Before I spew too much negativity about the race and my sucky performance, I'll say that it was great to get away. As we left Saturday afternoon, I felt as though I was leaving a load of stress behind. I turned off the phone, and we settled in for an easy drive to Paso Robles where we had a great dinner and a low-key night. We woke up Sunday morning and headed to Lake San Antonio. Yes, I really should camp one of these days, since that is, supposedly, part of the 'essential' Wildflower experience, but for now, I kind of enjoy not dealing with a tent and camp food while also stressing out about racing, to be totally honest.
In addition to the course being a bitch, the weather comes into play in one way or another, usually in the form of heat. I knew that the weather forecast called for wind and possibly rain, neither of which made me feel happy or confident, but I thought that I would at least have a good run. Also, it would be a better spectator experience for Michael who spends most of his time in search of scarce shade. We arrived earlier than usual so that I could pick up my packet and all of that jazz. It seemed as though I had everything in my backpack, so I headed down the hill on my bike, a trip that was an experience in itself as some guy crashed on the way to transition and there were several emergency vehicles that I had to weave around. He was bleeding, but I heard him say that he wanted to race. That didn't exactly settle my nerves which had started to kick in. Once I picked up the packet, it was time to head to transition - wow, it finally felt real! I don't think I'll ever get over seeing the lake and the huge transition area, even if I continue to do this race until I'm a little old lady.
So, I set up my transition, got body-marked and then spent the next few hours trying to stay calm, hydrated and watching other waves start. We went back up to the car and then waited, waited, and waited some more. I kept thinking, "10:40 is a very late start". Plenty of time for pictures, apparently.
(I've no idea why they body-mark the hands, but it made it convenient getting in and out of transition because the rest of me was covered up - it was chilly out!)
And the transition area, where my bike was literally blowing in the wind on the rack. That did not make me feel very confident.
After watching the first waves start and waiting around and watching some more, I suited up around 10:00 am and was ready to hit the water. Or so I thought... Let's just say that the smile didn't last too long in the water.
Okay, I'll cut to the chase - the race. The swim was a soul crushing experience. It was the roughest one I've ever experienced, even compared to the handful of ocean swims I've done. Not only was it rough because of the conditions, which almost made me throw up (no joking), but I couldn't, or didn't, sight for shit, so I definitely lost some time as I tried to correct myself at least twice. Also, the body contact really bothered me this time around. As shitty as the swim was for me (five minutes slower than last year), I was thankful that it wasn't my first tri swim. If that had been the case, I would probably have never done another race again. Pathetic, I know, but it took some people OVER AN HOUR to swim 1500 meters.
Here's proof that I survived the swim!
I was so thankful to be out of the water that I didn't even think about what the wind might mean for the bike. I didn't even think about the bike, I actually wanted to DNF right then and there. Yes, I admit it - I wanted to quit. The only reason that I went and got on my bike was that I couldn't leave the park until 3:00 pm anyway, so I'd be sitting around feeling like a loser for hours. I figured that I might as well be biking and running to distract me from the fact that I'm a loser.
So, I hauled myself onto the bike and headed up the first hill which was definitely harder than I remembered, a recurring theme throughout this entire race! I'm pathetically slow on the bike but in the past I've enjoyed the course because it's beautiful and fun. The wind, however, presented an additional challenge - partly because I had a death grip on the bike which meant that I could barely take in nutrition because I was afraid that I'd lose control and totally crash. And partly because it just slowed us way down. Most of my thoughts throughout the bike ride were pretty negative - along the lines of "last time ever", "fuck this" and "I hate myself". I finally inched close to the transition area and gave Michael a wave or a smile. Or I was just gritting my teeth.
If I hadn't hated the ride so much, I would have felt quite disappointed about my time, but, like the swim, I was just glad to have the leg over. And so it was on to the run. I was determined that, at the very least, I would have a good run. And I did - for me, it was amazing! I knew that the cooler temperatures would help, but I was a bit concerned about the nutrition or lack of nutrition on the bike (it wasn't terrible, but definitely not great). I was fairly conservative the first few miles, but once I made it up the hardest hill (somewhere in mile 3, I think?), I knew that I could pick it up. I hoped to go sub 53:00 for the run if I didn't blow up.
I realize that I look slower than the guy behind me, who was in a relay, but I ended up smoking him at the end. I was kind of excited about that. The girl behind him, however, kicked my ass at the end, but she was in a younger age group and had started the race earlier than I, so I didn't care. Again, it's the little things...
I ended up with a sub 52:00 run which was great for me - while not entirely canceling out my struggles everywhere else, it put a positive spin on the day. I felt damn happy when they put the medal around my neck. I was, however, fairly incensed that they had run out of pasta as a post-race food/snack. At that moment, I went back to cursing the entire day. What the hell? I know that I'm slow, but I wasn't dead last in my heat and not on the course - there were plenty of people still out there. And don't we slow people deserve pasta just as much as the people who are winning the race? Or deserve it even more?!
Somehow Michael found me at the finish line chaos and surprised me with this shot. It's a nice mish-mash of people in various forms of layers and undress.
I finished the race content that I survived the swim and bike and pulled off a decent run. Talk about lowering expectations! I went to Wildflower aiming for a course PR, a goal that I totally failed by a whopping four minutes. A massive, epic fail. One would think that this would upset me, and even I expected to curse myself the entire 4 hours back to LA (or Pasadena), but somehow I felt okay about the experience, even better than last year when I did end up improving. One of these days, I would like to feel really good about my performance at this event, but this was not the year. And maybe there never will be a year when I don't critique every aspect of the race, with the exception of the magical first year when I was a bumbling idiot and just happy to finish. But, even after promising myself that this would be IT, the last time, I'll probably sign up again next year, drag myself to the start line and then complain about the entire experience.
So, final thoughts on Wildflower:
- It really is harder than I expect. Every damn year.
- I felt pretty silly wearing a new kit that is totally obnoxious.
- I need to commit to training with the local tri club instead of just running once a week and doing volunteer stuff with the group.
- I'm never going to improve on the bike unless I spend more time on it with fast people.
- Medals are stupid, but I wanted to wear this medal on Monday morning.
- This was not the ideal way to celebrate 5 de mayo (a fake holiday at any rate, but still..).