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the latest playlist: the “Spring Mix”

Monday, April 11th, 2011

Delaware: a place with all 4 seasons... in the span of a month.

Delaware can’t quite decide if it’s still winter, or summer, or spring, or…Seattle. In early March, we had this nice stretch of warm weather right before the actual spring equinox, so I packed away my winter clothes, and of course we got hit by coldness in the 30′s and 40′s again. One morning we got hit by McFlurries again and I wanted to pull out my hair. Now I’m afraid that if I return my $14 snow shovel at Lowe’s, I’ll be jinxing everyone everywhere and we’ll suddenly get a giant snowstorm and I’ll be stuck somewhere with no snow shovel to dig my way out.

Then this past week we got a day in 70+, followed by some rain and sub-40′s, then up to the 60′s, rain again, low 50′s, and tomorrow will be SUPER SUPER SUPER DUPER EXCITING at 86*F! It’s like Mother Nature is having a silly April Fools’ joke.

Still, it’s not torrential Thailand downpours though, and I was disheartened to hear that my kick-off race of the season has been cancelled, as Koh Samui has been devastated by flooding. My heart goes out to the people of Samui Island; the RD said the roads are so torn up it’ll take over 5 months just to repair them and the pictures on Facebook are worth thousands of words…

why there will be no race in Koh Samui...they've got bigger issues.

So looks like my season opener is back to being Ironman China on May 29th. I’ve got no race reports or new training camp stories, so what’s a girl to blog about? I figured I’d go with the tried and true. People like to read about things they can relate to. They want to know what I eat, what music I listen to, who I’m dating ;) and what kind of coffee I like.

I got a good response from my post on my treadmill playlist, so here is the one that I call “Spring Mix” despite the first state’s confusion on what season it really is. There’s nothing like a new playlist to keep you motivated when the forecast calls for rain! I’ve got a mix of new songs plus remixes of old ones. I put in YouTube links if you want to listen to any of them. My inspiration is drawn from TV shows, movies, random websites with cool soundtracks, the real radio and Pandora… I am a big fan of music videos (or heck, silly YouTube vids) too, so I embedded some of my favorite ones in there along with random commentary. Because I’m like a Blu-ray DVD with all kinds of bonus features. :D

the cherry blossoms blooming on my Wednesday transition run route: Brandywine Park

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  • We R Who We R (Danno Darko Remix) — Ke$ha. Me and the wondrously trashy Ke$ha are proud to have a few things in common: we like putting glitter on our eyes, we’re “hot and dangerous”, and we like to go “hittin’ on dudes…hard.” It also goes without saying: “You know we’re superstars, we are who we are.”
  • My Body — Young the Giant. ”My body tells me NOOOOOO, but I won’t quit, cuz I want morrrrre…” the PERFECT song for masochistic ultradistance athletes.
  • So Yesterday (Radio Remix) — Hilary Duff. Favorite lyrics: “If the light is off, then it isn’t on.”
  • What the Hell — Avril Lavigne. Just like the song, the video is totally fun. She steals a taxi cab then goes clothes shopping, then BLATANT PRODUCT PLACEMENT with her own clothing line! (I have her star hoodie.)
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  • Children 2000 (Trance Remix) — Robert Miles. A favorite from back in my college days. Or maybe even high school.
  • Hot to Touch — Werewolf vs. Unicorn. This was actually from an episode of Hellcats, which I got hooked on after being inspired for last year’s Halloween costume. (I’m endlessly amused that I have the same outfit even though there’s no way I can do all those tricksy gymnastics flipsies.) “Werewolf vs. Unicorn” is actually a fictional band and they wrote the song specifically for the TV show. Check out the crazy cheerleader gymnastics:
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  • I Want It All/We Will Rock You (Mash-Up) — Queen, from the Sucker Punch soundtrack. Oh yes, I rather enjoyed Sucker Punch… so much that I downloaded the whole soundtrack immediately and am contemplating skipping Ironman Lake Placid in order to party at Comic Con in a bedazzled sailor girl outfit. Just kidding. Really. ;)

I like to abuse the fact that some people can’t tell when I’m joking or not. Happy training and happy spring wherever you may be in the world! :)

the 90-minute treadmill playlist

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

We are WAAAAY overdue for a superstar step. Here you go…How To Become an International Triathlon Superstar, Step #22: Prepare the Soundtrack to the Movie of Your Life.

