By: Kelvin Brillante, Tri-California Ambassador
Another Wildflower Triathlon long course is in the books. As always it was a bitter sweet weekend. The weekend was filled with fantastic camaraderie, a lot of food, and a huge expo that included free massages and chiropractic care! In regards to the chiropractic care, I have to give a big thanks to Monica who did a super awesome job on readjusting my hips and back and taping up my shoulder the day before the race! Away from the expo, camping was a thrill with my Bangarang Runners and Fil Am Tri team. I believe that our campsite was just one of the loudest campsites out there that weekend (sorry to the teams who were nearby). Many stories, jokes, smiles, laughs, and of course race nerves were shared among the group. I miss it already and definitely am looking forward to next years Wildflower! Anyways, onto the race stuff. Going into this race I had really high expectations of myself; I mean really high! Unfortunately, my personal expectations were not met but at least I earned a personal record. Even though I did not reach my original goal, I crossed that finish line pretty stoked out and am very happy with my finishing time considering how the day went. So lets start off with the swim, run, bike and run.
As many know, this course was different from last years with the swim starting at Harris Creek so athletes had to jump onto a shuttle to get to the start line, which in my opinion ran pretty smoothly. My wave started at 8:10am, 10 minutes right after the professional women and men starting time. Walking up to the starting line was very nerve wrecking and I could already see in my mind the pain that I was going to go experience while racing for about 5 hours. I walked up to the start for a warm up and jumped into the questionable, murky, foot grabbing water and swam out just about 25 yards to do my business, you know what I mean; claim my spot, create a warm spot, turn on the wetsuit heater, yea...that business. Just as I turned to swim back to the start, it was just about that time to get the race on! So, my swim plan was to stay with the front pack and catch a draft with some of the fast swimmers...I said try...that definitely did not happen. The horn went off and we all started swimming our butts off. As I looked up for my first sighting I saw that I was still close to the pack. I continued on with a few strokes, looked up a second time and the pack was GONE! SHOOT! Son of a B Word! There goes my plan. It was time to play catch up. I continued my swim but little did I know that I would swim off into a distant far away. This was not a good start for my race. Just passing the second yellow buoy marker I noticed a paddle board on my right side. I heard them yelling "TURN LEFT!" I looked at them then looked to my left, and I was going off course!! Where the hell am/was I going?! I swam back about 100 yards to get back with what was now the second wave after my start. This really hurt me mentally. As I started to see the big red triangle buoy to make the loop turn, I heard more yelling again "Turn LEFT!" and Im thinking to myself "That cant be for me, can it? Nooo...it can't be!" Then I hear a horn sound and son of a gun! It was for me!! I was going off course again!! Argghh! I was getting really pissed by then. So again, this time I swam a little more then 100 yards back to the pack of swimmers and finally made my turn to head back to shore. By this time, I knew I was not going to hit my 30 something minute swim goal time. So I tried to catch some drafts to be pulled back to shore. As I got closer to the shore, the water started to get dim, like mysteriously dim, then dimmed even more when I swam even more forward, then it got pitch black under water; literally. What am/was I swimming in? It made me wonder, and im pretty sure it made a lot of athletes wonder as well. I finally hit the shore and had a rough steep run to get to my first transition bag. I got to my transition area, had a tough time getting my wetsuit off standing up at a uneven incline so I sat down and in a rush (while mouthing F bombs to myself; excuse my language) I took my wetsuit off, threw it into my bag, slipped my Nikes on along with my watch and took off for my first 2 mile run.
2 MILE RUN
As I took off running, I drank a cup of Gatorade, cup of water and took a GU pack to hydrate for the run and to prep my body for the bike. Right out of the water, I felt like my lungs were going to collapse, and my legs were going to fall off, but like what I always tell my athletes, I stayed calm, took a few deep breaths, refocused, and found my breathing rhythm along with a decent stride. I knew I needed to take advantage of the 2 mile run because I already had a crap swim and needed to catch up to the fast swimmers. As I continued on with the trail/sand run, I thought to myself, wow, this trail we are running on is supposed to be under water! That occupied my mind just for a few seconds, then I hit the first small, sandy hill and powered up it, then I felt the heat beating on my body and from there I knew it was going to be a very hot day. I finally got close to the bike transition, but before entering it athletes had to run up one last steep grade (the original boat ramp where we started the swim last couple of years). As I got to the transition, I was very happy to be there, but was definitely negatively struck mentally because so many bikes were gone!! That meant I was in the back pack and still had to play catch up!! Ok, it was time to do some very serious work!
