Saturday, March 31, 2012

WFTW

Sunrise over Lake San Antonio

Last weekend was the San Francisco Triathlon (SFTri) Club's biggest, most enjoyable event: Wildflower Training Weekend (WFTW). On Friday, over a hundred club members loaded up their hatchbacks and station wagons and hit the road for a camp site on the shores of Lake San Antonio, roughly three hours south of San Francisco. Brent Ledvina and I hit the road on the early side and arrived just as the sun was starting to set, giving us just enough light to set up our tents without much difficulty.

[For those who won't know, Wildflower is a big triathlon event that takes place here in California. It's two days - some competitors race a half-Ironman distance course on Saturday, and some race an Olympic distance course on Sunday. Just about everyone comes with a tent and takes advantage of the campgrounds!]

Once the sun did go down, it got dark fast. Lake San Antonio is in the middle of nowhere, and the moon was new. The stars were out in full force -- Mars was the brightest I've ever seen it. Brent and I went for a short, headlamp-aided jog around the campsite before settling in with our fellow triathletes around the campfire.

The next day was a question-mark in everybody's mind. Many of us had been following the weather forecast all week, and not once did it look favorable for a long Saturday bike ride. I fully expected to wake up, unzip my tent flap and be greeted by ominous gray clouds and the smell of rain on the air. To my surprise, I woke up and found neither!

Saturday morning was absolutely gorgeous. The club had breakfast together before kitting up and heading out in three separate groups -- a short (Olympic) group, a long (half) group, and a super-long (IM) group. By the time we started riding, the sun had risen and the air had warmed to a comfortable temperature. The wind had picked up, too, but I'll take wind over rain just about any day of the week.

Having never done Wildflower before, I knew not what to expect... but as soon as we hit the open road, I no longer cared. The course looked like a triathlon course, and there were riders in front of me spaced out in a very tantalizing way. I settled into a good rhythm. Miles passed. Soon, I was riding alone in front of the pack, cruising along the course's flat-to-rolling country roads.

This ride was an experiment in a handful of ways. First, it was to be the first time I'd ridden anything other than Paradise Loop on the new bike fit. It was also the first time I'd really attempted to ride anything greater than 45 miles in two and a half months. I'd been spinning quite regularly, but I was afraid that fitness wouldn't translate to four hours on the road.

Well, it translated. And the fit worked out, too.

The Wildflower course is awesome... until mile 43. At that point, the road turns uphill onto Nacimiento Road - a climb that triathletes have affectionately dubbed "Nasti Grade." It definitely killed my otherwise respectable average speed. The descent down to Bee Rock was long and fast. I waited there for some clubmates and found none, so I decided to tack on a few more climbing miles; I wound up climbing up to the top of Nasti Grade from three different ways. Ouch.

The afternoon was fun -- various clubmates put on clinics of various sorts. Some went swimming, others (like myself) opted not to. There's something about 45-degree water that just wasn't appealing to me. Dinner was delicious and the post-dinner bonfire and social hour were both a great time!

Rain came in spurts over night, but my tent stayed dry. The club laced up for a run the next morning, and I opted to push my limits a bit -- 10K on actual roads! It came surprisingly easy, to be honest! My running legs are coming back, and they're coming back faster.

Shortly after returning to camp, Brent and I loaded up the car and hit the road for San Francisco, where I squeezed in the swim (at the pool) that I'd skipped in the lake down south.

Sleeping under the stars was fun, but being around all of those triathletes was... inspiring. It got my competitive juices flowing again; the motivation's returning. How badly do I wish I was down in San Diego, racing Oceanside today? Or racing Wildflower in a months time?! But no, I can't get too excited yet -- these are but small battles in California, and I have a lot of rehabbing to do before my war in Switzerland.

But... BRING IT.