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Archive for November, 2009

post-race IM Cozy…never give up!

Monday, November 30th, 2009
currently hanging out in fetal position with the signs that 1st Mate made for me!

currently hanging out in fetal position with the signs that 1st Mate made for me!

hola mis amigos.  I’m hurting.  That race was tough.  Really big wind on the bike and I think I pushed too big of a gear into the wind as my low back seized up at mile 10 of the run.

It was one of those ironmans were you die and then somehow come back to life.  I walked for 3 miles, stopping to bend over and stretch out my back (it looked like I was trying to fart) then got to special needs and started sipping my Starbucks mocha frappuccino.  Really thought I would have to walk it in…damn that’s a long way to walk.  I forced myself to shuffle and I think the caffeine kicked in.  Got a second wind and somehow picked it up again.  Didn’t want to give up my top 10 placing…surprised no one caught me when I was walking and that I still ran up to 7th pro.  Not sure that’s correct, but I’ll take it.

all things considered, I’m happy with the race and proud that I ended up salvaging it.  3 ironmans in 5 weeks is pretty tough and I am relieved to take a break from racing and traveling.  A year ago I would’ve been over the moon to go 10:37 in an Ironman with a sub-5:30 bike and sub-4:00 marathon.  Funny how much has changed in just one year!!

We’re here in Cozumel until Thursday morning so looking forward to chilling out and having some fun.  First Mate took a bunch of video so I’ll post those up this week.  I really hope they don’t enforce the 10% of 2nd place rule because 7th place is supposed to get $875…  and I didn’t go fast enough.  Or Bella went too fast.  ;)

Thanks everybody for all your support.  I really had to dig deep today.

Hola amigos! Me gusta fajitas y tacos! …y ironman tambien!

Sunday, November 29th, 2009

Hola from Cozumel!  It’s my first time in Mexico and I am traveling with one of my best friends, Christine aka Soda aka First Mate, who has come to be my sherpa for the race and wing girl for the many festivities that will follow the race tomorrow.  We’re staying in a nice place right in town, Bahia Suites, just a couple blocks from the finish line.

Me gusta!

Me gusta!

Only $55/night for 2 big beds and a kitchenette, our own balcony with a great view, plus FREE CONTINENTAL BREAKFAST EVERY MORNING!  Ok, so what if the great view is of Pizza Hut (the building is actually right across the street from the ocean, but the ocean view rooms cost a tad more) and sometimes the toilet needs 3 flushes to help a #2 go down, but did I mention the free breakfast and kitchenette for Motel 6 prices??? There is free wifi too! (On a side note, isn’t it funny how the really expensive hotels make you pay high rates for wifi?  It’s like since you are rich and can stay at a nice hotel, you obviously must have enough money to pay extra for wifi.)

First Mate with her Choco Zucaritas = chocolate Frosted Flakes!

First Mate with her "Choco Zucaritas" = chocolate Frosted Flakes!

I really love Mexican food!  I’ve been having fish tacos and fish fajitas.  Every place you eat at you get chips and salsa before your real meal!  It’s like going to Chevy’s for every meal :D

Me gusta!

Me gusta!

Today I checked in the bike and it’s great…the pros get ITU-style bike stands!

They put me right in between Mrs. Bayliss and Ms. Van Vlerken, because my future PR will be right in between theirs.

They put me right in between Mrs. Bayliss and Ms. Van Vlerken, because my future PR will be right in between theirs.

For my birthday I got some special gifts from Dave at ISM saddles and Andrew at Beaker Concepts: a brand new white Adamo saddle–the American flag version, and a beautiful white Hydrotail!  I also got a new pair of Avi-Rhythms from Avia, the last pair was pretty much finished after 2 months of training in Korea and 2 ironman races in them!

Thanks ISM & Beaker! Ridiculously comfortable AND good looking!

Thanks ISM & Beaker! Ridiculously comfortable AND good looking!

So now that I’m getting to be such a big superstar (despite the wanker on Slowtwitch who keeps saying I am not) I have to remember to keep some concealer on me when I go to bike check in. Why? Because you never know when the ESPN guys are going to drag you over to get interviewed on camera.  I totally have a zit scab on my nose and now it’s going to make its debut on international television…! Augh!  (I know this is very hard to believe, but yes…superstars are like real people, we get zits sometimes too.) They still totally loved me and said I have a very infectious smile.  Let’s hope the viewers notice the smile and not the zit scab.  *cringe*

I am a shark!

I am a shark!

I’m excited to attack the 1-loop swim because it’s supposed to be like swimming in a tropical fish tank.  Since we got in late Friday night (couldn’t miss the pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving dinner), I didn’t swim the course or bike the course or run the course, but I’m really not worried.  I am just going to pretend I am in the Finding Nemo movie…like THE SHARK in the Finding Nemo movie!  There was a shark, right?  Yeah, that’s me.

windy like Jeju island!

windy like Jeju island!

The bike is going to be windy and that’s exactly how Jeju was–super windy on a little tropical island.  Perfect.  It’s not as hot and humid as I would like but I’m sure once it’s marathon time everyone else will still think it is hotter and more humid than I do.  ;)

I’m really looking forward to racing Ironman #6 for the year and Ironman #3 in a five-week span.  GreatMan and IM Florida were obviously just big training days to get me fit for this one.  You can track me online starting tomorrow at 6:45am Texas time (4:45am California time) at www.ironman.com.  Soy numero veinte (#20).  First Mate will also hijack my Twitter account, twitter.com/theWongstar, but no promises on how up-to-date those updates will be–even though we have free wifi in our sweet hotel suite, our cell phones are still on the international roaming plan!!

#20, thats how old I was when I did my first Ironman.  has it really been 8 years?!?!

#20, that's how old I was when I did my first Ironman. has it really been 8 years?!?!

Me encanta Ironman!  Muchas gracias amigos!

I bought a pool for my birthday!

Thursday, November 26th, 2009

Coach will be proud.

Today I turned 28 years old and it has been about 6 months since I turned pro back in May.  I decided it was time to take the next step if I want to be serious about becoming a successful professional triathlete.  Some of the hard-core folks buy treadmills for their winters at home.  I got something even better.

For my birthday, I bought myself a swimming pool.

