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Archive for June, 2009

heat training the Wongstar way

Monday, June 29th, 2009

I get a little excited about hot weather.  This weekend there were some “heat advisories” so I did what any triathlete would do…well any triathlete who wants maximum preparation for a hot race…I drove 2 hours inland where the temperatures were sure to top 100F.  I even left the air conditioning off in my car for extra heat training.

It hasn’t been hot at home by the coast; I still wear arm warmers, gloves, vest, leg warmers or tights, and toe covers on the bike shoes when I bike commute to and from work.  But this ironman in Jeju is in two weeks now and it’s supposed to be deathly hot.  Maybe hot like China!  China didn’t feel so bad after training in the Philippines, but training right by San Francisco in the fog isn’t quite the same.

So I went to visit my friend Amy, Asian Triathlon Superstar in training, the one who hated camping at Wildflower.  She’ll be doing her first ironman in 3 weeks in Lake Placid!  She lives out in Folsom, just past Sacramento…so since she was spending the bulk of her Saturday doing her long ride, I did some morning training at home (it really was foggy at the beach), then drove halfway and stopped in the wine country for my first hot ride.  I was already sweating buckets in the car from my no-A/C heat training.

Google told me:
Weather: Napa, CA
100F (38C), Clear
Wind: W 1mph
Hum: 41%

I kitted up in my Avia jersey, yanked the fleece-lined toe covers off my shoes and left the gloves in the car.  Off I went and well…huh…doesn’t this hot breeze feel familiar.  It’s been over 2 months since I left Asia and my body needed a harsh reminder.

30 mins in: Gosh my Gatorade sure is warm.

1hr in: Wow, now my Gatorade is hot like the hot tea I drink in the morning, or the chicken soup Mom makes for dinner.

It is workouts like these when I sometimes think the race itself is not as hard as the training.  You’ve got your catered aid stations with cold drinks and ice…then again…

1.5hrs:  time to turn around!  I could really use a refill of something nice and cold…

At the gas station in Calistoga, I grabbed a bottled Starbucks frappuccino and some more Gatorade, went up to pay when suddenly I saw it:

And it was like the sun came out and the angels started singing.  (I am being facetious as obviously the sun had already been out and roasting me.)

***I would like to take this opportunity to thank you, Mr. Omar Knedlik, inventor of the ICEE for being a hero to all of us who suffer in the heat and cool down by drinking your ICEE’s and Slurpee’s.  (Slurpee at 7-11, FYI, is actually a licensed ICEE.)  May you rest in peace.***

So then I think maybe the race IS harder than the training.  Because we don’t get ICEE’s or Slurpee’s at the aid stations.  I wish they would get on that and sponsor an Ironman already!

The rest of the ride was pretty uncomfortable, but I told myself that Korea is gonna be hotter, so HTFU, Wongstar.

When I finished, I blasted the A/C for the first 10mins driving to Amy’s, then went back to “heat training” in the car.  Amy is looking super fit and I’m jealous at how much arm muscle she’s grown since I last saw her.  My skinny arms seem to be wasting away like weak sauce in comparison.  Ripped they are not!

This morning I went for round 2 in the heat on the bike.

It didn’t feel too bad starting out, of course, because it was in the morning.  But it was heating up.  Yup, I was sweating buckets.  And I had to stop a couple times for some cold refills (no ICEE’s or Slurpee’s today unfortunately), and drank the most I’ve drinken recently during a 4.5-hour ride: almost 6 bottles.  Towards the end it didn’t feel as hot as yesterday though.

Google said:
Weather: Folsom, CA
103F (39C), Clear
Wind: S 3mph
Hum: 17%

So just two rides in the heat and it felt more tolerable today for sure!  I think my body adapts fast.  :)  I was actually a little disappointed I couldn’t stay and ride later, as today’s high was supposed to be 110F (43C).

