Because of Wildflower's rich triathlon history, we've been around to watch the sport grow, change and evolve over the years. And boy have they changed! We thought it would be fun to take a look at "then vs. now" in terms of triathlon clothing, gear and nutrition. Join us on a journey to "back in the day!"
Clothing then: A simple swimsuit will do, thank you very much. Guys in Speedos and not much else ruled the day. The same with the ladies who alternated between two-piece and one-piece getups. While functional for the swim and the run, this clothing choice wasn't as much fun on the bike!
Clothing today: Most triathletes have switched over to one- or two-piece tri suits that offer longer leg coverage, often a small cycling pad, and a zip front. These are functional for all three sports and also allow plenty of space for emblems and logos. You're also likely to see compression gear for legs and/or arms on many athletes, helping keep muscles fresher for the long haul.
There was a time, not so terribly long ago, when triathlons were a novelty and not all that many people really knew what they were. Back in that day, a smal event debuted and 86 triathletes toed the line in the midst of a bluegrass festival at Lake San Antonio, in California wine country. The year was 1983, and while organizers didn't know it then, they were launching what was to become one of the most successful triathlon franchises in history: The Wildflower Triathlon Festival.
By the mid-1980s, big-name pros were checking in to the Wildflower events. Legends like Paula Newby-Frazier, Pauld Huddle, Scot Tinley and Erin Baker all fought for the top spot at the half Ironman distance event. Amateurs got to test the challenging course alongside the pros and work to earn coveted Hawaii Ironman slots. Organizers also offered an Olympic distance event and eventually an off-road event, making the festival unique in its wide-spread appeal to a variety of endurance athletes. In 1994, Wildflower developed the designation of USAT Collegiate Championship, adding another layer of competition to the mix.
I heard numerous stories about triathlons as I was growing up. Stories of the places my dad traveled to, the people he met, the races he lost, and the races he won. However, his Wildflower story was one of the few that left a lasting impression on me. Maybe it was his tone of voice, or that hidden smile behind his words, or the fact that my dad, Dean Harper, won the inaugural Wildflower race. Whatever it was, I knew someday I would have to see for myself what this race was all about.
My first Wildflower was 30 years after my dad's. That Sunday morning on May 5th, 2013, I raced my heart out for myself and for my team (Cal Triathlon--GO BEARS!), but mostly for my dad. When things got tough going up Lynch Hill or battling the headwinds on the bike, I looked down at the words I write on my hand before every triathlon, our father-daughter mantra, "Power Through." It's something we established back in 2008 when I was competing in my first collegiate swim meet and my dad was competing at the Ironman World Championships in Kona. Those two simple words brought us together despite being thousands of miles apart.
My experience at Wildflower exceeded all my expectations. I will never forget my dad getting to start my swim wave with the blow horn, seeing him for a brief moment on the bike course, and being there for him when he crossed the finish line. I will never forget getting to start the swim next to triathlon legend Michellie Jones, battling the winds and hills on the bike, and smiling at every aid station on the run from the amazing support of all the volunteers. I will never forget the multiple "Go Bears" I got from competitors riding up Lynch Hill as I sprinted down on my way to the finish. It's these little moments of amazing support that makes me already excited to return next year to Wildflower to race my heart out yet again. While in the end I didn't get to break the finishers tape like my dad did at his first Wildflower race, I know that when I tell my kids about my experience I will have that same hidden smile behind my words as my dad did when he told me his.
Shelley Harper, Cal Triathlon
As triathletes, we pride ourselves on coordinating all aspects of our
kit, from shoes and visors to handlebar tape and water bottles. Jesse
Thomas has his signature aviators, and whether you are a FOP or BOP
athlete, we each have our own “style”. Sunglasses are an integral
accessory to any kit, but aside from looking stylish, they are extremely
important to your safety and performance in races. Less than an inch
behind the lenses are two of the most important organs in our body that
allow us to navigate the course from start to finish. Protecting your
eyes and utilizing the correct eye wear can give you an edge on your
competitors, if you understand how to incorporate lens technology in
with your racing and training.
It’s funny to think it was only 2 years ago. Most of you are probably
sick of the story (if so, skip the next paragraph), if not, here’s a
A bright eyed, bushy haired first year pro out of Eugene drives the
ManVan with his buddy Matt last minute down to the historic Wildflower
Triathlon. The kid doesn’t have a clue. He uses a borrowed bike (his
broke 4 days prior), a borrowed helmet (also Matt’s), a hand me down
race kit & of course, $8 drug store aviators. But, he lines up, has
the race of his life, and while the announcers literally don’t know his
name, crosses the finish line to win.