There was no opportunity to do a good swim warmup prior to the race. Wave starts were every 5 minutes starting at 9am with my wave starting at 10:00. Prior to each wave there was about 4 minutes to get into the water and get warmed up. Starting with about 4 waves prior to my group, I would get in and swim a little, get out, then repeat again with the next wave. This was a reasonable compromise. I positioned myself about 1/3 of the way in the pack and tried to hold back at the start.
It is a tight channel initially and there is a little jostling for position, but not too rough. It still took me about 300 meters to finally get into a more comfortable breathing groove and getting my heart rate down. Going out it was pretty choppy and the wind was blowing the chop right into my (exclusively) right-sided-breathing-mouth. On the way back, there was no such issue and I found a comfortable pace and rhythm. The way back up to the transition area was long and inclined. I thought I was going to be “tender-footing” it over the rough concrete surface, but I jogged up pretty comfortable and got ready to bike.
THE BIKE 40KM: 1:19:15, 18.7mph (6th in AG | 109/1883 overall (6th percentile))
My T1 transition left some room for improvement. I did roll on some socks and did a quick towel dry of my hair and shoulders but really that’s about 30 seconds maybe? My T1 was 14th in my age group at 3:07. At least is wasn’t the slowest (at over 12 minutes)! The ride was windy, cool, and quite hilly starting right out of the bike exit. I’m estimating about a 400 meter climb for the first 1.5 miles and lots of hills following. Tough, but gravity and wind affect everyone the same. I felt really good for the ride. I was only passed by two cyclists. I enjoyed passing lots of young dudes. Very satisfying. I chose to ride my Colnago road bike instead of my triathlon bike. My Tri bike is custom fitted for optimal output, but I have to say the Colnago just fit more comfortably. I thought it might be better because of all the hills. I passed a lot of triathlon bike with expensive carbon fiber wheels. I’m glad I tried my road bike. It’s tempting to geek out on all the gadgets and expensive equipment but sometimes you can do well with your road bike as well.
My T2 transition was quick and second fastest in my age group. I was out of my cycling shoes just before dismount, dropped off the bike, slipped into my elastic-laced running shoes and off I went.
THE RUN 10KM: 45:17, 7:18/mi. pace (5th in AG | 251/183 overall (13th percentile))
I had been suffering a
groin muscle strain (L. leg Adductors plus a lower rectus abdominus strain) (update: a more significant pelvis inflammatory condition) for several weeks prior it is particularly tight and painful coming off a bike ride while hunched over. It never bothers me while riding, though. I wasn’t sure what to expect getting off the bike. I actually felt really good during the run. I quickly found a good pace and tried to hold it consistently. The cooler weather really helped. I never felt overheated or dehydrated. Okay so this may also be a little geeky, but I did the wildflower run using an electronic runner’s metronome. I had the volume turned down as low as possible but still made a distinctive electronic “Click-Clack” sound. I had it set for a cadence of 178/min. When I was passing from other runners they would sometimes look at me quizzically wondering what that noise was. If it got their attention, and while I was passing them, I told them it was my heart pacemaker’s low battery warning. It was good for a few chuckles along the way.
SUMMARY AND NOTES TO MY FUTURE SELF
First of all, thanks to all the organizers of the race and park personnel for putting on such a great event. Thanks especially for the spectators for cheering us on and especially to the student volunteers. They make it happen and their enthusiasm was refreshing. As their shirt says, “Volunteers make the difference”.
As far as my performance, well there is always room for improvement in all disciplines. I don’t think I have one stand out part of the event or one particularly weak portion. I tend to place in about the 3-5th percentile in each category except for rankings in running when compared to all age groups (13th percentile). I’m OK with that since I don’t have a running background and really just started running about 1.5 years ago. My joints are “young” and fresh and I think they still have a lot of miles left on them and lots of room for improvement
I wouldn’t really change much of anything. I’d like to come back again next year and perhaps to the long course event instead. I will highly recommend this event to anyone looking for a great weekend shared with lots of enthusiastic endurance athletes of all ages.