By the time we got to Wildflower


Excerpt from Chapter 7: By the time we got to Wildflower



B

y the time we got to Woodstock,
We were half a million strong
And everywhere was a song and a celebration.
Joni Mitchell
The first description that I heard about Wildflower was one that many others repeated in the magazines and journals: “Wildflower is a Woodstock for triathletes.” I never heard many triathletes say that, because we were all too young to know much about that festival except the legend generated by a movie and a hit song by Crosby Stills and Nash. We were also in California and despite it being the epicenter of the 60’s peace and love movement, Woodstock had been a largely Northeastern phenomenon. Still, the concept of Woodstock and triathlons mixed together sounded awesome, gnarly, cool, dude and groovy all mixed together.
I heard casual mention of the race, but nothing had really caught my attention until I picked up a local sports paper at a running store. The description blew me away as it talked about the difficulty of the course, the caliber of the participants, the advance sellout of space, the support of volunteers and the festival atmosphere over multiple days in a remote area of California. If even half accurate, the article described a chance for us to have a Woodstock-type experience planned in advance. I didn’t even consider the physical challenge yet; this was too exciting.
Soon, I started working questions into every conversation I had with people that might possibly be  triathletes. If they had heard of the event, I peppered them with questions. I went to the source and the website includes the following description:
“…Wildflower is one of the premier triathlons nationally and internationally.… The Wildflower Olympic Distance Triathlon is an amateur age group and relay team event. This world-class course includes a 1.5K open water swim, a 40K (extremely hilly bike course) and a brutal 10K run course. The race will include the Wildflower collegiate championships.”  Yeehi!
I preregistered on the first permitted day. This is something I rarely do, but I didn’t want to risk missing it. Then I started reading even more, and the daunting course burned into my brain. I was a reasonable runner, but a weak swimmer with little hope of time improvement, and a novice biker. The advantage that I had was time to train: both on a daily basis and over the next few months until race weekend. I established goals, not a training schedule. I preferred to work out on whatever sport whenever.  For most athletes, this means that they spend more time on their strongest discipline because it is what they have done the longest and do the best. So it was with me. I spent most of the spring running my normal loop and adding long runs. I alternated the other 5-6 workouts between swimming and biking.
The triathlete’s season runs from Spring to Fall, and we are coached that you need to be careful to avoid the fatigue and injury that can accompany overtraining. For that reason, many people took breaks during the winter and then returned with a plan. Periodization is emphasized with the importance being on “peaking” at the right time. Generally, for amateurs that means 3 or 4 races during the season at a maximum. We can do more, but we should train through them.
The general training schedule for a serious triathlete, and that is what I was at that moment, is 10-13 workouts per week. These can be roughly divided into each of the 3 sports and at that time followed similar steps. Early in training, the major importance is placed on building a base that allows for more specific training later. Base building is a euphemism for long and slow or for getting mileage under the belt. This develops a core aerobic capability and strengthens the muscles for later. In running, this meant 4-5 days per week of slow steady paces for an hour or more. For biking, it meant two short rides and one about twice that distance. For swimming, it meant boredom, as I swam freestyle laps back and forth without a pause.
The next step incorporates speed. I substituted a track session for one of my runs. I had no real knowledge of the track, but my Timex watch gradually showed shorter times for a circuit. I hugged the inside of the track to make sure that I didn’t lose time for uncounted distance.
Swimming would be part one of the race and I had only covered this distance once – for a merit badge in Scouts – and it would require effort. I have always been able to swim, but I have never been a swimmer. There had not been any swim teams at my high school. I don’t think that I had ever used goggles until then and I tried to figure them out. It seems obvious that you put them over your eyes and with the right adjustment of the elastic strap; they would keep water out of your eyes. I tried that and water filled my goggles. I tightened the band and water filled my goggles and I had large indentations (marks) showing where they had been. Thinking that maybe my sockets were too deep, I tried a variety of sizes and styles. All of them let water pass. Some days they would be working and I would think that I had found a solution. Then 10 meters later I was looking through water-filled lenses. I asked questions of other swimmers but the standard reaction was a strange look. It seems, like for many other parts of swimming, that swimmers just naturally know how to do this.
