Just before the start of the swim
The Woodstock of triathlon weekends has finally arrived!Wildflower is a tradition on the West Coast – more than just a race, the Wildflower Festival is a whole weekend full of activities. For 23 years now, thousands have been converging on Lake San Antonio at the end of April/ beginning of May to participate in the Wildflower weekend of races, and this year was no different.
After being on the sidelines watching some earlier season races, it was great to get back to the racing side of things. My injury is now a thing of the past and I was very excited to get the season rolling. The Wildflower half ironman is one of the toughest races around so it was going to be a great test of my fitness.
Not only was I excited to get racing to see where things were at, I was finally going to be able to my first race as part of the new TriDubai triathlon team. One of the unique aspects of the team is that at each race, the athletes on the team are racing for a bonus pool that would raise money for a pre-designated charity. Peter Reid had chosen the Challenged Athlete’s Foundation (CAF) as the charity of choice for this race. After attending the CAF Half in La Jolla in November, Peter was very inspired by what he saw. So along with my fellow teammates, Chris Legh, Normann Stadler, Peter Reid and Simon Lessing, we would be racing to help support this charity. (For more information on the TriDubai team at: www.tridubai.com ).
The weather this year for the race was nothing short of perfect – sunny skies, light winds and moderate temperatures – something that doesn’t happen very often. This made my return to racing much more appealing. Because this was the first race of the year, I really had no expectations leading up to the race. Of course I wanted to have a decent race, but more than anything, I wanted to use this race as my fitness barometer. Where was I at with my training, and what changes might need to be made?? With no expectations, I really wasn’t that nervous – more excited to get the show on the road. The water temp was a perfect 66degrees F as we headed into the water. As usual, the start was a little rough but I was able to quickly settle on a pair of feet, that would tow me around the entire course. I was happy to get the swim portion of the race over and done with and to have not lost too much time to the leaders was encouraging. Next it was off on the bike. The first few miles of the bike course are some of the roughest, windy roads that you have seen – this is definitely NOT the time to try and make up any ground unless you want to be upside down in a ditch somewhere. Once I got out onto the main roads of the ride, I was feeling good. I felt smooth and strong and seemed to be moving along pretty well. I focused on my nutrition – making sure I was drinking enough and getting in enough calories. All worked well and I didn’t have any low points on the bike – but I was certainly happy to get off the bike.
Only once I got off the bike, did I have any clue as to where I was compared to the other athletes. I came off the bike in 5th place – something I was very excited about. Samantha McGlone was having an amazing race and it appeared that she had the win well within her grasp, but there was the possibility of moving up through the field somewhat if I could pull off a decent run. The run begins on those same rough windy up and down roads that the bike starts on. It is really hard to get into a rhythm for the first few miles. It was clear pretty early on in the run, that this final leg of the race was going to be tough. I did not feel like I could get into my normal running rhythm, but just tried to run at a pace that was manageable. By about 6 miles into the run, I had made my way into 2nd place – but losing some time to the leader Samantha. I must say that my focus switched from looking forward and trying to catch up to making sure that I was able to hold off some of the fast runners coming up from behind. I was very happy to see the finish line and to have completed the first race of the year. All in all, the race was a great experience – man it feels good to race again!!!!
Some of my other TriDubai teammates had some great performances as well. Simon won the race in record setting time – proof that he is on form for another great year. Normann – a Wildflower virgin – had a strong performance finishing in 4th. Chris Legh was on pace for a podium finish when his chain broke with a couple of miles to go. Showing that he wouldn’t give up, he ran his bike up the couple of hills remaining while coasting on the down hills. With his strong run, he ran back into 5th place. With these strong performances, we were able to raise $10,000 for the Challenged Athlete’s Foundation.
So, a great start to the season, and I am looking forward to the races to come!!!!