Wildflower was my first long course race. I really didn’t know what to expect. I was excited and nervous, not knowing what would unfold for the next 5 hours. I had more fun than I thought, at least in the first 3 hours of the race, and thoroughly enjoyed the whole weekend! Tri-California put on another great event and the volunteers were fantastic!
A year ago, I would not have told you I would be racing the long course distance. I loved to race the Olympic distance, enjoying the thrill of red-lining for 2+ hours. By the end of 2014 I felt I gained enough experience over the past couple of years and improved drastically from when I started competing in the sport. I decided to race professionally at the end of the year, but my focus was the Olympic distance. At the start of the 2015 season, my plans to primarily compete in the Olympic distance and possibly dabble in the longer course races changed. I am not going to talk about the disappearing Olympic distance race in this race report, but it did affect my season’s plans for 2015. I am excited for new experiences in the long course distance and Wildflower was just the beginning.
Swim: I was hoping for a non-wetsuit legal swim so I could try out my HUUB swimskin, but it was just cold enough for the race to be wetsuit legal for everyone. We started off at a good clip with lots of kicks, punches, and jostling for position until the first buoy. By then, Emily Cocks had probably taken off and the first group was forming. I kicked hard to get to that group and I am glad I did because there was definitely a separation after me. I hung with them for most of the swim, losing contact 400-500m from the end. I felt smooth in my new HUUB Aura wetsuit, but was excited to start the rest of the race.
T1a, run, T1b: As I was running up the boat ramp, I heard the announcer say that the top 10 were still coming out of the water. I didn’t know what position I was exactly, but it was nice to be up in the top after the swim. It was definitely a slow jog up the boat ramp! I couldn’t quite find my legs yet and I didn’t want to burn too many matches early in the race in this 2.2 mile run to T1bberzerk When I was cresting the top, Heather Jackson and Liz Lyles came flying by me. It was absolutely impressive how smooth they looked. About a mile into that run, I found my legs and also found a good friend hollering at me up the way. Andy Jessop was going berserk with his cowbell. He made my race for the next 2 hours!
Bike: For the first half, I kept a smooth under-controlled pace. Being my first long course race, I went out more conservative on the bike than maybe I could otherwise. It was a long race and on a really tough course. I felt great and was surprised at this – I wasn’t going all out like in an Olympic distance, so I had more time to enjoy the ride! I had a nutrition plan I was following and was trying to take in lots of liquids. I was kind of in no-man’s land though, which made it hard. I couldn’t see anyone else in front of me. I just tried to focus on my own race and keep everything under control. By about mile 35-40, my legs were starting to get pretty heavy. I questioned whether I had started off too hard so I backed off the pace. My HR and wattage dropped, but my legs were not as smooth as they were in the beginning. I just kept pedaling and thought I would recover, but never did the rest of the bike. I knew the run would be interesting.
Run: I had no idea where I was in the field. But a number of athletes passed me in the last 15 miles of the bike. I tried to get into a rhythm in the first 2 miles, but couldn’t get my legs to turn over. I went into survival mode for the next several miles, walking more than I ever have in a race. I took 1-2 cups of water from every person at every aid station and ate Honey Stinger chews, hoping to get some energy into me. Finally by mile 6ish, I perked up. Legs were heavy, but I decided to get through this race and stopped worrying about my time and where I was in the field. With each stride, I knew I was getting closer to the finish. I enjoyed flying down Lynch Hill at the end, but it was longer than I remembered it being! Finishing shoot was fun to run down; I knew I had just completed my first half!
This was truly an amazing race. I would not have gotten through the run without the support of the volunteers. They were great. So supportive and encouraging, telling me I was looking amazing and didn’t have much further to go (I know I looked like s%!# and until I got to the finish shoot I still had a long ways to run… but I tried to believe them J). I couldn’t have expected much more from my first half and I learned so many things out there that I will apply to the next one. One of my key improvement areas will be nutrition, making sure I have adequate fuel to get me through the race, getting more in on the bike. I have my nutrition plan dialed in for the Olympic distance, but the needs for this distance are much different than the longer course races! I am looking forward to racing another!