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completing the Kentucky list

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

most fabulous hat ever!

My derby hat totally trumps Jessica Simpson’s from Newlyweds. :D

Hat provided by Kellie’s friend Laura; adult beverage provided by liquor sponsor Haamonii Smooth Shochu and mixed by homestay dad Brian.

The Kentucky list is now complete!

Oh yeah I even got to ride a horse too.

giddy up horsie!

putting the “Kentucky” in KFC

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

Many locals here in Kentucky have asked why I came here to do the race when there are other races all over the country, and even the rest of the world. Of course most of them don’t know it’s because I’ve been told to do EVERY Ironman in this country this year, but even so, here is the secret truth revealed…I came to Kentucky because this is where Kentucky Fried Chicken comes from. Didn’t we all?

the KFC at the 4th Street Live finish line area

Today in Louis-ville, the infamous Louis took me on a very special KFC trip. Neither of us had ever been to a KFC that was actually in the state of Kentucky.

what do you MEAN there's no Double Down here?!

We went to the KFC at the 4th Street Live finish area. Sadly, it was only a “KFC Express” which meant they didn’t have everything a full-service KFC has to offer. Namely there was no Double Down, and most definitely not the Skinwich.  We had to settle for a box of chicken wings.

the Colonel: the only person more famous than me here in Louisville.

On the bright side, Colonel Sanders came back from the dead when he heard a triathlon superstar of my caliber was coming into town, and we got some great photo ops with the genius behind the 11-ingredient “finger lickin’ good” secret recipe.

nom nom nom fried chicken!

gotta have KFC in Kentucky!

So…was it the best thing I ever ate? Does KFC in Kentucky taste better here than in other states???

while some are into that vegetarian stuff, the Wongstar is most definitely a carnivore.

Well I have two answers depending on who you are. If you are the Boss reading this, I didn’t actually eat the KFC; I just posed with the food for the photos. Awesome pictures, right! ;) If you are anybody else, holy crap that was awesome!  Like a party in my mouth and everyone’s invited! :D

And well…it does taste the same as in California and other states. (From what I recall, and I don’t actually remember the last time I had KFC.) Which isn’t a bad thing. At least now you know, and knowing’s half the battle. ;)

where baseball bats are made.

Saturday, August 28th, 2010

whoa that's a big bat! "that's what SHE said."

Ok, DUH, how could I forget to put “see where baseball bats are made” on my list of things to do here in Kentucky? Especially in Louisville?

and that's why they're not called Wilmington Sluggers.

Now while some of my teammates have been known to follow the World Series when we are overseas at training camp, my own personal interest with baseball has been limited to “hmm, should I let him get to first base or *gasp* second base tonight?” ;) Or, hey! Jew Day at the ballpark! But even so, of course I’ve heard of Louisville Sluggers…  The official bat of Major League Baseball. As you recall, Delaware doesn’t have an MLB team…

Well, neither does Louisville. Despite all this baseball bat-making. Their minors team that plays in Louisville Slugger Field is called the “Louisville Bats.”  Their mascot is the winged creature that Batman emulates…cute and corny right? The Wongstar loves a good pun!

Coach can't teach me to swim, time to take up a new sport.

So here at Ironman central, you can actually get a personalized official IRONMAN Louisville Slugger bat! With your name enscribed on it! Now how sweet is that.

I bet you could get your finish time laser-engraved on it too.

After today’s ESPN interview (where I declared I wanted me some KFC at the finish line), athlete registration, and pro meeting, Kellie took me over to the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, where all the baseball bats are made. They’ve got a giant glove…

me and Kellie--champion homestay!

to go with the giant baseball bat outside.

I feel like I'm on "Honey I Shrunk the Kids"

Gear bags are packed and tonight is the night to sleep! Very cool catching up with my teammates here, and also Jeff (Team Glas!), Minsok and Bliss from Singapore/Austin, Sugar from our forum, and some of the TNT LA crew.  But I have yet to meet Louis in Louis-ville ;)

Mid-season Report Card: Wongstar’s Walkabout

Friday, August 27th, 2010

The travel sponsor has requested a blog that is actually about triathlon and not travel adventures and dating stories. :(

living out of a suitcase. dogs everywhere too. miss ya, Mads!

