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be careful what you wish for!

Monday, August 30th, 2010

We most definitely got the super hot day I had wanted. I killed myself on the swim, slaughtered myself on the bike, and reeled in 5 women on the run to get into the top 5 for a while…only I didn’t know this because the 5th place bike escort was with a fast age group woman. :(

Then I too succumbed to the heat and slipped down a spot with 4 miles to go. It was seriously like being on Survivor. My solid 8:20′s were slipping into 9′s then 10′s then 11′s and I was fantasizing about cold showers and walking…so I made a giant pit stop at an aid station, threw at least 10 cups of water over myself and threw down 5 or 6 Cokes. Somehow I came back to life and gutted out the rest of race to try and make back some time…absolutely left everything out there on the course. I was the crazy girl making obscene grunting noises because I was going so hard and refused to just give up and jog it in.  Quite honestly I could not have gone any faster. Effort-wise definitely one of my best (if not the best) and 6th pro is my best finish on home soil so super happy with my race. :) More details to come in the full-length race report…

Big thanks for all your support!

My Super Sweet 16: Ironman Lake Placid 2010

Friday, August 6th, 2010

My Super Sweet 16” is an MTV reality show where super spoiled teenagers have their rich parents throw them very lavish parties for their 16th birthdays. The climax of the show occurs during the fabulous party with the big “reveal” of the birthday gift of their dreams…a fancy schmancy car.  What always happens (SPOILER ALERT!!!): the brat starts to cry, not tears of joy, because the birthday car isn’t the brand new sparkly crazy expensive one they wanted–but haha! it’s always just a joke! The real gift is not that ugly POS station wagon!

somberly heading to the swim start

somberly heading to the swim start

Sweet 16 parties are very special occasions and require lots of birthday pictures. Photos courtesy of the Snare family, ASI Photos, and various Facebook and Twitter followers. Thanks!

me and the eventual champion hanging out before the swim start

me and the eventual champion hanging out before the swim start

Well, I don’t remember my 16th birthday party at all, and I never got a car until after I finished college. It was a POS but I loved it because it worked, it was red (so I could find it easily in a parking lot), and it could easily fit my bike and training gear! Fond early birthday memories always involved Mom baking her special cupcakes. The strawberry ones made from Betty Crocker cake mix…I used to think that baking simply involved picking a box at the grocery store.

So no birthdays really stand out to me, but here in Lake Placid I knew that this would be my Super Sweet 16, or as MTV describes it, “a wild ride behind the scenes for all the drama, surprises and over-the-top fun as teens prepare for their most important coming-of-age celebrations… ”

hesitation?  nahhh

hesitation? nahhh

Yes, this would be the race where I would “come of age” as a pro triathlete. My first pro race was about a year ago in Korea, at the Jeju iron-distance race formerly known as Ironman Korea. Of course I learned in Spokane that baseball players in Major League Baseball are considered rookies for the first 5 years of their career, which is a concept I rather like.

Over-the-top fun and drama included the swim being non-wetsuit for the pros, I think for the first time in a while (if ever?), as it was officially 74*F with the cut-off being 72*F for us. This was actually a very comfortable temperature without a wetsuit and I was happy to just have my one hot pink cap and my blueseventy pointzero3+. After going over 1:20 at the swim in CDA, I was back on the old regime of swimming until you can’t lift your arms up for several solid weeks, and mentally I was ready to be much more aggressive.

the water is nice and warm!  armed with blueseventy speedsuit, goggles, and race kit.

the water is nice and warm! armed with blueseventy speedsuit, goggles, and race kit.

When the gun went off, I swam like hell and stayed in a group that actually included 2 orange caps–yeah, pro GUYS. I swam-swam-swam, staying on feet, until I looked up and realized that these feet were not staying with the feet in front of her. I actually surged and made a valiant attempt to bridge the gap, but couldn’t do so. Eventually me and the other pink swam together that first lap and exited in 35 minutes, pretty good for no wetsuit, and then as we jumped in, an orange cap cruised by and I jumped on his feet. Of course I was confused as how I could be swimming faster than a pro guy (in a race not in Asia–HAHA!), but stranger things have happened (not many). MTV mentioned surprises for a Super Sweet 16, right?? :)

The meager 10-minute headstart we got on the age groupers soon reared its ugly head in the form of hundreds and hundreds of wetsuit-clad swimmers thrashing and clobbering their way through the water. I am a positive thinker, and try to think of this as getting a giant draft benefit on the second lap, but honestly it gets difficult to not get beat up, swallow water, and panic. I did my best Belinda Granger impression and every now and then tried to grab people’s legs to pull me along; nobody said that was against the rules. It’s just stationary objects you can’t propel yourself with.

not such a bad swim!  for non-wetsuit!

not such a bad swim! for non-wetsuit!

So much for the “draft benefit;” I came out in 1:13 and the clock ticked over to 1:14 as I scrambled over the timing mat. Let’s subtract 5 minutes for the non-wetsuit swim and I’m pretty pleased with that swim time. Plus I totally kicked the @$$ of the pro guy that swam a 1:17. I did the long hustle from the lake to the oval and change tents (you actually have to cross a couple streets–that is why T1 splits are so slow) and the tent was packed when I got in. But that was ok. Sometimes if you have too many volunteers, they will do things like put the entire Hello Pandas in your back pockets with the cardboard boxes, and as much as they want to try and help put on your super tight compression socks, they really can’t. (That said I love the volunteers and always try to thank them for helping!)

After having mechanical issues at Ironman CDA, riding much slower than I feel I can, and subsequently getting yelled at by Coach for training like a soft-cock age grouper, I was hell-bent on proving my mettle as a GUN BIKER. I think that’s an Aussie phrase I picked up from meeting “Pantani” at St. George. Nobody really says it here but I like how it sounds. Like I am using my bike to shoot bullets at the skinny b*tches that can swim faster than me. The fat ones too.

heading out to crush the skinny swimmer girls

heading out to crush the skinny swimmer girls

I was in a great mood heading out on the bike and heeded the 2009 champion’s warnings to play my conservative cards on the first lap. It is always awesome to be teammates with someone who has won the race before and to get the inside scoop–thank you T-Mac for the advice! I had pre-ridden the course earlier in the week and became a bit of a cocky snot. It was really not as hilly as everyone said. It seemed that the first 80% of the course was either downhill or flat, and the “three bears” hills at the end of the loop were not very big.

Of course the perception of hills is a different matter when you are biking as hard as you can for 112 miles. It is definitely a challenging course to be respected, but it is still no EmbrunMan or St. George. I smashed the downhills like a woman posessed, and figured I would use my hefty size to catch the scrawny skinny girls who outswam me. More weight = faster downhill. There was no coasting on the pedals (unless of course, I was trying to do Superstar Step #12); coasting is for lazy pansies. And yes I really did think “Take that, you skinny bizotches!” while barreling down the hills. “I am a GUN BIKER!”

I saw what times the pro girls biked in previous years and decided that going under 5:30 was a very feasible goal. T-Mac had told me practically everybody slows down by 10mins or more during the second loop, when the hills come and bite you in the arse, so my plan was to even-split the ride as best as I could. Because as a nerdy smarty-pants girl, it is good to use the brain as much as you can to beat people that should otherwise be faster than you. So I was patient when the age groupers flocked by, at the guys who refused to get passed by a girl, and just kept a steady grinding clip, holding back and playing the patient game. I was pleasantly surprised to approach the 3 Bears (Mama Bear, Baby Bear, and Papa Bear) so soon, signally that we were just a few miles from transition.

***random fact: In Kindergarten our class put on a play/musical, Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Our Goldilocks was actually a black girl, they did not make her wear a blonde wig, and Papa Bear was black, but I believe that Mama and Baby Bear were both white girls. I was a Flower, but I really wanted to be a Bunny. There were also Frogs and Bumblebees. My parents have a copy of this on VHS somewhere and even though it was 23 years ago, I can still sing all the songs. I may have even sang some of these songs in my head during the race. end random fact***

I crossed the first lap in about 2:41:30 and was thrilled. It was onto the second lap and I hammered down the big hills again. At this point, I also filled my aero drink bottle with a Starbucks VIA (the iced coffee powder you can mix with water) to get a caffeine-boosting adrenaline sandwich. Mom never let us drink coffee in our youth (the days before tweens had access to Starbucks on every corner) because she said it would stunt our growth, so I have her to thank for my magnificent height and caffeine sensitivity. Unfortunately on one of these big descents, my sneaky #3 bag of Hello Pandas crept out of my back pocket and decided to go kamikaze into the pavement. My mouth bleeped out something my mother would disapprove of, though it did begin with “mother,” but I was going too fast to stop and pick up those 320 calories of chocolate-filled goodness.

I am one aerodynamic machine.

I am one aerodynamic machine.

