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Archive for October, 2009

GreatMan Race Report, Part 1: Pre-Race

Monday, October 26th, 2009

as I begin to write this it is midnight after the ironman here in Taean.  (Which FYI is pronounced “Tay-on” not “Tie-Anne,” good to know if you are trying to figure out which bus to take and the Koreans don’t understand where you want to go because you pronounce things wrong…)  I am hyped up on all the caffeine from Camelbak #2, the excitement of my first sub-10 ironman/MASSIVE PR and of course kind of hungry, so I can’t sleep.  I figure I might as well start writing my race report…

Where to begin?  Well as you know I stayed in Korea for almost an extra month when I found out the GreatMan race was postponed rather than cancelled completely for this year.  The last couple weeks of training by myself were very solid even if I had some trouble getting out the door sometimes.  The weather had gotten colder (windier too actually) so much that I needed to wear my vest and arm warmers that I didn’t think I would need after leaving Swiss camp.  And the teammates and Coach were all gone…but I did manage to get the work done on my own and was excited to smash my old IM PR of 11:08 from China this year.

I left Jeju and flew into Seoul on Friday, then took the bus to Taean, about 2.5hrs.  Being a foreigner traveling by myself can be a little intimidating, but everyone is very friendly and helpful here in Korea.  All you need to do is A) get someone to write you the Korean names on a piece of paper, then you B) clutch the paper quite obviously while looking around a lot with a confused expression, C) ask someone nicely in English, and D) smile big.  The English part is important because unlike my white teammates it is really not obvious that I am a foreigner until I open my mouth.

ANYWAY.  The race director, Kim HyungSik picked me up at the bus station and we drove to Hakampo Beach, where the race was being held.  We all had rooms at the motels within walking distance to the transition area and swim start, SUPER convenient!  HyungSik apologized that the rooms were not very fancy but I was quite happy with it, I mean it was way bigger than my studio in Jeju and had a refrigerator and cable TV!  Plus how many races give you free entry and 3 nights accommodation?  I even managed to get all my dinners paid for.  (Thanks to the RD and also Ryan’s friends for the post-race dinner!!) :D   V.I.P. superstar treatment!  Ok so it is still my first season as a pro and I still get excited over things like free entry and accommodation and meals.  At Embrun, Coco thought it was funny I was so excited over free breakfast ;)

This was my first time going to an ironman race by myself.  Ryan, who I met in Singapore and China, lives here in Korea and would also be racing but wouldn’t be coming until the night before the race with some of his friends.  I easily made a lot of new Korean friends (smiling big helps and so does being the Jeju ironman champion) but it was also nice to have my own room and be able to focus on doing my own thing before the race.  I actually got the most sleep I’ve ever gotten before an ironman–10 hours two nights before the race (the night that counts, as they say) and 8 hours the night before!

I put all my things together while watching many episodes of Cold Case on one of the English channels.  It’s kind of funny to see what American shows are broadcasted in Korea that they like to watch…  Grey’s Anatomy and Ugly Betty of course, but also a lot of CSI, Cold Case, Ghost Whisperer…and embarassingly enough the Tyra Banks show.

There isn’t much around the beach area in terms of a real grocery store or restaurants (other than traditional Korean restaurants) so my pre-race ice cream fat-loading consisted of eating one of these Korean ice cream sandwiches from a convenience store. 

It is a fish ice cream sandwich.  Well the outside layers are like ice cream cone layers shaped like a fish and inside is a layer of vanilla ice cream and a layer of red bean.  I had been wanting to try one for a while and figured this was the night!

The other really funny thing I’ve learned is that red bean in Korean is called “pot.”  So this is actually an ice cream sandwich shaped like a fish and filled with… “pot.”

The fish layers were a little soggy as I am sure it has been sitting in that freezer for longer than I care to know, but the ice cream and “pot” did not disappoint.

I set my alarm for 5:15am assuming the race was starting at 7am.  It actually started at 7:30am, of course I didn’t understand the Korean race briefing or the race program and schedule which was all in Korean.  Ryan and I were the only foreigners racing since the Taean county officials had closed the race off to foreigners because of the whole swine flu hype, but luckily since Ryan lives here and I lived in Jeju for 2 months, we were both considered Korean residents for all intents and purposes.  I got a mini English race briefing but the RD forgot to mention the start time got changed.  Luckily it didn’t start EARLIER!

