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I bled for teamTBB

July 11th, 2011 by The Wongstar

I thought about not washing the blood off, but Larry told me that was morbid.

My four years on the team definitely had its share of “blood, sweat, and tears” as they say. Tons and tons of sweat from the training and racing, tears of both frustration (especially at the first couple camps) and also of joy, and the occasional spill of blood on the bike.

In the metaphorical sense I bled for teamTBB for four years, pouring my heart and soul into the endeavor of becoming the best triathlete I could be by training at a full-time capacity. I suppose it was fitting that I ended my four-year education at the “Sutto Triathlon Academy” by actually shedding blood on my teamTBB race kit.

last race in the TBB kit!

I didn’t get to cap off my TBB career with the best race of my life as planned, as I was removed from the race course in an ambulance, but I do take solace in having the absolutely best swim of my life. A 1:02! It’s unbelievable!!! …and that was training primarily on my own!!

So on my own, I shall continue. I’ve recently updated my official website to have it integrated with a new blog, where I’ll be writing more about anything and all things Wongstar. I’ve never been that pro triathlete who only ever blogs about triathlon cuz hey, it’s my blog and I’m gonna write what I want!

the first post-crash pic, after most of the blood was wiped off from my head.

This new one utilizes the Blogger platform and has comments enabled as well. It’s called “The Wongstar’s Shenanigans: Uncut and Uncensored” and you can stay updated on my life as I transition back into my prosthetics work, figure out the true love stuff, continue being a very big deal in a very small state, and a lot of random other sh*t.

Thanks for all following me here on the team website…now the adventure continues at theWongstar.com;)

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the most spectacular DNF ever!

July 4th, 2011 by The Wongstar

Hi from my last day in Jeju!!! Just wanted to post up some quick pics to show that I am all right and smiling and not a big bloody stitched up mess! These pics were taken today, honestly, in the dress I was planning to wear on stage at the awards banquet, but you don’t get called up if you don’t finish. :(

I've been told at least 3 different stories about what these statues are ;)

You’ve probably heard by now that I was in a pretty awful car crash during Ironman Korea. I was so excited because race day started out with not just one, but two morning poos, which everybody knows means you are going to do AWESOME.

To all the fans, the Wongstar loooooves you!

So obviously I was going to have my best swim ever (1:02 baby!!!) and then was tearing it up on the bike. Only minutes from the end of the bike a minivan got in the way and White Tiger would have none of that. He got in a punching match and broke his um, knuckles…

the minivan was space aliens after all

But hey you should’ve seen the damage we did to the car! I  jumped to White Tiger’s defense by slamming my chin into the windshield. These Korean drivers need to learn that we don’t mess around. I’m kind of sad nobody took a picture of it.

poor tiger! (otherwise he's A-OK)

The aerobars and windshield must’ve taken the brunt of our unplanned cagefight because I got away very lucky with just 16 stitches in my chin and 8 more in my elbow and a bruised up knee. I am walking okay, no broken bones or whiplash or spinal injuries or concussion. I met some guys today at awards who actually saw the whole accident and they thought I was DEAD, but I’m far from dead. So don’t worry everybody…especially you Mom! :D

Unfortunately I’m not allowed to swim for 2 weeks because of the stitches…which I am actually sad about now that I am a swimming MONSTER!!! So it might be time to get a tattoo or two. Sad it was my first DNF ever in my 11 years of triathlon, but hey I don’t do anything half-assed so it had to be a good one! If you are going to DNF you have to make it SPECTACULAR! :D

oh and happy 4th of July my fellow Americans. :) Maybe I should buy a hot dog from 7-11 (which strangely isn’t open at 7am).

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space aliens in Korea

July 2nd, 2011 by The Wongstar

don't take over my brain!!!

White Tiger is a bit of a sci-fi geek and is convinced there are space aliens here in Korea. He covered himself with foil so the aliens can’t take over his brain.

Korean foil to fend off space aliens in Korea

Anyway, like the sign says, we are ready to go! I am feeling strong, confident, and happier than I’ve been in a while. *Big thanks and shameless plug for my wonderful new coach Becky May* ;)

this is at the swim start to reassure everyone who is nervous.

