Hi all, happy belated Pick Strawberries Day! Yes, there's such a thing. Did you know that strawberries are nutritional powerhouses that pack a punch? They contain high amounts of potassium, vitamin C, and phytochemicals which act as anti-oxidants. Strawberries have a high ORAC (Oxygen Radical Antioxidant Capacity) score of 3520, one of the highest (second to blueberries which comes in at 5486). I love strawberries! Every time I reach for one, my wife says "are you going to leave some for the kids?!?" Here are a few ways I eat them: add to greek yogurt, add to salad, or when I get ambitious, add to some homemade pancakes! Yum! Alright, enough breakfast talk. I promised that these would be short so this week's Skinny will be focused solely on Wildflower.
1/ What a Wild(flower) experience!
Wildflower is also know as the "Woodstock of triathlon". Perhaps it's the music, food, and a crazy course. Or maybe it's the fact that Lake San Antonio is not easy to get to so it's thousands of athletes essentially sequestered (by choice) for a weekend. There seems to be a few different types of people who come to this:
For something to be in its 35th year, you know there's something to it. Well, what is it about Wildflower that makes it so sticky and iconic? For starters, it's a grueling course. The festival takes place during the first week of May where the weather could be hot (in the 90's). With sections of the course named "Nasty Grade" (5 miles & 1000 ft), "Heart Rate Hill", "Lynch Hill" or the nude aid station, you know the course has to be memorable, and frickin' hard. You can see the course maps here. Aside from the famed course, there are so many other reasons why it's an event not to miss, which I will outline below.
1.2/ Something for everyone
At it's peak, this event drew nearly 30,000 people to the festival, which included the 70.3 distance, aka the "Long Course" (gosh, can we make it sound more appealing?). There are also other distances such as the sprint, olympic, and off-road sprint tri. This year, with the growth of adventure sports, other events have been added such as the trail run, 5k, 10k, and stand up paddle. Oh, and if you are not into any of that (and who wouldn't be), it's ok! There's a weekend long festival with live music and food trucks to keep you (and the kiddos) entertained as you wait for your athlete to come into transition or the finish line. For those into outdoor adventure, you're in luck because most people camp next to Lake San Antonio in a tent or RV. Even glamping options are available. I was lucky enough to get a campsite perched on top of the hill overlooking the lake (thanks to Tri-California and Motiv Running organizers!) and within walking distance from the main attractions. This gave me front row seats to see the moon or the sun rising above the landscape.
1.4/ Woodstock of triathlon
Regardless of what group you belong to, everyone's there to hang out as a community and have a beer. You can be as chill as you want or bet your friends on how hard you can party the night before and race the next day.
- Athletes who have done the race before and are back because they love doing hard things
- Those who love spending a weekend in the wilderness while enjoying the food & music
- Pros who came for potential bragging rights to placing at an iconic event
- And of course, there's the students from the not so far away Cal Poly, tri clubs & collegiate teams from all parts of the west coast long for a bonding experience.
1.6/ The Race
After all of this, you're wondering, was there a race? Heck yeah! Jesse Thomas, who is the defending champion and won this six times in a row (talk about dominance!), was back. This time, with the family in tow, Jesse had a admirable performance but just fell short of 1st place which went to the young Rudy von Berg. Whether this is truly Jesse's last appearance as a pro at Wildflower remains to be seen. Nevertheless, Jesse hinted that there's a pivotal shift in his career and priorities. You can read his full recap here or listen to Lauren and Jesse talk about what it was like to have the whole family there on their Work, Play, Love podcast. Here are the results of the top 5 pro men:
Our very own Ricardo Mazzini also competed in the Long Course. This was a great dress rehearsal race for him in prep for the Worlds and he even got to practice a tire change on a brutal bike course - bonus points!
- Rodolphe von Berg 4:00:40
- Jesse Thomas 4:03:18
- Nathan Killam 4:11:37
- Stephen Kilshaw 4:13:06
- Sean Daugherty 4:13:36
On the pro women side, Heather Jackson had a commanding race, while Carrie Lester and Robin Pomeroy rounded out the top 3.
- Heather Jackson 4:29:48
- Carrie Lester 4:39:06
- Robin Pomeroy 4:46:21
- Jennifer Spieldenner 4:51:27
- Kinsey Laine 4:54:05
Wildflower has such a rich history. The athletes who have done the race come back year after year because it's just a damn good time. The pros also come to make a mark (literally). On the steps from the swim start/transition area up to the finish line, you can see the plaques with names of all the past winners.
These photo are for the history buffs and people my age who grew up watching Paula Newby Fraser race. After the awards ceremony, I also got a chance to get a photo with Jesse Thomas, the 6 time winner who started his career here and won the first race wearing aviator sunglasses. He is an icon of this event and someone I have a lot of respect for. In an interview with Jesse after his first win here, he gives really great advice to "respect the course, but don't fear the course."
Other people I ran into are Mario Fraioli and Bob Babbitt. After many years of self-coaching, I got in touch with Mario who in 10 weeks, helped me confidently qualify for Boston and shave my PR by more than 5 minutes. Mario is the former senior editor at Competitor magazine, an accomplished marathoner, coach and journalist. You can find him here or listen to him interview amazing world class athletes at The Morning Shakeout. Bob is the co-founder of Competitor magazine and the Challenged Athlete Foundation. I love hearing his interviews with the pros (Breakfast with Bob) before the Ironman World Championships. He's also busy with Bobbittville. This sport is full of amazing people and WF was the place to see them all!
Mario Fraioli (middle), Bob Babbitt (right)
1.9/ What it meant to me
This section could go long but I'll do the Cliff Notes version (for those of us old enough to know what these are; for everyone else, it's essentially the TLDR version). Speed Hound is a growing business and I had to make a decision of when to really invest in a big event. After much thinking, and for many reasons including those listed above, I decided that Wildflower was the platform we would use to generate the buzz and brand awareness. It was very hard for me to go to a race and not be in the race (this may be the first time...) but that's the trade-off I have to make almost daily between being an athlete vs an entrepreneur. After the contract to sponsor the WF festival and signed, a cascade of activities and work began. The two months leading up to it, there was a ton of planning, logistics, inventory management, coordination to ensure that we are ready for the event. I couldn't be more proud of how our team showed up and executed. The Speed Hound brand was everywhere - at the start line, finish line, and everywhere in between. The booth was buzzing with people wanting to meet us, to learn and see our products. The team held down the fort at the booth and provided me the space to meet with athletes, race organizers, influencers in the sport, and to capture the race happenings. As much as I wished to be racing, I thoroughly enjoyed meeting the athletes. Hearing others experiences, why they got into the sport, what they are learning from it really energized me. This event and the community is so representative of the sport and why I love it! I started Speed Hound to create high quality gear that meets the demands of the elites yet within reach for the everyday athlete. Talking to athletes who loved our product was like pouring fuel on the fire in me to continue to grow Speed Hound. (The transition mats and the recovery systemwere a hit!) I hope this business will continue to help athletes on their journey to making their #missionpossible. Thanks to the Tri-California and Motiv Running crew for putting on a great event!
Alright ya'll, now get out there and crush it the rest of the week. Be safe out there!
P.S. Feel free to write if you have any feedback on content, format, etc. I love hearing from our athletes!