Do you appreciate the sight of old men dressed in Energizer Bunny Costumes?  How about men in Speedos with capes and war paint and mo-hawk-helmets?? Yes??…then Wildflower is the triathlon festival for you!

In 2010, some friends and I decided to go to Wildflower as a relay, and we entered the long course co-ed division.  While the course was brutal, one leg alone (I did the run) was manageable, and we ended up on the podium!

Kat, Josh, and I placed 2nd in the mixed long course relay in 2010!

After tasting the beauty, insanity, and addictive-ness that is Wildflower (WF) weekend, I entered the long course as an individual in 2011.  Mary, a friend from New Zealand, flew over to join in on the fun.  The half iron distance proved to be every bit of nasty that it is hyped up to be, and after the finish I ended up in the medical tent.  Three IVs and three hours later, my mother practically carried me to the shuttle and back to our campsite.

Determined to conquer the WF long course, I came back in 2012, only to have another nutrition mishap and end up walking most of the run course.  I felt almost as terribly afterward the race as I had the year before, and my wonderful boyfriend held a garbage bag in front of me as I regurgitated my body’s “unwanted” foods and beverages.

This year, with a renewed desire to focus on speed and shorter distances, I decided to check out the Olympic course at WF.  It was nice to be there on Saturday for the long course (my friend Ali came to race!) and watch Brice do the MTB Sprint course in a cape (he’s the one with the mo-hawk), and to not be one of the frantic race-prep-ers on Friday.  I got to enjoy the atmosphere, the fun, and the weather–which happened to be nearly 100 degrees on Friday and Saturday.  When we woke up Sunday, however, the weather decided it was sick of being hot and it started a metamorphosis into something wet, windy, and stinky.  But that’s what makes triathlon so cool–you do what you can with what you have when you can.  Everyone has the same course and the same conditions.  I enjoyed the whole weekend full of cheering, eating, sitting under starts by the fire, swimming in the warm(ish) lake, and racing.  This is a tradition that I hope continues for a long time.

