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the Swiss track marathon championships

Monday, August 31st, 2009

The end of August and thus the end of Swiss training camp approaches.  All of my roommates–Bean, LC, and recently Manny–have abandoned me to clean out the Swiss penthouse to Swiss standards.  A very daunting task and I’m not sure if I am up to it!  I tossed out the half jar of Nutella one of them left as I am learning to think more like a champion, a nice side effect from hanging out with Coco.  Which means I need to eat more like a champion.  And champions don’t eat Nutella.  Or chocolate croissants.  Or chocolate cereal.  Or chocolate cookies.  Anyone who tells you otherwise is either a guy or one of them skinny-ass vegetarian girls!

I land in Korea for our September training camp on Friday, and with just 2 weeks out from my next ironman race, the GreatMan in central Korea, learned that the race has been cancelled.  The official reason is the H1N1 flu hype–my initial reaction was “but I’ve already had swine flu and it wasn’t that bad!”  But now rumors have been circulating that my competition (both the pro women AND men) heard I was racing and were totally scared off.  Apparently I was ready to whack the living daylights out of them after training and racing for 6 weeks in the Swiss and French Alps.  Who knew the Wongstar was so damn intimidating?

Well, I like nothing better to vent out my disappointment than a monster marathon run on the track.  No teammates and no Coach would be there; just me, my Avias, the two Camelbaks, a fully-charged ipod, and the Swiss Alps surrounding me.  I decided that this would be my own championship race.  The Swiss track marathon championships!  Nobody to whack the living crap out of except for myself.  Because it is what you do when nobody is watching that makes the difference.

where champions are made

where champions are made

My support crew consisted of Fall Out Boy, Linkin Park, Katy Perry, Good Charlotte, ATB, the Killers, Kelly Clarkson and even some Avril and Britney.  This new playlist was only 3hr 37min long, so of course I had to finish before the last song ended.  3:39 was my fastest track marathon over 4 months ago in Subic, and 3:33 was my best marathon ever at Embrun 2 weeks ago.  Maybe now I could go under 3.5 hours!

The night before I made the dinner of champions:  a big liver and onion salad.  Most people find eating liver to be really gross but being Chinese I don’t find it unusual and actually…like it.  I finally figured out how to cook it myself after Bean left.  It is also chock full of all kinds of magical nutritional goodness, and bonus, it’s also the cheapest meat here ;)  Don’t tell my competition, but eating liver is going to make me faster than them!

food for champions, bon appetit!

food for champions, bon appetit!

I also filled up my Camelbaks and put them in the fridge so I could roll out of bed and get an early start.  Below is a picture from my Jeju race; see, I really did use Starbucks!  I couldn’t find a Starbucks or even bottled Starbucks here in Leysin, so I used the local iced coffee: 3 servings with 80mg of caffeine in each.  Is that a lot?  I also threw in 3 tabs of Kona Cola Nuun for electrolytes, before realizing each tab also has 20mg of caffeine.  So 300mg of caffeine for someone who rarely has any…now that’s rocket fuel.

There is a reason they look like IV bags...they provide a constant drip of hydration and electrolytes!  and caffeine in the 2nd one!

There is a reason they look like IV bags...they provide a constant drip of hydration and electrolytes! and caffeine in the 2nd one!

Well I biked down to the track Sunday morning, an early start meant brr was it cold.  Not yet September and already getting cold in Switzerland!  I wore my Scody one-piece racing kit, it’s always good to practice training in what you race in.  At least the sun was out and I would warm up soon enough.  Off I went; it always takes me a couple miles to settle in and soon I was comfortably shuffling along.  A few guys were out for their regular Sunday stroll around the track.  One of them was speedwalking in Lane 1, but always moved aside when I approached and would call out “Bravo!” to me.  His technique reminded me to go heel-toe, heel-toe.  My legs and feet are finally starting to cooperate after Coach said this was the only way to get under 3:20.  No more silly toe-running, I want to go under 3:20!

The miles began to fly by almost effortlessly and my legs seemed to go into auto-pilot.  Is this “the zone?” because I think I’m “in the zone!”  Track marathons are not for the mentally weak.  Before I knew it, I had hit halfway and switched to the iced coffee rocket fuel.  Delicious!  Cappuccino flavor.  Not sure if anybody else drinks coffee during their marathons, but you are all missing out.  :)  I went back to holding pace and soon the legs told me they wanted to go faster.  Well, ok legs, but don’t go crazy, keep it under control, ok?!

With 10k to go I granted full permission to flog myself and brought the mile splits down further…7:20…7:16…  Nothing like a good negative split to finish off a track marathon!  Wow that seemed to go by a lot quicker than the last time…  oh, because I did actually go a lot quicker than last time…faster than I ever have before!  I didn’t see my final marathon time until I hit “stop”:

a little bit salty despite my electrolyte drips

a little bit salty despite my electrolyte drips

3:26:04, a new marathon PR!

I relaxed, rehydrated, and refueled, then headed back up the mountain on Blue Steel.  The hardest part about biking home was actually swinging my leg over the top tube…a little bit sore!  I don’t see why anybody would pay 13 francs to take the train up when you have a perfectly working bike with a full set of gears.  ;)

Champions don’t take the easy way home.