I shall not bore you too much with the nitty-gritty on training and mileage though, as I find that stuff excruciatingly boring to read. But just because I don’t blog about it doesn’t mean I’m not doing it. If my life were like a reality TV show, it would be some freak hybrid of The Biggest Loser (making and maintaining race weight = a daily battle), Survivor (“stranded in a remote locale, with limited resources”), MTV Cribs (some, no ALL, of these homestays are suh-WEET), the Amazing Race (navigating my way across the USA), and… the Bachelorette. I just choose to blog about the fun parts, just like the TV producers only highlight the drama and shenanigans. :)

But fair enough, it is the end of August with half of my summer tour complete (2 down, 2 to go), and for the year, 5 done, 4 to go. So sure, it’s about time for a midseason report card, isn’t it?

This year, or at least this summer, has definitely been different than the last, as I’ve been set loose here in the USA, squad-less, being coached by the Boss through email, and living out of my suitcase. There were a few reasons for this–finances, teamTBB representation at the American races, and some nebulous “test” of sorts from the Boss. As one of the newest pros on teamTBB, this summer has been my symbolic walkabout: “a rite of passage during which male Australian Aborigines would undergo a journey during adolescence and live in the wilderness for a period as long as six months.” (Thanks as always, Wikipedia.) Ok, so I’m not an adolescent male Australian Aborigine, but I think you get the gist. :)

Living out of a suitcase and traveling solo has been trying at times–just when you get settled in somewhere, get into a routine and learn the roads, get to know people and start forging stronger bonds with them, hey! it’s time to pack up and go again. Still, I’ve met so many great people that have helped me along in this journey and am really grateful to all of them.  I’ve also learned a lot about myself as an athlete and person during this summer tour. What works for me, what doesn’t work, what I want out of this sport, and what I am willing to do to get there.

Performance-wise, how do I think I’ve been doing? You can’t really gauge too much based on times and finish positions because from course to course, the terrain and weather vary, along with how competitive the field at each race is. Last year, it was quite obvious that I improved by leaps and bounds, because even though all the courses were different, dropping 2 hours and 14 minutes off my Ironman PR could only mean…I got way faster. This year as I am primarily racing in the USA, the competition is obviously deeper than in the two ironman-distance races I won in Korea last year, so getting a top 10 finish in the pro field here is arguably harder than some of the races I spanked last season.

So am I still improving, performing well, and getting faster? Yes. Well, ok, I take it 1/3 of that back–my swim has gone a bit backwards this year. My dad compiled my IM stats for this year with all my splits (thanks Papa Wongstar!) and the swim’s gone like this: 1:18 (non-WS), 1:11, 1:17, 1:22, 1:14 (non-WS). EWW. In my six ironmans last year, there were a couple of 1:05′s and a 1:07. I’ve learned just how difficult it is for me to properly swim (and properly swim hard) when I am on my own. But my bike continues to improve–I’ve got big strong bike legs that will stomp down the skinny girls. My run has been solid and consistent and I’ve learned that I can do those big track sessions (even a marathon on a dirt track) completely alone without a squad or coach around, and faster than I’ve ever run them. The race experience I’ve gained from racing so often has been invaluable, and I’m lucky to be able to live here in the USA where there are so many Ironmans. It was inevitable that the chunks of time I kept chopping off my IM times last year would start to plateau, as taking an hour off would get me in the sub-9 club and then another hour into the sub-8 club, and well that’s not quite so realistic. ;) I do believe that I am still improving and on the verge of another breakthrough.

I’ve had a very solid training block in Delaware, and for the first time all summer was able to swim with a squad under Coach Mac’s guidance. I have high hopes this Sunday to continue the upward trend my swim has returned to at Lake Placid. It’ll be non-wetsuit BUT two-thirds of it is downstream, which I’ll take. ;) I lived without a car in Delaware, so got in plenty of extra bike miles in (a 45-minute bike each way to the pool every morning), and the roads in the Lower Brandywine Valley were amazing for cycling. It was also plenty hot and humid, as it will be here in Louisville on race day, and you know how much I love that kind of weather! The hotter the better, so bring it on! :)

Finally I shall leave you with the question I ask myself when I wake up every morning:

my answer is always "BE BETTER"

5 things to do in Kentucky

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

1.  Determine how the KFC in Kentucky compares to KFC not in Kentucky.

You would think that Kentucky Fried Chicken is extra special in Kentucky, right? But am I brave enough to try the Double Down sandwich that has been hyped up in our teamTBB forum? :(

2. Get lucky in Kentucky.

This is completely open to interpretation. ;) This may involve lottery tickets, betting on horses (see #4 below), or best yet–no mechanical issues on the bike!

3. Meet a guy named Louis in Louisville.

Yes, there is this guy who keeps posting fan photos on my FB fan page and is fond of Sharpie-ing “I (heart) WongSTAR” on his arms. He swears he’s not a stalker. He’s not the first.

