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May 6, 2007

bizarro world - wildflower 2007

wildflower. what is there to say about this race other than it was completely not what i expected. from the moment i pulled into the park to the moment i crossed the finish line, not anything was as i expected to be. it was, as in adventure comics, a bizarro world.

my htrae experience began when i pulled into the campgrounds at the event. i had purchased prepaid camping, to save some money and also to 'reserve' myself a place. silly me, i thought that meant that i'd have an ACTUAL campsite. turns out, you have to show up by tuesday to ensure that can get an ACTUAL site. when i pulled in on saturday, it was an exercise in creative camping. pull off the road, find a space to squeeze your car into and hope that you have some flat land to pitch your tent. i finally found a place to put the car and was immediately in culture shock with the sheer volume of people and the madhouse array of campsites.

i quickly headed down to the festival to pick up my race packet and find out where the pasta dinner was being served. the walk down to the expo was long and included a huge hill (downhill) that quickly gave me an idea of what sort of climbing i was in store for during the race. the expo was a sea of people, not unlike the mass of humanity that we experience at the boston expo this year. i was by myself, without a tri-club or crew and i felt small and alone. the last place i wanted to be at that point was at the race.

i tried wandering the expo but couldn't take the crowds, so i tried to track down the pasta dinner. eventually, i located a trailer with a small sign that said, "pasta" on it. i gave them my name and they handed me a plate. bizarro occurrence number two was the dish that i'd been handed to 'carbo-load'. there was a handful (seriously, enough to fill my hand) of penne pasta, an iceberg lettuce salad, a half banana, a slice of bread and two chocolate chip cookies. meager, to say the least. i plopped down at one of the tables and began eating, and actually ended up chatting with a group of four athletes from ottawa. this turned out to be a fortuitous event, as chad, one of the long course racers, was in my age group and would turn up later. i asked if they knew warren, because, hey, if you're from canada, you know everyone there, right? they let me know that canada was a big place...who knew?

after my 'meal' i headed back to my 'campsite', grabbed my box of left over pizza from lunch and began eating as i headed over to 21st century's camp with the fmrc folks. we chatted for a bit, tried to get some cell reception and then i decided it was time for me to turn in and attempt to get some sleep. this led to bizarro number three. i had never slept in my car before, but i had no desire to try to put up the tent on the meager plot of land that i'd staked out. so, i dropped both of the seats in the xterra, kicked the front seats all the way forward and stretched out my thermarest and bag and ended up with just enough room to extend fully. lucky me, i'm a short guy. i slept surprisingly well, despite the loud antics of the cal poly students off in the distance.

up bright and early, i fired up the stove, cooked my oatmeal, ate and headed off to the transition area by 6:15. i was all set up and ready to go by 6:45, so i hung around, watched the other athletes start to file in and chatted with some of the folks around my transition area. by 7:15, donald rolled in and it turned out he was one rack up and a couple spots over. bizarro number four, for some reason, i expected donald to be this crazy intense, competitive guy and instead, he's this humble, soft spoken and very calm guy. just the type of person i needed to be around before the start of the race. we chatted for a bit and then i let him get to the task of setting up his gear. right next to donald, though, was chad from ottawa. i asked donald if he happened to have any sunscreen, to which he replied with a negative, but chad did. two bottles, in fact, and he actually gave me one of them.

eventually, time came for the start and i put on the wetsuit and headed over to the ramp to group up with my wave. my last experience with the swim start was somewhat of a nightmare that ended up with me nearly quitting the race before 10 minutes had even gone by. and that had me spooked about the start. as i stood there waiting for the call for my wave, i closed my eyes, blocked out everything around me, said a quick prayer and began focusing on exactly what i needed to do to have a successful swim. stroke mechanics, face in the water, look for feet and bubbles while underwater and don't look up, and most important of all, swim MY pace. when i opened my eyes, a complete calm was upon me and i was really ready to get started.

our horn sounded and i waited for most of wave to dive in before i started. immediately i got my face in the water and started swimming my pace. sure i got kicked and bumped, but i didn't let it phase me, i just kept swimming, watching for feet, breathing normal, arm over arm, kicking, breathing, stretching and before i knew it i was past the first turn and well on my way down the long stretch before the turn around. about a third of the way into the swim, i realized that i was through the part of the race that had spooked me the most, i was swimming strong and my heart rate was quite comfortable. at that moment, a mere 10+ minutes into the race, i knew that IT WAS ON. bizarro world? meet jeff. the rest of the swim went off without a hitch and i felt relaxed and pumped as i neared the shore. about 100 yards out, i started kicking the legs hard, but another swimmer stopped dead in front of me and i had to do a weird maneuver to get around him. just as i kicked away from him, my left calf tightened up. i continued swimming and kicking, trying to work out the knot. when i hit shore, it had loosened up enough to run again, but it was still somewhat painful.

i executed the exit from the water flawlessly, goggles on the head, unzip to the waist as i ran, then goggles off and into the cap and before i knew it, i was at t1. i took my time here to make sure i did everything i needed to. i slopped a ton of sunscreen onto my arms, neck and back (or so i thought), took a gu, and i was off on the bike leg.