Wongstars birthday gift to herself

Wongstar's birthday gift to herself

It is a 2-lane 50m outdoor pool, with a pace clock on each end and the water temperature is rather cold (about 75F or 24C), just the way I like it.  Cold enough that it makes me swim extra hard and not want to take any rest!

There wasn’t enough room in our backyard for such a long swimming pool, so the Prime Time Athletic Club in Burlingame (a 15-min drive away) offered to keep it for me.  Kind of like how you can board a horse at a horse stable.

fancy fancy fancy!

fancy fancy fancy!

I had been bouncing around every single public pool within a 25-mile radius.  South San Francisco, Brisbane, St. Ignatius, Joinville-San Mateo, Menlo Park, Burlingame… and was mostly unhappy with the very limited hours.  Some were too warm, some were too crowded, some were just too far away.  Cleanliness of the locker rooms varied but I could deal with a questionable one if I was able to swim whenever I wanted…however, on the weekends, most were only open for 2 hours, if there wasn’t a swim meet going on! I realized if I kept paying $5 to $7 every time I needed to swim, I might as well buy my own private swimming pool.  It’s a very good investment in myself.

Since my swimming pool is now at this very swanky fitness club, I get to enjoy everything else the club has to offer:

Carpeted locker rooms and towel service…

so fancy for someone used to slumming it

suuuper posh for someone used to slumming it

…a billion treadmills with no time limit and no waiting time…

sweatfest!  good thing they provide the towels!

sweatfest! good thing they provide the towels!

I could take spinning classes too but I’d only get on these if I can switch out the saddle to an ISM Adamo.  There’s just no comparison.  No anatomical cut-out = very unhappy girl parts.

just looking at these saddles makes me cringe.

just looking at these saddles makes me cringe.

Free wifi so I can do some blogging, wreak a little havoc in Slowtwitch-land, and email the Boss…

OMG there is even a Starbucks in here!

OMG there is even a Starbucks in here!

And a private jacuzzi in one of the women’s locker rooms!

I can enjoy the spa without having a gross hairy guy try to hit on me!

I can enjoy the spa without having a gross hairy guy try to hit on me!

This means I could even pretend I’m in a Korean spa and just hang out in the jacuzzi in my birthday suit.

The best part is that they are open 5:30am-11pm on the weekdays and 8am-8pm on the weekends.  And I can use my pool whenever they are open!

All the other swimmers have to use this pool.

All the other swimmers have to use this pool.

There is actually another swimming pool too, 6 lanes and 25 yards.  Maybe it’s a little warmer too, because nobody else really uses my swimming pool.  It’s all mine!

I’m very happy now; I finally feel like I have a home swimming pool when I am at home.  And it’s soooo nice.  It makes me want to swim every day!  Maybe even twice a day!

Look out world, I am going to become a swim monster over winter break.  There is no off season.

Hooray! Wongstar’s travel sponsor is an Ironman!!!

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

How does a first-year pro triathlete fund all the traveling and racing around the world?

presenting Mark, Wongstars official travel sponsor

presenting Mark Cathcart, the Wongstar's official travel sponsor

Well once upon a time, I met my future travel sponsor, Mark Cathcart.  On the internet, of all places, in the “blogosphere” as they say.  We have been blogging friends since…well maybe as far back as 2003??  Mark aka “Triman” knew me before I was anything close to a professional triathlete.  Like most of my blogging friends, he knew I harboured a not-so-secret desire to become a triathlon superstar and to be super fast, as delusional as I may have been as a 13-hour Ironman finisher.  In fact, he knew me before I went to grad school for prosthetics and orthotics (this is important to the story later, keep reading), and before I finished my two years of residency and became a certified prosthetist-orthotist.

We officially met in person in May of 2007–the same month I began seriously talking with Brett and Alex about becoming a development member of teamTBB.  Mark is from the UK but has lived in Austin, TX for many years; in 2007 I was living in Dallas for my orthotics residency and drove the 3 hours down to Austin to race at the Rookie Triathlon, a little sprint triathlon.  I finished as first amateur, partially because the fast amateur girls all raced the elite wave, and then Mark and I biked the 3 hours back to Austin together.

Over a year ago in the fall of 2008 I was getting ready for my first TBB training camp in Subic Bay, Philippines, and Mark stepped up to cover the cost of my airfare using his frequent flier miles.  He loved my enthusiasm and sparkly personality (who doesn’t?!) and really believed in me and wanted to help me go after my dreams.  This year, in 2009, he has helped tremendously with a large portion of my travel expenses, donating both $$$ and miles, and hooked me up with that sweet place in Orlando when we both raced the 70.3 there.  I got my pro card at that race, but unfortunately Mark had a bad reaction to the cortisone injections to his knee and ended up in the med tent for a while.

poor travel sponsor!

the smile came back after 2 IV's!

Well, Mark was doing this 70.3 in preparation for his very first Ironman, and I’m very proud to announce he finished IM Arizona yesterday!  What makes this accomplishment especially impressive is that multiple knee, hip, and back issues have plagued Mark since he was involved in a nearly fatal motor vehicle accident (motorbike vs. double decker bus) over 31 years ago.  His tibia and fibula were completely smashed and he lost 3 inches of bone in his right leg.  Instead of amputating, the doctors performed some radical procedures to try and salvage Mark’s leg.  He had been a very competitive soccer player but his activity became drastically impaired following the accident.  Subsequent surgeries (including a surgical re-break of the leg in 1991) and various infections have resulted in a right leg that is now 2 1/4 inches (about 6cm) shorter than the left side.  As you can imagine, having such a large leg length discrepancy causes many imbalances and wreaks havoc in an active body, and thus the multiple knee, hip, and back issues!

About 10 years ago, Mark began doing triathlons, primarily sprints and Olympic-distance races.  He actually competed at the ITU world championships for the Clydesdale “demonstration” category, and also represented Great Britain at the 2004 European champs.  However, on hilly courses, he found it very hard to produce power when one leg was significantly shorter than the other, and running for more than 5k would cause his knee to swell up over 1.5 inches!

