Spent a wonderful 4 days camping and mostly “doing nothing” until yesterday with great friends at the Lake San Antonio for the Wildflower tri.
The lake is barren; it’s eerily empty and dry so it is more of a desert than a lake. There is a small section at the end of the lake that holds just enough water for the swim. But because of the lack of water, this year’s race features a two part run; from the swim, run 2 miles to the bike transition, bike, then run the remaining 4.2 miles to complete the 10k distance.
As a side note, I’ve been running a lot this year but recently sprained my calf muscle. I hadn’t run for the past two weeks, hoping to heal it up. Derrill and I did do a short run on Friday, and in particular, we ran the last critical hill to figure out the best strategy to finish the run strong. Luckily, I didn’t have any pain and that strategy turned out to be very helpful.

In any case, my age group (45-49) started at 10AM and we took off with adrenalin and excitement. Jimmy and I are in the same age group and we shared a towel and transition area; he’s a very fast swimmer and I was hoping to try and keep up with his pace.
Anyhow, gun goes off, normal kicking and chaos but the group strung out pretty quickly. I’ve been swimming a lot so I tried to focus on keeping the effort as high as in hard training sessions. I got out of the water in 21:41 (a PR by over 1 1/2 minutes) and was surprised to see Jimmy at our transition area (he was 16 sec faster).
Anyhow we ran up the steep boat ramp and out on to the trail. I stopped to tighten my laces and another guy in my age group ran by. He was  flying and I never caught him.
The run had a big climb then we dropped down into the dry lake bed. The trail was dusty and in some places it was like running through sand. We finally came to the second transition area, which includes a steep climb up that boat ramp.
I ran through the transition area to the bike exit; right in front of me was legendary Pete Kain. He is in the 50-54 age group, which started 5 mins after me. But he had swum 3 minutes faster, ran faster and caught me in the transition area. He took off on the bike but was riding sort of erratically. The bike exit includes this very steep and long climb yet Pete was in his aerobars forcing his way up the hill. I put it in an easy gear and just spun up. I passed him before the summit and tried to say “Nice swim” but the words didn’t come out that well because I was heaving, heart rate over 172.
The bike course rolls out the exit and then there is a very fast descent. I was using a disc wheel in the back and it was very gusty on that downhill. Needless to say, I was gripping the bars and even hitting the brakes. Well, Pete caught and passed me. Incredibly, he wasn’t a crazy descender and he didn’t gap me that much. As it flattened a bit, I tried to catch back up to him. Suddenly it seemed like a car was hurtling by. Jason Campbell (who went on to win the 50-54 age group and 3nd overall) blew by me and then Pete like we were standing still!
Regardless, I was still motivated to try and pass Pete or, if anything, try to work with him.
The road flattened again and I simply motored by; the new BMC with the disc wheel were now just humming along. I never closed the gap on Jason (who turned in a 1:09:24 bike split) but I did beat Pete (1:13:40) with a second fastest personal time of 1:11:05.
I raced out of transition on the run sort of feeling in no man’s land. I was hoping that Pete wouldn’t catch me but was struggling for something to pace against. Suddenly people are yelling “good job Murphy!”. John Murphy is the another famous “semi-pro” who dominated the 45-49 age group but who has now aged up and is in the same AG as Pete and Jason (all three of them swam 18:45 by the way). Needless to say, Murphy was closing in on me fast. We hit Beach hill which is a brutally steep climb. I kept ahead of John and put in mild surges while trying to pick the shortest line. We were going by lots of people who were simply walking.
At the top there was a water station; I suspected Murphy would need water so instead of stopping myself, I sprinted ahead up and over, coasting on the descent on the other side. John wasn’t there..for a few minutes. I probably relaxed too much because I heard footsteps fast approaching. I said “You are a tough old bastard!”. He exchanged a similar pleasantry and, to be frank, I was going to back off and let him go. But I realized he was actually working with me; we were pacing each other. So I dug in. We traded off the lead.
Finally we were approaching the last hill—the same one Derrill and I rehearsed. I got water at the aid station, poured some over my head, John did the same. We then took off on the last final hill; he was right there. Then I sort of sprinted and gapped him. I heard his cadence change; he had snapped and started walking! I raced ahead and down the short section that would lead us to the suicide 1 mile descent to the finish line. I was going as fast as I could. 1 minute, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 4 minutes, no John! Unfortunately with a few hundred yards to go, I heard feet coming quick—and he simply went around me. I couldn’t respond and he put about 10 seconds into me in the end.
It was by far the most intensely difficult run I’ve ever had in a race—and though he beat me, it was great to give it that kind of effort. Kind of weird to be hugging a sweaty 50 year old dude at the end of a race but we were doing it.

In the end, the guy in my AG Darren Baker, who I never caught, turned out to be quite a stud. He was on the US Postal Team during the “Lance Era” and still quite a good cyclist, turning in a 1:08:38 bike split.
He got 1st place in my age group and 2nd overall beating me by a staggering 10 1/2 minutes.
However, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I still got 2nd place for the age group.
Derrill also ended up on the podium with 5th place in the 50-54 year AG.

Really intense to race that hard for each section of the race!