Monday, October 29, 2012

Tut tut, looks like Frankenstorm

Here we are, the Frankenstorm is approaching and we are stuck at home with an unexpected four-day weekend. Work was cancelled last night for today, and then for tomorrow, while the Governor imposed driving restrictions as of 5am this morning. You can follow the Google Maps crisis storm tracker map to see what's going on. I added the red dot in between the two gray swirly dots so you can see where we are. We had Hurricane Irene come through in late August of last year (the same time as a tornado and right after that freak East Coast earthquake), but it was on the weekend and fizzled into a lame tropical storm by the time it hit us.

This time it's supposed to remain a Category 1 hurricane and the path of it goes right through Wilmington, DE over the course of two days. Never fear, me and the Sherpa and Socks are not in a flood zone and the biggest fear is that Socks will not want to go outside to do her #1's and #2's. Since we are also under house arrest and hunkering down, we also made sure to stock up on the proper food supplies as stores will be closed:

Chips and Halloween candy and ice cream and peanut butter. State of emergencies are not the time to be healthy, my dears. The fattier the food, the less hungry you'll be! FACT. (There is also a photo on Sherpa's phone after the trip to the liquor store, of course.) You may be asking why we got so much ice cream when the power might go out, compromising the fridge and freezer. I shall answer that question with another question: why do people stock up on milk right before a hurricane? In all seriousness, should the freezer go out, I will be yelling "QUICK, eat the ice cream before it goes bad!!!"

Because it is never a bad occasion to have ice cream, and if you are going to have a natural disaster strike your home, you should have a happy tummy. I decided to get a head start in the event of the freezer going out, and was pleasantly surprised to find a hurricane swirl in my Mocha Frappuccino Starbucks ice cream pint.

Speaking of being a great fat kid, I decided to be a tubby little cubby for Halloween. As I mentioned in my previous post, I've been too busy to make something all that complicated, so I thought, wow, how easy would it be to dress as a character that only wears a red polo shirt and no pants?

I tried to get the Sherpa to dress up as my Christopher Robin...

...but he was being rebellious and wanted to dress up however he wanted to dress up.

So instead, I told people that he was Christopher Robin who was arrested and in jail, and that I was an anorexic Winnie the Pooh. (Everyone said I was too skinny to be Pooh, and I thought about stuffing a pillow in there, but then people would think I got knocked up.)

Even without the Pooh hat (when it got warmer inside), I was plenty recognizable with my pot of "HUNNY" and little Piglet. And of course a balloon! The real question of course, is did I wear any pants? The answer would be "Oh bother, you had to be there." Meanwhile, it was much more fun dressing up our little puppy, who turned one year old last week:

Puppy was not as excited and delighted about her costumes as we were! This next one was extra hilarious:

She is Seabiscuit the champion race dog. The jockey on her back is made out of rubber, and when she is sprinting after her tennis ball while wearing it, the jockey bounces up and down. It's SO AWESOME!!!

So...that's the Frankenstorm update. Everyone else around here, please be safe. Our power is still on, for now. And we have plenty of flashlights and candles, and ice cream and wine!

Monday, October 22, 2012

El Salvador, sprint tri fail, ultimate update, and an ultra!

Previously, on The Sandbagger Chronicles....

  • I was about to board an airplane to El Salvador!
  • I would finish my triathlon season off with no more than a sprint!
  • I would play Ultimate Frisbee as an organized sport!
Oh, so much excitement. The trip to El Salvador was more amazing than last year, by which I mean I was less overworked and had more fun--yet still saw and helped more patients than we did last year. This was thanks in part to bringing one of our IPO residents, Brittany, who really helped me tackle the patient load. Me and Derek returned after last year's adventure, armed with experience and more supplies that we figured we would need. (Every year we leave, with a new list of "what we need for next year.")

Team O for Orthotics!

Same deal as last year--we went with a team of surgeons, representing the Healing the Children organization. There were also OR nurses, scrub techs, and an anesthesiology team. They would perform surgeries for kids with various leg and foot deformities, and "Team O for Orthotics" made braces for the kids who were either not surgical candidates, post-op braces for the kids after their surgeries, or updated new ones for the kids who had surgery in previous years and outgrew their old braces.

The kids were SOOOOOO adorable!

More photos can be found on the Independence P&O facebook page... more on my phone camera need to be uploaded.