Instead I focused on going steady and not slowing down. I actually caught four pro women and was in a spectacular mood. “I am a GUN BIKER!!!” Yes, Coach’s Plan B was working excellently. See, Plan A was to get me under an hour in the swim, and we see how well that is going. Plan B is “Bike and run so fast that nobody will care how slow you swim.”

When I hit the 100-mile mark, I realized I was actually going even a little faster than I did on the first lap (I had done a watch check here on lap 1 and both were under 2 hours). “Haha!” I thought. “I’m going to prove T-Mac wrong! I will be the exception to the rule. I will not slow down the second lap!”

Then a few miles further along, my legs turned into bricks, I started hoping that every mild incline was “Mama Bear,” and grinded my way through the final miles. I managed to only slow down by 5 minutes on that second lap, so pretty happy I didn’t slow down as much as most people. :)

My bike split was a 5:28 and as my dad pointed out to me, back under 5:30 for the first time this season since IM Malaysia, and on a tougher course to boot! I’m very happy with that, especially after seeing it was the 5th fastest pro bike split and just a couple minutes slower than the other top bikers outside of Amy, who obliterated all of us on the bike.

whats Ironman without a happy face?

what's Ironman without a happy face?

My legs felt shot as I hopped off the bike at the dismount line, but that’s normal. “Running legs are different than the biking legs…running legs are different than the biking legs…” I kept repeating to myself. Whether or not that is true, you should always think positively! Sure enough I clipped off at about 7:30/mile pace. Of course the first few miles are downhill. I started to run down my old friend April from Atlanta (we both competed in the same age group when we were in college/grad school there) and at the same time Charisa, another newbie pro from San Diego, was running me down.

chug chug chug

chug chug chug

Yeah, so I passed April to get into 8th position, then Charisa passed me so I was back into 9th. This actually hasn’t ever happened to me before. Prior to CDA, Mike in Spokane had asked me if I ever got caught on the marathon in an Ironman (as a pro). Upon reflection, I realized I hadn’t. Of course, this is because I am usually soooo far behind that there is nobody to catch me, and the ones that can run faster than me also swim and bike faster too! Even though I was still further back in the pro field, this is probably the first time I’ve raced in the USA where I feel somewhat “in the mix.” (Don’t laugh; I said somewhat.)

trotting downhill

smashing downhill. this is why they call me "Quadzilla"!!

By the ski jumps, I passed by Ben’s family, who yelled out “Go Starbucks Frappuccino!!” They were tickled when they learned what’s really inside my Camelbak. Ben was doing great in his first Ironman and I would see him a mile or two behind me at every turnaround.

orange mocha frappuccino!!

the view as I pass you

Going up the hill back into town hurt, but the huge wall of spectators packed around the sidelines in town were amazing. I couldn’t help but flash my superstar smile through the crowds (I know, I’m such a cheese) which prompting even more cheering and thus more superstar-smiling. Those miles definitely went by the quickest!

Somewhere during the second lap I felt like I was bonking, but in retrospect I think it was mentally self-imposed. I had finally officially met Scott’s old coach and very good friend, Brian Shea of Personal Best Nutrition, on race morning and he was out on the course cheering for his athletes. He yelled at me something about being PacMan. Gobble gobble gobble, chase chase chase. I know this game well. I started closing in on my fellow pro chicks but it wasn’t something I’m used to. Later Coach would say that for the first time I felt the pressure of actual competition. I kept thinking about the 300+ calories of Hello Pandas I had dropped on the bike and practically convinced myself I was bonking. I started stopping at aid stations to throw down Coke and bananas.

When I looked at my mile splits later, I really wasn’t doing so bad. But I was hurting and felt like I was just trudging along, wanted it to be over, STAT! I got some inspiration in the form of my friend Jeff Glasbrenner, who I had seen during the run at St. George and met in Coeur d’Alene on race morning. It turns out that I am not the only crazy one who is racing every Ironman on the USA circuit this year.

sweet running leg.  Go Jeff go!

sweet running leg. Go Jeff go!

Yeah, Jeff is doing all 7 of them too…PLUS Cozumel. On one leg. Well, one real leg and one prosthetic leg. He lost his right leg below the knee when he was 8 years old, but went on to the Paralympics for wheelchair basketball (AKA Murderball!) and now does Ironmans. Since this year will be the 30th anniversary of losing his leg, he is doing 8 Ironmans in 8 months!

So when I saw him running on my second lap, we exchanged smiles and cheers and I picked up the pace for the out-and-back along River Road so I could chat with him again soon. Honestly, it is hard to complain about feeling like crap on the run when you don’t have to worry about sweat and blisters in the prosthetic leg you don’t have to run with. Unfortunately I later learned that Jeff’s liner (the part that goes around his residual limb to attach to the prosthesis) ripped with 6 miles to go…tough luck…but he still made it to the finish line. Congrats again Jeff and see you in Louisville!

chug chug chug back up the hill

chug chug chug back up the hill

Back up the hill and one more little out-and-back along Mirror Lake before I hit the oval. By now it was very packed with other athletes running their first lap on one side of the road, and some still finishing up the bike portion on the other side. All I could think was “I just want to be done!” And at last, finally I was one of the few athletes that got to turn into the oval with the brilliant “FINISH THIS WAY” sign, instead of the “SECOND LAP THIS WAY” sign.

Since it was my first time racing in Lake Placid, I really appreciated soaking up the finish chute going along the outdoor speedskating oval. Smiles and high-fives for everybody!

I cant help smiling when they yell for like Im a superstar or something.

I can't help smiling when they yell for me like I'm a superstar or something.

In the end, I was 9th pro woman at Lake Placid. Great to be in the top 10 again and probably my best race on home soil so far. So I am happy that my upward trend of improvement continues, with more room to get faster and more to learn and grow from.

As always, a ginormously huge thanks to all my sponsors and supporters for allowing me to keep chasing the dream: to become the best athlete I can be, achieve fame and triathlon superstardom, make a difference in the world, and write a book telling you how it’s done. ;)

The Bike Boutique, teamTBB, Alex and Brett for picking me up as a mediocre nobody age grouper and transforming me to the work-in-progress rookie pro I am today.

Cervelo for my P3, White Tiger. Avia Running for the Avi-Rhythm running shoes. Blueseventy for the sweet swim gear. 3T, Token, Louis Garneau, and ISM saddles for the bike components.

Mark Cathcart for being my travel sponsor and advisor of all things related to travel (with bonus relationship advice thrown in now and again).

Haamonii Smooth Shochu for all the bottles of post-race rehydration and fulfilling my dream of having my very own liquor sponsor as a pro triathlete.

The Snare family for very generously hosting me in the cabin at Lake Placid worthy of an MTV Cribs TV show.

Mom and Dad for the love and support, the Costco credit card, the occasional emergency funds deposits, watching Guinness the dog, and of course the genes that will someday get credit for my currently untapped speed/endurance/whatnot.

yippeee I am almost done!

yippeee I am almost done! and my arm looks kind of ripped!!

Last but not least…YOU!!! The fans! Thanks to all of you who have ever cheered for me, sent me fanmail or sent me hatemail (a true superstar receives and embraces hatemail), Googled me, read my blog, Tweeted me, “became a fan” on Facebook, disparaged me and/or defended me on various internet forums (I have been known to turn haters into fans), tracked me online and the like. There are always the days where you wonder if this is all worth it, but I continue to be encouraged from your support (and even more encouraged by the anti-support) and want to give you my heartfelt thanks. It really makes a difference to me!

Anyway thanks all for helping me have a Super Sweet 16! Next up is 17 in Louisville (when you are old enough to read Seventeen magazine) and quickly followed by 18 in Wisconsin–when you can vote, buy cigarettes and porn, and alcohol in non-American countries. I don’t know how many more of these Ironman birthdays it will take to hit the big time, but I am definitely enjoying the journey every step of the way! ;)

Lake Placid post-race check-in

Monday, July 26th, 2010
this was a grimace/smile hybrid charging up the hill while finishing the first loop of the run.  (courtesy of Sebastian from SLS3)

this was a grimace/smile hybrid charging up the hill while finishing the first loop of the run. (courtesy of Sebastian from SLS3)

Hey Wongstar fans,

It usually takes me a little longer to do my official race report so I thought I would do a brief check-in with some before & after pictures. Today after awards me and Ben are going to ride the bobsleds (!!!), then I am going to NYC for a couple days to meet up with my good friend Carolina to chill and relax before heading to Delaware for some solid training at the new TBB USA headquarters. I’m taking the choo-choo train into NYC from here, so that’s a nice 7-hour journey and will give me a chance to write up my RR.

waiting for the school bus

waiting for the school bus at 5am

Here’s me and Ben on race morning waiting for the shuttle. Yes, I’m in my jammies as I’ve only packed 3 pairs of pants for the summer tour. 2 pairs of jeans and my PJ’s.