When we first met a couple years ago, Mark had begun experimenting with various shoe build-ups on his running shoes, slowly increasing the height from an inch to two inches.  He had tried to fashion something similar for his cycling shoe too but it was much too heavy…and this is where Wongstar/MacGyver the Orthotist stepped in!  Before I left for my second training camp in Subic (February this year), I carved out a special wood block for Mark, which could be attached between the sole of his cycling shoe and his Look cleat.  It filled out the two inches between his foot and the bike pedal…

Wongstars magical wood block, side view.

Wongstar's magical wood block, side view.

lightweight and effective!

lightweight and effective!

I didn’t hear anything back for a few months until April, when Mark reported that it really made a difference with how his hips feel off the bike, and gave him more power going up the hills!  He even showed me a picture:

I should patent this.

I should patent this.

This was pretty exciting.  When we raced together the following month at the Florida 70.3, Mark mentioned being unhappy with the lift on his running shoe–it felt way too heavy and stiff, and the rollover from heel to toe just wasn’t very smooth.  As an orthotist I have done my share of building shoe lifts like these and so Mark asked me to take a look at his current shoes and see if I could improve them at all.  I carved a rocker bottom to the sole and drilled out some holes on the inner layers of crepe to make the build-up somewhat lighter, and we went on a short run together when he was in Silicon Valley for a business meeting.  After trying them for a few weeks at home, Mark liked my modifications so much he wanted a second pair built up from scratch!  This is where our travel sponsorship deal became a mutually beneficial partnership.  :)

this is what we call a leg length discrepancy

this is what we call a "leg length discrepancy"

Before I left for the Jeju ironman and subsequent Swiss training camp in July, I worked on a new pair of shoes for Mark…not content with what I had done before, I tried to make this shoe even lighter and more flexible than before.  I ended up doing a funky two-part build-up with a separate heel and forefoot–this would drastically reduce the weight of the shoe.  It was different than anything I’d ever seen and made before, but I figured, why not try it…he had a current pair that worked great if this new one didn’t work at all.  I was pretty happy for him when he received the shoes and said they were even better than the last pair!  The irony of it all is that we never expected the travel sponsor deal to turn out to be win-win for the both of us!

Wongstars magical shoe lift, side view

Wongstar's magical shoe lift, side view

magic shoe: bottom view

magic shoe: bottom view

So armed with the new Wongstar shoe lifts for biking and running, travel sponsor Mark was able to build up his training for his very first Ironman…and fulfill his dream of doing an Ironman yesterday!

thats him on the live video feed!!

that's him on the live video feed!!

And the Wongstar, armed with fantastic travel sponsorship this year, has been able to train for her very first season as a pro and is fulfilling and pursuing her dreams this year and beyond!!

Mark & Wongstar at the Florida 70.3 back in May

Mark & Wongstar at the Florida 70.3 back in May

Thanks Mark and congratulations!!!  I am so proud to be your sponsored athlete!!

P.S.  I just found out he was 2nd place in the Ironman Executive Challenge, 50+ category!!  :D

The Wongstar’s American Debut! IMFL Race Report

Friday, November 20th, 2009

As I left Florida, Hurricane Ida was heading towards the Gulf coast right to PCB.  Two mornings after the race I stood on the 20th floor balcony watching the sizeable waves in the water and was really happy I didn’t have to swim  in those conditions!  That said, the swim on race morning was supposedly a bit choppier than normal due to this hurricane heading here.  If I had known that, maybe I wouldn’t have freaked out so much over how slow I was swimming?

P is for pro!

P is for pro!

So I had a few benchmark time goals for my American pro debut at Ironman Florida.  I wanted to go under 10:13 for sure.  That’s the IMFL course record of the ex-boyfriend who once told me I was too fat to be a pro triathlete.  10:01 was when the sun set.  I had finished in the daylight at all my ironmans this year and didn’t want to break the streak.  (This is also the first year I have ever finished in the daylight.)  Sub-10 again would be sweet.  And anything under 9:55 would be a PR!

As for what place I wanted, top 10 seemed attainable.  Top 8 got prize money.  Top 5 gets on the TV coverage (unless you are the human interest story like I was in China).  And top 3, well that’s a podium.  But I’ve been told I’m not allowed to even think about prize money until I can swim under an hour.  So top 10 it was.

Ok let’s begin the race report.

the girls are in hot pink except Bella in purple!

the girls are in hot pink except Bella in purple!

I stood on the beach with the other pros for my first pro swim start.  I think there were 50-60 of us.  Bella grabbed my hand and gave me The Look.  She didn’t say anything but I knew exactly what she was saying…we are fit, we are strong, and we are ready for battle!  No use wishing good luck because we don’t need luck when we have worked so hard in training.

I lined up in the back and figured I am not the only bad swimmer in the pro ranks, there will be other girls I can swim with.  The gun went off and the faster pros took off immediately…there were two other women in hot pink caps right by me and I was pretty excited I had other people to swim with.  As we got further out, the water was choppier, very up and down like a mini roller coaster and many times I couldn’t see where the buoys were over the top of the waves.  Heading back in on the first loop, I realized the woman leading our group was not great at sighting and was swimming a lot of extra distance, and we were also going too slow and comfortable for my liking.  Coach said I should never hold back on the swim and it was not a good sign that I wasn’t going very hard.  I tried to break out on my own which I did for about 10 minutes, but the two women worked together and caught back up to me.

Then the age groupers descended upon us.  We got out onto the sand after the first lap and I saw the clock say 37 minutes.  This was when I started mentally flipping out.  WTF was I doing??  How could I be swimming so slow?!?

at least I can go fast when my feet touch land...aha...

at least I can go fast when my feet touch land...aha...

Now if I had kept my cool, the proper thing to do was to regroup and think “fantastic now I have all these age groupers who are going to pull me through the second lap.”  However, I did not keep my cool.  They kept going by and going by and I am pretty sure I was passed by at least a couple hundred of age groupers during the second lap.  I was really losing it mentally–imagine being a so-called pro and seeing firsthand hundreds of age groupers who can swim so much faster than you?  It wasn’t that easy to latch onto their feet because with my 10-minute head start, the swimmers catching me after half of the swim would be the ones that could swim 20 minutes or more faster.

And I was extremely disturbed by this.

The mental meltdown lasted through that second loop, as I battled the choppy water and got smacked by the age group swimmers kicking my ass.  The clock read 1:18 as I finally made it out of the swim and I couldn’t believe my second lap took over 40 minutes.

