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Archive for March, 2009

My Life Would Suck Without You

Monday, March 30th, 2009

green-house

As the last one left in the green house, I’ve got a few more days by myself before I move over to the now pink house with the boys, Scottie and Dumpstar.

So am I lonely here without the roommates? Everyone keeps asking. Well hmm, now I can blast MTV really loud all day and dance around whilst scantily clad, instead of cringing every time the Bean turns on her favorite TV show, Air Crash Investigation on National Geographic (or was it Discovery Channel? same difference), or stay quiet at night because Angela’s gone to bed early again.

In fact I get to play my new favorite song on REPEAT:

Kelly Clarkson – My Life Would Suck Without You
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Aw Yeah it’s the original American Idol! You know you love her too! Reminiscent of “Since U Been Gone” but it took me a whole few weeks to discover it on MTV. Because we always had @#$!& Air Crash Investigation on. Typical green house conversation:

“AUGH! Bean, how can watch this?! They’re all gonna die!”
“Oh, Wongstar. Nobody ever dies on this show. See, everyone survived even though:

episode A: “the top half of the airplane flies off exposing all the passengers”
episode B: “the helicopter got struck by lightning and the carbon fiber propellor is only hanging by a thread”

aha! then there was episode C:
“OMG Bean THEY CRASHED AND EVERY SINGLE PERSON ON THE AIRPLANE DIED. I can’t watch this!!”
“Oh, but Wongstar, you should’ve seen the pilot. He was soooooo brave!”

I don’t understand how a world traveling pro triathlete who frequently flies on airplanes, both big and small, can be so fascinated with this TV show. It’s unsettling.

I can even fend for myself now that Bean the heroic cockroach catcher has left. Although it is rumored that I do humanitarian deeds here and there, cockroaches aren’t human so I bravely caught the nasty bugger and flushed it down the toilet a couple mornings ago. But that’s not necessarily evil of me; if you watched Finding Nemo, they spent the whole movie wishing to be flushed down the toilet.

And those dang roommates, left me with all their crap they didn’t want. What am I supposed to do with Angela’s frozen vegetables that she used as ice packs? Are they still edible??

veggies

And the COMPLETELY evil Bean left an entire jar of Nutella, which is the one item that Coach has specifically put on Wongstar’s List of Banned Substances. (Well that and Starbucks Belgian waffles. @#$!& barista, did I ask for whipped cream? NOOO.) Every time I go into the kitchen, that jar of Nutella calls my name, taunting me. But I’ve been a good little Wongstar, I just give it the middle finger and curse the Bean. Who wants some Nutella? It will not get eaten in the green house as I have SELF-DISCIPLINE. Hear that, Coach??

But seriously it is not as fun any more now that they have left. It’s just not the same when there is no one to scream with when we see the big mama cockroach prowling the kitchen or in YOUR BEDROOM, and nobody to laugh at you when you break something yet again. (Although I’m proud to say the breaking only happened the first two weeks, I must be getting fitter and less tired from this training!)

And nobody to laugh at the hilariously cheesy Filipino commercials…like the “Why Men Love Whisper” ad campaign …Whisper being a…wait for it…. a friggin’ maxi pad company. OMG Bean I FOUND THE MUSIC VIDEO ADVERTISEMENT ON YOUTUBE….!!!

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yes, why DO men love Whisper??!! Obviously so that when your girlfriend is on her period, she can still rock the tight white pants and sit on your shoulders at a concert.

There’s also nobody to make fun of you when monkeys come in and steal your mangos. Or rather, nobody to debate on whether monkeys are cute, evil, or clever. (#@!@#$!! monkeys.) I especially miss swimming with Angela in the slow lane (actually all my lanemates are gone, and now I am both the captain and caboose of the slow lane), we really pushed each other…neither of us wanted to be the slowest swimmer! HAHA!

