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The Wongstar’s Spectacular Photo-Filled Singapore 70.3 Race Report « Jocelyn Wong's Blog

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

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!

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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!

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***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

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