Monday, May 7, 2012

Respecting the race

Wildflower 2012, the 30th anniversary of the event, is officially over, and I am left with mixed feelings about my performance.  Not about the event which was amazing and inspiring and makes a part of me wish that I still had it in my future rather than my past.  At the same time, there is much about yesterday that I would not want to repeat any time soon - okay, not "much" but about 4 kilometers of horrible running (or walking, really).  I realize that I am beginning at the end, so I'll back up, but I will say that I probably learned more in this race than I have in any over the past 18 months that I've returned to "racing" as a fun little extracurricular interest.
I may have to wait on the deep thoughts post until another day, but I'll share some of the blow-by-blow and entertain people with photos. 

So, to back up to Saturday, Michael and I screeched out of our driveway early Saturday afternoon.  I spent the morning with students reviewing for their AP exam - fun times!  My mind was definitely not focused on them as I kept looking at the clock, anxious to lock up the room and get the hell up to Paso Robles and Lake San Antonio!  We made great time, arriving at the lake around 5:30.  I picked up my packet and tried to soak in some of the energy buzzing around the expo.  Sadly, I did not get a hat this year because they had sold out of the cool colors - major bummer.  But I picked up my packet - for a moment on Friday I panicked that I had not really registered.  I love it when my mind plays tricks on me!

We spent Saturday night in Paso Robles - enjoyed a great meal and crashed pretty hard on the early side.  At some point during the day, I wished that we were camping, but that was a fleeting moment, confirmed on Saturday night when we both fell asleep about as soon as our heads hit the pillos.  Sunday was a more relaxed morning than I've experienced for many races.  I woke up super excited, and it was fun to see all of the cars driving from Paso Robles to the lake with bikes on their rack or in the back.  My wave started very late, but I had to have everything in place at least by 9:00.  My goal was to hit the transition area by 8:30 which we managed easily.  Just like last year, I walked my bike down the f-ing hill.  Actually, I think Michael carried it down and I hauled my backpacking backpack, schlepping all that gear. Once we arrived at the transition area, the excitement really hit me - the "YES, this is IT" moment.  I found my assigned place, and I did enjoy that racking the bike and setting up my transition area did not feel so foreign.  Last year, everything intimidated me, so I appreciated a slight sense of familiarity (no expertise, however).

I then hung out with Michael - we watched the start of the race which was awesome, all those fast young people!  At 10:20, I decided to get ready. Body marked, wetsuit on - it's time!  Well, almost.  

And then wait around before the swim.  And wait around some more.

By the time our wave was called (10:40 - talk about a late start!), I couldn't wait to get in the water!  We could swim out before our official start, and the water felt great.  Couldn't I just keep swimming?!  I got out and then waited those long 2 minutes or so until our wave started.  As we were standing around waiting, they played "Hammertime" by MC Hammer, and the announcer said "You should all remember when this song came out - you were in high school or college!"  Ah, thank you for that memory!  And then we had 10 seconds left and then we started - into the water!  The swim ended up being my favorite leg, to my surprise, probably because I felt fairly strong going into the water and coming out of it. 

T1 was an improvement over last year's terrible transition times, but I did get disoriented because a group of relay people were standing right in front of my bike and I got lost - couldn't see the numbers.  When I realized that I was in the right rack, it kind of pissed me off that they happened to be in my way.  And were then clueless when I tried to get to my stuff.  Grrr!  At any rate, I managed to whittle away about 2 minutes from last year's transition time.  I did not, however, have a graceful mount - it took me forever to clip in!  And then it was up, up, up Lynch Hill.  

I had forgotten what a beast that ride is.  Obviously it's nothing compared to the Long Course, but the hills come at you relentlessly.  While it's great to speed the downhill, the climbs are tough.  However, I was thankful for them since, once again, I could pass people on the ascent.  The bike was a stronger leg than last year, although I looked down at 35 km and knew that I was pretty far off my "dream" time.  Still, I kept pushing and gave Michael a smile (now I look at this photo and I think "Should I be in my drops?").

