Monday, April 12, 2010


This past weekend, the team all drove 5 hours to visit Lake San Antonio in Bradley (where?!), CA to conquer the Wildflower Long Course over the space of a weekend. We faced a LOT of challenges, most more mental than physical. Not to say that the course is easy - it's not. I've heard it was one of the most "respected" (meaning difficult) courses in the country, but one person dared say it was the 2nd most difficult long course in the WORLD! Did I know this signing up? Maybe. Did I try to remain in denial? Yes. Did I have to face it head on this weekend? Definitely.

First of all, packing... Not only did I have to pack all my Triathlon gear, but did I mention that it's a camping weekend?! Fortunately my sister, Anna, and her hubby, Randy, are big into camping and I am able to shop at their house like a dream REI shop. Because I was 5 hours late getting to camp, my tentmate, Jen, had everything set up - she's a gem!

The first night, about all there was to do (besides gawk at the amazing number of stars) was get used to the lay of the land, get my Accelerade and Power Bar fuel ready for the next day, blow up the air mattress, and get into bed for the early morning breakfast call at 6:30am. Fortunately, I'd had a BUSY week with not a lot of sleep so the crazy Santa Cruz Iron Team did not keep me awake.

6:30am - Saturday - Swim/Bike Day

We woke up, surprisingly not sore from sleeping in the great outdoors. Breakfast was waiting for us because some superstars volunteered to prepare amazing hot meals for us as their fundraiser! They woke up hours earlier, cleaned up, to not attract critters, and still did the crazy workouts.

Then we packed up our tri bags to prepare for a lake swim, followed immediately by a bike ride, and headed down a long hill (that we were hoping to not have to ride up) to the shores of Lake San Antonio.

For all of you who have ever told me to take a long walk of a short pier, I did it.

The scariest part of the swim was jumping into the FREEEEEZING cold water. I won't tell you what we do to stay warm in the water, but it rhymes with SEA! Besides that, once we get moving, our bodies heat up quickly since we're in a huge rubber suit.

This lake was HUGE compared to Desert Tri so it presented a whole new set of sensations. Visually, it was clearer than Desert Tri. We could actually see people before we would hit them, saving people's feet a little bit of wear and tear at my face's expense. Here is the view under water at Lake San Antonio.
We heard noises and in my mind, I was wondering what wave machine or pool filter?! was operating under water, my friend thought a huge sea creature was coming up from the bowels of the lake. Eventually we realized that it was a boat when we felt the waves sloshed us about. I got smacked in the ear by a wave, and at one point almost felt seasick. After swimming close to a mile, as I exited the lake, I couldn't get my land legs for almost a minute. Despite the cold air, I quickly tore off the top of the wetsuit just to be free of it all.

Then, we ran back to the parking lot to prepare for our 54 mile bike ride which begins and ends with some crazy hills! I had three tops on, my Tri Top, Bike shirt and jacket - it was FREEZING!

For me, I had 2 mental blocks to overcome: 1) I'd never done 54 miles before and 2) NASTY GRADE! Nasty Grade is this 1,000 climb where you climb about 850 feet of it in the first 2.5 miles, then you go downhill for a blip, then climb the rest of the 150 feet within the next 1.5 miles. It's Nasty, and it's LATE in the race at mile 42. For me, the fact that this is a hill with a name, meant it was legendary and my nemesis.

The ride started out with a climb called Beach Hill because you have to get from the beach up to the camp level to get to the course. Fortunately it was NOT the huge one we came down in the morning, but still a large one nonetheless. During the first 12 miles of the race I was essentially shutting down. I'd eaten breakfast, I was fueling along the way, but something was making me withdraw so far into me that I felt like if I blinked my eyes for too long, that I'd fall over and sleep on the road.

I finally stopped at the aid station and needed to check in (get my head checked?!) with someone. I told the mentors that I'd been fueling, I ate right, I slept right, despite having less sleep this week - I'm used to that, I tried to take deeper breaths thinking it was that I wasn't breathing regularly enough - What was wrong with me?! They said it's either a) allergies - Wildflowers everywhere, duh; b) anxiety - Nasty Grade, duh; c) my fueling. I told them I wasn't nervous about this part of the ride though so I shouldn't be going through this. Well, I didn't want to quit at this moment, I figured I'd keep riding with my mind outside of myself somewhere until I either a) fell asleep or b) got to the hill.

Back on my bike, I thought about it and realized that while I was eating enough fuel, I hadn't been drinking enough - I was at about 1/2 what I should have consumed by then. Also, I realized that it was a large part anxiety. I pulled myself back into my head and just took the ride bit by bit until eventually I wound up at this amazing metal bridge which signals the last turn before [Cue: Booming voice with echo] Nasty Grade! It's only 2 miles out of a 54 mile ride, then I'm home free! I went for it - ready to face it.

This is a picture of fellow South Bay, Ellen, working her way UP Nasty Grade. I don't have a picture of myself doing this hill because I'm usually either too uncomfortable, stressed, or unhappy to take a good photo on the bike. About the time I hit this point of the hill, I could see the peak of the hill. I saw some guy in a yellow rain coat at the top as my beacon. My legs were burning, my lungs were burning, my arms were getting exhausted, and I kept pushing, pedal stroke after stroke. I finally hit the point where if I didn't stop, I may fall over, and while they said "Don't stop on the hill!" I clipped out on one side and stopped. Suddenly the guy turned into Picachu and started running down the hill at me. Was I hallucinating?! No, it was my saving grace, Louis!
He came down and said, don't stop for too long! I got my breath back, he held my bike, I clipped in on both sides, and he pushed me for about two strokes til I could continue from there. I made it to the top where it says: The stranger than fiction part is that this is not the end. There is a mini sequel to the hill as you squeak out the top part of the ascent and then you're home free. Being barn sour, I'm always more excited when I know I'm rounding the corner for home, but in this case, home is still 12 miles away! You know, I'm a calm person for the most part, but since I've joined the team, I've received cross-training in cursing. I named a few more hills for the race officials on the way back to camp: "WTF", "Are you F'in kidding me", "Kill me now", and so on.

