Slow and Steady For 8th: Wildflower Triathlon Race Report

Hey hey Team! Long time since we met last! Thanks for tuning in to the latest edition of the blog, sure to inspire at least one laugh and a few odd photos of a moustache doing crazy things!

The moustache doing crazy things before the race!

It’s been a LONG 8 months hiatus from triathlon racing for me, my last race being Challenge Penticton late August 2014. Since then, I’ve put in a lot of hard miles, focusing on the 2015 season opener, the one and only LEGENDARY Wildflower Triathlon, which happened this past weekend in the sunny hills of Mid-California. I’ve had some incredible training in the months leading up to Wildflower, including some incredible breakthrough run sessions. So here’s how the weekend broke down:

The pre-race professional briefing, where we learn the specifics about race day logistics and the course.

Arriving on thursday with my best buddy Rachel McBride, we made the car trip from San Fran down to the race site, in the hills of Bradley, CA. The race organizers put us up in a smashing home near a lake, and we settled in quite nicely. We were absolutely STOKED to learn our good friend from Tucson, Jesse Vondracek (and his buddy Cameron, aptly renamed the ‘Spicy Shrimp’) would be crashing with us, and we had a few days full of laughter, which really helped set a relaxing tone going in to the race.

My favourite travel buddy, Rachel McBride

Race morning was spectacularly normal, getting to the race site without issue and getting to the start line without fail. Warming up with some fellow Canadians was a brilliant way to prepare for the onslaught ahead, and I got myself lined up just nicely mere moments before the gun went off. We found out that the race WOULD be a wetsuit swim only 90mins pre-race, and it was like christmas came early for me. Love swimming in my wetsuit.

Heading to the race start with Rachel, complete with photobomb!

The Swim:

I knew my swim has been lacking (pretty much always, but especially the last 8 months). I took those 8 months off racing to heal my shoulder, which has had progressively increasing tendinopathy for two years, preventing me from putting much swim work in, and even taking away a lot of comfort on the bike. I have only really been back in the pool for the last 2 months, so I knew my swim would be somewhat weak. I fought hard for positioning the first few hundred meters, but just started to fall off the back slowly, and ended up behind both the main pack and the chase pack. I kept my cool coming out of the water in about 30th, knowing that there was a huge group only a minute ahead (thanks Amy Van Tassel for the heads up!)

Getting ready to start the race. Photo Credit Slowtwitch.com.

Run #1:

Running up to my transition spot, doffing my Nineteen Rogue wetsuit and donning my Hoka One One runners, I faced (essentially) skyward, to climb the Mt Vesuvius-sized boat launch ahead of me. I saw Scotty Defilipis right ahead of me, and although it felt somewhat conservative, I made sure not to close the gap, as Scott is an exceptional runner, and any faster at this point would blow me apart later in the race (last year’s race plan fail.) I ran what felt like a smooth and conservative effort back down the dusty dirt/sand trails to the old San Antonio Lakebed, passing a few folks including Jesse V and Canadian Nathan Champness, where I continued my efforts on the sand-dune like course. It was cool as hell to see a helicopter floating only minutes ahead, following the leaders (at this point Jesse Thomas and Olympian Matty Reed). My conservative efforts brought back a LOT of people, and as I ran up the boat launch after 2.5miles into Transition, I passed Chris Bagg, Thomas Gerlach and Jordan Rapp. I was amazing to see them already, but I was beyond stoked. I crushed through Transition and popped out onto the bike ahead of everyone in transition, smiling as I moved up a fair amount of positions.

It’s all REALLY about having FUN! Photo Credit to Matt Green Photography. Wattie Ink on the GoPro Pole!

