Now a part of Motiv Running’s family of events, the iconic triathlon festival will return in 2018.
If you never experienced Wildflower, what you need to know is this: The event exuded the heart and soul of the sport. With no hotels for miles, thousands of triathletes and their families and friends camped at Lake San Antonio, a picturesque oasis among golden hills in central California’s wine country.
Competitors entered in the tough, hilly Olympic, half-iron, and mountain-bike events filled up a transition area that looked about the size of a football field. Bluegrass bands played in a grassy patch near the finish line, where people grabbed food from vendor tents and perused tri gear. And nearly everyone had to camp at the top of a steep grade called Lynch Hill. It’s the first thing any racer must conquer on their way out of T1, and the last thing they’ll bomb down coming into T2 and into the finish chute.
The race was legendary for its intensity, the camaraderie that comes from the shared camping experience, and the occasional nude cheerer or two. In short: You couldn’t be too Type-A at Wildflower, you just had to go with it. Maybe you’d sleep, maybe someone would park a car in front of your tent with the lights on at 1 a.m. Maybe you’d accidentally set up your tent near a loudspeaker that blared, “GOOD MORNING WILDFLOWER!” far earlier than you set your first alarm. Maybe you’d fall asleep to the loud chugging of a truck sucking gunk out of the bathrooms all night. No matter what, you’d get up on race day, head down that giant hill with everyone else, and conquer a legitimately, awesomely tough course.
And then, after 33 years, the country’s most iconic event and all its intrepid racers and revelers disappeared.
Good thing we wrote its obituary with a question mark: RIP Wildflower, 1983-2016(?). Because it’s back! Lake San Antonio is now within five percent of its maximum depth, and the event has all new backers and big dreams.
Motiv Running has quietly been buying up running races since the company’s formation in 2015. Its portfolio now includes 27 events across the country, including a handful of tris: the Nautica Malibu Triathlon, the New Jersey State Triathlon, and Wildflower.
“One of the things we offer is support, not only with marketing and sponsorship, but with operational support—registration, customer service,” says Chris Colon, Motiv’s president, who has a background in finance and came from a job as COO of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge race.
Motiv was founded on the idea that iconic races should maintain their uniqueness and regional flavor, but would fare better sharing their knowledge, and sharing services that individual race operators typically can’t afford on their own, like marketing, data processing, and web development.
“I said, ‘What would happen if all of these people were on the same team?’” Colon says of the spark that led to his developing Motiv. “When we go in and purchase the events from the race directors or owners, we structure it in a way that they receive shares in Motiv, and we keep them on board to keep running their event like they always have.” Wildflower’s founder and race director, Terry Davis, will continue to helm the event.
“To be a single operator trying to compete in the corporate world, it’s hard,” Davis says. “This offers the opportunity to still be what Wildflower is, and have other resources and help to get it done.”
Motiv also seeks to add more local flavor to events—think bringing some of the wine from nearby Paso Robles to the Wildflower campground for a tasting, or possibly starting up a glamping service, where your tent and meals will be prepped for you. Exact details of the enhancements aren’t available yet, but the date of the iconic race’s return is: mark your calendar for May 4-6. There will be long course, Olympic, sprint, and mountain bike events. Registration for all of the Wildflower distances opens on Sept. 19 at 8:00 am PST at www.wildflowertriathlon.com.
“I’m most excited to produce the event again,” Davis says. “It’s always been an incredibly special event that isn’t duplicated anywhere in the world.”