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.
While the courses were fun and unique, what perhaps really set Wildflower apart was its festival atmosphere. Camping at the site became the norm and to this day, thousands of athletes, their families and friends make camping a part of the experience. Spectators at Wildflower are also a piece of the tradition--they are totally invested in the event and support the athletes like nowhere else.
And then there's the location, close in proximity to both Monterey and San Luis Obispo County, Calif. Perhaps no other triathlon in the country can offer up such a perfect location for combining racing and vacationing, nor such perfect weather. Like wine tasting? This is the place for you. Hiking, boating, fishing? They're all right here.
For all these reasons, Wildflower has established a one-of-a-kind reputation. It takes the type-A triathlete and brings things down a notch, while still deiivering world-class courses and competition. If you want a mental picture of Wildflower, think Woodstock meets triathlon.
Ever done Wildflower? What's your favorite thing about the weekend?
We mentioned the legends who have raced Wildflower and perhaps none is better known than Scott Tinley. Look for an upcoming post feature Scott where he'll share his secrets for acing the Wildflower course!