Race Report: Wildflower Olympic Triathlon

Short version: Everything about the race was ok, decent, solid. Nothing was great, but nothing was bad. (OK, my bike was a little bad.) It was hot and it was rough, but I hung in there and finished 5th or so overall in 2:41 — just 3′ out of 2nd and right in the mix. Considering how really shit the last month has been, ok/decent probably is pretty much the same as super awesome. I know some odds were 2:1 on me not finishing.

Long version: Most people know that I tore a muscle in my foot last month and then shattered my front teeth about four weeks ago. Some people know that I also got sick while in Chicago and then heatstroked the fuck out of myself last week and got food poisoning (or, just couldn’t eat with being so messed up; it’s unclear). Not everyone knows the other little things that keep seemingly going wrong and how stressed I’ve been about paying the government $10,000 — stupid TurboTax — and trying to figure out how I’m going to move to LA two days after IM Canada to start a ten-month fellowship. Basically, I lost 5-7 lbs. in about a week-and-a-half simply because I couldn’t really eat anyway with my teeth or stomach or cold and anyway eating is a lot of work.

You can see how expectations might not have been totally high going into this race. Except, even though I kept saying that, I still totally expected a lot from myself. I still wanted to kill it.

Running through the "lake."
Running through the “lake.”


There was almost no chance I was going to camp at the race site — even though that’s the big thing with Wildflower — because the odds of me coming down with giardia and/or being arrested for murdering a fellow triathlete were fairly high and either would have ruined my race. Instead — after hacking up everything and blowing my nose a billion times at the motel — I showed up at 7:30 a.m. race morning, set up, caught the shuttle to the swim start. and then sat around for almost two hours waiting.

Despite that, I almost missed my start. Oops. It was just as well because the water in the new swim location was Gross. So thick with nastiness you couldn’t see your own hand. Who would have wanted to warm-up more than 1′ anyway.

I got dropped really quickly at the swim start. It was weird. I don’t think I’ve been farther back than 3rd out of the water in an age group race since, I dunno, my first race? Usually, I’m a back-of-the-first-pack swimmer. But, when I looked up after swimming hard out of the start, I expected to see a couple other people around me as we separated ourselves from the rest, and instead I saw myself separating from them. Then, I got dropped by the second pack of swimmers. I started to have an attack of confidence. And we were only 5′ into the race. Was I swimming as fast as I could? Did I get slow? Did my arms hurt so much because I was going to fall apart and not being able to finish? Ahhhhhh.

The swim went on, besides one girl grabbing me and closing her hand around my shoulder and trying to pull me under when we were totally by ourselves, and I only mildly struggled to keep my motivation up. My watch said I swam a 22:45, but the results say 22:15, so that’s actually not terrible (even if I was 10th-12th out of the water for some reason), but it’s not great. And, then, I realized: Now, I have to run!! Ugh.

Because of the drought, we had to run about 2.5 miles from the swim to our bikes, across what should be a lake but is currently a desert. This was my favorite part of the day. 1. I like running rolling trails and 2. as I explained to Steve, I’m comparatively better at running out of the swim because I’m used to being disoriented. I don’t know if I actually was running fast or if I just felt like I was because I passed some women from my wave, some women from waves before me, lots of men. And, then, just as I was wondering if I had tried to run too fast, there were our bikes. Oh wait, that means now I have to ride my bike. Ah.

The desert lake run.
The desert lake run.

I really thought I was killing it on the bike for about 20′. I didn’t have power, because my new bike set-up doesn’t have power with my race wheels, but I was doing all the things I usually do: singing Taylor Swift, checking that I was on the verge of throwing up, etc. I haven’t raced my new bike yet and I’ve been really struggling to get it to fit right and be comfortable, but I was positive it was fast. I was sure the bike was going to whisk me to a fast split. I just forgot that I had to go hard too.

About 8 miles in a girl passed me and I realized I should probably go harder. I tried to keep her in sight then and succeeded for awhile. But, it turns out: I’ve been training a lot for halves and Ironman; I have not been training for Olympic distance. And, I’m not going to be one of those douches who says Olympic is “short” and “just go hard,” because for real it’s closer to a marathon in time than a 5K. But, I kept falling into more of a tempo pace and struggling to constantly be going as hard as I could. Also Rihanna failed me as a sing-along song. With maybe a quarter left, I lost the girl. I tried to find a rhythm. I just wanted off my bike, but then I’d have to run. No winning. I genuinely thought I was going to bike a 1:19/1:20 until about the last mile of the bike. It turns out I biked a 1:23. Ew. Oh well.

The run is the most brutal part at Wildflower. It is hot and hilly. And, this year, with the amended run they added a super long steep hill. I mean crazy. It was like a death march, through which I was trying to run. I got those chills that happen when you’re so hot you get cold. At first, I tried to keep up my cadence and I passed some women. But, then some of them were actually from other waves and some of them were from mine. Both were discouraging — How are there still so many people ahead of me from my wave? Why did I just fight so hard to pass someone who started 10′ before me? I started to not care about passing people anymore. What’s the point. That’s the difference between the fire and the complacency. I went back and forth between the two. At the top of the long death hill, I told myself: It’s halfway, it’s downhill(ish), push hard all the way. And, I did. Or, I tried. It seemed like I was flying, but it gets really hard to tell if you’re going fast or not when you’re passing so many people who started so much before you. Maybe you’re just going fast in comparison?

Then, I could see the campground, which meant we were almost done and the last mile was downhill. I pushed, pushed. Passed some more women. God, how many people were ahead of me?? And, then, we hit the flat stretch to the end and you know, you know that you’ll finish then. And, I thought: Why do you know you’ll finish at this point? Just because you can see it up there? How is it everyone finds a last bit to push at the end? It’s all in your head. I didn’t think I really had a bit left to push. What if I don’t finish from here. I thought it was a real possibility.

But, I did. And, then, after I finally got moving again, I started shoving ice down my shirt and sucking down dozens of cups of ice water all at once. It turns out I might have been a little more messed up than I realized.

Also: stronger than I realized. I made it despite not being able to eat Thursday, despite Wildflower being my least favorite race ever, despite everything. First race out of the way. Keep moving forward.

13 thoughts on “Race Report: Wildflower Olympic Triathlon

  1. Hey, nice race! I think I saw you at the top of Lynch on the run — I was facing the wrong way and I’d had an adult beverage or two in the sun so who knows, but I’m pretty sure it was you, or else some other girl got a “go Kelly!” — and you looked strong and were passing lots of dudes. I have no idea how anyone who’s competitive at Wildflower can ever tell where you are, because of that 1.5-hour gap in start times. Being slow means never having to worry about this. But anyway. 5th overall is pretty sweet.

    1. I think I heard you. There were so many people. It sort of felt like this coming-back party on the run, like ‘oh, hey, you’re doing triathlon again.’

  2. Way to grind out a hard race both mentally and physically. It’s always “easy” to race the ones that you “like” but true mental strength shows on performances like this. Good job. Well done.

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