by Gina Horath
Wow, what a whirlwind of a weekend! As our last team race of the season, Wildflower did not disappoint. More than thirty members of the UCSD Triathlon Team left Friday for an unforgettable weekend of camping, racing, and all-around entertainment. Wildflower is a unique race for us because although there is a collegiate division, this race also encompasses age-groupers and pros from across the country coming together to race in either Saturday’s long course, or Sunday’s Olympic-distance race… or both if you’re psycho.
Basically, if you’re a triathlete, you’re there (along with your parents, children, aunts, uncles, cousins, pets, and grandparents). For three days Lake San Antonio was overfilled with thousands of athletes, spectators, and questionably-sober volunteers bonding in the most incredible weekend of racing. The always-awesome TCSD staked out our campsite early (probably had to send someone there around Christmas time…) and we all set up tents less than two feet away from each other (although we would have done this even if there had been more space. #triteamlove). Then the rest of Friday evening was spent walking around the race venue, picking up packets, and seeing things like this
Like always, race morning came all too quickly and we woke up bright and early Saturday to a stampede of campers making their way down to the lake to race the half-ironman. For some reason unknown to man, more than half our team decided to race long course as well. Let’s talk about this for a second. The half at Wildflower is one of the toughest around- both the bike and run course are full of hills, making those long miles that much more grueling and demanding. But at least they’re lucky the weather cooperated for them and it was a cool and perfect race day temperature. Oh wait. IT WAS A MILLION DEGREES. Seriously I was sweating at 8am just standing watching the start. After the pro men and women went off, the guys from our team were next: Daniel Heineck, Matt Siegfried, Dave Berry, Bryce Zaffarano, and Craig Ricker (he’s on our team, right?). They were followed shortly by our amazing women: Joanna Coker, Kat Ellis, and Kerri Seger. And finally our two relay teams: Ashley Reese lead the charge with an impressive swim split to tag off biker Spencer Scott. Next came another great swim from Esther Walker to Coach Chris Burnham. Before we knew it, all the Tritons were off to start the 56 mile bike ride! See you never.
While waiting for our teammates to finish, the rest of the UCSD triathletes got some lunch, jumped in the lake, and before we knew it got to catch up with Spencer and Chris to hear exactly how tough the bike portion was. In his first time using aero bars, Spencer flew through the course and turned in a great time. Coach Chris passed nearly a thousand people that had started in front of him and posted the second-fastest split of the day! Congrats, you guys are both awesome! Next came Daniel Heineck finishing not far behind the pros, and 5th overall! He smashed the bike (per usual) and had a great run. The run of the day, however, goes to Matt Siegfried with the 12th fastest run split!
Next up came the rest of them, with much more “fitting” stories considering the conditions they were up against. After getting hit by a car, limping one-legged down the finish shoot, and with weird leg twitching, Dave, Bryce, and Craig still came in strong. And despite my zero indulgence in doing the long course, I cannot deny I was completely impressed and inspired by them. After some much-needed IVs, they were able to join us in bringing in our girls. Joanna had an amazing race and was 4th in her age group! Kat….. survived? I guess we can say that. No but really, after having one of the toughest races out there, she is amazing for crossing that finish line. Kerri had an awesome race. And for someone that sends lengthy emails expounding on race nutrition, her forms of hydration in the second half of the run may have been slightly questionable… but just added to the all around great time she had out there! Let’s not forget though our studly relay teams also coming in the mix. Catherine Crisp, having struggled in the insane heat, ran by strong as she crossed through the finish. Trevor Scott, Spencer’s (really ridiculously good-looking) brother, continued his team’s streak of solid individual performances with a great run leg. They all crossed the line in style running with their entire relay- definitely making it seem like they had the most fun out of any of us. That’s it, I’m doing a relay next year.
As much as I would love to talk about the events of Saturday night, I’m trying to finish this race report before I turn 23 so I’m going to fast forward to Sunday’s collegiate race. Apparently the wake up call of TCSD folk is when it’s still dark out (Bryce you may have some competition), and we woke early to find the weather to be basically the exact opposite of the day before. Freezing cold, sprinkling, and windy may not have been ideal, but I will take it over the Death Valley conditions any day. After bundling up and eating some breakfast the rest of UCSD’s team headed to transition to take their stab at Wildflower racing.
The onshore winds made fun waves for the swim but half way through could probably be better described as frustrating since they did not subside EVER. Nevertheless the Tritons had great swims and transitioned onto the bike to climb Lynch hill out onto the rest of the course. If I had thought the wind affected the swim it was nothing compared to the bike. This was the first time I legitimately wondered if the wind could actually throw me off the road. The only good part of this horrendous ride was being able to see our teammates! The out-and-back course made it so we could cheer for one another as we passed, giving us the little extra motivation we needed to keep going. It was a relief to start the run and know we were just 6.2 miles away from finishing. And in the end, all 15 of us had great races, placing UCSD as the 3rd collegiate team! Some accomplishments that stand out include Tiffani Barham stepping up to finish as our 3rd and last scoring girl; great job Tiffani! Jackie Sikkema has been one of our top girls all season but had a particularly good race finishing in 14th! On the guys’ side, Michael Lu deserves an award for being so positive in such disappointing circumstances as he was on his way to a great race but then endured a crash that was not his fault at all. Dan Gonzalez had an outstanding run with the 9th fastest split (what’s up 35:29). Jeff Dahlen proved he is on his way to being a top triathlete as he came in 7th on the mens side! Lastly, our captain Bill Jones blew us all out of the water finishing in 2nd place. Overall though, everyone did an incredible job in Sunday’s collegiate race, way to represent UCSD!
The weekend was exhausting, but it was sooo worth it. We dominated our races, survived the stupid weather patterns, and most importantly had a great time. As our favorite Craig Ricker put it on the drive home: “We just paid money to workout for 6 straight hours, and now we’re driving for 6 hours (again)… AND we can’t walk. Maybe we should start investing our time differently…” He definitely has a point. Why do we do this again? Oh yeah, because we LOVE it! Thank you everyone for making the weekend a blast. We have an awesome team and I am so lucky to be a part of it.