Chinese women = marathon superstars

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

As I mentioned in my forum thread, I was very excited (and totally but pleasantly surprised!) to flip on the TV and catch the end of the women’s marathon at the Track & Field World Championships in Berlin last weekend.

The women’s champion, Xue Bai of China, is only 20 years old and did her first marathon when she was 14.  When I was 20 years old, I did my first marathon…during my first Ironman.  It took me over 2 more hours than Xue’s 2:25.

So China took 1st, 4th and 5th, winning the team title as well.  Japan took 2nd, and Ethiopa took 3rd.  WOW, 4 Asian women in the top 5, and 3 of them were Chinese!  What happened to the Kenyans?  They were 6th in the team ranking.  The Americans didn’t do so good either…our top girl went 10th and I think ended up in the medical tent.

Now when I go running, I try to identify more with my Chinese side.  ;)  Coach does the same thing here–whenever I do or say something dumb, he grumbles something about stupid Americans…but if I do something like race well, he’ll say it’s because I’m Chinese and I’m tough!  :)

I even have the matching shorts, remember?

this was from 3 months ago, my butt may have shrinken more since then :)

this was taken 3 months ago...my butt may have shrinken more since then :)

They are actually the only casual shorts I have here.  (Yeah, I’m so proud of myself for packing light…my casual bottoms consist of one pair of jeans, a jean skirt, and these shorts.)

I just really hope none of these Chinese runners are taking any illegal “turtle juice,” as Bek would say.  I was SO disappointed when I found out Marion Jones had been taking performance-enhancing drugs.  She was winning everything when I was a geeky and impressionable little high school runner.  I even bought a copy of her autobiography.  Stupid American.

At the track today, Coach even told me I actually looked like I was running!  Yes, that’s what we call a backhanded compliment, but I’ll take it!  Clearly I have been inspired and am starting to embrace my Chinese marathoning blood.  It’s in there somewhere.  Maybe I will even get under 3 hours someday, I mean if all these Chinese girls can go under 2.5 hours, surely I can go under 3!  It may take a few years…or more… but I am a patient little Jedi.  Just keep training hard and consistently, and work on my heel-strike to perfect the Wongstar Shuffle.

Also makes me wonder how fast I can run an open marathon.  I have never done one, I just race them when they are preceded by a 3.8k swim and at least a 180k bike ride.  ;)  Otherwise I do them in training without the swim and bike warm-up.  I don’t really have any desire to race a marathon by itself though, I kind of think I would go just as fast as I do in an ironman…speaking of which, my friend Amy pointed out that I qualified for the Boston Marathon at Embrun!  Haha, well if I keep cutting down my marathon splits by over 20mins at a time, soon I will get the men’s qualifying time…that’s a 3:10!

happy running,
an inspired and very Chinese Wongstar

Eating a Pain Sandwich

Monday, August 24th, 2009

How to Become an Asian Triathlon Superstar, Step #25: Learn to deal with pain (the good kind).

Over a year ago, my motto going into the Vineman 70.3 was “I eat pain for breakfast.” I made myself hurt during the race and had a big PR, breaking 5 hours for the first time. That was before I started attending training camps with Coach and teamTBB, and now I’ve been learning to eat pain for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Just to clarify, this pain I speak of is not the “oh I’m injuring myself” kind of hurt. This is the good kind of pain, the extreme discomfort that comes from pushing your body harder than it wants to go, but is necessary to get yourself to go faster than you think is possible. (So Mom, stop freaking out whenever my Facebook status says something about how my legs are hurting…it’s a good kind of hurt… otherwise I will block you from seeing my status messages, I really will.)

So it amuses me to no end that here on the French side of Switzerland and all over France, there are shops you can go to where you can buy pain. You can even buy pain sandwiches! How about that. The Frenchies are a masochistic bunch.

shopping for pain, what kind would you like today?

shopping for pain, what kind would you like today?

Over in Embrun, Blue Steel and I went to one of these pain shops. If I was going to be experiencing the pain that was Embrunman, I wanted to be prepared. I figured I should eat a pain sandwich the day before the race.

good race preparation, visiting the pain shop!

good race preparation, visiting the pain shop!

Inside the pain shop, the pain sandwiches stared me in the face…and SMILED.

a little creepy but cute, huh?

a little creepy but cute, huh?

What was this?! Pain should be eaten with a smile!

eat your pain with a smile!

eat your pain with a smile!

Blue Steel and I enjoyed eating our pain sandwich, and the next day at Embrun we were ready to hurt. We embraced the pain…we learned to hurt. Coco once told me to not fear the pain, because when you learn to deal with it while training, you can really push through it on race day.