You can track us online on www.ironmanlive.com starting at 7am Korea time Sunday morning…which is um…6pm Delaware time Saturday night…and uh 3pm California time. I think I got that right! Bib #16! Maybe my lowest race number ever???

the crew ready to crush it!

love,
Wongstar & White Tiger

P.S. Thanks everyone for the really nice and supportive emails, messages, comments etc about my big announcement. Some people didn’t actually read it all the way through and think I’m quitting the sport completely. Um, go read it again.

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The Most EXCITING News Ever!!!

June 30th, 2011 by The Wongstar

So I’m back here in Jeju for Ironman Korea, and this will be my last race as a full-fledged teamTBB athlete.

Because here’s the big exciting news: I’ve found my dream job.

Over the last month I’ve made some pretty big decisions–stepping back to evaluate where I am in my life and where I want to go from here. I was 25 years old when I got in touch with the head honchos of the then-obscure teamTBB. In an email dated May 7, 2007, a certain Brett Sutton wrote me: “I can advise you 24 becomes 27 in a flash of light, 27 becomes 30 in an even quicker motion…” Yep, in a flash of light I will be turning 30 at the end of the year.

“Wait a sec, Wongstar,” you say. “Don’t you already have your dream job? Being a full-time pro triathlete, traveling the world racing as a triathlon superstar? Aren’t you already living the dream?”

Well, no. I’ve come to realize that being a full-time professional triathlete was never my end goal. I had very modest goals back in 2007 (one of them simply to qualify for my pro card). Each and every one of them has been surpassed…and earlier than any of us ever expected. But people wonder what happened at IMTX last month. What happened? I realized I was done with “living the dream”. Because “living the dream” meant living on the edge of poverty, living out of a suitcase and choking in the swim from the sheer financial stress of it all…

If there’s one thing that I’ve had that my TBB teammates don’t (ok, besides my disarmingly good looks, witty personality, and the will to shamelessly market myself), it’s nearly $100k in student loans hanging over my head since finishing school. Did you know that Sallie Mae only allows you an “economic hardship” deferment for 3 years? Well, those 3 years are up next month. Flash of light and all. The debt was easy to ignore at the beginning but the financial strain took its toll in more recent races. I just couldn’t enjoy competing without worrying about money any more.

And funny thing with life–all kinds of opportunities began to line up and the timing presented itself perfectly.

Those of you who have followed me know that I am also a certified prosthetist-orthotist (I actually received both my certification and pro card at the same time in the summer of 2009) and put that career on hold while traveling with the team. Living out of your suitcase, couch-surfing, and changing your address every 2-3 months isn’t exactly conducive to providing long-term care for patients. Prosthetics & Orthotics is a career path I’m also very passionate about and I’ve missed working in that field.

Although I was able to help out on some medical missions during training camps in Southeast Asia, working with prosthetic patients isn’t as simple as just giving someone a leg and never seeing them again. I’d been kicking around the idea of going back to work for a while, and actually got a couple leads while I was at the Challenged Athletes run clinic earlier this month.

So…one thing lead to another, and I’ve decided to begin a brand new job as a CPO at a great P&O practice in Wilmington the following week and I could not be any more excited. Not only will I get a big-girl salary with benefits (!!!), I’ll get to work with all kinds of patients and help put on sports clinics for them. They also have a budding relationship with the University of Delaware, which has something like 7 gait analysis labs, if I want to dabble in some fun nerdy biomechanics research again. One of my dreams (I’m allowed to have many) is to go to the Paralympics as a prosthetist for Team USA some day.

Well before you think this is the end of the Wongstar, pro triathlon superstar, I’m not done yet. Our very own Rebecca Preston has taken over my coaching the last few weeks and is my new “boss” as I transition from being a full-time teamTBB athlete to one of the online-coached athletes. I still plan to race as a pro while juggling working an almost-full-time position–I’ll be working 4 full days a week as my future employer is also super supportive of that part of my life. (Dream job, right?!) I absolutely love both careers and the idea of being able to do both gets me really, really excited.

