Now that I'm finally rehydrated after a few days and can think with more clarity, I've had time to mull over Wildflower and think about what I nailed and what aspects of my race or my training that I could improve upon. First of all, as I've said before, it was different to go into this race with expectations and goals. While I stated that my main goal was to enjoy myself, I certainly wanted to improve my time which I actually accomplished by a decent margin, and I need to acknowledge that and give myself props. The swim, my transitions and the bike were all better than last year's race, and even better, I didn't make any major or minor gaffs, like breaking my good pair of sunglasses (that happened at the Santa Barbara Tri). I did enjoy both of those legs and pushed myself more on them than last year, giving myself good margin of improvement there. In addition to focusing on swim and bike performance and improving upon that, I was also psyched about the goggles in which I invested and in the tri top - much better than last year's!
As for the run, which turned out to be my 'bete noire', I've spent plenty of time thinking about that leg and also trying to reframe the experience to some degree. When I went back and looked at my times, I saw that I was about 2 minutes slower than last year which could hardly be defined as "terrible", especially considering that it was still my strongest leg. That is according to all of the statistical data that the kind people at TriEvents provide. However, it frustrated me to no end that I found myself walking as much as I did and that I ended the race without the elated sense of triumph that I experienced last year. Perhaps that was a one-time deal? I'm not sure, but I've looked at my 'official' race photos and I look completely beaten at the end. Yes, I ran in the finish, but with a sense of urgency to be done, no celebratory spirit. This experience really drove home the fact that I depend on a strong run to feel at all like a competently active and somewhat athletic person and that I always assume that I'm going to have a strong run as the third leg of a tri ("strong"is within my own framework of the meaning of the word). So, I ended the race feeling pretty bad physically and that shadowed, to some degree, the other 2 + hours of it during which I felt fine. Looking back, I can say that my training was solid and I definitely had more bike-run bricks this time around, but I rarely trained in 85+ degrees weather. Also, I don't think that I ate or drank nearly enough on the bike during the race, which is often an issue for me, but I need to be more aware of that, especially when it's a hot day.
In other ways, Wildflower was a great experience, much like last year. The distance is great for my body which felt quite good on Monday and even better on Tuesday when I had totally re-hydrated. I love the energy, and I love the way people - even competitors (at my level, at least) - cheer each other on, even if they are strangers. The shared experience is one of triumph and suffering, elements that touch on so much of the human condition. I also love how beautiful the course is, how you know that you are almost home free on the run when you see the lake again, and I want to be able to appreciate that aspect every time I participate (which will hopefully be a regular thing). The level of competition is also something that I don't normally experience at other events in which I participate. Will I ever be at an event at which Julie Moss and Chris McCormack make an appearance? Probably not! Finally, I'm a huge fan of the t-shirt and the finisher's medal, so that's an added bonus, especially as I walk around the house with my medal around my neck...
The "final" final reflection does have me looking forward to my Boulder race which is officially 3 months away. That gives me time to kick up my training, but this also brings into sharp relief the need for me to focus on this race and to not assume that I can pull off 70.3 without amping up my training in a serious way. Thinking about the next race and then the next one - I know that I'm not basking in a sense of contentment over Wildflower. A part of me wishes that I were or that I could, but I'm also at peace with my performance and, I'll say it again, believe that this experience might (or should) make me a smarter and stronger swimmer, biker, runner.
Speaking of runner, I'm off to scamper up some hills in my awesome Wildflower t-shirt!