Coach says dealing with the pain is different in the three disciplines. Obviously I’m still learning to hurt in the swim. Swimming pain is the hardest for me to embrace, but every morning I try to hurt a little more in the pool. I can make myself hurt most on the bike, but this has yet to manifest itself in my racing. On the run I don’t ever appear to be hurting…I take the pain with a big smile! Just like the pain sandwich at the pain shop. Smiling has been shown to have an analgesic effect on pain. But maybe I have yet to go hard enough in the run to make it really hurt. I am sure there are deeper levels of pain that I have yet to experience and embrace. But when I do…my times should drop to much lower!

At the moment I am merely a student of pain. I have much to learn.

in case you havent figured out what pain is in French...

in case you haven't figured out what "pain" is in French...

Adventures in Fixed Gear Riding

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

Rumor has it that a bike monster in the making, code name Wongstar, has been going up and down the mountains of Switzerland on a fixed gear bike.  Well technically this is not true as on a true fixed gear bike, you can’t coast; if the wheels are spinning, the pedals are spinning.  Oh boy would that suck going down these hills.  It is true that Khan the Somewhat Revived Warrior Horse has been locked into a single speed configuration.  39-19 which I’m told is the same as 53-25.  This morning was Khan’s last ride, I went up the mountain (or more a hill by now) for the tenth time in the faux fixed gear.

And true that by the fifth time I went up, the big hill going home was less of a mountain.  For the past 2 weeks this is the only biking I’ve done.  What will it be today, Coach?  Will I go up the hill once, twice, or three times today?  Because this gear ratio is really only good for going up and down steep hills–it is when the road flattens out that I get stuck, spinning out of gears quickly.

This weekend is Embrunman, what I like to call a “bonus ironman” because the bike is 188km instead of 180km, with over 5000 meters of climbing.  They tell me this is where boys become men and girls become women.  Just in time I got my new old frameset back, and really I am grateful to finally have more than one gear option!  I won’t be picky.  Two would be nice…how about the 53-19 and 39-19?

After the type of biking I’ve done over the last 2 weeks I’m thinking that going up any mountain with a full set of gears on my bike is going to feel…well…simply AMAZING!

As for our dear friend Khan, if I ever go back to track racing on the velodrome, you may see him as a true fixie without any brakes.  Here are some old photos of me in my track cycling days back in 2006.  The “Superdrome” in Frisco, Texas was a true velodrome with the steep 44-degree banked corners.  Not like some of those wussy shallow velodromes.  My track cycling career was short-lived as this was just a minor distraction from Ironman racing:

Superfun at the Superdrome

getting chicked is hard for the male ego to handle

getting chicked is tough for the male ego. bwahaha

whatever you do, don't stop pedaling or you'll fall

look Ma no brakes!

from supernerd to superstar

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

Last weekend I missed my high school’s 10-year reunion in favor of training with a pretty good triathlon team and a pretty okay triathlon coach here in Switzerland.  ;)

To commemorate this momentous occasion for the Westmoor High School class of 1999, I had my dad scan some photos from the old high school track scrapbook.

this awesome photo is circa 1995

this awesome photo is circa 1995

as you can see…long before the Wongstar was a superstar, she was a supernerd.  I had the glasses and braces my first two years, got straight A’s and always had my hand up in the air in class.  I was worse than Hermione in Harry Potter; sometimes I would correct my math teachers if I caught any mistakes on the chalkboard.  School and homework came easily to me, which was good because I had the stereotypical Chinese parents who would get very upset if any of us ever got a B+.  Actually, getting an A- was only barely acceptable.

look Coach Im heel-striking!!  Im heel-striking!

look Coach I'm heel-striking!! I'm heel-striking!

What I absolutely loved was running on the cross country and track team.  Running didn’t come so easily, maybe that’s what drew me to it–the challenge.  My older sister was the one who wanted to be a runner, I ended up joining as well because she was my childhood hero.  I wanted to be just like her!  Even though by high school, we pretended we didn’t know each other in the hallways.  During one of my first summer practices my freshman year, I totally puked after we did hill repeats on the Fort Funston sand dunes in San Francisco.  Coach DiMaggio gave me a big pep talk because he thought I was going to quit the team after that incident.  Quitting had never occurred to me, and wow was my big sister mortified!  It was great!

I think Im still prepubescent here.

I think I'm still prepubescent here.

Being on the track team taught me to work hard and be disciplined.  (I didn’t get that from school and homework because like I said…it came easily to a nerd like me.)  Even though I wasn’t the most talented distance girl on the team, I had more passion and a stronger work ethic than my teammates who were naturally faster, and I would find myself catching them in the second half of each season.  I ended up being a top varsity runner during my four years of high school, but this was the big fish/small pond syndrome and I have no big delusions of grandeur.  I was decent in our league, but I was well aware that California was and is a hotbed of top-notch prep runners.  I never made it to any of the state meets, and I knew my running talent wasn’t good enough to get me a college scholarship.

running a sub-six-minute mile

running a sub-six-minute mile

So back to the supernerd part.  I went on to become co-valedictorian with an SAT score over 1500, and got accepted into every college I applied to with plenty of offers for academic scholarships.  I knew what the college admissions people were looking for: someone smart and “well-rounded.”  So in addition to being a runner, I was also in the Symphonic Band (I played the flute but no, I never made it to band camp, got chickenpox that summer instead), twirled rifles in the color guard, and was an officer in both the Science Club and Chinese Club.  Maybe that is how I ended up becoming so good at marketing myself as a future superstar…

I was such an overachiever, but hey…fast forward 10 years or so and at my first TBB camp in Subic, Mat tells me quite matter-of-factly, “Our team is full of overachievers.”  And here I am again, not one of the most talented athletes on the team, but I have the passion and a strong work ethic.  Some things never change.  But at least I look a little cooler now.