Folsom is actually a really gorgeous place to train, it’s not just full of them prisoners that Johnny Cash sang to.  Today I did a loop around Folsom Lake and there were tons of cyclists out.  I’ve done a couple of local tris in this area, the Folsom Olympic Tri and the World’s Toughest Half in the neighboring town of Auburn.  My race reports are actually buried in this blog somewhere…  I couldn’t resist taking some pictures with my camera phone:

keep Guinness at home, he knows how to worry them chickens

keep Guinness at home, he knows how to worry them chickens even if he won't harm them

Ironically there was a vet hospital right across the street from this sign.

Not such a cool day in Cool today

Not such a cool day in Cool today

up and down, up and down, great views but you had to work for them:

free massage, the broke @$$ Wongstar way

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009
I should be charging for this

don't step on a crack or you'll break your auntie's back

So since doing my first triathlon in the summer of 2000, following my freshman year in college, I’ve successfully transitioned from:

broke college student/triathlete…

to broke graduate student/triathlete…

to broke orthotic resident/triathlete…

to broke prosthetic resident/triathlete…

to the current state of financial ruin:  broke pro triathlete. aha!

The transitions have been smooth as I’ve never really known what it is like to have a lot of money while being a triathlete.  I raced on the same road bike my first 7 seasons (and first 4 ironmans) because I didn’t have the money for a new tri bike.  I just told people “One day I will get fast enough that a bike sponsor will give me a new bike.”  Well lo and behold, I got my first Cervelo P2C “Blue Steel” a year and a half ago from the team, and then this year, my 2nd one already, “Khan the Warrior Horse.”  I actually had to bite my tongue hard to keep myself from saying something silly like “But I just got a new bike, why do I need a new one already?”

A good portion of my money went to entry fees for racing.  I try not to think about how much this has all added up to, but in my mind, I had always said “Someday I will be fast enough to go pro, and then they will let me race for free.  In the meantime maybe some races have student discounts.”

Ahh…the magical student discount.  Early on I had learned the trick that my college ID cards do not have an expiration date, and was/am still shameless about asking for a college discount.  Movies, bike shops, even some grocery stores…  With the advent of being on teamTBB and now the pro card, this of course has carried into “do you offer a pro discount?”  Always with a charming smile, of course!

Then there’s the quandary with finding a good cheap massage.  I first discovered the fabulousness of a great sports massage when I was a grad student in Atlanta.  My coach at the time, Carole Sharpless, made me go see her massage therapist Collette Ragan at Georgia Sports Massage, who quickly became one of my very good friends.  She indeed gave me the magical student discount, and when the summer was over and I refused to work at Red Lobster ever again (therefore having no income), I bartered with her by doing some office work in exchange for massages.

In the Philippines of course the massage was cheap and good.  $6 for an hour, and my last few weeks there I upgraded to $10 for 90mins which include HOT STONES!  WOW!!  Coming back home it’s hard to find a good masseuse for even $60/hour, so instead I’ve recruited a couple of young half-Pinoys to the rescue.  Yep, it’s the two little half-Chinese Concepcions, my niece and nephew, who will happily march up and down my back like it’s a game.  Cayle is 8 years old and 50 lbs., while her “little” brother is 5 and 60 lbs.  That’s not a typo.

Im surfing!  Im surfing!

I'm surfing! I'm surfing!

I’m sure that I’m breaking some child labor laws, but they get paid in hugs and kisses and a good time is had by all…!

a monster blog about Wongstar’s 1st Monster Run back home

Monday, June 15th, 2009

I will tell you a secret because you are a faithful blog reader, and faithful blog readers get rewarded with real secrets from real pros. And now that I am a real pro, which I will not cease to brag about any time soon, I can offer “real secrets from a real pro.” My secret is that I am turning into a big run monster. Shh, don’t tell my competition. They probably won’t believe you anyway, because I don’t have very fast top end speed. I’ve never broken 90 minutes in a half marathon or even 42 minutes in a 10k. (Actually there was a time the scrawny teenage Wongstar could run 2:32 for 800 meters and 64 seconds for a 400, but that was a really long time ago and really not that fast by California high school standards.) What I do have is this special bombproof Wongstar shuffle that lets me go on and on forever and not slow down. Perfect for Ironman! So here is a tip:

How to Become an Asian Triathlon Superstar, Step #22: Turn yourself into a run monster by doing monster runs.

