Last February I decided to take on the challenge of competing in the Wildflower Triathlon, one of the nations most difficult Triathlons,which took place in May of 2006. The distance I would cover included a 1.5K (1 mile) Open Water Swim, followed by an intense 40K (25 Mile) bike ride and finishing off with a 10K (6 Mile) Run. I finished this race in 5 hours, since then I have continued to document my journey.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Sunday, May 6, 2007; Wildflower!!

What an awesome weekend!!!

I started my drive to Lake San Antonio at 9AM on Friday. I opted to go alone because I enjoy the quiet time and wanted to catch up on my books on tape. Wildflower is known as the Woodstock of triathlons and all the major triathletes around the world have raced this venue. The drive down is riddled with car loads of beautiful people with bikes on their racks which are more expensive than my car. By 11 O'clock I was in need of a potty break and wanted to stop by the grocery store to pick up some ice. As I'm walking around Albertsons, my phone rings and it's Sabine saying that she sees my car in the parking lot. She then walks in with Mary, Trista, and Nick. After exchanging hugs, we agree to caravan the rest of the way. At this point Celeste and her friend (can't remember his name) walk in. They do not Caravan with us but seeing them added to the excitement of what was to come. We left Albertsons and continued on to the venue.

When we finally got to the lake, tent city was up in full force. It took forever for me to find a place that was flat enough to set up my tent. I still had to sleep on a slope but being on an air mattress somehow helped the effect of the slope. After setting up we decided to hike down to pick up our race packets.

I had forgotten how awesome the tri festival was. It seemed like every major bike company, performance clothing company, and tri company had a booth. Voler was selling 3 tri tops and/or sports bras for $10!! They had some cute ones too. They were also selling NICE bike jerseys for $20. After taking advantage of the sales and purchasing a Wildflower hat, I picked up my race packet and took the shuttle back to camp.

That night, we had a TNT sponsored dinner. Pasta, Chicken, Salad, and brownies. The food was not bad. There were several speakers including a guy who found out 15 months ago that he had Leukemia. The type of Leukemia he had used to have a 10% survival rate but with this new drug Gleevec it now has a 98% survival rate and all he has to do is take a daily pill. This drug was slated as ineffective but the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society insisted that further testing be done with this drug and funded that testing. Wow!!! The money that I helped raise 2 years ago did that. He finished the Long Course tri on Saturday.

After dinner, we talked and laughed. I then took 2 Tylenol PM, put on my I-Pod and quickly fell asleep. I woke up the next day at 7:30!! I was groggy and barely awake. I typically wake up happy and alert at 5. I think the Tylenol PM worked way too well.

After getting dressed and having some breakfast I hiked down to watch the long course people start their races. I stayed until the last swimmer came in then I did some more shopping and hiked all the way back to camp with Sabine, Susan, Mary, and Tamiko. The hike was steep and long. We really shouldn't have done it but the alternative was to wait until 2:00 for the shuttle service to open again.

I grabbed a snack and more electrolytes and sat in the shade so that I could cheer on the runners as they passed our camp. After a couple of hours of cheering for lots of people I knew and many people I didn't know, I saw Jens passing. Later I saw his wife in some sort of distress. I asked her what was wrong and she said that her 7 year old daughter had decided to run with Jens. There was fear in her eyes so I grabbed my bike and cycled the run course in search of her. I rode through all kinds of terrain looking for her, including going up and down "The Pit" twice and riding through dirt paths. I was worried about this little girl and didn't think that all the hills I was cycling most certainly would affect me the next day. After searching for a little over an hour, I went back to camp only to find the little girl had only run with Jens to the end of the road and gone back to camp. She showed up right after I left.

Many of my friends raced Long Course and all but 2 finished. One of my co-workers ended up having terrible stomach cramps and had to be taken by ambulance. Apparently, the winds were crazy which affected both the swim and the bike. There were whitecaps in the water which made it so people got hit by waves when they were trying to take a breath. Also...the swim back was a bear and a major fight with the currents. The winds on the bike made it so that people with Disk Wheels were cursing the fact that they had them because all they were managing to do was blow their bikes from beneath them. Some of my friends complained that they were having difficulties managing 9MPH on the flats!!!