There is nobody to rescue from nightmares. One time the Bean screamed “HELP!!” in her sleep in the middle of the night and was confused as what I was doing in her room when I went to check on her. This must have been subconscious revenge for when I accidentally locked her out one night and she had to knock on my bedroom window after I had fallen asleep.

Nobody to watch America’s Best Dance Crew with and boo the skanky girls and secretly wish you could dance like that.

No vegetarians to ask their expert opinion on why they think the beef you cooked is chewy: is it the quality of the meat, the way I cooked it, or the stove’s fault?

Nobody to tell you when you come home with bird poop on the back of your shirt.

bird-poop

Nobody to tell you that your arms look skinnier, but reassure you that “No, Wongstar, it’s really hard to tell that your boobs are smaller when there wasn’t much there to begin with.”

Nobody to help keep the house clean…or enforce the no dirty dishes in the sink rule.

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We learned a lot from each other: I taught Bean how to cut mangoes and was so proud until she used a butcher knife one time and also cut her finger. @_@

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Bean taught Angela how to patch the many tire tubes that went flat, although I’m not sure how successful that was either.

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We also learned to lean on each other when training got tough, when one of us had a bad day (or all three of us?) or got “shat on” by Coach… we were able to turn to each other and offer encouragement. And when we were all too tired to even talk or move, we would know in our common silence exactly what we were going through together. There is something special about being bonded together in our common goal to become the best athletes we could be. The best part was cheering each other on when one of us had an especially good day…and keep each other feeling “super chuffed” as the Bean would say.

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Even the green house’s mascot, Funshine Bear, misses his friend and fellow mascot Obama, as the new US president decided he wanted to go to Africa with the Bean.

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So to my two former roommates Angela and Bean, I miss you both and am glad to hear you got home safely! I dedicate to you two, and heck, to all my squadmates… “My life would suck without you!”

The Wongstar’s Spectacular Photo-Filled Singapore 70.3 Race Report

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

Note: the cool thing about being an aspiring Asian triathlon superstar is that along the way, you make new friends all over Asia. Many of them even have fancy cameras and take lots of pictures of you on race day. Photo credits go to: Bernard Soh, Richard Leong, and Lee Li Ying. And also a guy named Kushal Shah that my internet-savvy dad found on Flickr.

Very early in the year, I asked Coach if I could race in Singapore… as Step #15 of How to Become an Asian Triathlon Superstar is a no-brainer: Race in Asia. He said no, it was too competitive for me and the swim is in the open sea and too warm for wetsuits, both major disadvantages for a crap swimmer like me. So a couple weeks ago I was surprised when he said I could race in Singapore if I wanted. Yes, the field would still be extremely competitive, with the current Ironman world record holder, Ironman champions, various Olympians, and top Kona finishers including the race’s defending champion (my teammate Rebekah Keat) in the line-up. And yes, I knew I would be in for a self-flogging with the swim, but I still thought it would be a good test of where my fitness is and to see how much I’ve improved since coming to the two training camps. The timing was also perfect as a tune-up for my main race, Ironman China in 4 weeks.

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So I wasn’t surprised at all to be swimming completely alone just 30 seconds after the start gun fired. It’s not like I just let the pack get away. I was really trying to stay with someone! The funny thing is that Coach had told his big audience in the pre-race talk that I couldn’t swim…see guys, he wasn’t lying. What did surprise me was getting a huge sting in the upper right arm after rounding the first buoy. OUCH!! I looked down at my arm and saw something black on it, freaked out for a good five seconds before I realized it was my bib number stamped on my arm. Eh heh! The freak-out ended but the burning in my arm didn’t. I tried to focus back on swimming and soon enough I got a matching sting in the left arm. Good thing I don’t need to use my arms when I swim…NOT. After a couple more jelly stings in both arms, I also got a nice one right in the face.

