To me, Wildflower represents triathlon in its purest, raddest form: camping, racing hard in the sun on trails and hilly country roads, and celebrating with buddies around a campfire. It’s a must-do for every triathlete. If you’re lucky enough to race this year, here are my tips for getting the most out of your day:
Relax and enjoy that this water is—unlike any other race—the perfect temperature. It’s not too cold, not too hot, but just right.
Practice breathing on both sides unless you want to be blinded by the rising sun. It’s beautiful before you start, but is more like a gigantic yellow strobe light when you’re swimming.
a. You should be thinking one thing on the first hill: Relax! As bad as this hill is, it’s not the worst of them.
b.I call this the Roly Poly Section, because it sounds easier than Deceivingly Hilly Section. Mind over matter, booyah!
c. This is where the bike gets really … boring (sorry, race director Terry!). Best to have a good song stuck in your head for the next 30–45 minutes. Last year for me it was “Invisible Touch” by Genesis.
d.If your race is really going to crap, this corner near Highway 101 is the best place to stop and hitchhike home.
e. My favorite part of the bike: winding, rolling roads, pastures, bridges, cows. It’s like riding through the intro to “Little House on the Prairie” (while listening to “Invisible Touch”).
f. Nasty Grade—the Wildflower Legend. Yes, it’s appropriately named.
g. Nasty Grade’s Annoying Little Brother—the Wildflower name I just made up. Beware: The corner you think is the top is not the top!
h. Into the finish: It feels like you’re almost done after Nasty Grade … but you’re not. Remember that. Lots of people will have Wobbly Wheel because they went too hard up the hill. Be smart, and avoid Wobbly Wheel.
Relax, grab your fuel, and take some time to find your happy place. It’s important to approach the run with respect, but not fear. Be excited for it!
a. Enjoy this one and only flat section.
b.My favorite part of the run—out there by yourself on trails along the lake.
c. My least favorite part of the run: Nasty Grade’s Equally Nasty Older Sister. This hill sucks. Don’t fight it; just relax. Don’t be afraid to walk—you can make up more time on the flats and downhills if you save your legs and keep your heart rate from spiking.
d.Running through the campground is what sets this race apart. The camaraderie between the spectators and racers is palpable. Smile, say thanks and enjoy it!
e.The Cal Poly campsite: Be prepared for the possibility of some friendly, casual, mixed-gender nakedness.
f. The last mile is very steep downhill. Last year, all I could think was, “Dude! You’re in the lead! Don’t face-plant!” Which is harder than it sounds. If you do avoid biffing it, you’ve got an easy cruise to the finish line. (For tips on how to go fast downhill, see page 62.)
g. Take in the awesome crowd at the finish, high-five people and enjoy it. You’re done!
Treat yourself to some amazing grub post-race. I recommend the least race-carby thing possible: barbecue ribs and hot dogs. Nom nom nom.
Hit up In-N-Out on the way home—you deserve it!
Jesse Thomas is a second-year pro and reigning Wildflower Long Course champion. He lives in Springfield, Ore., with his wife, American 5K champion Lauren Fleshman, and is the CEO of Picky Bars (Pickybars.com). Follow him on Twitter: @jessemthomas. Look for Jesse’s column “The Triathlife” every month in Triathlete.