Coach had me doing lots of monster runs in Subic. It was great! Sometimes we were lucky enough to get two a week. Marathons on the track AND long runs on the road. Coach would have me run longer than the others, and we wouldn’t tell anybody. Secret training! I would get really excited about monster runs but had to contain myself, because I wanted my new teammates to like me. AHAHAHA :D

Since coming home, I haven’t got to do a monster run yet because first I was recovering from China, then I was out racing Wildflower, then Florida, then the NY trip, then I got sick. Since I was feeling better I asked Coach if I could do my marathon track set…but he said to go do an easy long monster run (on the road) instead to help get the stubborn phlegm out. This is why we have a coach, so he can hold you back when you are raring to go. Since today was the famous Escape from Alcatraz triathlon, practically in my neighborhood, I decided I would run from my front door to somewhere along the course and back.

escape

I haven’t ever done the Alcatraz race because I haven’t always been home in June since becoming a triathlete, and even when I was, it was way too expensive for a sorta-Olympic distance race. So I always said that I will do it when I become a pro, that way I could get in for free! I didn’t really get my pro card in time this year, so maybe next time. :)

So I say I’m from San Francisco when people from far away places ask, because that is the closest big city, but I really live in Pacifica, which is 2 cities down along the coast. So named because of our proximity to the Pacific Ocean, we also call it P-Town or the 94044. Daly City is the next city going up the coast before SF, which has an enormous Pinoy population and is where I went to elementary, middle, and high school. I also have a giant extended family who all pretty much live within a 5-mile radius of P-Town. So today’s monster run was like a tour of where I grew up.

monster-run-map

I filled up my Camelbak with my favorite flavor of Gatorade (X-Factor yellow, tastes like Skittles), fully charged up the Ipod, grabbed my magic running sticks (filled with refill money), threw on my Avia visor and Avi-Rhythms, and out the front door I went! I decided to take surface streets until I hit the Great Highway (which has a pedestrian path). In high school our track coach sent us on a similar (though much shorter) route but we would run down the shoulder of the highway, and he would just advise us to please not become hood ornaments…

First I ran by cousin Alvina’s house and my grandma’s house (they live 4 houses apart about 5 blocks away from us). 10mins later I bumped into my aunt, Alv’s mom, who was on a long walk of her own. She asked where I was going, I said Lake Merced (10 miles round-trip) so she wouldn’t think I was too crazy.

I had suited up in full tights and a warm long-sleeve shirt and could already tell I overdressed. Hmm. Well, better to be too warm than too cold, at least it is good practice for Korea to sweat extra.

I ran by my senior prom date’s house.

@25mins, I ran by my alma mater, Westmoor High School, and the Asian supermarket (Ranch 99, great source for Hello Pandas) a block away that they built during my sophomore year. I’m pretty excited that by next summer, Westmoor is getting a brand new swimming pool (I learned to swim…barely…during freshman P.E.) and the dirt track I ran many laps around is getting upgraded to a rubber track!

…I would insert some dorky pictures from high school here but I don’t have any in digital format…if you are lucky I might scan some one of these days. ;)

I ran by my co-valedictorian’s old house.

I ran by the library where I studied for my SAT’s.

I ran by another cousin’s house.