I did most of my swimming at the pools in Heritage Park in Irvine. There were 3 large pools used by a variety of aquatic groups. They were first-rate and, as I understood, had been constructed for and used in the 1984 Olympics hosted in LA. All three pools were outside and open regardless of the weather, though it was seldom an issue in Southern California. The diving pool had 25-meter lanes and a 5- and a 10-meter diving platform with an underwater observation room. I had the opportunity to take a plunge one day from the ten-meter platform. It is a long way to climb to the top and that should have tipped me off that it is also a long way down. I placed my arms tight against my sides, jumped, and even remembered to point my feet before entering. That’s it. There might have been plenty of time for a reverse triple, but I only managed to point my toes. And I still felt a stinging sensation in my feet as I broke the surface and proceeded down far enough that my ears screamed to be cleared. Divers are different from me. Not that any of this had much to do with triathlon training, but it did show that I was living in the moment and not restrained to reasonable challenges.
I am a slow swimmer. I have studied form and technique and it looks simple enough, but I can never duplicate the movements with the requisite ease. It is a strength workout for me. I watched a few videos, read magazine tips and asked a coach for ideas. I followed these as best I could. For a time I skipped freestyle lap swimming and did stroke work. I swam laps using just my right arm and then strokes using just my left arm. Then, with a TYR flotation device tucked between my legs, I would alternate strokes: going as far as possible on the right side followed by a single stroke from the left for as far a possible. Then the same thing but with a more fluid transfer from left to right. I held a kickboard and flutter-kicked for a length and then tried another kick for a length. I tried to imagine that I was rolling on a barrel. I tried alternating breathing sides by breathing every 3 strokes: a great plan if I wanted to drown. I can breathe on only one side: I must turn my head to the right. I tried a few other strokes but decided that freestyle was enough for me. Plus these special workouts required me to find time when the lanes were empty – no small task in leisurely Southern California -  where it often seemed that no one worked because they were too busy working out, looking good, driving the personality-extending vehicle or hanging at the beach. Showing up at a normal hour meant sharing one of the fifty-plus available lanes. I learned this etiquette too. If there are two people sharing a lane, they split it and each takes one side. If there are three or more, you follow each other and try to stagger the starts enough that there is no passing. But passing is allowed, even though it creates opportunities for head-on collisions if everyone isn’t paying attention. Since I was slow, I never really learned all of the rules of passing others, but if you are being passed, you move slightly to the right and swim as fast as you can so that it will take the passer longer to get by. This is true unless you are passed at the end of the lane, in which case, you either yield and let the person pass or you drift left and block them off. If you are in the opposite lane, try to avoid oncoming traffic.
I knew that I was not exaggerating about my speed. I felt slow, and the second hand on the large clock at each end of the lanes confirmed this. I accepted that I shouldn’t compare myself with Amanda Beard, who was swimming a few lanes away, or even most of the people that had previously been, or were currently, swimming competitively. However, that didn’t ease the insult I felt one evening as I was doing laps – again in the diving pool. I was doing a speed workout where I would swim hundreds freestyle, take a ten-second break and start again. I was on my second round when the girl/woman in the next lane started passing me. This was a common occurrence and was significant only in that she had one foot extended straight up towards the sky – and both arms. I had been swimming to some disco tunes that were being played under the water – I blocked them out by counting my laps: one, one, one, one … – without considering the source of this nuisance. It was the synchronized swimming team and this “athlete” was swimming faster on her back using the propulsion from a single leg than my freestyle sprint. But I knew that I was improving and decided that she was superhuman and have ever since truly respected the physical feats of synchronized swimmers.
I have some inflexibility in my right hip and it turns out that each time that I kick, I scissor kick and essentially apply a brake. This led me to decide two things that I would do but that others shouldn’t: (1) I should kick less, and (2) the swim is essentially a strength effort for me and I should increase my endurance level. And so I switched to the competition pool and the 50-meter lanes. I never had a great push-off but this was harder. I added a 50 daily until I reached the 1.5 KM distance. This is a warm-up for others, but extended time and effort for me. In the weeks before the race, I did 5 days of 2,000 yards and I had no doubt that I would finish the race distance.