In my heart I’ve always wanted to figure out a way how to do both–work as a CPO while racing as a pro–and here I’ve found the perfect opportunity staring at me straight in the face. I’ve always seen teamTBB as a stepping stone to where I want to go, and the last 4 years training with Brett and alongside all these Ironman champions have provided me the best education possible in what it takes to succeed in triathlon. I’d always joked that it was like Sutto’s Triathlon Academy, but in the end, it’s no joke at all.

I came onto the team having never used my passport, never qualifying for Kona as an age grouper–my best time was 12:08…best IM bike was a 6:12 and my marathon was a 4:20. I ended up getting pages added to my passport and demolished all my Ironman splits. Nobody knew who I was 4 years ago and now countless random strangers yell “Wongstar” at every race I go to, write me fan letters, and jump to my defense if any internet trolls bash my swimming ability.

So thank you teamTBB–Alex and Brett–for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime.

And now I’m saying good-bye to living THE dream and hello to living MY dream. The real adventure has only just begun…watch this space for more developments soon. :D

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Maki Goes to the Cheesecake Factory

June 24th, 2011 by The Wongstar

Everyone on our team knows that Maki loooooves cheesecake. Especially strawberry cheesecake. When I found out she had never been to the Cheesecake Factory…and there was one right in the Woodlands…we definitely had to go post-race!

Maki is speechless. so cute!

Since she is from Japan and doesn’t watch The Big Bang Theory (where Penny and Bernadette are waitresses at the Cheesecake Factory), she honestly didn’t realize that it was an actual restaurant where you could order lots of other food besides cheesecake for dessert.

so many choices...and everything is bigger in Texas!

Bliss, Minsok, and I all ordered an actual lunch…but all Maki wanted for lunch was her favorite: strawberry cheesecake.

Cheesecake for lunch!

Thanks again to Bliss & Minsok for taking care of us so well in Texas! The four of us are having a reunion already next week in Korea. :)

representing TBB in TX

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Texas Shenanigans

June 22nd, 2011 by The Wongstar

silly photos with Oscar AKA "Big O"

A month’s gone by since IMTX and I’ve moved on. The race report disappeared along with the black cloud that was over my head post-race, and both have been replaced with clarity and new developments in my life that I’m bursting to tell the whole world. Alas, you’ll have to wait. Because suspense makes things extra exciting!

Ironman Texas--"we're gonna CRUSH IT!" ...with a mortar and pestle! ahahahahahaha :D

But I couldn’t just ignore all the fun pictures I took with my Texas family and friends…My Austin friends had known me long before I was a famous superstar. We were all blogging friends on Livejournal since I started my first blog in 2003. I was a dorky senior in college who had just done my first Ironman (Wisconsin 2002) which holy crap, was a long time ago. It wasn’t quite as trendy and popular to be an Ironman triathlete back then as a 20-year-old so I found friends online with similar interests.

(This is probably why I don’t think online dating is weird.)

I'm being a mysterious triathlon superstar and throwing out my "Wongstar" gang sign.

They knew me before I could break 13 hours in an Ironman (when just finishing one a year was quite a feat, and never mind trying to race one!), before I ever set foot outside U.S. soil, before I even contemplated the phrase “triathlon superstar.” They knew me before I was even close to hitting the podium…in my age group. They knew me when I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life.

the Weathershenkers...Julia was race day sherpa! <3

Before there was Facebook and Twitter, they were the first to “follow” me. How I struggled to finish my senior thesis so I could graduate from college. Applying to grad schools. Falling in and out of love. Moving across the country to…Georgia. Then Texas. Choosing a career path. Stumbling through more Ironmans, and brief flirtations with rowing and track cycling. Getting my first email back from teamTBB in 2007 (!!!) and how unfathomable it seemed that I should be chosen to become a pro triathlete.

