by Cherie Gruenfeld - 12 time Ironman Kona Age Group World Champion
If you’re unfamiliar with this event, it’s worth knowing a little something about it.
This twenty-eight year old event is iconic. It’s a weekend-long festival which includes three races: a long course (Half Ironman), a mountain bike sprint and an Olympic distance race. And all racing is done on terrain that is scary tough – it’s not for the faint of heart.
It brings out a full slate of top pros and amateurs from all over the country hoping to test themselves in the early season and everyone goes home with bragging rights.
As tough as this course has always been, it became a little harder in the last two years, thanks to the California draught. Lake San Antonio is a beautiful lake where the swim took place – for twenty-six years. Today, there is no lake. We’re not talking lower water levels or shallow, murky water. There quite simply is no lake!
Not one to throw in the towel on this great event, the Race Director got creative and created a devilish solution:
There is some water left in a lower section of ground, so the swim was moved there and that solved the no-water problem. Now there’s the little issue of having racers finishing the swim 2.2 miles from their bikes. No problem – triathletes can run. So, the second leg of this race is a run that is a real leg-trasher. It includes running up two very long, steep boat ramps, over hilly trails and through some deep sand. By the time the athletes reach their bikes, they’re ready for most anything but heading out on a brutal, hilly 56 mile ride, only to follow that with an 11 mile run where the hills never end. But we do it and that’s where the bragging rights come in.
In 1992, when I first entered the sport, this was my first race. I knew very little about triathlons and nothing about the difficulty of this long course. In the next 23 years, I returned to race the Wildflower long course twelve times.
As I’ve aged, I find myself at the finish line a little later than in the early days. But, even with the new run added in, I’m still handling the course pretty well.
A few highlights from this year:
I believe several factors (beyond good genetics) play a role:
If you haven’t yet tried this event, don’t put it off. Come see what you’ve got and enjoy the bragging rights.
I plan to continue taking PerfectAmino and to keep going back. It feels so good when it’s over!!