Le TBB Tour de France ala Le Lanterne Rouge

Saturday, August 8th, 2009

Soon upon landing in Switzerland, I learned that I would be participating in our team’s own little version of le Tour de France, departing a week after my arrival.  Although I had completely missed the stage that went through our little village of Leysin, I had already done a couple rides on our Swiss Alp roads covered in Tour de France graffiti cheering for the bike racers.

departing for Stage 1...or the Prologue...or whatever

departing for Stage 1...or the Prologue...or whatever

Never one to be left out, I was excited as usual.  6 days of big bike miles over the mountains into France, and I would get to race in the famous Alpe d’Huez Triathlon too?  I didn’t mind that Coach had warned me (and continues to remind me) that I was not/am not ready for the bike riding here.  We would have two SAG vehicles and he did say we could only go as fast as the slowest rider…  And altitude, bah!  I’ll adapt.

the lovely and very cheerful SAG girls

the lovely and very cheerful SAG girls

I had never been to France before!  I made a list of things I want to do in France…

  1. eat French fries (freedom fries?)
  2. climb le Alpe d’Huez
  3. eat chocolate croissants every day…ok  just the epic days ;)
  4. try the crepes
  5. French kiss
  6. practice saying “voulez vous coucher avec moi?”
gorgeous mountains and cute little villages

gorgeous mountains and cute little villages

Indeed I was fueled by chocolate croissants–one of the cheapest and most abundant and oh yeah best tasting foods in France–which helped prevent bonking on those big rides over the mountain.  During Stage 2 they even saved me from being le lanterne rouge for the day…

the battle for Lanterne Rouge status

the battle for Lanterne Rouge status

LC held back a bit so that with our little German Christine, we had a good group of three riding more or less together.  Both of them are tiny so I considered myself an honorary member of the Smurfette squad.  Hobbits, whatever.  We climbed big mountains.

trying to blend in with the hobbits

trying to blend in with the hobbits

Apparently it is not mandatory to wear helmets when racing up and down steep mountains in France.

Instructions for the race helmet sticker:  ”Please place one sticker on your cycle helmet facing forward, or if you are not wearing a helmet, on the front of your shirt. Please place the other on your handlebars, facing forward.  Enjoy the ride.”

Especially enjoy the part of the ride where you crash going down the mountain and smash your brains to pieces because you weren’t wearing a helmet.

race poster with the real Alps and real superstar reflected

race poster with the real Alps... and real superstar... reflected in the window

For the conclusion of stage 2, we took the back route and only climbed the last 6 (of the 21) switchbacks of the famous Alpe d’Huez mountain featured in the race.  Little did I know that this would be the extent of my completion of #2 on my to-do list.  I soon also learned firsthand why Coach always wishes us “best mechanical luck!”  Sometimes there are things you have no control over–on Wednesday, race morning as we were descending to the lake for the swim start, Khan the Warrior Horse died a very sudden and untimely death.

the demise of my beloved warrior horse

the demise of my beloved warrior horse

Diagnosis?  An aneurysm to his rear derailleur hanger.  I cried a few tears as Coach threw the dying horse into the back of Coco’s red Red Bull Wagon.   I never thought I would have to endure two broken hearts in the space of a single week.  ”We may have to put the old horse down,” said a somber Coach.  I would have cried more if I hadn’t already wasted most of my tears on that douchebag loser who never deserved any of my affections…or come to think of it, if I had any idea what Coach had in store for the dead horse in the following weeks…

Khan has an aneurysm

autopsy results: Khan had an aneurysm

So I wouldn’t get to do Stage 4: the triathlon, after all.  But I am a professional triathlete, and we pros must carry on through hell, heartbreak, and bad mechanical luck.  Even though I couldn’t do the bike leg of the race, I could still swim and run.  I pondered if this would count as my first DNF; if I started the race and finished the race, but just skipped that little biking part in between?  I like to think of it as more of a DQ.

The water was cold but tolerable once I got moving.  It was calm and flat, much preferred to the seasick-inducing waves of my last race in Korea!  pretty uneventful.  I got out without the usual hurry-hurry of getting through transition because my second event would be hitching a ride back to the T2/finish area.  Easily enough with the signature Wongstar charm and smile.

The run portion of the race was a half marathon consisting of 3 hilly laps through the village of Alpe d’Huez, altitude 1850 meters.  I met up with Felipe (who was too young at 17 for the long course race) and we cheered for all our teammates, who were all kicking butt in their TBB race kits.

the young Brazilian and I will be back next year with a vengeance!

the young Brazilian and I will return with a vengeance!

