I know I still have not yet written about Lake Sonoma. It took me awhile to be at a point where I even wanted to think about doing that, but I was there…ready to share my experience and everything I’d learned from it. I started it, but it looks like my draft may have been eaten by cyber space. But, it’s coming….I promise. But first, since it’s fresh – Wildflower.
For the first time in a long time (well, not that long I suppose…is five years a long time?), we were back at Wildflower. It finally rained, the lake finally filled, so there was a triathlon. New for this year, was a 10 ish mile trail run (it was advertised as 10, course was 10.7, and I came in just over 10.8), classic trail run style. haha. I figured, since we’d be there, I’d give it a try. It was only a few weeks after Lake Sonoma, but was only 10 miles….I’m up for that pretty much any weekend anyway.
Wildflower is the ‘Woodstock of Triathlon’, which always means it’s an adventure. It’s also over Cinqo de Mayo, which adds to the fun. It’s desert camping….so toasty during the day and freezing at night. It’s a weekend of campfires, friends, wine, and racing. It’s all fun and games once you get there. However, for me, getting there always seems to be a cluster.
The first year, I had to work, so we left late…and sat in traffic all evening. The next year, as I was loading the car (at 5pm), I find out USF had cancelled their portion of the China trip I had planned. I was leaving five days after the race….and was now homeless for a week in China with little time to fix it. The next year, I planned to work a half day, and get to camp before dark. But, the crazy man at the end of the hall had other plans and decided to tell SFPD that he had a bomb in the apartment. I got home to pick up my stuff just time for the bomb squad to evacuate the building. The whole scene was cleaned up by 5pm, but once again, I sat in traffic and got there after dark. This year, I had a plan. Work remote….ride up with Brian…book a hotel to work at during the day….have Mark pick me up on his way in. Get there long before dark. But, once again, the universe had other plans.
First, I realize that while the hotel is 20 miles away from Lake San Antonio, there arent any roads and it’s an hour and a half away. Meaning, an extra three hours of driving for Brian. At least we found out the night before and not in the moment? Silver lining, I guess. But, of course it didnt end there….work was nuts….I wasn’t completely packed on time, amongst other things. I did manage to use my lunch break to get to the other side of SFO, so that helped. But still….didnt get there until 9:30. Could’ve been sooner, but had to end up behind someone taking the winding roads into the park at 40mph. Land Rover was bored…..
Anyway…this is about the race. So, I took Friday off from work to hang out at camp with our friends. We walked down to the race expo to pick up our packets…we were early, so Brian and I enjoyed a beer from Firestone-Walker Brewery, and picked up a bottle of 15c wine (Wildflower edition) to enjoy after the race on Saturday.
Picking up my number was easy. I had the print out with the QR code as well as it added to my Apple Wallet (I’d rather be safe than sorry). I asked where the race started and if there was a map somewhere. The volunteer didnt have a map, but said it started in the Redonda Vista Campground. He told me to check with the Solutions booth next to him about a map. So another lady and I walked over to the second booth to find out. The ladies there didnt have much more info, until their boss showed up….she told us the start was behind the stage at the festival. Uh…that’s very different than the first guy told us. She figured he had it confused with the 5k. Of course, there was no rush to go tell this person they were handing out incorrect info….Race packet in hand, I went back to find the rest of the group, leaving the other runner to complain about the start time.
We picked up the rest of the packets and walked back to camp. I hid from the bugs (were the bugs always this bad??) for a bit, hung out, and had an AMAZING pasta dinner – thanks Glenn! After that, it was wine by the fire and a nice night with friends before the race.
Saturday morning, I got up with the long course triathletes….had some breakfast and watched Brian change a flat bike tire. Ugh…the last thing you want in the precious few hours before you start your race. I held a light….unfortunately, I’m not much more help than that. Nor do you want me to be. The first and only time I changed a rear tire, I didnt put it back on correctly (read: at all), and almost killed both of us. But, our friends had an extra tube, tire got changed, and shortly they were on their way to the start. And, I caught a few more hours of sleep. Maybe just another hour, but it all counts for something.