Bike:

I’ve been really working on my bike the last few months as well, and unlike last year, I had some really solid advice from Ironman Champion and training buddy Jeff Symonds about how to go about attacking this course (which was essentially don’t attack early!) After almost flying off the windy road out of the park, I made it to the climb and the group I passed earlier made contact with me. Regardless of their efforts, I held steady on my wattage, and just ensured I kept my watts below a certain point, conserving heartbeats and saving my legs for later. After some jostling, I started to pull away from the group, and slowly started to chew my way through the field throughout the bike. I have never felt so great on a bike before, just feeling so incredibly aero and smooth on my Quintana Roo PRsix and brand new Easton Cycling EC90 Aero55 wheels. Even though I certainly could’ve pushed much harder (which I did last year and paid the price later,) I was intent on keeping right where my wattage should be, and staying in the aero bars for EVERYTHING! There were only two points on the course that I sat up to climb, and only one point that I came out of the saddle. I feel that unless you’re grinding at an incredibly slow pace, it’s superior to do as much climbing/riding in the aerobars as possible, as well as using the moniker ‘Spin-it to Win-it”. This strategy worked well as I sang songs to myself in my head, and just kept forging on, finishing the ride almost as strong and fresh as I started, having moved up to 8th place. As Sean Watkins (aka Wattie Ink) yelled encouragement and placing times to me at the end of the bike, I mentally prepared myself for the onslaught of hills I was about to subject myself to.

Thanks to Wattie Ink for an awesome photo and some solid support out there! Still keeping it loose with only a few miles to go. Photo Credit to Wattie Ink.

Run #2:

I felt fairly smooth heading out on the run, but with the hills starting ASAP, I really focused on a conservative effort once again, intent not to blow myself away like last year. Passing some pretty highfaluting athletes early on the run, I spent the first half of the run trying to stay away from Thomas Gerlach, and the last few miles watching for the naked aid station (which, much to my dismay, had turned into a band of naked men chasing athletes.) Apparently my moustache was much too creepy, as they were nowhere to be seen as I passed by their alleged location. With only 2.5 miles to go, the Olympian Matty Reed caught up to me, and although I tried to surge to keep up, there was no chance. Mile 11 showed me how close the next few athletes were, but I ran out of space to try and catch them. Coming down the steep last mile hill into the finish, I was super stoked to crush my time from last year, and achieve my goal of a top 10 finish! 8th place overall, and only a few minutes separated me from the rest of the guys ahead. I was also stoked to be done what must be the hardest run course in triathlon, an 11mile run that felt closer to 100 miles!

After having a great race, if there’s any advice I can give to athletes, it’s to come in with a clear and concise game plan as far as pacing and nutrition goes. I absolutely NAILED my nutrition, using almostly solely Powerbar Gels throughout the race to fuel myself, along with 150mg of caffeine on the run, and a large handful of salt tablets. I was most proud of my pacing strategy though out the day: I kept it calm and steady all day, riding and running very conservatively, to stave off any explosions due to the hills and heat.

Pretty freakin stoked to be up there amongst some incredible athletes!

I have to give a massive high-five to the folks at TriCal Events for organizing such an incredible event. Even with the drought, they’ve figured out a new, and (in my opinion) even more awesomely EPIC swim-run-bike-run triathlon, that really forces you to test your malleability under a new type of stressor. They also made us all feel individually special, ensuring that every athlete feels cared for, with their intention for us to have the most amazing race of the year with them. The spectators and other athletes helped create a vibe that is to be rivalled, super relaxed with an emphasis on having a blast (which I bloody well did!)

Massive thanks to all my family, friends, and sponsors for helping me heal and rebound these last 8 months. All your help makes all the hard work worth it when I’m able to perform. I appreciate all the friends, old and new (I made many at Wildflower,) that make this sport as satisfying as I’ve found it. My main focus for the race was to stick to my strict game plan, and above all else have a ton of fun, which I feel I pulled off well.

Making new friends as usual!

This week has been focused on recovering (and moving), with my next race set for Challenge San Gil on June 21st in Mexico (my first time in Mexico!) I look forward to an improved race plan, and great result.

Happy training and racing everyone, thanks for stopping by, stay safe out there!

Nathan

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