I ran to my bike as fast as I could. As I approached my bike, my fiancee was there to cheer me on. I took my running shoes off, snapped my helmet on, looked at my fiancee, yelled BANGARANG (that's what my Bangarang Runners Team does) and took off. If you have done this triathlon before, you already know the first hill we have to climb. Right out onto the cycling portion of the race, about 1-2 miles into it, we are hit with a steep grade. This time around, I forced myself to play it safe and race my own race and not make any dumb moves (something I did last year, bad idea). I continued up the hill with a consistent pace because I knew what was ahead of me at the end of the bike portion (Nasty Grade). After this hill, there was a descent going down and that's when I started to book it, fast! 56 miles of biking here we go! As I headed out toward the gates to get onto the racing route, I noticed a fellow racer with a Filamtri jersey on; someone I have never met. I got to his left side and yelled "Go Filamtri!" he caught back up to me and asked if I was with Filamtri. We introduced ourselves and from there I had a friend to ride with (yup, I made a friend while racing). So without any confirmation, I felt like we had a neutral agreement to keep an eye out for each other through the bike portion. Continuing on with the race, I passed him up for a little while and a little later with no idea at all, he passed me back up and I kept up with him (of course keeping my legal distance). With my new friend, we did this up until around mile 30/35. I call this friendly competition. After mile 30 or so, he took off and my legs didn't have the power to keep up and I definitely did not want to bonk. As I continued and made my right turn onto Jolon rd. I knew what I was heading for; The Nasty Grade. If you don't know, the nasty grade is a 5 mile steep, uphill climb. Doesn't sound too bad right? Well this happens at mile 40 of the bike portion! Yea, my legs were a little tired by then and to top that off, it does not end with the nasty grade, there are still more small gradual hills after that! They should just call this bike portion, Nasty Grade to Nasty Hills. So approaching the nasty grade, I again played it safe; I felt really smart playing it that way. I stayed at a constant speed with other cyclists passing me up. I was ok with that, cause I knew I could possibly catch them on the other side. I was surprised with my performance going up the nasty grade cause my heart was not beating out of my chest and my legs were not crying like how they did last year. I finally reached the peak point of the hill and shifted my gears and bombed down the other side of the hill like a rocket. From the nasty grade there was about another 15 miles remaining and I tried to maintain a consistent pace for the rest of the ride. I finally reached the front gates. I gave myself a little more push, to get up one last hill and then again, bombed it down on Lynch hill to reach the transition area to finish my last run.
I unstrapped my cycling shoes, hopped off my bike and ran to my rack. As I slipped my running shoes back on and grabbed my running gear, I sprinted out (well...I felt like I sprinted) and noticed that there were still not a lot of bikes on the racks! Yes! I caught up to some fellow racers. As I ran up the steps to get to the trail for my last 10 point something miles, my fiancee and some of my other friends were there to cheer me on! She ran up to me and asked how did I feel. That really struck me, because in all honesty I did not know how I felt. I kept on running, and kept in my mind "think fresh legs, think fresh legs, think fresh legs." I hit my first aid station and drank more Gatorade, ate a GU pack and got some splashes from the volunteers (I took splashes from all aid stations. Thanks volunteers). I then hit the very first steep hill before entering the actual dirt trail, and surprised myself by running up the hill with no problem. It was not fast, but again, the goal was to be smart. I finally ended up on the trail which was about 4-5 miles into the race and thank god that my legs started to find a faster stride. My game plan was to have a fast stride on the flat portions of the trail, and not stop running on the uphills. I approached another aid station at mile 8 and saw my new friend Tom; the guy I met on the bike! I wanted to say good job to him but I was a little tired and wanted to save my energy so I passed him without him seeing me. I continued onto my run and just a few minutes later, I hear Tom "Kelvin is that you?! You caught up!" I thought to myself, "Damn Tom is sounding really refreshed right now!!!" This guy was crazy fast, so we ran together for about half a mile and I told him to keep pushing and don't let me slow you down! He hung with me for a bit, and then took off with 2 other guys who were running some fast pace as well. I tried to keep up but again my body was saying calm down and race your own race. I finally hit the camp ground, and knew I was really really close to finishing the race! My body started to get a little more energy knowing that I was almost finished so I picked up the pace just a little faster and then I saw the last hill climb before I would reach Lynch Hill. I drank 2 more cups of Gatorade and poured about 4 cups of water on myself and pushed up the hill! I reached Lynch Hill, and saw a few racers in front of me. It was my time to give a last push! I booked it downhill letting gravity pull me down (something I learned watching Chris McCormack on Youtube win the Wildflower race in the past). My ankles started to feel a little pain and my shoulders started feeling sore but I worked too hard to reach that point and not give it a last push! I finally entered the finishing runway and rocketed myself to the finishline! I saw my Bangarang Runners team cheering me in from the bleachers. I yelled out BANGARANG, pointed to my team, and threw my hands up into the air!! Wildflower Long Course is done.
In the end, I am happy with my performance. As always with every race, I learned new things about myself as a triathlete. I learned as a triathlete I definitely need to learn how to sight better, I need more power work on my bike to conquer climbing hills, and I need just a little bit more speed work to improve my run. This was definitely a fun filled weekend not just with the racing but the camping and hanging out with friends most of all. Thank you all for the awesome support. Thank you Trical Events for making this Wildflower event happen even with the drought situation, thank you crazy Wildflower volunteers for cheering everyone on, handing out water, numbering athletes, handing out bib numbers etc., and thank you to my team Bangarang Runners and Fil Am Tri for making this event even more awesome! Honestly, without the support, this race and this sport would not be as fun as it is right now. Last, a huge thank you to my loved one, my fiancee Kathy. She has and is always there to support me when she can. She is definitely my biggest supporter out there. Without her, im really not too sure where I would be in this sport, but I do know that she gives me the motivation and determination to keep working/training hard to reach my goals!
Congratulations to everyone who took the Wildflower challenge and finished whether it was the long course, Olympic course, sprint course, or the W2 challenge. You are all awesome, and hope that you will all come back next year to do it all over again! Bangarang!!
See the original article in it's entirety on Kelvin's website