The race itself I am happy with overall. They didn’t let pros swim with wetsuits and I came out in 1:13, crossed the mat in 1:14. Not too bad for no wetsuit and faster than most of my wetsuit swims this year! I was very happy with my bike ride after having mechanical issues in CDA and felt it was more reflective of my bike fitness. I bonked on the run but was able to smile through a lot of the marathon with so many spectators yelling for me. Like the guys in the speedos:

I think the guy with the star was pointing at it while cheering for me.  Its like a superstar speedo.

I think the guy with the star was pointing at it while cheering for me. It's like a superstar speedo.

Helped trick my body into thinking I wasn’t hurting so much! But I was actually for the most part very happy during the race and afterwards. Even though it’s painful, racing an Ironman is still one of my favorite things to do ever!  It is funny that just last August, not even 12 months ago, I was over the moon going 3:33 at Embrunman.  I went 3:33 yesterday and I thought my run sucked monkey balls.

Of course it was great seeing Amy on the course tearing it up with the lead bike on the run, so far ahead of the rest of the girls. Go teamTBB!

with the champ after her pee test

with the champ after her pee test

I also bumped into the famous Shingo Tani when he blew by me in the marathon. Unfortunately he got 2 flats on the bike so I was confused why he was behind me to begin with on the run. He says to tell Hiro and Maki hello! He also told me I got skinnier. I knew I always liked him.

one of my favorite Japanese guys, other than Hiro and Maki ^_~

one of my favorite Japanese guys, other than Hiro and Maki ^_~

Ben had a great race and broke 11 hours in his first Ironman! He was one of the 1,000 wetsuit-clad age groupers that passed me during the swim but somewhere on the bike I passed him back and it was great seeing him during the marathon at every turnaround.

Ben Snare, you are an Ironman!!!

Benjamin Snare, you are an Ironman!!!

Finishing an Ironman is the best feeling ever! Lake Placid was my “Super Sweet Sixteen”–my 16th Ironman finish and 5th one this year. The longer version to come, in the meantime thanks for all your support, I love you all! :)

Lessons of a Future Superstar: IM CDA 2010

Monday, July 12th, 2010

Well, Coeur d’Alene was not a spectacular race for me–I wouldn’t go as far as to say it was a bad race, because like all races it was a great learning experience. So what do you do after a not-so-spectacular race? You learn from your mistakes and move on to the next race. I guess for me, the moving on part is really complete after I write up my race report.

So I learned during the bike that I actually have hot male fans who are my age. One of them told me that the highlight of his week is reading my blog. So sorry, random hottie for not posting anything for 2 weeks now. I am sure it was a sad 2 weeks for you. I’ve been stuck in blogger purgatory because I refuse to write a new blog until I’ve done the race report…and it’s always hard writing up a race that wasn’t so great. More fun to write about, say, online dating shenanigans.

Since I’m not too motivated to go over every blow-by-blow per usual, instead you are getting the “concise” version of everything the Wongstar learned during Ironman CDA. If you are easily offended by references to #1 and #2 you can skip this one. (If you are clueless, go on Urban Dictionary.)

ready set go pros!

ready set go pros!

The swim:

I learned that a 35-minute headstart on the age groupers was not enough for me. It was pretty devastating to come out from my first lap and see that the age groupers had already gone off.

I learned that my swim fitness has gone kaput and the swim experiment of the last 4 months hasn’t been working. So now back to doing whatever got me down to a 1:05 last year…because a 1:22 is just WRONG. I know I have it in me to go faster.

at least I look good in my blueseventy Axis?

at least I look good in my blueseventy Axis?

In T1:

I learned that I had a Wongstar fan volunteering in the change tent, she was awesome, thank you. :D

I also learned you get the whole tent to yourself when you are a slow pro swimmer with a 35-minute headstart on the amateurs.

ironically some people yelled great swim! because 47mins would be SMOKIN for an age grouper!

ironically some people yelled "great swim!" because 47mins would be SMOKIN' for an age grouper!

On the bike…

I learned that there are hot boys my age who are Wongstar fans. Wait I said that already. ;)

maybe Hello Pandas in the back pockets arent so aero but bonking is even worse.

maybe Hello Pandas in the back pockets aren't so aero but bonking is even worse.

I learned that if you are biking so slow that it feels like the brakes are on…you might want to check your brakes.

Yep, 4.5 hours into the ride I learned that my rear brake was rubbing. I had diligently checked them on race morning and I think the whole rear caliper was side-shifted when I hit a bump on the bike. I wasn’t sure why I was going slower than I had expected (first loop took 2:50) and it finally started squeaking as I trudged up a hill around mile 80. ARGHHHH

Unfortunately the way the rear calipers are set up on the P3 required me to remove the whole thing to fine-tune the adjustment. Sooo…I had to hang out on the side of the road and get that adjusted. On one hand, I was somewhat relieved there was an explanation on why I was going so slow…on the other hand I was so far behind the other pro women by that point.

Well, I learned the hard way to make sure all my bolts are tightened before a race–even if things seem like they are lined up okay, they might be loose.

going nowhere fast--check your brakes!

going nowhere fast--check your brakes!

One of the big highlights of my day: I learned how to do a #1 on the bike for the first (and second!!) time ever!!!

I am so proud of that moment that it deserves to be a superstar step…I felt so “pro.” Yep, How to Become An International Triathlon Superstar, Step #12: Learn to “go” on the bike.

I am sure many of you are surprised I have never done this before…I mean, even age groupers do this all the time. But you see, as an overachiever since birth, I was potty-trained at an extremely early age–before I turned a year old. Google tells me that the average age of potty training for girls is 2 to 3 years. Slackers. So it’s been hard for me to reverse 27 years of self-control and mentally allowing myself to just let go while biking (or running, and heck even going in my wetsuit took a while). We all remember the shame of having “an accident” at preschool or kindergarten. I tend to get stage fright with people around me too.

If you are wondering how, because you haven’t, and of course you want to be a superstar too: it was easier when going downhill. Stand up on the pedals and relax. You won’t splash the bike bottle on your downtube thanks to Newton’s First Law of Motion.

no, I wasnt going in this picture.

no, I wasn't "going" in this picture.

In T2:

I learned not to panic about how far behind I was. I was freaking out and rushing through and asking the volunteers “How far behind am I?!?!” and my Wongstar fan/change tent volunteer told me not to worry about it and that I was doing great. That was a total lie, but whoever you are, thank you for the kind words and support. It did mean a lot to me and I’m sorry I didn’t get to thank you in person as I was pretty frazzled. :)

I learned that Wongstar fans will still love you and root for you no matter how far behind you are starting the marathon–this proved to be true during most of the run. Thank you for everyone that cheered for me. It is pretty cool when people you don’t know yell “Go Jocelyn!” when your bib number says “Wongstar.” So like I always say, obviously I am the most recognizable pro out there. :)

Onto the run:

I learned that I can run 7:40/mile pace and feel under control.

holding steady for the marathon

holding steady for the marathon

I learned that I should really race in a 2-piece outfit because as much as I love my one-piece race kit, like T-Mac once asked me “but what happens if you have to use the washroom?” (That’s Canadian-speak for taking a #2.)

Yes, after a great first half-marathon, I learned that having the urge to drop off the kids at the pool is very uncomfortable for 13 miles.

the dont crap yourself face

the "don't crap yourself" face

I learned (in hindsight) it is probably better to stop and spend some time in the “washroom” instead of slowing down to avoid soiling yourself. Dropping the kids off at home was never an option because that is House Rule #1 for staying with the Lee’s. (I told them the only exception should be if I was winning the race but Susan says no exceptions.) I was wearing my one-piece though with the Camelbak strapped on and it didn’t occur to me that stopping to lose a pound or two would make me go faster.

I learned that I can have a not-spectacular run and still break 3.5 hours in the marathon. So, that is definitely PROGRESS!

I learned that no matter how far behind I am hitting T2, I can mentally pull myself together and focus on running a strong marathon as a great training session. I will never drop out of a race just because I am lightyears from winning prize money and many more lightyears from winning the race.

I learned that even with a mechanical on the bike and slowing down significantly on the second half of my run, I still almost managed to run myself up to top 10 in the pro ranks. Maybe given another mile or two…for my efforts I ended up in 12th. I never actually caught anyone but 5 women dropped out. So uh, technically I beat them. ;)

I learned that no matter what, running through the finish chute of an Ironman is still one of the BEST feelings ever:

YouTube Preview Image

Post-race:

I learned that these random hot boys my age are probably a figment of my imagination as they seem to disappear post-race, probably to the comfort of their girlfriends and wives who are playing sherpa for them (vomit!).

a smile for the finish, 5 seconds before the Christmas tree allergies kicked in.

a smile for the finish, 5 seconds before the Christmas tree allergies kicked in.