@45mins I was inside San Francisco city limits and running by Lake Merced. This was where the Westmoor cross country team held summer practices, and thus the place I first became an athlete and fell in love with running. Exactly 14 summers ago. When I did the math in my head, I realized I’ve now spent over half my life as a competitive athlete. Wow.

penguin-statue

@60mins hit the Great Highway, right next to the San Francisco zoo where that tiger escaped from his little tiger area and killed those boys that were taunting him a couple Christmases ago.

tatiana

I ran by my college crush’s street.

I ran by my high school crush’s street.

The Great Highway goes along the coast by Ocean Beach, where 5 years ago I had been an extra in a commercial for Wachovia Bank, as a triathlete of course. Easiest $400 I ever made for maybe 40mins of splashing around the Ocean, I wish I could find this commercial on YouTube as I haven’t ever actually seen it.

ocean-beach

@75mins I was passing by the west end of Golden Gate Park where I’d run many high school XC races and road races.

@85mins I made it to the Cliff House, where I had celebrated my 17th birthday with my “twin” Patti, my high school cross country teammate who turned 14 the same day. We were a senior and freshman then, yup I graduated 10 years ago and will be missing the 10-year reunion this summer in favor of going to Swiss camp instead.

cliff-house

At this point I hit the GGNRA (Golden Gate National Recreational Area) and Lands End trail, which begins right behind the Cliff House and had been recently renovated. And by “recent” I mean in the last few years, as I don’t actually train in this area very often. So now I was going up and down through the dirt trail with some wooden stairs built in some places, this is in between the ocean and on a cliff side. If you have ever raced Alcatraz or seen videos of the run portion, you will understand.

lands-end

@105mins it was time to turn around, but I just spotted the most gorgeous view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Aha! now how cool would that be, I thought, to say I ran all the way from my house to the Golden Gate Bridge…AND BACK??? How far can it be?

ggbridge

@120mins (AKA 2 hours) the bridge did not look that much closer. Uhh Wongstar, just because you can see the bridge doesn’t mean it is that close. It is a pretty big bridge, you know. And it takes you almost an hour to bike there from home… Oh fine. I listened to the logical voice in my head and turned around. The Camelbak was running low.

ggbridge2

I stopped by the newish and very clean well-stocked Porta-potties behind the Cliff House, then stopped by a gas station by Golden Gate Park for some refilling. I chugged down a bottled Starbucks mocha frappuccino for some caffeine action and got more yellow Gatorade for the Camelbak. No gels for me, I operate solely on liquid sugar and caffeine.

The caffeine probably kicked in at some point, I felt really good on the way back and probably picked up the pace. I mean, if the 3rd and 4th hour of your monster run doesn’t feel much different (and actually better) than the first two hours, I think that’s a good sign.

Exactly 4 hours later I was back in my neighborhood. About 3hrs 50mins run time. Probably not quite marathon distance as I was going at an easy phlegm-loosening pace, and I was a little disappointed I didn’t get all the way to the GG Bridge (maybe 1-2miles short?) …almost doesn’t count…I’ll get there next time.

I love monster runs.

pro card, twitter, new jeans

Saturday, June 13th, 2009

I am T-30 days from my next Ironman, the Korea Triathlon Jeju on July 12…AKA the race formerly known as Ironman Korea! I’m pretty psyched for my first trip to Korea and will get to check out our training location sponsor, Jeju Island. Just in time, I got a notice in my inbox that USA Triathlon has approved my pro/elite status…i.e. they have processed my $100. My annual amateur license just expired 2 weeks ago so it was meant to be! I might be a little more excited when the actual pro card comes in the snail mail, but in the meantime, here is my official “temporary” pro card:

temp-pro-card

What this really means is that when I go out with Scottie again to his favorite local hangout (Used-to-Be’s), and some guy tries to chat me up, and he asks “so what do you do?” and I proudly reply “well….I’m a professional triathlete…” and he rolls his eyes and says “yeah, you and me both…” well, this means that instead of punching him in the face, I can whip out my pro card and say “see, I really am a professional triathlete, you douchebag.” :D Just kidding, I didn’t really punch him in the face, but I thought about it a couple seconds too long before walking away.

