After your cycling tour around Lake San Antonio you will arrive back at T2 ready for more hills on the Wildflower run course. It is predominantly off road trails and wides through the park and campgrounds.
- The first two miles will be on the same road you rode on to start the bike ride. It has short uphills and downhills. Stay relaxed on the uphills, take quick steps and allow the legs to build into the run. It might not feel great at the beginning but you will find a rhythm.
- Instead of heading up Beech Hill, runners will continue straight onto a trail that will take you back towards the swim start. Once you get to Harris Creek you will encounter your first longer climb on the course. Hopefully, by this point, you have found your running legs. In the past, I have found this hill challenging because the road is straight and you can see how far you have to go to get to the top. Try to focus on each step, tick them off and soon enough you will be at the top!
- After the hill you will drop back down onto a trail that parallels the south end of the lake. The last couple years this has been the most challenging section of the run for me. There are no spectators on this part of the course. It is also very sunny and warm. Make sure you hit this section ready to go and prepared for the challenge. Fortunately, the one savior here are the aide stations. The volunteers are super supportive and tell you how great and awesome you are. They are so convincing I actually believe them. Their enthusiasm has really helped me in the past.
- At mile four you will turn inland. This is the BIG CLIMB up Long Valley. I’ll be honest, it has been quite daunting to me, especially because I know it is coming. And, of course, I am writing about it and warning you but it is not my intention to scare you! I want you to be ready mentally for the challenge. It’s going to be hard, that is a given, and I think having a plan can help quite a bit in tackling this part of the course. There are some very steep sections where it is best to hike. I have heard some of the top professionals, like Jesse Thomas—a four time winner, hike sections of this hill. Last year I was walking faster than a guy who was trying to run. He was just bouncing up and down in place and elevating his heart rate. He even looked over at me and grumbled, “hiking might be a smart idea.” The key is to hike when you need and then get those feet moving again quickly! Pick a spot where you will start to run again and stick to it. Also, if you wear a watch that displays your mile pace just ignore it at this point. SERIOUSLY, do not look at it. The goal is to get up this hill as quickly as possible without blowing yourself up and sacrificing the pace you will be able to maintain later on in the race.
- The downhill after the climb can be every bit as challenging. It is steep and on loose gravel, especially if there has been no rain. Be careful and remain in control. There is no need to face plant here.
- Congratulations—the major climbs are now over! You will make your way back into the park and towards the campgrounds. There are some rolling hills but nothing that compares to the hills in the first five miles of the course. Plus, the number of people cheering will begin to increase. I always get a big jolt of energy from the crowds when I start to run through the campgrounds.
- Make sure to keep focused on your nutrition here—you still have four miles to go. There is no shade so if the sun is shining it will be warm.
- At mile nine you will make a left onto the road (instead of dropping down into the “pit”) and head back towards the top of Lynch Hill. This is a one mile steady ascent and it can burn near the end of the race. Stayed relaxed and focused–you are almost there!
- Once you reach the top of the hill you will make a right turn and head down Lynch Hill to the finish line. Let the stride lengthen, get the turnover going and stay focused. Some downhill run training before the race can help you perfect your form and get the legs used to the pounding. When you reach the bottom there is about 300m to run before you cross the finish line.
- And there you have it—you finished Wildflower. You will be tired and sore but nothing that a good meal and a beer next to the campfire can’t cure. And maybe even some S’Mores for dessert!
- Lake San Antonio is out in the middle of nowhere. Major stores are going to be a 60 minute plus drive. Be prepared and bring extras of key supplies. My car is always packed with “just in case” items, particularly for my bike! Sports Basement does have a tent down at the expo with supplies but you are not guaranteed they will have EXACTLY what you need. So, if you are picky, your bike is complicated or you just want to save yourself a potential freak out—throw it in the car!
- There are quite a few food vendors at the race expo. However, make sure you bring the staples you like to eat before a race. I cook my pre-race dinner at home and bring it in a cooler so all I have to do is heat it up.
- Bring warm clothes, the mornings and evenings can be chilly when the sun is not up. A hat, gloves and warm socks are good to sleep in so you stay toasty and do not waste energy shivering.
- Toilet paper—bring extra. In addition, the campground kind is probably not that “soft.” Everyone likes to have a happy tush.
- Bring your own drinking water. The race organizers usually put out “water monsters” but it is always good to have some at your campsite so you do not have to go wondering around to fill up frequently.
- I suggest bringing an air mattress. This can make all the difference when it comes to a good night of sleep before the race.
- Make sure to thank all the TriCalifornia Staff and their enthusiast volunteers. It truly makes the weekend special. They essentially build a city for everyone. It is a lot of work, that is for sure.
To learn more about Emily visit: http://emilycocks.com