I shall live to fight another day.

Thank you to all my sponsors for your continued support!

the Wongstar vs. St. George

Friday, May 14th, 2010

The water was cold.  My race report could end right there, but then why did it take me so long to post it…  How about “the water was cold and I made the fatal mistake of getting in too late” ?  Hmm, ok I suppose I owe you more… :)

I used to like cold water. This one time, when I lived in Atlanta, I won a New Year’s Day polar bear swim. The water was 45*F and of course we didn’t wear wetsuits. I stayed in the longest. I used to prefer swimming in colder water. Then again, I also used to have at least 15 more pounds of fat on me and thus a thicker layer of insulation.  And didn’t train for 2.5 months in Thailand where the swimming pool temperature regular exceeded the air temperature, the air being 95*F or hotter. I should’ve known something was amiss when I went home and the pool I usually considered uncomfortable warm (at 84*F) felt chilly.

I tried to load up on ice cream and get some insulation back during race week, but it was too late. What was also too late was how late I finally got into the water at Sand Hollow Reservoir on race morning. I made some rookie mistakes, waiting too long in the porta-potty lines before finally asking if I could please cut in front–I am a very important pro person and have to be in the water REALLY SOON!! Then running all the way to the other side of transition to drop off the “morning clothes” bag instead of just handing it to a nice volunteer by the swim start. Well, I am still a rookie pro and learning these little tricks now.

I finally got in rather hesitantly, swam over to the start buoys for a 2-minute warm-up and then the cannon went off. Getting in too late was probably the dumbest thing I did all day, because as soon as I started swimming as hard as I could, I found myself hyperventilating like crazy in the 55*F water. I had to calm myself down as I watched the slow 1:07 pack of pro women I should’ve been able to swim with get away. I couldn’t really feel my feet and hands, but I kept going at it and just tried to get through the 2.4 miles solo. It didn’t help that I had Coach’s voice in my head “If I can’t teach you to swim, then you’re going to have to retire.”

my 2nd favorite part of the whole race, finishing the swim

my 2nd favorite part of the whole race, finishing the swim

As usual I was very happy to get out and realized that from my frozen calves down it was hard to stand and run. A 1:17 swim, not fantastic at all. The hardest part about swimming so slow isn’t the time deficit from the leaders, but to mentally shake it off and not let it affect the next 9+ hours of your day… Easier said than done. It took me over 8 minutes in transition and then some time on my bike, maybe the entire bike to shake it off. I wish I could tell you I was taking a hot shower and drinking hot chocolate while I was in the transition tent because you can sure do a lot in 8 minutes, like run a mile. Heck, run a beer mile. I remember sneezing no less than 4 times and changing into some dry clothes, getting on arm warmers and a vest and socks, and wondering why my fingers weren’t working even though I had 2 volunteers helping me get dressed.

Then again those 8 agonizing minutes I was fighting for a reason to keep going. My brain and body felt frozen; an icicle had pierced my spirit and motivation. You swim a 1:17 and there’s a good chance you won’t finish within 8% of the winner…you know, that prize money cut-off.  I was wondering the same thing the online cynics would soon say…”why is she even a pro?”  But Coach said from the beginning not to think about prize money until you can get your swim under an hour. And anything can happen. HTFU and get on your bike!

ok, ok, Im going...!

ok, ok, I'm going...!

The bike was a hilly course, not mountainous like Embrunman, but I was well aware it might take me up to 6 hours to ride the course. (The EmbrunMan bike course was at least 5 miles longer and took me almost 7.5 hours.) I had a little mechanical trouble with my cassette skipping a bit when I was in the small chainring, so I ended up bike monstering, i.e. climbing more in the big gear, than I intended to.

wardrobe changes, like Britney Spears in concert

warming up on the bike

The new Token race wheels were pretty slick though and I really flew down the hills. The nice thing about a hilly race is that half of it is downhill, right? I had some fellow competitors I biked by on the downhills ask after the race how I went down so fast…wasn’t I scared?

Thanks Token!  Love the race wheels :D

Thanks Token! Love the race wheels :D

Well, not on straight downhills (technical twisty roads are a different story), and I just don’t look at my bike computer at how fast I’m going. Better not to know ;) I also think it is key to be really comfortable on your bike–me and White Tiger, my Cervelo P3, are like two peas in a pod. Or a pea in a pod. Or something like that.

wardrobe change!

wardrobe change!

Not really much else I have to say about the bike…it was tough…it was slow…for the first time in over two years, I didn’t quite break 6 hours (6:02). I actually thought I was biking terribly until I saw the bike splits for the other women out there. So I go into transition #2 thinking I had an awful swim AND a crappy bike…

White Tiger hanging out after 6 hours of hard work!

White Tiger hanging out after 6 hours of hard work!

As far as I knew, I had only passed one pro woman during the bike. There were 19 on the start list, so I figured I was 18th at the worst, maybe 15th if a few hadn’t shown up.  UGH.

But when all else fails, it’s still a triathlon with one event left to go–the marathon. I’d been running really well at training camp and I do love me a good hilly run course. As Coach always says, “Ironman is not about fast, Ironman is about STRONG.” I’ve got strong legs (which will someday become BIKE MONSTER LEGS) and can hammer downhills like no tomorrow; uphills I don’t seem to notice as much as others. The run course at St. George was the hilliest marathon I’d ever done–straight up or down the whole way, nothing flat at all.

running alone before the masses join in during lap #2

running alone before the masses join in during lap #2

When I put on my running shoes, I was able to finally clear my head of the previous two events and started focusing on running a great marathon. Somewhere inside me I still held onto the hope that I could run down some girls. The first four miles I was counting the pro women coming the opposite way (the course is two loops out-and-back) but got discouraged when I realized that 6th and 7th (Kate and Miranda) were at least 5 miles in front of me. After I counted 11 pro women that were still in front of me, I stopped counting. Top ten was probably out of reach and I didn’t want to get further discouraged.

So I stopped thinking about what place I was in and just focused on myself. I liked how the course was laid out, and the fact that I got to see my sister, Dave, homestay Jenifer and her family at the mile 4 aid station right about halfway on the course. So every 3 to 4 miles I always had something to look forward to: the beginning of the course (start, finish, and halfway point), the middle of the course (my favorite aid station and favorite cheerleaders), and the end of the course (the turnaround).

walk this way!

walk this way!

My sister was handing out sponges, which I found really funny because it wasn’t hot at all. I only ever took a sponge from her, because I felt obligated to. :) I was very happy with how I ran this marathon; I really pushed myself the entire way and made myself hurt more than I ever have. Scottie told me he was laughing at me during the race because for once I was not very smiley and he was.

not such a smiley Wongstar

not such a smiley Wongstar

The course was no joke, but half of it was downhill. Including the last 3 miles going into the finish, which I ticked off at sub-7 pace. I was even running with pro guy #8 on my first lap (he was on his 2nd lap, obviously).

My new favorite Camelbak!

My new favorite Camelbak!

When I got to the finish chute, I was ecstatic. I didn’t know what place I was in, but felt happy with my performance. I remember Cam Watt had told me last year, that the thing about having the run as the last event is that you can have a bad swim and bad bike, but if you run great, you feel you had a great race. But if you have a great swim and great bike, then run like crap, you feel like it was a bad race.

YAY!

YAY!

As usual, I didn’t know what place I got until I was on the phone with Mom & Dad, who were tracking me online. Somehow I ended up in 8th place for the pro division…so somewhere along the way I passed other pro women without noticing. 8th pro is my best finish on a race on home soil, so I’m very proud of that despite the slow finishing time.

As for why this race report has taken so long, I guess I’ve done a lot of thinking and re-evaluating about how this race went for me. At first I thought I did terrible, then I wasn’t sure, then I was confused, but in the end I am happy with it. Not satisfied, but happy with it, because it is progress and I have learned from it and grown stronger from it.

In this race, I found myself getting a little cocky. I got a bit irritated with myself because there were age group women racing right next to me. I had a 15-minute head start and couldn’t help thinking “I’m a PRO! There should not be age groupers around me! What is wrong with me?!”

In times like these, I need to remind myself of the great wise words of Mufasa, “Remember who you are.” I was never one of the top age groupers in any Ironman I’d ever done prior to “going pro.” It’s almost like I skipped a step. Only about 12 months ago did I bust my butt to barely qualify for my pro license, going 4:51 at the Florida 70.3 and finishing as 2nd amateur. I was not very fast at all before getting on teamTBB. Sure I’d won my age group as small races here and there, but I’d never qualified for Kona, and I was never an athlete that people would talk about and think “Oh yeah, you’re so fast you should definitely go pro.”