This goes along with “how to stay motivated during winter” and “how to get excited about treadmill sessions.” Yes, I finally succumbed. I tried to put it off for as long as I could, running outside in sub-freezing temps, but then the snow came and then half-melted into icy slush, emphasis on the “icy.” It was then too dangerous to run outside when you could very well slip on ice and pull a muscle or faceplant or break your collarbone or something else dumb and stupid you don’t want to do when it’s your job to exercise for a living.

this is how I feel like on a treadmill.

Now I loooooove track sessions and have no problems going ’round and ’round for hours on end but the treadmill… I’m still learning to love. No fears, here is what I’ve found to help me conquer the “dreadmill”:

  1. Have a plan. I write out exactly what my workout is, what speed I should go for how many minutes, and what pace this correlates to (both mins/mile and marathon time).
  2. Write down your favorite motivational quotes. (One is the Boss’ “Weak desires get weak results.” I also like “Be the best version of yourself.”)
  3. Print out the course map of your next race.
  4. Put those 3 pieces of paper in ziploc sandwich baggies and tape them onto the face of the treadmill. (I sweat a ton especially treadmill running, to the point that I splash over the display…and to neighboring treadmills. AHAHA. Hence the ziploc baggies.)
  5. Make a special new playlist for each particular treadmill session!

I like to grab a treadmill facing a window but unfortunately I usually get stuck in front of the TV that is playing the “Cookie Jar TV” kiddie channel on Saturday mornings. Apparently they used to stream updated versions of Care Bears and Strawberry Shortcake (from my very own childhood) a year ago but now it’s episodes of Horseland and Busyland Mysteries. Seriously?! So I crank up the tunes as loud as I can to focus on the workout because watching these dumb cartoons is way distracting.

This session is a 90-minute run where I increase my speed every 5 minutes. So I go from warm-up pace to Ironman pace to much faster than Ironman pace by the end. I’ve had friends and fans request what kind of music I listen to, so here’s a peek. The trick is to make sure every song excites you–like if you were to hear EACH SONG on the radio, you would yell “I LOOOOOOOVE THIS SONG!!!!!” and sing along to all the lyrics. The songs start out a bit slower and get faster…relatively.

Now I really don’t care what you think of my taste in music (yes there is some Britney and Paris Hilton and a former Spice Girl), but this is what gets me excited to run on the treadmill. I don’t make fun of your music and I’m not ashamed of mine:

1. Pork and Beans — Weezer
2. Love the Way You Lie — Eminem feat. Rihanna
3. Amnesia — Britney Spears
4. Poker Face — Lady Gaga
5. Don’t Stop Believin’ — Journey
6. Secrets — OneRepublic
7. Sometime Around Midnight — The Airborne Toxic Event
8. Bad Romance — Lady Gaga
9. Not Falling Apart (Tiesto Remix) — Maroon 5
10. Take On Me — a-Ha
11. Hot N Cold — Katy Perry
12. Raise Your Glass — P!nk
13. Spaceman — The Killers
14. In My Arms (Bimbo Jones Club Extended Mix) –Plumb
15. Holding Out for a Hero (Club Remix) — Bonnie Tyler
16. I’m So Sick — Flyleaf
17. Mr. Brightside — The Killers
18. Nothing In This World (Dave Aude Radio Edit) — Paris Hilton
19. Not in Love — Crystal Castles feat. Robert Smith
20. I Turn To You (Hex Hector Radio Mix) — Melanie C
21. Papercut — Linkin Park
22. Major Tom (Coming Home) — Shiny Toy Guns

Enjoy and happy treadmill running! :) P.S. What’s REALLY exciting is that temps are supposed to go well over 50*F on Monday, Thursday, Friday & Saturday!!!! WOOHOOOOO East Coast heat wave!!!

Chinese Moms, part II.

Friday, January 21st, 2011

(If you missed Part I, it’s here: “My Chinese Mom: A Superstar’s Secret Weapon.”)

