Race Recap: #OperationWildflower

Wow, I can’t believe it’s already been about two weeks since I raced at the Wildflower Triathlon Festival. Not going to lie, two weeks later, and I’m still savoring my sweet finish. Lake San Antonio and TriCalifornia Events did not do me dirty that weekend. 🙂

First Olympic Triathlon Done!

The long awaited race recap is finally here. I still tear up whenever I think about this race. In one word: EPIC. To date, it is now my most memorable race. (Though redemption at Folsom might be coming soon to replace that.) ANYWAY. Here’s how the race went down:

In a Nutshell: The Wildflower Triathlons featured a more unique course this year. Due to the drought in California, our normal 10k run was split into two runs. Instead of a .93-mile swim, T1, 24.8-mile bike, T2, 6.2-mile run, finish, the course went like .93-mile swim, T1A, 2.2-mile run, T1B, 24.8-mile bike, T2, 4-mile run, finish. Did that even make sense? Oh well, you’ll see the breakdown right now…

Pre-Race Expectations: When I trained the bike course about a month before race day, it took me about 3.5 hours. I based my entire race time around how long it would take me to get through the bike course: I set a goal for 5.5-6 hours. My mom, however, had a different goal in mind: I was to finish in no more than 5 hours. Geez, thanks mom! I didn’t let that goal phase me, I still decided that 5.5-6 hours was a great cushion of time.

Race Morning: My teammates and I headed down super early to T1A to set up at Harris Creek. I was in the 25-29B group, which meant I was going off at 10:20am- A whole 1 hour and 20 minutes after the collegiate waves went off. Being down at T1A early meant waiting around. I actually made friends with the girl who was one number off from me. (Turns out, our bibs were one number apart, we had the same bike [literally, down to the color] and lived in NorCal! Small world!) I wandered around looking for more of my teammates, and was lucky to catch Adrian and Trevor before their wave went off at 9:15am. After they were gone, I went back up to my area, and tried to calm myself down. Race day was finally here, and I wasn’t sure how to feel about it!

The Swim – .93-mile – 39:13
During training, I always felt super slow when swimming. I couldn’t gauge how my progress was going (both in the pool and OWS), so I wasn’t sure how long it would take me to get through this. I gave myself a time limit of 1 hour.

I was able to get into the water about 2 minutes before my wave went off. Man, everyone wasn’t joking when they said that the water was cloudy. I guess it makes sense, we’re pretty much swimming at the bottom of (what’s left of) Lake San Antonio. I got back up to the shore to get ready for our mass run in start. I decided to stay at the back of the pack because I felt like a slow swimmer, and boy was it true when our wave got the green light to start!

All of these swimmers were passing me by, but I tried not to get super discouraged. In the worlds of Dory, I just kept swimming. At one point, I was having trouble sighting the buoys because the boats that were in the lake were in the way. I kept sighting the wrong buoy and the lifeguards had to tell me to swim the other way. That was frustrating. I kept on trekking on, and it got to the point where the wave after me started to pass me up. I’m pretty sure the wave after that started to pass me up also. 😛 I kept up what I felt was a decent pace for me. I knew I had a lot left to endure after this swim, so I didn’t go as hard.

When I started sighting the finish of the swim, I felt pretty good, physically and mentally. I heard my name being called out on the loud speaker once I got out of the water, and I knew that my swim was done. At that time, I didn’t know what my swim time was, but it didn’t matter. It was done. On to the next!

The first Run – 2.2-miles (~32:40 per Garmin)
After what seemed like a long transition (I had trouble getting that darned wetsuit off – of course that would happen on race day.), I was out on the first run back towards the actual bike transition area. I forgot sunblock, head protection and sunglasses. Awesome. I threw on my Garmin, and after it synced to the satellites, I saw that it was about 11:11am, which at the time, meant I wasn’t in the water for an hour like I expected. I started getting ahead of myself, that maybe I might come in a little faster than my goal time.

So those 2.2-miles? Not that great. The first mile was probably half pavement/half sand. Yes, as in like beach sand. The second mile was entirely sand! It literally took us through the bottom of the lake, in what was supposed to be water. Heh, yea. I don’t like running in sand. Even though it was mostly flat, it was hard. No lie.

I saw my Bangarang teammates, and my family waiting for me near the finish of the run. So nice to see some familiar faces and to have people screaming at me that I’m doing great. I really needed that, because everyone who talked to me leading up to race day, knew I had some doubts about this race.

Coming in from the 2.2mi run

The Bike – 24.8 miles – 2:24:09
This was the moment of truth. The bike ride. My weakest discipline. I slowly made my way to the mounting line, and clipped myself in. There was no turning back.

The Lynch Hill Climb was no joke the first time around, and it was no joke the second time around. I can say I probably took about the same amount of time to get up as I did the first time. It’s literally a freaking mile of uphill. (I am not strong on hills, both on cycling and running. haha) But at the top, I was greeted by some TNT coaches, and my Fil-Am Tri teammates. I don’t think they recognized me until last minute since I wasn’t wearing the team kit, but I did hear them screaming my name as I passed them.