I waited until all our girls got through T2, so it wouldn’t look like I was winning the race or something awesome like that!  During my first lap, I saw Coach, who told me to run for 2 or 3 hours.  On the next lap I asked “Can I run a marathon today?”  I felt I had to make up for missing the fantastically challenging bike leg.  His reply: “if it makes you feel better.”  He knew I was upset with more than just the demise of my beloved warrior horse.  Besides, I needed to burn off the chocolate croissant I had for breakfast.  And the one I had for lunch.

I ended up doing 6 laps of the run…which confused some of the volunteers and officials, but I did have an official bib number, so they couldn’t kick me off course.  I really enjoyed the aid stations–they had watermelon and dark chocolate!  The official photographers even took several snaps:

oh, the altitudes not too bad

oh, the altitude's not too bad

I got many cheers because I was pretty fired up and holding a steady clip, or maybe because I’m such a hottie in my Scody team sports bra, but hey, I had relatively fresh legs from skipping the bike up the mountains.  Each lap took me just under 40 minutes, so I ended up running a sub-4 hour marathon.  Later I found out that it was a marathon-plus…the run course was actually 22km so I ended up running a very hilly 44k… at altitude… in under 4 hours!  yeah!

my favorite part was the chocolate at the aid stations

show me the chocolate!

So yes, I did actually feel much better after the run…thanks for asking.  ;)

The next day was our flat stage going halfway home…under Coach’s orders, Steve resurrected the warrior horse as a single speed bike in the big ring.

Dr. Steve operates on the warrior horse

Dr. Steve operates on the warrior horse

In the days after our tour I would learn that this is all part of Coach’s master plan to transform me into a bike monster…Wongstar the bike monster.  It has a nice ring to it.  While the Stage 5 route going home was mostly flat, I still found myself doing a fair share of standing on the pedals to get through what hills we had.  Oh, Khan.  This is not the last you will hear of him.

the resurrection of Khan.  like Gandalf the White if you are into that LOTR stuff ;)

the resurrection of Khan. like Gandalf the White if you are into that LOTR stuff ;)

As for the to-do list?  Well obviously not everything has been crossed off.  But assuming Khan’s replacement comes in time, I’ll be returning to France next weekend for Embrunman…

pre-race in Jeju, fat-loading on ice cream

Saturday, July 11th, 2009

The Wongstar loves race week because she hears Coach’s voice back in Subic (before Ironman China) saying “Now is not the time to start starving yourself.  Make sure you eat!!”  And my travel companion Donna in China…”this is the week to eat!”  “this is the day to eat!”  “this is the dinner to eat!”  “this is the lunch to eat!”  MMM, race week.  I even met a cute guy in the dessert line at the carbo-loading dinner when I was getting seconds for chocolate cake.  ;)

That was in China.  Now I’m in Korea.  This is probably the most foreign country I’ve ever been to thus far, which is kind of fun if a little confusing at times.  In China at least the writing looked familiar (from those torturous memories of Chinese school on many a childhood weekend), and I could understand and speak some.  Here hardly anyone speaks any English and they’ll speak Korean to me.  I’m using the desktop computer that each of our rooms at the Bluehill House comes equipped in, and I was really weirded out that I couldn’t figure out how to get the keyboard to type in English.  Cam showed me the special “slash” button that I had to press.

Ever since Ironman Korea lost its M-Dot, the international field has gotten smaller and smaller.  There will still be 600 athletes starting tomorrow morning, most of them Korean, and that’s twice the size of Ironman China this year!  I am actually the one and only American racing, and there are no Chinese people either, so I will do double duty and represent both very well.  :)   I took a picture of the Warrior Horse all clean and shiny with his new USA, China, and California flag stickers, and lots of other cool photos but can’t upload them to this computer now.  Give me a few days, I’ll have plenty of time in the airports during some long layovers.  I’ve been hanging out with bodyguard Cam, Jan Rehula (hilarious Czech fellow who used to train with Sutto and now helps coach the Korean national team), and Dan Brown who is another Aussie.  I think the 4 of us make up half of the English-speaking participants of the whole race.  And I know this because there were about 8 of us at the race briefing held in English.

Cam and I had a lunchtime adventure today which culminated in the whole “ordering from the picture menu” backfiring on us.  We ordered some hot soup dish that was supposed to be pork and rice.  Except the pork bits in the soup were all fat chunks.  We ended up having two bowls of rice each and mixing it with the kim-chee.  Then we went to a bakery straight after because we were still hungry, and it’s race week, can’t starve yourself during race week!  Going to the grocery store was more successful because you can at least see what you are buying.  I figured out which milk was soy milk because of the pictures of the soybeans all over it.  Cam got ice cream which had pictures of pistachios and I had the ice cream with the pictures of Oreo cookies and chocolate bars on it.

I decided to go with some Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino drinks in my Camelbak during the last lap of the marathon instead of Coke this time, as I don’t really like Coke and if you don’t completely defizz it, your Camelbak turns into a balloon.  I’m gonna freeze it tonight, cuz our awesome accommodations (where our team stayed last year at the Jeju training camp) has a fridge and freezer.  Then hopefully by the time I get it at special needs tomorrow, it’ll still be nice cold coffee.  If not, at least warm or hot coffee is ok too…hahaha…better than warm or hot Coke right!!  and yes, I have practiced with it in training, gosh, go read my Monster Run blog if you don’t remember.