So it’s been almost 2 weeks since the Wall Street Journal ran the story “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior” and I find myself both amused and surprised at the amount of outrage that has ensued. I’d have to say that Amy Chua, the Yale professor who wrote the book (“Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”) of which this article was an excerpt from, is really freakin’ brilliant. She’s been interviewed on NPR and BBC and obviously the WSJ article was meant to provoke people while promoting her new book.

Seriously, people need to chill. Her 18-year-old daughter wrote an article a couple days ago that was just published on the New York Post “Why I love my strict Chinese mom.”

I personally think that Prof. Amy Chua kicks ass and a lot of people don’t understand her sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek humor. I can totally relate to this because some people don’t get my sense of humor either. Chinese people are actually really funny. Just watch Kung Fu Hustle or some old Jackie Chan movies.

It’s not like she is telling people how to raise their kids, it’s just her memoir on how she raised her own. Then again, there’s a reason you hardly (if ever?) see Asian families on parenting reality shows like Nanny 911.

Coach was right. Americans are way too soft. They totally get their panties all in a tangle when confronted with truths they don’t want to hear.

I also realize that some of my Chinese-American peers have grown up pretty resentful and angry at the way their parents brought them up. Some of them were pushed into careers they were never interested in. I was lucky in that my parents allowed me and my siblings to choose whatever college major and career we wanted. We just had to go to college. That was a non-negotiable, though NOT going to college never even crossed my mind. And while they were never too crazy with the idea of me becoming a professional triathlete, I made sure I finished my graduate education, residencies, and board exams for prosthetics & orthotics before I dove head-first into this pro triathlon world. Education always came before sports. But now they are my biggest fans.

my gorgeous Chinese mom before she became our mom

ANYWAY. My reflections on my strict Chinese upbringing was to analyze how it helped me not just survive but thrive at training camp with my strict Australian coach. It wasn’t until I read the Chinese moms article that I came to the realization that I was brought up with a certain mindset. It was always assumed that we were smart and would therefore get excellent grades in school. It never occurred to me that I was stupid or incapable. If I got bad grades, it was because I was being lazy and didn’t try hard enough.

I was also lucky in the sense that I have an older sister who served as my role model. She’d been getting straight A’s since elementary school. I didn’t see what the big deal was and didn’t try that hard. But I soon got tired of hearing “Why can’t you be more like your older sister?” and decided to put an end to it. I’ll get into the whole Jan Brady syndrome in another blog (the sister’s birthday is next month, haha) and how by pitting me against my sister, the parents created the uber competitive monster I am today. But having my sister get the grades made it seem to me that it wasn’t THAT hard, and that I could do it too.

If I could summarize my parents’ philosophy into a few words, it would be “Assume greatness and achieve greatness.”

Now Coach was the same. He’s always said that anyone with two arms and two legs can go X:XX in an Ironman without taking drugs. During one of these talks (at one of my first training camps) he looked me in the eye and said “even you, Wongstar.” I wasn’t so sure then. But from the beginning, he had always said that it wasn’t my ability that was holding me back, but my belief in myself. When I stopped improving in the swim and actually got slower last year, he said it was because I wasn’t trying hard enough. I didn’t want it bad enough. I was being lazy.

He rode me hard those first few camps. I cried a couple times, and then I hardened up. I learned to take criticism, and I often received the harshest. Later I learned this was completely intentional on Coach’s end. I was the weakest and slowest athlete in the squad and therefore I was driven the hardest.

I learned to accept and appreciate Coach’s cold, hard truths and knew the comments about my weight were not to hurt my feelings but to make me a better athlete. It’s not like it’s a secret that I like to eat and that getting leaner makes you go faster. I learned to listen objectively and could deflect comments that certainly made some of my former teammates cringe, if not traumatized them. I got tougher and he knew I could take it. It’s been said before that he coaches us as individuals and this is completely true. He is very good at reading people and will treat us differently (i.e. manipulate and push our buttons differently) depending on our backgrounds. I think somehow he just knew that I could take harsh criticism from my Chinese upbringing.

