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!!) 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!!!”
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…
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