That night we had our second pasta dinner and this elequent little second grader talked to us about her battle with cancer. If she didn't motivate people on their races...then nothing would!! At the end of the dinner we were treated? with a group of about 50 streakers running through the campgrounds. This is something that happens every year. People get drunk after their races and decided it's a good idea to run around naked....this is the Woodstock of Triathlons after all.

After dinner I went to my tent, looked over my gear one last time and fell asleep to music from my IPOD. The next morning I woke up with sore calves but ready to race!

We went down to the transition area as a group
and started getting our things in order. People laughed at my neat little transition spot. A photographer came by and took at least 4 pictures of it (I'm hoping that it shows up as a marketing photo for next years race!) After we were marked and lathered with Suntan Lotion, we sat in the shade to begin our 2 hour wait for our respective waves to begin. Too fast it was time to put on our wetsuits.

Jen Yen and I started at the front left of the pack. Without much warning, the horn blew and we were off. As soon as I dove in, someone kicked me in the kidneys which made me suck in a mouthful of water. I then tried to find my stroke again and someone grabbed my ankle and pulled me back. This was not the way to start a race!! Finally I was able to separate from the pack after about 5 minutes of struggling. As I find a good pace, the girl next to be decides to switch to breast stroke and kicked me in the gut. Now I was annoyed. I decided to swim further out from the group. I knew this would add some distance but I felt it was better than the alternative of getting beaten up and losing my concentration.

Once I made this decision, I was able to swim fairly well. The only issues I had was with deciding which buoeys to site. The course was L shaped which made it so that the boey's which were set for the people coming in the opposite direction could easily be mistaken for the ones which I should be following. At one point a lifeguard had to correct me, which meant that I was quite a bit off course. Once I hit the turn around, I remembered a piece of advice that my friend gave me before the race. She told me to site this one particular tree rather than following the boey's. Wow!! Did that make my life easier!!

More quickly than I expected, I was out of the water and running to T1. On the way over I was hit with a wave of cheers from teamates and friends. The energy this gave me allowed me to complete a T1 time of 3minutes and 36 seconds!!

According to the site "The bike course is 40K (24.8 miles) long and should be considered relatively difficult. " Relatively difficult is an understatement. The bike course is downright hard.

As soon as I hit the bike mount line, I looked up and there was Lynch hill. 2 miles of a 9% grade. This is a tough climb even with legs which are properly warmed up. To make us do this 25 yards after the mount line is just mean!!

Lynch was harder than usual this time around and I really had to struggle to maintain a pace which would allow me to remain upright on the bike. Seriously...I was going 3MPH. Several times, I heard people falling off their bikes from going too slow and several times I saw people jump off their bikes to walk them. If I weren't so stubborn, I would have done the same.

Before the top of Lynch, I saw Andrea cheering me on. This gave me the energy to push myself over the hill. Then I was awarded with a short period of flat terrain before a good downhill where I hit 32 mph. Of course, what goes down must go up. Way too quickly I was huffing and puffing myself up a new hill. I made it to the top only because of encouragement from teammates. It really did help. It was hot out there!! My head felt like it was going to spontaneously combust with heat. When I got really hot, I poured a little water over my head. I wanted to be careful because I wanted to make sure to keep enough water to properly hydrate myself.

After finally making it to the top, I was able to fly down the other side at 45 MPH. Right when I was at peak speed, I saw a pack of people taking the whole road on my side and another pack taking the road coming the other way. I screamed at the top of my lungs "ON YOU'RE LEFT!!" but they didn't move fast enough so I had to break. After they finally moved, I was able to use that momentum to get me up the next hill. Then I had a fun, fast, downhill to enjoy. 3 miles of it!! I got in my aero bars and enjoyed the ride. When I got near the water stop, I took the rest of my water and poured it liberally over my head. As soon as I was getting ready to throw the bottle, someone screamed "Where out of water!" I hoped they were kidding but they weren't. How could they be out of water? I was nowhere near the end of the pack. In fact, I was already passed a lot of women and catching up with the men. I shook my bottle and felt that I still had very little left and kept going. Fortunately, I still had my electrolytes available.