Biking was another issue though. The course description calls this an extremely hilly ride. My sources talked about the steepness of Beach Hill. Without having seen it, I believed the transition area to be in a parking lot at the lake’s edge. The main road was on entirely different level through the park and hills. The climb to the main road was known as Beach Hill and in addition to being the very first part of the ride, had a grade steeper than normal DOV guidelines permit. I was new on the bike and I was still mastering clip-on pedals. At first I had failed to tighten the clips sufficiently and I couldn’t rotate my ankles enough to create the necessary torque to break the connection. This caused me to take several slow-motion tumbles around the neighborhood and even at a traffic light. I had moved past this as a likelihood and had even erased much of the psychological damage that it had done. I could use the shoes under normal conditions.
My current fear revolved around my weakness on the bike. Supposedly the wheels and chain and other modern machinery made it easier to do “work,” but I struggled on hills. I tried to use the gears to shift (pun) the work from my legs to the big cogs, but I eventually reached a point where I would shift to the lowest gear, stand up out of the saddle and pedal. This will get you over a hump at the cost of serious energy expenditure and the accumulation of copious quantities of lactic acid in every muscle large and small in your legs. Fortunately, you have usually cleared the obstacle at this point and can enjoy the downhill coast or pedal steadily over flat terrain as the replenishments reinforce the endangered muscles.
One of the hills near my house was Ridgeline. It was about 1.4 miles of steady climbing with some stretches that were more pronounced with a few minor respites. I had added it to some of my runs, and though it was an effort, I never considered that I might not make it. I just stared ahead and pushed and eventually I stood at the top. This was not the case on the bike. I had yet to make an uninterrupted summit and most rides required 2 or 3 pit stops. I might have been able to make it, but I would be exhausted with no break in the near future and barely moving. Therein was my problem with hills and my not irrational paranoia about Beach Hill. I feared that I would be pedaling as hard as I could and that my speed would shrivel to a standstill. I would learn this suddenly, and being unable to react quickly enough, I would begin that slow-motion tumble, preferably to my right, down onto the pavement as other triathletes scooted by me on their more expensive machines and with their superior motors. And so my mantra for the bike portion was “conquer the first hill.”
During this period, I added Ridgeline to every training ride and soon it wasn’t my friend but we tolerated each other. I also increased my weekly long ride to an average of 30 miles with one even reaching 38. Other triathletes that I talked to were doing 150-200 miles a week, but I couldn’t imagine that much time in the saddle. When one was giving me advice and asked about my weekly mileage, I stretched the truth and said 80 miles per week – my highest consecutive seven-day period (though over a span of 2 calendar weeks) – only to see the concern in his eyes as he agreed that “You just can’t make any progress at a level of 80.”
These were my early days and I knew nothing about cadence or heart rate or specific weight lifting. I had purchased an old QR tri bike and I practiced bending and riding aerodynamically on the tri bars. I tried drinking in that position. I knew some of the suggestions and worked for any advantage to be obtained short of incremental riding.
I ran a few “bricks” because I knew the benefit. “Bricks” are practice runs that occur immediately upon the conclusion of a bike ride and mimic the required bodily reaction in an actual race. The bike ride shifts blood to one part of your body as you depend on the quads for force. Running calls more heavily on your hamstrings and calves and it takes some time to redirect the blood flow with its fuel and cleansing power. The exercise is called a “brick” because your legs are heavy as you commence the run and feel like bricks. I only did a few because they were uncomfortable and tiring and quite often resulted in me missing a workout. Dropping from 11/week to 9/week was tantamount to forfeiting my right to use the triathlete label.
Being a triathlete is fun. It is a lifestyle. When you do this many workouts per week, you are always just finishing one or about to start one. In between, you can compare them with other triathletes or try to have a steady relationship with the person that loses all of this time together. You are healthy, fit, and generally attractive. It is almost unavoidable to have some skin color, and most judge that to be an attractive feature, even though we now know the long-term dangers. Conversations dwell on performances, gadgets, clothing, training and upcoming events. I participated in several early-season sprint distance races at Bonelli Park, but my gaze started shifting towards Wildflower soon enough.
My preparations had progressed well for the event but I hadn’t totally grasped the need for a camping reservation. Fortunately, Jody (a fellow runner) and Bob (a competitive age grouper triathlete) had signed up for multiple sites as a group and invited us to pitch a tent alongside theirs. Great - ready-made tri-friends would recount their stories at the campfire.