Wongstar was PISSED.

Wongstar was PISSED.

Luckily the warrior in my body knew what to do even if the warrior in my head went on a breakfast break (probably to Waffle House).  I sped through transition, fighting back tears, sprinting along the carpeted parking lot through the change tent, and dodging the age groupers.  I saw and heard sherpa Amy and the DeFilippises (DeFilippi?) cheering for me.  I could manage a weak smile but I think the expression on my face had “FML” written all over it.  (Come to think of it, “IMFL” is almost but not quite “FML”.)  The only (very minor) consolation was that I actually beat one other pro out of the water…  The volunteers in the change tent who dumped out my bag were slightly alarmed, asking “Where are your bike shoes?!”  I had to laugh because clearly I had swam so slow that nobody else around me had their bike shoes clipped onto their pedals…

if you swim slow, you should learn to transition really really fast.

if you swim slow, you should learn to transition really really fast.

look at that ripped forearm!  it should be swimming way faster!

look at that ripped forearm! it should be swimming way faster!

I got out onto the bike and began passing the hoards of age groupers that had outswam me.  Pretty early into the ride a group of 3 men passed me while quite obviously drafting.  I yelled at them “10 meters guys!” and one of them yelled back “it’s 7 meters!”  Oh that’s right.  The age groupers have different drafting rules.  And they don’t actually know what 7 meters looks like.  The last time I checked, there is quite a big difference between 7 inches and 7 meters.  Then again most men think 7 inches is a lot bigger than it really is.  ;)

I would soon find that this little pack of 3 was nothing compared to the huge pelotons and packs of 20+ riders on their $550 Saturday morning group ride along the Ironman Florida course.

Now I am under no delusion that IM Florida is a fair bike course and that I would be able to ride 5 hours flat completely on my own (YET).  But I will say two things:  I am very against cheating and am scared to death of getting any drafting penalties.  That said I will say two more things:  I studied all the drafting rules very carefully and there is a definite advantage to legally drafting 10 or more meters behind someone else.  This is an even bigger advantage when you are 10 meters behind a giant pack of age groupers who don’t follow the rules as well as you do.

So if I got passed, I would drop back my 10 meters.  If they then slowed down, I would wait the 10 seconds before I could re-pass.  If there was a big group I was trying to overtake I would pass all of them and look for an opening bigger than 10 meters to get back into.  Once I started to pass someone I had to complete the pass even if they decided to pick up the pace when they saw me passing.  (I wasn’t afraid to yell “Let me pass!” if a guy started doing this.)  And I stayed to the right when I was not passing so I wasn’t blocking the road.

fastest training wheelset maybe in the whole race!

Back in Subic, Coco told me I have bike legs and that I must set them free!

Now the frustrating part is when hardly anyone else follows the rules.  I had another almost-cry moment when only 90mins into the ride, a rather large and disorganized pack of riders swallowed me up.  I dropped back 10 meters. They then slowed down and the ones in the back would actually sit up and eat. Riders kept invading my 10-meter space so my options were to either keep dropping back 10 meters or HTFU and pass the whole pack.  I had not planned on biking so hard so early in the race, and the problem was that most of these age groupers were probably going too hard the first 2 hours of the bike.

Well off I went.  I would charge really hard and get to the front, and try to keep charging, but someone would jump on my wheel and I would inevitably get swallowed up.  Then I would drop back the 10 meters…recover from the effort…and try again.  This happened over and over again.  I yelled “this is bullsh!t!” quite a few times and one guy said “It wouldn’t be a problem if you were riding faster.”  No actually it wouldn’t be a problem if I were swimming faster!  His comment flipped a switch in me and I thought to myself, “this is your own damn fault for swimming so damn slow, so just HTFU, bike your a$$ off, and get out of this trainwreck!”

The last straw came when I was riding to the right of a pack going by.  All the disc wheels and aero helmets in the world cannot buy you bike handling skills and one guy swerved for no apparent reason.  He managed to save himself, but not before causing another guy to swerve into two others and I heard some crashing behind me as I surged away.  I felt a bit heartless but I did not want to be anywhere near crash-prone riders who disregard the drafting rules.  It was dangerous in there!

I ran out of action shots, so here is me modeling my new $12 Walmart jeans with Blue Steel.

I ran out of action shots, so here is me modeling my new $12 Walmart jeans with Blue Steel.

I would find later into the ride that as you moved up the field, the packs were more much more organized into these nice neat pacelines rather than big messy packs.  It was almost beautiful… if it weren’t for the fact that it was CHEATING!!!

I went through the first 60k in 1:44 and was pleased to be on pace to break 5:15.  It was windy heading out and I couldn’t wait to hit the tailwind sections.  Finally after 2 to 3 hours into the ride I was able to fight my way through some big packs and the road was clearing up.  I kept moving up through the field and catching small groups here and there.  Obviously if I could catch them, it meant I was going faster and I should be able to pass them.  Of course there were always some guys who didn’t like being passed and passed right back, so I would drop back 10m and spend 20-30 seconds behind them sipping Gatorade or eat Hello Panda cookies before I was allowed to pass him again.

I was very happy to hit halfway because now I could bump up the effort as planned, and there was a nice tailwind too.  I threw the bike into my biggest gear and mashed my way past guys that were getting tired and really made up some good time.  After the swim I had felt like I should give my pro card back to the federation, but during the second half of the bike I was feeling strong and decided to take back my pro card and OWN IT.  I really freaked out one guy while passing him at 29mph…sorry!!  I raced bikes in college so I thought I had given him plenty of room, but I forget that many triathletes are not so comfortable riding close together…

Somehow getting myself out of the packs put me back into the fighting mindset.  I told myself I couldn’t stop fighting even if I had a bad swim.  Bella once told me she had a really bad swim and still won the race.  So stay positive, Wongstar!!  I was surprised to hit the 90-mile mark at 4:04 and thought all I had to do was average 22mph this last hour and I would go 5:04!  I put my head down and really hammered this last hour, almost vomit-level, breathing rather audibly, biking like I didn’t have to run a marathon afterwards.  I actually caught a couple pro women and thought hmm…maybe I’m not doing so bad after all.  There was a tailwind for most of the way back until the final turn onto the shore road, so I was really able to pick up the speed, and then battled it out with the headwind for the final stretch.  I was pretty shocked that I rolled into T2 just as my bike computer clicked from 4:59 to 5:00.  But more than anything my legs felt completely shot from killing it on the second half of the ride.  As I handed off the bike to a volunteer and stumbled through transition I wasn’t sure if I could actually run.