...and Mark the travel sponsor! Believed in me from the beginning :)

2007 was when I left Dallas, TX, and the last time I saw most of my Austin friends. It’s just incredible what an adventure the last four years have been and seeing everyone again reminded me how far I’ve come. To have finished an Ironman in 10hrs 50mins, taking 17th in the pro division, and to have THAT be a “bad day” for me–now that was something my 25yo self and the rest of us wouldn’t ever have predicted in our wildest dreams.

That and the fact that it was my 20th Ironman finish! It’s been so easy to lose perspective in all of this…so…just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has supported me along the way…with many more adventures to come. :)

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Excessive Heat Warning for New Castle, DE

June 9th, 2011 by The Wongstar

*Local Weather Alert*

Excessive Heat Warning for New Castle, DE

Issued by The National Weather Service
Philadelphia, PA

Wed, Jun 8, 2011, 3:20 PM EDT

… EXCESSIVE HEAT WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 8 PM EDT THURSDAY…

* LOCATIONS… MUCH OF SOUTHEASTERN PENNSYLVANIA… NORTHERN DELAWARE AND WEST CENTRAL NEW JERSEY INCLUDING TRENTON… PHILADELPHIA… CAMDEN AND WILMINGTON.

* HAZARDS… AN EARLY SEASON HEATWAVE IS UNDERWAY… WITH THE MOST DANGEROUS CONDITIONS IN THE AFTERNOON AND EARLY EVENING HOURS. A VERY HOT AND HUMID AIR MASS WILL CAUSE TEMPERATURES TO RISE INTO THE MID AND UPPER 90S AND CREATE DANGEROUS CONDITIONS… ESPECIALLY IN HIGHLY URBANIZED AREAS.

* HEAT INDEX VALUES… AROUND 100 DURING THE HIGHEST TEMPERATURES.

IMPACTS… THE ELDERLY… THE INFIRM… CHILDREN AND PETS ARE AT GREATEST RISK… ESPECIALLY WHERE THERE IS NO AIR CONDITIONING. THIS AFFECTS OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES… ESPECIALLY DURING THE AFTERNOON HOURS. SLEEPING CAN BE DISRUPTED WHERE AIR CONDITIONING IS NOT AVAILABLE.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS…

AN EXCESSIVE HEAT WARNING MEANS THAT A PROLONGED PERIOD OF DANGEROUSLY HOT TEMPERATURES WILL OCCUR. THE COMBINATION OF HOT TEMPERATURES AND HIGH HUMIDITY WILL CREATE A DANGEROUS SITUATION IN WHICH HEAT ILLNESSES ARE LIKELY. DRINK PLENTY OF FLUIDS… STAY IN AN AIR-CONDITIONED ROOM… STAY OUT OF THE SUN… AND CHECK UP ON RELATIVES AND NEIGHBORS.

TAKE EXTRA PRECAUTIONS IF YOU WORK OR SPEND TIME OUTSIDE. WHEN POSSIBLE… RESCHEDULE STRENUOUS ACTIVITY TO EARLY MORNING OR LATE EVENING. KNOW THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF HEAT EXHAUSTION AND HEAT STROKE. WEAR LIGHT WEIGHT AND LOOSE FITTING CLOTHING WHEN POSSIBLE AND DRINK PLENTY OF WATER.

…oops! I totally missed this memo. I was out there for over 4 hrs…heat training for Ironman Korea! :D

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CAF/Ossur amputee run clinic

June 8th, 2011 by The Wongstar

This is kind of old news but in case you hadn’t heard, I was profiled in the May issue of Triathlete Magazine! I was pretty excited last month when I finally saw a paper copy of my interview at the Bike Boutique:

I'm in a magazine!

It was my first big interview with a tri magazine so I was pretty stoked. Here is a digital copy of it (click on it to make it bigger):

It’s about my other career as a certified prosthetist and involvement with teamTBB, and a bit about the work I did at several prosthetics clinics in Thailand and the Philippines while I was at training camps. I’ve missed working in this field and so last weekend took a little trip up to NYC (site of the just-announced US Pro Ironman Championships next year!). The Challenged Athletes Foundation and Ossur (the prosthetic foot company that makes those cool carbon fiber sprinting legs) were sponsoring a running clinic for lower-limb amputees so I thought I’d go check it out.