oh...did i not mention already that there was a stiff wind blowing and that the lake happened to be quite choppy with a heavy current? oh, well, there was a stiff wind blowing. and while i had noticed the chop in the water, it didn't really make itself apparent until i was on the bike. the two miles before the first big hill were quite sheltered and i didn't notice it at first, but it would make itself known shortly. i hit the first major climb up from the lake and watch the line of cyclists ahead of me slow to a crawl up the hill while guys on expensive bikes began standing in the pedals. me, i just kept sitting, spinning as fast as i could and slowly began passing people. easily. the hill just didn't seem to be phasing me. maybe i was being stupid by taking it so quickly, but i felt good and just kept pushing quickly over the top. as we wound out of the park and onto the main road, the wind began pushing us all over the place. headwind, crosswind, cross-headwind, it never seemed to be coming from behind and even downhill seemed to be a challenge.

the bike, while a little bit slow with the wind, seemed to be going really well. i was passed by quite a few guys on the nice tri-bikes, but i'd always gobble them back up as we hit the hills. i constantly yo-yo'ed with them, being passed on the downhill and the flats, only to catch and pass them again on the hills. hills which had been described to me as brutal. hills which i seemed to be just cruising up and over. finally, we came to what was called 'the nasty grade'. 2 miles of constant climbing over 1000'. i remember reading somewhere that there was a false summit at some point, so every time it looked like it was going to level off, i told myself there was more and just kept spinning high. no one passed me on this hill, but i can't count the number of cyclists i gobbled up on that grade. before i knew it, we were on a monster descent and i knew that this couldn't be another false summit, but that we were actually over the top. and i had just been witness to more bizarro world. the nasty grade hadn't really challenged me.

i cruised the rest of the ride, pushing hills and relaxing on the downhill and before i knew it, i was back in the transition area about 25 minutes before i'd planned on being done with the bike. i looked at the clock and realized that i was four hours into the race. that gave me a full two hours to finish the run and still break six hours for the whole course! i was elated! i took some more time to slop on more sunscreen and headed out to do the leg that i consider "my sport". watch out, folks, runner coming through!

my next bizarro experience was the shock that was the run course. i'd looked at the elevation profile on the run and had dismissed it as nothing to be concerned over. what i didn't realize, though, was that while there were only a couple long hills, the rest of the course was steep uphill and downhill, mostly on singletrack. what i had hoped to be able to burn through in 1:35-1:40 in reality was going to be much slower. i gave myself a couple miles to shake the legs out and at about mile two decided it was time to turn up the volume, but mile two had lots of hills. and so did three, and four, and five and so on. only a couple times was i able to get into a solid, quick pace and before i knew it, i was looking at my watch and realizing that i needed to be really focused and dig deep if i was going to roll in under six hours.

the run actually went much better than i'm making it sound. the majority of people were walking the hills, which i always ran. nothing crushes your competition like being passed on a hill except for waving, laughing and giving the thumbs up to folks cheering at the top of the hill. teehee! i was only passed by four people on the entire run. two really fast guys with 40+ on their calves, one guy running a relay and the number six girl. i take that back. i was passed by five people. at mile 12, the number seven girl passed me up. as we wound our way down the steep drop back to the finish, i began my kick at a quarter mile out. i stretched out the stride, determined to come across the mats looking strong and fast and in the process, i blew past number seven. i was moving much to fast for her to match pace and she wasn't able to overtake me again. i cruised down the finishing chute as the announcer called out my name, trotted across the mats and stopped my watch with a pleasing 5:52. sub six. my gold medal goal.

everything about the race was backwards. up was down, left was right, the swim and hills posed no challenge, but the run was tough; bizarro. today, i'm ecstatic about my performance. very sore, very stiff, very tired, but extremely ecstatic. i think, at this point, the best bizarro thing i could do would be to eat a big burger and have a donut from tim horton's. sounds like a plan to me.

Posted by jeff at May 6, 2007 6:10 PM

Yahoo! Sweet report, Jeff - how did you get it up so fast? I'm still plunking away on mine. Excellent job with your race, I'm glad it went so well for you. I'm also glad to hear your confirmation of the choppy water on the swim, so I don't sound like a baby when I complain about it on my blog.

It was truly a pleasure meeting you and sharing part of our race day together. Godspeed.

Posted by: Donald at May 6, 2007 7:45 PM

Congratulations on what sounded like a stellar performance. I enjoyed your race report.

Posted by: Juls at May 6, 2007 8:33 PM

I was in the stands when you crossed the line - you looked great! Congratulations on successful race!

Posted by: 21stCenturyMom at May 6, 2007 9:53 PM

Oh, chad!!! hehe....

Sounds like the race was an amazing experience. Congrats!

Posted by: warren at May 7, 2007 3:14 AM

Congratulations on a great race and meeting your gold-medal goal on such a tough course too!!!

Posted by: Jessica at May 7, 2007 5:27 AM

Spin to win, man!

Awesome report!

Posted by: Rudi at May 7, 2007 5:46 AM

good job, you kicked it!!

