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Archive for the ‘on being Asian’ Category

why chinese people aren’t vegetarians.

Monday, March 14th, 2011

I mentioned going home for my Grandma’s 85th birthday dinner and I was really glad to be there. My huge Chinese family (my mom is one of 6, and I’m one of 15 grandkids) took up 4 whole tables (the big round ones with the spinning thing in the middle) at her favorite Chinese restaurant. These giant tables set the stage for this edition of Girl Vs. Food.

someone needs to get married soon so we can feast again!

If you’ve seen my blogs on what we eat during Thanksgiving and Christmas it should come as no surprise that the concept of being vegetarian has always been weird to me. We’re big on slaughtering the entire animal kingdom during family feasts. So I just don’t understand how people say they never liked meat growing up and that is why they don’t eat it; obviously they weren’t Chinese. ;)

Although I know there is a book called “The China Study” toting a vegetarian diet, I’ve never read it and am not sure where they found these mythical Chinese vegetarians.

Grandma’s birthday banquet was pretty similar to a 12-course wedding banquet, Chinese New Year feasts and whenever we have big family special occasions at restaurants. The members of the animal kingdom that died for a very worthy cause included:

  • Jellyfish
  • Shrimp
  • Pigs x2 or x3
  • Chickens x2
  • Fish
  • Crab
  • Lobsters
  • Cows
  • Scallops
  • Sharks (shark fin soup!)
  • Abalone (I thought they were mushrooms)

There was even tofu in there somewhere, but we all know that’s not a real animal. ;)

I was kind of sad we didn’t have Peking duck (I never made my way to Philly’s Chinatown for that) until I tried what Grandma had substituted it with–a new (to me) Chinese dish I’d never seen….chicken stuffed with sticky rice and fried up…WHOA!

winner winner stuffed chicken dinner!

In addition to the 12 entrees we had 3+ desserts. There was birthday cake in two flavors, then jello with condensed milk (in mango, green tea, and grass jelly flavors), homemade almond cookies, and mini bun things stuffed with red beans.

I love this photo because my grumpy Grandpa is smiling :D We used to think he never smiled.

And no, everyone in my big fat Chinese family isn’t actually morbidly obese. Surprising, isn’t it? I swear we don’t eat like this every day. :) And never fear, Mom made sure to pick up a Peking duck for me at Ranch 99 before I left home. :D

MacGyver’ing Bike Box 3.0, part 1

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

It’s that time of year again! Time to break out the MacGyver skills and make another new bike box. Now, some people are freaked out that I travel with a cardboard bike box but hey, this is what they come shipped in from the factory, and I haven’t ever had my bike damaged in my travels (knock on wood). For the amount I fly with my bike, it’s all about skirting airline fees and not having to lug around an uber-heavy ginormous hard plastic case.

The bike box does get a bit beat up by the end of a year and I’m always trying to improve upon the previous year’s design, so this is the third year I’m making my own bike box. Here are the previous designs:

Version 1, the 2009 edition:

very basic and went with me to the Philippines, Singapore, China, Korea, Turkey, Switzerland, and Mexico

Bike Box 2.0 (2010 Hello Kitty edition):

much prettier and a better shape, complete with website advertising for theWongstar.com...but still too big

What you’ll need to make your own:

  • 1 cardboard Cervelo bike box
  • 1 hot glue gun
  • 1 staple gun
  • duct tape in various pretty colors
  • butcher paper…or grocery store advertisements
  • a sharp razor blade knife thing

Bang! Bang! I love my new staple gun

While shopping for a staple gun at Sears, I got a bit distracted by their huge winter coat clearance sale. I found two I absolutely loved and couldn’t decide which I loved more, so I decided on: BOTH. (When in doubt, the answer is always both!) After all, they were both about 85% off…you can’t argue with getting two coats for under $20 each that are originally over $120. Plus the sales guy in the tools & hardware department told me I didn’t need a fancy electric staple gun for cardboard, so I got two coats AND a manual light-duty staple gun for less than the price of a heavy-duty electric staple gun.

Like a good Asian, I love a good deal.