Jeju is in fact, really gorgeous and I can see how it would be a great place to train.  I’ll be back for the whole month of September for the pre-Kona training camp.  No, not going to Kona, but I am going to learn to swim during this next block of training camps after tomorrow’s ironman.  Tomorrow, the swim is wetsuit legal (hip hip hooray!) and we are going the direction with the buoys on the side I breathe on (double yay).  It’s a mass start so I think I’ll have some good age groupers to swim with.  Or maybe some bad pro guys, who knows ;)   I have been swimming with Duncan the Donut practically every swim session, so swimming 4k’s without him should seem easy, right?

The weather here is a bit sketch, it’s been pouring down rain, then clearing up, but it’s foggy and overcast like at home in Pacifica yet crazy humid.  I got drenched running 20mins this morning and that was without the rain.  :D   So I’m mentally prepared for a wet day, or maybe it’ll “pull a China,” dry up, and get crazy hot.  In all cases, I’m going to see how many men I can “chick” as the pro field is a little bit sparse.  The race organizers must have read my last blog because they put me in the transition area right next to the men’s 18-24 age group.  ;)

I can definitely feel my Asian Triathlon Superstar status rising here in Korea, as some of the racers recognized me from Ironman China, and I got an introduction with a spotlight on me at the carbo dinner.  :)   After dinner some fans even wanted to get their picture taken with me!  Racing in Asia is the best :)

Herman the Pull Buoy

Saturday, July 4th, 2009

So I was feeding my pull buoy the other day, and my coworker Natalie said something to the extent of “aww, you love your pull buoy don’t you?  You should name it something.  Like Herman.”

I agreed…yes, I do love my pull buoy, and besides, something you put in between your legs almost every day should have a name.  And thus Herman the Pull Buoy was born.  I thought about naming him something else, maybe a good pool boy name like Rico or Miguel.  But then I kept thinking “P.B. Herman” and it has a familiar ring to it.  My siblings and I were big fans of Pee-wee’s Playhouse growing up.  :)

Anyway, Herman is a growing buoy.  He is now a very big buoy.  Because you see, the relationship with a pro triathlete girl and her pull buoy is sort of an inverse relationship, body composition-wise.  The leaner I get, the less I float in the water, so then I must fatten up Herman so that he compensates for my new skinniness.

So when the Wongstar traded Nutella and peanut butter for celery, surely she couldn’t waste the Nutella.  Herman is a very hungry buoy.  I have been feeding Herman all my Nutella and peanut butter, so now he is nice and fat.  Heck, I used to go through a jar of peanut butter every week, so Herman has been eating very well.  He kind of looks like a pull buoy on steroids, but we on teamTBB don’t believe in doping.  Herman is just a big fatty.  In his line of work, similar to sumo wrestlers and opera singers, it is better to be fat than to be muscular.

Herman is so fat that I have been having a little trouble getting him in between my legs when we are in the water.  He just floats so well!  Here is a picture of him with my other gear, Doc’s favorite paddles and the evil donut tube (who I think I will name Duncan.  Duncan Donut, hahahaha).  I found an anorexic pull buoy to pose next to Herman so you can see how much more massive he is.  Obviously this other pull buoy doesn’t understand the job description.

P.B. Herman and friends

P.B. Herman and friends

heat training the Wongstar way

Monday, June 29th, 2009

I get a little excited about hot weather.  This weekend there were some “heat advisories” so I did what any triathlete would do…well any triathlete who wants maximum preparation for a hot race…I drove 2 hours inland where the temperatures were sure to top 100F.  I even left the air conditioning off in my car for extra heat training.

It hasn’t been hot at home by the coast; I still wear arm warmers, gloves, vest, leg warmers or tights, and toe covers on the bike shoes when I bike commute to and from work.  But this ironman in Jeju is in two weeks now and it’s supposed to be deathly hot.  Maybe hot like China!  China didn’t feel so bad after training in the Philippines, but training right by San Francisco in the fog isn’t quite the same.

So I went to visit my friend Amy, Asian Triathlon Superstar in training, the one who hated camping at Wildflower.  She’ll be doing her first ironman in 3 weeks in Lake Placid!  She lives out in Folsom, just past Sacramento…so since she was spending the bulk of her Saturday doing her long ride, I did some morning training at home (it really was foggy at the beach), then drove halfway and stopped in the wine country for my first hot ride.  I was already sweating buckets in the car from my no-A/C heat training.

Google told me:
Weather: Napa, CA
100F (38C), Clear
Wind: W 1mph
Hum: 41%

I kitted up in my Avia jersey, yanked the fleece-lined toe covers off my shoes and left the gloves in the car.  Off I went and well…huh…doesn’t this hot breeze feel familiar.  It’s been over 2 months since I left Asia and my body needed a harsh reminder.

30 mins in: Gosh my Gatorade sure is warm.

