Wildflower Race Report

What a crazy race. I've camped before, I've raced a 70.3 before, I've drank my fair share of beers, eaten hot dogs and I've even seen boobs and naked running men before. But all at once - in a race? My 1st Wildflower adventure unfolded like this:

Leading up to the race I was so hesitant on whether or not to bring the kids with us camping. I knew two things about the race going in. It's a huge party -as I'm sure you've heard, "the woodstock of triathlon" but I also heard it was a great place for the kids. They even had a "kids zone" where literally every 30 minutes they had a new activity going on for them Fri-Sun. Being away from the kids for four days seemed too much for me to take. After all, they are only 2 and 3 and the thought of being away from them that long was a little too long for me at this point. So we packed up and headed out early Thursday morning on what would be around a 6 hour drive. The kids have done a few trips out to Phoenix before so I wasn't too worried about the drive. Especially when you have a DVD player in the car. They just kinda of zone out and watch their favorite movies, eat snacks and have fun. Easy enough...

Old School
We rolled into the Wildflower experience with a 15 foot tall cut out of Scott Tinley (I think) greeting us at the campground check in. The mood was high and after we checked in we did a quick tour of all of the campgrounds to scope out the spots/shade...etc. The different campgrounds are really spread out with some of them being miles away from the festival. We opted to get as close as we could since Amy would be hauling around the kids in a jogging stroller. We knew it would get loud the closer we got, but that's where the shade was and all of the action! Setting up camp was a different story in itself. With two kids that were crammed in the car for the last 6 hours, the last thing they wanted to do was be still. So setting up camp was quite the task as we tried to contain two crazy kids and get things set up for what would be our home the next several days.

Friday we woke up and went into town and grabbed some supplies and grabbed breakfast at "Joes." Highly recommended. Once we got back Amy headed down to the festival and I headed out for a ride/run to try and shake out the legs and get a look at the course a bit. One thing I noticed about the course right away was the wind. Although it wasn't windy at the campsite, once you got out into the open the wind picked up and blew at you in all directions. I also noticed that the roads were pretty rough. You would get stretches of nicely paved roads and then hit a lot of nasty terrain. The kind that rattles your whole body and makes you work harder for that stroke. Once I got back, I threw on my shoes and ran around some of the run course and then eventually met up with Amy down at the festival. They were down at the Kids Zone which was really cool. Just a whole sectioned off area where tons of awesome volunteers held activities every 30 minutes for the kids. Some of them included homemade triathlon visors (more like old school poker visors), blow horns, jumpy houses, face painting and even a race where they go through body marking and all!

After running into a Wattie teammate Chris Masilon and chatting for a bit, we headed through the EXPO only to be greeted by a dude drinking wine straight from the bottle...So sweet. I stopped by the FLUID tent and chatted a bit, checked out some of the other vendors and then we eventually chilled out up by the awards stage and listened to all of the previous Wildflower champions including Jesse Thomas (who defended his title) who I really enjoy following along on his blog and then one of my favs Chris McCormack who looks as fit and young as ever. Crazy how that dude doesn't age with how many hours he's been in the sun!

Our campsite before it got nuts
Lunch, I powered down some chicken/veggies and brown rice with extra soy sauce...Added some Salt/Vinegar Kettle chips in the mix too. Just trying to up my salt intake a bit for what was for casted to be a pretty mild day 77-85ish, but hot for me since we've been having this crazy streak of cold weather all winter and even through early spring. After we bailed from the festival I cooked up some chicken, a bunch of sweet potatoes and a little bit of corn and just sipped on some water as my wife drank a few cold ones in front of me, which was hard to watch -but well earned on her part. She went above and beyond wife/mom duties this weekend. By Friday night the place was packed to the rim. The atmosphere was awesome. Everyone is just in high spirits, music blaring, booze are flowing (especially the mountain bikers) and a ton of laughing heard for miles. After dinner I prepped my bike, got my nutrition in line for the race and just put some final touches before hitting the hay around 9pm.

The Slice ready to rock thanks to
The Bike Shop for loaning me some
sweet Reynolds Wheels and getting
my bike ready for race day!
Race Day: 5:15 am wake up call. First thing I do is power down a sweet potato with salt and a banana to try and starve away any cramping issues for the day. I took extra precaution race week with taking in more salt, nailing my diet and my plan for the race was to still take in some gels, but when I do - do it with a ton of water and never taking them in dry (without water). Cramps have been my nemesis since I started doing triathlon and there literally has yet to be race when I haven't had them. This was something I was hoping to avoid for what was going to be the hardest race of my life... At 6:30 after packing all of my gear and nutrition I rode/hiked myself down to transition. I was the 4th wave to go off so I had plenty of time to get body marked, set up transition and get in a good solid warm up. 5 minutes into my warm up run, I had my first panic of the day. I forgot my freaking swim goggles at home. Holy Crap! Rookie move! I only had about 45 minutes until my race so I was starting to think that I was screwed. Vendors were near by, but I didn't bring any cash...I went back to my bag to see if I had a spare pair in there....YES! I guess I outsmarted myself...or at least knew ahead of time how much of a dumbass I can be. Conflict #1 avoided.