Don't let the baseball uniforms confuse you! Me and Brittany wore them for entertainment value, for the kids. Of course most of them were more confused than amused. We were at the same military hospital in San Salvador as last year, hence the military docs:

Of course, now I'm less than a week out from Halloween, maybe I should've taken that baseball uniform home...I've been so busy I haven't had a chance to make something as sweet as the Buzz Lightyear outfit I had last year.

I haven't had much time to train either. Not much training during the El Salvador mission, not much training in the two weeks afterwards. I signed up super duper last minute for the Cape Henlopen sprint triathlon and pulling off a win on little training like the Diamondman and Barathon was fairly unrealistic. I took 2nd place in my age group and 15th woman, thanks in part to my embarrassingly slow transition times. Still, it was a really fun road trip with my fellow Tri-Dawgs and my first time swimming at a Delaware beach! Now I can chill for the off season...

As for how Ultimate Frisbee is going, I find it strange to sprint around in cleats, and catch and throw things, and run backwards and sideways. And team strategy? What a strange concept! I am not too terrible all things considered and have even managed to score a couple points and intimidate the other women.

I also decided not to sign up for Eagleman 70.3 and instead me and Amy are doing our first ultramarathon together--the Graveyard 100km at the Outer Banks in March!

It will be exciting! There is also a 100-mile option and while we were pondering which to do (neither of us has ever run more than a marathon, just multiple Ironman marathons), I declared "GO BIG OR GO HOME!" (100-miler!)

Amy was the logical one, and said "LET'S NOT BE STUPID!" (100-km!)

And that is the story of how we signed up for our first ultra.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

To El Salvador!

Testing out the Blogger app on my phone :) about to board the first flight to El Salvador for the annual Healing the Children trip. Adios, y'all!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Inaugural Delaware Barathon 5-Beer 5km

About a year ago, on Labor Day weekend of 2011, the Sherpa and I had been invited to an event organized by his friends. They called it the East Coast Barathon (modeled after one done in Colorado, I think) and was held in their neighborhood. It was a 5km run, over a 1-kilometer loop in the neighborhood, and you had to drink a beer before starting each lap. Men have to drink a 12oz beer and women only have to drink an 8oz beer. If you throw up, you are DQ'ed!

It was awesome, and Sherpa had always talked about bringing one down to Delaware. So we did that last weekend! It was to be the inaugural "Delaware Barathon," which I always pronounce "Beer-athon" but he pronounces "Bar-athon." It took place in the neighborhood of some of our Ultimate frisbee friends. Actually Dustin's house, who is one of the professional ultimate players for the Philadelphia Spinners--they won the "world championships" against Detroit earlier this year! (It's like how the Super Bowl is considered the "world championships".)

I'd gotten sick right after my little sprint championship race the previous weekend...which I attribute to drinking some of that gross Lums Pond water. And by sick, I mean, I had to actually go home from work on Tuesday morning, which I really never do as I have had the Tiger Mom "perfect attendance" mentality drilled into me as a kid. (Mom never let us stay home if we were sick, so we could get the perfect attendance certificate.  The only time I remember staying home was during the ginormous earthquake of 1989. I was 7 years old and we were living in San Jose, CA at the time. RIGHT by the epicenter!)

Anyway, I felt pretty terrible. I didn't work out that entire week other than going on short walks toward the end when I was feeling better. So I figured that I would run with Socks the Christmas puppy for the 5km. So off we went! I downed my 8oz like a champ (no beer for Socks). Unfortunately my competitive instincts kicked in and we had also made Socks run around and play a bunch before the event so that she wasn't too rambunctious. By the end of the lap, Socks was getting tired so I did the partner hand-off to our volunteer pourers at the table, who handed her off to the Sherpa when he got to the table.

But even though he was going slower than me, she still got tired. We have been doing 30-minute training runs too! She got to sit out the rest of the race. That's okay, we are still training for her first puppy 5km. I will try not to push her too hard like a Tiger Mom. I kept powering through and took the lead halfway through the second lap. It turns out that some guys dropped out, and one threw up. I didn't start to feel woozy until the 5th lap. I remembered to keep burping because half the challenge is keeping down all the beer bubbles. (I remembered in college one of my track teammates who won the beer mile told me the secret is to pat your stomach to burp out all the bubbles.) My strategy (and I've only done this twice now) is to run as fast as possible so that the alcohol doesn't hit you until you finish the 5km!

