Perspective: After Wildflower, I'm Ready for Anything

The swim start at this year's Wildflower Triathlon  Credit: Bob Read
In the weeks leading up to the Wildflower Triathlon, I heard two things about the race: It was a beautiful course, and it was hard.

Actually, everyone from the pros to the age-groupers said its the hardest half-Ironman in the world.

But the difficulty of the course isn't the only unique thing about Wildflower.

Triathletes had come from all over to compete and hang out. The athletes, spectators and volunteers all camped at the race site at Lake San Antonio, making it one big social event.

Everyone was perfectly fit and tan and rode fantastic bikes.

Coming from Seattle with an injury, I wasn't as fit as I wanted to be, and I definitely wasn't tan. And since this was to be my first half-Ironman, I was just a little nervous.

I was expecting the hilly bike course to take me though the fire and brimstone of hell. As I exited the first transition and started riding my bike, I kept waiting for the course to turn unbearably difficult. It didn't.

Instead, the bike course followed rolling hills though farms and vineyards surrounding the lake on a sunny California day.

These things tend to get exaggerated. The course isn't really that hard, I thought.

I slowly pedaled up the big hill at mile 42, and cruised down the other side. As a matter of fact, I was having fun. I like racing, I thought.

Then I started the run, and realized I was wrong. Of course the fire and brimstone weren't on the bike course, because they were strategically placed along the hilly run course.

It was hot and dusty and the trails led either straight uphill or straight downhill. At one point I was running so slowly up a hill that I realized I could make better time by walking, so I did.

I stopped looking at the beautiful course and instead looked vainly ahead for the next aid station staffed by armies of enthusiastic, helpful Cal-Poly students.

Spectators lined the sides of the course in lounge chairs. The Cal-Poly student volunteers drank beer in large groups. Everyone was cheering. I was sunburned, and I decided I didn't like racing after all.

It was all over soon enough, and after some time spent getting re-hydrated under the shade of a large tree at the finish area, I felt pretty good about the race. Despite my slow time, I had finished third in my age group.

I had come to Wildflower to test myself, to see how far my training had brought me and to build my confidence for an attempt at Ironman Switzerland this August.

I learned two things: I have a lot of training to do in the next 10 weeks, and I know I will be able do an Ironman.

There's nothing like being surrounded by thousands of fit triathletes to get you motivated for training. After Wildflower, I'm sure I can handle almost anything.

[Editor's note: This article was originally published in May, 2000. Course descriptions may not be current.]

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