Sunday, May 4, 2008

Wildflower

For those of you who care, this used to be called the Jamba Juice Wildflower Triathlon, but Jamba Juice the smoothie company was replaced by Avia the shoe company.

Shoes are not as tasty as smoothies. A cold shoe does not feel good in your mouth on a hot day. Unlike previous year's events, you do not receive free shoes after the race in up to three flavors of your choice.

Nonetheless, in my opinion Avia turned out to be a much improved major sponsor for the race. I mean, c'mon people, shoe folks just know more about sports than do smoothie folks.

This was a big race for me. I really wanted to do well, and my goal was to crack the top 8 overall, which would be really fantastic for a race of this caliber, reputation, field, and size. I tapered for this Half-Ironman race, which I haven't yet done for any races this season. I got consistent massages from Tim at Therapeutic Approach Massage. I carbohydrate loaded, using sweet potatoes, oatmeal, Bumblebars, and any other gluten-low carbohydrate I could get my hands on, so I was eating 85% carbohydrate diet by Friday (the day before race day).

I was a lean, man-sized, well-massaged, breadstick.

My strategy for this race was to swim consistently and with focus, using the new swim techniques I learned from Peter Reid and Chuckie V down in California at Solvang Triathlon camp 4 weeks ago. Chuckie told me I can be first out of the water at Ironman and that is now my new goal. I will achieve this goal by either practicing in my races leading up to Ironman or by growing my toenails longer. Hopefully the former.

My strategy was to ride a much lighter and more aerodynamic bike than I have been riding in my races thus far, and to ride at a consistent power on the highly undulating course (meaning ride the downhills and uphills at similar power or perceived exertion). Ian Dewar, the Specialized guru, was kind enough to allow me to ride a Transition S-Works. I also practiced consistent power output on the Computrainer.

My strategy was to not repeat the mistakes of 2007 and actually allow early jack-rabbit half marathoners to pass me in the first 6-7 miles while I stayed relatively aerobic, rather than attempting to match their pace out of the gate and suffer later in the race. OK, this basically means I didn't want to puke in a trash can like at Troika half ironman.

I came to the Wildflower festival, a massive enclave of tents and triathletes, on Thu night. A huge thanks to Markham Homes for the posh first class flight and spacious leg room, and to Bumblebar, for the highly efficient Toyota Prius that purred like a kitten with the gas pedal floored at breakneck highway speeds of approximately 22 miles per hour. Arriving at camp around midnight, I realized that although the weather is very hot (medical tent capable) during the day, it is very cold (shrinking gonad capable) during the night. I do not like to lie awake at 4am deliberating whether to go outside to empty my screaming bladder or to stay in my warm sleeping bag and stay awake trying to hold back the floodgates.

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes was kind enough to allow me to stay at their campsite and use a sleeping bag. In exchange, I was required to become a monk and castrate myself on the crest of a high hill. No, actually, these folks are awesome and I had the cool opportunity to assist at the FCA booth during the expo on Friday and to pray with other athletes at the Iron Prayer on Friday night. It's very humbling to be reminded how very small we are in the very large scheme of eternity, and before a big race even more meaningful.

Sipped nuun all day long to stay hydrated. They have a really fantastic new product that will hopefully hit retailers like Whole Foods Markets very soon. It's all natural hydration and electrolytes, in yuppie flavors like Goji Berry Green Tea Lemon Ginger. Or something. Anyways, it rocks. I also lived on my chocolate Bumblebars and decaf coffee (yes I wean myself from caffeine beginning 4 days prior to any big race).

I felt great on Saturday morning. Perfectly rested, in part thanks to Millennium Sports Somnidren GH Sleep Aid product. I put one tablespoon under my tongue and I'm literally out of commission within 10 minutes. So sound asleep that I wouldn't even know if I crapped my own pants, just like my little boys at home. I also loaded with Millennium Sports Cordygen VO2 product prior to this race.

Transition set-up was smooth. Warm-up was smooth. I swear, it was just a perfect day leading up to the race. On these type of days, I'm always careful of Murphy's Law, which states that when everything is going right, something really, really, really bad will happen. So based on the smoothness of the morning, I expected a set of deer antlers to pop out of my stomach, or something crazy like that that would leave me unable to wear a wetsuit or ride a bike in the aero position, or run without veering off course to chase the female deer.

