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Penn Relays 20k Champion! « Jocelyn Wong's Blog

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Penn Relays 20k Champion!

My name is Jocelyn Wong and I am the proud winner of a Penn Relays gold watch.

the gold watch of champions!

Which any track & field fan knows is like a super huge deal and means you’re like super duper duper fast.

I didn’t actually know this either. Let’s rewind.

So I’ve been swimming my arms off the last 6 months and Coach thought it was high time to get the running legs back under me too. He then realized that I’ve got no races scheduled until Ironman China. Holy moly, he thinks…that’s more than six months since she’s raced at all (IM Arizona being the last). Ok, he doesn’t really say “holy moly”; I’m sure there’s an Australian equivalent. Actually, what he really says is “you should’ve raced like yesterday” which makes me scratch my head a little (it was a Monday) until I got my Sutto translation book out and figured he meant it’s mid-April and I should already have started my race season.

So now I get to do the New Jersey Devilman on May 7th, which is like a 1/3-ironman distance (50 miles total) and then I tried to get into a sprint race this weekend (“I don’t care how short it is!” Coach bellowed…ok not really) but couldn’t get an entry into any local sprint races with just a few days notice. I have to admit being just a tad frightened as I haven’t done anything shorter than an Ironman in nearly 2 years, though I was also excited with the prospect of doing a sprint triathlon with a 200m swim. ;)

Well it was Mac to the rescue as he knew there was the Penn Relays Distance Classic last weekend, which is a 20k road race and a 5k road race, the first events to kick off the Penn Relays Carnival. Being a track nerd in high school, of course I had heard of the Penn Relays–it’s the oldest and hugest track & field invitational in the country. SINCE 1895. Dude that’s like over 115 years ago. That’s quite possibly older than anybody alive.

I'm tellin' ya, it's like a Big Deal.

You only get to go if you are a super duper fast high school, college, or whatever you call those post-collegiate elite track & field athletes. Just like this sign says here…a bunch of USA and world records have been set on Franklin Field at the University of Pennsylvania campus. Last year they had a “USA vs. the World” competition which really meant Usain Bolt and his Jamaican brothers came over to spank our American 4×100 relay team.

YouTube Preview Image

Since it wasn’t a triathlon, the Boss ordered me to bring my bike and trainer to the race and hammer away on my Cervelo for an hour right before the gun went off. So at 6:30am on a fine Sunday morning, I found myself on the sidewalk right outside the famous Franklin Field in Philadelphia, dripping glorious sweat, going hard and going nowhere as college track kids, marathoners and recreational runners filtered in and out of the registration area, trying not to stare at me.

road trip to Philly! Mags was designated driver :)

The gun went off and I knew Coach’s intentions: to kick-start my fitness and kick-start my racing mentality. There’s definitely no substitute for the adrenaline that racing gives you, and since I train mostly on my own, I don’t always have an outlet for the crazy competitive monster lurking inside of me. You now, the one that unleashes strings of profanity (“I will tear your @#$”(*!& legs off and then eat you for dinner, you $@#!(*&!!! RAWR!”) and thinks of all kinds of really sneaky and mean ways to toy with your mind and then kick your ass.

I felt the burn in my legs right away from the biking and really, the entire week (weeks? months?) of training since it’s not like I rested for this. Just another training day! I didn’t really know what to expect in terms of pacing since I haven’t done any standalone running races shorter than a marathon in years, and gosh, I don’t think I’ve ever even broken 45 minutes in a 10k. I remember that running a 5k in under 23 minutes during college was a struggle for me. But I’m a whole different animal now, and that’s a good thing. :)

Runners took off all around me and I settled on a sustainable hard pace slightly out of my comfort zone. The course was flat, out-and-back with the turnaround at 10km, but it was a super blustery day. I kept one girl in my sights who had put a huge gap on me in the first mile, but didn’t realize she was the race leader until someone told me after the first 5km. The only markers were at every 5km, so I couldn’t really tell how fast I was going until I could check each 5km split. I focused on running as evenly as possible, and of course going after the leader. You know how Chinese people are. If you’re not #1, you might as well be last. ;) That’s what my grandpa tells me anyway.

My 5km splits ended up being 22:05, 22:19, 21:51, 22:04, which I personally think is awesome because they are faster than my 5km and 10km run times from my previous life and on totally unfresh legs. And they are pretty darn even so I paced myself very good. :)  I really don’t slow down that much from half-marathon/20km pace to marathon pace, which is why I might as well do only Ironmans anyway, and I don’t actually slow down so much between a stand-alone running race and the run leg of a triathlon, so I might as well race triathlons! :)

I ended up catching the leader with 4 miles to go; she was running with an ipod so I was hoping she wouldn’t hear me sneak up on her. Then I wondered if I should stay just behind her and wait until maybe the last mile to make the pass. But then I thought about Wongstar’s Rule of Catching Up: “if you catch somebody, that means you were going faster than them, so if you don’t pass them, that means you are slowing down.” So I made the pass, then in my head started screaming “AUGHHH!!! she’s gonna catch me she’s gonna catch me she’s gonna catch me!!!!” for the NEXT FOUR MILES.

the famous Franklin Field, where dreams are made

There was a very brutal headwind with only a mile to go that was like running into a wall, and I kind of wanted to slow down but I haven’t won a race in a while and the number of races I have won can be counted on one hand. Then there was a final lap around the track inside Franklin Field and I called on the pre-pubescent track star I was once upon a long time ago to belt out the last 200 meters and then I crossed the line. Winner winner chicken dinner!

{On a side note, one thing that always makes me laugh (later) is that I finish most of my races running as hard as I can, then cross the line and kind of want to die, right? Well, the volunteers always seem so alarmed and ask “Are you okay?!” First of all, I can’t talk for 2 minutes, so don’t expect a response. Second, of course I’m not okay, I obviously just beat the living daylights out of myself. Third, don’t worry, I’ll be okay in 2 minutes.}

with Dave Johnson, director of the Penn Relays

Then at awards, it was so cool, I learned that I won a gold watch! And that since Penn Relays is such a prestigious track invitational, winners of every event get a gold watch and it’s like a BIG DEAL. So to win a Penn Relays watch, you have to be like one of the best high school or college runners in the country, or like Marion Jones (hopefully without drugs) or Usain Bolt, or…the Wongstar. ;)

I was super duper excited when I learned I won a gold watch!

Here is the press release: “Relays Week Begins With the Distance Classic”. And Momma Wongstar wanted a close-up of the gold watch, cuz she is all about the bling-bling, so this one’s for you Mom! :)

bling bling!

And of course huge thanks to Avia running shoes for getting me to the finish line first!

Avi-Rhythms, the choice of triathlon superstars

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