So with a tent and food, we drove up early to visit some friends in Paso Robles. They gave us a bottle of red wine that won a medal at the local county fair and extolled its virtues. I still view wines from there as desirable. After lunch, we drive the rest of the distance to Lake San Antonio. After passing through the brush and bramble, we discover the end of the rainbow: triathletes, and athletes, and friends and family of athletes. The races include about 7,500 participants and 30,000 spectators and occurs a good hour’s drive from anywhere but the campground. So everybody that can come is here. The expo is already going. People are running everywhere to stretch their legs, and the roads are full of bikers heading all directions in any lane. We seek out and find the campsite and we are the last to arrive. And I thought that I was excited!
When most outsiders think of triathlons, they think of the Hawaii Ironman and the grueling long distances. Races come in all distances though, and even the relationships between the separate disciplines can change to reflect the available course. There are some standards, though. The Ironman, which is an endurance event and is probably the distance the fewest people do, features a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and 26.2 miles of running (a marathon). The half Ironman is exactly half that distance and mixes speed into the equation with endurance. The International or Olympic Distance is an official distance with a 1.5K swim, a 40K bike and a 10K run. That is a speed event for professionals, but a speed and endurance event for more ordinary mortals. Sprints are any combination of distances shorter than that. Wildflower has 3 races: (1) a half Ironman that is considered very difficult, particularly this early in the season and which attracts a world class field without offering a purse, (2) a mountain bike sprint which takes advantage of trails and technical riding, and (3) the event that I am registered for, the Olympic Distance.
My race is on Sunday and the other two are on Saturday. That means that half of the racers will be spectators on Saturday and the evening meals, the choice of beverages consumed and the time to turn out the lights reflect this. It is schizophrenia with half of the world preparing for early and difficult races and the remainder in a festive spirit anticipating their race. The following evening everyone does a 180, with half of the racers now finished and jubilant and the others now trying to focus. Of course, independent of this, there is a carnival atmosphere with all of the participants, booths, musical groups, meals, speakers and attempts at new relationships.
Most people wouldn’t recommend sleeping on the ground for two nights before a major event, but it was only the first night that mattered. I was stiff as I watched the races on Saturday but I was so hyped on Sunday that I never noticed any stiffness. Our campsite was about a mile from the start, but there was never any doubt about watching the other races. They were great. The big stars stepped up and won in unbelievably fast times. I went back and forth a few times during the day and probably put 6-7 miles on my pre-race legs, but it never mattered. I drank Gatorade all day to avoid dehydration as we stood out in the sun. This was Central California and we had no cooling breeze from the ocean and it was hot by 8 AM. Still, this was a minor inconvenience for a front-row seat at a party and major sporting event.
Finally, it was my turn and the entire campground was up and active in the predawn hours. The scheduled start of 9 AM was generous enough, but we foraged for food that should have been located the day before, did our first round of bathroom visits, gathered our collection of gear and headed over to rack the bike and prepare our transition area. And everywhere was a song and a celebration.  The tires have 100 psi, I lay out a towel for drying my feet after the swim. I lay out my bike helmet face up with the straps unbuckled and laid to the right and left. I place my bike shoes at the front side of the towel propped open for an easy slip- on. Usually I go ahead and put them on the pedal clips on the bike, but in a nod of respect to Beach Hill, I want to put them completely on before starting, so that I can expect maximum pedal force from the very first revolution. I have a tri-singlet that bares my midriff with my race number pinned on that I place just below my helmet. It is essential to remember to put the shirt on before the helmet. The loss of time and of dignity is too severe otherwise. Between the two, I place my Oakleys with the frames open and ready to slide over my ears. Normally I protect these fragile and expensive lenses, but this is the reason that I own them and I have to risk it. My running shoes have stretch laces that allow me to pull them on with having to tie them. I grab the tongue and lodge it up to make it even easier since I will no doubt be less limber when I make this move. I place a full water bottle on the bike. Things that I don’t have today that I would during a workout are bike gloves and socks. Neither of these takes much time to put on, but gloves, which provide cushioning and hand protection, for some reason are customarily not worn during races. Perhaps it is because of the heat that racing generates. Socks are optional, but the pros don’t wear them at this distance, and I have no extra time for them. I have done several experimental runs, and to my surprise, I have not gotten any blisters without them. I run through a mental checklist, silently reciting the events and pointing at the appropriate part of my body. Check. Check.
My next step is to get my markings. My sex and my race number are marked with a Sharpie on the upper part of both arms and both thighs. My age is marked on both calves so that other “competitors” can try to pick me off later in the race. Or so I can go after them.