After a 1.5 mile warm up, some plyos and stretching I laid out my nutrition for the day which ended up being:

30 mins before swim: Hammer Stinger Gel / water, 2 salt tabs

Bike: 1 Cliff Bar (ate 3/4), 2 Powerbar gel Latte's (caffeinated), 6 salt tabs (2 just before run) 1 bottle of FLUID Performance (caffeinated) and 2 bottles of water on my easy to fill up Speedfil A2.

Run: Took in water at every aid station, 1 Powerbar Latte gel, 1 Powerbar smoothie gel, 3 small cups of Coke at around mile 7 which was a god-send aid station that one of the college students had called the "Jiffy Lube station" he also had Vaseline which I slapped on my bloody arm pits from chafing (no Kim, not my nips this time..ha).

Now, before this gets too long -the race:

1.2 Mile Swim: 34:17 (1:46/100 pace) *PR swim

The swim start was the most hectic I've ever been in. It's a beach start which I've done before, but it's in a very narrow area with docks on both sides of you for the first 50 meters or so. This means if you're on the front line, you better be fast cause you'll get run over. However if you're an intermediate swimmer (like myself) then you better not line up towards the back because you'll be swimming over/dodging traffic. I got a great tip from Ben Greenfield (whom I was able to meet over the weekend) to start on the left side if you're not so fast because the first buoy comes quickly on the right and if you're not fast you could be thrown into the right dock...no thanks. So I ended up lining up about 3 rows back on the left side and after the first 5 minutes of the washing machine, the water finally cleared up a bit and I was able to get in a good rhythm and pass a bunch of people. The turn around buoy came really fast and I couldn't believe we were already half way through. The water was calm for the most part which made it pretty easy to site. I took in 2 big gulps of the lake, but other then that I had a pretty flawless swim. With about 600 meters to go I really started hammering and passing people but it also sent me almost directly into a kayak. The dude just said, you're veering off course, it's that way. So I am apparently still not swimming straight. Don't know why I had issues that last 600-800 meters swimming straight and staying consistent in my stroke. I probably lost a good 2 minutes or so with poor navigation/siting...Still learning. Either way I was happy with a pr in my Xterra Vortex wetsuit even though I got out of the water at exactly 100th place in my age group (yes, I counted) out of 250...ouch.

T1: 2:27 
We had a long uphill run to the transition area. I was pretty gassed and kind of in slow motion it felt like. My timing chip almost came off during the swim so I was fondling with that during T1 too. I rubber banded my shoes to my pedals, so got outta there and into my shoes pretty quickly/flawlessly.

56 Mile Bike: 2:52 (19.4 mph)

Leaving T1
The plan was to get my heart rate down and a little bit of nutrition in at the start of the bike. After some technical sharp turns we headed up a steep hill which was a great way to greet all of the triathletes to what was going to be a very tough bike course. I just spun up the hill effortlessly, passing a bunch of struggling guys with my spirits high from my pr swim and I just knew it was going to be a fun and great day. I chose not to bring a watch with me to monitor pace/time because I just really wanted to go on feel. After getting the heart rate down a bit from the swim, I just started putting in that effort that hurts/burns but not quite all out. I would get anaerobic from time to time up the rollers but other than that my pace was at the perfect exertion rate for a 70.3. I was trying to stay light on the pedals and not mash or get out of the saddle too often. My nutrition was working great, I was passing hundreds of people and mile 25 came soo fast. Wattie Pro Heather Jackson set the course record (so rad) and Jesse Thomas (mens winner) broke 4 hours and people were saying that the conditions were perfect. Far from the truth. I had a lot of Wildflower vets tell me that the winds were really bad this year. I guess usually that course gives you a considerable amount of tail wind, but not this year. It was a nasty/consistent cross wind that never went away. Along with the rough wind came some rough roads. There were long stretches where the pavement was brutal. It's a good thing that I had my ism tt saddle because when you are going 20mph over rough roads and potholes it wears your whole body down. I honestly think that was one of the hardest parts of the race. Trying to maintain pace over that terrain with crosswinds coming at you trying to blow you over is tough. Then throw in some big climbs and a ton of rollers, you have an epic course that only Wildflower has!

Although my bike split doesn't reveal it, I was actually killing it for the first 45 miles of that course. I spun up "Nasty Grade" which is a tough 2 mile? climb around mile 42-45ish. I was passing a ton of people and still feeling pretty good. However once we reached the top and had to deal with numerous other rollers for those last 10 miles, I started falling apart. My legs started cramping and power went waay down. The wind almost seemed tougher at this point too. I tried not to loose focus, but a ton of people started passing me and I started getting pissed. My race was quickly getting away from me. No matter how much I battled, my legs where just thrashed and cramping and no nutrition or salt tab was gonna save this ride. With about 2 miles to go I just started getting my sh*t together for the run. I was getting in as much water as I could and just started focusing on the task at hand. I was a little concerned with how my cramping legs would react to running now...only one way to find out.

