Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Victory! Wildflower Race Report

Coming into this race things had been up and down for me. On the positive side my training was going great and I was finally sleeping again. Unfortunately work had been kicking my ass, and my confidence in my training had been shaken a bit by others who felt the need to comment unsolicited on what the plan was. I was told that I should not be running so long after my long rides and that I did not have a long enough taper. Now I say "Ha! What do you know... The plan works!" I made the decision to view Wildflower as an "experience" not a race. I think this went a very long way in helping me mentally focus on what I needed to do and keep a really positive attitude.

I had been feeling crappy all taper week; tired, achy and tight. Kind of had me worried. I decided on Thursday am since I had no training to do and the am off work, I would take the chance and get a massage. Paid off! Felt much better.

Friday Mike and I headed out for Lake San Antonio. Had a nice drive with no traffic and a great chat. I'm so lucky to have such a good friend and tri buddy. As we were approaching Paso Robles, Mike points out the fact that the cows are laying down and informs me that it means rain is coming. Yikes! I am not a fan of racing in the rain, so I got a little stressed. Luckily the rain fell on Friday night only and we had great race conditions.

Was nice to get to the campsite and have everything set-up and people ready to hang-out. I did get in a little run, but no swim (lake was nasty and did not want to get wetsuit wet) and no bike due to the rain. Down to pick-up the race stuff and visit the most awesome expo I have ever been to. Had an early light dinner and off to sleep.

Race Morning:
I really like the fact that this race starts a bit later. Not that I mind getting up early, but it saves me from trying to choke down food at 4am. Was able to get in a good breakfast, then it was off to set-up transition.

Transition was a huge, scary jungle of bikes and people. I pretty much got my stuff set-up as fast as possible to get away from an annoying rack-mate, and then went to hang out with Jen. Just being around friends really helps me to stay calm. We chatted and joked, found secret Port-a-Potties with no lines and before I knew it, time to go swim.

This is the part that had me the most worrried out, in light of what happened at O'side 70.3. Luckily in this race they let us get in and warm-up. Had a nice little 10min warm-up with a few surges and was ready to go. Lined-up right in the middle of the field as the start funnels you out between two docks, so there was not going to be any finding open water at the start anyhow. I realized how much I prefer running starts to floating starts. Just works better for me.

Got out past the docks and went looking for clear water, but it was packed, so I instead tried drafting. Think I actually did it for a bit, but then I decided to pass the girl. Was able to chill out my breathing after about the first 1/4 of the swim and then just let my arms do the work. OK on the sighting but need to work on it a bit more. Pretty much was swimming over and into people the entire way out and part of the way back. That got annoying! On the way back I think I got a little off course, but then was able to correct my line. Just kept looking for the dock to cut over and in. Couldn't see the dock, but then I saw a group of people who appeared to be standing on the water... the dock! Once I knew the end was near I picked up the pace. Cut in and was happy to see the swim exit!

T1: It was a long run up a concrete ramp to T1. No wonder my feet hurt now! Had a little trouble getting my wetsuit off my arms. Heard others had the same problem; maybe it was all the algae making it stick? I had cut the legs of my wetsuit shorter since O'side and it came off the bottom much easier than before; Good move!

In transition I saw Nikee who looked like she was already showered and changed. She's a super fast swimmer (23:24! I need to learn from her!) and wasn't doing the rest of the race due to injury. I did notice that most bikes were still in T1... that put a smile on my face. Had a pretty fast transition, but really took care to make sure I was ready to go before unracking the bike. Hopped on and off I went!

Now it was time to rock! With all of the awesome training rides I had been on in the past month, I knew the legs were ready. We had driven up "Nasty Grade" and knew it was nothing compared to the climbing I had under my belt. Like a friend told me, "Training is like making deposits to your bank account. And race day is the time to make a huge withdrawal!" I was ready to cash in!

The course begins with a pretty steep climb out of the park. I put it in an easier gear and mellowed out as I spun it up to the top. No need to blow-up early. I was already dropping boys, which added fuel to my fire. I had to remind myself constantly that it was going to be a long day, so chill out! The next 30ish miles were rollers, nothing too bad. I did loose one of my CO2's but was able not to freak once I realized I still had one left. Did a little begging of the tires not to flat as I passed at least 15 people changing flats on the road.

All in all I just kept my riding efficient and steady. Was really able to keep my head in the game and work the ups as well as the downs. It was beautiful out on the course with farms, vineyards and rolling hills. Every mile was marked which I loved. The strange thing for me was riding with almost all guys. I usually use other women, especially those in my age group, to try to motivate me to pass them or at least to keep up the pace. A lady did come up from behind me and tried to tell me I was in the lead for my age group. I was pretty sure she was wrong, and really did not want to go there mentally. She and I worked together from about mile 30-50... Don't tell USAT!

