Thursday, May 05, 2011

Wildflower Long Course 2011 (AKA F#$&*n Wind!!!)

SF Tri's campsite
Friday morning before the race, Katya picked me up, we got some groceries, loaded up the bikes and headed down to Lake San Antonio. We made a quick stop in Salinas for some lunch, where I had my typical pre-race turkey sandwich at Subway, and then made our way to the campsite. When we got there, we were pleased to see that Faith and Dan and Paulo had set up our tents (thanks, guys!), so we unloaded the car a bit, said hi to everyone, and then went down Lynch Hill to the transition area to check in. I had forgotten what a long walk it is down there, but it was nice to stretch the legs after having been in the car all morning. We didn’t feel like hanging around down at transition for too long, so we picked up our stuff and took the shuttle straight back to the campsite to get settled and prepare for race morning.

Most of the evening was spent getting my bike ready, getting situated in my tent, and just relaxing. Katya and I had gotten some prepared foods at Whole Foods so we wouldn’t have to worry about cooking at the campsite – we shared some tasty orzo pasta salad, butternut squash, and I had some salmon. I don’t remember if I had one beer or two, but I wasn’t feeling it at all. More than anything, it probably just helped me sleep better. We spent some time chatting with other club members and turned in at around 10:00pm. Fortunately, it wasn’t very cold – nothing like training weekend – but I decided that I would bring along my down comforter as well as my sleeping bag. I just wrapped myself up in that bad boy and slept on top of my sleeping bag. It made for a nice soft bed, and I slept really well (except for that damn crying baby at the campsite next to us! Really, who brings a baby to Wildflower race weekend???).

Heading down to transition!
Race morning
First priority – coffee. Then breakfast, bathroom, and gear. I probably should have gotten up a little bit earlier, because I felt pretty rushed to get down to transition. Fortunately, when I actually got down Lynch Hill and into the transition area, things moved a little more smoothly. I set up my stuff, got body marked, and stood in the bathroom line. Ran into Tony Pelosi from SFRRC, so chatting with him took my mind off of the race for a bit. I wasn’t feeling stressed until I realized that I had forgotten my Gas-X (my trick to avoid air bubbles in my stomach from the swim). Crap. Oh well. I was just going to have to deal. Made it down to the water just before our wave start, but with enough time to warm up. A quick swim out and back, and I was ready to go.

Coming out of the water
 Swim – 41:47
The gun went off for our wave, and we were off. The first little section out to the buoy wasn’t too bad. The typical jockeying for position and avoiding of arms. I got hit or kicked in the goggle, and was sure that I’d end up with a black eye or something, but I came out of the swim unscathed. Worse than the kick to the face was the wind. On the way out, it wasn’t too bad – we had the wind at our backs, and even though it was a little bit choppy, we were getting a bit of assistance. When we turned around, it was a totally different story. The waves were just about face high, so every breath and every sighting attempt left me with a face full of water. There was no avoiding it. I told myself to just suck it up, and eventually made it to shore, feeling pretty beaten up. Thanks to all the water in the face, I spent a good chunk of the bike trying to burp up all the air I’d ingested to avoid intestinal issues later on (which, thankfully, were mostly avoided!).

Bike – 3:50:19
T1 was easy and pretty uneventful. Probably could have fumbled less, but I managed to get through quickly enough and onto the bike. The ride out of transition was fine, although I’m not super comfortable on all the curves in this section, especially when there are faster people trying to pass on the left. I was actually relieved to get to the first hill, and while it was tough, I made it to the top MUCH more easily than the last time around. The new bike is a dream, and makes climbing those hills so much easier!
Heading out on the bike

Out on the course, it was a little bit windy on the section out of the campgrounds and onto Interlake Road (which is where I saw the first and second place guys already heading back in from the bike!!!), but I wasn’t too worried. The wind kept up on the way out to Jolón Road, whipping through the valleys and making for some nasty crosswinds, and when we came into the clearing just before the turn onto Jolón, I knew we were screwed. We were riding into a stiff headwind and about to make a 90 degree turn, which meant we’d be fighting crosswinds for the length of Jolón, all the way to the turn toward Nasty Grade. Ugh. The crosswinds were definitely nastier than Nasty on this particular day! Add to that, a convoy of huge trucks from the nearby Army base, and it made for some very dangerous road conditions. The gust of wind coming around one of those trucks picked a cyclist up and blew him into another guy, ending both of their races and requiring an ambulance and a helicopter to get them to the hospital.

