Heather and Katja Schumaker suiting up.
Rain Delay"It's raining. Again," Tim said. Chris seemed to agree, but he'd stopped
talking about 12 hours before. Still, we could hear him thinking that it
probably wasn't raining in St. Croix at that moment. I'd like to say we
paid attention when Tim said it, because the last time it rained that hard
on him before a race, he went out and won his second consecutive Ironman
World Championship. But we didn't. We didn't pay attention because he had
already said it a dozen times between Thursday evening and 6 a.m. on
Saturday, about two hours before the 21st annual Wildflower Long Course
triathlon was set to start. We didn't pay attention because we had all said
it, over and over again, for the preceding 36 hours. As everyone pulled on
their race kit on that soggy Saturday morning, somewhere Missy Elliot was
singing about the rain against her window that she couldn't stand. I could
But I'm a little ahead of myself. This isn't a race report. Chances are
you know what happened to the inhabitants of Lake San Antonio Trailer number
14 in the race itself: Tim went the fastest, Chris was next fastest but for
Steve Larsen's ability to go real fast on a bike. Heather ran very fast up
Beach Hill Road twice, even though she didn't really feel that doing it once
was such a hot idea on that particular day, landing in fourth. And Nicole,
who along with Heather managed to put a silver lining around the biggest
rainstorm triathlon has seen in a good long while, overcame a flat in the
first few hundred meters of the bike to land in the money as well.
I drove to Lake San Antonio with Roch and Heather Thursday morning, watching
the skies all the way. We all knew the forecast, and if positive talk could
affect the weather, Wildflower would have looked like Wildflower. Sunny.
And hot. But Mother Nature had a plan of her own, and after letting
Wildflower have twenty consecutive sunny years, she clearly felt the need to
make up for lost time. By Thursday night, the skies had opened and things
were about to get very different.
Everyone woke up Friday morning to a good soaking. Fine, we thought, get it
out of the way. It will keep the trails from getting too dusty. Without
any formal announcement, Roch had already begun his one-man adventure race,
taking off for a run down the first few miles of the run course trails.
Passable, but slippery, he pronounced. Don't bother wearing your best
racing flats. By 9:30 people were finishing their pre-race workouts, and
looking expectantly out from under the metal awning of our trailer, waiting
for the rain to stop and things to start going according to plan. Somewhere
behind a black storm cloud Mother Nature muttered, "Not gonna happen."
Big deal, Roch thought, and took off for a quick paddle around the lake,
which was sporting good sized chop, as best I could tell through the rain
anyway. As Roch drove down to the lake, I heard Chris say, "It's raining.
Again." Tim was putting his experience training in the mountains near
Boulder to use, pointing out that the rain was coming from two different
directions at once. Whatever. It was all landing on us.
With all the triathlon racing experience assembled under one roof, you would
think we would have been better prepared for the circumstances. But it
isn't true. There was no stereo to listen to. Reading material was at a
premium. Tim was auctioning off a copy of Maxim to the highest bidder, who
turned out to be Heather. Chris reacted to losing the reading material
auction by taking his seventh nap of the morning. Nicole introduced Chris's
wife -- and race Sherpa extraordinaire -- Sarah, to several new kinds of
computer solitaire. All anyone remembers Sarah saying after that was, "One
more game. I'll be done after one more game."
By noon, Tim and Chris were making it very clear they were looking forward
to racing in what was quickly becoming obvious would be crazy, challenging
conditions. I suspect that having been cooped up for 24 hours by that time,
they would have gladly done the race in a driving snowstorm, if it meant
they could get out of the trailer. In fairness to my cabin mates, I can't
divulge much of what was said during the afternoon. I think people began to
fear they weren't getting out of there alive. It certainly looked like it
was going to rain forever. Suffice to say our only defense to the mounting
weather induced boredom was oversharing. How bad did it get? Canada's
sweetheart, Heather, got into the act. That's how bad it got. Not about
herself, mind you, this is still Heather we're talking about. (And Roch was
off somewhere on stage 19 of his own personal MSOQ, dragging his mountain
bike over an electrified fence to avoid park security officers (both exist).
And as they say, out of the room, out of the deal.)
The afternoon dragged on. Mother Nature, taking a page from Bill Murray's
script, decided that the big stuff wouldn't come down for another hour. In
the trailer next to ours, several Australian pros who came to Wildflower
instead of St. Croix began building what looked like an Ark out of Powerbar
boxes. Chris concluded his tutorial on Australian slang words and took his
eleventh nap of the day. Tim disputed Chris's claim that Aussies spoke any
form of English at all. Sarah won her sixty-seventh hand of
electro-solitaire. And decided to play just one more game. Nicole
practiced flipping her pink fuzzy slipper into the air and catching it again
on her foot. Heather began planning her Christmas cookie baking recipes.
Roch was chasing a bunny across the lawn, yelling something about not
getting voted off the island.
Somewhere in the middle of Friday afternoon we lost Roch. He left on his
cyclocross bike to scout the run course trails, having survived his lake
paddling adventure, gone for his second non-wetsuit swim, as well as his
second (or third) run. As he disappeared into the rain, Nicole commented
that it was raining. Again. It grew dark and we ate dinner. Roch was
nowhere to be seen. Having napped throughout the day, and time having stood
completely still while we did it, no one was in a big hurry to try to go to
sleep. Except for Chris, who figured he could get one last nap in. Before
bedtime, I suppose. Plus, we were sort of curious about what happened to
Roch. Maybe the rain ate him. It could have happened. You should have
seen this rain.
Roch returned some time after 9. He was dragging a huge ball of mud up the
hill, which he claimed was his bike. I still have my doubts. I think the
rain ate it. As for scouting the run course? Well, he gave us a very
detailed description of the first 200 meters, at which point the mud stopped
him in his tracks. As for the rest of the course, super coach Roch Frey's
sage advice was something to the effect of, "Better you than me."
It rained all night. Harder and harder. Every time someone got up to go to
the bathroom, you could hear them say as they returned to bed, "I can't
believe it. It's still raining." Believe it.
You know the rest of the story. Four of the fastest triathletes in
attendance were finally let loose to go swim, bike and run around the
beautiful, but wet, Wildflower course. And when everyone was finished
(including me, which gives you some idea of how long it rained), the sun