I’m practically recovered from whatever gnarly flu I had…pig, cow, bird, dog, whatever…except for waking up with a little bit of “gunge” in the morning (as the Bean calls it). It is great to be back at it and having the smashed-up legs feeling every day again. Scottie has warned me that the “hill” in Leysin is no joke and to make sure I find the biggest hill here so I’m prepared! Good thing I live right outside San Francisco, we got some big hills here, maybe not as big as the Swiss Alps but I will try…

I also just joined Twitter for those of you that enjoy stalking er following me. http://www.twitter.com/theWongstar

and I finally got some new jeans. In size 2! How crazy is that!

the end…for now. I know, this is a very short post for me. ;) better a mini update than none at all!

Wongstar’s MacGyver Series: How to Make Your Own Pull Buoy

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

all these blog posts bragging about how great their pull buoys are, and emails trying to convince me to buy a certain other pull buoy, ha! well it has brought me out of my swine flu-induced blogging stupor because Beck needs to see the creation that is the patented Wongstar Pull Buoy. Sorry, but the blog post about Mac’s farm will have to wait again, this one is much long overdue. Because you see Beck, the attempt at copying your pull buoy was not a complete failure as it was deemed salvageable and still better in its semi-deteriorated state than the piece o’ crap pull buoy I once had…for the piece o’ crap swimmer I once was…oh wait a sec…never mind. ;)

So the story begins in the original rookie camp during October of yesteryear, when Miss Beck Preston shows up to camp a few weeks after the rest of us. The airline had lost some of her luggage and she was most frantically concerned about… a… well, a pull buoy. !!! Yeah, my reaction exactly. “OOOO-kay…What could be so great about a pull buoy?!” Luckily the luggage was found and Beck’s pull buoy was the strangest little alien pull buoy I had ever seen. It was shaped like a friggin’ SQUARE. And she LOVED it. You could tell. One day at the pool Coach insisted I try it on. I was very skeptical. And then….OH!

I wanted my own! I searched high and low on the internet and Beck said these must have gone obselete 20 years ago. There was/is nothing sold in the States that even resembles a “Beck’s Pull Buoy.” So like most things that are hard to find, too expensive, or don’t exist yet, I decided to channel my inner MacGyver and well, make my own. Apparently making things runs deep in the Wongstar bloodline. My dad is an engineer and my mom majored in fashion design. She made her own wedding dress and all our Halloween costumes. (Ok, she still makes us Halloween costumes and they are FABULOUS.) And oh yeah, I do make prosthetic legs for a living, so a pull buoy? a bike box? easy cheesy.

So yes…I bring you the first of Wongstar’s MacGyver Series. Our slogan is “Make it yourself! Only better, cheaper, and at the very least prettier…” Cuz that MacGyver, he sure was a pretty boy…

macgyver-pb

1) Get Beck to email you her pull buoy dimensions and some pictures from different angles.

2) Buy a big sheet of styrofoam from Home Depot for $6. They call it “insulation foam.” for insulating buildings or something.

pb1

3) Cut 2 square-shaped pieces. The sheet only came in a 2″ thickness so I figured I would glue them together when all was said and done. The cutting part would be easiest with a jigsaw; well, I don’t own one so I asked “WWMD?” What would MacGyver do? He would use whatever was in his garage and kitchen. Well, no, he would probably use the Swiss army knife in his pocket and his bare teeth.

pb2

4) Take your Styrofoam squares to work and glue them together. Luckily your boss warns you just in time that solvent-based glues might dissolve Styrofoam, so you better test it first. And he’s right! The website that says spray adhesive would work was lying. Elmer’s Glue is water-based and seems to work. Phew.