1hr in: Wow, now my Gatorade is hot like the hot tea I drink in the morning, or the chicken soup Mom makes for dinner.

It is workouts like these when I sometimes think the race itself is not as hard as the training.  You’ve got your catered aid stations with cold drinks and ice…then again…

1.5hrs:  time to turn around!  I could really use a refill of something nice and cold…

At the gas station in Calistoga, I grabbed a bottled Starbucks frappuccino and some more Gatorade, went up to pay when suddenly I saw it:

And it was like the sun came out and the angels started singing.  (I am being facetious as obviously the sun had already been out and roasting me.)

***I would like to take this opportunity to thank you, Mr. Omar Knedlik, inventor of the ICEE for being a hero to all of us who suffer in the heat and cool down by drinking your ICEE’s and Slurpee’s.  (Slurpee at 7-11, FYI, is actually a licensed ICEE.)  May you rest in peace.***

So then I think maybe the race IS harder than the training.  Because we don’t get ICEE’s or Slurpee’s at the aid stations.  I wish they would get on that and sponsor an Ironman already!

The rest of the ride was pretty uncomfortable, but I told myself that Korea is gonna be hotter, so HTFU, Wongstar.

When I finished, I blasted the A/C for the first 10mins driving to Amy’s, then went back to “heat training” in the car.  Amy is looking super fit and I’m jealous at how much arm muscle she’s grown since I last saw her.  My skinny arms seem to be wasting away like weak sauce in comparison.  Ripped they are not!

This morning I went for round 2 in the heat on the bike.

It didn’t feel too bad starting out, of course, because it was in the morning.  But it was heating up.  Yup, I was sweating buckets.  And I had to stop a couple times for some cold refills (no ICEE’s or Slurpee’s today unfortunately), and drank the most I’ve drinken recently during a 4.5-hour ride: almost 6 bottles.  Towards the end it didn’t feel as hot as yesterday though.

Google said:
Weather: Folsom, CA
103F (39C), Clear
Wind: S 3mph
Hum: 17%

So just two rides in the heat and it felt more tolerable today for sure!  I think my body adapts fast.  :)  I was actually a little disappointed I couldn’t stay and ride later, as today’s high was supposed to be 110F (43C).

Folsom is actually a really gorgeous place to train, it’s not just full of them prisoners that Johnny Cash sang to.  Today I did a loop around Folsom Lake and there were tons of cyclists out.  I’ve done a couple of local tris in this area, the Folsom Olympic Tri and the World’s Toughest Half in the neighboring town of Auburn.  My race reports are actually buried in this blog somewhere…  I couldn’t resist taking some pictures with my camera phone:

keep Guinness at home, he knows how to worry them chickens

keep Guinness at home, he knows how to worry them chickens even if he won't harm them

Ironically there was a vet hospital right across the street from this sign.

Not such a cool day in Cool today

Not such a cool day in Cool today

up and down, up and down, great views but you had to work for them:

a monster blog about Wongstar’s 1st Monster Run back home

Monday, June 15th, 2009

I will tell you a secret because you are a faithful blog reader, and faithful blog readers get rewarded with real secrets from real pros. And now that I am a real pro, which I will not cease to brag about any time soon, I can offer “real secrets from a real pro.” My secret is that I am turning into a big run monster. Shh, don’t tell my competition. They probably won’t believe you anyway, because I don’t have very fast top end speed. I’ve never broken 90 minutes in a half marathon or even 42 minutes in a 10k. (Actually there was a time the scrawny teenage Wongstar could run 2:32 for 800 meters and 64 seconds for a 400, but that was a really long time ago and really not that fast by California high school standards.) What I do have is this special bombproof Wongstar shuffle that lets me go on and on forever and not slow down. Perfect for Ironman! So here is a tip:

How to Become an Asian Triathlon Superstar, Step #22: Turn yourself into a run monster by doing monster runs.

Coach had me doing lots of monster runs in Subic. It was great! Sometimes we were lucky enough to get two a week. Marathons on the track AND long runs on the road. Coach would have me run longer than the others, and we wouldn’t tell anybody. Secret training! I would get really excited about monster runs but had to contain myself, because I wanted my new teammates to like me. AHAHAHA :D

Since coming home, I haven’t got to do a monster run yet because first I was recovering from China, then I was out racing Wildflower, then Florida, then the NY trip, then I got sick. Since I was feeling better I asked Coach if I could do my marathon track set…but he said to go do an easy long monster run (on the road) instead to help get the stubborn phlegm out. This is why we have a coach, so he can hold you back when you are raring to go. Since today was the famous Escape from Alcatraz triathlon, practically in my neighborhood, I decided I would run from my front door to somewhere along the course and back.

escape

I haven’t ever done the Alcatraz race because I haven’t always been home in June since becoming a triathlete, and even when I was, it was way too expensive for a sorta-Olympic distance race. So I always said that I will do it when I become a pro, that way I could get in for free! I didn’t really get my pro card in time this year, so maybe next time. :)

