After kicking off my professional triathlon career way back in 1991, I ceased to call
triathlon my career at the end of 2013...However, Wildflower still has a magnetic pull on
me and I decided that I needed to come back here one last time.
Back in the day, the Wildflower festival was considered in the industry as the unofficial
long course World Champs and the start of the Northern hemisphere triathlon season,
it was the time when everyone came out of hibernation for the first major professional
race for the year.
For years I had heard of this legendary race, but being based in Australia I was focused
on events down under and it wasn’t until 2000 that I finally got myself together to have
a crack at this iconic race.
While Wildflower is an incredible event, you'd be remiss if you came to the Paso Robles area and only raced then returned home. There's a whole lot of exploring and fun to be had when you're in this area, so make sure to add in a few extra days to take it all in.
Let's start with the race site: Lake San Antonio provides plenty of recreational activities for you and your family/friends. Did you know there are 26 miles of trails around the lake itself? They're open for hiking, mountain biking or trail running, whatever your pleasure. There's also horseback riding in the area, and of course, the recreational activities afforded by a lake.
And then there's the surrounding wine country, a perfect way to top off a great weekend of racing. The Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance is some 500 members strong, all working together to ensure that you get the most out of your local wine tasting experience. The group puts on educational events, publishes a wine tasting map, and has a comprehensive listing of local restaurants, accommodations and wineries to help guide you.
Perhaps the best way to get a taste of the local wine scene, however, is to start at the Wildflower Festival itself, where 15 degrees C wine will set up shop for tastings by the glass or bottle. The owners, Doug and Ali Carscaden, have been racing Wildflower for 13 years now and have been combining their love of wine and and the festival this way for four years now. Be sure to stop by and say hello to them in their on-site wine lounge.
One of the aspects that sets Wildflower apart is its unique, "Woodstock" like atmosphere, Camping is at the center of this culture and serves as not only a fun alternative to the normal race accommodations, but as perhaps the best way to get the full Wildflower experience.
If you want to get in on the camping bandwagon, however, there are a few tips and tricks that will help you get the most out of the experience.
First: Keep in mind that the weather can vary wildly at Lake San Antonio, and nights in particular can get pretty chilly. If you're tent camping, this is especially important. Pack some warm clothing and a sleeping bag.
No conversation about triathlon legends would be complete without mention of the name Scott Tinley. He's one of the originals, won Kona twice, and continues to play a role in the sport today. He's also a 20-plus time Wilflower competitor and one of its biggest fans.
What sets Wilflower apart for Scott? So many things, he explains. "It's been around for 32 years," he says, "and there aren't many races that can say that. There's a reason for that.
"It's also got an amazing venue. But most of all, it's the Davis family's devotion to the event. They support the sport, the athletes, the governing bodies. They are a class act, do things right, and the athletes benefit for it."
If you're heading to Wildflower for the first time ever this year, Scott has some advice for making the most out of the experience. "Know that you'll want to bring everything because there isn't much in the way of stores nearby," he says. "But even if you forget something, there will probably be someone there who can loan it to you."
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.