Posted by: Deene at May 7, 2007 6:56 AM

Bizarro world, huh? And you performed very, very well in bizarro world. I think that says something about you, Jeff. ;)

Congratulations on a great race!

Posted by: Laurie at May 7, 2007 7:53 AM

awesome race. your fitness is sky high, which is why the hills didn't bother you, and which is why you blew past most runners on the end. it may have felt tough for you, it was much tougher for most other athletes. congratulations!

Posted by: Thomas at May 7, 2007 8:42 AM

i love how you fail to mention that this race was a HALF IRONMAN distance. dorque. what an accomplishment! you are a total machine.

i never doubted how this report would end.

my hero. my inspiration. and, no longer a runner who does triathlons...but a triathlete.

Posted by: Dianna at May 7, 2007 8:59 AM

Jeff! I think I saw you walking up the hill on Saturday after your race, but I wasn't sure. I should have just yelled, "Jeff!" to see if it was you, but I had doubts, so I didn't. I'm sorry, though! I didn't know you were there by yourself!

Anyway - GREAT JOB. It was SO HOT out there on Sunday for me, and I hear it was REALLY windy on Saturday for the Long Course. I'm very impressed with your sub 6 hour finish. I agree that none of the hills were earth shattering (I guess we have that going for us living in hilly places!) but there weren't many flats, so it was tough out there. Congratulations!

Posted by: Nic at May 7, 2007 9:55 AM

Congrats at Wildflower. I heard the winds were very nasty. You are a strong hill climber, way to go on attacking those hills. Again Congratulations.

Posted by: Pete at May 7, 2007 10:36 AM

whew. sounds exhausting.

Posted by: Angie at May 7, 2007 12:05 PM

marvelous maniac mojo working for you at wildflower. congrats.

Posted by: david at May 7, 2007 6:24 PM

Congratulations on your HALF IRONMAN at Wildflower. you make us proud!

Thanks for the race report.

Posted by: Dad at May 7, 2007 7:09 PM

Nice race, sounds like you've made the complete transformation to the "other side" ;-)

Posted by: darrell at May 7, 2007 8:45 PM

Way to crank it up. Way to be a freak on the hills.

I'm just drinking a large 'Tims'...you've got Timmy's in SoCal? That's BIZARRO. Must be all the Canadians hanging around. They're everywhere dude.

Thanks for the tube-link to Ashley MacIssac. He is a talented lad...talented as he is wacky. No doubt he inspires many young fellow Nova Scotians to fiddle their butts off.

I first saw Ashley was a kid on stage with a guy named Ron Hynes (from Newfoundland). It was Ron's gig in a little maritime pub called "Spankys". As soon as he fired up his fiddle the place went bizarro. Ashley was 14 then. Ron's gig became Ashley's gig.

Take care.

Posted by: robb at May 8, 2007 4:43 AM

Yeah Super Son!!! Congrats Jeff!! Did you get a gold medal?? You're awesome!! Love you, Mom :)

Posted by: CC Smith at May 8, 2007 8:04 AM

Woohoo! Awesome job on a tough course - congrats on smashing your Gold Medal Goal to pieces!

Posted by: Dawn at May 8, 2007 11:23 AM

great race report ... congratulations!!!

Posted by: suzanne at May 8, 2007 3:47 PM

faanfreakintastic! you rule! that was an awesome race report. and i would have said, oh you from canada? do you know MARK??

Posted by: jeanne at May 8, 2007 5:28 PM

How much fun does that sound? Good job, jeff.

Posted by: jank at May 8, 2007 8:26 PM

Many, many congratulations on a tough half ironman! I hope your recovery is going well!

Posted by: Meghan at May 8, 2007 10:44 PM

Bizarro World is the best way to describe it. Just like you, I was so worried about the bike I didn't think much of the run, and the run turned out to be the killer. Of course, if I was stronger on the bike I would have had more energy for the rnu, but still... wow that was tough. You did Sub 6? Outstanding.

Posted by: Mister P. at May 9, 2007 2:43 PM

that's an awesome report jeff. congrats and well done on your half im.

Posted by: Susan at May 9, 2007 5:59 PM

awesome half-tri, jeff!!! To follow on the fun of Boston with the intensity of this event is way cool. The hills are the best part...your training served you marvelously!!

Congratulations!! thunderclap has no idea the daddy he's getting!!!

Posted by: Joe Ely at May 10, 2007 5:39 PM

awesome performance, jeff! congratulations on your amazing sub-6 gold medal bizarro experience!

Posted by: nattie at May 10, 2007 7:36 PM

hey, congrats, man! that is just amazingly awesome! i am so totally proud of you...way to go...see you mom's day!

Posted by: kurd at May 11, 2007 2:20 PM

Great race, great report! Keep up the great training and hill-climbing character building. Life is about to get even more bizarro. You're going to need all your stamina and adaptability, and you will SO enjoy the challenge :)

Posted by: Karen in Calgary at May 12, 2007 3:15 AM

Congrats Jeff Great Report!

Posted by: Bob Gentile at May 12, 2007 6:16 PM

Wow, Jeff. What an incredible race. Very well done!

Posted by: Dori at May 16, 2007 5:40 PM