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Despite the nasty burning arms and face, the second lap seemed to go by better, I also felt like I was actually moving because as I swam on the outside of the buoy line, the age groupers were on the inside and I was actually passing loads of them. So that made me feel less slow. Before the last buoy I saw a tentacle sneak by my right hand, but too late, ZAP! I got stung on the wrist pretty bad (I still have red spots 3 days later) and drolly told myself “well here’s your chance to practice pain management.” At that point, I just wanted to get out of the water before I got any more #$@!+&% stings. I thought I got stung because I had to swim completely alone after getting dropped from the pack, but later found out Rebekah had gotten stung so bad she had breathing problems (possible allergic reaction) and had to drop out. I just got stung *more times* than most because well, I was in the water for so damn long. I was bummed to see the clock say a horrendous 42 minutes, but the crowds were cheering for me so I focused on the next task…biking up and down the Singapore freeway, fast and furiously!

swim-singapore

I ran through transition to the pro rack, where Khan the Warrior Horse was patiently waiting to be mounted. Patiently waiting alone. (Someday I will not be the last pro out of the water.) Giddy up! This was my first race where I would be biking on the “wrong” side of the road. It is a little mind boggling if you’re not used to it (I’m not used to it), like you’ve stepped in a mirror or you feel like you are upside down. Bike on the left side of the road, stay on the left and overtake on the right.

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Ironically there were signs along the bike path that said something like “Be considerate, stay on the right side of the path…” And since Singapore is so small we had to go back and forth across the island 3 times, there were 6 U-turns on the bike. It never occurred to me until my pre-race rides on the bike path how weird it is to bike a U-turn turning to your right. It made me feel like male model Derek Zoolander (one of my favorite movies) and how he says “I’m not an ambi-turner. I can’t turn left.” Luckily the U-turns were wide enough that I could manage. ;)

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I didn’t know how far down I was from the rest of the pros, so I just put my head down and hammered, going harder on each lap. My pacing paid off, you can actually see from my times that each of my laps was faster than the previous one. Oh and don’t get me started on left-handed water bottle exchanges. I missed the first four or five, then slowed down enough to make sure I got one. I thought it was a pretty clean race, I didn’t see very much drafting. Not too many age group men passed me either and no women passed me. :)

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I know, the blue helmet is such an eyesore…but I’m told to wait for a potential helmet sponsor to sign on with the team before I can get a matchy matchy red helmet. Come on helmet sponsor!

I got into T2 and took the few extra seconds to roll on my dorky white compression socks. My legs had been feeling surprisingly good following my monster St. Patrick’s marathon track session on Tuesday night but I knew they would feel better with my long socks on. I immediately got into my bomb-proof running mode, which I knew I could hold forever, or for 42k at least. This was just 21k. Cake! And even though my swim was crap, and my bike was just okay, I knew I could pull off a good run and finish strong.

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I ran the first lap by myself since the run course was practically empty. What a weird feeling–as an age grouper most races put the women’s start waves at the end so I’ve never been one of the first competitors off the bike. Aside from the glaring fact that I was half an hour behind the women’s leader, it was almost like I was leading the race!

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I was soon reminded of why I love to race in Asia: the Asian fans love to see Asian pros (superstars!) running in the front! All these volunteers and spectators who didn’t even know who I was were going crazy! There were also a bunch of people scattered throughout the run that had seen Coach’s pre-race talk and were yelling just for me. WOW. Rebekah later told me that as I passed by, a Chinese couple next to her were so impressed to see me they dropped everything and started yelling for me very loudly in Chinese. How Chinese! Even the aid station volunteers cheered for me in Chinese. Jai yo!!

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It was great seeing my TBB teammates in pink. We would yell for each other. I had no idea who was winning and how everyone was doing since it was also a 3-lap run course. On the second lap the age groupers started entering the run course, so at least now I had targets to pass.

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The weather was supposedly hot and humid, but honestly I didn’t notice it much. It was overcast and much cooler than many of our hot days in Subic so I felt all right and just made sure I got in some electrolyte drink and a cold sponge at each aid station.