I spent 15 miles fighting the crosswinds and holding on for dear life as big trucks would pass us, sometimes, causing us to slow down, as they took up more than their fair share of the road and couldn’t climb a hill for crap. I spent a LOT of time cussing the wind and truck drivers on this particular section. It was also a bit disheartening to see so many ambulances patrolling the course – I get the feeling a lot of people had a really bad race day.

At the turn for Nasty Grade, things improved some, and the stress level came down. I started to regain some strength here, and was feeling pretty dang good by the time I got to the beginning of the climb. I just kept spinning, and when I got to the steep section, I used an M2 trick, standing for 5-10 seconds every so often to give my legs a break and gain a bit of momentum. This year, I was the one PASSING people on Nasty Grade instead of being the one getting passed. A small victory on a really crappy bike ride, but I could definitely see an improvement over a few years ago!

The back section of Nasty Grade sucks – more climbing (with crosswinds!) and a long, scary descent. I played it safe, but still probably got above 40mph going down the hill. From there, it was a piece of cake into the campsite. I came into transition feeling pretty dang good. Switched my shoes, threw on my hat, and headed out on the course.

Coming through the SF Tri campsite, feeling good!
Run – 2:22:50
The first section of the run is a lot of rollers, but there’s also a good amount of shade. I did my best to run the tangents and to take advantage of any downhills. I was still feeling good when I got to the back half, and I think I managed to run up the entire hill on the road by SF Tri’s training weekend campsite. This is the beginning of a pretty exposed section, so I took it easy. I had been planning to walk most of the uphills on this portion of the trail because it’s hot and steep. I slowly ate a Gu as I trudged up the hills, which brought me back to life by the time I got to the top of the screaming downhill that drops you out along side of the road by the park entrance.
Trying to hold it together at mile 11

By the time I got back into the park, I was feeling great, and I flew through the campsites, thanks to cheers from Tony’s rogue Lube Stop (finally, the Vaseline I’d been looking for for the past six miles!) and the GGTC and SF Tri aid stations. I kept flying on the next trail section, and then quickly downed another Gu as I approached the aid station at mile 9.

Aaaaaand that’s where the fun ended. I knew I should have taken the Gu more slowly, but it was too late. I spent most of the next four miles feeling exceptionally pukey, and so I did a lot of walking, trying to avoid losing the Gu and anything else that might come up with it. I lost a lot of time (and a course record) thanks to that stupid Gu. From now on, I’m sticking to Chomps/Clif Blocks or eating Gus much more slowly.

Finish - 7:03:05
I managed to push it a bit on the way down Lynch Hill. I just wanted to be done at that point, but even running down the chute was tough with that Gu sloshing around in there. I steered clear of the food tent, knowing that I was in no shape to eat anything, and instead walked down the hill to the transition area to get some money for a Coke. I ran into my friend Pavel (who’d had a great race), who took one look at me and said, “You don’t look so good – are you okay?” He accompanied me to the store and made sure I got my Coke, and as I regained my composure, we ran into a couple other SF Tri members and headed down to the water to soak.

By the time I made it back to the campsite, I was basically feeling like a real person again, and was able to sit down to dinner with the rest of the group. We spent most of the evening recapping the event and having a few beers before closing up shop and going to sleep. It was a rough day for most – in general, because of the wind and/or stomach issues, tweaky injuries, and other unfortunate events. Given the bad experiences this time around, I’m sure most of us will be back next year to get our revenge on Wildflower Long Course – I know I will!!!

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