I’ve never been “All-American” in the USA Triathlon Rankings (I think it’s the top 5% of the age group each year). I would have probably gotten it last year if I did one more race as an amateur, but I was tired of paying for entry fees and the goal was never to become a great age grouper.

So I took the pro license and crossed that imaginary line to see if I would have what it takes to make it as a professional triathlete, knowing that it will take years to improve and become a champion, not weeks or months. Yes, I realize that 3 age group women finished in front of me, time-wise. Of course there is the argument that it is a different race, and they didn’t have to swim all by themselves, but even without that, I have come to realize…this is a step of my athletic career that I have to go through. Like I said, I have never been one of the fastest age groupers, and you don’t just skip from becoming a mediocre age grouper to suddenly getting podiums in the pro field. Coach has always talked about how it is like building a house. You start from the foundation and build one floor at a time. You can’t skip a floor or the whole house comes crashing down.

A year ago I was running 3:55 marathons off the bike and it was absolutely spectacular for me. In Malaysia this February I ran a 3:37 in extremely hot and humid conditions, and then a 3:34 on the super hilly St. George course. In the last year I would have qualified for Kona 5 times over if I hadn’t relinquished my amateur status. I still have non-triathlete friends from college and grad school who knew me when all I wanted to do was qualify for Kona, and they have asked “Well why can’t you just go back to an age grouper and get your Hawaii slot?”

Because I don’t want to go back to being an age grouper.  I have no regrets going this route and despite how tough it is, I am having the best time of my life chasing this dream. I will take my chances here in the pro ranks, going up against the big girls, fighting my way to the top, slowly…but surely. I might be swimming terribly now, and getting beat by a couple amateurs here and there, and not making the prize money cut-offs, but day by day, race by race, I continue to improve.

Ironman St. George was another step up the ladder, and so, I am happy with it.

How to become an international triathlon superstar, step #9: Remember who you are, and remember where you came from. Stay grounded on the path to superstardom.

another superstar essential: cheesy grin

another superstar essential: cheesy grin

(Yes, I really did just quote the Lion King.)

Thank you to all my sponsors for helping me to pursue my dream, especially while I am not yet fast enough to be making any prize money this year: teamTBB and the Bike Boutique, Cervelo, AVIA, Mark Cathcart and Haamonii Smooth Shochu.

Thanks to our gear suppliers: BlueSeventy wetsuits, Token Wheels, ISM Saddles, Louis Garneau & 3T.  Special thanks to Camelbak as well for sending me a new one just in time for the race!

Thank you to my family, especially Mom and Dad Wongstar for their support at home when I’m not at training camp, and my sister (the WongSiSTAR!!) for coming to see me race Ironman for the first time!

And a really huge thanks to my homestay, Jenifer Harris in St. George!! Thank you for EVERYTHING and incorporating me as part of the family for an entire week. It was my first time staying at a homestay and you truly made me feel like…I was at home. Guess that’s why they call it a homestay. ;)

best homestay ever!

best homestay ever!

the true #1 Wongstar fans…

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010
introducing the WongSiSTAR

introducing the WongSiSTAR

Ironman St. George was a very special experience for me as it was my 14th Ironman and my second one as a pro racing on home soil, but most importantly of all, the first time my older sister Natalie had ever come to watch me race.

She is the one that encouraged me to start an official fan club.

She is the one that encouraged me to start an official fan club.

She had seen me do a couple half ironmans before (or I guess they call them “70.3″‘s now) but we all know that Ironman is completely different. It’s a long day out there for both racers and spectators! :)

the cowboys head to Utah

the cowboys head to Utah

She drove from L.A. to Las Vegas, where she picked up her good friend Dave. They would drive to St. George on race morning and both of them would be volunteering at Jenifer’s run aid station at mile 4.

remember these guys at mile 4?

remember these guys at mile 4?

Now a number of guys have thrown themselves at me proclaiming to be my #1 fan, but until any of them show up at one of my Ironman races just to cheer me on and do as well of a job as Nat and Dave, it’s my sister who is holding on to the #1 spot!

all you need is love!

all you need is love!

Aid station #4 had a country western theme and my sister loves a good theme party. Apparently a lot of the Ironman racers appreciated her outfit too.

We later find out that our very own Scottie had been hitting on my sister DURING the race and commenting on how much he liked her cowboy boots…without realizing that she was none other than the “WongSiSTAR”!!

Brigham Young?  also a fan.

Brigham Young? also a fan.

Anyone that followed my Twitter account during the race probably enjoyed her hilarious tweets. One of my followers dubbed her the “WongSiSTAR”.

with my favorite fans post-race

with my favorite fans post-race

Well the good news is that she is indeed hot and single, and also writes a great blog. Looking good, being funny, and writing well runs in the family. You can find her blog at Stuff Single Girls Like, which is kind of a spin-off on the blog Stuff White People Like.

posing with signs in between swallows of post-race pizza

posing with signs in between swallows of post-race pizza

I love myself, too!

I love myself, too!

Right now I’m hanging out in Vegas with Scottie and his sister Heather to enjoy life for a few days post-race. My race report is in process…I am pretty happy with how I did, 8th pro is my best finish on U.S. soil and it was a very tough, slow course. After the bike, I didn’t even think I could crack top 10 and don’t remember passing anyone, but apparently I did.

on the phone with Mom to check my results.  had no idea I got top 10!

on the phone with Mom to check my results. had no idea I got top 10!

Seeing Nat and Dave at about the mid-way point on each run loop (four times) really boosted my spirits, so special thanks and much love to the both of you! :D

HTFU Wongstar!!  its like Coach on a sign!

"HTFU Wongstar!!" it's like Coach on a sign!

a bad day in China… is all relative

Friday, March 19th, 2010
and I thought I was having a bad day.

and I thought I was having a bad day.

This wasn’t quite how I envisioned my third attempt at Ironman China: less than 1km from the finish line, kneeling in the middle of the street in downtown Haikou with some random Danish guy’s head in my lap for over 20 minutes. The worst part of the whole picture might be that I had only run 16km–I was only completing the first lap of my run.

But let’s put this in perspective. I was not the one having a bad day. I was shuffling along nicely when I came upon the two Danishes, Morten and Andreas. Morten (in the red) was only 1km from winning his age group and badly cramping up. He was being supported by Andreas (in the white) who like me, was only 16km into his run, and so we both decided to help Morten limp his way to the finish line. There is the “no outside assistance” rule, but nobody ever says anything about getting inside assistance from your fellow race participants.

By that point, what did I have to lose? I had already been going so slowly that I was over 2 hours behind the women’s champion, my teammate Amy, and the difference between 13 or 14 or 15 hours was no matter to me, I just wanted to reach the finish line eventually. Given the opportunity not to be a selfish pro with the “every man for himself” mentality on this day, I leant Morten a shoulder for the next 20 steps.

Then he got the crazy eyes. He had to stop. He had to lie down. I hailed for medical staff in my best Chinese, which came out of my lips in various dialects; good to know it’s in there somewhere for emergency purposes. Morten would get carted away in an ambulance and wake up in the medical tent later on, not even realizing that the race had started. He didn’t remember me the next day either.

No. In perspective, I wasn’t the one having a bad day.

I had a really long and detailed and drawn out version of a race report I began on an airplane somewhere, but I think no one really wants to hear all about the over 14.5 hours of the longest Ironman of my life. I don’t want to dwell on it either, so I’ll just go over it a bit more concisely than usual. Which will probably still be longer than most people’s race reports. ;)

I woke up at 3am feeling terrible, feverish with a strong desire to vomit my guts out. The vomit wouldn’t actually come out until halfway through the swim so I just went into the race telling myself “you’re just nervous” because I wasn’t sure what was wrong with me. Now I’m pretty sure it was some food poisoning, but didn’t know at the time.

Big thanks to Dughall from Singapore who lent me his extra BlueSeventy wetsuit–the river was unexpectedly cold and our new 2010 suits hadn’t yet arrived. I got out in 1:11, not as terrible as a 1:18 but not great, and actually beat another pro out of the water! Who knew that the swim would actually be the best part of my day for once?

On the bike was when I realized I couldn’t go very hard or fast at all without feeling the bile rise in my throat, so I could only go very slow to avoid vomiting or passing out and crashing. I tried to be annoyingly optimistic as usual and just thought if I took the first hour easy, things would come around. After 2 hours, things still hadn’t come around, and I was crawling along but I made it my goal to finish the race, and decided to play it as smart as I could.

I made sure I stayed hydrated and was able to get down bananas and water, even a little bit of Gatorade, when I stopped at the aid stations for some rest breaks. Indeed, it was like a “glorified century ride.” If I went slow enough I wouldn’t get the pukes. The hardest part was mentally fighting the demons that told me every 5 minutes to drop out of the race.