However, I woke up in a cold sweat at 4:30am because I had one of those school nightmares.  It was Thursday in my dream and I had an essay for a nutrition class due at midnight, and some other assignment due on Friday, both of which I hadn’t even started yet.  Not only was it already Thursday but it was 11:17pm on Thursday night, and I frantically started writing the essay in my head so I could get to a computer and transpose it.  Something about carbohydrates.  I was in such a big panic, and then towards the end of the dream as I was waking up, I thought, wait a second, I am in Korea, and midnight on Thursday in the USA is not for almost another day…I think I have more than just 40 minutes to get this paper done.  And as I woke up it took me a while to realize: “Stop it, stop it, you are not in school any more, you do not have any more homework due, you have already graduated, you have your bachelors’ and masters’ degree.  WAKE UP WAKE UP YOU ARE RACING AN IRONMAN TODAY!!!

wouldve been more of a nightmare if these werent packed yet

would've been more of a nightmare if these weren't packed yet

I think my subconscious was confused because of my blog about the triathlon academy, and it didn’t remember that to pass nutrition class all I need is a six-pack, not some stupid essay.

…and so that’s how race morning began…

#9 is a very lucky Chinese number!  not as lucky as #8, Ryan got #8.

#9 is a very lucky Chinese number! not as lucky as #8, Ryan got #8.

to be continued!

P.S.  To elaborate on the significance of the number 9 in Chinese culture, here is what Wikipedia has to say:
“Nine (九) is considered a good number in Chinese culture because it sounds the same as the word “longlasting” (久).”

longlasting…  ironman…  I think there may be some foreshadowing here but you already know the ending to this story ;)

the newest member of the sub-10 club

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG

I BROKE 10 HOURS TODAY!!!!!!!

official time 9:55:20

there is no live tracking for this event so here are my splits:

swim 1:07:47
bike 5:09:19
run 3:33:55

oh and I won the race too.

I was also 2nd OVERALL.  I chicked 8 out of the 9 pro men.

MORE SOON!!!!!!!!!

OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG

xox,
GreatMan ironman champion Wongstar

bike racin’ in Jeju AKA spankin’ the boys

Monday, October 19th, 2009
loading up the Cervelos

loading up the Cervelos

Last weekend while Ironman Hawaii was going on, I was reluctantly pulled away from the live Kona broadcast on my computer by local pro triathlete Mr. Cho and his friends to participate in a local bike race here in Jeju.  I tried to get out of it but Coach had the final word, so off I went…just as Chrissie entered T2.

GO!  Jeju Cycle Team!

GO! Jeju Cycle Team!

We would be representing Mr. Cho’s favorite local bike shop, Jeju Cycle.

the boys of Jeju Cycle. 4 out of 5 would get chicked today.

the boys of Jeju Cycle. 4 out of 5 would get chicked today.

It ended up being an all-day outing, starting with an opening ceremony and short parade through the streets.  From what I gathered, it was a bike festival promoting bicycling as a commuting alternative to taking cars.  That’s what I’m told the flag on my bike said anyway… 

very aerodynamic addition to the Cervelo

very aerodynamic addition to the Cervelo

We got to attach flags to our bikes for the parade.  It was cool promoting bike commuting in Jeju, very much like the Bike Boutique’s “I Want 2 Bike 2 Work” initiative.  When I am working at home I also bike commute the 25 miles (40km) each way to work, twice a week.  It’s such a great way to start off the workday while getting in a training session and reducing air pollution.  Practice what you preach!

rigging the flag to Blue Steels rear end

rigging the flag to Blue Steel's rear end

I tried to get out of the opening ceremony so I could properly smash my legs with a hard training session before the bike race, but sneaky Mr. Cho persuaded me to stay.  Turns out the people in charge ended up calling the two of us up during introductions, as we are the two local Jeju triathlon superstars.  I didn’t know what they were saying about me other than “Mei-gwok” which means American, so I just smiled and waved.

making the politician pledge to be a bike commuter!

making the politician pledge to be a bike commuter!

Mr. Cho was actually on the phone with his wife during the boring parts so she could give us some Kona updates.  So that’s where I was standing when I found out Tereza held on with a strong marathon for 4th place!  Go Super Housewife!!  After the ceremony we went on the parade, a very pedestrian 30-minute spin which I used as my warm-up to my pre-race bike session.

promoting bike commuting in Jeju

promoting bike commuting in Jeju

 

Mr. Cho and his Cervelo

Mr. Cho and his Cervelo

Mr. Cho then “introduced” me to one of his favorite stretches of road for training so I could smash the crap out of my legs before the race.  It was only a 20k road race, really no use going into it fresh since it was just for training!  It is very cute here in Korea, they tell you they will “introduce” you to a place instead of saying they will show it to you.

looking aerodynamic in the new Scody skinsuit!

looking aerodynamic in the new Scody skinsuit!

