Leap Day Sports - The Triathlife of Jesse Thomas

10 Reasons YOU Should Go To Wildflower

Yo Yo Yo!

I’ve already put a couple of plugs out on the social media webs, but wanted to make it “official” for all the craziest ass of my fans that I am in fact headed back to Wildflower this year – along with fellow Bend-ite, 3-time defending champ, and overall awesomeness, Heather Jackson.

To me, this race obviously means a lot. It was my first win, the first time I felt legitimized as a pro, the devastating surprise end of my season on a roll, and probably my most shocking performance ever in a comeback.

But to be perfectly honest, I’m not heading back to Wildflower because I want to “defend” or continue a streak or anything like that. Sure, I would like to do those things, but that’s not the reason I’m headed back. I’m headed back because I love it, for a lot of reasons. All of which I’ve talked about many times before.

So this year, I thought I’d give you guys some reasons why YOU should go to Wildflower instead. Check it out and let me know if you have any questions. As always, thanks for following along and hope to see you guys there!

10 Reasons You Should Go To Wildflower

1. It’s a hard course. This is a good thing.

What gives with all these triathlons out there touting their courses as “FLAT and FAST!” To me, 99% of the time this translates to “MIND NUMBINGLY BORING!” Why is this something to be excited about? You know what else is flat and fast – swimming in a pool, riding on a velodrome, and running on track. If you want to get a fast time, go do those things. If you want to see some beautiful scenery, have fun, and be challenged, come to Wildflower. It is NOT flat and fast. I’ve raced the long course here four times, and only gone under 4 hrs once (the 3rd fastest time in the history of the event). Conversely, I don’t think I’ve ever gone OVER 4 hours in any other half outside of a massive blowup or riding an extra 11 miles. Don’t expect to “PR” (whatever that means, in triathlon anyway), but expect to be challenged and have an awesome feeling of accomplishment when you’re done.

2. The people.

The people behind this event – Terry Davis, his family, and the Tri-California organization – are triathlon family hall of famers in my book. They are some of the true “mom and pop” people of the sport. I’ve only been around for about 7 years and even I can appreciate the kind, humble, and customer focused service they bring to their event. I believe that most people, including the exhibitors, sponsors, and age groupers in all events get this same feeling when interacting with Tri-Cal. While the sport monopolizes more every year, this is an opportunity to support one of the last premier events with a true “local” type feel.

3. Nasty Grade.

Maybe one of the most well known “landmarks” in all of triathlon. This is the hill near mile 40 that sucks your will to live, man! Ok, it doesn’t suck your will to live, but it is very hard. But just like the course, you’ll live to tell about it, and tell your kids, and grandkids, and all the people at work who are just trying to do their job please stop talking about your decathlon, about your climb up Nasty Grade and how you showed that hill who’s boss and you saw the crazy drummer guy at the top. Experience it. It will hurt, but the glory lasts forever!

This awesome randomness greets you at the top of Nasty Grade. (photo from SBTriClub)

4. Surprise Naked Aid Station

Need I say more?

Need I say more? (thanks Kaori Photo for the pic)

5. The split double run is fun (if it happens).

Last year, the crazy drought in California forced Terry and the Tri-California crew were to move the swim to a part of the lake a couple miles away from the normal transition area. The race then became a normal swim, 2 mile run, normal bike, 11 mile run. Basically, “splitting” the run.

For some reason, this was a turn off to a lot of people. This is another thing I don’t understand, and goes along the lines of the “flat and fast” mentality. Triathlon is about racing 3 sports in one race. It’s crazy, unpredictable, challenging. Why should it matter if it’s “standard” distances and crap like that? I for one (and many others), thought the challenge of the double run was awesome. It was harder than I thought it would be, and definitely put some sting early in the bike from tired legs. I thought it was a cool, unique way to race, and a nice change from the standard.

They won’t know for a while if they’ll need to rearrange this year, but the way I look at it, you can’t lose. It’s going to be fun either way!

Jude was feeling my pain at the end of run #1 last year.

6. Camping*.

Clearly, one of the unique aspects many people talk about in this event is the “Woodstock” like atmosphere. Tons of people camping within a few miles of each other makes this race feel like none other I’ve ever experienced. I think it brings people together as well somehow. You run through the campgrounds, hear people cheering, debate throwing in the towel and collapsing into your tent, but ultimately get stoked by the energy. It also makes post race about as fun as it gets – beers and smores – who could ask for anything more?

*Side note – if camping isn’t your thing, which I get and definitely isn’t for everyone or all families, there are other options close to the event as well.

7. Food Carts & Vendors Galore.

Speaking of food, I do love the food carts in the expo area as well. I always grab a gigantic phad thai type thing from this noodle cart there that somehow makes the pain go away at least temporarily post race. There’s a cool expo area with lots of good grub, vendors, and stage entertainment. I know my buddies and sponsors Jaybird will be there, as well as my new bike guys Dimond – so you can test ride some craziness. I’ll let you know more as we get closer, but regardless, be stoked about the food carts.

8. Trail running.

One of the only races I’ve ever done with some real trail running on it. In fact, the majority of the run is off pavement. Lots of good, tough hills, windy double track roads, and my favorite section of any race anywhere is about mile 3-5 along the lake on the trail. Tough and windy when you’re inevitably feeling pretty beat up, but always brings me back to my roots. As much as it hurts, I look forward to that few miles every year.

Lots of awesome dirt to run on.

9. Something for everyone.

Besides the long course (half distance) race, there’s also an Olympic distance race – which I raced way back in 2007 – a short mountain bike course, and a kids tri. There are also relay options for all the events. All are relatively affordably priced as well. So you can bring your family, friends, etc, and make a weekend out of it with something to do for everyone. For those looking for the extra challenge, you can get special pricing on the long + Olympic race if you decide to do the double! I’ve already heard from a few people doing this. You get extra In-N-Out on the way home.

10. It’s what triathlon is all about.

Like I’ve said before, and said above, this race, to me, is what triathlon is all about. Maybe it’s because when I started racing, I raced local stuff as an age grouper on fun courses, camping, in laid back, but competitive environments. Wildflower Olympic race was my first “big” race as an age grouper, and the experience stuck with me ever since. I love this event and what it represents to the core of the sport. For this and all those reasons above, I’m stoked to head back this year, and encourage all of you do the same!

Thanks as always for following along. More to come down the road. Like I said, my Jaybird buddies will be there, and you’ll also have the opportunity to demo a Dimond Bike and meet their crew as well. Let me know if you have any questions, and I hope to see you all out there the first weekend of May!

Jesse