(Note: huge thank you to Kaori Photography for the pics used in this blog!)
Known as one of the most iconic races on the circuit (I love saying that term – “circuit.” Makes professional triathlon-ing sound so legit, right?!), Wildflower was an instant favorite of mine after racing in 2014. With the lake levels still low, it would be a swim-run-bike-run again this year, and I knew I wanted in on that action. I’ve learned a ton in 2 years and gained fitness that I really wanted to use this as a good measuring stick. Of course, when I crashed in Wanaka it became more of a question mark. However, we just continued to take recovery day by day and it was evident fairly early that things were moving in the right direction. By early April it was clear to me that I was getting excited to race again. This didn’t mean I wasn’t apprehensive about racing again, though. Interestingly, as I got back into riding outdoors in training, I wasn’t phased too much by wind or traffic on the bike. But as soon as my head would begin to think about racing, I got nervous. Really nervous. And when the weather forecast for Wildflower showed a wind advisory that was kicked up a notch. But, there was only one way to find out exactly how I’d handle it: just do it.
2016 was also adding another adventurous element in that we’d be staying in an RV!! Ed was coming to race, and Leslie and Kelly would be joining us. 4 adults in a 25′ vehicle for 4 days — what could go wrong with that?
The race directors at Wildflower firmly believe that pros should be able to just show up and race, and they truly treat us well there. From having all meals available, to making sure we are set up with a campsite and hookups, the tricky part of the trip always just comes from getting ourselves to Lake San Antonio. Complete with a cancelled flight this time around, we eventually rolled up into the campground in the dark on Thursday night.
This meant Friday was busy: check-in, pro meeting, set our gear, etc etc. Luckily things went smoothly!
I was pleased to find out the wind advisory for the day had been called off. We started the swim with calm waters and blue skies overhead. I’ve been doing a lot of swimming in general these days, and have also been able to get in a lot of time swimming long course, so I was hopeful to see some positive effects of that in the swim. As we sprinted out, I managed to get onto some feet. But, they were the last available feet in a group. And, I was in serious yo-yo status as I attempted to stay on those feet during the first half of the swim. As we hit the far turns, I just couldn’t keep up and the group put a gap on me. I shifted my focus into that good strong long-course-meters type of stroke I can find when I swim at home, and as I came out of the water I caught sight of women I’m usually minutes behind who were just then stripping off their wetsuits. Boom!
I pulled off my wetsuit and started the first run. Along with making me swim faster, my swimming volume has clearly boosted my fitness in general as I was able to run fast here as if I hadn’t just swum hard at all. By the top of the long climb out of transition, I had caught up to a pack, and was able to set the pace as we went 2 miles over to our bikes. We basically all started riding together which was a huge relief. Stagger rule in full effect, having company out there through the first half of the bike (with a pretty big headwind!) was great. Around halfway I made a move to the front — I expected at least one of the others to come with me, but I would set the pace for a bit. Much to my surprise, after a few miles I looked back and no one was there. The back half of this course is quite hilly, so I just kept the pressure on during the climbs as best I could to stay ahead. I came into, and left, T2 on my own.
This was great – I had a cushion. But this also meant I was about to run a very challenging 11 mile run in the unknown. Not my favorite way to race. I also had very little idea where I was in the overall field, so I figured I needed to just run hard and hold my ground. As I caught some of the age group men, I figured I was running well. But, I was passed in the last 1/2 mile at this race in 2014 — I was *not* going to have that happen again!
As I ran into the finishing chute I heard them announce I was the 6th place female! I came to find out that I had also been within arms reach (maybe a long arm, but still, arm’s reach!) of that top 5 as well. Over a 70.3 distance, for me, this was a great day. It was certainly a good confidence boost as I head across the pond to Lanzarote to race in a couple weeks. To top it off, our entire group had great races across the board. And more importantly, we proved that it’s possible to race well living in what is basically a U-HAUL with some mattresses thrown into it for a few days before the race. Always good to know.
Thank you thank you thank you to everyone who has supported me the past couple months as I recovered and got back to training and racing. From a tweet of encouragement to my sponsors who have helped me (quite literally) get back on the bike – it is all so very much appreciated. I could not have done it without you, and I hope to make everyone proud in Lanzarote! Please take a moment to check out the amazing companies that offer me such loyal support!