After lunch was the bike race.  I was under the impression that it was a 20k time trial, but it was in fact a draft-legal road race.  And we were allowed to use time trial bikes!  The field was pretty small though, as we lined up the official tried to tell me I had to go to the back row because I’m a girl!!  Can’t he tell how fast I am from my supertight Scody skinsuit?  I was very amused and Mr. Cho negotiated with the official in Korean, maybe saying something like “this girl can actually beat all the other guys here” and then I was allowed to be in the front and center of the starting line!

dont put me in the back row!

don't put me in the back row!

The gun went off and my plan was to stick to Mr. Cho’s wheel.  HA!!  He is a very strong cyclist and with 4 other guys took off in a big sprint.  Oops.  Well good thing I had my tri bike since it was basically a time trial now anyway!  In less than 5 minutes I got into a groove and moved up to 3rd place.  Mr. Cho and one other guy were already out of sight, crap…  I pushed and pushed, after all, when I told my mom that the race was only 12 miles, she said “What!  That won’t even take you half an hour!  See, even I know that!”  Oh Mom, I’m so proud :)

crunching up the final hill...

crunching up the final hill...

The pavement was a bit sketchy at times and there were some sharp turns, so I went as hard as I could without “going stupid,” as Coach would say.  My legs were definitely burning like crazy from both the effort and the effects of my first bike session.  At about 9 miles/15k, I was surprised to see a lone rider up ahead…another rider from the Jeju Cycle team!  I snuck up behind him and then made a hard and decisive pass so he wouldn’t get a chance to jump on my wheel.  Whoa, really, I’m now 2nd overall?!

Yep I ended up beating all the guys except for Mr. Cho!  The Jeju Cycle team won the big team trophy, I think they would’ve done it without me anyway since they swept the first 3 spots (4 if you include me, hehe).

Mr. Cho with the team trophy!

Mr. Cho with the team trophy!

dammit my size 2 jeans were snug when I bought them 4 months ago!

dammit my size 2 jeans were snug when I bought them 4 months ago!

Here we are with the Kim family, the owners of the Jeju Cycle bike shop.  Mrs. Kim had also raced the 20k road race!

Keeping up with the Kims

Keeping up with the Kims

There was a local all-women’s mountain bike team that came to race as well (there was a MTB division) and they were very excited to meet me.  They had been admiring my new Scody race kit during opening ceremonies!  After we took pictures together many of them grabbed my arms and felt up the muscles in my legs.  They exclaimed a lot in Korean about how strong/skinny/fit I was.  I just laughed a lot because this kind of behavior in America is considered invading your personal space.  It was obvious that they aren’t used to seeing very athletic women around here, so I was a good sport.  It’s my duty as Asian Triathlon Superstar to inspire more Asian womens!!

the womens MTB team LOVED us!

the women's MTB team LOVED us!

I made a lot of new Korean friends and the guys offered to pay for my dinner.  Broke pro triathlete girls never refuse a free meal! 

infinite varieties of kimchee

infinite varieties of kimchee

One of the teammates (the guy I passed actually) owns a restaurant so we had a traditional Korean dinner there with all the little dishes of kimchee, sitting at the really low tables that hurt your legs after a while.

Im smiling but my legs are aching from sitting on the floor!

I'm smiling but my legs are aching from sitting on the floor!

I had a lot of fun and got in some great training.  So thank you Mr. Cho and the Jeju Cycle team for dragging me out of my antisocial hermit state that began after the TBB teammates left!  It is good to get out and I also got a chance to work on my autograph skills once again…

I think Mr. Cho has a prettier autograph than I do

I think Mr. Cho has a prettier autograph than I do, but I've got the "Wongstar" logo...

Anyway I am now a week out from the next ironman, the GreatMan in Taean, just southwest of Seoul.  I am feeling the fittest I’ve ever been and looking forward to having the best race of my life.  It’s kind of fun to keep saying that every time I do an ironman this year.  ;)

Let’s keep it rolling!  2009 has been the best year ever!

Christmas comes early in Jeju too!

Friday, October 9th, 2009

Just another day in the office: this morning I charged up the ipod, strapped on the Camelbak, put some money in the running sticks, pulled on the SLS3 compression socks, stepped into my Avia Avi-Rhythms and headed out the door for another 4-hour jaunt.  It’s amazing how easy a 4-hour run becomes when you do one practically every other day.  “Well gosh,” you might be thinking, “Don’t you get bored?  What the heck do you think about during a 4-hour run?”