It also gave me the chance to catch up with Carolina, my best friend from when we lived in Dallas. We were both a little miserable there but managed to escape. ;) Here we are in a clash of outfits as she was heading off to watch a polo match while I went off to the run clinic!

Twinkie & Brownie reunion!

At the run clinic, I got to catch up with some familiar faces: Dr. Bob Gailey who wrote a bunch of chapters in our prosthetics textbooks, Peter Harsch who is also a certified prosthetist and an accomplished age grouper Ironman athlete, and Sarah Reinertsen who I met back in 2004 before I headed off to grad school (first woman to do Kona with a prosthetic leg). If you watched The Amazing Race on TV back in 2006, you might recall that Peter & Sarah competed on a team together!

the advanced group doing some run drills

It was so cool! There were about 5 little kids, 10 adults who wanted to try running for the very first time, and another 10 adults who were very active and put in the “advanced group”.

magic running legs

I got to help Peter run the advanced group and give them some of my best running tips. I even told them about my magic running sticks. ;) At the end, all the groups got together to do a relay race on an obstacle course!

Kaela just received her first running leg from CAF

There were plenty of photo ops with CAF celebrities. Always an inspiration!

Kaela & family with Sarah

I plan to head back up to NYC on August 7th as the NYC Triathlon will be hosting the Paratriathlon National Championships!

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Ironman Texas $ Analysis

May 30th, 2011 by The Wongstar

the Ironman "O Face"

Expenses:
entry fee: $ 0 (with purchase of $750 WTC pro license)
travel expenses: airline reward miles there + $203 home
airline bike fees: $ 0
accommodation: the generosity of Minsok & Bliss Pak
food costs: $60 (airport meals and snacks)

Income:
Prize money won: $0
Airline voucher for 8-hour flight delay: $300 (virtual money!)

Total balance:
$300 voucher – $263 expenses = $37 UP!

After doing my taxes earlier this year and realizing how much I spent in travel expenses on my 8 Ironmans versus only winning one paycheck worth $500, my goal this year was to make 2011 a more profitable racing year. Just breaking even would be a big improvement actually! People have been interested in the financial aspect of racing as a pro so I thought I would do a little cost analysis after each race this year. My goal is to become a more financially sustainable pro triathlete!

As for the race, well, I did so well that I got featured not just once but TWICE on the finishers’ video at the awards ceremony. The screenshot above says it all; the video parts of me are at 1:26 and 8:24 if you don’t want to watch the whole video. :)

YouTube Preview Image

I’ll get around to the race report. Eventually…

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howdy y’all from Texas

May 20th, 2011 by The Wongstar

I lived in Texas for a whole year so I’m allowed to say “howdy y’all” right? ;)

It’s been an excellent trip so far as I flew into Austin where I was well taken care of by the travel sponsor before being adopted by the Pak family, Minsok and Bliss, who are really an extension of the TBB family and both are also racing on Saturday.

White Tigers x2! double the awesomeness!

We road-tripped with our Cervelo P3′s to the race site today, where we hooked up with a 4th P3 and TBB’er…Maki Mouse from Japan! We only associate with people who ride Cervelo P3′s apparently :)

I finally got assigned my bib #’s since I was able to sneak onto the start list super last minute. It’s a pretty big field, because all the girls knew I was racing in China so they decided to sign up for Texas instead. I totally pulled a fast one on all of them. Obviously I was involved with the IM China conspiracy to throw them all off. Bwahaha

#73 whoa that's a lot of pros! don't worry the bib has been Wongstarized.

Other than racing Ironman me and roommate Maki have already made a Texas to-do list, which includes going shopping for a cowboy hat and eating at the Cheesecake Factory. The girl LOVES cheeesecake and I was shocked she’s never been to the Cheesecake Factory! For seriously.

Thank you Mark and Minsok and Bliss! More tales from Texas to come. :D

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