My boss even showed up to be a volunteer beer pourer! That's why I know I'm working for a great company! I started lapping people and then in the finishing sprint, Dylan (on his 4th lap) outsprinted me so that he wouldn't get lapped. haha! My throat felt pretty scratchy from running so hard after being sick. But I was super surprised that I ended up going 24:12. I think that's a new 5-beer 5km PR!

Not a huge field (the DNF's and DQ's were simply erased from our high-tech dry erase scoreboard) but a really fun first-year event. Special props to my roller derby coworker Evelyn for completing her first 5km ever! Actually, it was the first 5km run EVER (beer or no beer) for more than a few of these competitors. Well done!

I won a Guinness pint glass and don't have a photo, but oh look, here is one of me with the stuff I won the previous weekend!

(I told you I was really excited...) Anyway, as usual we had the complaints from the guys that 12oz is much more than 8oz for the girls. The first three women beat all the guys, and only two guys finished. Well, I agree 8oz is much less than 12, but I don't make up the rules here, folks. I'm sure I could still beat all the guys if I had to drink 12-oz beers ;)

Dustin had even set up a slip-n-slide in the front yard...

With a little speed bump/ramp in the middle. It looked dangerous. Some people even did a slip-n-slide run after each 1km lap (drink, run, slip-n-slide). Hmmm. Could be a new kind of triathlon!

And then at some point, people raided Elise's closet and put on all kinds of dresses (pretty, ugly, Halloween costumes). Guys really like to have any excuse to wear a dress...

And then we played some barefoot Ultimate. It was people in dresses vs. not in dresses...which was a bit confusing.

I also finally agreed to sign up for my first Ultimate fall league this year. Sherpa has been bugging me for nearly 2 years now, and I no longer have the excuse "I'm a pro triathlete and can't do anything fun where I might get hurt." Oh look, here is even my first photo trying to catch a frisbee:

Hopefully my long arms will help me out, but I've always said the same thing about swimming. The season starts on Sunday but I will be missing the first game for the trip to El Salvador. This week has been all about recovering from being sick and getting ready for the El Salvador mission. Hasta luego, amigos!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

All aboard the pain train, choo choo! Diamondman Sprint Triathlon RR

I will start off this race report by saying I am terrified of sprint triathlons. Which you may think is a strange thing to say as they should be "easy" compared to Ironman. Well, the last sprint triathlon I did was summer 2007, shortly after I had been recruited by teamTBB. Since that last sprint, I've done a few Olympics and 3 half Irons. The last half IM I ever did (Florida 70.3 in 2009) was the one that qualified me for my pro license. From there on out, I strictly raced the Ironman distance... 17 my coach decided I was suited more for ironman distance (because I'm mentally tough but not speedy enough for 70.3). I've been used to going really long at a "comfortably uncomfortable" pace for the 10-11 hours of Ironman, which is significantly slower than red-lining the sprint distance for less than 90 minutes. I look at short course triathlons as hopping aboard the PAIN TRAIN. Choo choo! You have to go so much faster and it's much more painful! But you are finished way faster.

So, the Diamondman Triathlon at our local Lums Pond was a TriDawgs designated team race, and offered either a sprint distance or half-iron distance. Since I had only done IM Louisville 2 weeks prior, and wanted to hang out with my fellow TriDawgs, I signed up for the sprint. I was tempted to sign up for the half but told myself not to be dumb.

After Louisville, I didn't do too much. A swim here, a bike there, a run here and there. In hindsight, I shouldn't have even bothered switching back to my training wheels because I barely rode. The night before, I stayed up past 11pm, writing up my Louisville report as I was stubborn about getting it done before I raced again (which I didn't quite finish anyway).

I was kind of disgruntled that I would have to wake up at 5am and leave by 5:30am to get to the race site by 6am...and the sprint wouldn't start until 8am. But the half started at 7 and transition (and packet pick-up) supposedly closed at 6:45am. *grumble*grumble* So...race morning. For breakfast I ate half of a dark chocolate bar (Trader Joe's 85%) while driving to Lums Pond. I wasn't even planning to use my race wheels (out of sheer laziness), but knew that if I got beat by just a few seconds here or there, I'd be pissed. So I ended up doing that in the parking lot, switching out the brake pads and put on my race wheels.

In registration I was kind of stoked to be #365, and thought "365 = the number of days in the year I think about triathlon!" Except this year is a leap year. Close enough.