The Race: Officially my favorite.  No complaints.
The Buddies: My buddies are number one. Christine kicks butt in triathlons and in gift-giving.  Amy placed 2nd overall amateur.  Brice and his pal David tied for most awesomeness exuded in the MTB tri. Ali is the most ridiculously fast kiwi pro triathlete over 40. Finally, my family just ROCKS.
The Packet Pickup: Once you learn the ropes, it’s cake.  The first year, it was a bit confusing, but understandably.  There are just so many people who want a piece of WF.  So packet pickup is down near the lake, in a large area at the race expo/finish area.  The main drawback is that you either need to walk a good amount down to packet pickup and then walk back to your car/campsite, or you need to walk to a shuttle and get in line.  Oh well.  Just don’t be in too much of a hurry.  However, this year, because we had a friend with us who raced in the Professional field, we got to use the special lower parking lot right next to the packet pickup!
The Accomodations: It was InTents!!!  My parents know how to camp in style.
The Cheering: I had my own cheering squad: Parents, uncle, Brice, David, Ali, and my Bruin buddies.  They make me feel like a pro.
The Pre-race meal: I am writing this way too late, so I can’t quite remember…I think we had homemade lasagna the night before my race…And homemade peanut butter-chocolate froyo. I had oatmeal, with peanut butter and banana for breakfast.
The Conditions: Windy, overcast, and damp.  Temp was just right for me.  Strange transition from hot, 90+ degree sunny day on Saturday!
The Venue: The lovely lake San Antonio and surrounding rolling hills.
The Course: Not very flat…  There is a full-sized hill first thing on the bike, and a lot more where that comes from.  The run also undulates a decent amount, though not as much as the long course!
The Transition Set Up: I got to rack my bike in the very front, right next to the bike in/bike out, with the other college girls.  I was also right next to a big aid station, which made it easy to find my spot in the ginormous transition area.
The Bathrooms: Because we were with my kiwi friend Ali, who raced in the “pro” division on Saturday, we had a special parking pass to the area right next to transition, with extra VIP luxury porta-potties.  Well, I think they were available to anyone, but they were in a sort of secret area, so there was rarely a line.  It made me feel extra cool.
The Warm Up: I rode around the special parking lot behind transition for about 2 minutes, and jogged barefoot in my wetsuit to the launch ramp (swim start) to swim for 5-ish minutes.
The Uniform: Pearl Izumi two-piece race kit.
The Swim Start: Our collegiate women wave started with a former big-time female triathlete (although I don’t remember her name).  She kicked butt, and I didn’t see her for much longer than 2 minutes after the start.  Another good swimmer lead our pack, but it was difficult to follow anyone as the water was choppy (windy day…unlike my past calm Wildflower swims).
The Swim: We started after the collegiate men, so we soon caught up to the back end of their pack, and that further divided our group.  I felt strong, but couldn’t really tell if I was swimming straight for much of the way back in.  I could spot some buoys a ways away but couldn’t tell which buoy I was supposed to aim for.  At this point, all of the swimmers were widely dispersed, so I just tried to stay somewhere in the middle, hoping not to veer too far off course.  Once I finished the swim, as I made my way up the large ramp into transition (it is a tough run up that hill!), I heard my “fans” cheering.
The Bike: Ali scored a free pink Rudy Project aero helmet the day before (that is a good story…inquire for details!), and she let me borrow it for the race so that my “fans” could spot me more easily!  Brice and David were stealth at finding me as I exited transition and I attribute their cheering to my magical-giant-hill-out-of-transition-smooth-climbing capabilities that day.  It really seemed like the hill shrunk for a few minutes.  But, once I got out onto the course and into the wind, the hills started growing before my eyes.  I have ridden through these hills many-a-time, but had never noticed their stature.  But, the kilometer-markers on the course made it go by quicker (since kilometers go by faster than miles).  At about the 35-km marker, I started thinking that it’d be a good idea to get my feet out of my shoes before the steep descent back into transition (down the same hill I had climbed at the start of the bike) so that I wouldn’t have to stop suddenly at the bottom to remove my shoes.  While it was somewhat of a good idea, I should not have taken my shoes off so early…there were still some ups and downs before the big descent, and I ended up riding about 2 miles in rolling hills with my feet on top of my shoes.  This is not good for pedal stroke efficiency, and made me nervous about losing my shoes if my feet had lost contact with them (they could potentially hit the ground if they start flopping around, and I have had them fly off onto the side on the road a couple of times before).  I was relieved to finally dismount.
The Run: Felt alright.  Not super strong in the hills.  It took a lot of mental work for me to stick with it and keep picking my feet up off the ground.  The final long downhill into transition is always my favorite part…I just lean in and let gravity do the work.
The Race Fuel: Fluid performance drink (with caffeine) on the bike, with Cliff Shotbloks (stuck to my bike frame), Margarita and Cherry Cola flavors.
The Finish/Post-Race: So glad to be done.  I was sore.  Brice, David, Ali, and I redeemed our free chiropractic adjustments and massages.  The post-race food was alright, but I especially enjoyed getting pizza and gelato on the way home.
The Results: I feel like I did my best on that day (minus the bike shoes incident), which is all I could hope for.  I am definitely still working on developing speed and am enjoying the journey. Huge, huge, thanks to Coach Gareth for his guidance, coaching, lactate testing, and advice.  Also, to Tri Running, Sean Logan with Pearl Izumi, and the guys at Fluid for the supplies and support.
The Swag: Brice and David were on a mission to get as much free swag (race giveaways) as possible, and they got Ali and I in on this mission.  Every time any of us passed by an aid station or freebie, we grabbed as many products as we could…We ended up with two trick-or-treat-er-sized bags of triathlete “candy” (gels, fruit-purees, bars, drinks, etc).
The Visuals:

Brice got some darned good shots on his phone!

Sassy swim exit

Shoe-less biker?

Stupendous supporters at the finish…and a USC guy in the background. Go Bruins!

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