No actually, I can’t say I ever get bored.  I really love my long monster runs as running was my first love since my geeky teenage years.  But since you asked, there are many many things to think about actually…

  • You think about this week’s training, and your upcoming races.
  • You think about all your teammates who are racing in Kona this weekend and how you witnessed how hard they trained every day and know they will do fantastic.
  • You think about how hard you’ve been training yourself and how much progress you’ve made just this past year.
  • In fact, you think about how you have already almost accomplished everything you ever wanted to do in triathlon–according to that list of goals you wrote up for Coach when you first started talking to him 2 years (and 20 pounds) ago.
  • You start thinking about a new list of goals.
  • You think about how Coach always said he believed that anyone with two arms and two legs could break 5 hours on the bike and 3 hours on the run without taking drugs.
  • You chuckle and think about some of the “challenged” athletes who don’t have two arms and two legs and how one of these days they’ll go that fast too…if they haven’t already.
  • You think about Rudy Garcia-Tolson and how you met him years ago when he was barely a teenager at one of your first sprint triathlons in Southern California, how he inspired you to go to prosthetics school, how he went on to become a multiple gold medalist at the Paralympics, and how he is now 21 years old and attempting his first Ironman in Kona this weekend.

  • You think about the social project proposal you’ve been working on this week and make some editorial changes in your head.
  • You think about your family and how lucky you are to have them be so supportive, and how you promised your cousin’s daughter that you would be home for Halloween and would go trick-or-treating with her.
  • You think about what you want to be for Halloween, and are leaning towards your favorite G.I. Joe chick, Lady Jaye, and how it’s bullshit that she didn’t make the new live-action G.I. Joe movie but Scarlett (your sister’s favorite) did.

  • Despite that bullshit, you still hope you’ll get to watch the G.I. Joe movie on the flight home because they sure aren’t showing it here!
  • You think about the cookies and iced coffee you will get at a convenience store somewhere at the halfway point in your run.  (You think about all the peanut butter you used to eat every day but don’t any more, and don’t regret it.  You end up getting peanut butter cookies.)
  • You think about how this time last year you were at your first rookie camp with Coach and the rookie team, how you couldn’t run 15mins without your shins hurting, how Coach turned you into a heel-striking shuffler and how happy you were to leave that camp being able to run 2 hrs pain-free on the track.
  • Sometimes an old song comes onto the ipod and you think back to where you were back when you first heard that song.
  • You realize you are now running on the Jeju ironman run course and are surprised at how you thought it was so hilly 3 months (and 10 pounds) ago and now you barely even notice any hills.
  • You wonder how much of your improvement is due to the amount of weight you’ve lost and how much it’s due to Doc’s coaching.  The two are correlated of course.
  • You laugh because your coach and teammates thought you were pretty huge when they first met you (10-20 pounds ago) but what they don’t know is that you actually used to be MUCH BIGGER.  In fact, over 35 pounds bigger back in 2004 between your second and third ironmans.  And how that would make a great blog post, you even have the embarassing pictures to prove it.
  • You toss around some blog ideas in your head.
  • You seethe with jealousy over James’ latest blog showing all the free schwag the Kona teammates are getting, and how it’s like Christmas in Kona!  ***jealous jealous jealous!!!***

Well 4+ hours and all those random thoughts later I arrive back home and discover it is like Christmas in Jeju too!  I have two big boxes greeting me and even with the runners’ high, my spirits are lifted exponentially higher:

yippee I love mail!!!

yippee I love mail!!!

Mom has sent me back the triathlon gear I thought I didn’t need!  When GreatMan was originally postponed, I had thrown my BlueSeventy wetsuit and other race necessities in with the dead warrior horse and shipped them home from Switzerland.  Anything to help avoid the evil excess baggage fees.  Then upon learning the race was still on but postponed, well hmm “Mom I need my stuff back!”

taking photos of yourself can be hard.

taking photos of yourself can be hard.

She even threw in what every triathlon superstar dreams of…a brand new Camelbak!!  Oh, best day ever!!  I am super excited to try this out in a couple days during my next monster run…it is a new model called the Annadel (the men’s/unisex model is called the Fairfax) and comes with it’s own sternum strap:

dont laugh, you would look tired too if you just ran 4 hours.

don't laugh, you would look tired too if you just ran 4 hours.

The two models I’ve had before (the Charm and the Hydrobak) didn’t have a chest strap so I had to rig my own, MacGyver-style, to minimize the bouncing on my back.  They managed to build in some bigger compartments for storing stuff like your keys and snacks (e.g. emergency cookies for a monster run), without adding very much bulk to it.

isnt it great how the one I just used is so salty??

isn't it great how the one I just used is so salty??

