Wildflower Triathlon - Long Course - Triathlon1/2 Ironman

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Lake San Antonio, California
United States
70F / 21C
Total Time = 6h 24m 16s
Overall Rank = 1003/1883
Age Group = M45-49
Age Group Rank = 105/189
Pre-race routine:

Drove up to Lake San Antonio early Friday morning. By the time we arrived--11am--most of the prime campsites were long gone. We opted for the overflow campground...pretty primitive, but turned out to be a good choice with lots of elbow room. Started to rain before we were completely set up, but we stayed dry. Went for a short run before dinner when the rain slackened.

Got up early on Saturday, even though my wave didn't go out until 9am. Knew that the roads closed at 8 and wanted to get my bike as close to the TA as possible by car. Liz dropped me off at the top of Lynch Hill and I rode down. Was set up and ready long before my wave start and was able to watch the pros come in off the swim.
Event warmup:

No warmup really, although I did jog a little bit. Very short swim before we lined up for the start.
  • 36m 21s
  • 2112 yards
  • 01m 43s / 100 yards

As is my habit, I set up on the outside just a few rows off the line. Big wave—well over 100 guys in my AG. Got off to a good start and made it to the first buoy and right turn with minimal contact.

For not having done any OWS since October, I felt great going out. Really cruising. Passed the back of the pink cap wave (2nd half of M40-44) within 8 minutes. Very few people passed me until the uber-fast 20-something women from two waves back caught me in the last 500m or so. I’ve been training much more in the pool this year compared to last and I felt the benefits today.

Only problem—a big one: I got way off course approaching the turnaround! There were two triangular buoys marking the two right turns at the far end of the course and at some point I started sighting on the wrong one! Took a kayaker two tries to cut me off and let me know I was headed the wrong way. Don’t know how much time I lost, but it probably was at least 30 secs.

Despite the time lost to careless navigation, in general I felt good about the swim. I finished strong and confident I can make the iron distance this summer. Stayed conscious of what I was doing—able to actually see my watch for my turnaround split without any drama or distraction—and found clean water throughout (which is my preference). Had hoped for around 35 minutes and had I not gone so far off course, I would certainly have come close.

What would you do differently?:

Not be so careless in looking for buoys! Sad, really--up to that point, this was by far my best OW tri swim in terms of navigating. Otherwise, this was actually a fun swim and if I'd had a bit more confidence going out (it being my first OWS of the year), I suspect I could have PRed the distance.
Transition 1
  • 05m 3s

Hellaciously long and rough-concrete run up boat ramp to transition. (Then, for me, a really long run through the TA, since my assigned rack position was towards the opposite end.) Decided to place my aquasocks on the boat ramp--good decision...only took a few seconds to put them on and I was able to blow by people mincing their way up the long ramp.

Goggles and cap got caught in my wetsuit sleeve...when I pulled off the suit, they had obviously fallen out on the run. I was bummed, but life...and the Long Course...goes on.

Someday I'll learn to clean my feet after I take off my wetsuit...
What would you do differently?:

Not much. A lot of the time in this transition was the really, really, long run.

Probably should have re-applied sunscreen...burned pretty badly by the end of the day.
  • 3h 23m 4s
  • 56 miles
  • 16.55 mile/hr

I came into the bike segment totally clueless as to whether I was adequately prepared or not. I bought a new bike—a Kestrel Talon—at the beginning of February and it’s my first ride without a triple crankset. No “granny gear” to come to the rescue anymore…the training wheels are off. I’d been training 50-60 miles rides with significant hills since January, but still wasn’t sure how I’d do on “Nasty Grade” with a 53/39 setup.

Like so much of the WF Long Course, the bike leg is set up to steer you toward failure with a pretty huge climb up from the lake to the bluffs right away. Before that, though, my day nearly went south with a near-miss of a crash when I went too wide on a turn and rode up on the dirt and nearly over a curb. Got clipped out and stopped and got back on the road right away, but that was a wakeup call for sure.

On the initial climb, I considered a long slow spin, but ended up getting out of the saddle a few times. Tried to be cautious not to overwork the climb, though, and I felt like I succeeded at that. Legs felt okay at the top.

Hills…whether up or down…are pretty unrelenting the first 25 miles or so. Frankly, most of it was a bit of a blur. I thanked every single volunteer at every aid station (literally). Didn’t take on any resupplies along the way—I had 75% more calories and about 100% more electrolytes on board than I did for Vineman 70.3 and that ride went fine for me. In addition to taking in hydration every 25 minutes and additional calories from gels every 50, I gave myself permission to drink per thirst, which usually I don’t do. Only felt the need to do so a couple times during the second half of the race.

