By Kelvin Brillante, Tri-California Ambassador
I arrived at Lake San Antonio at 2am on Friday morning and was surprised to be greeted by a worker at the front gate that early in the morning. I told him that I really appreciated him being out there to help athletes enter the park in the middle of the night.
After a little sleep, I spent most of Friday afternoon down in the festival area enjoying the live music, vendor booths, and perfect weather. There was so much to do in the festival area, but knowing that I was racing 70.3 the next day, I headed back up to the campsite early for some rest. My team and I sat around the campfire, chatting about race goals and racing tips.
Saturday morning arrived and I woke up a nervous wreck, although being part of a team helped calm me down a little. Together as a team, we packed our gear, got our bikes set, and headed down to the transition area. I had about 1 hr to get ready and warm up, but it felt like 15 minutes. In the blink of an eye, I was on the swim start line. I attacked the water with a sprint run in!
STEADY GOES IT
The swim portion is always tough for me coming from a running and cycling background. I swam away from the pack to prevent myself from getting hit in the head by kicks and strokes. I set my own pace not worrying about what other swimmers were doing. I came out of the water wobbly on my legs and tried to run as fast as I could to my bike while at the same time taking off my wetsuit. Wetsuit off, helmet on, and I took off on the bike portion. NOW HERE COMES THE HARD STUFF!!
SOME NASTY HILLS
As I headed on the bike portion I already knew what to expect: tough, steep, gradual hills. I knew I needed to stick to my plan and be patient and take one hill at a time. As I rode hill after hill, head wind after head wind, I soon enough reached “Nasty Grade!” I focused on my breathing, kept focused on the finish line and stayed positive. After passing the Energizer Bunny, riding the long downhill, and getting onto the park entrance road, I finally spotted the front gates of Lake San Antonio. As I approached Lynch Hill and descended toward transition, I took in a GU pack, sipped some water, slipped my feet out of my shoes, hopped off my bike and ran to my racking site.
JUST KEEP RUNNING
I racked my bike and heard my girlfriend and friend cheering for me, but shockingly, my legs were giving out, and in a snap, my positive mentality went down the drain. I ran out of transition area, slowed to a jog, then a fast walk, and finally, not even .25 miles into the run, I stopped. I tried to massage my legs, and walk, but my body didn’t let that happen, and then with anger and agonizing pain, I sat on the side of the road. Out of all of my races, this was the first time I was considering a “DNF”. I began to look for a volunteer or a medic to rescue me. Luckily I did not spot one, and after 14 minutes of sitting, watching racers pass me by, and fighting my mind, I remembered my girlfriend telling me to always do my best and never give up. I stood up, slowly jogged to the first aid station, and took in some water and Gatorade, and took a splash from the volunteers. I suddenly felt a new rush of energy. I thanked the volunteers and took off running. I did not stop for the rest of the run. I knew I had to make up a lot of time so I took advantage of every straightaway, every downhill, every aid station and conquered every uphill battle without stopping. Finally at Lynch Hill, I let gravity take over and flew toward the finish line. With a sense of great achievement and happiness, I put my hands up in the air to celebrate my finish. And despite my 14-minute internal struggle, I still beat my time from the 2011 Wildflower long course.
Thanks to the Tri-California staff and their volunteers, this event ran very smoothly so that the athletes and spectators would have a great time. I don’t think I could have finished this race without the support of all the staff, volunteers, my team (FilAm Tri Club), my girlfriend, and my family!