But I digress.

multi-tasking = shopping for the best meat and produce prices while making a bike box.

I didn’t have butcher paper, so first I traced an outline of my Cervelo P3, White Tiger, on grocery store advertisements. Then I made a pattern so I could make the smallest conceivable box and have it fit within the 62-linear-inches parameter.

See, because airlines aren’t supposed to charge you for bikes if they come in a box whose total dimensions add up to 62 inches. I’m not a short girl with a peewee size bike–I ride a 54cm frame–so this proves to be a challenge. This is the first time I’m taking the fork off in the bike-packing process but it’s necessary.

original bike box from Cervelo, becoming MacGyverized and Wongstarized

The plan is to make a mock-up version out of this cardboard (which is like a quarter-inch thick and is essentially doubled when made into a clamshell-like box) and then do a final version out of corrugated plastic.

Stay tuned for more!

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Friday, February 4th, 2011

not that the Wongstar ever needs an excuse to party.

What’s way more exciting and important than silly ole Groundhog Day? CHINESE NEW YEAR! Wahoo! Happy Year of the Rabbit! Here is my new favorite Sanrio bunny, Kuromi:

drink more water, be a superstar!

Which comes with a superstar secret tip on how to encourage yourself to stay hydrated: get yourself a supercute BPA-free water bottle. This bottle was under $10 at Target, by Thermos’s “SIPP” line. I like how it looks uber trendy like a bottle of VOSS water you get at fancy nightclubs. Then I slapped on a Kuromi sticker (from Ebay) and now I loooooove it even more and want to drink water all the time!

Kuromi is like the mischievous punk answer to the sweet pink My Melody (my childhood favorite). Here’s what the Sanrio website has to say about her: “My Melody’s friendly rival is a tomboy who loves making mischief and causing trouble! Although she may look tough, she is actually very girly and is attracted to good-looking guys! Kuromi enjoys writing in her diary and is hooked on romantic short-stories.”

Aw how sweet. Making mischief, causing trouble, attracted to good-looking guys…just switch “diary” to “blog” and she sounds just like me. ;)

Anyway, a Chinese New Year blog is incomplete without a proper Chinese horoscope forecast for 2011! Here is mine from Moonslipper.com:

“The Year of the Rabbit will be a much quieter year than 2010 for the Rooster. However, the Rooster will have to curb his natural exuberance and enthusiasm just a bit in 2011 and practice some patience and common sense.

On the work front, it will be vital for the Rooster to work closely with his colleagues and practice his networking skills. This will stand to him during the months of March, April, November and December when unexpected developments happen. All the work he does now on the career front will pay dividends in 2012, the Chinese Year of the Dragon. The Rooster should also consider any opportunities he may have to study or for training. This would go extremely well for him and again benefit him greatly later on in the year.

On the social and romantic side of life, this will be a much more settled and quiet year, which will be to many a Rooster’s liking. March, July and August look to be the most active on the social scene. A word of warning though – the Rooster must take care to temper his words with friends and not be too harsh. A quarrel or end of a close relationship could result.

Financially, the Rooster may have a few home-related expenses this year with repairs, decorating and renovations. It would be wise to manage any project sensibly and shop around for the best deal; Chinese Rabbit years can be expensive for all signs. On the whole, 2011 looks like being a pleasurable and encouraging year for all Roosters.”

Happy New Year everyone! Tonight I am celebrating with lychee martinis made from Haamonii Smooth Shochu. This weekend I plan to head over to Philly’s Chinatown to see what kind of New Year shenanigans are going on over there and hunt down some authentic Chinese food. Maybe there will even be lion dancing and firecrackers which used to scare the bejeezus out of me when I was younger. I’m totally jonesing for some Peking Duck!

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

a very Wongstar Christmas

Friday, December 31st, 2010

It was just like A Charlie Brown Christmas. There was a dog:

Snoopy, played by Guinness, supervises the home cooking

There was a Christmas tree:

this tree has an Asian angel on top

There was even some advice, with me as Lucy in the psychiatrist booth.

Only it wasn’t. There was a lot more food and dessert, a Nerf war, and some adult beverages…and my advice was very questionable.