It was great to catch up with my old swim buddies from Mac's pool (Tory was doing the sprint and Meredith and Kevin were doing the half). My fellow Tri Dawgs were EVERYWHERE and this was my first race rocking the uniform the entire way. There were at least 40 of us doing the race--here's me and Diane in the bathroom line after the half'ers already started:

It was surprisingly wetsuit legal thanks to some downpours we had the previous night, but I didn't bring mine because I wasn't sure how much benefit I would get over 0.6 miles of swimming. I did bring my "illegal" Blue70 speedsuit circa 2010 (before this textile fabric was illegal for warm temp swims). On this day, it was legal since wetsuits was legal. Unfortunately most everyone else was in their wetsuits. I swam my butt off the whole way (trying to remember, "it's short, just go all out!") and then put on my extra pair of shoes for the 3/8-mile run to transition. I was surprised to see Tory in her Out There Outfitters jersey head out on the bike just as I got to mine. Wait...I used to swim faster than her in the pool! and she says she hasn't been training at all! Either wetsuits really help, or I'm really out of swim shape, or both!

My T1 was pretty awkward as I was wearing my teamTBB golf ball aero helmet, which I don't ever use for Ironmans or training. (The "don't try anything new on race day" rule? Ha!) I fumbled a bunch with the helmet straps, then tried to get on my bike with the shoes clipped into the pedals already. You know, for speedy transitions that you don't ever practice. Finally my feet were in, and I tried to hammer the whole way. My fast-twitch muscles were feeling pretty nonexistent and there were times I thought "um, this feels like how fast I go in the Ironman..."

My only race nutrition was a bottle of diluted Gatorade on my downtube. It's a sprint. You don't really need calories. And if you are going hard enough, then it should be hard to breathe and too hard to fumble around with gels or other food. I steadily passed people throughout the bike (the men had a 5-minute head start) and it was cool to see my fellow TriDawgs either on the course or yelling on the sidelines. It dawned on me that with a 16-mile bike and a 2-mile run, if I didn't catch people by the end of the bike, I probably would not have enough real estate to catch them on the run. And I wasn't sure what my run speed over 2 miles was like. It used to be my specialty when I was a freshman in high school...but that was erm...16 years ago!

Unlike in longer races, I was going so hard I couldn't even talk and say "good work" to people when I passed. When I FINALLY caught Tory (which took forever, she is super strong even when she says she hasn't been training), I tried to yell "pain train, choo choo!" but I don't think I managed to say much! Our course overlapped with the half iron course, and I saw Meredith up ahead. I finally caught her with a mile or two left of my bike ride, but the crazy girl was going nearly as fast as I was. I know when I slowed down to dismount in T2, she ended up passing me back. whew!

I had made a super last-minute decision in the final miles of the bike ride to NOT put on socks. I'm not sure when the last time I raced sockless was, but remember, I'd only done Ironmans in the last 5 years. Sockless for Ironman would be a bloody disaster. But for a sprint? Every second would count! And I needed the time if there were still women in front of me, or stronger runners chasing me down. Eeep. (Although I did not have elastic laces on, something I'll have to use again if I want to be a short course superstar.)

I threw on my smiley face hat and race belt, and headed out on the run, just thinking "turnover, turnover, turnover!" to keep myself moving. I am so not used to having to run so hard out of the gates. I also left my magic running sticks in Louisville and my arms felt like they were going all over the place. Oh well! I was catching up to guys but didn't see any women ahead. The turnaround seemed to take FOREVER, and when I finally got to it, I realized I was winning the women's race. That meant they were all behind me...and there were a couple of them RIGHT BEHIND ME. AUGHHHHHHH!!!

On the way back, I yelled at myself, Cadence, cadence! Faster, faster! Pain train, choo choo! Running out of fear of being overtaken is...frightening. I was so relieved to get back to the blow-up lighthouse that marked the path through the trees and towards the finish area. My teammate Marco was yelling something like "you got this!" but I did the thing you're not supposed to ever do, I looked behind me. Super relieved that I did not see the 2nd place girl. Whewwww... There were a bunch of guys just ahead of me but I did not have enough real estate left to kick it in and get them. Plus, I kind of wanted the finish to myself if it was going to be my first triathlon win on American soil, ever. (I've won a couple races in Korea.)