At about 80k I passed a Japanese girl walking her bike and crying. At this point I wasn’t passing anyone riding a bike, just the ones walking their bikes… ;) It was Kana’s first Ironman and she had gotten two flats and was out of tubes and CO2. So I gave her a big hug, a tube, my CO2′s, helped her change the flat, offered another hug and off we both went. Kana would end up finishing the race and even took 2nd in her age group.

All I was thinking at that point was back to my very first triathlon, a super-sprint, where I got a flat during the 7-mile bike ride and didn’t bring anything to change it…because it was a 7-mile bike. I sat on the side of the road pouting for a while until a very nice man threw me his flat kit and said “well I’m not gonna win this thing” and saved me from DNF’ing my first triathlon. What goes around comes around.

I got pumped full of endorphins after my little mechanical support episode and actually felt great the next 20km, which took me through transition and the first 10k of the 2nd loop. This helped me from dropping out after one lap of the bike. Then I felt bad again. The next 80km, same story, a slow crawl with pit stops at the aid stations, which seemed to be spaced out much farther apart than when I go fast on a more normal day.

I got out on the run and felt so-so. My insides felt a little twisted up and crampy but my legs felt ok, I was able to shuffle along decently and picked up my frozen coffee Camelbak at Special Needs pretty early at around 13 or 14km. I didn’t know if I could stomach the coffee but I knew I needed the calories for the long day still ahead, and solid food was not appealing to me. Luckily the milk in the coffee (which was still cold on this hot day) didn’t give me a bad reaction so I was able to sip on it per usual.

Running in the daylight with many others around was easy. It seems that when the sun sets it becomes exponentially harder to stay motivated. So what got me through…I kept thinking that yes, quitting is too easy, but finishing an Ironman is really not that hard compared to many other things that people go through. Like having to get a blood marrow transplant, and being a 25yo girl and having to shave your head for the chemo shots (my cousin Alvina…I cut all my hair off to support her last year, shaving my own head was too extreme). Or having your legs amputated like the patients I see as a prosthetist. What about doing an Ironman on prosthetic legs? My legs were working fine. My stomach hurt a little but I could finish an Ironman. HTFU, it’s not that hard.

Most of all I didn’t want a DNF Demon. I have heard the stories of how once you quit one, it becomes easier to quit the next time. I have had friends who haven’t finished and I know how disappointing it is. Well, I don’t actually know firsthand how disappointing it is, and I wasn’t about to find out.

So it sure took a long time. I couldn’t believe how slowly the kilometers were going and it took a long time to get to that finish line, but get there I did, and I may have even been happier and smiley-er than usual.

Here is my finish video…

Finishing an Ironman will always be a great accomplishment to me, no matter what my finish time is.

Thanks to all my sponsors and supporters for your continued support, you know who you are. :)

“you have all day to finish”

Monday, March 15th, 2010

How to become an international triathlon superstar, step #8: Never quit.

dress by Billabong courtesy Beck Preston (for the weekend)

dress by Billabong courtesy Beck Preston (for the weekend)

Thanks everybody for the concern about my race. The stomach bug I woke up with at 3am race morning seems to have cleared my system and I am feeling much better digestively today. Really annoying to feel so sparkly today when it’s the day after the race, but what can you do.

I didn’t come all the way to China for my first DNF so despite the vomit episode midway through the swim, I gutted it out…or at least trudged it out…really slowly…and got myself to the finish line before midnight. I still don’t know what time the bike cut-off time is and never thought I would need to worry about it, but I actually thought I might have been in danger of missing it yesterday.

My slowest time before this race was a 13:50 and I now have a new PW (personal worst) at 14:37. I have even more respect now for the back-of-the-pack finishers. Running in the daylight with everyone cheering for you is one thing, but slogging away in the desolate darkness and the kilometer marks ticking by ever-so-slowly is just painfully forever. :(

I badly wanted to quit so many times, but each time that little voice told me “Don’t quit. Don’t give up. You have all day to finish.” By default I still ended up 6th place in the women’s pro category thanks to the attrition rate (which I’m told was 27%–over 1 out of 4 competitors didn’t make it).

Was super stoked to see Amy with the lead bike heading to the finish line when I just got onto the marathon course and Maki holding onto 4th position. Mat, Hiro, and Brandon all finished top 10 as well!

Not my best day at all, and some may say I am stupid and stubborn, but I am still very proud of this finish, because dammit, I finished. It took an exceptionally long time and maybe less time if I didn’t stop and help a couple distressed competitors along the way, but I’ll save those stories for the race report.

Never quit. 8)

Wongstar Conquers the Toughest Show on Earth

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010
5th woman across the line at the Toughest Show on Earth

5th woman across the line at the Toughest Show on Earth

The “Toughest Show On Earth”–that’s what was written on all the banners and race materials for Ironman Malaysia.  Crossing the line as 5th woman at an M-Dot Ironman is something that I had never fathomed when I watched my first Ironman as a volunteer and spectator almost 10 years ago.  My 18-year-old self just wondered if she could finish one.  Before midnight. I was mostly worried about making the 2hr 20min swim cut-off.

Even a year ago, I’m not sure I imagined I could do this well. And leading up to this race, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Not to say that I have no goals or expectations…it is just very different to hope and dream and wish certain things and then to have them actually happen in real life. Or maybe it’s more that I have been told to be very patient, so I thought I would have to wait a little bit longer. Either way, Coach says this is part of why I do well. Apparently my expectations (or lack thereof) keep me from getting a big head and blowing up from overconfidence. But I am getting ahead of myself.

The swim was an out-and-back straight line into the salty sea. Swim out 1900m and then turn around and come back. I was fighting in the pack the first 15 seconds and then found myself with Miranda Aldritt, just the two of us together. We smacked each other at first and then she went ahead and I stayed on her feet, though she slowly crept ahead. I’ve been working on yet another new swim technique but Coach said to just “swim hard” however which way I wanted. When we got to the turnaround, I looked at my watch for the first time and yuck…46 minutes!!!! Oh sweet baby Jesus. No way am I finishing the swim in over 90minutes! Newly inspired (or rather, horrified at myself), I swam as hard as I could all the way back. Apparently there was a current against us going out, as my second half only took 32 minutes. Swimming 3.8km on your own is much harder than in the giant washing machine of age groupers–heading back the water suddenly became more turbulent from the masses of amateurs swimming the other way; I really thought there were extra boats out there or something. Swimming in the Krabi pool with no lane lines proved to be good practice for open water swimming.

jumping over the rice bags lining the swim exit

Dear God, if I can't have world peace, how about a little bit of swimming ability? Just a little?

I jumped out of the water as last place female pro, slightly less horrified that my watch said 1:18 and not 1:28 or worse. I launched straight into the “Damage Control” game, also known as the Denial Game, where you tell yourself everyone must have swam slow today. By like 10 minutes. Thus you don’t get freaked out or panicked or depressed and ruin the rest of your race. I am getting really good at this game.

hustle!!!  23mins down!

hustle!!! 23mins down!

I got on White Tiger and stuck to Coach’s race plan for me: swim as hard as you can, hold back on the bike by 15-20 minutes, and then run them all down. Race smart and beat the people who you weren’t meant to beat. Patience, patience. I focused on getting the nutrition down–Gatorade at the aid stations and Hello Panda cookies in my bento box. The bike course was hillier than I expected, and some of the road surface wasn’t very smooth or fast. I just rode solid, holding my pace steady and increasing the effort as the ride went on, but never going balls-out, and passed the first pro woman around the 3-hour mark.

the coolest bike pic in the world, as mentioned before.

the coolest bike pic in the world, as mentioned before.

Then something weird happened. Towards the end of that third hour, I passed 3 more pro women, all in a row. Maybe everyone really did swim bad. Maybe they were already blowing up from the heat? It wasn’t too hot, if you were biking fast enough it was almost breezy… Strangely enough our national anthem, the Star Spangled Banner, started playing in my head…I think because Coach had always said that at hot races, those who went out too hard would start to detonate. But if I paced myself well, I would be bomb-proof. “The rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof to the night…that our flag was still there…” I think subconsciously I was bitter that I missed most of the Winter Olympics.

The fourth and last lap of the bike, that last hour, the aid stations ran out of EVERYTHING. No Gatorade, no water. I forced myself to keep eating my Hello Panda cookies…you need this nutrition, eat it!! And 2 or 3 aid stations later finally got a small bottle of water to wash it down my dry throat. Everyone else was in the same situation, I figured I would rehydrate on the run…Camelbak time! I rolled over the timing mat with a 5:20 bike split, hey not too bad for holding back 15-20mins eh? It ended up being the 3rd fastest bike split too, rockin’!

grunting my way up the big hill with Maki yelling SUGOI!!!

grunting my way up the big hill with Maki yelling "SUGOI!!!"

Got into transition and asked the volunteers in the change tent how many women had come through. “only 5. you are number 6!” NO FREAKING WAY.