After the water stop, I turned around and slowly made my way up the 3 miles that I had just flown down. It was tough but I eventually made it up that hill and several subsequent hills. At mile 20 they had another water stop and I was able to throw out my bottle and grab another. Unfortunately, the water bottle that was handed it to me was nearly empty. I think there may have been 4 ounces of water in there.

Fortunately, there was only 1 big hill left so I wasn't too worried. I turned into the park and made it up the last hill before I was able to fly down Lynch. This was a little scary because there were also runners coming down. Most of whom were shoulder to shoulder taking over the whole side of the road. I looked down the other side, saw that they had closed traffic on that side and realized that all the cyclists had already made their way up and decided to fly down on the wrong side of the road. Probably not the smartest idea but logic fails at the end of a greuling ride.

I hit the bottom of Lynch, jumped off my bike and ran to T2. I quickly threw on my shoes and started to run out of transition when I saw Mary in front of me. I called out her name and realized I had no voice. It turns out that I was having asthma issues. I took some albeuterol at transition and wanted to save another puff for when I really needed it. Apparently that happened sooner than I thought. At mile 2 I approached Beach Hill which is a very steep hill which continued for 3 miles. I was having a hard time and had to continue to remind myself that forward progress was important. I so wanted to sit down and rest but I kept chugging along. Then I heard Susan call my name. As soon as she heard me try to talk, she decided she was going to walk with me.
I told her to go ahead and that I'd be ok but she insisted that it was more fun for her to walk with me than get bored running alone. She really is a good person :-)

She kept coaxing me up those hills and every so often she'd grab my hand and pull me along. She then asked if I had my inhaler. I told her that I did but my heart rate was running at 85% and that the albeuterol would further increase my heartrate. That's when I decided to take the inhaler. Almost immediately my voice started to come back. Instead of sounding like a frog, I sounded like I was going through puberty. Towards the top of the hill (right where it got really steep) all the coaches and Jeremiah were there waiting for us. They were taking turns walking/running people up and then going back to grab the next person. This made it so that we didn't even realize we were climbing something extra steep until we got to the top.

After that, we started to run a bit. I was slow but it felt good to use running muscles. None too soon, I saw Berend, Liz, Trista, and Nick standing at the top of the final climb. It was awesome to see them!! They cheered us on and gave us high fives. I really needed them at that point. After seeing them the rest of the race was spent running. We ran straight down Lynch hill laughing and talking. When we approached the finish, I was extatic and exhausted. We took our finish line poses, collected our metals and went straight to the like for an ice bath. Everyone was there cheering each other on. We did it!!!

The rest of the day is kind of a blur. We had burrito's, waited for the shuttle to bring us up Lynch, then Trista and Nick helped me pack up my tent. On the way home I turned the wrong way so I had to turn around. As I was plugging along through the windy hills, my roof rack made a strange sound. I looked out my back window and saw Sabine and my bikes resting on the window. The front bars from the roof rack had slipped to the back bars and the bikes were precariously dangling from the back of my car. It was aweful!! I called all the coaches and was able to get a hold of coach Steve. I was able to (kind of) tell him where I was. I pulled the bikes of the rack and waited for him on the side of the road. A nice German triathlete stopped and helped me situate the rack but we really didn't have any tools. After sliding the rack in place, Steve came and was able to supply us with the tools needed to lock the rack into place. I was then able to continue on my way.

I stopped by In-N-Out just in time to see Mary, Nick, Trista, Sabine, Ivy, and Vivek. We ate and I finished the day without incident.

Overall the weekend was awesome and I can't wait to do it again next year!!!


Blogger SpeedLeopard said...

Yeah Sandy!!!! Sounds like you had a great race :)

10:12 AM

Anonymous Andrea Marley said...

WOW! That was an awesome account of your experience! Almost like being there!!! Thanks for sharing that, and CONGRATULATIONS! We are proud of you, and appreciate all you do for the cause!!!
The story of the one participant and the Gleevac was SOOO encouraging!!

Andrea Marley

8:02 AM

Blogger velogirl said...

congratulations, Sandy! you should be very proud of yourself.

2:06 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

In response to the streakers paragraph in your blog, I can assure you that exactly ZERO of those participants had had any alcohol of any kind, as we all were racing the next day

8:50 PM


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