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My friend and local triathlete Li Ying was prowling the course on her mountain bike and offered me words of encouragement now and again. She remembered my last race report from Vineman 70.3, where I had boldly proclaimed, “I eat pain for breakfast.” During the third lap she mentioned the perfect thing to give me a kick in the shorts as my motivation waned: “Come on, you can only eat so much pain today and after today you won’t ever get that chance again!” Realizing just how right her statement was, I somehow found another gear and kicked it in the last 4k, eating all the pain I could for the day.

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8th place in my first 70.3 as a pro = an auspicious start to the 2009 triathlon season! Because if you remember what the luckiest number in Chinese is (ah yes those Chinese, they are so superstitious)…number 8! Here is my favorite of the official race pics…I know, I’m acting like I won or something…but I am on the road to becoming a champion, I really am! ;) and hey Coach… I think I got the heel-striking down!

finish-yeah

***Thank you Blue Seventy for the cool speedsuit that made my horrendous swim much less horrendous than it could have been. I will become a faster swimmer, I will!!
***Thank you Cervelo and Oval Concepts for Khan the Warrior Horse, he performed great on his race debut! We looked so pro together.
***Thank you Avia for the Avi Rhythm running shoes that let me find my bomb-proof rhythm and achieve a run split within a few minutes of almost all the other pro chicks. Even despite running alone and so far behind them!
***Thanks Scody for a fabulous looking race kit! Who had the coolest looking race kits? We did!!
***Above all thanks Brett, Alex, teamTBB and The Bike Boutique for believing in me and guiding me in this journey. I wouldn’t be able to chase Asian triathon superstardom without you.
xox,
The Wongstar

post-Singapore check-in

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

Singapore was a fantastic trip!!! Here I am with the hottest new member of the Cervelo family…

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photo credit: Richard Leong

He’s a little out of my league, but Khan the Warrior Horse and I have an “open relationship” so he doesn’t mind that I flirt with other bikes…hehe… In spite of the hauling of the heavy bike case through airports and dismantling and reassembling of the bike, I came to realize that I have become a world-traveling pro triathlete… I even successfully repressed my inner age-grouper when I kept bumping into Macca and Crowie at our swanky host hotel (the Grand Mercure Roxy, thank you race organizers!!) and at the race site. Internal dialogue went something like this:
“Whoa, it’s Macca and Crowie!”
“Be cool! you’re racing pro now too! don’t be such a nerd!”
“But it’s Macca and Crowie!”
“Shut up, don’t be such a @#$!* age grouper! Be cool!”

I tried not to get all starstruck and do something trigeeky like get their autographs or photos with them. Instead I reminded myself that as a rising Asian Triathlon Superstar, soon it will be the age-groupers asking for MY autograph. :D Coach Brett actually featured me in his highly anticipated pre-race talk, so we could get the word out about my prosthetics work with the social projects. And because I have the most “normal” body type on the team. HA!! Sure enough by the end of the weekend I was getting my picture taken with starstruck age-groupers.

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As you can see I got my hair streaked hot pink to match the new race kit right before the race…it’s so hot pink I feel like a cartoon character. Here’s a fierce photo of me rocking the run:

pure awesomeness!

You can see that the guy next to me is just in awe of my pure awesomeness. Good thing he’s wearing shades, otherwise he may go blind from overexposure.

Overall I’m very happy with my first 70.3 race in the pro division. 8th place (out of 10 starters) and for the first time I beat all the amateur women. Like a real pro should! The times don’t reflect my improvement but it is hard to compare across different courses and conditions. My run was actually a 70.3 personal best…YES, even though I ran the fastest marathon of my life on the track just 5 days before the race. And aside from the winner, it was within a few minutes of all the other pro women (even the girl who got 8th place in the Olympics!!) so I think we’re onto something here. I think I’m learning I can run off the bike pretty well.