It’s so pretty!  I love the periwinkle color, although when I do make it big and Camelbak fights amongst other hydration pack companies to sponsor me, it will come in a pink teamTBB color scheme.  ;)

Anyway, thank you to Mom, Cousin Vicki who arranged the shipping to Ariel, and Ariel for sending it down here to me!

The other box came from my newest (and very own!) sponsor:  Yogavive, which makes all-natural organic apple chips.  They are called Yogachips and each one-bag serving is only 35 calories with no added sugar or preservatives.  They sent me a big box of 100 bags of apple chips (yeah the whole box is still only 3500 calories!!) in all five flavors: original, cinnamon, caramel, peach, and strawberry.

I wonder how long it would take for me to eat all this

I wonder how long it would take for me to eat all this

My favorite flavors are the original and strawberry.  These apple chips are actually a perfect match for me as Coach has been calling me a “born-again” with regards to the changes I’ve made to my diet this past year, especially the last couple months.  Other than the massive amounts of Gatorade I drink when biking and running, and the monster run cookies, for the most part I’ve eliminated processed foods out of my regular diet.  I would go as far as to say over 90% of what I eat these days are whole unprocessed foods.  If I do eat anything processed, I’ve gotten particular about checking the list of ingredients and try to keep it to five ingredients or less, with names I recognize.  Obviously this is difficult in Korea when I can’t read the ingredients at all, so much easier to stick to things that don’t come with a nutrition label!  E.g. I’ve been eating sweet potatoes during my bike rides…boiled and sliced:

theyre just like French Fries without all the fat ;)

they're just like French Fries without all the fat ;)

I know some of you are concerned I’m not eating enough with all this weight I’ve lost recently (that’s what happens when you get famous, first they say you’re too fat, then you’re too skinny, it never ends) but it’s funny…I think I may actually be eating more carbs than I ever have–they just come in the form of bananas, sweet potatoes, oats, and much more rice than I’ve eaten in the last few years. 

these like the Yogachips have the Superstar Snack Seal of Approval

these like the Yogachips have the "Superstar Snack Seal of Approval"

I have to go to the store every other day to get more nanners and taters.  And yeah, I am being a really good Chinese girl now, using the rice cooker every day and making boatloads of rice!  Ok, that is enough preaching from this “born-again” but I have had some inquiries on how I’ve gotten so lean.  Not that I’m qualified to give out any nutrition advice as I have yet to prove that I can keep the weight off, but that’s my plan!  Let’s just say I have finally found what works for me and I’m sticking to it.  Clearly the chocolate croissant diet in France didn’t work.  ;)

Well, too bad my teammates all left already, I guess I don’t have to share my apple chips!  :D

Thank you Yogavive!!

bath time with my Cervelo

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

How to Become an Asian Triathlon Superstar, Step #28:  A shiny clean Cervelo is a happy fast Cervelo!

put on your special Korean shower slippers!

put on your special Korean shower slippers!

The rest of the Kona crew took off for Hawaii today, leaving me and Blue Steel on our own in Jeju for a couple of weeks.  I thought we would spend some additional quality time together today, as he can be a very demanding significant other…apparently the 20 hours a week I spend straddling him just isn’t enough.

tight fit in here for the both of us

tight fit in here

He was getting filthy anyway, especially after the recent day or two of rain we had last week, and Steve had given me a hard time about having such a dirty bike when I was in Switzerland.  Of course this is nothing new as my college cycling teammates harassed me about this as well (every now and then I could con one into dating me, but it was harder to then con him into cleaning my bike too).

gratuitous butt shot

gratuitous butt shot

Unlike my dog Guinness, Blue Steel was very excited to step into the shower with me.  He is after all one of those vain male models and always wants to be really really ridiculously good looking.  I had been on the phone with Mom and told her I was taking a shower with the bike; she said to make sure I lock the door.

luckiest bike in the world he is!

luckiest bike in the world he is!

Good grief Mom, this is all G-rated fun!  Getting bike grease all over my hands is more than enough…  ;)

the 12- to (almost) 14-hour finisher

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009

This blog is dedicated to all the 12+ hour ironman finishers who have ever dreamed of becoming much, much faster.

How to Become an Asian Triathlon Superstar, Step #27:  No matter how fast or famous you get, never forget where you came from.

I am improving by leaps and bounds every week and it’s hard to believe I met the Boss Man himself exactly a year ago in the Philippines.  I have evolved so much as an athlete and a person in these last 12 months that I would hardly recognize the triathlete I used to be.  But as I continue my ascent to triathlon superstardom, autographs and all, I realize it’s important to stay grounded and remember my humble beginnings: 9 years spent as a semi-decent age grouper, a Nobody dreaming about becoming a Somebody. 