4. Wear a funny hat and see horses.

Yeah, the Kentucky Derby was four months ago but from what I understand, it’s all about wearing funny hats and watching horses.

5. Oh yeah, race an Ironman. Right!

It’s my first time visiting Kentucky so those are some of the first things that come into my mind when I think “Kentucky”: KFC, an Ironman, and the Kentucky Derby. :)

it’s NOT always sunny in Philadelphia

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Dirty rotten liars! I don’t know why they say it’s always sunny in Philadelphia…I am going to tell you something very shocking…it’s NOT! Lightning and thunder and torrential downpours = delayed flight to St. Louis + missed connection to Louisville = better to stay here for another 24 hours than scramble around looking for any Wongstar fans in St. Louis that would want to help put me up for the night. (HMM, that’s a great idea actually–start a Wongstar Fan Database for those of you that live by all the major airports.)

So yes. Back in Delaware for just another night…fingers crossed that the weather cooperates tomorrow, though it is supposed to be thunderstormy too. In the meantime I spied a restaurant in the Philly airport that made me think of one of our teamTBB ninjas, both of whom I get to catch up with at this next race in Kentucky.

Maki of Japan...I will see you in Louisville! ^_~

While patiently waiting to board my flight, then patiently waiting to reschedule my flight, I passed the time away by compiling a list of the top 5 things I want to do in Kentucky. Stayed tuned for the next blog. ***SUSPENSE!***

a trip to the zoo.

Monday, August 16th, 2010

things to do in Delaware #1: go to the zoo.

Today I went to the zoo. I was pretty excited. Delaware only has one zoo, the Brandywine Zoo, and it is a 15-minute walk from the Bike Haus. I run by the zoo all the time.

Sure it was probably a small zoo, since it’s a small state, but the website said there was a tiger. Pretty exciting because it is the Year of the Tiger, and my bike is named White Tiger.

So I went to the zoo, and was really excited about seeing the tiger.

oh boy oh boy the zoo I'm gonna see a tiger oh boy

I got to the tiger exhibit.

oh boy oh boy it's the tiger exhibit oh boy

And the tiger was dead. :(

what do you mean the tiger is dead?!?!?!

Apparently the tiger died 2 weeks ago. Apparently it is even on the front page of the website and I totally missed that memo because I have this small little netbook with a small little screen and didn’t scroll down far enough. I was just so excited and clicked the “Animals at the Zoo” link, which clearly hadn’t been updated to account for dead tigers.

Rest in peace, dear tiger.

The Wongstar: Larger Than Life

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010
Asian Triathlon Superstar dwarfs Chinatown

Asian Triathlon Superstar dwarfs Chinatown

Triathlon superstars make the most of active recovery days. They go sightseeing in new cities, get in some light exercise to keep moving, and go on dates. All at the same time. (Yes, and Hello Panda-hunting while on a date proves what a successful multi-tasker I am.)

where to play mini golf in Philadelphia

where to play mini golf in Philadelphia

The active recovery exercise of choice was miniature golf in Franklin Square.

Ben Franklin Bridge

Benjamin Franklin Bridge

All the famous Philly landmarks are appropriately mini size to go with the mini golf, so you feel like Godzilla

…or at the very least, like the girl in Monsters vs. Aliens

I am not sure if I am better at swimming or miniature golf…but somehow I still won. ;)  At one point in the game, golf temporarily evolved to billiards to get my ball unstuck.

my ball is stuck in purgatory.

my ball is stuck in purgatory.

There was even a miniature version of the “Rocky Steps” in front of the mini Philadelphia Museum of Art.

made famous by that scene in Rocky

made famous by the Rocky movies

According to Wikipedia, “Tourists and local residents often mimic Rocky‘s famous climb, a metaphor for an underdog or an everyman rising to a challenge.”

Ok, so I didn’t even make it to the top of the steps in the mini version, but the photo had to be snapped before the mini golf attendant yelled at me (again) for climbing over things I wasn’t supposed to.

Wongstar the underdog rising to the challenge!

Wongstar the underdog rising to the challenge!

I rather enjoyed being larger than life…

attack of the ginormous triathlon superstar

attack of the ginormous triathlon superstar

Of course I’m sure you all have the same burning question…

Wouldnt you like to know.

Wouldn't you like to know.

“So Wongstar, was it true love???”