Oh but the legs can always run!  I was happy to see Amy and Scott’s family yelling for me and taking pictures as I headed out on the marathon with my Camelbak.  Jimmy yelled something about the Wongstar being mentioned on the Ironman.com live updates.  He was really excited.  I was excited to be out running!  Maybe too excited, the first mile was just under 7 minutes. Oops.

I totally chicked him.

I totally chicked him.

Like a good nerd, I had been doing math in my head and figured if I was 20+ minutes behind the leaders out of the swim, but didn’t lose much time on the bike, that still put me over 7 miles back.  UGH.  By then I figured there would be no way I could go top 10, so I just did not stress myself out about the competition.  I was able to make up enough time on the bike that I would definitely go under 10:13 (my “only goal” after the disastrous swim) and then my new “only goal” after the bike was to finish before it got dark–right at 10 hours.  Heck, let’s make it sub-10 now.

and him too.

and him too.

I just kept turning the legs over and stayed pretty focused.  The first two miles were packed with spectators; the rest of the course, not so much.  I didn’t really see the lead women until about mile 5.  I was too tired to do math in my head but by then I was more concerned with my own race than the competition.  I assumed top 10 was out of reach so just focused on getting in a fast marathon!  When I can put together a faster swim then I will worry more about the other women.  The funny thing is that I haven’t done an Ironman with mile markers in over 3 or 4 years, so it was almost weird to keep mile splits on my watch.  I knew 8:06 was 3:30 pace, and I was clicking away at about 7:45′s the first lap.

Wongstar + Camelbak = more hydrated than YOU

Wongstar + Camelbak = more hydrated than YOU

I saw the 2nd pro woman with her lead bike suddenly stop and start walking. I raised an eyebrow.  Did she think it was really hot?  I hoped so.  Now that’s funny.  Heck maybe everyone thinks it’s really hot!  Because I certainly didn’t think it was.  There were definitely warmer areas on the run course and I would splash a cup of water on my chest at some of the aid stations in these hot spots, but otherwise I thought the temperature was pretty mild.  I saw Bella chasing down the lead girls and yelled for her, it was really great to see her out there!  We had only raced Embrunman together this year but she was way ahead of me and I never saw her there.  She has been a really great mentor to me this season and so seeing her helped keep me motivated during the marathon!

Ill be running as fast as Bella one day!

I'll be running as fast as Bella one day!

When I hit halfway at about 1:41 (!!!), in absolutely broad daylight, my watch said 8:08 total time and for whatever reason I got super emotional.  I think at that point I knew I was capable of breaking 10 hours again for the 2nd time in 2 weeks, even if I limped the second lap in at 1:52.  Even though I didn’t realize it then, maybe my body remembered how awful I felt at this same point in this race 6 years ago, when it was completely pitch dark and I was walking and wanted to quit…and a total “crybaby” as my Mom likes to remind me.

But wait, stop now Wongstar.  Keep the emotions in check.  It’s Ironman and anything can happen!  You are not done yet!  I pulled myself together and saw sherpa Amy at Special Needs.  Yay!  Big smile, halfway done with the run!  She was doing live updates on Twitter for me and taking pictures.  Such a great sherpa!  She gave me a boost as well because you can never have a bad race if your friend flies all the way from California to Florida to be your sherpa!  I swapped out the Camelbaks and the volunteer who helped me remarked “COOL!” and off I went, now fueled by Starbucks!!

The second lap really hurt and I just took it mile by mile.  I kept telling myself all I needed to do was hold 8-minute miles..c’mon…you can do 7-minute miles in training!  8 minutes is pedestrian!  I got a really nice surprise when I hit the state park at the turnaround and saw my friend Kristen for the first time in over 5 years!!  We went to college together and were the only two girls on the Claremont Colleges cycling team.  She is now getting her Ph.D. at the University of Florida in Gainesville and drove 5 hours just to see me race.  We were very close in college and she was actually supposed to come to my first Ironman when I was 19 years old.  I never actually made it to that starting line so her first time seeing me race a triathlon would be 8 years later as a pro triathlete!

archived photo of college cycling days circa 2001 (damn!)

archived photo of college cycling days circa 2001 (!!!)

Throughout the race there were also people racing who read my blog. Thanks for even more motivational boosts!  One guy said “I read your blog, you inspire me!”  Well certainly I couldn’t race bad with so many people rooting for me.  I had the visual in my head of people following me on the internet at home and everyone letting out a big groan when they saw my swim split.  I know, atrocious!  The only way to make up for it would be a solid bike and solid run!

I really struggled the last few miles to keep the pace going.  There wasn’t a single BONK moment, it just seemed that my legs were slowly slowing down. Just yesterday my friend Soda asked me what I think about when I race. Honestly by the end here, my mind was pretty much blanked out and all I could think was keep going, almost there, just get to the finish line, don’t stop moving, don’t slow down!

Even when I saw the mile 25 sign, my legs felt dead.  Although the smile on my face did come back, I really could not get the legs to move any faster until I saw the finish line.

even though its blurry you can see the Cheshire Cat smile!

even though it's blurry you can see the Cheshire Cat smile!

Wow…so I slowed down a bit–my second half marathon clocked in at 1:46 (actually the same as my second half at GreatMan), but that’s still a new marathon PR at 3:27 and my first time running under 3.5 hours in an Ironman! It’s also an overall PR by a minute at 9:54!

YEAH!  7 minutes before sunset!

YEAH! 7 minutes before sunset!

Best day ever, part 7 (? I lost count for this year)!!  I was pretty ecstatic to go under 10 hours again, and PR nonetheless!  It was an incredible feeling and I couldn’t stop smiling.  I really had no idea what place I got until after I finished and got a massage.  (Wow when you finish fast there’s no line for a massage!) I grabbed some pizza and saw sherpa Amy, the DeFilippi, and Kristen.  That’s when I found out I got 10th place.  Best day ever got better!  I can’t believe I got 10th with such a bad swim. But I won’t complain.  And I will hold onto my pro card.  I just have to redeem myself at the next one (10 days from now in Cozumel).