Most racers have begun the migration down to the water’s edge to hear the prerace speeches. I spray Pam on my legs and I am clawing at my wetsuit trying to pull it into place. I have only worn it a few times and it is still a learning experience. The water temperature is 65 degrees – cool – but that is the norm around here, and I wear a Quintana Roo long john wetsuit with long pants and no sleeves. I opted not to have a full bodysuit because people say the chest constriction will freak you out and that it restricts arm movement. Mine is tight enough, and the arms warm up quickly after the race starts.
The air horn blurts out the beginning of the race, but I have no need to panic. Triathlons start with a swim. Since everyone starts at the same place, and we swim more or less at the same speeds for a while, and we have to be horizontal, the start can be frantic. People are kicked in the face, goggles are knocked off, and there are scratches and clawing and swimmers climbing over each other. This has caused many swimmers to develop a strategy for the start: starting out really fast, or wide, or at the back. It also led to triathlons being among the earliest adopters of wave starts. This works well because most triathletes are called Age Groupers and they essentially race only against people of the same sex and age range. So they are lumped together, marked with numbers and given matching swim caps. Fitting for the psychedelic aspect of a Woodstock festival, there is a veritable kaleidoscope of colors of swim caps and every color from a Grateful Dead parking lot tie-dyed T-shirt is represented. I think that my age group wore purple. I never train in these and I don’t really know how to wear it. I pull it down, hopefully not backwards, as far as I can, and then I roll it above my ears. That’s the most comfortable way that I have discovered. Purple is not my best color and I am sure that my stylist would object. I look strange, but I fit right in.
I pull my wetsuit top up and finish zipping it. I am careful around my neck, which I have smeared with Vaseline to protect against chafing that the wetsuit can cause. Waves of racers have been leaving every few minutes and our turn is fast approaching. Goggles on. Adjust to the shock of cold water. Pick my angle – I am one of those that takes a geometric approach to the start and seeks the angle that will result in the shortest swim. Since it is impossible to really know, I am happy where I am. Shriiieeek!!!!! We are on the move.
Many swimmers don’t like open-water swims and they suffer from panic attacks, higher blood pressure or slower times. For some weird reason, I am the opposite. The start interests me and my slow heads-up style somehow helps me avoid violence. I feel the tight chest on the wetsuit and wonder if I will be able to breathe. But I also know that I am not going to win and that rhythm provides solace here. And so I swim at a steady pace with the buoyancy of my wetsuit compensating for my swim style. The cold water is refreshing and makes me feel alive. Swimmers are ahead and behind and even just off to the side, but I keep a straightish line for the buoy. The swim is clockwise around a triangle of orange buoys. That means that we head towards the next orange buoy and keep it on our right-hand side as we pass. If, when you pass the buoy, everybody else is turning, it is a good bet that you are on the next leg of the triangle and this provides some idea of the distance that you have covered.  After a few minutes, our group has spread out. There are 20 waves leaving every 5 minutes, and this will go on for an hour and thirty-five minutes. There are lifeguards posted in kayaks or on surfboards or even motorboats and some people are already in contact with them. It is okay to talk or even take a break, but if you receive any help or get out of the water at all, your race is over. I am contemplating their situation when I suddenly see two other colors of caps. I am both passing and being passed. I am not surprised that a great swimmer (or even many) from another age group can outswim me that much, but I wonder about the level of ability of someone falling prey to me this early. My goal today is to avoid being passed by the leaders of the age group 2 waves behind me. This is a .92-mile swim and times will range from 15 minutes to over an hour.
I still feel good and I am almost watching the race from outside of my body. I clear my goggles a few times, focus on my stroke, extending my arms, rolling on a barrel and covering the remaining gap. I look up through my now foggy goggles and I see the swim finish. I think about the upcoming transition and what I can do now to make it easier for my blood to change directions. Then we exit the water. I reach back and unfasten the velcro at the back of my neck and then grab the long ribbon cord attached to my zipper and give it a yank down. I reach to the shoulder straps and pull the top down around my waist, pull off my goggles and head through the timing area, up the ramp on my toes trying to avoid pain and cuts, and into the transition area. No blood flow in my legs and an uphill, oh yeah!