Well, you will have to check out the tabloids for yourself. But don’t believe everything you read. A triathlon superstar likes to keep her fans full of suspense and intrigue. ;)

The Hunt for Hello Pandas

Monday, August 9th, 2010

By now, everybody knows what I eat during long bike rides and during the bike leg of Ironman: cute and cuddly little Hello Panda biscuits. I’ll have to go into more detail on why these are so awesome when I write an article for Fuel Stop on the TBB homepage, but the tricky thing is finding them in places where there isn’t a huge Asian population. See, they are manufactured in Singapore and exported worldwide…yes, in my mind Singapore is most famous for two very fabulous things: the birthplace of The Bike Boutique and the producers of Hello Pandas!

the choice of triathlon superstars

the choice of triathlon superstars

Since I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, there was always a plethora of Asian supermarkets nearby and the biggest Chinatown in the world outside of Asia. So childhood snacks like Hello Panda, Yan Yan, and Pocky were very abundant and easy to come by. In fact, my local Costco at home even started carrying them in bulk! Weird though, they Americanized the box design:

the Americanized Costco version

the Americanized Costco version

It was actually at TBB training camps in Asia when I began to eat Hello Pandas on my bike rides, because they are in all the grocery stores and 7-11′s. But of course they were nowhere to be found in Europe, and I soon learned they were a bit harder to find when going to parts of the USA with much smaller Asian populations. Luckily in Spokane I found them in the Asian World Food Market on Division Street:

despite all the white people in Spokane, the city did not disappoint.

despite all the white people in Spokane, the city did not disappoint.

They even had my favorite flavor, the double chocolate in the yellow boxes! Although at the end of my 6 weeks there, they had run out of my favorite flavor (I probably bought them out) so I had to settle for just chocolate (the red box). :(

As in every new place I go during this summer superstar tour, I began my hunt for Hello Pandas in Delaware. My supply was down to a box of the standard chocolate and a box of the strawberry. I had bought two boxes of strawberry just to try them and while I love strawberries (fresh California ones, which I have since learned get more expensive and start tasting like crap the further away from California you go, but that’s another soapbox), strawberry-flavored Hello Panda have nothing on the chocolate versions. I was a little concerned after my first three days in Delaware, as I hadn’t seen another Asian person at all.

Newark Farmers Market on Kirkwood Highway

Newark Farmer's Market on Kirkwood Highway

First stop was a trip to the indoor Farmer’s Market in Newark with my host family, only 8 miles away. They sold all kinds of different international foods. I was super excited to see the familiar happy face of the Hello Panda on the top shelf of the Asian section!

top shelf Hello Pandas: WHAT NO CHOCOLATE?!

top shelf Hello Pandas: WHAT NO CHOCOLATE?!

…until I realized that they only had the strawberry and vanilla flavors. WHAT?!

next to the cash registers...still no chocolate :(

next to the cash registers...still no chocolate :(

But chocolate is the standard flavor! Shocking!!!

Fortunately Wilmington is only 25 miles (40km) from the big city of Philadelphia, which like all big cities has its own Chinatown. I made it my mission to find the elusive double chocolate Hello Pandas.

Now you know you are approaching the Chinatown when you see dragons…

skewered dragons, yum yum yum

BBQ-skewered dragons, yum yum yum

…and as it seems there is a very Chinese-looking type archway in every Chinatown too. My first impressions of the Philly Chinatown? Cleaner and better smelling than the one in San Francisco. Also much smaller and not packed to the gills with Chinese folks. The ratio of white people to Asians seemed much higher.

the Friendship Gate at Chinatown in Philly.  We Chinese are a friendly lot.

the "Friendship Gate" at Chinatown in Philly. We Chinese are a friendly lot.

Not only is Chinatown just for the Chinese…there are “other Asians” too.  We passed by a restaurant and I had to stop and snap a phone pic to text to Mom:

where Momma Wongstar is from.

where Momma Wongstar is from.

Mom was born in raised in Rangoon, Burma. Which is now called Yangon, Myanmar, but we don’t call it that. We also passed by a restaurant that is not just one-Wong-awesome but twice as awesome:

two Wongs can make it right!!

two Wongs can make it right!!

I still laugh when people tell me I’m not Asian enough to call myself an Asian Triathlon Superstar. The more I venture away from home, the more Asian I realize I am.

The fire station also dragon-fied

The fire station also dragon-fied

So this laundromat-slash-food market seemed like a good place to check out…

zeroing in on the kill

zeroing in on the kill

After being disappointed by some smaller shops, imagine my joy!



They had my favorite flavor! I stocked up on a whole entire box of 10 @ $1.50 each.

Really doesnt take much to make my day.

