Wildflower Long Course
by Jason Schneider (TriTrain Multisport)
(Los Angeles, CA)
My favorite part of the race - RECOVERY DRINK!
Wildflower Weekend - Long Course, Olympic Course, Sprint and MTB triathlons.
Location & Country:
Lake San Antonio, CA (just North of Paso Robles), USA
About The Race:
It's the Burning Man (or Woodstock) of triathlon. 5000 athletes and family members descend on a small lake & camping grounds in Central California. It's miles and miles from civilization - so no fast food, convenience stores and often, cell reception. It's just 5000+ people there to share in the love for the sport.
The Race Course:
It's early in the season, so that water is usually a bit chilly. But it's clean and FAST! You are surrounded on all sides my mountains - it's quite a fun swim.
The bike course is the most talked about element of the race. A steep climb straight out of transition, windy backside of the course and the illustrious NASTY GRADE at mile 42 of the bike. It's a bit soul-crushing...but everyone shares in the joy of the pain of the climb.
The pay-off is a gorgeous mountaintop view of both Lake San Antonio to the right and Lake Nacimiento to the left. Then, of course, the epic descent with speeds in excess of 40mph.
Why they never talk about it is beyond me. What starts out on pavement quickly becomes single-track trail run. Miles 1-4 are idyllic along the edge of the lake. But mile 4 turns into the woods and become more of a nightmare. Mile 4 - 6 is up, up, up - reducing even the strongest of pros to a slow climb or walk. It's just rough!
The best part, mile 7 - you turn back into the campgrounds. Now it's time for those thousands of spectators to supercharge you through to the finish - costumes, beer bongs, naked campers - it's built quite a reputation for spectator insanity!
Mile 9 - welcome to the PIT. Back on the pavement, you run down, down, down - you wonder if it will ever end. Then it happens...you hit bottom and they turn you around to climb back out. OUCH! But the final mile is a furiously fast descent down Lynch Hill right into the finish chute by the lake. This race has more pits and pinnacles than a roller coaster.
Single transition - huge parking lot. Rarely see a race that makes it as "fair" as Wildflower for everyone.
Overall Organisation And Atmosphere Of Race:
Because of the remote location (oh yeah, did I mention everyone camps?), it's like bottling the energy of triathlon. 5000+ of your best friends in close proximity - sharing food, drinks, tools and campfire stories.
Top Tips For Other Triathletes:
Screw the bike - respect the run! Everyone will train, train, train the bike (which doesn't hurt). But the run is the red-headed stepchild of this race and, frankly, it's where the race is won.
Overall Would I Recommend This Race?
Well, for fear that you might steal my prime camping spot - no. But in reality - hell yes. Oh - and don't forget to have a Wildflower Burrito at the Food Expo - it's life changing.
My Race Story:
I've raced Wildflower for several years and I've had good races and less-than-stellar races. But always, in the end, I love the overall experience and can't wait for the following year.