Wildflower Triathlon 2018

All I can say about this race is “WOW”! The Wildflower Experience was definitely an experience and one to remember for positive reasons.

Before I get into the nitty gritty details of how the race unfolded for me, I want to reflect on what the past 6 months have brought to my plate.

Back in August I was hit by a car whilst riding my bike and thankfully I came away with severe bruising only. I took part in Ironman 70.3 Santa Cruz a few weeks later and then Ironman Los Cabos in November (click here to read my Santa Cruz blog). I had signed up for these races before my accident and thought I’d go through the motions and not try to push myself if I felt any discomfort related to my injuries from the accident. I was not prepared at all for these races and despite crawling to the finish line, it left me with a sour taste. It made me realize that the path towards achieving your goals is never going to be straight and simple. There will be many detours and obstacles that will intrude, and you must make the best of the situation and overcome those barriers ‘by hook or by crook’! I took a much needed break after Ironman Los Cabos and used the time to reflect and figure out what and how I wanted to tackle the 2018 triathlon season.

Putting The Plan Into Practice!

My approach was to go back to basics and ensure I take one step at a time. I knew this approach would serve me best in the long term and I therefore decided to race shorter distance triathlons before jumping up to the longer distance races. With that in mind, it made obvious sense to target Wildflower Triathlon as my first race of the season. Whilst living in Europe I had heard of Wildflower Triathlon known for its reputation as the ‘Woodstock of Triathlon’. Aside from the music festival experience, the course itself is also tough! So how could I turn this down?!?!

Once the event was accepting registrations, I signed up for the Olympic distance triathlon (1.5km swim, 40km bike and 10km run). I slowly began training in December but there wasn’t much structure to my workouts. I trained by feel and did what my mood had an appetite for that morning! But as soon as the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve, I got straight to work. I created a thorough training plan that focused on quality and got me pushing closer to my intended race pace. A lot of these training sessions were uncomfortable but as they say; you got to get comfortable with the uncomfortable! What hurt the most were the running intervals where at times I had to run 3 mins flat out with a 3 mins rest in between, repeated 5 times. And did I mention that I would ride for 75 mins on my bike before this run interval workout? Yikes!

Here is what my training volume looked like on a week by week basis:

Training Volume Pic

The trend line in black shows the micro-phases in my training including my short trip to India in February and then to Germany in April. Overall, the increase in training volume increased steadily with a few weeks of easy training in between. Fortunately, the strategy put me in good shape for the race!

Ready to Race?

I had a funny feeling heading into this race. I was a bit nervous, a bit excited but simultaneously apathetic. I know it’s weird and doesn’t make sense! Part of me was roaring to attack on the race course and the other part was like ‘no big deal’ (in true Californian style 😉).

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But once I had zipped into my wetsuit it was time to get serious (but have fun too!). The picture above was a few minutes before starting the race. I clearly wasn’t wide awake as I didn’t get my morning coffee 😦

The swim went as expected. The faster swimmers took off and I couldn’t quite catch their draft but I was able to hold on to the chase pack. My buoy sighting was not up to standard, but I couldn’t expect more since I didn’t practice swimming in the open water before the race – the ocean was too cold for my liking!

I had a slick transition and set off on the bike ready to shred my legs! The course started immediately with a climb followed by plenty of rollers – there weren’t really any ‘flat’ sections on this course! It was either going up or going down!

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I began getting into the pace I practiced in training and my legs were spinning with grace. I felt good, my legs felt good, and so did my heart. But I ensured I stuck to my plan despite being overtaken by a few stronger cyclists. Everything seemed to be going smoothly until about kilometer 32 where my worst nightmare became a reality… I hit a bump on a descent and punctured my tire!

Damn it!

Why did this have to happen?!?!

But here’s the funny part… I didn’t carry my puncture repair kit because I wanted to trim off on the ‘weight’. So now I was stuck with a flat tire without the tools to repair it!

At this point I had to think quick. I could either call it quits and walk back to the transition zone or I continue riding my bike with a flat tire. I don’t think I have ever made a decision within 10 seconds like I did at that moment! I had a good feeling I was in the top ten of my age-group and I therefore didn’t want to quit. But I knew that continuing to ride with a flat tire could lead to a damaged rear wheel which would cost me $$$ to replace. I said to myself, ‘you’ve spent so much time and effort to get to the race AND you’re actually having a decent race! Just go for it and deal with the wheel later’. I didn’t think twice or look back. I continued to ride with caution as I didn’t want my rear wheel to slip during the remaining descents.

Unfortunately there was a lot of damage 😦

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Let me tell you, this was the longest 15 mins of my life! I got overtaken by so many triathletes and I was terrified of falling. Somehow I got back to transition and hit the reset button because the run is where my strength lies and I was confident I could still finish strong. As I left the transition zone, a fellow triathlete from my age-group was a few seconds ahead of me. He was able to catch me whilst I was riding gingerly with my flat tire! He started the run as if he was sprinting to the finish line. I had to keep up with him or else I would slide down another position in the rankings. My legs turned and within a few minutes I had overtaken him and was leading the pace. I could hear him breathing down my neck and I could hear his footsteps next to mine. It’s moments like these that I look forward to in races because it really brings the best out of me – and I’m sure my fellow competitor felt the same way. We exchanged a few words of encouragement to each other as we overtook a few other athletes in our age-group. The hills were taking their toll on both of us but we both kept our poker faces!

In the distance I could see the marker for kilometer 8 and I knew this was the last hill on the course before it was all downhill to the finish line. Just like on the bike course when I got my puncture, I had to make a quick decision to try and pull away. I had the confidence and my legs had that extra gear I needed to make my move. In my head I counted “3, 2, 1” and I made my move on the final hill. About 3 seconds later I heard the athlete shout, “thanks for pacing and I’ll see you at the finish line”. That was it! I had a mini celebration knowing that my tactic worked! But hey, how could I be sure he wasn’t bluffing?

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Again, just like when I got my puncture, I didn’t look back. I pointed a “thumbs up” to the athlete to acknowledge our effort and I continued to grind up the hill. Once atop, I began crushing my quads on the final descent just before the finish line. I took a few sneak peeks behind me to ensure I had a sufficient lead. I got to the bottom of the hill and the finish chute was about 200m away. Did I have the additional gear for the final sprint?
Not quite. I had about half a gear! A slight increase in cadence with a bit of help from my swinging arms got me to the finish line in excellent time!

But wait…
I forgot to tell you…

My left shoe laces got untied after about 2 kilometers! So… I ran for 8km with my left shoe on the verge of slipping off my foot, with the risk of tripping over my laces!

Now that’s what I call racing!

Overcoming the setbacks with the puncture and untied laces made the result taste even sweeter 😉

Check out my Instagram Story (click here) for some pictures and videos of the race! And speaking of Instagram, if you aren’t already doing so, make sure to follow me at @akhil_viz

What next?

More racing – duh!

And a special shout out to my fiancé, Sibylle, for racing the 10km run at Wildflower and finishing 10 mins quicker than she had predicted!

Keep up the good work and I’ll see you out there on the race course!

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