About to tackle the bike course

I took into account all of the hill repeats I did with my bike in the month leading up to training. I figured, it had to do me some good, right? Still hoping to get a 3:30 bike time, I went up those hills as best as I could, without burning myself out for the 4-mile run that was to follow. I do pretty well on flats, so I definitely took advantage of those whenever they came around.

It was a hot one out there, and even though I was one of the slower ones on the bike course, I was SO GLAD to see volunteers still out on the course with water bottles. I drenched myself, and my head, and stayed hydrated. I stayed properly fueled with my Bonk Breaker bar and PowerBar Energy Gels- If I didn’t, I would’ve hit the wall FAST.

I was slowly, I mean really slowly, starting to lose my mental game out there though. I began humming to myself. I started talking out loud to myself. Yes, if anyone was passing me, they probably heard me say, “You did this once, you can f*cking do it again.” I was not going to lose out to my mental game like I did the first time around.

I really started to get emotional on the inside once I made that final turn back down Lynch Hill. Well, at least I probably thought I was crying happy tears. It was also because I was going downhill really fast! 😛 I bombed down Lynch Hill as fast and as safely as possible, making sure I didn’t run over any runners in the process.

The Final Run – 4-miles (~1:01:34 per Garmin)
I knew I had done that bike ride faster that I did the first time, but the race was not done! I had just 4-miles to get out and do before I can say I was a Wildflower Triathlete. I saw my teammates and my family once again as I was coming out of transition. My mom ran with me for about a minute, letting me know that I was doing awesome and that I looked good. I had no idea what to expect on this run, we didn’t train it when we went up the month before.

The first two miles were a little bit of hill climbs followed by one long climb; I found out that that first climb is a part of the Long Course bike course. Man, I was so glad we didn’t have to bike up that… But anyway, I actually caught up with my teammate, Adrian, a little bit after I started the run. We both walked up the long hill (I think it’s Beach Hill? That’s what I heard people calling it.) and it was still hot! He was cramping a bit but I told him to just keep moving on as best as he could and keep drinking! I left him once the trail started going downhill a bit. I kept a decent pace going, but once I got to Lynch Hill (which was luckily a downhill run), I ran down as fast as I could, even coming in with a negative split on that last mile.

Starting the final leg: 4mi run!

The Finish
Following Lynch Hill was the final turn into the finish chute. There was a slight curve so I couldn’t see the actual finish for a bit, but the moment I turned that corner, I saw it. With the grandstands at my right, and more spectators at my left, there was the finish.

And right underneath that finish arch, complete with my medal? My mom. She was screaming at me, cheering me on.

Fist-pumping down the finish chute

At that moment, tunnel vision kicked in and all I could focus on was running to my mom. I gave whatever was left in my heart, mind and body and pushed my way to the finish. I fist-pumped my way down the chute, and the moment I crossed that timing belt, I ran right into my mom’s arms. (She somehow managed to get my medal around my big head too… lol)

Straight into my mom’s arms

And that was it. Every doubt that crossed my mind before and during my race was gone once I hit that arch. So many emotions ran through me, and yes, tears were shed. But my first Olympic triathlon was done. Oh, and that 5.5-hour time goal that I set for myself? I smashed on it. I even smashed on my mom’s goal of 5-hours. I came in at 4:53:20, which is a huge accomplishment! Now it sets up a goal time to beat for next year. 😉

Well-earned medal, pasta and towel 🙂

A huge thank you to my parents and baby brother for making the trek out to Lake San Antonio to watch me race. Thank you, mom, for pushing me out of my comfort zone during training and for being that final push to my medal. Thank you, daddy, for videotaping the events throughout the weekend. Thank you, baby bro, for being my “personal” photographer. (He took the awesome pictures above!)

Thank you to my Bangarang Runners- I honestly wouldn’t even have registered for this race if it weren’t for you guys. Thank you so much for believing in me when I didn’t believe in myself. Thank you for the early mornings out to train or support each other at a race. And thank you for being so welcoming; you guys are my second family. I look forward to so many more races and events with you guys!

Thank you to Fil-Am Tri, and to everyone else who was there at Wildflower as support. Thank you to everyone who was supporting me from wherever they were- SoCal, East Coast, back at home. Thank you, TriCal for hosting an epic weekend for all of us triathletes. And thank you to the volunteers, esp the Cal Poly kids!

A big congratulations to everyone who raced in this year’s Wildflower Triathlons. We raced a truly unique Wildflower this year, but hey, what can you expect from “The One and Only” Wildflower? 🙂

Leftovers on Sunday afternoon

Be on the look out for a video montage of the weekend’s events. I’ll hopefully have some extra time to get it put together. 🙂

Thanks for reading this long race recap. I think I got another adrenaline rush just retelling the race! Here’s to an awesome triathlon season! BANGARANG!

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5 thoughts on “Race Recap: #OperationWildflower

    • Thank you! The training really paid off. I won’t say it was an easy race – I still struggled – but it was a lot of fun. I’m considering going back next year to beat that time!

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