Since it is approaching Kona week, we can talk Kona.  I dreamed about going to Kona and everyone knew it was my goal to qualify while I was in the women’s 18-24 age group.  It’s a funny little age group…since the number of Kona slots are allocated based on the number of people in each age group, and women’s 18-24 is one of the smallest, there was usually only one or two slots.  Most of the girls racing in 18-24 were either first-timers just trying to finish before the 17-hour time limit, or a handful of faster girls trying to get the one or two Kona slots.  After my first one, I considered myself one of the “faster” girls…but “faster” is a relative term.

For your viewing pleasure, I have pooled together all my finisher photos from the 5 Ironmans I did before this season, and even dug up my split times.

Ironman Wisconsin 2002

Ironman Wisconsin 2002

  • 14th age group, 13th collegiate.  (This race is also the Collegiate Ironman Championships.)
  • First Ironman ever at 20 years old.
  • 1 IV in the med tent.

 

Ironman Florida 2003

Ironman Florida 2003

  • 10th age group.
  • Worst Ironman ever.
  • 2 IV’s in the med tent.
  • I had a fever during the marathon (later found out due to a bladder infection) and walked more than half of the marathon.
  • I cried out of physical pain for the first time in my life during the “run.”
  • Bella won and her victory speech made me feel better.  She told me to keep my chin up and that my day would come.  Ok, she told everybody that but I pretended she was talking just to me.

 

Ironman Wisconsin 2005

Ironman Wisconsin 2005

  • 3rd age group, 1st collegiate = Collegiate Ironman Champion!
  • I cried out of happiness for the first time in my life when I found out I won.
  • zero IV’s!

 

Ironman Canada 2006

Ironman Canada 2006

  • 7th age group.
  • Didn’t train very much for this one so I raced in a SuperGirl outfit and had a blast.
  • Belinda won, but I didn’t stay for her speech.
  • Last chance to qualify in the 18-24 age group and came no where close.
  • zero IV’s!

 

Ironman China 2008

Ironman China 2008

  • 9th pro…but 20th woman overall.
  • I wasn’t ready to race pro yet.
  • I wasn’t ready to race in extreme heat and humidity either.
  • at least 1 IV in the med tent–I don’t actually remember as I couldn’t stop puking.

 
I finished in the dark a lot.  My fastest finish in Wisconsin 2005 (which remained my PR until I broke it this year in China) was officially a few minutes past sunset, in the dusk.

 

I was never a very talented triathlete.  I wasn’t one of those fast bitches who qualified for Kona on her first try.  Or second.  Or third…

In fact, I never made it to Kona as an age-grouper.  The closest I ever got was my 3rd place at Ironman Wisconsin in 2005.  A little German girl named Christine Waitz beat me by an hour and took the only Kona slot in our age group.  It was her first Ironman.

my first time on an Ironman podium

my first time on an Ironman podium

Next year I want to go to Kona with all my teammates.  Now I have to qualify as a pro.

Never stop dreaming.  Your day will come.

the inaugural Magic Mountain Man (M3) Triathlon

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

Well I missed my flight going home yesterday (as planned) and with that, my original plans to race in California during the month of October.  I’m definitely learning during my first season as a pro triathlete the ups and downs that go with this lifestyle: last-minute race cancellations or postponements, mechanical failure of your bike on race morning, changing flights and travel plans…

So the previous plan was to race in “my own Kona” on October 10th: the inaugural Magic Mountain Man Triathlon, a brand new half-ironman distance event in Southern California.  I had promised race director Jonathan Pauley of Renegade Racing that I would help promote his event, and even though I will not be able to race after all, I am keeping my word to help out!

The “M3 Triathlon” takes place in Castaic Lake, California, a short drive from Los Angeles with T2 and the finish line right by Six Flags Magic Mountain amusement park.

The 1.2-mile swim takes place in the nice calm lake–just the kind I like, I doubt you’ll get seasick or swept away by the current.  The bike is challenging and honest with 6,000 feet of climbing over 56 miles, point-to-point from Castaic Lake over to the Six Flags theme park.  The run is an out and back, starting and finishing right by the roller coasters. 

The best part of the whole race?  The entry to the race comes with an entry to the amusement park!  You can go any time over the event weekend, including on Columbus Day.

the swim won't make you vomit, but this might...!

Renegade Racing puts on a heap of very well-run events around Southern California, including many at Bonelli Park in San Dimas, where I did my very first triathlon!  I was looking forward to going back to the area where my triathlon roots began in college.  If you are in the area and not ready to tackle the half iron distance, I would strongly encourage you to go to this event and volunteer!  It will be very good for your tri karma.  There is also the Magic Mountain Man 5k run held in conjunction with the triathlon race on the same day.