And that was that. I haven't ever won a sprint distance triathlon before, either. It wasn't a big race or anything, but I was pretty excited to win. As evidenced by the montage of awards ceremony photos...

It was pretty darn exciting to stand on the top step of an awards podium for the first time in a while. I actually almost missed the ceremony because I was hanging out at the TriDawgs tent when Coach Glenn yelled at me to get over there. Then I felt like a horrible bitch because I had to push my way through the crowd when they called my name and totally pushed the 2nd place woman out of my way. Sorry, 2nd place lady!

I was really surprised that I won a Polar heart rate monitor for winning. Too cool! The winners of the half ironman got the same watch and I only had to do like a quarter of what they did. Bwahahaha.

Sometimes you need a little confidence booster here and there after having the sport you love beat the crap out of you. (Triathlon and I...we have a rather abusive love/hate relationship if you haven't picked up on that.) This sprint triathlon stuff isn't so's over so quick that you forget about the pain train. Everyone off the pain train! Choo choo!

The best part though, was having my local triathlon family there to celebrate with. The TriDawgs are known for tailgating after our club events, and people always bring home-made desserts and we drink adult beverages and cheer for our friends and teammates...I am really great at yelling at people.

Bill was at Bacon Happy Hour with me the Thursday before the race. He finished the half IM on very little training, thanks in part because I insisted we share the bacon butterscotch ice cream dessert as part of his nutrition training. Pro secrets!

This little race was such a stark contrast to my days of living out of a suitcase as a pro, going to races by myself and doing it as a job. It was a very lonely road. Now I race with a smiley face hat!

I thought about going for a late season half Ironman and actually training properly for it, but at this point, I'm heading to El Salvador again at the end of the month for the Healing the Children trip like last year. I think when I race a long course (70.3 or full IM) again, I'd like to actually go for a decent time and not be afraid of falling short of the athlete I used to be. Which means that will have to wait until next season. In the meantime, I plan to close off the 2012 tri season with another sprint at Cape Henlopen, October 14th.

Thanks everyone for being awesome, and to Lenny Rogers for all the race photos!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Back on the Horse! Ironman Louisville 2012 race report

The journey to Louisville began in the car. I chose a dumb route going up through Pennsylvania and Amish country with one-lane roads and big trucks, instead of going through Baltimore on the freeway. Durrrr... I listened to a ton of triathlon podcasts and raided my ancient CD collection, even breaking out the movie soundtrack for...Mulan! ("Did they send me daughters...when I asked...for sons?!") I found myself at the doorstep of Kellie and Brian's McMansion after 9pm with an actual time goal for Sunday's race--beat my driving time of 11hrs and 56mins!

I had stayed with the Joneses two years ago, when I was a broke lil pro living out of my suitcase and they were my homestay family that the race organizers hooked me up with. We had a glorious time and kept in touch; I actually meant to race Louisville last year and stay with them again until that dumb Korean driver got in my way. Anyway, they decided I was still welcome to stay in their "basement" (which has more square footage than me and Sherpa's entire HOUSE) even though I gave up my pro status to race as a civilian. :)

Sherpa came on Saturday and it would be his first time accompanying me to an IRONMAN. Hard to believe this would Ironman #22 for me, but I thought of it more as #5--it would be my fifth one as an amateur and first time in the 30-34 age group. (Time flew by and I apparently skipped the 25-29 category.)

My bestie Amy was racing too (one of the biggest reasons I signed up, we had never done an IM together despite all the ones I had done!) and was being trained by my old teammate Brandon Marsh. She even got to borrow Ironman champ Amy Marsh's race singlet! Good luck sweat! We had decided beforehand that we didn't want to get up super early just to get a good place in the swim line. (Since it's a time trial start.) It was all right with us to start in the back and just pass people all day. Confidence booster!

We got to transition at 6am, set up and had plenty of time to walk to the swim start and get a second #2 out of the way. Literally. (Very important!) After having my own separate swim start/head start with the pros for the last 3 years, it would be interesting to see what it was like on the other side of the fence now. I had to line up like all the other "normals"!