When I did things right, Coach would say it was because I was Chinese. But when I screwed up, I was “being an American.” This is an excerpt from the WSJ that resonates with me as well:

“What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you’re good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences. … Once a child starts to excel at something—whether it’s math, piano, pitching or ballet—he or she gets praise, admiration and satisfaction. This builds confidence and makes the once not-fun activity fun. This in turn makes it easier for the parent to get the child to work even more.”

Now, just like how Prof. Chua has been harshly criticized, my coach has also had the reputation of being rather controversial, strict, and extreme. But you know what? There’s a reason for that. He’s here to create CHAMPIONS, not to coddle us. I’m not here busting my ass as a pro triathlete to be a mediocre nobody. And I would agree with the above…being mediocre is not fun. Winning is fun. Another of Coach’s favorite quotes I have written somewhere is “Moderation is for the mediocre.”

Chinese parents hardly ever praise you but it’s not because they aren’t proud of you. It’s just a tough love type of approach, instead of the “everyone’s a winner! you’re so awesome!” attitude that seems to prevail in American culture. You can say that this upbringing in no way damaged my self-esteem (I’m awesome and I know it ;) ) but it’s almost like what I said earlier. They assume awesomeness, so what’s the point of getting a big head about it? The only times I ever knew my parents were proud of me were when I overheard them bragging to their friends and our relatives. Well scratch that–when you hear their friends or relatives tell you that you’ve been bragged about.

Coach has been similar…he hardly gives compliments but when he does, it counts many times the world over. Sure there was bit of blood, tons of sweat, and some tears inflicted by a very demanding Coach, but I will always remember the first time he saw me race at Embrunman… and I demolished all his expectations. I’ll never forget the look of pride on his face when he caught me at the finish line. It was that point that I started believing everything he had been shoving down our throats from Day One: you can achieve anything you want to, you just have to want it bad enough.

So you can get outraged and debate about it all you want, but as one of the few (if not the only) professional triathletes of Chinese descent on the Ironman circuit, from now on I know that I have that one secret weapon that nobody else has: my strict Chinese mother.

And for that, I’m thankful.

My Chinese Mom: A Superstar’s Secret Weapon

Friday, January 14th, 2011

there was a brief period of time when I was actually smaller than my sister, who has almost 2yrs on me. And holy crap, I think my mom is like our current age in this photo (29 or 30??)

It’s my mom’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Mom! Since I am broke as usual and she doesn’t like me spending money that I don’t actually have, especially not on her, tonight I will write a blog for her. About Chinese moms.

So I’ve talked before about how I was a good little nerd in high school and how I got into every college I applied to. Yesterday I was watching the movie “The Perfect Score” for the first time, about six kids who try to steal the answers to the SAT’s. There was one line in it that made me LOL. Like ROFLMAO. One guy asks “Who scores the highest on the test?” and the stoned Asian boy replies “Asian chicks. Middle-class asian girls who watch less than an hour of television a day. They can’t drive, but they can kick the sh*t out of the SAT.”

Yes. That was me. My friend Lawrence sent me a link to a fabulously controversial Wall Street Journal article that was published last weekend, titled “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior.” As I sat reading it, at once both mesmerized and highly entertained by each paragraph that rang true, I came to a better understanding of why my parents brought us up the way they did and how it has crossed over to my non-academic life…and actually…yes, right into triathlon superstardom.

As I write this there are nearly 4000 comments on this article online, most of them from angry and enraged (and mostly white?) readers and parents who are appalled at this parental behavior. Ah, whatevs. It was normal to me. I had many other Asian friends, and of course all my cousins, some with parents that were much less strict, and some that were even worse. You know what my coach would call these enraged readers? Typical soft-cock Americans. ;)

Anyway, here are some of my favorite passages…

On Chinese moms being blunt:

“The fact is that Chinese parents can do things that would seem unimaginable—-even legally actionable—-to Westerners. Chinese mothers can say to their daughters, ‘Hey fatty—lose some weight.’ By contrast, Western parents have to tiptoe around the issue, talking in terms of ‘health’ and never ever mentioning the f-word, and their kids still end up in therapy for eating disorders and negative self-image.”