I’ll post up a proper race report shortly, and yes I know my mission reports are overdue too. But I’ll have more time, I’m now without roommates in the green house as Angela moved out last week and the Bean just left today. :(

also it was good to meet a lot of you in Singapore who read my blog. Thanks for all your support and congratulations to everyone who raced on Sunday!! :)

the Kiwi bike position

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

so I walked outside the green house today and was surprised to see that Keegan the Kiwi was hanging out on our porch showing off his aero position on the Cervelo.

keegan

here is a closeup of our favorite Kiwi in action:

keegan-closeup

He calls it the “praying mantis” position.

anyway I just got back to training camp this afternoon, I was gone for the weekend on a prosthetic mission to Binalonan, Pangasinan province. I am a bit behind in my mission reports so I’ll try to post my pictures and reports from the Zamboanga trip this week before I head out of town for the Singapore 70.3 on Thursday.

Training camp has been going great, I feel my confidence in myself building every week with the amount of training I’ve been putting in. I can’t help but feel really good knowing that even though I have to go a little slower, I am doing the same exact workouts as these really fast girls who are Ironman champions!! :) My last race was the Vineman 70.3 in July, before the first rookie camp, and then Coach told me I wasn’t allowed to race until I got faster. So I’m definitely eager to see how much improvement I’ve made since July!

The prosthetic missions are also quite awesome, as you will soon see when I write them up. There’s no better feeling than “Making life better…one leg at a time!” ;)

breaking up isn’t so hard to do…

Sunday, March 8th, 2009

…when you have someone way sexier, faster…and 3 years younger waiting in the wings.

sorry Blue Steel (2006 Cervelo P2C), it was not meant to be. we had some good times…our first (and second! and third!) trip overseas, our first ironman in the pro division, our first sub-5 half ironman, our first pro training camp. We even made it past the one year mark. Now how many men in my life can claim that…? Memories I’ll always cherish but I had to move on.

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so the new guy. his name is Khan the Warrior Horse (2009 Cervelo P2C). I am totally madly in love with him.
khan-the-warrior

in case you were wondering, Khan is the name of Mulan‘s horse in the Disney movie.

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How to Become an Asian Triathlon Superstar, Step #14: name your bike after some obscure but meaningful Asian-inspired reference.

Mulan is a legendary Chinese warrior heroine who joined the all-male army in place of her father, cutting off all her hair and disguising herself as a boy to help fight the Huns who have invaded China. In the movie she goes to training camp (!!!) which has a very grueling training schedule for the soldiers. At this camp, Mulan is pretty pathetic, in fact, she is the absolute worst of all the new recruits and they even ask her to leave as she is so bad. so weak and SLOW and uncoordinated! She probably can’t even do 100 push-ups (certainly not the manly way) and I bet her swim stroke was awful. But she ultimately learns to HTFU and impresses the captain with her determination and consistent hard work, eventually earning the respect and friendship of her fellow soldiers. She becomes one of China’s greatest warriors and returns home a big heroine.

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Sound familiar? I came into this grueling training camp as one of the weakest (if not THE weakest) recruits athletically. Coincidentally enough I even cut off all my hair before coming this time. ;) I was even afraid Coach would send me home during the first week… well now I have my new horse and the two of us are working our BUTTS off here at training camp to also prove ourselves to Coach and my fellow “soldiers.” We are learning to HTFU and training hard with the goal of defeating the enemy in China…Ironman China!

Yesterday we had our first round of hill repeats together and let me tell you, we smashed up those f*cking hills. that is what I told Khan the Warrior Horse each time we got back to the bottom of the hill…”we are going to smash up this f*cking hill….we are going to smash up this f*cking hill…” (HA and Angela doesn’t think I ever use swear words…!) And we really did! We smashed up those f*cking hills much faster than I ever went up with Blue Steel.