I was pretty excited right before the race. I was probably more excited than everybody else. My plan was to stay on Amy's feet as long as possible. She trained really hard for Louisville and also does Crossfit, which means her arms are way stronger than my puny twigs. My swim training was pretty horrible and despite my intentions to swim at least 3x/week I only averaged 1.85 swims per week in the 20 weeks leading up to the race for an average grand total of 1hr 38mins in the water each week (totally ran the stats on a spreadsheet last week like a good lil nerd). Ouch. I used to do a 90-minute swim 5 to 7 times a week! No matter though, I figured I had more "friends" to swim with during the race, i.e. more people to draft off of. We couldn't tell where the end of the line was and squeezed in somewhere, and got in the water about 7:18am. I was pretty excited the whole time just being at the start of an Ironman again. (Wait, I said that already. Like you can't tell from the pictures.) No pressure, no expectations--at least limited pressure and expectations, just enjoy the day and pretend it's your first time. Sort of.

Off we went and I hung on Amy's feet. This isn't so bad. I was even smacking her toes. Aw yeah! I can do this! Hanging onto Amy's feet! Then we reached the end of the island and I don't know where she went. The swim course actually got confusing at this point and there were pink and green swim caps everywhere. Yikes...I was not used to this. Usually there were just a few caps ahead of me that are going in the right direction for me to follow. So despite having more people to draft off of, there were also more people to lead me astray.

It seemed like a long time before we got to the 3 big bridges that we get to swim underneath. I would swim with people sometimes, or on my own sometimes. The course was pretty spread out and I found myself actually reaching back to my short-lived rowing career at Georgia Tech (Summer Olympics had just ended) and yelling at myself to bang out a "Power 10" every now and then to bridge the gap to someone ahead of me. Or if someone caught up and glided by me. I consider myself to be good at navigating and every now and then, it was a little irritating to have someone swimming diagonally into me thinking they knew which way to go. No matter, I just pretended I was a water polo player and that helped.

Finally I was out, whew, that seemed like FOREVER, and I totally wasn't going to look at the clock and subtract 18 minutes, but I totally did. It was around 1:19, which was only 7mins slower than when I used to swim 5-7x more each week. Totally worth it!

I ran through the change tent, even stopped in the Porta Potty to pee (ahhhh, it's so nice to not have to pee on yourself because you are not in a big hurry trying to win or something) and heard Kellie and the Sherpa cheering and yelling for me.

I smiled and waved because that is what a good athlete does when they see their support team.

I was wearing my Delaware TriDawgs singlet for the bike; they are my local triathlon club and have been helping me reintegrate into society as a normal age group triathlete (if there is such a thing). Which just means they are really nice to me and we have fun together and they make me remember all the good reasons why I got into triathlons in the first place.

So off me and White Tiger went. I am still on most of the same equipment I've had since acquiring them during my pro days. Cervelo P3, Token race wheels, even the hot pink taped Profile aero bottle that still says "Wongstar" with teamTBB stickers. I don't really consider myself "The Wongstar" these days, more like the Jocelyn Wong to Superman's Clark Kent. (Did I do that analogy properly?) But I will still respond to "Wongstar". And I was kind of surprised to still hear random people cheer "Go Wongstar!" at this race.

You know what else is different? Age groupers aren't allowed to clip their bike shoes into their pedals. That was weird. I ran with my shoes in my arms up to the mount line because I don't like running in my cleats.

So off we went. (Oh, I said that already.) My plan was to stay in control and be able to hammer home at the end. Not like how I imploded 2 years ago and limped home the last hour. So I kept my effort and pace in check those first two hours. I saw Amy during the out and back and got ready to catch her. Then I heard that familiar pfffft pfffft pfffft sound and yelled "FUUUUUUUUUUUUUdgecicles!"*

*not what I really said

I went over to the nonexistent shoulder of the narrow road (and man was it crowded on that course), and both tires felt fine. I spun them both, and the sound was coming from the back tire. Motherfudgecicles. I started to undo the rear skewer when I looked up and saw that a race number sticker was stuck my rear wheel cutout. WTF-sicles. I pulled it out, secured my wheel and went back on my merry way. I actually assumed it was my own race sticker until I noticed after the race that both my bike stickers are still on White Tiger. So whoever the fudgesicler is that lost their bike number, well, I am shaking my fist at you. At least it wasn't a flat, I heard some angry bike-hating Kentuckian was throwing tacks on the road. But I still lost a couple minutes. Good thing I wasn't going for time though. :)

As the story goes, I was feeling good and in control. I did catch up to Amy eventually and yelled her racing name "Go Amy Fudgesicling* Chow!!!"

