Saturday, May 10, 2008


In the past, I have showed up to races exhausted, sick, hungry, and/or hungover (in my much younger, less mature days, of course) and, every once in a while, my performace far exceeds what I deserve. I spent the week of the 2006 Ironman 70.3 world championships very sick, exhausted, and mad at my poor little sister for passing her bug onto me. I ended up feeling fantastic on raceday (crash included). Likewise, I remember a particular half marathon in college in which the first several miles were tainted by Long Island Iced Tea burps from beverages consumed mere hours prior to the gun . . . PR. The point of this blog entry isn't to corrupt my underaged readers nor to convince all of you who know me better that I really am wild and hip (it is Saturday night and I'm blogging after all), but really to affirm my long-held belief that some days my body is up for racing and sometimes it isn't. I don't know that I necessarily have a whole lot of control over it. I know many triathletes who would insist that this isn't the case, and that optimal performances are always possible with proper training, rest, tapering, nutrition, supplementation, weather, etc, but having "failed" at several races for which I was, in my opinion, properly prepared, I really do think that in some races, I just don't have "it." IM Coeur d'Alene 2006 and the Grand Columbian half come to mind. I know this isn't a very proactive approach to a race, but it doesn't mean that I don't attempt to learn something from every failure, nor that and "it"less race much end in disaster.

Wildflower was one such race. Last year I made the 17 hour road trip to Lake San Antonio, California in Conrad's Xterra with Troy, Dan Schrempp, Conrad, 4 bikes, 3 tents, lots of smelly shoes and a canoe-sized cooler. It was epically fun. We scored a killer camp site with a picnic table, my college roommate Rachael came up from LA, and I laughed for all but the 5 hours I was actually racing. As an amateur, I had a breakthrough race at Lake San Antonio last year, winning the amateur race by over 11 minutes. I remember reflecting on the bike course thinking that its difficulty was seriously over-rated and that the run course was under-rated. I also remember watching the pro women start over 1 hour before me last year and thinking "I sure am glad I don't have to start yet." Fast forward 1 year . . .

It turns out that starting in the pro wave is a bit of mixed blessing. Brilliant because there aren't heaps of slow swimmers from previous waves to swim through and there is plenty of clean water to be had. However, most of you know that swimming is not my strong suit and I have an unfortunate tendency to get dropped by the rest of the pro women in the first 50 meters. Too much clean water for me really. It is going to be a lonely IM Coeur d'Alene this year if I have to do the whole 4 km by myself. I honestly haven't even been able to see the rest of the pack in my past two races. Oi Vey. My swim still ended up being 3 minutes faster than last year (mostly due to the lack of 2007's wind and chop) and 2 minutes faster than the California 70.3, so I didn't much mind heading out onto the bike by myself (as fast male age-groupers streamed by, that is).

After all the pre-race nerves before Oceanside, I was strangely calm before this swim start. Too calm perhaps. I suppose I experience the worst in Oceanside (a completely solo swim), so there wasn't anything to fear.

The second I got out of the water, however, I felt horrible. T1 went smoothly enough, but as soon as I mounted my bike, the hurt began. This sensation usually happens when I'm tired and training hard and my thighs feel "burny," but despite several days of reduced training, there wasn't an ounce of freshness in my muscles. I don't imagine that 2 days in the car is the best pre-race regime, but it's enforced rest, and it worked for me in 2007. The first big climb out of the lake basin had me wheezing like a shameless asthmatic, which is a very unusual occurence for me.

After 20 miles or so, I was able to settle into a so-so pace. It's a bit demoralizing being steadily passed by top age-group men, as opposed to steadily passing slow age-group men as I had the year before, but I know I have no control over the people around me and I can only focus on my race. I didn't do that terribly well, especially after the brutal climb at mile 40 when I caught myself repeatedly flaking out. Remember when I said that last year I thought the bike course was over-rated? I changed my mind. All said, I biked about 20 seconds faster than last year, though I was convinced that I was riding about 10 minutes slower. I don't race with a speedo or heart-rate monitor, so it's often anyone's guess.

The run stunk. I never ever felt good. I spent the first few lightly rolling miles just trying to get my heart, stomach, and breathing under control in preparation for the ruthless hills that I knew were to come. Just as I seemed to do that, the hills indeed began. So did the heat. It was probably only in the low 80s, but to us northerners, we may as well have been vortexed to Death Valley. We had a weekend once when it got above 60 and have otherwise not been able to train in anything with short sleeves. Booties remain the standard on the bike.

Disheartened from the omission of the naked aid station at mile 4 (it cracked me up last year) I inched up the mile long, cambered dirt hill thinking "after this, everything else will feel easy." Wrong again. Somehow, in the midst of feeling awesome last year, I neglected to notice how tough all of the subsequent rollers are. I fell off the pace pretty substantially from miles 6 - 10. I actually swore off the race ever again at that point, but I reserve the right to retract that swearing off. A couple of gels at mile 10 restored a bit of wind to my sails (glycogen to my muscles?) and I pushed through to the end. I didn't realize it until after I got home, but I actually ran almost 2 minutes faster than last year, so I am retrospectively pleased with that fact. It just felt so slow.
Pushing down the finish chute my lips and fingers went numb and began to tingle. That's usually the sign that I've reached my limit. 12th place finish. Same as I would have been last year had I been racing pro. I'm really excited to do Boise so I can stop comparing all of my performances to last year!

Now the ode to my peeps. It turns out that the Spokane contingent pretty much rocked Wildflower! Jeff Blackwell, Sam Piccici, and Molly Obetz were all 5th in their age-groups, Ben Greenfield was 4th in his, Phaedra and Sean Linder were 8th in their age groups (Sean hadn't run in weeks due to a hip injury and still had a great race with painful aftermath, and Phaedra had a stomach bug), and Troy was 9th in his. These are huge age-groups, by the way, so everyone from our community was in the top 10% of their respective divisions. That is especially phenomenal given our cold spring and the difficult, hot conditions in California!

My carpool and camping mates, Sean, Troy, and Molly deserve special credit for being phenomenal company. They were even courteous enough to eat their post-race double doubles outside the car. Our campsite (above) wasn't exactly the paradise we scored last year, but it's amazing how a patch of grass can become home. Sean even sacrificed his tent fly so we had something to sit on. Unfortunately, this didn't provide much in the way of shade or peace from the early morning parking directors with megaphones. "Why did Ken send those guys down the hill?!!" When there are 30-something hours of driving, several nights of camping, and a mere 5 hours of racing, the race itself is almost seems like an afterthought. I cannot believe how well the trip has gone both years. I do not like sitting in cars, and the hours on the road flew by (perhaps that's easy for me to say since Troy did all of the driving). It may have been our reminicing about Conrad and his love for horses, the sagacious advice of Dr. Laura, or Molly's constant narrative (I can clearly see yr nuts!), but regardless, it was so fun I think I might just have to do it again.
Many thanks to Laura D. and Troy for the pictures!