Haamonii lemon + champagne + lychees + frozen berries = mmmm!

But then again, Lucy’s advice has always been questionable. ;)

Anyway…this is how my original blog began:

The end is near! The end of 2010 anyway. And the end of a decade. Has it really been over a decade since I was in high school? So over Christmas, at one of the many family feasts, my older cousin invited her co-worker and his family, which included twin teenage daughters that were high school sophomores.

My cousin proceeded to brag about me: what I do for a living (triathlon) and also what I went to grad school for (prosthetics). I then found myself giving sage advice to the high school girls on how to get into every college you apply to and, of course, dating advice. By then this was the third Christmas feast and I may or may not have been tipsy. Sober or not, I found it equal parts miraculous and hilarious that I had somehow turned 29 years old within the last month and was in the position to give advice to 15-year-olds. Holy crap I just did the math on that; they were like half my age. (!!!) Ok, maybe they were 16. Still.

Well, whether I was qualified to dispense advice or not, here’s what I said…

How to get into every college you apply to:
1. Get really good grades.
2. Study like hell for the SAT’s, and retake them a few times.
3. Kiss up to your teachers so you can get great reference letters.
4. Participate in extracurriculars.

They asked about the “personal statement” and I wasn’t very helpful; I just said that I had always enjoyed writing and was always pretty good at it. I also didn’t elaborate on the above four points and tell them about my 4.0 GPA and valedictorian ranking, or the 1510 SAT score, or that I was captain and MVP of the cross country team, rifle captain of the color guard, played the flute in the symphonic band, and was some type of board member for various clubs (the Chinese Club, the science club, the Spanish club, the Block W letterman club). Ah, minor details. But that’s how I got into every college I applied to. (Yes I just tooted my own horn but keep reading.)

My dating advice was along the lines of “Go to prom but don’t take high school boys very seriously.” Their dad wanted them to wait until college to date and I remarked that he was being pretty generous as Momma Wongstar didn’t want us to date until we graduated college. (HAHAHAHAHA.) They wanted to know who I went to prom with, and I said “some idiot who now works at the Costco gas station. That is why you should date college boys, because high school boys are dumb.”

Of course, being high school sophomores, this whole thing could totally backfire and they might hook up with college boys while they are still underage. Oops.

I also told them that in high school, it was important to learn not to be so awkward around boys. Maybe I was really just talking to my 15-year-old self. I was way more dorky and awkward than these super cute twin girls, who aren’t really awkward at all, and who probably get asked out by ALL the high school boys ALL the time. You know, my own nerdy high school self probably would’ve hated them. Yeah, the high school Wongstar had to ask three boys before scoring the prom date who now pumps gas. But she got into all her colleges and turned out all right despite being such a late bloomer. Wait, how did this turn out to be a rant about me during those awful high school years… :(

Anyway, here are a gazillion Christmas photos from the multiple feasts where, if you remember my Thanksgiving blog, we slaughter the entire friggin’ animal kingdom. Every meal includes at least 5 types of meat and 5 types of dessert. Hey, we Wongstars don’t do anything half-assed. There was a Chinese/American feast, a Burmese feast, and a Chinese/Filipino feast…

The edible animal kingdom:

honey-baked ham. almost like bacon

Mom with the prime rib

crab, cow, pig, salmon

Now there are two things you can add to any dish that make everything taste better: garlic and REAL BACON.

fends off the vampires. Team Jacob, hey!

my sister didn't come home so we didn't have to have that turkey bacon crap.

They went into the mashed tators and my new holiday favorite as inspired by white people: green bean casserole!

we put garlic AND garlic salt in the mashed tators. 100x the goodness!

when in doubt, spell out things with bacon.

Speaking of high school days, the holiday soundtrack included Hanson (my collection), the Carpenters (Mom’s collection), and the very awesome Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

yes, the Mmmbop guys! who looked like girls!

While the girls did the cooking, the boys (my bro and my dog) had a little Nerf war:

terrorizing the dog. go Giants!

Guinness takes cover!

The first bottle of Haamonii was popped open before 3pm on Christmas Eve, and let me tell you…holidays with the family have never been so tolerable! I mean, enjoyable! I mean…!

