Below is a race report I had written for the Hammer Nutrition Endurance magazine in 2009. This year I decided to go back to Wildflower 4 weeks before the event......With little bike training but plenty of running my goal is to have a great time and soak up the atmosphere! 49 years old the last year of racing this age group!! Life is an adventure and I just love doing triathlons! Thanks to my husband for the birthday gift of an entry fee paid.
Author : Suzy DegazonIt is the first weekend in May and for the last 27 years thousands of triathletes have made their way to California's Lake San Antonio to experience the thrill of Wildflower. I was one of the thousands this year and had opted to compete in the long course which consisted of a 1.2 mile lake swim, a 56 mile hilly bike, and a 13.1 mile run.
My husband Al had signed me up for the event at Christmas and it was to be part of my birthday treat. I was also moving into a new age group - the 45-49 competitive grouping. As usual something always happens before an event and a cat I had been looking after outside decided to become a mommy cat the day before we were due to leave on our 5 hour car ride! After taking care of food and bedding, we set off later than we had planned and managed to get lost only once along the way. After backtracking and asking for directions at the Bee Rock store we were soon on our way.
The weekend forecast called for rain and when we arrived at Monterey County park there was light drizzle. We showed our camping pass to the attendant and set out looking for a spot to call our own. We ended up not too far from the entrance up a muddy fire trail. Asking the campers next to us if it was alright to set up camp near them I heard a familiar voice and turned to see Brendon Halpin who worked last summer at Hammer Nutrition's headquarters. It was a nice surprise to see him there with a group of Montana triathletes!
While Al was busy setting up camp in the little bit of daylight that was left, I made sure my Cannondale bike was ready to roll for tomorrow's 56 mile ride. I changed to good racing wheels, putting on new Serfas tires, checked that my SC600 cycling monitor was picking up speed, and then Al took it for a ride to check that the gearing was not slipping. The only thing left to do was pick up my race packet and everything would be set.
The packet pick-up was at the transition area, which was at the base of a steep hill called Lynch Hill. The race organizers had a shuttle, which I caught after showing my ID and USAT card, to transport athletes back and forth. I was given a purple swim cap, timing chip, and race number. I quickly bought a pair of socks, as I had left mine at home, and then the shuttle transported me back up the hill. The daylight was really starting to fade and the rain had picked up. Al and I sat in the Dodge eating PB&J sandwiches and I was suddenly happy that I had remembered my Brooks Trail shoes. Tomorrow's run was 60% trails and with this rain it was likely to be muddy!
During the night the heavens opened and rain it did! I slept well and though it was a little cool when I awoke it was a beautiful morning. My main concern of the morning was what I was going to wear. Because I was in the 45-49 group my swim did not start until 9:25 am. As I was relaxing and having my morning coffee I discovered that everyone had to rack their bikes by 8:00 am. Yikes - there went my coffee and breakfast! Al stayed at the campsite and I rolled down Lynch Hill which was still wet and slippery. An announcer was telling all athletes to be careful as one triathlete discovered his brakes did not work and his race ended before it started!
After finding my bike spot I did not have enough room to set up my transition as the woman opposite me had laid out a HUGE bath towel and her bike right over my spot! I looked for another patch of asphalt and set up my gear. There were still 90 minutes before the swim start so I went back to the campsite. I was certainly warmed up by the time I trekked the 2 miles up steep trails and had a minor panic attack when I couldn't find our site! I finally saw Al who wished me luck, told me to be safe, and to have a fun race. I grabbed my Hammer Nutrition fuels and left again to run back to the transition area. I put on my Profile-Design Wetsuit, consumed a Hammer Gel, and then walked to the swim start.