Before I knew it Nasty Grade was rising in front of me. I had already decided that was where I was going to really work it. Right as it started I came upon a girl in my AG; finally someone to push against. We went back and forth a few times, but I was able to drop her in the end. Unfortunately I dropped that super famous Challenged Athlete, Rudy Garcia, too. Felt bad for a few minutes. Made it to the top quickly and painlessly.

The nice part of the course is the fact that for all of the climbing, you get some good descending too, and it comes at the end. I was taking the downhills like a pro. Everyone was talking about how fast they took the descents... I have no idea how fast I was going and I really don't want to know. I just kept praying I would not have to be taken off the course in one of the three ambulances that were on the side of the steep hill.

A few more rollers and a steep descent on Lynch Hill and I was back in transition. I had been working on getting off the bike with my shoes still on the pedals, so I went for it! Made running into transition a lot easier.

T2: Bike stuff off, run stuff on. As I was running out of T2 a group of people started cheering me on. Clearly TCSD members, but why were they just standing around?

Run: Amazed at how good my legs felt coming off the bike. OK, good is a relative term, but I think the BH Bricks are doing the trick! They did try to cramp, but I took a few salt tabs, although I am not convinced that was the problem.

The first part was rolling which I used to get my legs into it. Then I hit the hills. This is where it got really mental for me. Legs just plain hurt and running on very uneven ground uphill was not making them feel any better. I was able to find some crazy inner strength and really push through it. I just kept thinking of all of the training I had been doing and picked out some key workouts to help me remember how well my legs know how to run. I am pretty sure I looked really gimpy at times, and the people behind me were probably laughing, but at least I kept running. I think 75% of people were walking at that time!

Just when I thought the hills would never end and I was cursing under my breath (or was that out loud?) a huge downhill appeared and I was on to flatter terrain. The steep downhill was a bit tricky to navigate as my legs felt like two wet noodles attached to my body and I could no longer feel my feet. It's amazing I didn't fall flat on my face!

Cruised through the campgrounds which helped pass the time seeing and hearing everyone cheering. It then began to get really hot, especially since we were on asphalt. I got the good idea to have the aid-station volunteers dump cups of water on me, which help to cool me off. I continued this through the rest of the run. Luckily no one decided to dump Gatorade on me...

The out-and-back was another good mental challenge as I was running out all downhill and trying not to focus on the fact that I would have to run back up the hill. This is also where I realized something was really wrong with the course marking. I saw the mile 11 marker but knew we had a lot more than 2 miles left. Couldn't really figure it out due to race induced stupidity. Someone told me later that they accidentally put mile marker 8 at mile 7 and it was all messed up from there.

The course ended with a huge downhill and then flat into the chute. I took it pretty hard down the hill, still trying not to trip and then sprinted the chute to VICTORY! I could barely believe it when I saw the clock and realized I had PR'ed in a big way! I got all choked up.

Hung-out at the finish to see Jen cross and then we went straight for the food. I was super happy not to be in Medical this time. Once we fueled up, it was down to the lake for a post-race float/ice bath. Think this really helped with the recovery! Then off to the TCSD BBQ and party. I'm really lucky to be part of such a supportive group!

Breakfast: Banana, PB&J, a cup of coffee with milk and a bottle of water with 1 scoop CarboPro and 1 MotorTab.
Pre-Swim: 1/2 Bag Sport Beans
Bike: Aero Bottle (32oz) with 2Motor Tabs and 2 Scoops Carbo Pro, Concentrate Bottle (24oz) 2 Motor Tabs and 3 Scoops CarboPro, 4 Shot Blocks, 1 Bonk Breaker, 8 salt tabs and as much water as I could get in. Total 1135 cals. Ate BB mile 5-30 which worked better than later in race. Run: 1 package Shot Blocks, 4 Sport Beans, 6 Salt Tabs and as much water as I could handle.
A little less cals then before, but I think I am really getting the nutrition dialed in. Really just depends on what my stomach will accept on that day.

I really did not know what to expect of this race as I had heard it was such a tough course. I went into it with the attitude that I was going to have fun above anything else. This went a long way in helping me keep my focus for the entire race. It was the complete opposite of O'side. I felt in control of my race the entire time. Not only has all of the training paid off physically, but I really think it is paying off mentally as well. My body felt strong the entire race, despite the pain the course was trying to inflict. Mentally I was super focused. I was able to recall key training days, ie Palomar climb, Hill repeats, and remember how I just kept going. I'm pretty sure luck was on my side too! I'll be back next year!

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