Pretty course, but, honestly, I just was too focused to take in the scenery. Really spent a lot of time trying to stay loose in anticipation of the climbs late in the ride.

Miles 25-35 are mostly flat or downhill and would have been a nice ride, but my right hip began to act up and I was having trouble staying in aero as much as I would have liked. To a degree, I took advantage of the easier terrain to ride on the horns a bit to stretch my back and hip, but there was a slight headwind that made that less desirable than it might have been.

Hitting the start of Nasty Grade, I was concerned about my hip…it was really screaming at me. Coming up on it, even with some downhills, I slackened my pace and stood up in the pedals and stretched. Took it fairly easy heading up the grade. Tried not to shift to too low a gear too soon so I’d have some in reserve. As the hill steepened, I thought, “This isn’t that bad”…one guy said to me, “This is where we’re supposed to take it slow,” as I passed him. Nearing the top, though, I finally geared out and the going was tough. I can’t even remember if…or how much…I was out of the saddle. I was determined not to stop and I didn’t. Spectators…volunteers?...at the top were awesome.

Turning onto Interlake Rd., you get more hills, with the biggest being “Heart Rate Hill.” I’d read warnings that these were worse than the experience of getting up Nasty Grade, but—honestly—I didn’t find that to be the case. Last half mile of Nasty Grade was the hardest part of the course.

After the climbs, there’s a huge downhill with sweeping turns…I hit about 44 mph in the initial descent. Approaching the bottom, I saw some emergency vehicles on the side of the road; turns out someone had crashed shortly before I passed.

After one last manageable climb in the park, I headed down the steep descent of Lynch Hill to transition. I was in no mood for thrill seeking, so I rode it on the horns, hands on the brake levers. Clipped out in plenty of time…but still managed to get my right calf hung up coming over the saddle. Just that kind of day.

What would you do differently?:

Hard to say. I think I paid for the effort on the hills in the last 16 miles going into the run...but when you're out of gears, you're out of gears. I feel I trained adequately...was only a couple minutes off my predicted time of 3:20. I'm just not really that good a cyclist, at the end of the day.
Transition 2
  • 02m 40s

This went okay. Shorter run in to rack, long run out.
What would you do differently?:

Nothing really.
  • 2h 17m 8s
  • 13.1 miles
  • 10m 28s  min/mile

Starting out, I knew my optimistic goal of sub-5:50 was probably out-of-reach, but sub-6:00 was still out there. I needed about a 1:52. Not having seen the backcountry trail section of the course, I naively thought that might happen--I just did a 1:44 at a very tough trail HM with an injury, after all, and my HIM run last year was 1:48 (with quite a few rolling hills).


Started out okay. Said "Hi" and chatted for a moment with Blaine from THE BIGGEST LOSER as I passed him right out of T2.

Then...boom!...I blew up. First the right quad fully cramped up. Kept going, but it was bad. Then...bang!...there went the left quad (not quite as bad, but still not good). First time I'd thought "DNF" since my first Oly. Like that race, I soldiered on, but I figured I'd better try something to attack the cramping. Pulled out the coin purse from my tri shorts pocket with my electrolyte caps...the caps which were now...a mass of salt. In the coin purse...that I'd had in my pocket. ON THE SWIM!


So the coin purse was now a salt lick. Which I did. Well, not lick it, but took the proverbial pinch and ate it...two pinches, actually. Washed down with a GU gel packet...counting on the fact that there was an aid station coming up.

Yeah, it's probably too late for electrolytes to help with cramps once they've taken hold, but since I was on the edge of dropping out, what the heck. Made sure I got a full cup of Gatorade down at the aid station. Then the next station as well...except half of it splashed in my face and I decided walking the aid stations (for the first time ever) was going to be the order of the day. So I did the rest of the way, taking some Gatorade, then a bit of water.

After getting up the first real hill up from Harris Creek, we headed out onto the trails...and my tummy decided to punish me for the whole salt escapade. So the rest of the run became a balancing act between nursing along my quads and not throwing up. Good times!

Then, around mile 4, I saw it. WTF!?! I think I actually said aloud, "You've got to be kidding me!" when I saw this endless hill up through the woods. I ran about a half mile then realized I just wasn't going to be able to run the whole course. If I tried to run this absurd hill, I'd be blown up for the rest of the run. So I agreed with myself that walking the hills was going to be necessary.

"Nice day for a hike," I said to the guy walking past me. (Everyone walks faster than me, it turns out. Who knew?) Near the top, I look up ahead and count 11 people within line of sight. Nine were walking (and to say the other two were running is charitable).

Gradually got my quads back in order and my tummy settled down, but I was pretty cashed. Ran all the flats and downhills. Actually managed a respectable pace (~8:15/mile) through the TNT and tri clubs section of the campground and the trail by the collegiate campsites. Bunch of guys were hanging out naked in the bushes waiting for a female runner to, um, inspire? I commented that they really were the least inspiring sight I'd seen all day...in oh-so-many ways.