*not her actual racing name

It was sort of neat to actually be riding with other people, instead of a more lonely and solo 112-mile time trial, but at the same time it got CROWDED. Many of the roads were narrow and I will say that with 3,000 people on the course, it is hard not to draft, especially when people get bunched up on the hill about three abreast. (Not three breasts, three abreast. Teehee.) This also made it hard to stay on the right side of the double yellow line in some spots. I just tried to pass people as quickly as I could when there were big groups. But my biggest peeve were guys that would pass me on the left, and then stop pedaling and coast downhill, but still stay on the left side of the lane. They didn't seem to understand that if they are coasting down at 25mph I could still pass them going 28mph while pedaling. Sometimes yelling "ON YOUR LEFT" three times in a row didn't help. Sigh. The only solution might be to race smaller races, or... race as a pro again (haha). As far as the PTBCS (Post Traumatic Bike Crash Syndrome) went, I was still a bit apprehensive going really fast on some of those downhills, but maybe less so because I was in "race mode" (despite all my protests about not really "racing") and getting mad at people (GUYS) slowing down right after passing me.

I was averaging a touch over 20mph for a while and at about 5 hours in the saddle was when my lack of training combined with the hot conditions went head-to-head. With a bit of a headache to boot. Again, looking over my training logs after the fact (I didn't want to scare myself before the race but knew I was undertrained), I had only done one 5-hour ride and five 4-hour rides. Oops, oh well. I felt like I was fading during that last hour back into town, but was still on pace to go under 5:40, not too shabby considering I went 5:30 as a pro (well, with a big implosion and all).

Parts of the ride I could tell the temps were heating up, so I tried to stay on top of hydration, although I was dumb and forgot to bring extra salt (boo, lack-of-salt headache, boooo). I also didn't stick with my well-tested professional nutrition plan (Hello Pandas and Starbucks Via's) as I was following what I had been doing in training. Which uh...meant I was not eating enough. Anyway. 20 miles to go, then 10 miles to go, then TWO miles to go and I got the brilliant idea--stop fading! Let's crank it up for the last two miles and bring it home strong!

So I gave my already cramp-prone legs the message to kick it in. And my very obedient left hamstring actually seized up from the effort and locked up my knee. Unfortunately you need to be able to flex and extend the knee when trying to pedal in circles. My knee was stuck at 90 degrees. It was almost funny except for the "oh sh*t you know you still have to run a marathon, right?" feeling.

I had to get off the bike and shake my leg out. Then I bent over and tried to stretch out my hamstring. I kicked it out a few times and got back on my bike. Then pedaled those last 2 miles SLOWLY back to transition. Dear body, just get back there in one piece, please!

I took my sweet time in T2 to allow my defective left leg to chill out. I asked around if anyone had extra salt tabs and a fellow racer generously shared 2 of hers with me. Thank you! I chatted with the volunteers and was not in a hurry. I knew it was hot and did what I had to do in order to get through the marathon without completely blowing up. Which meant, make sure my legs were okay and rehydrate. 5 extra minutes spent in T2 would be well worth it and pay back extra-fold on the run.

I headed out on the run, jogging easily and happy that my leg actually worked. My plan was to stop and walk every single aid station as part of the plan to keep my core temperature down. I didn't have a watch on. I knew I would be slower than when this used to be my full-time job, and didn't want to get discouraged, didn't want to get too wrapped up in the outcome. (And I found myself constantly and incredulously thinking, "How was THIS once my full-time job?!")

I ironed on my own fun logo to my tank top and wore a happy face hat to remind myself to "find my happy place" and enjoy the experience. No sponsor logos for me. I was going undercover as a regular civilian this time. During the aid station walks, I would wet my hat in the trash cans full of ice water they kept for sponges, and throw a cup of ice in my sports bra. (Which didn't always work...apparently my seamless bra from Target does not hold ice all that well. It is super comfy though. Sometimes ice cubes would escape and I would yell "it's hailing!") I would also drink 1-2 cups of the Powerbar electrolyte drink (which required REAL slowing down because I am uncoordinated and basically have to stop or I get it up my nose).

I didn't race in my trademark Camelbak because...honestly I was a bit lazy. I didn't have time to get all the proper "rocket fuel" ingredients or remember my exact formula (it's written down somewhere...), and since I wasn't shooting for a fast time, I was ok with just going with whatever they had at the aid stations. The more glamorous reason I didn't wear a Camelbak was because I had an even better slogan ironed onto the back of my shirt.