T2: 3:00
Again, I felt a little disoriented getting off of the bike. Everything really seemed in slow motion. I took the extra time to put on socks since this was going to be a cross country style 1/2 marathon, but regardless -still a very slow transition for me

Run: 1:37:09 (7:24 pace)

Leaving T2
Immediately after leaving T2 you head up some stairs and head out towards the course. I saw Amy and the kids which lifted my spirits and I was ready to HAMMER. The heat was really starting to come down at this point - but I was just glad not to be cold in a race for once this year! I was a little upset about falling apart towards the end of the bike but I still felt overall I was having a pretty good race - even though I had no idea what place I was in. So for the first mile I wanted to just feel it out to see if my legs were going to come around. Then bam! Hamstring grabs like a son of a bitch. I had to stop, stretch it out and while I was stretching it out, I took a pee...multitasking at its best! I hopped back in and the cramp to my surprise left. The first 3 miles are just filled with a bunch of rollers. I clipped the first mile at 7:03, mile 2 at 7:02 and mile 3 at 7:00. I wore my Garmin for the run because the plan was to just try and maintain 7's and I was doing it over some pretty good rollers. Than mile 4 came which had some more nasty climbing but still managed a 7:28. Mile 5 was the first test and my cramps came on really bad and never went away. Bad as in I had to hike up part of the hill and walk...9:52 for mile 5...yes, it was that bad. From here on out we entered civilization again where crazy spectators made for a very entertaining 2nd half of the run, which was good timing because I was faced with deep cramps in my hammy, calf's and even my ankles were locking up! Felt a lot of weird sensations I've never felt before - different pain thresholds I've never reached. My legs actually started spasm-ing - like twitching uncontrollably -almost like they were eating me...Such a weird and painful feeling.

Craziest Aid Stations
However, I got through it. Here's the rest of my splits w/highlights:
Mile 6: 7:37 - started entering campgrounds littered with hundreds of drunk/happy spectators cheering us on.
Mile 7: 8:11 -Hot dog aid station. Like literally grilling them, putting fixings on them and passing them out
Mile 8: 7:10 - This was the beer bong aid station. He had it ready to go and as much as I wanted to hit it, beer was the last thing my cramping muscles needed. I was worried about finishing!
Mile 9: 7:58 - Jiffy Lube station...I think this is where it was...That one saved me!

Mile 10: 7:25 - 2 topless girls and then a group of naked dudes running towards us...Was not expecting that, but funny.
Mile 11: 7:18 Saw fellow Wattie teammate Tom Libby flying over the crest of the hill...He killed it!
Mile 12: 8:06 Nasty uphill, Total cramp fest, passed fellow Wattie teammate Justin Green who was in the pain cave himself -but otherwise had a great race.
Mile 13: 6:55 Painful steep downhill to finish

Finishing time: 5:09:13 16th of out 250 in my AG, 92nd overall

Bringing it home in a world of pain
As I was coming into the finishing chute - which had some grandstands (good touch) I was hoping the clock was going to read sub 5:20 because since the pros starts 20 mins before me - I wanted to break 5 hours. I ended up 9 minutes shy. Before I even signed up for this race I looked at prior years results and just couldn't believe the slow times. It fools you a bit because the pro's times aren't much different from other races, but the age groupers are a lot slower. I just figured with my strong running background and my ability to climb well on the bike that I would crush this course. Not the case. I'm starting to realize that a sub 5 is a really tough thing to do and I was close. Athletes from all over come to this event, especially with it being the 30th anniversary - so I guess 16th isn't THAT bad...but in my eyes it wasn't good enough....Just more fuel to burn the fire.

After the race I was in pretty bad shape. Just a lot of almost passing out, dizziness - probably dehydrated. I just found Amy and the kids (who were sleeping), got off my feet and just pounded a bunch of water, protein shake and some light snacks. About 30 minutes later I started coming around and we ended up getting some ice cream and then I grabbed my bike and went through the only lame part of the race...The shuttle line to get back to camp. 45 minutes later we finally made it back to camp and I was able to crack open that cold beer I had been thinking about since passing the beer bong on mile 8. I grilled up some really tasty burgers, the kids watched a movie in the car and I was able to sit down and relax with my favorite person...my wife and eat dinner and enjoy some beers. Later that night we joined back up at the "Wattie Camp" and told our war stories, drank some beers, kicked back by the bomb fire and watched all of our kids run around. It was a great way to end the weekend and as much as I already have a love/hate relationship with Wildflower, you can count on it that I'll be back for more.

A lot more pictures:

Lunch break on the drive out
Hangin with T at the Kids Zone
Jumpy House!
Cutie Pie
FLUID it up!

Transition before...
Swim start/transition run up
Kids cheered dad on for 5 hours!
Then crashed...Love my cheering squad
Wattie's girl HJ crushed the course record!
Checking results w/Ben Greenfield who took 3rd in my AG!
Then I came in - in a world of pain
I'll be back for more another year...but this time prepared!
Thanks to my amazing wife for all the support!


Unknown said...

I love you!

Mike Adams said...

Great post!

Damie said...

Great race report and pics! I hope I get to do that race some day:0

Jaime Hale said...

Very cool to read. Great job James on the race and Amy for the support you give him!

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