They call Wildflower the Woodstock of triathlon. As I’m sure you may
recall Woodstock was best known for sex, drugs, mud, and of course rock
and roll. I think the reason that people equate Wildflower to Woodstock
is that both take place in the country and both involve camping.
However, I found that that the only things the two really have in
common are the drugs (think EPO instead of Marijuana and Steroids
instead of Cocaine) and of course both begin with the letter “W”.
Wildflower is really three triathlons over the course of the
weekend. On Saturday they host a Half Ironman and Mountain Bike Tri and
on Sunday it is the turn of the Olympic distance athletes to race. Both
the Half Ironman and Olympic distance race are big events with about
two and a half thousand athletes each.
This unfortunate side effect of this two day race schedule is that
you really can’t party on Friday or Saturday night as somebody is
always racing the next day. Of course this does not stop the thousands
of college kid volunteers from partying or getting naked (more on this
unique Wildflower tradition in the Need to Know Secrets).
This year the race was best summed up by the 3 “H”s
For the half Ironman race you can also add a “W” to that list for Windy…and you’ve got a hell of a race.
If you are thinking about doing the half Ironman be prepared to add
about a half hour to your usual half finish time and don’t be surprised
if you end up with a PW (personal worst time)
For the Olympic Distance race you can safely add 15 minutes to your
normal finish time and also call it PW kind of day. This is mainly
because the only flat part of both races is the transition area.
The half Ironman race brings out the ultra fit and elite of the
triathlon community and this year that crowd did inexplicably include
Santa Claus. I’m not kidding. I saw a guy that if he were dressed in a
red suit and suspenders would make my young son weep with joy.
As I was biking out to visiting some raceAthlets at a distance camp
ground I saw Santa bringing it home at about 9 plus hours into the
You go dude! That’s the type of real effort that made me and the elves proud.
I raced the Olympic distance race and this was the usual mixed bag of weekend warriors and talented amateurs.
The swim takes place in oddly named lake San Antonia. I say oddly
because I was expecting Lake San Antonio to be in Texas. The water is
cold, clean and crisp. The swim makes a sort of “P” and both races
feature wave starts.
I found sighting (read swimming in a straight line) to be especially
difficult as you swim into the rising sun and you really don’t have any
markers or discernable natural features to use for sighting beyond the
Note to any and all race directors: just plopping a bunch of big
orange buoys into the lake a half a mile apart is not setting up an
adequate swim course. Perhaps you should try to swim your own course
before you make the rest of us do it to see how easily you can see the
tiny orange dot on the horizon.
Your transition spot is assigned by your race number. This was a bit
confusing for us Olympic distance types as the numbers on the bike
hangers match the race numbers for the Iron Distance bibs. Unknown to many of us, we only had to match the last three numbers of
our race numbers to that of the bike hanger number. This made for many
early morning mix ups worthy of the Three Stooges
Hills, hills and more hills.
The bike course is purely an up and down sort of adventure You spike
your heart rate on the way up from the two mile long climbs that make
many a newbie walk their newly acquired triathlon steeds in a humbling
display of the benefits of being thin. And you spike your heart rate on
the way down as you fly at almost 50 mph back into transition and try
not to crash into trees, cars, suspicious bushes, and mostly other
cyclist coming up on your left, and runners going down on your right.
If you love to climb this is a race for you. If you are like me and
you are carrying extra weight, you’ll pay the price and then some.
The run course loops around the park and up and over several large and painful…guess what? Hills.
Yes, just when you thought you were done with the bloody hills you
notice that a never ending uphill climb as you struggle to make your
legs work on the run.
For us Olympic distance athletes the hills did provide a welcome
opportunity for a relaxing stroll. I would say that about ninety
percent of the athletes around me walked at least some portion of the
two mile climb that is the key feature of the 10K run.
Reports from the half Ironman suggest that many more people actually
ran the entire run, but then again in general they did tend to look
like much meaner and leaner triathletes.
It is worth noting here that the run on both the Olympic and Iron
distance race does end in a quad crushingly steep one mile descent into
the finisher’s coral. You can make up huge chunks of time on this last
mile, but beware your feet will certainly pay the price if you race
like I did without socks.
The Race Expo:
The expo features a wide assortment of vendors that you will
certainly be happy to see as you discover that the TSA has confiscated
your CO2 cartilages.
The race takes place in rural California with the nearest bike shop
about an hour away. This means you are pretty much stuck with whatever
food you brought to the race. You can purchase food at the expo but the
choices are limited to crepes, burritos, hot dogs, pasta, and stir fry.
That’s all there was this year and after four days of the Wildflower
burrito I was ready for something a bit less carnival like.
Also the race expo does feature bands like Woodstock of yore but I
never managed to hear one play. This is especially odd as I was always
at the expo buying this or that while snaking on the fifth burrito if
FYINTKS (For Your Information Need To Know Secrets):
• Transition never seems to close. They say that it does but it
never really did. So no need to get up crazy early as the rousted
college kids who man the transition gates will allow you to come and go
• I stood in the “restricted’ start area of the half iron distance
race and watched wave after wave leave without any issues. My
suggestion is that you sleep in a bit and get to transition just before
the start of your wave.
• If possible get to Wildflower early. The race consists of numerous
camp grounds located around the lake. You’ll want to be as close to the
expo/transition as possible unless you enjoy a long and very hilly
bike/shuttle/walk to and from all the action and food.
• You better love camping. No matter if you rent an RV, as we did, or
decide to tent it you better enjoy camping. This means communal
showers, stinky toilets, dust and dirt, and the wide open bright, shiny
and cold nights of spring is all yours for no additional fee.
• And yes on both the Olympic and Iron Distance course you will have
the pleasure of a topless for boy’s, and even bottomless for girl’s aid
station. They, the naked bits, just sort of jump out at you as you
round a corner or crest a hill. You are racing hard and the next minute
you are hugging a topless coed with all sort of wiggly and jiggly bits
all lousy goosey as God intended. It is something that is certainly
unique in the sport of triathlon, and perhaps only possible in
California at Wildflower while camping and racing in the middle of
pretty much nowhere.
EveryMan Rating: 2 Brewskis (BYOB as they don’t sell it in the park or within 10 miles of the race)
Rating Scale (based on the amount of beer needed after race) • 4 Brewskis So excruciatingly painful and lame you’ll need a full year of recovery just to forget this race • 3 Brewskis The best thing said and remembered about race is; I finished • 2 Brewskis Challenging race in a masochistic I’d could do it again sort-of-way given enough time and Ibuprofen. • 1 Brewski Good solid race that exceeds your expectations • No Brewski A must-do annual event for both friends and family