Wildflower: The Woodstock of Triathlons

From Elisabeth Tutsch


I think it was Paula Newby-Fraser who called this event the Woodstock of Triathlons, and I agree!  There are 7000 athletes and supporters everywhere, tents, camps, lots of skin.  Maybe the biggest difference is that beverages and chemical dependencies of choice appeared to be Gatorade and gel packets.


I donít think a fresh Wildflower participant can be fully prepared for the total triathlon immersion.  Imagine 7000 people competing over 2 days.  There are athletes going all different directions.  The swim waves started every five minutes, 100-150 people each wave, and lasted for hours.  The bike transition zone was immense - the size of a major mall parking lot, packed with bikes 6 inches apart from each other. At any moment during Saturday and Sunday from 6:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., you could see people of all shapes, sizes, genders, and ages swimming, running, cycling, finishing, and carrying their bikes back to camp.


Wildflower is in the middle of a truly wonderful nowhere.  I didn't think that anywhere in California could be so remote.  The closest store was a tiny camp marina store down the hill from our campsite and the next closest was another tiny camp store 10 miles away!  After that, there was nothing but rolling hills for miles and miles.  You really need a week to get there, absorb getting away from it all, and immerse in being a triathlete.


On race day, JoDee, Kate and I rode our bikes to that immense transition zone to get ready and rack our bikes.  As soon as we entered,  I immediately lost sight of them.  I spent an hour freaking out over where to put my run shoes and whether to walk around in extra socks.  We found each other just minutes before my swim wave started, gave each other high fives, and then my start horn sounded.  What a shark fest: legs and arms everywhere, and thumps to the head! The water Ė even at 64 degrees - took my breath away.  I felt strong and smooth, which was a good thing because I lost my way several times along the swim and cute boys on surf boards had to direct me back on course.


The bike leg was scary. The rolling hills were scary enough, but the winds were incredible.  If it was windy like that at home I would stay inside! The slightest sideways move sent me rocketing across the road.  Downhills were a test of nerves as crosswinds made descents dangerous.  I heard about a couple really awful wrecks, but I'm glad I didn't see them.


I was so relieved to finish the bike that I rocketed out of transition like a bat.  The first mile passed lickety-split, but then all of a sudden we were on dry, dusty trails that only went uphill.  Away we wound up Mt. Whitney or something, and just when I thought we were at the highest point, up we went again.  The low point came when the up finally gave way to a long downhill, but instead of the big hooray it was dread as the athletes ahead of me were coming back up the same hill!  The whole downhill section was filled with dread - when would it ever end?  Finally, the finish and a sprint to victory.  Well, at least a 10th place age group spot.


Kate and JoDee finished strong and well and Leslie had an impressive first triathlon.  I see bright futures for all! 



Dry land swiming practice

Leslie at T2 and run finishing
JoDee finishing
Best dining and room service at the race......


....definitely NOT a pancake!