After my nap, I went out to the road to watch the long course bikes go by and cheer everyone on. I missed Courtney….by the time I realized it was her, she was gone. Brian came up maybe ten minutes after her. He stopped for a kiss and was on his way. Mark came by after that, and I headed back down to camp to get ready for my race.
The interesting thing about this race is that it started at 11:45. I’m sure there were a lot of complaints (I know I heard them) about starting so late, especially since it’s so hot. But, I feel like stuff like that is part of Wildflower. The long course athletes are still out there, for a lot longer than we were. And, we ran on the mountain bike course…trying to share trails with a bunch of mountain bikes is not an experience I would want to have. I also liked that it was a Saturday event…in the past, I always raced on Sunday, so couldnt join the party and relax with the majority of our friends who raced on Saturday.
Since I remembered the Wildflower trails being mainly fire roads, I decided to skip the ankle braces and just tape the left one. The tape lasted all of the mile and a half walk to the start line, so I ditched it when I sat down to pull all the fox tails out of my socks. I lathered up with Vaseline and was on my way.
I knew the start was behind the stage, but wasnt sure where. I asked another runner with a trail run bib on, and she told me I was looking at it. Then pointed to a small sign and chalk markings on the pavement, ‘Trail Run Start Line’. Ok, I had arrived. And had 15 minutes to spare. I made a last minute dash to the porta-potty, and chatted with the other runners. Most of which either gave a side-eye to my attire, or directly called it out. Which, on one hand, I’m sure I did look odd – I had on capri tights (I never wear shorts. Never. I dont know why. I just dont.) and a long sleeved shirt. ‘Aren’t you going to get hot?’ ‘Are you worried you’re going to overheat?’. Well, I do have a tank top on….but, I got some really good heat training advice from a friend who has run Badwater, amongst other 100+ mile races, in weather far hotter. The tip – wear a long sleeved shirt…it keeps the sun off your skin. And, drench it with water at the aid stations. You’ll stay cooler longer. If all else failed, I had the tank underneath.
Soon, we were off. The first mile and a half or so was on pavement….ouch. Wasnt this a trail run? One of the ladies I was chatting with earlier came by and reminded me that I should hydrate….’ummm….thanks, I think. But, I have run 50 milers….I think I have 10 under control….’. I was nice and toasty by the time I hit the first aid station, so I grabbed a sip of Gatorade (not my beverage of choice, but I had to hydrate and just hope it didnt make me sick), and poured a cup of water over each arm. Instant relief, instant cool, and it lasted until I got to the next aid station.
The first few miles passed in a blur, even though it was only yesterday. Somewhere around mile four, there was a hill, it was maybe a mile long climb, but had some relief for brief moments. I also think it might have been under some cover. I got to the top, hoping for an aid station, but there wasnt one. Ugh….now I was hot. But, not horribly. My shirt was still wet and I pulled the sleeves down to cover my arms and pressed on. It was hot, there wasnt much air circulation, but this wasnt Madrone. Somewhere between the hills and the heat, I realized I was passing people. That doesnt usually happen…and if it does, they usually pass me again. The only ones passing me….were long course guys. So, I pressed on.
Through a section that I learned was called the furnace and out of the park. I passed another few people. I got to one aid station….maybe right around 6 miles, and a volunteer asked if I wanted water….I took both cups and poured them over my head. He laughed as I sought out the table for a few more to pour on my shirt and finally one to drink. The routine became the same….grab a gatorade and have a few sips, grab two cups of water…one in my left hand to dump immediately over my head, one in my right hand to dump on my left shoulder and down my arm, grab two more…one in my left hand to dump on my right shoulder and down my arm, and one to drink while I walked to the last trash can. I missed the trash once….and started to pick the cup up, a volunteer quickly assured me it was ok and they had it. You can take the girl out of the ultra, but apparently, you cant take the ultra out of the girl.
