Wildflower triathlon with a cranky twist

The training camp has flown by and its race day. I have chosen to do the Olympic distance here rather than the long course as its early in the season for me. I am feeling great and feel positive about having a solid race. It is shaping up to be another hot sunny day like it has been all week here and after the usual morning routine here in Bradley, California, walk over to Coach Todd’s house and we are off to the site at 7:30. After paying the $15 park entry fee we park the van and find the shuttle that takes us to the Harris Creek swim site. Due to the drought here it will be a unique race. They had to move the swim a few kilometers from the normal swim site, and as such after the swim we will have a 3.5 K run to the bike transition, and after the bike the ‘regular’ run less the distance of the first run.

After getting off the shuttle we get to see the new swim site for the first time. The transition is on a long fairly steep boat ramp. The guys that raced the long course yesterday gave us a few tips and observations about the race course. They suggested to find a spot near the white mat that covers the lower part of the boat ramp to avoid the rough surface of the ramp when exiting the water. The water is apparently also pitch black the first and last 50 meters of the swim course and the 3.5 k run to T1B is quite sandy, hilly, and tough.

We run into birthday boy Ken and Mike at the top of the ramp (the four of us are racing today but it has to be noted that Mike also did the long course yesterday and is going for the Wildflower squared). Todd and I (our race numbers are a few digits apart and are in the same age category) find a nice spot on the ramp close to the end of the white mat. Based on what will happen later, I think I created some much needed good karma the next few minutes. Todd forgot his towel, so we share my trusted grey towel after exiting the water (as he will be long gone by the time I exit the water) and lend Jordan Bryden my back-up goggles as he couldn’t find his.

It’s time to put the wetsuit on and then slowly walk down to the swim start. They make a nice announcement over the intercom about last year’s 40-45 age group winner Todd Malcolm and how he is here to defend his title and they nicely promote No Limits. Nice gesture! The wave starts are very organized and we have a few minutes to actually warm up. As soon as I am in the water and put my head down, it’s indeed pitch black. You can’t see a thing, but am not too worried about it. Back out of the water and after a few moments time to go! Our wave group is not too big and after getting through the dark murky part of the swim find some open space and get into a rhythm right away and am feeling happy and good! I end up passing people and before the half way point start going by people with swim caps from the prior wave, so I know I am doing OK. Before I know it, I reach the dark murky water again and run up the ramp to my transition spot. I see Todd has already left, and I take my time to take the wetsuit off, put my running shoes on, and put the wetsuit, goggles and other items in the transition bag (which we will pick up after the race) and head up the rest of the ramp and start my 3.5K trail run to T1B. Am feeling good and pass a number of people before heading up the boat ramp next the bike transition. I thought the day before (when we were watching the long course athletes) I would walk this part, but decided to run up it anyway and saw some of the No Limits crew along the way. In transition put the bike shoes and helmet on, and run out of transition with the bike. This where the fun starts…

After hopping on my bike after the mount line, and turning the first corner, somehow one of my water bottles falls off the bike (bad event one). I figure that should be fine as I have another one on the bike and there are aid stations along the bike course to get more fluids. Then halfway up Lynch Hill my left shoe starts the vibrate a bit and a few meters further up the hill my left foot suddenly ends up on the pavement with my pedal and crank still attached to the bike shoe (bad event number two)! I get of my bike in some confusion and rip the crank and pedal off my shoe. I try to figure out what just happened, and put the crank back on the bike and hit it a few times against a guard rail. Of course no success… At this time Ken is heading up the hill and stops and asks me what’s going on. Show and tell him, and after some encouraging words for me off he goes. As there is an aid station at the top of the hill, I decide to walk up there and hope there will be someone there with some tools to put the crank back on. As I get closer to the top some of the crowd is cheering ‘get on the bike’, but I show them the crank and yell back that I would love to get back on the bike… As I get to the top of the hill, I ask a few people if they have any tools to fix the crank, but the answer is no, and they suggest my day is done. Somehow out of nowhere the bike support vehicle appears and he guy opens his tool box, but no screw to put the crank back on. Not really an item they would stock normally anyway… He looks at me and tells me he’s sorry, but my race day is done, but right then he hears back from the bike service tent in transition and they tell him that they may have what I need. He relays the message to me, and not ready to call it a day, I ride my bike with one crank back a few K down Lynch Hill to transition. At the corner of transition a guy with a beard (never got his name) is waiting for me, takes a look at the bike and runs off at high speed with my bike. After what seems to be a minute (but was more like 5) he comes back and while pushing my bike through the banners, yells GO! He managed to find a screw and reattached my crank! I think I told him he was my hero for fixing it and off I go again up Lynch Hill. The crank feels fine, but my right shoe doesn’t clip in properly (I suppose bad things come in three). It clicks in, but then goes right off the pedal again every time I put pressure on that foot or shift gears. I find out later that during me walking up the hill the clip-on part of the shoe got pushed up into the actual shoe and as such it could not properly attach to the pedal. One lost water bottle, one left crank falling off and one right shoe not clipping in, just not my day for cycling during a triathlon. But hey, I can keep cycling with this shoe, just have to be a bit more careful . I go on my way and, finding myself about 40 minutes back and in the middle of later wave groups, but despite the shoe issue end up passing quite a few riders. I pick up a few Gatorade bottles at the aid stations and ensure I am properly hydrated in the 30 degree heat. Once I make the half way point, I am actually thinking I can finish this thing despite the mechanical issues and start thinking happy thoughts again. Of course my time doesn’t matter anymore, and it’s now just a fun race! I pass a lot more people and my left leg is doing most of the work up the many hills to ensure I don’t fall off my bike when my right shoe slips off the pedal. I reach the many people cheering at the top of Lynch Hill and zoom down to transition and am glad to rack the bike.

Richard finishing WF 2014
Richard finishing WF 2014

I put the second pair of running shoes on, have a gel and some fluids before heading out on the run. The run follows the start of the long course bike route which means a long steep hill coming up and over a K of steep uphill running. I am feeling good, and actually run most of it and pass quite a few people. The aid stations are a lot of fun with the college students manning them and you get offered all kinds of stuff like beer, margaritas and of course water (I stuck with the latter). They are also happy to throw buckets of water all over you to cool you off, which I gladly accepted a few times. Once at the top, it’s off road on a trail for a bit with of course some more hills, and then it’s time for the final time heading down Lynch Hill, feeling I can go a while longer and then into the finish shute and I am done!! The No Limits guys are still there cheering me on, and after having some refreshments in the finish area and receiving my finisher medal, time to meet up with everyone else and we relax in the Expo area for a while and have to explain my bike misadventures a few times  All in all a great race day and a great training camp week! My positives of the race are that (other than being able to finish), I didn’t panic when the bike had its issues, I had a personal best for the swim, and felt strong during both runs.

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