You know what I think really helped? check out the picture of Khan…compare him to Blue Steel…the big difference? that’s right! I got BIG GIRL TIME TRIAL BARS!! for the first time after 9 years of triathlon. The front end feels so much lighter and I am really able to grab those sexy red bars and use them to smash up those f*cking hills. Obviously I’m so much more aerodynamic on the flats and downhills. Yup, Oval Concepts makes some really sexy aerobars and I am really excited to be going faster already! The whole set-up just screams FAST!

aerobars

After acquiring my new companion, I even went to get some color in my hair to match the new bike and new aerobars. In Chinese culture, red is both the color of good luck and happiness. It is my mom’s favorite color too. She’s probably excited I got my first RED bike. Not sure how thrilled she is with the red hair though. Good thing I am living on the other side of the world right now. And I’m not in high school any more either. (sometimes she forgets.)

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Thank you Cervelo and thank you Oval Concepts. And thank you Eddie at Going Straight Salon in Olongapo for the new rock star hair. We are ready to rock the triathlon world now!

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Starbucks Comes to Subic!

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

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for the past couple weeks we’ve seen the signs and construction happening on the corner of the intersection by our supermarket, Royal. We didn’t want to get our hopes up too much, because construction here is a bit hit-or-miss. Sometimes things here are really quickly built up, but then there are other construction projects (like the one lane on our airport road loop) that seem to be permanently “under construction.”

Well it turns out today was the big day! Grand opening day! Jonnyo, Caroline, Scott and I biked over after our uber long morning run. I’m continuing to work on my bomb-proof running style that I will get to unleash on my very unsuspecting competitors soon enough… Unlike most Americans, I’m not a very big coffee drinker (in fact I am pretty sensitive to caffeine). Then again, as previously mentioned, I am not so American, am I? I do love the smell of coffee and really love coffee ice cream (Jamoca Almond Fudge!) but of course am not having much ice cream right now (on that mission to become a lean machine). Almost like how my roommate Angela loves the smell of toast but doesn’t actually eat any toast? But I digress…

It was a momentous day. I had to help commemorate the opening of the first Starbucks in Subic! I had also just found out from my brother that I have passed the last of my prosthetic board exams (YAAAAY!) so I was (and still am, and still will be) very stoked and in a very jolly celebratory mood. What better way to celebrate than to enjoy a frou-frou coffee drink?

so?? It was very much like a Starbucks anywhere else in the world. Ah, the power of a well-known franchise. (Just like The Bike Boutique stores!) It was just like going into any Starbucks at home. “Tall” is still a small (hahaha...more relevant in this country) and the baristas are super friendly. As I scoured the menu though, I spotted just the beverage I had to try…under the Frappuccinos there was an unfamiliar one called “Coffee Jelly.” whoaaa! Now what was this? Sounds like a special Asianized frou-frou coffee drink! This I had to order. I got a tall (small!) Frappuccino Light Coffee Jelly, no whip. (a lean machine, baby. A lean machine!!)

Here is what it looks like. Yum! You won’t find this at any American Starbucks!

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So I came to realize another step to How to Become An Asian Triathlon Superstar. Step #13: enjoy and embrace your jelly-filled Asian beverages. (But of course drink them at appropriate times like after a longer session if they are super sugary.) See, we Asians like to throw in random jelly bits into all kinds of beverages and it blows my mind that not everybody likes having little jelly bits in their drinks. Two of my favorite drinks that I get here locally are grass jelly drink and buko (young coconut) juice with pulpy bits. The grass jelly drink is something I used to have at my grandma’s house when I was young and it tastes so good after a long hot bike ride! Then of course there was the boba/tapioca milk tea phenomenon when I was in college. Yes, we Asians like our jelly-filled drinks. Caroline thinks having random stuff floating in your drinks is disgusting. That is why she will never be an Asian Triathlon Superstar. (Other than the obvious Reason #1: she is not Asian.)

Training is going so well that Coach is even letting me race the Singapore 70.3 triathlon (Note: that’s a half ironman, Mom and Dad.) I’m very happy to toe the line at my second race here in Asia (the first was Ironman China last year) and will be on the lookout for more jelly drinks in Singapore. Obviously racing in Asia is another requirement in the path to becoming an Asian Triathlon Superstar.

a cheers to Starbucks and jelly drinks!
xo,
The Wongstar