The run was 5 laps, about 8km out-and-back each. Now as much as I like to perpetuate the urban legend that the Wongstar does not feel heat, I could tell it was hot. Someone later said 39*C, someone else said 41*C (that’s 102 to 106*F), but I wasn’t worried. I was thrilled. In a very twisted way, I find that racing in the heat is much easier than training in the heat–there are aid stations every kilometer giving out cold drinks, ice, and cold wet sponges. When do you get that in training? Umm, how about NEVER.

I had my two Camelbaks ready (one in T2, one at Special Needs) and would take in 1.5 liters of Gatorade the first 2 laps and then 2 liters of thawing frozen coffee the last 3 laps. I had even debated on filling them up all the way but was glad I did, I actually finished everything I carried and needed extra Coke at the aid stations when the Camelbaks went empty.

So how did I feel? I FELT AMAZING. I am not going to lie and you can hate me all you want, but I will be honest: I felt ridiculously good, crazy strong, and just SUPER.  Photographic proof of how I felt:

Lap 2 of the run. FEELING SUPER!!!

World peace! SUPER!!! Lap #3

I would run through the aid stations and grab a couple cold sponges at each one, squeezing them over my head, sipped on my Camelbak and plodded along, nothing spectacularly fast. Just holding about 5-minute k pace (about 8-minute miles). 3:30 marathon pace. Which I guess is somewhat fast in hot conditions?

I was confused at who was leading the women’s race…I thought it was Edith, who was right behind me–I’d see her behind me at every turnaround and apparently I wasn’t going much slower than her as she didn’t catch me and lap me until my 4th lap. And then I saw Belinda out there, with Hillary behind her, which confused me because I was thinking that Edith was winning, Belinda was in 2nd, and Hillary was catching Belinda. (Turns out it was Belinda winning, she had lapped Hillary who was in 3rd, and Edith was running 2nd.)

ok, maybe feeling less super but still very strong!

ok, maybe feeling less super but still very strong! Lap #4

So I was 6th woman and just held steady. Heading out on the run loop seemed warmer, and then coming back there was a bit of a breeze–so I enjoyed coming back more, plus it meant going back towards all the cheering spectators. One Asian spectator was wearing an American flag T-shirt and yelled “Japanese!” to me as I went by the first lap. “NO, American!!” I yelled back. From then on, he and his friends would chant “USA!” for me every time I ran by. :)

There were also many people I had met through training and racing around the world that cheered for me, both on the race course and on the sidelines. The support was overwhelming, lots of cheers for both Wongstar and Jocelyn…even the Korean athletes who I had competed with in Jeju or GreatMan would yell “hwai-ting!” as I passed them. The Asian female spectators were especially enthusiastic and I was hoping maybe they’d catch a little bit of inspiration seeing an Asian girl at the front of a race…I do my best to represent!

up and over the overpass--the one hill on the course

up and over the overpass--the one "hill" on the course. Lap #4

I had this song in my head…the DJ Tiesto version of Maroon 5′s “Not Falling Apart.” Coach has taught me to develop a bomb-proof marathon shuffle, so that’s what kept going through my mind, “…I’m not falling apart…” Turns out my 3:37 marathon was 3rd fastest among the pro women–only 6mins slower than champion Belinda and within 11mins of Edith’s run split (the fastest for the day)…huh…since when does that happen? Brilliant race plan, Coach, and good execution by the Wongstar!

YouTube Preview Image

When I switched out the Camelbaks after 2 run laps, I was super happy that freezing the coffee had worked amazingly. I too, was still feeling amazing and not really affected by the heat much until the 4th lap–that’s when I started filling my sports bra with ice. I think the humidity actually picked up, rather than the temperature.

heel-striking, Coach would be proud!

heel-striking, Coach would be proud! Lap #1, yes I went out of order.

Somewhere along the way I had slipped into 5th position, and I was starting to run down 4th and 3rd…but ran out of time and distance.  By Lap 5 I really just wanted to be DONE! I was feeling decidedly less SUPER. Finally went by our hotel one last time, but then there was another 2km to the finish line back at the jetty, and it was THE. LONGEST. TWO. KILOMETERS. EVER.

I did the winners pose. I felt like a winner.

I did the winner's pose. I felt like a winner.

And finally, there it was. I was so happy, I felt so strong the whole day–if I had to choose just one word to describe how I felt for the race, that would be it. STRONG. (I thought this during the race too.) Ok, maybe not in the swim but the other 90% of my day… ;) I am still amazed I only ran 10mins slower than my best Ironman marathon, and in much tougher conditions… STRONG!!!

I’d like to thank all the sponsors that helped get me to where I am today. From just wanting to finish an Ironman before midnight to somehow finishing as 5th pro woman and actually feeling STRONG the whole day:

  • TeamTBB & the Bike Boutique: thank you to my teammates who inspire me and push me every day, Alex our team manager for this fantastic opportunity, and Brett for showing me the way and demanding more of me than I thought possible. You asked me nearly 3 years ago if I was ready for my life to change; everything I’ve achieved these past months has already been more than I ever thought possible and we can still say “this is only the beginning.” Thank you so much for everything!! I really am living the age group triathlon fairy tale :D
  • All our equipment sponsors: Cervelo, Avia, BlueSeventy, 3T, Scody & ISM Saddles for the gear that helps me go faster. I still scratch my head and think “really? we get new stuff every year?” But I’m not complaining! ;)
  • My travel sponsor, Mark Cathcart, for help funding the travel expenses. You’ve known me since I was a delusional age grouper with dreams of becoming a triathlon superstar. Thanks for always believing in me and fueling these dreams! :)
  • My newest sponsor, Haamonii Smooth Shochu, for the post-race celebratory beverages. Thanks for your support and the good times had and to be had in sharing harmony around the world! :D

Photos courtesy of ASI Photo, Maki Nishiuchi, Pee Kay Pixz, Makoy Almanzor–thanks!!

Last race report of 2009! Wongstar’s IM Cozumel.

Friday, December 25th, 2009

Yikes, yes I realize it’s been nearly a month since the race and considered just bagging the race report for my 6th ironman of 2009.  Maybe nobody would notice… But somehow my blog posts get over 2,000 hits, I don’t know how, but I guess this means someone might notice.  I wouldn’t want to disappoint anybody.  Even my mom and dad and brother have all said something.  So I figure I might as well finish the half-written report I started on the airplane ride home and throw in the bazillion race photos I have.

I contemplated just putting the pictures in with random witty captions, as Coco has sometimes accused my blog of being a simple child’s picturebook.  ;)  But knowing me it will end up being a long story anyway…

This one is dedicated for you, the fans! Merry Christmas, I don’t have much money to buy you anything so you get one more race report for 2009, enjoy.

Im hiding in the back.  Maybe I should just start in the front so I wont get dropped so quick.

I'm hiding in the back. The one in the BlueSeventy speedsuit. And my white long sleeve Scody race kit. Maybe I should just start in the front so I can stay with the pack for a few more seconds.

So we were corralled onto the dock and weren’t allowed to get into the water until the race announcer declared each of our names…yes, one at a time…for over 60 pros! They called the men first which took forever and finally the women. Once we were in the water it was pretty amazing–the water was so clear! It was my first swim in the sea since I had come into Mexico so late (Friday night). I was actually able to stay with the pack for an entire 15 to 20 seconds…woohoo! A slight improvement on getting my butt dropped straightaway, but I know I still have a loooong way to go.

I just assumed the worst case scenario: that I would be swimming pretty much alone for the 2.4 miles, 1-loop swim.  Worst case scenario it was, but no surprises as I was expecting it, therefore I did NOT freak out or panic or anything stupid like that.  Damage control!

swimming

there are so many swim exit photos I am just going to intersperse them here during the swim story.

The First Mate had made me a big sign that said “SWIM LIKE A SHARK” and it really was like swimming in a big fish tank!  Just like being in the movie Finding Nemo.  I know I keep saying this, but it was really amazing!  You could see the sea floor, and even the scuba guys at the bottom were waving at us.

At first I pretended I was one of the sharks in Finding Nemo, but then I remembered they are vegetarian.  Screw that!  I’m a strong meat-eating girl who likes her steak a little bit bloody.  I decided I was the shark from Jaws instead.  So then I had the Jaws theme in my head…

swimming

here I come! JAWS!

I even saw STARfish on the ocean floor, midway through the swim.  They waved their little starfish arms at me and cheered “Swim like a superSTAR!  GO WongSTAR!”

I didn’t get caught by the age groupers until about 45 mins into the swim…which I thought was not too shabby.  We had a 15min head start, but once they came by, they flew by…  I couldn’t really tell if the swim was short or if the current was strong, I just didn’t worry about much except to keep swimming as hard as I could for as long as I could.  And if people say the swim course was short, well, swimming it all by yourself sure feels like a long time.

swimming

popping out at last!