Still, after 5 hours, I rode up the last hill called "It's about F'in Time" and returned to camp. I was greeted by my coaches and the awesome dude from FLUID, who made us all recovery drink cocktails (ok, not really cocktails, but just as good)! We took decent hot showers, settled into our Gnome Village (thanks to Sara on the right - whose tent was large enough for a Village -Alison her bunkmate is on the left -- Notice the gnomes on the rocks under the flag)

and ate just about everything around - oranges, chips and dip, bananas, mini turkey sandwiches, PB&J - as we waited for dinner to be cooked. It'd been 6 grueling hours since breakfast and we don't really like to eat that much before doing all that, and anything we'd consumed along the course, was burned up.

After dinner, which I didn't eat that much of by that point, we had Fireside Inspiration dished out by the coaches, our awesome Honored Hero, Gordie Lat, and from our Mentors, such as Fouf, who sang the Karate Kid Inspirational Song "You're the Best... AROUND!"

It was awesome and infectious. Today, 2 days later, I still can't get it out of my head. Here, spread the love!

Another gal's husband, Daniel Craig - we wish it was THE Daniel Craig - made these awesome Rice Crispy squares to cheer us on for the weekend!

While many of the more conditioned team and returning alumni stayed up sharing weird talents and unique facts about themselves while enjoying a cold beer and s'mores, I bundled up and quietly hit the hay by 9:30pm.

9:00am - Sunday - Run Day

Sometime over night, the winds picked up and the gray clouds had become darker. The night had been less comfortable as far as sleep goes, and I was getting whiney. It's really bad when the TNT employee is the one trying to talk people out of the run "Come on, we'll just drive home really quickly and run in Malaga Cove!" I appreciate all the people who didn't say "What are you crazy? It's 5 hours away!" and just went about their morning. In any case, I realized I wasn't winning anyone over to my cause, so we ate, got dressed, but then layered our pjs, jackets, Uggs, and everything to keep us warm. One gal got in her car and turned on her heated seats. Another gal got the reading 46 degrees from her car's outside thermometer. Our ever-faithful training mascot - the rain - was threatening to crash the party.

We closed up camp, downed our ibuprofen, and got down to the lake for the start of our run. The women huddled a la March of the Penguins trying to stay warm and hidden from the wind.

We tried to figure out a way to run like that. Seriously, look at the color of the sky!

We started out on the same rolling hills from the day before on the bicycle and quickly jumped onto a path. Now I've been on paths like these before, but usually I had horsepower moving me, mainly a horse! Here all this time, I'd been worried about the bike ride when really the run is just as challenging!

I have to give it up to the TNT coaches and staff here. For both days, appearing at regular intervals along the course, we were fully supported - even when we didn't want to be. We had Sarah and Lauren from OCIE cheering us on from their vehicle with music blasting and smiles turned up full volume! Rachel and Beth from GLA cheered us on and rooted for us, fueling us from outside the barbwire fence that kept us captive, I mean... on course. Coach Noah, also from OCIE, was like that kid from Better Off Dead, and at every turn where we'd want to walk, he'd show up on his bike "Two Miles!"

We had Rich, from Fluid, riding alongside cheering us on! Our awesome GLA coaches, Coach Rad and Helmetted Coach Paul (does that speak to Rad's driving?! or is Paul always ready to ride?), were in the car more on Sunday yelling words of wisdom! And Coach Brad, (below) from GLA also had the ability to sense when we may want to slow down and he'd pop out from behind a tree - I never did see his mode of trans(tele)portation.

Needless to say, Mary and I got each other through the half-marathon. For me, after about mile 6, I was warmed up and knew we could do it. For Mary, the magic mile was mile 10.

As we rounded the corner, to the home stretch, we could hear the music, cheering, whistles, and the WIND. As it blasted us one last time, we raced for the largest Tunnel I've ever seen.

I have to point out that this is my kids' favorite part of any soccer game, getting to go through the tunnel at the end of the game, for me, it was equally as amazing!

We got blown around in the parking lot while cheering in the last few participants, and took a moment to realize what we'd just accomplished! We finished off with a huge "GO TEAM!"
and sealed the deal on an amazing Wildflower Training Weekend!

I emerged from the weekend with a few new bumps and bruises. I didn't have any major spills, just fell over YET AGAIN while standing completely motionless. I have a "V" for victory scratched into my calf - ironically where most of the Ironmen have their MDot tattoo upon completing the Ironman races. I have a new bruise on my thigh which is developing with true beautiful Polaroid color. I also developed a few new bumps on my arms - triceps!

Oh, before I end this entry, I have to pay homage to the wild animals we saw along the way.

To Bambi and her mother that tried to take out my friend Meghan, and a fellow rider, as they were following the rules of the road - shame on you!
Learn to watch for moving vehicles on 2 or 4 wheels like the coyote did. RIP to the little Garter Snake that wound up under my tire causing me to scream and wobble on my bike.

Kevin shows that some wild beasts just can't be tamed. To the Wild Turkey who flew over my head, thank you for taking my mind off of the Pit I'd just climbed out of at mile 12 of the run. To the many beautiful birds and flowers native to the area, thank you for the scenic and monumental weekend!

The back of Wildflower and Nasty Grade have been broken! In just three weeks, we'll kill it! Sorry to be so harsh, but that's about how raw and savage this weekend felt! We all emerged victorious!

Thanks Ironteam, we couldn't have come this far without you!