I am a slow swimmer, a biker in slow motion, and a decent runner, but I am able to hold my own in the transition area. I know the tricks to choosing reminders of where my spot is. I know how to rack my bike for a fast exit and then for a fast return. I know where the entrance is and where the exit is. I know if we have to walk/run our bikes out. I know how the course starts. And so I zipped in, sliding my wetsuit even lower as I ran. I tossed my goggles to the back of my space and jerked the wetsuit off as I stepped onto my towel. I slipped my shirt on as I dried my feet and placed them in the shoes. I bent to tighten them and grabbed my helmet and glasses. Snap, glasses on, bike in my hand and I am running clippety-clop for the exit, in my biking shoes. Over the line and mounted. I am off.
Beach Hill was everything that was promised with an almost immediate elevation gain of 400 feet. I had trained for this and I went up and over. It was not a problem, though early power surges sometimes come from future energy sources. I am on the main road going slightly downhill. I am not yet in an aero position when I see and hear Eva. Is she having as much fun as me? About a mile into the race, a biker loses control and swings wide. I move quickly to the right and I am slightly off the road in a sandy patch. My bike swerves and before I can record the events, I do a forward tumble over the handlebars and go down on the edge of the road with the back of my shoulder hitting first. Somehow as I roll, my shoes unclip and I am able to jump up. Startled spectators, as we are still near the beginning of the race, are either stunned or are trying to determine the extent of my damages. So am I. I brush the sand off me and look at the bike. It is scratched but completely rideable. I’ve got some road rash and could have benefitted from those gloves, but I jump back in the saddle and I am off again. The clock hasn’t stopped and I have no time to lose.
I spent some time thinking about what happened, and examining the bike and my arm, but it looked okay. My pace was fast, no doubt due to the downhill and my adrenaline glands producing at warp-speed. I remember four things about the rest of the bike leg: (1) The road seemed covered by items that people had dropped: water bottles, air pumps, shoes, energy bars and food. (2) People kept passing me and asking if I was okay. At first I thought that they had seen the fall and had a healthy curiosity. But then I noticed that some had started after me and couldn’t have been there at the time. Then I discovered that I had major rash, debris and some bleeding on my back. Not the way I had planned it, but I had made a mark on the bike ride at Wildflower. (3) There were 3 more major uphills on the course that equaled the first. Reports from the prior day said that the half was hilly as well, but that it covered 56 miles compared to our 24. (4) The last mile was a steep downhill that required no pedaling and many decisions on whether to judiciously use the brakes or not. It is a bad idea to lose time, and a worse idea to crash.
T-2, the transition from bike to run, should be faster than T-1. There is no wetsuit to pull off. When stopping the bike, you slip your feet from the bike shoes and leave them on the bike, dismounting barefoot, racking the bike facing in with the brake handles on the rack, dropping your helmet, slipping on the running shoes without any need to tie them and running for the exit/start. My sunglasses are already on, so I look cool despite the soaring heat magnified by the time – at least partially due to the generously late start time and the delay until my wave left. Still, out the gate to be met by that greatest of partners: Eva. I use the word intentionally because the life of a triathlete combined with a relationship isn’t possible unless the significant other buys into the program, the hours and the expense. But it can improve immensely if that other person enjoys the activities surrounding the events, and here was Eva cheering me and thousands of others on. I wondered if she was having as much fun as me. Then as I passed I saw her puzzled expression and remembered the mess on my back. Would that be a valid excuse for a slow time?
My legs came back to me after a few minutes and I began to attack the course at a steady pace, and it began to counterattack. Reflecting back on this course description, I remembered “and a brutal 10K run course.” Apparently the author had told the truth. It is a combination of roads and trails, but the real story is the elevation gain and loss. The half has a reputation for being a monster whose only salvation comes from the topless coeds that manage an aid station back in the woods on one of the trails. Unfortunately, our only distraction was the large number of people that had slowed to a walk. I admit that I stopped at the water tables, but I hate walking, and so I tried to keep a slow steady pace forward. Then, as all hope is gone, we come upon a viewpoint and I can see that the finish is all downhill from here. I run with total disregard for my knees and make the turn home for the finish. I had hoped to finish in under 3 hours and I can see by the clock that I will accomplish that today. I use that, the downhill and my last energy to blast over the last few hundred yards. All the while I am staring at the calves of the men around me, knowing that each one passed here would be one place higher for me among the midpackers.
All in all, I loved Wildflower and it was a great birthday present. Maybe I’ll ask for the same thing next year.


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