2014 Wildflower 70.3 Race Report

Each sore step I took this week was a welcome reminder of a great race I had at Tri Cal Event's - Wildflower last weekend. It was my first podium at a major 70.3 race and I did it on what many consider the hardest 70.3 on the circuit. Even better, we trained right through this race (other than the last few days leading up) and I still put out more power on the bike and in my opinion a better race than Ironman Oceanside 70.3 which was only a short month before Wildflower. As I mentioned in my last blog, I was going to take some risks in this one - mainly swimming harder and riding aggressively.

After racing Wildflower two years ago, Amy and I brought the kids who; were at the time 2 & 3. Needless to say it was a little stressful, especially when you're tent camping. So this year we decided for me to just go up solo which can get lonely, but as soon as I arrived I was greeted with a beer and my great Wattie Ink team mates. The team has really become a second family to me and it reminds me a lot of when I raced in college. You get to experience the work hard, play hard dynamic together and you become closer because of it.

Friday ended up being in the 100's so we tried to check in and rest as much as possible in hopes that it would cool down the next day. Part of that was going to the new swim start. For those of you that don't know, Lake San Antonio (where the usual swim start is) dried up so they had to move it 2 miles down and add another run/transition. So even though it was still a 70.3 it went like this: 1.2M swim, T1a, 2.2 mile run, T1b, 56 mile bike, T2, 10.9 mile run. I personally thought it favored the strong runners and those quick in transition. The new swim venue was still beautiful but the boat ramp was not. It was a VERY steep grade coming out of the water which for me is when my heart rate is at its highest! Even though it wasn't your typical triathlon, I love what the race director from Tri Cal Events said in the race packet about how the point of a triathlon is the challenge and adventure that comes with it! I feel like the course change totally fit in with the whole novelty of what Wildflower has to offer. You never know what you are going to get in this race with the winds, heat and rambunctious volunteers - I thought it added a lot of character to the race and will go down as one of my favorite race experiences ever! Now, to the race.

0695_18099Swim: 1.2 miles, 31:52 (AVG 1:30/100yd) - 41st out of the water

It was a standing start so after each wave we had a few minutes to warm up in the now very silty/churned up water. I lined up in the second row, right side which was a direct shot to the first buoy about 200 yards out. The goal was to just go out fairly hard (not sprint) and then RACE the swim. I've always been so concerned about swimming too hard or kicking too much and having it affect my bike and/or race. This time I went in with the confidence that I'm fit enough to recover from a hard swim and still race well. When I raced the mile (1500) in college, the hardest lap was always the 3rd lap. Often times you'd fall asleep until you hear that bell (last) lap. It's easy to lose focus on the race and I've felt the same way with long course swimming. I'd settle in, get too comfortable and then pick it up towards the end sacrificing critical time for a triathlete where swimming is the weakness. So for Wildflower I forced myself to stay "on it" and swim hard the entire way. It worked and I managed to get out of the water in a decent time.

T1a: As soon as you got out of the water you had to go fetch your transition bag from a self made area on a large uphill boat ramp. I found an easy to find spot next to a sign and had no issues. I dried my feet off and put on my first pair of running shoes and headed up the boat ramp and onto the first run course.

photoRun #1: 2.2 miles, 14:30 (AVG 6:35)

Even though the results show an overall run time, I got all my splits on my Garmin. Flanny and I planned to just cruise through this section. Just get some blood in the legs for the bike and not burn any matches. 6:35's on fresh legs for me is definitely cruise mode and the planned work because I passed a lot of those fish and by the time I made it to T1b I put myself in good position and actually came to a rack filled with bikes!

0695_03180Bike 56 miles (3k elevation): 2:40 (AVG 20.9mph) 6th fastest bike split in AG
Power file HERE

I can always tell if I'm going to have good legs on the bike within the first few miles. In this case those first few miles are straight uphill at Wildflower. I just stayed patient and under the prescribed 250 watts that Flanny prescribed me for the uphill's and then I went to work. The bike course is exactly like riding in my backyard. Lots of cross winds, beat up roads and some hills. I just did my best to eat a lot, hydrate as much as possible and again "stay on it." About 45 minutes into the course I saw my friend/team mate Dusty Nabor. As soon as I passed him I told him to come with me. Little did I know, he did! After navigating through some traffic and some wind it was time to climb "Nasty Grade." Those nice cross winds go away and you just bake going up this hill. It isn't necessarily a tough hill and for me it was welcoming so I could get out of aero position and stretch out a bit. A few minutes went by and Dusty came up on me and said "what's up man?" Nobody had passed me the whole ride so it startled me a bit. I grinned and was stoked he was right there with me. I asked him what place he thought he was out of the water and he said like 6 or 7. I knew we were in position to podium so we agreed to work together and legally we did so for the last 10 miles which in my opinion are the hardest and there's no doubt we rode harder with each other pushing it.

T2: 1:32

I had a very weird experience of getting to T2 with hardly any bikes! I headed out on the run in 8th place.

0695_06914Run 10.9 miles: 1:18 (AVG 7:09) 3rd fastest run split
Total 13.1 run (1,500 total elevation) 1:32 (AVG 7:04)
Run file HERE

Those first few miles I was a little worried that I biked too hard. I had a few cramp scares and was putting down as much fluids as I could (I took a bottle with me). Thankfully, about two miles in they went away and I went to work. The whole race my mantra to myself was "Charge" as in charge the course, race the course. On the steep up hills I just did my best to keep my form and keep charging. I passed another guy from my age group on the steepest part of the course and he had enough energy to yell out "Noooo, damn you!" I kept rolling and with about two miles to go I started bonking a bit. I usually rely on cola and Powerbar on the course for calories but they didn't have cola so I started hurting a bit. That last little hill before you hit the downhill was brutal and then once I hit the downhill my whole diaphragm started cramping up. I was ready to be done!

4:50, 5th in AG and 26th overall

10307208_10152405850404171_1738791336889580324_nMy age group had the 1st, 3rd and 5th fastest amateurs in the field so there's no doubt I was up against a tough group. Times are always hard to judge performance (especially on this course- this year) so I tack the day up as a success with getting on the podium. The rest of the day meant drinking 10 Barrel beer with my team mates, going to the Picky Bar party, meeting and hanging out with the man himself Andrew Starykowicz and a lot of other cool pros. It was such a fun weekend and experience. As much as I joke with Dusty about why the heck we do this - every time you race and reflect, you know exactly why.

I'd like to thank my wife and kids who are my biggest fans and support - I seriously couldn't do this sport without her! Thanks to Wattie and HJ for creating such a cool brand and atmosphere around the races.

Thanks to my sponsors: Wattie Ink, SRM, The Bike Shop, Reynolds Cycling, Blueseventy, Herbalife, Powerbar, Rudy Project, ISM, Speedfil, 10 Barrel Brewing, Spidertech, Tribike Transport, Hypoxic and "The one and only" Wildflower!

Shout out to my other team mates on the podium - Heather for a three peat - beyond excited for you, Karin Langer for getting on the podium on her first long course race since Kona 2012! Chris Lou on the podium and of course our superstar age grouper (soon to be pro) Sarah Barkley for a 2nd place finish! Also father son duo John and Dillon Hollinger both on the podium the next day for the Olympic race. Awesome and talented team mates.


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