Right, moving on, dessert:

we adopted Amy again and put her in charge of the dessert

she made two gluten-free pumpkin pies, not that it mattered with all the other gluten-filled gluttony. see what I did there? ;)

dessert from a Filipino bakery (Goldilock's) and a Chinese bakery (Sheng Kee)

more pie and more Christmas logs

Apparently white people do fruitcake and Asian people do Christmas logs:

another Christmas log. the prettiest!

fried bananas with ice cream

And it wasn’t Christmas without a screening of Elf!

one of my fave Xmas movies :D

It was also the first Christmas for the newest generation of our family, baby Ethan:

baby Ethan with his Uncle Kenny re-enacting a scene from "The Hangover"

Seriously. And so you see why one of my winter goals is always “Don’t get fat over Christmas.” I managed to escape any further fattening and made my way back to The First State without getting stranded in any more airports. I will miss the dog and everyone else but it’s back to work. You don’t become a triathlon superstar by getting fat over Christmas.

hope everyone had a great pig-out over Christmas like we did!!! :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!

IMAZ photo race report.

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

It’s been over 3 weeks since my last race at Ironman Arizona. As Coach would say “that was an entire career ago.” I’ve been super busy ever since with other work obligations and getting back into full off-season training (not an oxymoron) in the McFlurry-esque Delaware winter, so I’ve also been tired and uninspired.

So I began writing a simple photo version with some captions since I have soooo many racing pictures from IMAZ. Then it got longer and I found some writing inspiration again. So here is the “short” photo version. Of course I realize a “short” version for me is probably still longer than most other people’s. ;) And there’s always the video mini race report recap that Felix shot…

morning swim start by the bridge

So I swam really hard. I was very excited to stay with a small pack and pretended I was chasing my swim buddy, Zeke, just like in training. He wears a hot pink swim cap every now and then. I just kept saying “stay with Zeke, stay with Zeke!” When the sun came up a little more, I realized it was my friend Miranda. In the beginning of the year I was able to swim with her at IM Malaysia and IM China, but only for maybe 75% of the way before I dropped off. So I was super stoked to get out with her and of course 10mins faster than what I’ve been averaging all year!

These photos are from my old Harvey Mudd College classmate Tom, who lives in Phoenix now and signed up for next year’s race. You can tell how happy I am about my swim, can’t you? ;)

chasing down Miranda who bolted through transition

At this point, I didn’t even realize I had come out of the water in front of 5 other pro women and 2 pro men. I was just really happy I went 1:06!

those guys are totally checking me out

Apparently I was giving the thumbs up to the official photographer:

superstars always smile for the camera :D

Then I got on the bike, and even though it got to be pretty rainy and super windy with a little bit of hail, I am a gun biker and can stay in the aero position through all of nature’s elements. Here is photographic proof…

Leaving T1. Aero position assumed!

still in aero...still leaving T1...

There were cacti. Which is plural for cactus.

flying by cacti while showing them the aero position.

Ok, I admit, I got slightly out of aero position only when reaching for more Hello Panda cookies in my back pocket.

more Pandas, please.

I felt strong, and magical, and high on caffeine.

3rd lap got a little congested passing age groupers.

I think I passed like 5 or 6 pro women on the bike? I felt pretty darn good even though the bike training has been thrown on the back burner to make room for swimming. 5:16 is my fastest bike split this year!

finishing up the bike, now allowed to get out of aero position.

Then I got to start running. I was feeling good and very happy. Are you ready for a montage of happy running pictures? Here you go…most of them courtesy of the Ritenours, one from “Burrito Fanatic” on Twitter:

gosh I am sure feeling good!

I was telling myself "relax and stay focused."

Ironman is fun and easy!

it is a common misconception that Ironman is a miserable experience.

maybe I'm not going hard enough?

Ok, enough. but I had to put this one because my legs actually look sort of skinny and not like big tree trunks.

I was super extra pumped because I had my very own cheer squad that included my MOM…who hadn’t ever seen me race in the pro division…and the Ritenours, who hadn’t seen me compete since I was a scrawny prepubescent high school runner.