On getting straight A’s:

“…Chinese parents can order their kids to get straight As. Western parents can only ask their kids to try their best. Chinese parents can say, ‘You’re lazy. All your classmates are getting ahead of you.’ By contrast, Western parents have to struggle with their own conflicted feelings about achievement, and try to persuade themselves that they’re not disappointed about how their kids turned out.

…For example, if a child comes home with an A-minus on a test, a Western parent will most likely praise the child. The Chinese mother will gasp in horror and ask what went wrong. If the child comes home with a B on the test, some Western parents will still praise the child. …If a Chinese child gets a B–which would never happen—-there would first be a screaming, hair-tearing explosion…

…Chinese parents demand perfect grades because they believe that their child can get them. If their child doesn’t get them, the Chinese parent assumes it’s because the child didn’t work hard enough. That’s why the solution to substandard performance is always to excoriate, punish and shame the child. The Chinese parent believes that their child will be strong enough to take the shaming and to improve from it.”

On not being “allowed” to date or even just hang out at the mall with friends in high school:

“…Chinese parents believe that they know what is best for their children and therefore override all of their children’s own desires and preferences. That’s why Chinese daughters can’t have boyfriends in high school and why Chinese kids can’t go to sleepaway camp.”

I was soooo psyched when I finally convinced my mom to let me go to band camp the summer before 8th grade. Yes, I played the flute, and no…I didn’t end up getting to go to band camp. I got the chicken pox instead. You have NO idea how absolutely shattered I was that I didn’t get to go, and of course learning years later when watching American Pie what really went on at band camp…. Well. I sadly don’t have any “this one time at band camp” stories and this probably explains why I was (am?) such a late bloomer.

And then the conclusion and explanation for all of it:

“…the Chinese believe that the best way to protect their children is by preparing them for the future, letting them see what they’re capable of, and arming them with skills, work habits and inner confidence that no one can ever take away.”

Huh. When I finished reading this I had a striking revelation:

BRETT IS THE TRIATHLON COACH EQUIVALENT OF A CHINESE MOTHER.

Aha! That is how I survived all those training camps and continue to thrive under his coaching. I was not one of them typical lazy American softcocks because of my Chinese upbringing. Apparently Mom has prepared me well for the world of pro triathlon, i.e. the Brett Sutton world of pro triathlon. :)

I want to go into more detail but this is getting long enough and I’m feeling a bit brain-dead from today’s big training. So expect to see a Chinese Moms Part II when I’m feeling more alert.

Happy Birthday, Momma Wongstar! Love ya! :D

on failure, the universe, and running in the cold.

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

Scottie keeps laughing at me because I am so proud of myself for running in sub-freezing temperatures. He keeps saying “it’s not even that cold yet!” Well, stop trying to burst my bubble. To a California girl, training outside when it is less than 45*F is pretty frigid. Now a 45*F day here would be warm and I’d be ecstatic. So when the windchill factor drops it down to ridiculously small numbers like 12*F, running outside for 2 to 3 hours is pretty epic for me.

I finally conceded and turned the heat on in my little studio today too. The utilities bill has been only $30-$35/month as I’ve been a cheapo Asian and just put more clothes on. :) On that note, I’m pretty pumped that hot water is included with rent because hot showers are THE BEST after running outside! This ain’t Thailand heat camp.

Anyway, you muse over all kinds of things when running outside to distract yourself from thinking “Grilled Cheesus, it’s effing cold out here!” I got into some rambling conversations with myself on topics such as: failure versus success, finding happiness and following your dreams, hating yourself versus becoming the person you want to become.

I guess the end of the year is approaching, always a good time for self-reflection on how the year’s gone, where you were a year ago, 3 years ago, 5 years ago, etc. I’m sure I’ll write up a blog when I’ve got some airplane time over the holidays and go into more detail on my musings, but in the end I did come up with this epiphany:

There are no failures, it’s just the universe’s way of saying you weren’t ready yet.

Oh yeah, I came up with that all by myself. Now for those of you who subscribe to a certain religion, feel free to substitute “the universe” with your favorite deity: Zeus, God, Grilled Cheesus, Buddha, Allah, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, etc.

Keep fighting the good fight and stay warm, kids!