I want to thank everyone who made my race in Florida possible!

  • Mark Cathcart, my travel sponsor, for the flight to Florida
  • Scottie’s family for adopting me as one of their own for the week
Thanks Mr. & Mrs. D and Heather & Jimmy for adopting me for the weekend!  poor Scottie looks dead and sunburnt.

Thanks Mr. & Mrs. D and Heather & Jimmy for adopting me for the weekend! poor Scottie looks dead and sunburnt.

  • Amy and Kristen who flew and drove long distances just to watch me race!
thanks for everything sherpa Amy!!!

thanks for everything sherpa Amy!!!

thanks Kristen!!!

thanks Kristen!!!

  • The Bike Boutique & teamTBB: Especially Brett & Alex for guiding me and believing in me, and Bella for helping me get a race entry and giving me special encouragement!
fastest training wheels on the entire pro rack.  and the entire race?!

fastest training wheels on the entire pro rack. and the entire race?!

  • all our team sponsors, including Cervelo, Avia, BlueSeventy, Jeju, Oval, Scody, and ISM
  • I have also been meaning to thank my friend Amit AKA “the Amitinator” from Austin, who donated some frequent flier miles to help me get home from Korea.  Obviously I couldn’t have raced Florida if I was stuck in Korea!
  • Thanks to my family and friends for being so supportive, especially Mom & Pop Wongstar
  • Thanks to Mike, Robert, and George of the Gulf Winds Tri Club in Tallahassee and also Ryan from Naples who helped give me rides between the Tallahassee airport and PCB!  Southern hospitality at its finest :)
  • and of course, thanks to all my fans!  An Asian Triathlon Superstar without any fans is merely…an Asian triathlete.  Or something.

One last adventure in Cozumel and then we can all celebrate the end of the 2009 season!  Mojitos for everyone!  Best year of my life!  ;)

IMFL 2003 vs. 2009

Friday, November 13th, 2009

A lot can change in six years.

1:23:52 vs. 1:18:44

1:23:52 >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 1:18:44

ok the swim hasn’t changed much.  But I sure am a lot angrier about being a bad swimmer.

6:12:05      5:00:24

6:12:05 >>>>>>>>> 5:00:24

still racing on training wheels, but now I have those cool socks, big girl aero bars, and actually stay in the aero positon!  Pretty cool to take 72mins off my bike split!

6:03:00      3:27:01

6:03:00 >>>>>>>>>>>>> 3:27:01

I almost halved my marathon time too!  I think I walked half of it last time.  This time I ran every step of the way, and I didn’t even stop at the aid stations.  Thank you Camelbak!

I didnt really go 9:44 (but I will soon); I had a 10-min head start.

I actually went 9:54:27 with my 10-min head start.

I still have a super cheesy smile when I finish.

but I took nearly 4 hours off my IMFL time!  how cool is that!

no one is happier than I am!

no one is happier than I am!

There’s a race report coming, don’t you worry.

top 10 under 10 at Ironman #10

Monday, November 9th, 2009
running my way up to top 10!

shuffling my way up to top 10!

It’s the day after Ironman Florida and I am just checking in!  I’ll write up a proper race report on the flight back home tomorrow if I am not passed out in my seat.

It was my 10th ironman-distance race, can you believe it??  And the 5th one for this year!  I am now in the double digits and starting to lose count.  :)  I wanted to get top 10 and break 10 hours again to show that my 9:55 at GreatMan wasn’t a fluke.

It was also my first pro race here at home in the USA and the biggest pro race I have ever done (21 pro women on the start list).  My swim was atrocious at 1:18 and it put me in a VERY VERY DARK PLACE mentally.  I felt like I should give back my pro card and wanted to quit the pro triathlon life, go back to being “normal” and starting looking for a full-time job where I don’t have to be poor all the time.  I thought “isn’t it enough to win two ironman-distance races in Korea and break 10 hours?  You’ve already done everything you ever dreamed of in triathlon.  You can retire now.”

But as I am learning the more I do these ironman things, you are always going to have those mental lows.  Some races you sink deeper into the dark place than others.  Not surprisingly, my dark place usually finds me during or right after the swim.  Other people go into that dark place during the bike or the marathon.  So much of ironman racing is mental and I am finding that your overall performance is not a matter of whether you go into the dark place or not (that’s a given and should be expected) but getting yourself out of that place, and not letting it suck you in and ruin your whole race.

Somehow I managed to HTFU mentally and fight my way through all those stupid age group packs on the bike, run hard after trashing my legs on the bike and salvage my race.  I didn’t know what place I got until after I finished the race!  I was overjoyed to go 9:54 and very surprised that I had fought my way up to 10th place.

I told myself over and over “Never stop fighting.”  My very painful marathon was a new PR at 3:27 (first time under 3:30) and my bike split was a very fast 5:00 but more about that later in my RR…

Thanks everybody who has been following me.  I got a lot of “Go Wongstar!” cheers from people I haven’t met who were either watching the race or racing with me.  It was really helpful because I was definitely hurting the whole way through that marathon!  Don’t let that smile fool you.

Coach said I could have Waffle House

Saturday, November 7th, 2009

All systems go!!!  The rest of the DeFilippis clan has arrived and so has my sherpa and Asian Triathlon Superstar protege Amy.  The Italians are making the pre-race dinner tonight and I’m loving being part of the family here!

We got all the pre-race stuff done…

Dumpstar and Bella at the press conference

Dumpstar and Bella at the press conference

Bikes checked in!

I have the fastest wheelset on the pro rack

I have the fastest wheelset on the pro rack

bags checked in!

very organized here

very organized here

But most importantly…Waffle House pre-race grease-loading!

open 24/7 and within stumbling distance of the condo

open 24/7 and within stumbling distance of the condo

Coach said I could eat a waffle before the race.

its a chocolate chip waffle

it's a chocolate chip waffle

Scottie ready to grease-load!

Scottie ready to grease-load!

I highly reccommend the bacon and eggs on Texas toast

I highly reccommend the bacon and eggs on Texas toast

I also got a custom airbrushed shirt from Super Duper Wal-mart:

the back view.  I guess I didnt get too fat after eating all that Waffle House.

the back view. I guess I didn't get too fat after eating all that Waffle House.