Mr. R, Mom and little Serena on the lookout

Mom and Serena

Mom takes the best photos!

These don’t even include all the photos that my personal camera crew Felix was taking…I’m sure you’ll get a load of those soon too! Here’s a cool shot of me from overhead:

powered by Camelbak. maybe they will sponsor me next year.

Around mile 5, a guy on a bike passed me.

I didn't see the sign on the front of his bike.

Then if you thought I was looking good and smiley, I heard a voice with a British accent say “good job Jocelyn…we haven’t actually met yet…” and a flash of red went by:

the triple Ironman world champion laps the Wongstar.

I was so surprised that all I said was “oh!” and then as an afterthought “good job, Chrissie!”

Let it be known that no other women lapped me. ;)

And I was still feeling good on the second lap (there were three laps):

lots of people yelling "Go Wongstar!" and "Go Jocelyn!" I'm famous!

the fans love me.

demonstrating a proper heelstrike for Coach.

Then I hit a rough spot that third lap and wasn’t so smiley any more.

not so smiley Wongstar.

At which point I focused on digging in, breathing properly and channeling my inner Chinese warrior. I had just watched the movie “Hero” with Jet Li during my last week of training going into the race, so I thought of myself as “Flying Snow.” (My Chinese name means “snow.”) Here is the awesome fight scene between the two women warriors, Flying Snow and Moon. I even found the version with the English dubbing:

YouTube Preview Image

It’s kind of bizarre the things you think about when you are hurting in the middle of an Ironman, and what gets you to the finish line. Some say this is when you find out what you are really made of. So what got me through? I kept repeating “Chinese warriors never give up. They fight to the death.” And that lit something inside of me, and motivated me to keep fighting. Who would’ve thought? BTW, Flying Snow is the one who wins the fight. Though if you notice, Moon doesn’t give up even when stabbed with a ginormous sword through her chest. Epic!

I took off my mostly full second Camelbak during the third and final lap because I was sick of drinking Frappuccinos at that point and it was cold anyway, so hydration wasn’t exactly an issue. There was a bit of grunting and some “on your left!” since the course was getting a bit busier by then. I was pretty happy to hit the finish chute and the smile came out again:

relief!

And then I got to be done! I was so happy!

finishing an Ironman = the best feeling in the world!

My 3:34 marathon wasn’t my best, and I missed breaking 10 hours by 5 minutes, but it was my fastest race all year and I am still very happy with it. Like the bike training, the run training’s also been on the back burner and I had told Coach in September that if I had a great swim but a crappy bike and run in Arizona, I would still be over the moon. I didn’t realize until later that there were at least 6 Ironman champions that beat me, world champions and all that, so 12th pro in this field I am quite happy with too. And finally, no age groupers beat me. So there!

I ended the 2010 season feeling somewhat more justified racing in the pro ranks. ;)

I’ll do a season recap in the next few weeks; in the meantime, big ginormous thanks to all my supporters and sponsors!

A swim story and a swim update.

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

Funshine Bear was my favorite.

I didn’t learn to swim as a kid. When I was 3 or 4 and my big sister was 5 or 6, we went to a day care center. There was a swimming pool there and I think once a week we kids were allowed to play in the pool. The first few times, my mom wouldn’t let us join in on the fun. We begged and begged; all the other kids looked like they were having a blast and so finally she relented and sent us to day care one day with towels. I had my Care Bears swimsuit and Nat had her Strawberry Shortcake one.

Now this is what I very clearly remember 25 years later: all the other kids had really fun beach towels with their favorite cartoons on them. Care Bears, She-Ra and He-Man, Transformers, Rainbow Brite, Thundercats and My Little Ponies. Well despite living so close to the beach growing up, we never went to the beach because I grew up thinking Asian people didn’t go to the beach. Because at the beach, you get dirty. And Asian people don’t get dirty. This is also why Asian people don’t go camping.

What what towel did I have? A boring white towel that probably had “Brookside Hospital” stamped on the end (this was the hospital I was born in and apparently I came home with extra white towels).

See, traumatized from swimming at such an early age already.