I was happy to be out, as usual.  Finishing the swim is always my 2nd favorite part of the whole race.  My first favorite would be crossing the finish line!  :)

swimming

nice Avia logo eh!

It did seem to take a bit quicker than my last swim, that horrible 1:18 in Florida…

swimming

Land, ho!

In fact, you could say I was pretty excited when I looked at my watch…

swimming

what's the damage?

…and saw that it said “1:05″!  No way!

Ill take it!

I'll take it!

Yep I was pretty happy with that.  Can you tell?  1:05 is my PR from EmbrunMan and this swim was without a wetsuit.

transition #1

transition #1

My bike was pretty easy to spot in transition, per usual.  Someday this will change.  Off I went!

The bike course went 3 times around the island and was really gorgeous, although ridiculously windy on the other side.  We went right along the coast with absolutely no protection from the wind!  I was actually quite happy the swim wasn’t on this other side as the water looked extremely choppy.  My first lap I took it out pretty controlled as usual, holding back the effort so I could dial it up later.

biking

fastest training wheels on the pro rack!

I saw the First Mate yelling for me as she had run back from the swim start to T2/the finish line area.  Then I turned up the effort and felt great!  At halfway, I let it rip and caught 3 pro women between my 3rd and 4th hours.  I was definitely on pace to go under 5:20 which would be slower than the last 2 races, also flat courses, but were nowhere as windy as Cozumel.

biking

huff puff huff puff

On my 3rd lap I hit the wind and just felt like my legs ran out of juice.  I wasn’t sure why I couldn’t stomp out the last 60k really hard like I usually do; it is normally the fastest part of my bike split.  A great sherpa and cheerleader is always looking at her watch, and according to my First Mate, I lost over 10 minutes on that last lap!

biking

grinding away!

After future contemplation (yes it has been almost a month) with Coach about what happened, he pointed out that I didn’t exactly get any real bike training in for the last 6 weeks prior to this race.  Yup, this was the 3rd ironman-distance race in a 5-week span, which was not intentional at all.  I had Cozumel on my race calendar since I qualified for my pro card 6 months ago.  GreatMan was originally held mid-September, got cancelled, then postponed for late October.  In early October, the same week I committed to doing GreatMan, IM Florida finally got back to me and suddenly I had 3 ironmans in 5 weeks!

biking

whoa whoa crosswinds blowing me over

Coach was not worried about me racing that much and therefore I was not worried either.  In fact I did get quite excited and temporarily insane after Florida and asked, why not just throw in IM Arizona into the mix too?!

Coach was smart enough to draw the line there.  This is why we have coaches.  Because 3 ironmans in 5 weeks was perfectly acceptable, but 4 of them was clearly stupid.  Duh!

biking

Really gorgeous bike course, wouldn't you say??

Well the wind was just as relentless on the last lap and I was still pushing a big gear like normal.  This would come back and bite me in the butt later…  I rolled into transition and ducked in and out of the change tent with a 57-second T2!  My friend Amy Kloner was one of the race announcers and I heard her yell that I was in 8th place.  No way!

Well, another pro woman, Michaela, sprinted by me right out of T2, so my 8th was quickly down to 9th, and I let her go as the pace was too quick for me so early into the run.  It was extremely humid and pretty warm, so I did my share of splashing water onto myself and stuffing my sports bra with ice.  If men were smart, they too would wear sports bras for these hot races.  Man-bras don’t count, they don’t have the elastic at the bottom to hold the ice in.

biking

skipping along, lap #1

I knew Amy K from when I was in grad school in Atlanta (2004-2006), and another of the ATL girls, April Gellatly, was also racing.  The three of us were all amateurs back then and both of them would kick my ass.  April and I were in the same age group and she would always win it.  Well, now all 3 of us are racing in the pro ranks.  I was trying to give April a run for her money as she had spanked me out of the swim but was only a couple spots ahead of me on the run.

The crowd support was phenomenal and I really felt like a celebrity.  A lot of them would yell for me by name “GO JOCELYN!” and I would always think they actually knew who I was, since I am so famous and all that, before realizing that I had my name on my bib number.  The First Mate did however have her hot pink sign that said “GO WONGSTAR!”  I loved it!!

running

hurting a little but still moving!

The first out-and-back lap (of three) went by quickly enough, I didn’t feel all that fresh and peppy but the crowd really helped.  Around mile 10 my stomach was starting to feel a bit off, and I tried to just suck it up and keep going, but my pace slowed… and slowed…and all I wanted to do was take a few steps to let it settle down.  But as soon as I started walking, my low back really tightened up and I could barely even walk!

Oh dear.  I’m thinking this was partly due to pushing too big of a gear on the bike into the wind.  I walked a bit, shuffled a bit, stopped to stretch out my back several times, took in some Coke, walked some more, shuffled a bit, stopped and stretched, and in the meantime got passed by masses and masses of age groupers who were on their first laps.  Things looked bleak and I was afraid I would have to walk it in.  All I could think of was getting to the special needs station at mile 13, the halfway point of the marathon.  I decided that my stomach was just not happy with the Gatorade in my Camelbak, so I really wanted to switch to the Wongstar magic mix, my Starbucks formula.  Once I got my new Camelbak on, I forced myself to shuffle.  No more walking.  Just run really slow.

I was actually pretty surprised that none of the pro women behind me caught me during my 3 miles of walking and stopping to stretch.  It must’ve been a tough day for most of us out there.  Yes, 3 age group women did pass me and truthfully I am surprised that more of them didn’t.

I shuffled my way back to complete my 2nd loop, and my back muscles were starting to feel looser at that point.  The crowds were very encouraging: this buoyed my spirits and I was able to start picking up my pace again.  I actually passed back Michaela, who had sprinted by in the first 10 meters of the marathon, so back into 8th place I went.  It was good to see Bella out there kicking ass as usual.  My old roommate Bean was suffering as well, but we were at least able to encourage each other on the course.

It was getting dark by the end of my last lap, and I was disappointed I would be breaking my streak of 5 daylight finishes in a row this year.  Still, a finish is a finish, and the caffeine kicked in enough during my last few miles that I was fighting off an age group woman who was right behind me and closing in.  Yes, she started 15mins behind me, but for all I knew, I thought she was a pro, and I wasn’t about to let her catch me!

finishing

into the finish chute!

I am always happy to finish an Ironman.  No matter how many I end up doing in a single year, each finish is still special to me.  I will always feel a huge sense of accomplishment no matter what my finish time is, and I will always have deep respect for this distance.

finishing

magic running sticks!

It turns out that my finish time was a 10:37, which kind of cracks me up at this point because a year ago I never would have thought a 10:37 would be considered a bad race for me.  And now it is…  I still managed to go 3:58 in the marathon while walking for 3 miles, which is ridiculous considering I just broke 4 hours for the first time this year, and that was when I ran the whole thing!  I couldn’t even break 11 hours in my July ironman, 4 months ago.

finishing

I'm always happy to cross the finish line... Best part of the whole day!

So am I disappointed with the race?  Yes and no.  Obviously I would have loved to do better.  But in perspective (and there’s lots of time for perspective when you procrastinate on your race report) did I ever think a year ago I could do 3 ironmans in 5 weeks?  at 9:55, 9:54, and 10:37?

I think a year ago I would hardly believe I could do just one of those.  Yes, even the 10:37 would’ve been astounding to me.  To go 10:37 with a sub-par bike and walking a few miles on the run tells me that I have improved tremendously this year.  Besides, I kind of went from breaking 12 hours in April to breaking 10 hours in October.  I skipped the breaking 11 hours part, so I had to go back and do that.  ;)

finishing

not a daylight finish but still my 3rd fastest ironman of the year!

Yep, out of the 6 ironmans I did this year, this last one was still the 3rd fastest!  After so much racing, I was relieved to be done and ready to go have some mojitos.  And what did I learn?  2 Ironmans 2 weeks apart I can do pretty well at both, but a 3rd one 3 weeks later may just be one too many…

whew baby

whew baby

It’s been just an astounding 2009 for me, and I am incredibly thankful to Brett & Alex and teamTBB for making this the year all my dreams have come true.  I am still learning the ups and downs of being a professional triathlete but am excessively happy with how my rookie year has gone.

I want to thank my parents and family for all of their support, and also my wonderful teammates, friends, fans, blog readers, and last but not least, my lovely sponsors, for making it all possible.  Without you I am not a triathlon superstar!

Muchas gracias to the Bike Boutique, Cervelo, Avia, Mark Cathcart, Jeju Island, BlueSeventy, Oval Concepts, ISM Saddles, Scody, SLS3 and Yogavive apple chips!

Have a Merry Christmas or as they say in Cozumel, Feliz Navidad!