At 9:25 am the gun went off and the water teemed with purple swim caps. I was off on my personal journey of 70.3 miles and this was just 1.2 miles of that experience. As much as I love my sport there is a lot to be said about the swim, arms thrashing everywhere, women swimming over me... I went to breathe and another woman dunked me! Wow talk about piranhas! This was a swim for survival and I was happy to have put my timing chip under my wetsuit as I would have surely lost it with all this contact. I kept repeating "I am enjoying this mayhem!" trying to remember Caoch Martha at Tri La Vie saying relax, upwards, and onwards to her women group! As I approached the turnaround buoy silver swim caps started passing me which meant the fast relay swimmers were making head way. I passed a few green caps from the 40-44 grouping, sighted the finish chute, and was dismayed to see a huge sea of yellow swim caps! The mountain bike triathletes, whose swim was 200 meters, were exiting the water at the same time and so things were a little congested. Finally I made contact with murky green bottom of the lake and soon found my self running through the chute and over the timing mat. I found my bike and wasted time in transition deciding whether I needed arm warmers or not. I finally opted for gloves; I was wearing my trademark Hammer pink tri suit, Rudy helmet, and glasses. I managed to get in a Hammer Gel and was soon heading out on to the bike course.
The first two miles of the bike is a small climb nothing too steep but the difficulty is that the mountain bikers share the road for the first mile, and for me it was a nightmare as they were all over the road zigzagging from right to left not looking behind them! One girl stopped right in front of me on a small hill and it took everything I had to swerve around her and not go down myself or hit the cyclist in front of me! They soon left the asphalt for trail and then the real cycling could begin. I kept climbing and hydrating with my multi-hour bottle of Perpetuem and Endurolytes. The actual 56 mile bike course is beautiful and very scenic and I really enjoyed the challenging climbs and rapid descents. The views of Lake Nacimiento, better known as the dragon lake, were literally breathtaking as the view comes right after the “Nasty Grade.” I felt great the whole ride by making sure I kept up with the Perpetuem and Endurolytes and saying thank you to all the volunteers out there. As I turned on to Lake San Antonio road I sensed the transition near, I could see other athletes already doing the run. With 4 miles to go I passed Rudy Garcia Tolson, wow he really is inspirational and when he finished the 70.3 he became the first athlete ever to finish this challenging course as a double amputee!
After a hairy descent down Lynch Hill I was told to slow down and get off my bike, I walked over the timing mat and went to change into my Brooks trail shoes which felt great as I had soaked the insoles with Kool n' Fit spray, ate a Hammer Gel, put on my fuel belt, and set off…
13.1 miles, or as I like to say 1 mile 13 times! Well hydrated I set off into the sun on a brilliant day. The run was mostly trails and very well marked with aid stations every mile. I only had to rely on water as I carried my own Hammer Gels and Endurolytes. The trails were challenging with loose dirt and some wicked climbs which were difficult to run due to the lines of tired athletes walking these single tracked sections. Every aid station had enthusiastic college students cheering on the runners. As I approached the last few miles my husband was waving at me from his mountain bike and taking photos which seemed to make me pick up my step. After running through the campgrounds, the last segment is an out and back mile. The final mile is down Lynch Hill and I tried to run smoothly as to not jar my quads on the steep descent. I was soon running through the finish chute with people on either side cheering. My name was announced as I crossed the final timing mat in a time of 6 hours 6 minutes and 23 seconds! I had done the bike in a respectable 3 hours and 12 minutes and ran a slow 2 hours and 3 minutes. I survived the swim and the mountain bikers and now proudly had a finisher’s medal around my neck!
I saw my friend Jodi at the finish area and was really happy when I found out she had won the age group 45-49! Unfortunately she had then been DQ’d because she lost her timing chip after the swim. I spent a few minutes at the timing tent were Jodi told the officials what happened, and then I went to find my husband. I really enjoyed Wildflower and was pleased with my time. It was fun seeing a bunch of Hammer athletes out on the course and I even had time to catch up with Kevin from Finishline-Multisports. After hiking up the 2 mile trail with my bike I soon found Al at our campsite and we began breaking it down. I visited with Brendon from Hammer Nutrition one last time; he smoked the course in 4 hours and 17 minutes and was the first amateur across the finish line!
A week later the results were finalized and it turned out they had a number of hiccups with the timing system. Despite my friend losing her chip she was reinstated as first female in 45-49 and I had the honor of being the 13th female in the group to finish. More importantly I was able to raise $495 for Avon of Puerto Rico’s Breast Cancer Crusade. I would like to thank Hammer Nutrition, Serfas tires, Profile –Design Wetsuits, Brooks running shoes, Polar Monitors, Cannondale, Rudy Project helmets and glasses, Fuel Belt, Kool n' Fit, and my husband for the long hours on the road and making sure I was safe!