Wildflower Long Course Triathlon

Craig Zelent heading towards the finish line at Wildflower.

Craig Zelent heading towards the finish line at Wildflower.

On May 3rd I raced the Wildflower Long Course Triathlon. This was the 13th time I’ve done this iconic race in our sport. Wildflower is looked upon as a “bucket list” type of race if you are a triathlete.

Because of the drought, this was going to be a unique year at Wildflower. The traditional course is a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run – in that order. This year the drought and some bad decisions with the nearby dam meant that there was virtually no water in Lake San Antonio. The race organizers relocated the swim to the Harris Creek part of the lake. Thus, this year’s course was a 1.2 mile swim, 2.2 mile run through the dried out lake bed, 56 mile bike, 10.9 mile run – in that order.

Swimming in Harris Creek was serviceable. The nasty part was the 1st and last 0.1 mile near the shore where the water was jet black – you could not see a thing and you absolutely did not want to drink that water. Beyond that, the middle mile was ok. I’ve been swimming a lot this year so I had a very good swim. My time was 29:24 which put me in 7th place. The transition from swim to the 1st run was on a 300+ meter very steep boat ramp. It was brutal climbing that hill. The next 2+ miles on the run were very surreal as we ran through what has always been a gorgeous lake.

The 56 mile bike course was exactly the same as in year’s past. We had 1 steep hill to climb from mile 1-2, and then a lot of easy, rolling hills. Around mile 15 I found myself near some good friends. Sef Cuesico and Andy Seitz caught up to me. Andy is in my age group and he beat me twice in 2013. I figured he’d be ahead of me from the swim, but not so. Both Andy and Sef passed me, but I was able to keep them close for the next 5 miles. Unfortunately Andy made a mistake for just a second and got tangled up with another rider. They both went down about 80 meters ahead of me. Sef was able to steer clear of the mayhem and so was I. I felt so bad riding past Andy. He was holding his side when I past him, but at least he was standing.

I stayed near Sef and we biked up Nasty Grade together at mile 43. That climb pretty much knocked the stuffing out of me for the rest of the ride. From that point on I was just trying to survive. I knew my bike fitness was suspect and the proof was in the pudding. My bike split was 3:09:10 (a paltry 17.7 mph) which was the 25th best in the age group. It dropped me down to 19th place. Something I love about triathlon is that your success is directly related to the amount of work you put into the sport. I obviously need to work on my bike fitness.

I ran the final 10.9 miles pretty well, relative to the other guys in my age group, but it was really a death march. About 4 miles in we came to the steep hills and I made the decision to walk at times. Most everyone else was walking. I was still one of the fastest moving carcasses out there, but it did not feel good. I chose to walk the hills just to keep my heart rate from spiking too high. My total run time (includes the initial 2.2 miles) was 1:45:52 (8:04/mile) which was 4th best.

Somehow I managed to claw my way back to finish 7th out of 111 in the men’s 50-54 age group and 180th out of 1,498 overall. My finish time was 5:32:12. Only 1 guy in my age group broke 5 hours. Former professional Tim Sheeper finished in 4:46:50 to beat 2nd place by a whopping 23+ minutes! Andy did finish in 6:38:22 and placed 41st in the age group. That’s amazing because he had 2 broken ribs from his bike crash! Sef not only finished the Long Course race (58th place), but he also finished the Olympic distance race (49th place) the following day. He actually placed better in his age group the 2nd day! And my wife Laurie placed 31st in her age group in the Long Course race.

Click on this link to view my race photos:


Living the life…

Craig Zelent

This entry was posted in 2014, Triathlon and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Wildflower Long Course Triathlon

  1. Karen Labenz Tom Hunt says:

    Congratulations to you and Laurie, Craig!  KEL

  2. Craig Zelent says:

    Thanks Karen! Have a great weekend!

  3. Denise Bienias says:

    Sounds as brutal as I remember it! Great job, love the “moving carcasses” reference.


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