Finally, the run.  My T2 time was great for me - under 3 minutes, how did that happen?  Oh, laces!  Yes, I actually bought some cheap-o speed laces.  I think these are for children, not athletes, but they worked so I could slide into my running shoes and take off running!  That was what I did for about the first 4 kilometers, I ran.  And then I hit one hill after another, and I walked.  And walked some more. I pushed it occasionally, and then went back to walking.  At a certain point, I realized that there was no way that I would match my 10k pace from last year, but my body did not have the energy to match my mind's determination to get moving.  Nope.  My feet hurt, it was hot, my legs were tired, it was hot, and the run was killing me. Did I mention that it was hot? I was, quite frankly, suffering on the run.  Finally, at around 7 kilometers, the course evened out, and I could jog along.  I saw Michael and maybe gave him a thumb's up?  Maybe a thumb's down?  I'm not even sure, but it lifted my spirits to no end to know that the finish line had to be near and to know that he'd been there cheering me on.  I may have lost a few seconds by getting a smooch from him, but it was a necessary break.

From this point on, the downhill slant pulled me to the finish line.  It helped that spectators were yelling "One more mile to go!".  I am quite confident that the last mile was a sub-8:00 minute pace, although I really couldn't tell you for sure.  What I do know is that my legs managed to find the strength and energy to get down that hill and then cross the finish line running.  

Once I crossed the finish line, I actually started crying - this must be the race at which I cry every year.  Last year, I was so emotional on the final hill, amazed that I was at Wildflower and could finish.  This year, I believe that I shed tears of exhaustion and relief and a final sense of accomplishment when they put that damn finisher's medal around my neck.  I often view finishers' medals with a certain dose of skepticism, but this medal felt so well-deserved after the run.  

I did not achieve my 'ideal' race goal, not in terms of time and performance, but I also feel a sense of satisfaction that I don't often have when I sign up for the casual road race or a race that I don't know and of which I don't have any expectations.  Here, I did have expectations for myself, and they were crushed.  And not in the way that I would have chosen - that I 'crushed' my time and had bragging rights.  No, that did not happen.  However, I know that I improved my performance on the swim and the bike, and I pushed myself on the run as much as I possibly could.  I earned my medal, t-shirt and towel (yes, they gave us a towel that I plan to frame as soon as I can!), and I ended the race with far more respect for every single person who suffers while racing and for this race in particular.

One final thought for now - I certainly plan to make it three years in a row!  Wildflower 2013!


Kalli said...

oh man you have got me itching to do this! was this a sprint tri? what was the mileage of each event. i am so proud of you and you look so awesome! when are you guys headed this way again? would love to meet up with you and hubs for a ride and a beer :)

mindful mule said...

Improvement is success! Congrats. Looks like a beautiful but tough and hot course. What was the air and water temperature? 2013 sounds tempting…

Rebecca @ Blueberry Smiles said...

Congrats on finishing!! Wildflower is a TOUGH TOUGH course and I couldn't believe how ridiculously hot it was out there on Sunday. Great job!!

Kristina said...

It was an Olympic - I did the same one last year, thus the comfort level, although I clearly forgot much about the course. Glad that I "look" awesome! Although I didn't add many photos of the run. Definitely not so awesome! Would love to meet up for a ride and beer - first or second weekend of June?

Thanks for the kind words! It was brutal, to me. The water was absolutely perfect (with the wetsuit), but it was in the upper 80's which is just hot for me.

I was thinking about the long course for next year, until the run on Sunday! Glad that you had a great weekend. I think that I'd like to go as a support crew one of these days.

Kimra said...

Congrats! The course is a BEAST, that's for sure. I really want to race another Olympic somewhere else, but I'm also happy to have experienced the Wildflower craziness once! Glad you enjoyed the water and the ride and survived that hot and hilly run!

Kristina said...

Kimra - Congrats to you too on that beast. I had forgotten how hard it really is, especially with the heat and the hills. I am signed up for another Oly at the beginning of June and am curious to see how different the experience will be.

kilax said...

Congrats on a well run race! You totally deserve that medal and towel (you must tell us about your views on medals someday). I wonder if an earlier wave would have helped with the heat of the run. Or do you think there is something different you could have done? Either way, you really rocked the race! And I love that you stopped for a smooch :)