My friend introduced Wildflower to me in 1991 and it was my first
triathlon. Back then you could drive up Friday night and grab a campsite
with no reservations or prepay and could park down by the starting
point in the morning. I coughed up a bug from earlier in the race and I
was hooked! I raced, I finished, I was pooped.
This year is my 20th race and was paid for by Terry Davis (Race
Director), thanks Terry. It was always a goal of mine to get to 20.
Wildflower is the race where I fell in love with triathlon and has
been The Holy Grail throughout my journey in the sport. It is the only
race that has the terrains of the hilly trails from my home town
Cupertino’s Fremont Older Preserve, and an energizer bunny waiting on
top of a hill to scream and cheer you on.
It is also the race where I turned professional in 2013, and have won the same age group category three times in a row!
My excitement for Wildflower began when my mentor in triathlon and
coach at UCLA, Brady O’Bryan, obtained his professional license in the
year 2010 at this very race, where he won the 20-24 age-group and was
2nd overall amateur in the Long Course distance. He has always been
someone I’ve admired, and I’ve been chasing him throughout my college
years during our grueling training sessions. I was inspired by his
performance to one day also get my pro card at Wildflower. I entered the
race in 2011, expecting a tough day, and boy was I right. I didn’t feel
100% on that day but I soldiered on throughout the whole thing, despite
being blown sideways on the bike by cross winds and getting hammered by
all the hills. In the midst of my daze, I thought about all the hard
bike rides I did with my friends, and all the hard runs in the trails
with my buddies back at home. There was something about the atmosphere,
the trails and people by the camp sides cheering you on with cow bells
that inspired me. It was one of those rare races where you get in a zone
and trance; you’re in so much pain, but you’re enjoying the experience
so much that you’re able to keep going. Every step felt like I was about
to fall over, but I was able to hold it to the finish line. I finished
6th overall, 2 minutes away from qualifying from my pro card, but I was
really proud of myself. Despite how I felt, and the tough course, I was
able to suffer and go to a place where I never went before. I was
inspired by the whole experience. The best part of the day was the boat
ride across the lake with my Dad. It was one of those moments that I
would cherish forever. Sitting on a boat, soaking in the sun, I was
already planning on doing this epic race again, and what I could do
better next year.
Trail Racing 101
When you’re racing on trails, there’s a real feeling about battling against terrain and the environment, versus battling against each other. So there’s a mutual support in that endeavor. It’s still a race, and we’re all out there trying to do the best we can. But, on trails, I think there’s just a sense of being out there in nature—there is a happiness about it. There’s a fulfilling feeling about it that’s less neurotic than some of the races on roads, where time and pace and all of those details are a big deal. You can’t really measure yourself at a certain minute-per-mile pace, and even power meters on a bike are somewhat obsolete when it comes to off-road racing. There’s a bit of creativity involved out on the trails and with that comes a very relaxed nature and you really have to go with the flow, even though you still might be running hard.
The open water swim can be the scariest part of the triathlon, especially if you’re not Michael Phelps, and are more inexperienced. The open water can be just as mentally and physically tough for the top swimmers as it is for the beginner. Stepping up to the waters edge, seeing the dark water where there is no wall 25 yards ahead and overcoming the fear of the open water is both mental and physical.
There is a common feeling that most people feel when they see the water. Panic and fear, are two feelings that no one wants to feel right before a race. The shotgun goes off and you run with the rest of the triathletes into the water. Your heart is racing and you find it difficult to catch a breath. People claim that they feel as if the wetsuit went down two sizes, and is pushing against their chest making it impossible for them to breathe. These can be all very common feelings and something to think about if you have never done an open water swim before. The good news though is that this can also all be avoided! Here are some tips to defeat that panic attack on race day morning:
Wildflower stands as both the official kick off to every West Coast tri season and as one of the greatest weekends of triathlon. The Central California festival has been shining as a beacon in early May and as a driver for many long winter training miles. Saturday offers both the Long Course (LC) with one of the hillier bike and run profiles in the sport, and the Mountain Bike Sprint (MTB); a solid hour of red-line effort. Sunday concludes the weekend with another hilly race this time at the Olympic distance. Over the years athletes have raced the "easy double": MTB on Saturday and Oly on Sunday and some have done the "hard double": LC on Saturday and Oly on Sunday. After a day of racing in 2009 former pro triathlete, Michael Collins and I must have been in a deep delirium of fatigue when we pontificated on doing all three races in the same weekend the next year.
There were really only two tough aspects to this goal: logistics and fitness. Let's take the latter first. There are many different kinds of fitness: mental toughness, strength, explosiveness, etc. Doing "the triple" was going to rely on two primary areas: muscle endurance and aerobic endurance. Specificity is one of the principals of training and while sprint distances like the super short MTB event requires a very intense effort, one that is at and above threshold, the length of long course races stand in contrast to that placing more demand on the aerobic system. There was no doubt that some speed for the MTB event was going to have to be ignored in order to develop the go-all-day aspects of a 56 mile bike and 13mi run. Specificity also requires that much of the training was going to steer me off the flats and into the hills for not just greater strength but the repetitions of strength resulting in muscle endurance.