Shortly after coming back into the park, there was a spectator with a hose. ‘Thumbs up for the hose’ he called. Oh…oh yes. I need that in my life. Two thumbs up! Now I was completely soaked. It was enough to keep me running into the Redonda Vista camp ground, until I walked up a small hill ;). Running through the campground was fun…lots of people out watching, waving, encouraging us. So much fun. Leaving the campground, I came up on another aid station, and Courtney came up behind me. Seeing her gave me some motivation to run to the aid station and re-soak myself with water, before hiking a hill and then jogging down past our campsite. That was a lot of fun….the rest of our friends were there cheering us on. Malia offered me a beer, but I told her I’d take it later. hehe…
Off to the next aid station, and more of the same. It was right around here that I noticed there wasnt much food….or really any, other than fruit at three of the ten aid stations. I was really hoping for something salty, but I had less than three miles to go at that point, and only one more hill. And I had water….and my soaked shirt. I’ve done more with far less.
We made our way through another campsite and out to the road, then the course split, the long course runners headed out to the infamous ‘pit’ and the trail runners toward the finish. At some point, the trail run jumped back on to the fire road (my hips and knees were very thankful), and I passed another two people. Who’s the crazy one now, friends?
One more climb, and I would be home free. There was another runner coming down towards me…looking for her friend who was right behind me. I heard her asking if she’d gotten lost. Her response, no, I’m just slow. Yup, I know how that goes. Then, before I knew it, I was making the right turn on to Lynch hill, ready for the mile descent to the finish chute. This was honestly the part of the race I was most concerned about….coming off of injury after injury, the last doctor who put me back together advised against running on pavement. And, here I was….running on pavement, for a mile downhill. I considered walking, but really didnt need to, so settled for a gentle jog. It was hot and the temperature coming off the pavement was worse. Jogging down the hill, I passed one more runner, who then passed me just before the chute. Eh…all good. No one else had passed me all day….I can handle one. So I jogged into the finish line…and realized…NO. No one had passed me all day, no one was going to now. And I took off.
The finish line at Wildflower is really like no other finish line….there are people lining the gates, people filling the grandstand, music playing….it’s a party. I was glad to be there, but the heat, the mass of people, it was all too much. I didnt even stop to get a medal before making my way to the side and resting against one of the gates. It took about three seconds for one of the medics to appear next to me. Was I going to pass out? No….I just…needed a minute. Another medic draped soaked towels on my back, which felt amazing. Exactly what I needed. Along with some water. The second medic came back with a medal for me, while the first one let me know if I didnt feel better, I could come back and get IV fluids in the medical tent. Might not have been an all bad idea, but why recover quickly when you can suffer for the afternoon. haha.
I sat in a tent at the finish line with some other athletes for ten minutes or so, before making my way to the food tent for some pretzels and weird pasta. The food situation at this race, really not the greatest. They didnt have anything salty. And only cups of water at the finish….no bottles. But, at least I had my running pack and could refill it. I headed out of the finish area to wait for Brian, since I wasnt sure where he was and didnt want to miss him.
At this point, I realized how wet and dusty I was. Completely soaking myself for the race was probably the only reason I was able to run as much as I did. However, now my body temperature was dropping and I didnt have any spare clothes. Ugh. I walked around for a bit, hoping I would dry off and warm up, but that didnt happen. My fingers started to turn white….that was exciting. So, I went to the check in tent to see if they had an extra race shirt. I figured they’d say no, and I really didnt want another shirt, but what I wanted less….to end up in the medical tent with race hypothermia. So, I asked them and luckily it wasnt a problem. Being somewhat dry made the rest of the afternoon much more bearable. I took my new shirt and medal, and waited for Brian to finish the long course.
Overall, I had a good race. I was thinking I would finish between two and three hours, really hoping I’d be under 2:30. Finish time – 2:21. I’ll take it. I looked up my times for the Olympic Tri/10k from five years ago, and I was faster then….but most of that was on the road. This was mostly trail, and longer. But, in past years, I’d swam and biked before running. So who knows. Not really comparable, but enough of a difference that I know I can do better. However, I also did well enough (for me) that I know I’m on the right track. Huge thanks to Wendell for the hot weather running tips. Now, I just need to get a few more races on the calendar so I have things to work towards.
Until the next one….