Actually, the volunteers and spectators were awesome. Really great. (Other than the guy who seemed convinced he could get me to run up a hill I was completely okay with walking up.)

Finally ran up a hill...decent-sized one leading to mile 10. Thought maybe I could run the last 5K. Um...no. See, there's this section people call "The Pit." I'd heard of it, but didn't realize what it was exactly. It's a blast! You run down this mile-long downhill to a turnaround, watching people struggle along up the same hill on the other side of the road. Cue huge sigh of resignation from me: More walking to come.

Walked up the hill out of The Pit. Then I ran. I mean, for heaven's sake, I was hurting, but there was only a couple miles to go.

One last hill was coming up and I could hear the moaning all around. Too many people had nothing left after forcing themselves to run up out of The Pit. Interesting. I ran the last hill and was doing okay.

I loved the video of Macca blazing out of 2nd to the win down Lynch Hill last year and wanted to see how that felt. And, y'know what? I did it. Wide open throttle all the way down...Garmin had me at 7:00-flat. One last wrench to be thrown my way (of course): Huge back spasm hit with about 500m to go. Frack! Almost bad enough to make me stop. But I didn't...deep breaths...only a little farther...there's the finish...heard Liz call my name from the stands.

Oy...thank goodness that's over.
What would you do differently?:

Who knows. Run sucked...I honestly thought it was over-the-top as a race course (more of a stunt, really). I suspect I just overworked the hills on the bike, but it's not like I was climbing out of the saddle at breakneck speed. Probably didn't take in enough calories on the bike. Could have done more hill-specific run training.
Post race
Warm down:

Looked around for Liz. Didn't spot her. Went to my rack and cleaned up, figuring she'd eventually look for me there. Nope. Finally found her by the finish line. Got some food. Found my goggles and swimcap (yay!). Walked up the endless trail to the campgrounds.

As a bit of a postscript: Liz and I spent about 80 minutes on Sunday out at about mile 4 on the Oly run cheering on competitors (starting about the time the lead women came by). There's just so much supportive energy out there on the Long Course, that it seemed really important to return the favor.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

Undertrained on hills? Maybe. Not enough calories on the bike? Maybe. Psyched out a bit by the run course? Probably, but the reality was that I was more psyched out by the cramps in my thighs and the uproar in my stomach.

Event comments:

Amazing event. Apart from the run course, everything's a treat. Camping spaces were already largely taken by 11am on Friday...the overflow campground was a decent choice (although the decrepit portapotties...complete with black widow...were a downer). Long lines for shuttles vs. steep hikes with bike and transition bag are the biggest challenge of the weekend.

Profile Album

Last updated: 2008-11-30 12:00 AM
00:36:21 | 2112 yards | 01m 43s / 100yards
Age Group: 0/189
Overall: 0/1883
Performance: Good
Suit: Xterra Vortex 2 Full
Course: Narrow rectangle in reservoir. Three right turns, one final left.
Start type: Wade Plus: Waves
Water temp: 65F / 18C Current: Low
200M Perf. Good Remainder: Good
Breathing: Good Drafting: Average
Waves: Navigation: Below average
Rounding: Good
Time: 05:03
Performance: Average
Cap removal: Average Helmet on/
Suit off:
Wetsuit stuck? No Run with bike: Yes
Jump on bike: No
Getting up to speed:
03:23:04 | 56 miles | 16.55 mile/hr
Age Group: 0/189
Overall: 0/1883
Performance: Average
Wind: Little
Course: Big climb from beach to top of bluffs. Rolling hills until about mile 25. Flat and downhill to mile 35. Infamous "Nasty Grade" for a couple miles starting at mile 40. Two huge downhills in the last 12 miles.
Road: Rough Dry Cadence:
Turns: Average Cornering: Average
Gear changes: Good Hills: Good
Race pace: Comfortable Drinks:
Time: 02:40
Overall: Average
Riding w/ feet on shoes
Jumping off bike
Running with bike Good
Racking bike Good
Shoe and helmet removal
02:17:08 | 13.1 miles | 10m 28s  min/mile
Age Group: 0/189
Overall: 0/1883
Performance: Bad
Course: Words fail me. The hill from mile 4 to mile 6 is ridiculous; climb from turnaround in mile 10 is almost as bad. 60% trails, 40% roads, much of it hilly.
Keeping cool Average Drinking Too much
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Average
Mental exertion [1-5] 3
Physical exertion [1-5] 3
Good race? No
Course challenge Too hard
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Good
Race evaluation [1-5] 5