5) Use the Trautman in the lab to shape the block into the pull buoy design outline you have drawn on the edges with Sharpie.

pb3

The Trautman is a carver you can attach different size and shape sanding cones to when making things…like prosthetic legs. Or pull buoys.

pb4

Don’t have a Trautman at your work? Well, ask WWMD?

5) Know you are done with the shaping process when your boss yells at you for tracking Styrofoam all over the office. eeeep. Ok, I’m done with being a perfectionist for now.

pb5

pb6 pb7

6) Time to test out the pull buoy after work. It’s great!! What an effing genius you are!!!

…1 hour into the workout, you experience a weird rubbing between the legs. And you realize the funny thing about water-based glues is that they dissolve when put in water. Oh quandary!

7) At this point, if you really were an effing genius like MacGyver, you would’ve just duct-taped the two pieces together and called it a victory. But we can all only hope to aspire to such greatness. Instead, read on if you want to follow the Wongstar’s pitiful and unworthy path to potential greatness….which is at least twice the steps MacGyver would’ve taken.

8) <–that was supposed to be step #8 but turned into the smiley sunglasses guy. LOL! good to know… Ok. HMM. I’m going to combine many steps into one so I don’t seem as idiotic as I am, but I basically had the quandary, how do you water-proof a pull buoy to protect the water-based glue holding it together? A string of misinformation and mistakes followed, climaxing with a Home Depot guy telling me that spraying it with wood lacquer finish would definitely waterproof it, and it wouldn’t dissolve if I painted it with a water-based latex paint. I was skeptical, but I had also been skeptical about how great Beck’s pull buoy would feel…so….

pb8

pb9

AUGHHH!!!! FAIL FAIL FAIL FAIL FAIL!!!!!

9) By now it is the night before you fly off to Subic Camp #2, so what do you do… you sigh and pack the old useless little pull buoy. As an afterthought, you throw in this scary cottage-cheese-looking blob of styrofoam that you worked so hard on…

10) You realize in Subic that you should’ve gone with step #7, even though you had thought of it already but dismissed it because you didn’t think duct tape would make the “pretty” clause (you had yet to discover hot pink and purple duct tape at Target). Of course now you realize that your pull buoy looks like a thigh full of cellulite, and dagnabbit, duct tape would’ve been SO MUCH PRETTIER. But before you get the duct tape, you figure you should fill in the craters…maybe that gap-filling stuff for sealing up bathtubs would work.

pb10

11) You then look for duct tape in Subic but all you can find is this weird aluminum foil tape at the 88 Mart that is labelled and sold as “Duct Tape.” Huh. You wrap it up and it looks like something you can put on your head so the aliens can’t read your mind. BUT the two pieces of styrofoam stay together. Effing genius you are! Draw red Wongstar logos all over it with the “Permanent Marker” you bought with the foil “Duct Tape.”

(Unfortunately there are no photos of the Wongstar Pull Buoy in this state. sorry!)

12) Try it out at the pool again! Elite teammates and coach are a little puzzled and intrigued. But it works so much better than that piece o’ crap one you had! Some people think it looks like smuggled Cuban contraband. Does it work? Well, the foil is a bit slippery in the flip turns and it becomes obvious after a few swims that the “Permanent Marker” is no Sharpie.

13) Add some of this red tape (also from the 88 Mart in Subic) as a middle stripe down the length of the pull buoy. It seems to help keep things between the thighs during flip turns as it is a tad grippier than the foil tape. Excellent! Effing genius! Just like MacGyver, but a little slower! Just a little.

Here are recent photos I took of the pull buoy. Guinness is modelling in the background.

pb11

pb12

pb13

It lasted in this state quite happily since February, and now it’s June.

14) I decided it was violating the “pretty” clause and was tired of the lifeguards asking me if I left my lunch on deck as I was warming up, so time for a little makeover. Now it matches my very pretty bike box.

pb14

Comes complete with motivational slogans for when you can’t bring Coach home with you.

pb15