Monday, April 14, 2008

Wildflower, take 1...

Aaah...back in the Bay after a stunningly successful Wildflower practice weekend at Lake San Antonio.

Our team met up with 2 other LLS chapters and Sv Ironteam this past weekend for their own exclusive preview of the entire course. I am so proud of ALL of them. I have no doubts now that they are all fully capable of finshing the race, barring unforseen things like flats, illness, accidents, and inclement weather. They are all certainly fit enough!

Practice weekend is always an illuminating and fun experience. It's one of the reasons I love spring team so much--everyone becomes so much closer after a couple weekends camping together out in the middle of's no wonder that the spring team seems to beget the lion's share of future TNT and tri addicts.

Anyway. The weekend was hot and beautiful, but surprisingly, we had very few cases of heat-related illness. It was pretty brutal out there, but everyone ended up okay.

I arrived with Christine and Caroline on Friday afternoon at about 2. I'd been hoping to get out and ride the Oly course, or at least head out backwards on the Long course and meet up with the girls getting an early ride in. Unfortunately, tent drama precluded that after getting everybody settled, it was about 430 and dinner was happening at 6. I headed out for a little solo run toward the other end of the park. I only went out for about 40 minutes, and thank goodness for that. It was HOT, and LSA is notoriously hilly, dry, and devoid of shade. Still, it felt great to just MOVE.

Friday night, all-coaches meeting. I had never fully realized just how complicated it is to run practice weekend out there. The course is so big and spread out, and the roads are rough with relentless hills. Coordinating water stops, sweeps and SAG is a big job, and I have to hand it to our head coach Dave and head captain Larry--they've got it down to a science. It's fun, but we have to be on top of things! I received my assignments: Saturday, lead the age-group (read: slower) riders out on the Oly course, Sunday lead the elite (read: intermediate) runners on the Oly course.

Saturday morning I was up at 6, ready to ride as soon as the swim was over. I was glad for my swim parka--it was COLD. We had the whole team ride down Lynch with all their transition gear to get ready for the swim at 8. The water was actually quite nice, probably between 66 and 68 degrees, though it had just turned over and was rife with algae.

After the swim, we gave people plenty of time to transition. It was starting to warm up, so I began to shed layers for the ride. We all met up so that the head coach from Orange County could outline the course for everyone. Long course peeps were off and riding at 930, and we started sending the faster Oly riders out in groups of 3 at 10am. Then all the intermediates...and finally my group. :-)

I led out and headed up Lynch. I quickly caught up to a few intermediates, including one girl having a serious meltdown. I hung with her and managed to get her a quarter mile further, but no dice. She ended up clipping out and walking the rest of the way up. I stayed with her until I had a chance to hand her off to one of her own coaches, breathed a sigh of relief, and took off to catch everyone who had passed me.

It ended up being a nice leisurely ride for the 20k out to the turnaround. I couldn't take my eyes off the scenery. The Wildflower course is one of my all-time favorite places to ride. It's beautiful and challenging. The hills are humbling, the descents exhilarating, and the flats are...well, there really are no flats. In April there are rafts of wildflowers (hence, the name) checkering the meadows along the course. The poppies are nearly fluorescent!

I reached the turnaround back up at the head of the group and settled in to watch them roll down and head back, offering a few words of encouragement, until...I fell to peer pressure. Barney, Julie, Meabon, and a couple other girls were planning to take off to Jolon and back and asked me to go....ermmmm....okay! Out to the Interlake/Jolon SAG and back, where I hung out for a while reapplying sunscreen, refilling bottles for my longer-than-anticipated ride, and cheering on the last few long coursers headed through. For a moment I toyed with the thought of following them. Just a moment, though. :-D

We headed back after about 15 minutes of slacking, and since there was no one to sweep, I opened up and spun the heaviest gear I could hold above 90. In seemingly no time at all I caught up to the newer and slower Oly riders, and so spent plenty of time zig zagging up and down hills to talk people through them. Soon I caught Caroline on her way back in, and we headed into the last SAG for one more party at the side of the road. Then back into the park and down to the lake for a nice, cold swim!

A pretty early end to the day, really--that put us back to the campground at about 2, and we were some of the last people in. The whole team spent the rest of the day cleaning up and getting hydrated...and "hydrated." In the evening we had our catered dinner and honoree speaker from the Ironteam, and then back to the campfire for an evening of swapping war stories and mischief. I even lost a [stupid] $100 bet...I crashed hard at 11pm after a long day of cooking out in the sun, riding, and, um, imbibing.

The mystical forces of Wildflower somehow ensured that I woke up at 6am feeling refreshed and hangover free. WTF? I just went with it. Most of us rolled out at pretty much the same time, and once coffee was on, set about to packing as quickly and efficiently as we could so we could get home relatively early.

At 745, we all headed down the hill as a team to meet up with the other chapters for the run. I was slated to lead the intermediate Oly runners, but since we had a lot of support on the course, I agreed to stay with Christine to help talk her through the run if she wanted. She had been doing well for the whole weekend, but she was beginning to show a few symptoms of her Crohn's flaring up and needed encouragement. After letting the long course peeps start the half marathon followed by the crazy fast Oly's, we got started on the run at about 930. Again, can I rave about how much I love this course? The run hugs the shore of the lake for about 2+ miles, and then swings away from it up a biiiiiiig, long hill that the long coursers call "the Pit."

We did pretty well--probably walked about 3/4 of the Pit and were able to get going soon after we reached the top. The next couple miles paralled the road on a dirt trail, so the surface was a little more comfy to run on. It was really starting to get warm, so we needed to stop a couple more times to let Christine's gut adjust to the environment a bit. We topped the other sizeable hill on the course fairly quickly, and then headed right for the run down Lynch.

Yeeeeahhhh...I like running down Lynch. It's a mile, but it's so steep and I'm good enough at letting inertia take me that I can probably do it in 5 minutes, maybe less. I opened up my stride and cruised past a whole bunch of people that had passed us back in the Pit. Yahoo!

Once I reached the bottom, I crossed the road (narrowly missing 2 descending cyclists--oops) and waited for Christine so we could run in to the finish together. We ran into the makeshift chute lined by a whole bunch of the team. We did it in about 1:07. I hugged Christine (ew sweaty Liz) and told her how happy I was to have her back...that last spring '07 hadn't been the same without her. We started this whole tri journey together, and it just feels wrong if one of us isn't there. We made a pact to do an Ironman together for our 40th birthdays.

After cheering (and occasionally mooning) everybody in, some of us headed down to the lake and jumped in to cool off.

Then Christine and I hopped in the Element and jetted back up north, stereo up all the way. :-D

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