All I remember next was we got in the water and I just stood there bawling.

My mom never made us go swimming again.

Wilykit was my favorite Thundercat.

15 years later, I saw my first Ironman when I was 18 years old and decided I had to learn how to swim. I had to make the 2hr20min cut-off so I could be an Ironman too. Now fast forward another 10 years later and while some may say I still don’t know how to swim, my brother and sister still haven’t learned how to swim at all.

Anyway, I have been making good progress these last few weeks since I decided that there is a real swimmer inside of me that is ready to come out. I think secretly I had still been harboring a childhood fear of drowning, and when you swim really really really hard like you are supposed to, breathing is difficult and then I feel like I might drown.

Well Coach gave me two options: drown or get faster.

insanely awesome swim pic of the Wongstar from Snap-Attack!

I don’t want to drown.

So I have been chasing Zeke and Mike at Mac’s swimming pool three times a week since August and finally this week they can’t drop me any more! :D I am “mighty chuffed” as my friend The Bean would say and even have to tell the guys to stop slowing down. ;) They say maybe they are not getting slower, maybe I am just getting faster. I hope so. I can’t really tell. :)

I just emailed Becky May telling her “My arms feel f***ed all the time but I think that’s a good thing.” And even if I tell my mom on the phone that my arms are hurting, she has evolved into a Triathlon Superstar Mom and no longer says silly things like “oh Jo-jo, please don’t overdo it.” Now she says “Well, that’s what you have to do.”

Apparently every time she followed me on ironmanlive.com and saw my bad swim times, she would say to herself “It’s because the poor girl has no arm muscles. Her arms are getting too tired.” Oh, moms know best. ;) Ok, maybe she didn’t know best when I was 3 or 4 when she should’ve just said “stop crying and take swim lessons,” but she has since learned. Better late than never.

a random blog on leg shaving.

Monday, October 18th, 2010

(because I am randomly inspired to blog about random things.)

I think shaving my legs is fun, because I am easily entertained and like how shaving gel comes out a gel and then turns into a foam. Dude, if I were a guy I would totally have fun shaving my beard every day. Or not, because I’m Asian, maybe I wouldn’t even have to shave every day. Or at all. Ok, change that sentence back to “Dude, if I were a white guy…”

I wish I wasn’t so bad at it though. I always end up nicking myself. This may be user error or because I am a cheapo and buy the cheap 10-pack of disposable razors, generic brand. I learned early on in college I was bad at shaving my legs and my freshman year was totally suckered by an infomercial for Nad’s. You know, that green all-natural wax stuff? That was the first (and only) time I’ve ever called up an infomercial to place an order. Now you can buy it at Target or some other drug store/pharmacy. Or as the Aussies call it, “the chemist.” So Aussies, tell me, do you guys use Nads too? That’s part of their whole marketing thing, it was developed by Aussies and supposedly a big deal there…?

So yeah, my preferred method of hair removal would be waxing with Nad’s. I can actually get by just waxing once a month. Cuz I’m Asian and Asian people are not very hairy creatures. And I didn’t really bother with the whole hair removal thing until college because I’m Asian, and Asian people are not very hairy creatures. Wait, I said that already. My mom doesn’t even shave or wax her legs because she doesn’t have any hair on her legs. I’m serious. That’s why we never learned to do it growing up. Ok, I’m exaggerating. She has maybe 3 hairs on her left knee and 5 on her right.

I once won a $300 gift certificate for laser hair removal at a race expo that had a random drawing. Of course as I was filling it out I mumbled “oh I never win any of these things.” Then I won it. I was pretty excited and then of course pretty disappointed when I went to my first appointment and they told me I was not a candidate because I have a scarring problem with my skin. As anyone who has seen my left knee this year when I got that nasty “tiger bite,” I get keloid scars. (It’s like extra skin cells that make a scar thicker. Don’t Google it, you might get scared AND scarred. AHAHA.) But only on my knees and elbows. Which apparently is a contraindication for laser hair removal. ARGG!

Ok that’s your random blog for the week. I bet you thought this blog would be about what I think about guys shaving their legs.