So I say I’m from San Francisco when people from far away places ask, because that is the closest big city, but I really live in Pacifica, which is 2 cities down along the coast. So named because of our proximity to the Pacific Ocean, we also call it P-Town or the 94044. Daly City is the next city going up the coast before SF, which has an enormous Pinoy population and is where I went to elementary, middle, and high school. I also have a giant extended family who all pretty much live within a 5-mile radius of P-Town. So today’s monster run was like a tour of where I grew up.

monster-run-map

I filled up my Camelbak with my favorite flavor of Gatorade (X-Factor yellow, tastes like Skittles), fully charged up the Ipod, grabbed my magic running sticks (filled with refill money), threw on my Avia visor and Avi-Rhythms, and out the front door I went! I decided to take surface streets until I hit the Great Highway (which has a pedestrian path). In high school our track coach sent us on a similar (though much shorter) route but we would run down the shoulder of the highway, and he would just advise us to please not become hood ornaments…

First I ran by cousin Alvina’s house and my grandma’s house (they live 4 houses apart about 5 blocks away from us). 10mins later I bumped into my aunt, Alv’s mom, who was on a long walk of her own. She asked where I was going, I said Lake Merced (10 miles round-trip) so she wouldn’t think I was too crazy.

I had suited up in full tights and a warm long-sleeve shirt and could already tell I overdressed. Hmm. Well, better to be too warm than too cold, at least it is good practice for Korea to sweat extra.

I ran by my senior prom date’s house.

@25mins, I ran by my alma mater, Westmoor High School, and the Asian supermarket (Ranch 99, great source for Hello Pandas) a block away that they built during my sophomore year. I’m pretty excited that by next summer, Westmoor is getting a brand new swimming pool (I learned to swim…barely…during freshman P.E.) and the dirt track I ran many laps around is getting upgraded to a rubber track!

…I would insert some dorky pictures from high school here but I don’t have any in digital format…if you are lucky I might scan some one of these days. ;)

I ran by my co-valedictorian’s old house.

I ran by the library where I studied for my SAT’s.

I ran by another cousin’s house.

@45mins I was inside San Francisco city limits and running by Lake Merced. This was where the Westmoor cross country team held summer practices, and thus the place I first became an athlete and fell in love with running. Exactly 14 summers ago. When I did the math in my head, I realized I’ve now spent over half my life as a competitive athlete. Wow.

penguin-statue

@60mins hit the Great Highway, right next to the San Francisco zoo where that tiger escaped from his little tiger area and killed those boys that were taunting him a couple Christmases ago.

tatiana

I ran by my college crush’s street.

I ran by my high school crush’s street.

The Great Highway goes along the coast by Ocean Beach, where 5 years ago I had been an extra in a commercial for Wachovia Bank, as a triathlete of course. Easiest $400 I ever made for maybe 40mins of splashing around the Ocean, I wish I could find this commercial on YouTube as I haven’t ever actually seen it.

ocean-beach

@75mins I was passing by the west end of Golden Gate Park where I’d run many high school XC races and road races.

@85mins I made it to the Cliff House, where I had celebrated my 17th birthday with my “twin” Patti, my high school cross country teammate who turned 14 the same day. We were a senior and freshman then, yup I graduated 10 years ago and will be missing the 10-year reunion this summer in favor of going to Swiss camp instead.

cliff-house

At this point I hit the GGNRA (Golden Gate National Recreational Area) and Lands End trail, which begins right behind the Cliff House and had been recently renovated. And by “recent” I mean in the last few years, as I don’t actually train in this area very often. So now I was going up and down through the dirt trail with some wooden stairs built in some places, this is in between the ocean and on a cliff side. If you have ever raced Alcatraz or seen videos of the run portion, you will understand.

lands-end

@105mins it was time to turn around, but I just spotted the most gorgeous view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Aha! now how cool would that be, I thought, to say I ran all the way from my house to the Golden Gate Bridge…AND BACK??? How far can it be?

ggbridge

@120mins (AKA 2 hours) the bridge did not look that much closer. Uhh Wongstar, just because you can see the bridge doesn’t mean it is that close. It is a pretty big bridge, you know. And it takes you almost an hour to bike there from home… Oh fine. I listened to the logical voice in my head and turned around. The Camelbak was running low.

ggbridge2

I stopped by the newish and very clean well-stocked Porta-potties behind the Cliff House, then stopped by a gas station by Golden Gate Park for some refilling. I chugged down a bottled Starbucks mocha frappuccino for some caffeine action and got more yellow Gatorade for the Camelbak. No gels for me, I operate solely on liquid sugar and caffeine.

The caffeine probably kicked in at some point, I felt really good on the way back and probably picked up the pace. I mean, if the 3rd and 4th hour of your monster run doesn’t feel much different (and actually better) than the first two hours, I think that’s a good sign.

Exactly 4 hours later I was back in my neighborhood. About 3hrs 50mins run time. Probably not quite marathon distance as I was going at an easy phlegm-loosening pace, and I was a little disappointed I didn’t get all the way to the GG Bridge (maybe 1-2miles short?) …almost doesn’t count…I’ll get there next time.

I love monster runs.