Monday, May 2, 2011
Wildflower Weekend: Sun, Wind and a Podium Finish
I was SO excited for WF weekend this year after missing it last year for Ironman St George. Mark had plans to ride down as usual and I would take my friend Anne with me in the car for company. Things fell apart quickly. Mark and I had a wedding to go to and he was our chosen delegate and Anne broke a metatarsal a few weeks back and the camping of WF would be no good for her, as we have her on a "super" taper to IM Texas later this month and need to keep her injury free. So, I would be on my own driving down and would connect with my new South Bay team, TRIbe. Thank goodness for them, they made it a true WF weekend, filled with beer and BBQ after the race on Sat night (not that I could actually drink after the race..but at least I gave it an effort).
I am training for Ironman Texas on May 21st, so there would be no taper for WF, only a few days of rest before Saturday. This meant I had very low expectations for myself as the field at WF is always stacked with some of the best competitors from around the country..case in point, the podium ended up being from Washington, Idaho, California, Utah and Colorado (blessed with altitude). Having low expectations is always good as it lets me be very relaxed before the race which is good. I was excited, the bike had been prepped by Chief Bike Mechanic and coach, Mark before I left for Lake Naciemento, and the weather was looking to be phenomenal.
I opted to camp in the car, which is just as cozy as any tent with a thermarest and settled in with fellow campers who, not racing, decided it was time to crack a bottle of Jack on Friday night. Ear plugs? Check. I even offered to hydrate them with some nuun, but they passed. Their funeral, not mine :) I slept better than I normally do even in my own bed and woke up Saturday morning at the pleasant hour of 6. They left the ladies for last this year which meant I was to go off at 9:15...better get your sunscreen ladies, it's gonna be a hot one!
A big bowl of Leapin' Lemurs later and I'm ready to head down to Transition to get set up and prepped for the day. I found lots of friends down there which always makes the morning go by quickly, and takes away any nervousness. I knew it was going to be hot as there was no "typical" WF fog in the morning, only bright sun and already warm at 8AM. I double checked my sunscreen plan (but it totally failed my shoulders) and headed down to the water. The gun went off and I SWEAR my TYR Hurricane makes me swim better. I feel so fast and perfectly formed in it. I started in the front row hoping to catch some good feet and ended up being the feet. I was with the front 3 girls until the turn around, all of us swimming next to each other (no the best drafting strategy) and then the buoy came. I could feel the current helping us on the way out and had prepped for when the turn came that it would not be nearly as much fun on the way back in. I was SO right, chop chop chop went the water and I got a bit off the pace. I reeled the top gals back in by the end and came out in 4th position (tied with 3 others for this spot) and got out of T1 in 3rd.
After a small mishap with getting my already clipped in shoes on...I do this at every race, why was there a problem Saturday?!! I was onto the bike. The plan was to ride as if there was no run afterward and see how that went. Being that we had gone after ALL of the men, and we had swum over about a quarter of them, it was now time to take more down on the bike. It was so windy that I felt like I was back in Kona! I tried to legally use each person in front of me as a draft as I passed them, slingshotting my way around the course. This worked until I found myself in no mans land head on with the wind. No problem, everyone is facing the same thing. Nasty Grade came and went and the Energizer Bunny was waiting at the top for us as always beating his drum signaling the end of the hill. 12 miles to go. I continued my rolling buffet and spun into T2 feeling pretty good.
Back in T2 there were very few bikes racked and I told myself that I have been working on the run for years, now get out there and do it! Year by year, race by race, fewer and fewer women are passing me. When I first started racing, I used to dread the run, the time when I would go from being a top contender to fading to top 10 if I was lucky! So I started running and fueling. I must have had a gel every 2 miles and let me tell you, this was MAGICAL! No bad mental spaces on the run and I felt fantastic. The first 8 miles of the run are all on trails and the first 5 are VERY hilly...don't even ask me about mile 4-5- the split was ugly and the pace may have included some walking. May have. Getting to mile 8 is always good and went by quickly. This is the section through the camp grounds and the crowd really rallies you here. I saw friends cheering for me and those happy to see some of the lead women coming through. Mile 9 Brings the 1st and only opportunity to see the competition and where you are in the standings. 1,2,3,4,5...OK I only counted 5 and then me. I turned and then a minute later saw 2 gals gunning for me. I knew out of the 5 in front of me that at least 3 were not in my AG. OK, Hailey- keep it in your pants and you could do this. Run for your life! 11-12 was a long slightly uphill mile and I started to feel the fatigue set in. I checked back and didn't see the other two girls and knew that mile 12-13 is all downhill and I had better work it. And work it I did! I hit the line in 5:17, feeling good.
Turns out 5:17 was good enough for 3rd in my AG and 6th woman OA. At Wildflower?!! Ohhh buddy I was excited. Protein shake me baby!
Things I was really pleased with: Breaking :30 on the swim. By the hair of my chinny chin chin, but mentally this needed to happen. I have had a tough time with that number lately and it's good to be back under :30. My run. I only got passed by one girl younger than me and I was able to run 11 minutes faster than in 2009, the last time I was at Wildflower. This is progress people! Fueling was also a total success. I will try to eat a gel every two miles in TX as well, keeping the stores topped off is key and I really was able to feel how successful of a strategy this is.
The only disappointment on the weekend? My ritual of passing by a Dairy Queen after every race was not to be this year. The Gonzales DQ has been closed and is up for lease...not that it would have been open at 8AM on my drive home, but I had to at least try. mark made it up to me later Sunday night with local fried chicken, a cheese plate and some coconut macadamia nut gelato. Gets me every time.
Now I will rest, recover and get ready for 20 days from now in The Woodlands, Texas for the first Ironman of the year. Here's to having the third race of the year go as well as the first two.