I wish all the participants best of luck, and of course to Jonathan Pauley as race director–best wishes for a fantastic inaugural event!

the Wongstar’s “Real” Marathon Debut

Thursday, October 1st, 2009
teamTBB sweeps the running events!

teamTBB sweeps the running events!

It all started last Wednesday with a Skype from Coach: “marathon here on Sunday.”

Ok, track marathon or long run, Coach?  Neither, a real marathon event here in Jeju!

Whoaaa, a real marathon?  I have never done a real marathon.  The closest I ever got to doing one was training for the L.A. Marathon when I was 19 to prepare for my first Ironman (IM California back when it was still a full IM) which was to be a couple months later.  Obviously you should have to do a real marathon before you do an Ironman, right?  I never made it to either starting line.  I didn’t really have the patience or discipline to build up slowly back then and got injured a lot… when our Claremont Colleges tri club coach, Mike Lee, trained me for my first Ironman the following year, he said I didn’t need to do a real marathon before my first Ironman.  So my first marathon was in my first Ironman. 

I know lots of people, pros and amateurs included, who haven’t ever done a standalone marathon but have done Ironmans.  Then there are those who have run marathons and believe that just because they have run a x:xx marathon, they should be able to run the Ironman marathon in x:xx + :yy.  Some say :yy is 20 or 30 minutes…in reality :yy is sometimes an hour or more!  Because it’s different!

Everyone including me was curious as to how a “real” marathon would feel compared to an Ironman marathon.  Or a track marathon in training…  I dated a marathoner in grad school.  He would always tell me about how he hit the wall at mile such-and-such and if he ran well, he had trouble walking the next day.  Some who have done both the “real” marathon and the Ironman have said it’s harder to do the marathon by itself since you are going so much faster, and it hurts so much more.

Well, time to find out for myself!

It was not to be made a big deal of or anything, as Coach kept telling me “this is just a training run.”  “Can I go really fast?”  “You can go really smart.”  Of course on race morning in the car, he was giving out instructions to everybody (we also had teammates entered in the half marathon and 10k) and I was allowed to go for a good time.  Coach said the winner last year went about 3:20.  “I can do that, Coach.”  “Anything under 3:30 would be fantastic, Wongstar.”  Yeah, yeah, but I already did that on the track in Switzerland!

I threw on my Camelbak, which was filled with normal Gatorade.  Wasn’t sure what to expect at the aid stations…The course was out and back along the coast of the island.  The marathoners and half marathoners started together, and when the gun went off it was hard not to go out too fast since the half marathoners BOLTED.  The weather was pretty ideal conditions for a marathon–cool and slightly misty, although with quite a bit of wind since we were exposed along the coast.  And later, sprinkles of rain on the way back.

I tried not to get too excited and held myself back, although made sure not to get complacent, and pushed a pace that is best described as comfortably uncomfortable but under control.  I kept myself moving through the field, and passed from cluster to cluster of men running together, with a woman here and there.  There was a buzz amongst the Korean athletes about our team (or just about me, haha) being at the race, when I dropped one group of men I heard them babble to each other in Korean with the word “ironman” thrown in.  I have been studying some Korean and translated this as “Oh shit I hate being chicked, but it’s the Jeju ironman champion, so that’s quite acceptable.”

As I approached the 10k mark, I started seeing my teammates in the half on their way back.  Bella looked really strong leading the women and I think she was even in front of the men for a while!  James, Hiro, Tereza, and Maki all looked fierce attacking the field; I love seeing teammates during a race, it’s always motivating knowing how hard we train together.  At this point the field thinned out quite a bit and I was able to see who was actually in the full marathon race.  I could see a lone woman here and there in front of me, but again tried not to get too excited and just slowly and steadily closed the gap.

Most of the volunteers were female and I could tell they got extra excited seeing a woman near the front of the race beating up on the guys.  :)   I couldn’t understand what they were saying when they cheered but some Korean phrases are similar to Chinese, and one thing they yelled was “Fie dee!  Fie dee!” which in Chinese means “Faster!  Faster!”  Ok, ok, but I have to wait until the turnaround to speed up, I want to go negative splits!

A strong headwind picked up towards our turnaround and I figured at least it would be a tailwind on the way back.  Rei and Stephen looked good coming back and were in a small pack with a couple Koreans.  I hit halfway at about 1:38, funny because the fastest I’ve ever run an open half marathon is a 1:36 (from August of last year), with my fastest half ironman run at 1:38 back in May.  I realized that one of the runners still in front of me was a woman with short boy hair, so I picked up the pace as planned and officially took the lead around 22 or 23k.  I dropped the pace to about 4:30/km and was holding that pretty steady, yep that’s a 1:35 half marathon pace (I made sure to study the pace chart since I am so used to thinking in minutes per miles pace, not km’s).

