I've spent the past two days out at Lake San Antonio getting a feel for the Wildflowerlong course. It's amazing I'm feeling as good as I am, considering the huge training load on top of VERY little sleep for the past week!
Friday night, after flying in from Denver (see post below) I raced home for a quick dinner before jumping into my car for the 2.5 hour drive to the lake. Thank goodness I'd had the foresight to pack all my gear in the car before heading to Colorado.
I got to the campground about midnight for a quick nap (too much caffeine on the road) before being up and ready in time for an 8am swim in the lake. Immediately following the swim, we were all to head out on the ride, so I had to have all my gear down at the shore to transition to the bike. Got up at about 6, cooked up a quick breakfast of camp coffee, quinoa cereal, and a tangelo. Then headed down to the lake.
My swim was AWESOME. I think the pros went about 1.5 miles. It felt great--the water was up to 61 degrees, compared to 49 degrees for last year's practice weekend. I was able to get into my glide and sight pretty well, despite the glare from the sun and all the newbies pitching left and right all over the makeshift course.
Headed up the boat ramp to transition to the bike. I discovered that my neck was chafed pretty badly from my wetsuit, despite the application of copious amounts of Body Glide. Spraying sunblock onto it stung a lot!!! I got ready pretty fast, but most other people took quite a while, so I had some time to cool my heels before we all headed out on the ride together.
At about 1030, we regrouped and Coach Steve gave us the rundown on the bike course. Long coursers headed out first, with our group out in front. Other than an initial steep 1 mile climb right at the beginning and lots of rolling hills along Interlake road, the first 20 miles of the course are relatively easy. Too easy--I was able to get a spin on to 18-22mph for most of this section (when I wasn't climbing). I know now to hold back a little bit more. Miles 20-34 are out on Jolon Road, headed south. Lots of big, gradual rolling hills and a rather yucky headwind. I dropped my chain on the top of a long gradual climb, but no prob getting set back up. At mile 34, we hit the last aid station before the the dreaded Nasty Grade. We hung a right and had an easy rolling spin through farmland and vineyards from mile 34-41. At mile 41, we turned left and headed up Nacimiento Road. Coach Steve was there, cheering us on, telling us all "you can do this, you've got this, you're up to it, no problem!!!"
He was right--we all made it. It was crazy hard, though. It wasn't hard because it was a tough, long climb. It was tough because my legs were already nice and toasted from going 41 miles of rolling hills before hitting it. Most of all, it was tough because there is no shade, and it was HOT. I'm glad I got to feel it, because it can only get hotter from here. In 7 weeks it will be sizzling!
At the top of Nasty (which, by the way, is a false summit), the coaches and mentors had set up an aid station. I stopped and refueled, and did my best to move around and restore some feeling to my nether region. Then I hopped back in the saddle to grind my way up Heartbreak Hill (not so bad after a little rest). A quick descent, up and over another steep hill, and then into a long, screaming 2-mile descent.
About 1/3 of the way down at mile 46, I flatted. I was probably going about 30mph. Thank goodness it was my rear tire, or I might be in pretty bad shape today. There is nothing quite a discouraging as hearing that sudden "fssshhhhhhhht!" I managed to stop safely, and actually, since I was out in front with the speedsters, get the tube changed before everyone had even passed me. A coach from Santa Cruz on SAG stopped to give me a quick pump--and while he was doing it--FSSSSSHT! Another tube blown. To make a long story short, between me, Coach Steve, Jeremiah, and Scott, we went through 4 tubes and blew them all.
Defeated, I agreed to SAG back in with Scott. I'm so sad and mad that I missed out on the last 10 miles of the course, but grateful that I was okay, and that I had done so well up to that point with such an empty tank to begin with.
I grabbed a shower and spent the rest of the day hydrating, socializing, and licking my wounds.
Sunday I woke up and packed up my gear so I could leave right after the run. I'd never run 13.1 miles before, and I was feeling a bit discouraged after my experience on the bike the day before. It was cool and cloudy, perfect running weather, and I put my best face on. It turned out to be great! I really needed that. The hardest parts of the run are definitely within the first 5 miles. Even the Pit, a mile-long downhill followed by turning around and heading back up the same hil for miles 9 and 10, wasn't too bad. I think I finished up in about 2 hours and 15-20 minutes. Calves and quads were tight and the pounding was relentless, but overall, felt okay.
Overall...I have to say, this is going to be one of the toughest things I ever do. I knew that it would be, intellectually, before I experienced the whole course... but now I have a whole new respect for it. I need to do some hill repeats. I need to nail my nutrition and hydration. I need some Kevlar tires. Most of all, I need to mentally prepare myself. I'm glad I've gotten the heads up!!!