I have a great deal of respect for the Wildflower Long Course Triathlon. It’s one of the most challenging 70.3 races I’ve ever done, and I know I’m not alone in saying that.

Wildflower is hilly.
Wildflower can be really hot.
And those two things make a very challenging course where things can get really ugly really fast… which is exactly what happened to me the past two years.

But coming into this year’s race, several things were different:
1)  I was in much better physical shape (thanks to my coach Alisa Benson!)
2)  I had a wealth of race day nutrition knowledge (thanks to training for an Ironman last year).
3)  I had a specific list of mistakes I did not want to repeat this year (thanks to making a lot of mistakes the past two years!)

Since there was barely any water in Lake San Antonio, this year’s course was slightly different than in the past…

Dried up Lake San Antonio… so very sad 🙁

There was literally no water in the area of the lake where we normally swim. So this year, the swim took place about 2 miles down the shore from the normal start. Before we got in the water, I heard a girl say something about wondering if we were going to get “lake beard”… I had never heard of such a thing. But, trust me friends, “lake beard” is a very real thing…

Lake Beard! Ahhahahahaha!
After the swim, we ran up the never-ending boat ramp, and over to the normal transition area via a road that was literally plowed in the dry lake bed.
Extremely low water levels = extremely long boat ramps!
Little 2-mile run to the “normal” transition area
After changing out of my sandy/wet running shoes, it was off on the bike. One thing I have learned in past years at Wildflower is that it’s really easy to go too hard on the bike. It’s also easy to skimp on nutrition. Both of these mistakes can have great consequences later on in the race. So this year, I made it a point not to go too hard, and to make sure I ate and drank enough (over the course of the bike, I had 600 calories of Fluid Performance and a 250-calorie Bonk Breaker). I also ended up dumping quite a bit of water over myself every aid station, which really helped cool me down.
Heading out on the bike
Even though I made a conscious effort to conserve energy and not go too hard on the bike, I still managed to have my fastest bike split ever on the Wildflower course… that was an encouraging thought as I made my way on to the run! 🙂
Starting the run…
Now let’s talk about the run. For me, this is where the real tough part begins at Wildflower. Since we had already run 2 miles earlier, we only had 11 miles to run at the end of the race… but that didn’t mean it was easy. The run at Wildflower is hilly and hot.
I was feeling pretty decent when I started (thanks to good nutrition on the bike). But I still tried to be extra conservative at the beginning. After a few miles, my friend Sonja pulled up beside me. (Sonja is a super awesome girl who also happens to be super fast and a great encouragement to others. I love her!) It was really great to run with Sonja for a short while and exchange some words of encouragement. But soon she was off ahead of me and I was left running by myself again.
This is where the run started to get really tough for me. It was hot and hilly. I started to feel a little light-headed, and knew that I was dehydrated. I walked a bit, but tried not to make a habit of walking for too much at a time. When I didn’t start feeling much better, I decided to make the most of every aid station that was left (one of the best decisions I made all day!). I ran the remainder of the race, but walked a few steps through every aid station. I was carrying a bottle of Fluid with me to drink throughout the run, and I started supplementing this with a little water at every aid station. I also took advantage of every person who offered to splash/dump/spray water on me. As it turns out, all those things made a HUGE difference!
The Wildflower run is hot, hilly, and just plain hard.
Soon I started to feel better. My core temperature was coming down, and I actually picked up the pace. By the time I got back to the campgrounds, I was feeling really good and strong while continuing to pick up the pace and even smile at the spectators. Running through the campgrounds at Wildflower is always one of my favorite parts of the race, and it was even better since I was finally running like I knew I was capable of!

Feeling strong, 1.5 miles from the finish… 
The finish line at Wildflower is always a very welcome sight. And this year was even more special because I knew I had finally turned around my streak of less than stellar races on this course.
The finish line!
Happy to be done, and to call it a success!

I definitely still have a lot to learn about racing long course triathlon, but this was a breakthrough race for me in many ways, which is very encouraging. Next up for me is Raleigh 70.3, where I get to travel and race with my good friend Adrienne Smith… we are going to have so much fun!

And, in case you didn’t get enough… here are a few more fun photos from my Wildflower weekend…

Taco Works Tortilla Chips – Fuel of Champions!!!
My photographer, supporter, and fiance!
On the podium!

Special thanks to the following for the support of my triathlon endeavors this year:  Champion System, Tri Running, Fluid Sports Nutrition, Scott Running Shoes, Taco Works Tortilla Chips, Profile Design, Garmin, and Tifosi.