Friday, May 9, 2014


Every year since I moved to California I have looked forward to Wildflower race weekend. TriCal does an amazing job of creating an awesome experience for everyone who comes to race and hang out at the lake. It is low key but serves up a killer course and lots of pain every year. Honestly, I think I forget how tough it is until I am on the course and then I wonder why the heck I like it so much. This year the Harris Creek ramp (photo below) started the suffering and it did not end until I crossed the finish line 4.5 hours later. However, once it's over I am already planning my return because with a course like that I don't think you ever really conquer it---you just try to come up with ways to deal with it more effectively the following year.

View from Cabin 12. Overlooking the "lake" and T1(b).
With the lake levels "low" (AKA non-existent) the swim was moved 2.2 miles away from the normal Lynch area transition. This definitely created a different dynamic to the race. For me, it met that I stirred up lots of lactic acid in my legs BEFORE jumping on my bike to climb up Beech Hill and then out of the park and this proved to be quite a challenge for me. 

The swim was WAY down there where you can see a little water. We ran through the dry lake bed to get to our bikes.
The ramp we had to run up after the swim. Ouch. My heart rate was a bit elevated at the top. (Photo from Laura Siddall)
 The swim went well for me. I felt great in the water. It was a perk to be following some guy named Doug (they told his name before we started) in a kayak. I took a peek behind me at a couple buoys to confirm no one was sitting on my feet and was motivated by the gap I had created. I came out of the water and threw on my shoes in T1(a) and started the run up the ramp. Since I was first out of the water there was quite a bit of cheering and lots of people getting ready to start their days. The energy was great but at this point my legs were not. However, it was right out of the swim so I took it one step at a time, tried not to over stride up the hill and then get a rhythm going on the rollers through the lake bed. I waffled with how hard to run...too hard and I would blow myself up and ride crappy at the beginning of the bike but not hard enough and everyone would catch me??? Well, as it turns out I should have just run super hard because my legs felt terrible anyway when I got on the bike. I mean, really, I don't know how much worse they could have felt.

Doing what I could on the bike. (Photo Credit: Eric Larson,
For all those who have not done Wildflower the bike is hilly most of the ride. Once you make a right turn onto Jolon Road at mile 19 you can get a good rhythm going and it is relatively "flat" but other than that section it is up and down. I was descending well but I had no pop in my legs. I tried to fake it but when your legs are flat and the course is not your ride definitely suffers. Each uphill was a huge challenge and it got to me physically, and mentally, during the ride. I focused on staying hydrated and eating my Powergels because I held out hope that a lackluster ride could yield a good run. It has happened in the past and since my belief in a turnaround with my bike legs faded with each passing mile I had to stay positive and believe a solid run was a possibility.  

The legs were average on the day so I got as aero as I could...minus the crooked helmet.  (Photo Credit: Eric Larson,
I fell to 5th during the bike leg after Carrie Lester passed me on Nasty Grade. I saw her behind me at mile 20 and was able to ride solidly on Jolon Rd. and on the rollers before the climb by getting as aerodynamic as possible. Unfortunately, once we started climbing she dropped me.

I started the run and truly believed I could salvage something on the day. However, a couple miles into it I began to lose hope. I gave myself nutrition and willed the legs to come around. I was starting to wonder if everyone in the field was going to pass me. I fell to 6th and then to 7th. I hit the huge uphill at mile 4-5 (6-7 when you add the first run) and wanted so badly to stop. The hill was stupid, I hated it and I cursed it for existing and I wondered why I was doing this to myself. There are a couple sections on the hill where it is faster to power hike, at least for me, and when I was hiking I said out loud to myself "get it together." I picked a spot where I was going to start running again and no matter what I was not going to walk again. I took 2 powergels with caffeine in less than a mile because I figured they would help, or, worst case scenario, I would get some stomach distress. At that point either option was preferable to the way I was feeling.

As I started to come back into the park and run through the campgrounds I saw the woman who passed me for 6th just ahead of me. She looked to be struggling slightly on a few uphills. I knew there was a longer uphill on the road through one of the campgrounds and I made it my plan to put in a surge there, make the pass and then create a gap. Much to my surprise, it worked! I was running next to a guy from the EMJ Triathlon Team so I breathlessly told him my name and suggested we help each other get to the finish line. He was game and we ran strong the rest of the way. When I was lagging he would keep the pace honest and provide encouragement and I did the same when he felt a little fatigued. I was still running scared from Sue (super strong runner) so having someone to help me stay focused was huge. I knew if I got to the top of the Lynch downhill with a gap I could probably hold on unless I face planted on the descent to the finish line.

I ended up 6th. At first, I was disappointed with my day but when I look back I made the best of a race when I had limited energy in my legs. I definitely had some low points that might have been more mental vs. physical so I need to work on improving that aspect of my racing. Either way, it was a hard effort and it made me stronger. It was a plus to finish the run strong as well.

Breakfast Burritos post race prepared by Charisa's father. (Photo from Laura Siddall
The one thing I really love about Wildflower is the fun before and after the race. We had a great cabin of people and enjoyed the weekend together. Fun times like that will bring me back every year. And Charisa's mom sent her up with Chocolate Peanut Butter cookies and her dad cheered for us and then made all of us breakfast (or lunch???) post race.

One of my all time favorites is next: Escape from Alcatraz. I think the water will be a touch warmer than last year!


  1. Well done, Em, you race well, think the race well, and write well. And Wildflower makes me think of driving past Jolon Road back and forth between Carmel and Oxy in LA. Also, the lyrics of one of my favorite songs about the area, "South Coast," also resonates: "South Coast the wild coast is lonely/You may win at a game at Jolon/But the lion still rules the barranca/And a man there is always alone."

  2. Nice job. John Murphy was saying you guys trained together a lot; that would be an awesome training partner! See you at Alcatraz.