The swim was fantastic. I was wearing the new Blue Seventy Helix Wetsuit and it literally felt molded to my body. I started the swim a bit slow, but ended it swimming through most of my age group and came out of the water with a time of 26:54. This is how I usually swim. I should probably come out faster in the future so I can draft on those leaders, rather than letting them open up a gap that I consistently gain on but never close. Something to work on. By the way, I used the Element goggles with the Metallic lenses. The visibility on those are unparalleled. I wore them all the way home on the airplane after the race, and I could see just fine. I don't know why the flight stewardess kept asking me if I also wanted a flotation vest.

OK, back to the race. First transition! Grabbed my super light, unbreakable TN sunglasses, strapped on my helmet and headed out on the bike!

Well folks, all I can say about the Specialized Transition S-Works is that it is the most clean, comfortable, smooth power I have ever experienced in my life while pedaling an object with two wheels. From the minute I ran it out of T1 and took off up Beach Hill, the first steep hill out of transition, I never looked back. As soon as your drop into the forward rotated aero position on this machine, everything feels like a downhill. And that's a lot to say for a very difficult, hilly, Wildflower bike course. I knew the bike was really sailing when, at 25 miles into the 56 mile bike loop, I was already beginning to ride through the *men's* pro field, who started the swim 10 minutes before me. The bike felt so strong and smooth that I kept wanting more gears! I don't care what you say about the whole "engine vs. bike" argument. This bike made the day for me. Period.

I was riding it as a loaner from Specialized, and Ian had dialed in all my geometries earlier that week, so it was set up with the same seat height, reach to the aerobars, seat fore-aft position, and drop as my home bike (A 2007 Specialized Transition Expert). We're hoping that my actual bike, a very comparable Specialized Transition Pro, will arrive in time for Blue Lake Championships on June 14 and Ironman Coeur D' Alene on June 21st. During the bike portion, I used a Zipp 606 Wheelset from WheelSport East, 1 aero bottle of clean water and 1 down tube bottle of 650 calories of Hammer Gel Perpetuum, and 3 GU gels taped to my top tube. I also had a film canister full of Endurolyte tabs, enough for 4 per hour. I have to say, I really missed my comfy Cee Gees aeropads, and the shoulders were a bit sore afterwards from not having those pillows!

Bike split was 2:32:28.

T2 was smooth and perfect. I split myself at 3:03 going into the run. My legs felt very fresh starting off, but I remembered my race strategy and held back. I knew that there were 4 or 5 age-groupers ahead of me, based off what people were telling me coming out of transition. It was torture for me to not run hard and try to chase them down, but I forced myself to stay as aerobic as possible through all the hills up to mile 6 and a half or so. I maintained 50-100 calories of GU gel every 2-3 miles, along with 1 Endurolyte capsule. The run course is extremely hilly and difficult, and I knew it would be key to stick to my plan, like sticky rice. Or apple juice. Or the floor of a movie theater. Or me, after camping for 3 days without a shower.

Finally, 6 and a half miles came around and I took off like a bat out of hell. Or an omelette off a greased pan. Or a baby out of a cervical canal. Or me, out of any Orlando Bloom film. I love my sticky and fast analogies.

I passed three age groupers when I actually started moving on the run. It felt great to "open up", even though it hurt, like a 10 on a scale of 1-10 as I made it through the last 1.5 miles. I pretty much quit eating at mile 9 because I knew I would need as much blood flow as possible to my muscles.

As I flew down Lynch Hill, the final descent, I knew this was going to be a great race. I didn't even look at my watch for my splits on the latter part of this run. I didn't care. I knew it was good. I also knew it was good that I reverse tied my elastic shoelaces so my feet didn't explode out the front of my toebox on that last downhill.

Final results run: 1:31:09. 4th age group, 5th overall.

After the race, I sucked down 8 Recoverease, a steak sandwich, and about 8 pints of gelato in a comedically oversized waffle cone. I think I also ate a small sparrow that was nestled amongst the waffle conage, but it was hard to tell at that point.

I would have to say that one of the best parts about the whole weekend experience was being a part of the massive multi-sport festival that takes place when more than 5000 participants are camped at the edge of Lake San Antonio for one big Woodstock style party. Saturday night after the race, I ended up at the Avia party with world champions Chris McCormack and Sam McGlone, as well as other triathlon legends like Scott Tinley and Kenny Souza. It was great to sit around, eat smores, and rub elbows with the most talented athletes in the sports.

So that's a wrap! Next race is the June 7 ITU World Championships in Vancouver, an even MORE important race than Wildflower, and a very spectacular venue.
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