I was pretty much alone for awhile, and like a moron I went off course with about 15km to go.  There was one area with two turns in a row, and the volunteers probably got bored as they were all clustered around the first turn, which I followed before blowing by the second turn.  Luckily I was not running with my ipod as I heard some faint shouting behind me…some 200 meters later.  @#$&!  When I got back on course and passed the next km marker I realized I had lost over a minute.  MOTHEREFFER!  I wondered if I lost the lead, but there had been no one around me, in front or behind, when I went off course.

I started catching some straggling males and figured I was still leading the women (I was).  I was able to keep holding the pace and pushing, and I knew I wasn’t going to hit “THE WALL.”  The wall is a myth, I told myself.  People like you who train hard don’t hit the wall.  There is no wall.  My wall might be at 50k or 100k, but not before 42k.

I wasn’t too concerned about my nutrition/hydration.  I only had 1.5 liters of Gatorade in the Camelbak, no refill at halfway like our frou-frou special needs aid stations in ironman.  Meaning no iced coffee rocket fuel either, bummer.  And I wasn’t about to run the first half with caffeine and not have any for the second half!  I ended up slowing down at a few of the aid stations that had Gatorade, but the amount I tossed back wasn’t much, I probably took in less than 2 liters of Gatorade for the whole marathon.  What’s that, like 500 calories?  It wasn’t very hot at all, so I was ok, though sweating buckets as usual–my socks were soaked from sweat by halfway.  No gels or any of that silliness, but I had a good solid breakfast: a couple bananas, some Korean oats (well I think they are oats; I ran out of Hungarian oats and I can’t read the label on these things that look like oats), and a couple sweet potatoes.  Plenty of energy to run a marathon by itself.  I wasn’t starting the marathon in a calorie deficit like in an ironman.

And I learned the glorious truth: the faster you go, the less time you are out there, and therefore the less nutrition and hydration you need!  I kept myself moving by picking off guys up ahead who had gone out too fast and blew up.  Soon enough I saw the flags of the track stadium in the distance, where the start/finish line was.  Ok let’s go win this marathon!  I saw the seconds on the finish clock tick towards 3:15 and put in a desperate final sprint to duck under 3:15, but alas my official time was 3:15:02.  I’m mad at myself for going off course, I may have gone as fast as 3:13!  Still I am really happy, as hello…I only broke 4 hours for the first time just six months ago, and now I have gone 3:15 and am the Jeju marathon champion!  In addition to being the reigning Jeju ironman champion?!?!  I am not sure what universe I am in any more because never in my life would I have thought I would win an open marathon!  or an ironman for that matter, what a trip!

#1 in Jeju!

#1 in Jeju!

So I ticked a couple more things off my list of “30 things to do before I turn 30″ which I wrote down in February:
a) Break a record–I set a new course record for this event.
b) Break 3:15 in a marathon–ok so maybe not officially, but I ran more than a marathon, so I consider that breaking 3:15! ;)

I don’t know why I picked the arbitrary time of 3:15, it sounded like a pretty fast time to me back in February.  At this rate I will do the previously unimaginable and break 3 hours before my 30th birthday…which is not for over 2 years!

Other things I’ve already crossed off the list are getting my pro license and winning a triathlon!  My list is top secret but as I cross things off I am happy to tell you what they are.  ;)

In conclusion I have decided that the marathon in an Ironman is harder than doing a marathon by itself.  I was walking around quite normally immediately after the run and able to walk down stairs perfectly fine.  The next day I went running twice.  And no, I didn’t get any ice baths or massages.  So I don’t know why people say it is harder doing an open marathon, but maybe I didn’t run fast enough?  HMMM!!  The fun part will be to see how fast I go in the next ironman marathon in 4 weeks, off of a hard 180k bike.  What will my :yy be?  HMMM…

Ariel caught me at the finish line and took a bunch of photos of us too.  Thanks Ariel!!  She did the 5k and had plenty of time to freshen up and put on a cute outfit!

this is why I feel so tall in Asia

this is why I feel so tall in Asia

 

hanging out with the local triathletes pre-race

hanging out with the local triathletes pre-race

 

fulfilling superstar duties post-race

fulfilling superstar duties post-race

 

autograph for ultramarathoner and photographer Ahn--he took the photos of me at the Jeju ironman!

autograph for ultramarathoner and photographer Ahn--he took the photos of me at the Jeju ironman!