OH yeah…and filled up the Camelbak with Starbucks…

fueled by Frappuccino!

fueled by Frappuccino!

You can track me online at ironmanlive.com.  I am bib #13 and if I am going fast enough they will mention me in the live updates!

Amy will also be hijacking my Twitter account, so she will be posting up LIVE TWEETS for you to follow.  Because that’s how a real superstar rolls!!  Follow me tomorrow at twitter.com/theWongstar.

Thanks for all your support.  I’m gonna smash it!

GreatMan Part 2, the Sub-10 Race Report

Saturday, November 7th, 2009

{okay I promised to get this up before the next Ironman, which is tomorrow, although I don’t have my awesome race photos yet so it is a lot of text.  I am trying not to get too nervous for tomorrow so going through my last race is good, because I figure all I have to do is the same thing I did in Korea and I’ll be fine!  Enjoy.}

when I win this race outright, theyll change the name to GreatWoman

when I win this race outright, they'll change the name to "GreatWoman"

Going into race morning, there were many people surprised that I would race Ironman Florida just 2 weeks later.  Well, I had always thought of GreatMan as a dress rehearsal for Ironman Florida, a nice long training day where I could practice my race nutrition and pacing, and hopefully get paid for it too!

The swim was in the ocean but on a protected beach from the big waves–I was pretty excited because it was nothing like Jungmun Beach in Jeju!  Meaning it was totally flat!  Yeah!!  I started my watch over a minute early because the countdown was in Korean, and ended up swimming in the FIRST PACK with 3 or 4 other guys.  There were a couple guys that had broken away early and swam solo but I am pretty sure I was in the first pack.  After the first lap we ran out on the beach and my watch read 34mins, which was really 33mins…okay, not bad.  I wanted to repeat the 1:05 swim I had at Embrunman, and had to remind myself to swim hard, it wasn’t going to just be given to me on a silver platter.

My arms got tired on the second lap and I would lose contact with the pack sometimes, then sprint to bridge the gap.  Not very efficient, I know…  But I ended up staying with them and when we got out of the water, my watch clicked to a 1:09, and I was disappointed, but then again I knew I actually swam 1:07, only a couple minutes slower than I wanted.  Still it is my second fastest swim ever and much, much faster than all those 1:20 to 1:30 ironman swims I have done!!

When I got to the bike racks, I was kind of giddy because out of the 11 pro bikes on the rack, there were still at least 5 of them.  Yes, for once I was not the last pro out of the water!!  The RD yelled that I was in the top 10 overall.  Excellent!  The weather was pretty cool too and I had contemplated arm warmers…but then I figured if I was going hard enough I would warm up quick.

The bike course was about 20% hilly and 80% flat (like a good nerd, I did some math in my head while riding: a little over 10mins of some rolling hills over one lap, which took a little over 50mins).  The main hill was a 1km climb at the beginning of each lap, or about 140 pedal strokes, I counted them by 10′s.

For the 80% flat parts I just put Blue Steel into my biggest gear and mashed the heck out of my pedals.  After the race one of the Korean guys asked me why I pushed such a big gear.  Considering that I probably outbiked everyone but Mr. Oh and Ryan, I told him “Because I am strong and it makes the bike go fast.”

There were six laps of the bike, which some of the guys had said was kind of boring.  But I beg to differ…I find that if I am focused and going hard, I do not get bored.  It’s not like you are there to admire the scenery (that’s for before and after the race, see the mural photos).  I find if you are getting bored, it means you are losing your focus and you need to HTFU.  To keep it interesting, there were many turns on the bike loop, including a few sharp turns and a U-turn.  On the sharper turns I took the opportunity to get out of my saddle and pedal hard for 15 pedal strokes coming out of the turn to stretch out my legs.

we went by this power plant 6x, very exciting.

we went by this power plant 6x, very exciting.

My goal was to definitely go under 5:30 for the first time (my bike split PR is 5:35 from Ironman China), and of course there was “5:15″ in the back of my mind, the magic number that Coach once told me was a bike split worthy of race wheels.  Ahh yes, RD HyunSik and some of the other pro men were baffled that I was a pro and did not have race wheels.  I had to explain that Coach thinks it is more important to get your legs stronger to go faster instead of relying on the equipment to make you go faster.

At end of lap 3 (halfway), my watch read 2:36:30–definitely on pace to go 5:15!

Apparently Ryan saw a line of 10 or so guys sitting on my wheel and though we were “working together,” which makes me laugh and laugh and laugh, because I wasn’t aware there were so many of them back there.  Nobody attempted to pass me because they weren’t strong enough to!  They just sat there for a free ride and I tried to pretend nobody was there, although I would hear some of them laughing every now and then as I was putting my head down and hammering.  More than once I thought, these boys should get their balls cut off because they should NOT be drafting A GIRL!!

I also thought “I am Tereza Macel!  super biker!  hear me roar!  RAWR!!”  She is my biking hero.  :)

I started passing a pro guy here and there during the 2nd half of the bike, which really surprised me.  Like many age groupers, they were decked out in their fancy race wheels and aero helmets; Ryan had said some of these guys had gone in the low-9′s at ironman, which is pretty good for a Korean boy.  The first one I passed, I thought “ok, he’s kind of weak sauce.”  Then there was another.  Then after the 4th or 5th one, I was wondering what was wrong with them.  I guess they weren’t eating their Hello Panda cookies.  And that was when I knew I was riding well.  Clearly if I can pass the Korean pro men and their carbon fiber deep race wheels with my magical $120 wheelset…well, maybe I am doing something right.

there was a very fast & pretty stretch of painted murals on the seawall.  the E-H means Taean

there was a very fast & pretty stretch of painted murals on the seawall. the "E-H" is the "Tae" in "Taean." I'm serious!

There was one age group guy sucking my wheel for the whole 5th lap, and I couldn’t shake him until we hit the hill at the beginning of the 6th lap.  He finally tried to pass and then blew up halfway up the hill…bye bye!  I actually sped up quite a bit the 2nd half of the bike–lap 5 was probably the quickest as I was trying to outbike the lame drafter.