Really doesn't take much to make my day.

Mission accomplished! I was ready to leave Chinatown when I walked by a Hello Kitty store with this sign:

drinks and snacks sold here at the Hello Kitty store

Hello Pandas at the Hello Kitty store

Oh dear. Now I had to go in. And there they were, smiling at me again!

Hello Panda heaven!

Hello Panda heaven!

Crap, and they were priced at only $1.25 per box. The owner of the shop saw me lug in the big box from the laundromat-slash-food market and demanded to know how much I paid for them. I sheepishly told her $1.50 to which she replied “Why you not buy from here?! I give you better price!!!” She then brought the price down to $1.10 per box. So I had no choice but to buy another 10 boxes.

You can never have enough chocolate Hello Pandas.

You can never have enough chocolate Hello Pandas.

I took a picture of the sign above the store on Appletree Street, so you will know where to find the best deal on Hello Panda in Chinatown Philly.

come here for your Hello Panda fix :D

come here for your Hello Panda fix :D

So thank you Philadelphia Chinatown. I will be back to try your Burmese cuisine and load up on more Hello Pandas should I run out!

the loot at home.

the loot at home.

post-Placid pics in New York

Friday, August 6th, 2010
the Asian superstar one-girl bobsled team

the Asian superstar one-girl bobsled team

I had a request for Wongstar bobsled photos from my friend Jay in Austin.  Mark of Runners High N Tri offered to be bobsled sponsor so that Ben and I could ride the bobsleds, but unfortunately we ran out of time post-race. (That’s right, a true superstar gets a BOBSLED SPONSOR.) Instead I got a silly photo op in front of this cafe that sells crepes.

the grin on Amys face is like this emoticon -- :D

the grin on Amy's face is like this emoticon --> :D

I had to help Amy ship her trophies home (yes, she got TWO). They weighed in at Fedex at 28 pounds!

solid gold brick right there.

solid gold brick right there.

I hung out a bunch with my buddy Travis at Placid Planet Bicycles. They were awesome and open for 24 hours in the days leading up to the race to help with last-minute mechanical fixes. Turns out that White Tiger needed new threads into his frame for the rear caliper, and that was why I had issues in Coeur d’Alene! The bike mechanics were paid in beer, scones, and chocolate chip cookies, and I passed on two bottles of Haamonii Smooth Shochu to the owner, Julie, to share.

Thanks Placid Planet!!!

Thanks Placid Planet!!!

…and one more bobsled photo before I took the train to NYC:

if my triathlon career doesnt work out, I can be a bobsled superstar.

if my triathlon career doesn't work out, I can be a bobsled superstar.

I took the 7-hour Amtrak train to the Big Apple and met with my friend Carolina.  We had a Twinkie and Brownie reunion.  (Today is her birthday, HAPPY BIRTHDAY CAROLINA!!!)

Twinkie on the left, Brownie on the right.

Twinkie on the left, Brownie on the right.

I’m yellow on the outside and white on the inside. She is Peruvian/Venezuelan.

Central Park!

Central Park!

I only got to see NYC for the first time a year ago in May but didn’t get a chance to see Central Park because…I got the swine flu, remember? So that’s what we did this time.

this part is called The Mall but you dont get to go shopping.

this part is called "The Mall" but you don't get to go shopping.

The trippiest part of this whole experience is that someone later TweetedCelebrity sighting spotted @theWongstar walking w/ her friend in Central Park this afternoon around 5:45pm“.  WHOA NOW.  I told you I’m famous.

row row row your boat

row row row your boat

We took the rowboats out for some post-race active recovery.  I haven’t rowed a boat since I was on the Georgia Tech crew team in grad school and that was only with one oar.

in the middle of the city.  see!

in the middle of the city. see!

I had on my trusty Avia Avi-Rhythms while the Brownie was in her work shoes:

actually, were both in our work shoes.

actually, we're both in our "work shoes."

The soundtrack for this little excursion was none other than the bleepin’ hilarious “I’m On a Boat.”

YouTube Preview Image

There was this sweet fountain somewhere in the park:

make a wish!

make a wish!

I was touched by an angel.  *snork!*

I know, Im such a dork.

I know, I'm such a dork.

There was a cool ceiling of something here:

This was shipped from some other country, I think.

This was shipped from some other country, I think.

Lots of people, tall buildings, and taxi cabs:

New York, New York!

New York, New York!

When all was said and done, autographs were requested…because I’m famous…before I headed to the next adventure on the choo-choo train to Delaware:

I do take requests.

I do take requests.