When I finished the race yesterday, people asked me "how'd you do??, how was it??" and I would repeatedly say "I finished!". People would look at me puzzled but that was honestly my biggest goal coming in.
Going back 7th months, last year in October, I ended my 2014 season with a bad race in Challenge Rancho Cordova. I got sick a week before the race and still raced and finished 11th with a time of 4:11. I definitely wanted to get under 4 hours for that race and be up there with the top pros but it wasn't meant to be. Thinking that ending my season with a bad race was bad enough, my IT band decided to flare up right when I started back training again. All in all, I basically had to take 2 months off running (a lot of trying to run a bit, then messing it up again cycle). My confidence fell way low and I was scared about my athletic dreams and longevity.
But training in swimming and cycling were looking good. Without much conditioning I was doing the things I was doing last year, mileage and intensity wise. And I took the time off running to do a lot of strength training and also learned about glute dominant running/cycling which is much more efficient than what i was doing before(i will blog about it soon). There were a ton of positives and my confidence grew a bit. I was running faster than ever my second week back, being able to hold 6 minute pace for long duration without trouble. I knew if I can put it together, things could be good.
However things took a turn for the worse when I caught the flu that was going around this year 2 weeks before Oceanside. This virus didn't mess around. It screwed me up big time. I got well enough to attempt Oceanside 70.3 on March 29th but when the run came I had 0 energy left and spent 5 miles deciding whether or not to DNF and drop out. It was the toughest decision in my life as my dad drove all the way down with me (8 hour trip) and I felt terrible for letting people down. I ultimately dropped out because I didn't want to jeopardize my health.
So long story short, I came into this Wildflower with 0 confidence. No matter how well I was training and no matter what my power meter or run split says, I was scared. I've never been so doubtful about myself in my whole life. The whole week before the race was extremely stressful. I was constantly thinking about what ifs, and the possibility of another DNF. It took a of energy out of me but I dealt with it as best as I could. It didn't help that I've had a good consistent record here at Wildflower. I didn't want to let the course down.
When the gun went off I kind of relieved that I can let all this nervous energy out. My whole body was kind of weak and numb of being stressed and scared but I knew if i relaxed and got in a good rhythm things could be alright. I made a smart move this time around positioning myself with the right swimmers in front of me at the start. As many of you may know I just don't have the blistering swim speed because of my size so it's impossible for me to get clean water. Positioning myself behind the right swimmer at the start set me up a good swim. I chose swimmers that were slightly faster than me, meaning who on average swims about 1-2 minutes faster than my average times. I was able to draft off of 2 swimmers that were very chill, polite, and swam in a straight line most of the time. I didn't know who they were but I was kind of hoping that this was the 26 minute ish swim group. I focused on my technique and made sure I was doing everything right. I kept up with these two swimmers and when I finally finished the swim, my watch said 26:33! My fastest swim by a minute ever anywhere. I was so stoked.
The 2.2 mile run was challenging as expected but I stayed close with the people that I came out the water with. Easier said than done because they were definitely all in a rush. I got on my bike and felt amazing right away so I knew I was going to have a decent bike ride. The more guys that I passed, the more my confidence grew. I caught up to John Dahlz (local bay area legend) and Matt Reed ( Olympian and one of the best pros out there) and we started riding together after the big hills. I was feeling pretty good about myself until I got over nasty grade. Nasty grade's cousins(additional hills) that followed after that did NOT help at all. The downhill did NOT help at all. My gel did NOT help at all. It's like your iphone had 20% of battery left and you're like I'll be fine! but 5 minutes later it's at 2% and you're like oh crap! Nasty grade family got me again! I tried my best to relax and get in whatever calories I had left and crawled back to transition with the guys I was with.
Sometimes you just know that when you get off a bike ride and you try to run, you're gonna have a crappy run. And yeah I had a crappy run. My slowest half ironman time since I started doing half ironmans 5 years ago. I thought I was going to fall on my face because my legs were so feeble but I was determined to finish. I took extra gels, drank gatorade at every station. I regained some momentum after 5 miles of hellish hills. I got passed by Scott Defilippis and Chad Hall. The morale kinda went down but at this point, I'm just trying to get to the finish line. I kept them in sight until with 3 miles to ago. I somehow crawled in 15th place in a pretty deep men's field behind some world class racers and a really really hot day. I finished and I'm stoked! triple smiley face!
I knew that was a hella long post. So I'll end by saying thank you to everyone who read my story in the Wildflower Magazine and said hello to me and wished me good luck before the race. I really appreciate the support! I was so stressed and wired that every good luck I heard from you really helped kept myself out of that big hole. I hope everyone had a great time at Wildflower. Hopefully we'll all be back to support this iconic race!
I want to thank all my friends who wished my luck and supported me throughout the last tough couple of months. Pedro for the bike fit. I never felt uncomfortable in the aero position and wanted to sit up, thank you! My coach Keith for the amount of faith he has in me, and the all the guidance he's provided throughout one of the most difficult times of my athletic life. My dad who road tripped with me. Brice and Carlos who provided the best company that I could ever ask for. My sponsors, Polar USA, Bizlink Tech, and Accell.
I also want to take a moment to thank every single volunteers (must be hundreds of you) who makes this race so great. I befriended a volunteer who told me the amount of training that all volunteers go through. It's not very surprising because TriCal volunteers are 1st class. You ask a question, it gets answered. You have a concern, it is addressed. In spite of the fact that most of them probably didn't sleep much and have to be out there for hours to make sure the race runs smoothly, I did not witness any volunteer being grumpy or unhappy. Every volunteer was positive and enthusiastic. I also appreciate the run course volunteers who make sure you get what you want. They run after you if you missed your cup. I just can't say enough about this race. So thank you thank you thank you to the volunteers, and TriCal for your effort to put on such a well organized race once again.
I want to end by saying that Wildflower is a must do event and I hope I can do this race every year for the rest of my life. The organizers really care about all the athletes and make sure each athlete have a good experience. Many people might find the current format for the last 2 years (1.2 mile swim, 2.2 mile run (boat ramps, sandy, etc) 56 mile bike, 10.9 mile) awkward and different. But personally, I think that's why we do triathlons because triathletes wanted to do something different. No one's ever swam, biked and ran before. So why can't we swim, run, bike run? The water will come back hopefully, but if it doesn't the different format shouldn't hold you back from doing the race! come out and have an awesome and unique experience. You won't regret it!
That's it for now. My next race is Monte Rio in Santa Rosa. It's an Olympic Distance Triathlon so if you're looking for a great fast, and beautiful course, come on out!
See you then!
Thanks to Kaori for all the awesome photos!