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 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