The bike aid stations weren’t the most…organized or efficient.  Small race.  They were giving out fluids in DIXIE CUPS.  So I actually stopped at the ends of laps 2 and 4 to get them to refill my aero bottle and bike bottle with Gatorade.  I would yell “Gatorade!” and they would hold out a Dixie cup, then I would say “no, MORE!”  and they would say “Mool?” which means water, and then reach for the water instead, then…  you get the idea.

I went through a bike bottle per lap which seemed enough given that it was very mild weather-wise.  I hit the dismount line in 5:09 so I most definitely negative split the bike…2:36/2:33.  Excellent.  I am most proud that I was able to do this on a race where I had no opportunities to draft, legally 10+ meters or what, and without race wheels or an aero helmet.  bwahaha.

I got into T2 and quickly pulled on my Avias and Camelbak #1.  I wasn’t quite sure where T2 ended and the marathon began, and after the race found out that my 3:33 marathon split actually included the transition time.  So I went 3:30 or 3:31!  New run PR :)

My lead biker was one of the women on staff who was also an Ironwoman herself and had gone to Kona several times.  She was biking waaay too fast that first stretch but gave me an orange beacon to follow.  We ran from the beach area to the start of the run lap, in the middle of nowhere surrounded by fields.  It was a very desolate 4-lap run…especially that first lap, there was maybe only 5 of us on the run course at that point but I saw nobody except my lead biker.  The run lap was extremely flat but the hardest part was how empty and barren it was…I find marathons with many spectators and fan support to be the easiest to get through.  They cheer for me, it makes me smile, they love that I smile and cheer more, I smile more, etc etc.  This marathon?  I had a very focused serious face most of the way.

The lead biker only stayed around for the first lap (she later rejoined me after the last lap back to the finish line).  At the end of the first lap, I saw Ryan right before the U-turn, and he looked like death, telling me I was right about to catch him.  But before I could do this, he somehow got a huge second wind and came back to life!  It took me quite a while to catch him–I was thinking, “wow, he’s putting up a really good fight!!”  We had been talking smack before the race about whether he would get chicked or not–he had just done Kona 2 weeks before.  I was a little hungry so I grabbed a chocolate cookie at one of the aid stations and it had marshmallows in it too!

There were no kilometer markers at all on the run, and I wasn’t sure how long each lap was, or how long the section from the transition area to the start of the lap was.  I miscalculated, trying to do math in my head, then figured I would just have to see what time I hit when I finished 2 of the 4 run laps = halfway done.  I hit it at right about 1:45.  Perfect.  Now just hold on!

“Special food” was what they called the special needs station.  I swapped out my Camelbaks and #2 had been frozen with my special iced coffee mix.  It tasted really good but I realized during my fourth and final lap that freezing the second Camelbak actually backfired as it was still half frozen!  I had to stop for Coke a couple times on the last lap but otherwise ran through the aid stations.  The second half of the run was very difficult mentally and I had to dig deep to keep the pace going.  I never lost the desire to go as fast as I could but I had to convince my tiring legs to keep going.

I stayed motivated by picking off guys that I was lapping.  Some of them put in good fights which was nice because it really pushed me.  I also thought of my teammates quite a bit.  Bella, who was once my “lead biker” during the last interval at a big track session.  Coco, who had told me that you are either born a winner, or you weren’t.  And that I was born with the mind of a champion, even if I didn’t necessarily have the talent.  I thought “I am a teamTBB ironchick.  We are tough, we are fast, we never give up.  We are warriors.  And there is no reason I cannot break 10 hours today when some of them can break NINE.”

I tried not to jump ahead and think about breaking 10 hours too much but I knew that it was a possibility.  When I left T2 my watch said something like 6:24, and I had thought “ok…all you have to do is a 3:30.  You did that at Embrunman.  You did a 3:15 solo marathon.  You are fitter now than you were in France.  You can do this.”

I thought about all the marathons I have done this year.  Before the race I had actually tallied them up, because Coach had always told me I run more marathons than anybody I race against.  Since March I have done 12, whether they were in an ironman race, a monster run, or a track marathon.  GreatMan would be marathon #13.  So what was this marathon anyway?  Just another long run.  And I always feel stronger during the second half of the marathon.

After 4 run laps, my lead biker joined back with me to take me to the finish line.  She said there was only 3k to go, which I found very hard to believe.  So I didn’t believe her.  Then the RD HyungSik came by on a scooter and started yelling “You did it!  You did it!”  I wasn’t done yet, so I yelled “Not yet!  I still need to finish!”  It was the longest “3k to go” of my life, and the finish was rather anti-climactic.  My watch read “9:55″ and I didn’t quite believe it.  My second half marathon was only a minute slower than the first half.  There was hardly any one at the finish line, and the photographers actually made me run through it a second time because they didn’t get the finish photos!  That was when I learned only one person had beat me–Oh Young Hwan, who won the men’s pro race.

winner winner chicken dinner!  Mr. Oh Young Hwan & Wongstar

winner winner chicken dinner! Mr. Oh Young Hwan & Wongstar

I won a 10kg (22-lb) bag of rice too.  Which I gave to the nice little old lady who owned the hotel because I’m pretty sure I’d get charged for excess baggage on that one.

only in Korea can you win a big bag of rice.

only in Korea can you win a big bag of rice.

And a nice block of glass that says “women’s pro champion” in Korean!

or maybe its crystal?

or maybe it's crystal?

Ok it’s showtime again!  Another fast ironman tomorrow, stay tuned!

lucky #13 in PCB

Thursday, November 5th, 2009
20th floor at the Ocean Ritz condo

view from the 20th floor at the Ocean Ritz condo

thank you DeFilippis family for being my accommodation sponsor!

thank you DeFilippis family for being my accommodation sponsor!

I am lucky #13, my lowest bib number EVER at a WTC race!!!

I am lucky #13, my lowest bib number EVER at a WTC race!!!

my American pro debut!!  finally back on home soil!

my American pro debut!! finally back on home soil!

I actually havent raced an Ironman on this continent since 2006

I actually haven't raced an Ironman on this continent since 2006

the sun sets early here...4:51pm on Saturday.  Pros need to go 10:01 to beat sunset, AGers gotta go 9:51!

the sun sets early here...4:51pm on Saturday. Pros need to go 10:01 to beat sunset, AG'ers gotta go 9:51!