Looking back on my training log (again, afterwards), I only did 4x 2hr runs and 2x 2.5hr runs (combine that with what I said about my long bike training, you will see I only got in 6 solid weeks of "longer" training...which we were not 6 consecutive weeks). I didn't have a watch so I didn't know until later that despite my long walking breaks, I was still averaging about 9:00/mile pace for the first half marathon, and crossed the 13.1 mark at just under 2hrs. Not too shabby!

Unfortunately my lack of eating on the bike caught up to me around this half-way point and I remember being HUNGRY. There were potato chips and pretzels and bananas at an aid station that I slowed down to gobble, gobble, gobble. It was neat running by 4th Street Live (the entertainment district by the finish line) because there are lots of people cheering for you like you are still a superstar. Everyone liked my shirt too (both the front and the back). And more people than I expected yelled "Go Wongstar!" like I was still famous. I saw the Sherpa and some of Amy's friends when I started my second loop (which, like everybody else, I wished was my first loop), and that was exciting. I grabbed a Red Bull from my Special Needs bag and drank it down, but had temporary amnesia and forgot that I would have really liked the snack-size bag of Cheetos in there. UGH!!! We are still hungry!

My legs had been sore to begin with, but the soreness in my quads kept increasing and increasing...just big blocks of soreness. I tried to smile, like my happy face hat, and make pain my bitch, like my tank top said to do, but I was getting slower and slower. The weird thing was, it seemed that during the first lap most everybody else was walking, while I was running and passing people, but the second lap I started to get passed. At first I thought it was because I was REALLY slowing down, but later I thought about it and realized a lot of those were people on their first lap of the run! I kept to the plan though, running aid station to aid station. Walk, dip hat, ice in bra, drink fluids, eat snacks, start running again. My feet were sore and swollen and my quads were screaming, but I just kept on truckin' on.

Amy caught me with about 10km to go, which I expected. Actually she passed me and I didn't realize it, as we were both walking the aid station and she was walking in front of me. I caught up and we were very excited to see each other. I tried to run with her for a couple miles, but she was very focused on maintaining the 9-minute miles in order to run her first sub-4 marathon (which she did, by mere seconds!). I couldn't have been prouder as she has been training very hard (even though she totally denies it in her humble and self-deprecating way). Actually I was prepared for this moment, as I had a dream about a week before the race, that she beat me by 3mins and I never saw her all day (except in my dream we went 10:35 and 10:38, about an hour off our real times).

Anyway, we ran together and I'm sad we didn't get any photos of that. "I might burp," she said. "I might fart," I replied. In the months leading up to the race, when we were exasperated with our training, we'd sometimes declare that it didn't matter how we did, we should just do the whole race together, wear matching outfits and cross the finish line together holding hands. I have totally seen married couples do this! Well, racing together is a lot harder than I thought. I found it hard to go by another person's pace, especially since I wasn't racing for time, and she was. So I didn't want to hold her back, and told her to go ahead after a couple miles. She was hesitant, but I promised I would catch up if I was feeling better --which was a total lie, and we both knew it, because my legs were feeling worse and worse!

Other than random Wongstar fans, I'd recognize the pros at the front of the race--Pat Evoe who I met at one of the earlier Ironman Chinas would go on to win his first IM, Bree Wee who I met at Cozumel 3yrs ago who would also win her first IM, Chris McDonald who was an old TBB'er, Terra Castro was the only one cool enough to actually exchange a few words with me, and April Gellatly who used to spank me in my Atlanta days. Then Jason Rice, my old Team Poncho mate, was a friend from the beginning--taking me to Disney World right after I qualified for my pro card at the Florida 70.3 in 2009, and Sam Louie, who was working one of the aid stations and one of my biggest Asian-American fans. It was neat to see Jason (with his fancy camera) and Sam 4x during the marathon since it was a double out-and-back run. By the end Jason had caught my smile turning into a grimace, and Sam had to walk me further past the aid station when the legs didn't want to run any more, I think with 3 miles to go. Thanks for the pep talks guys!

I found myself thinking several times, "just because you can do this for fun now...doesn't mean that it is actually fun!" So yes, there came a point when the legs were reluctant to keep running, but I forced them to. Mind over matter. I think I simulated the "underprepared first-time Ironman" experience pretty darn well, now that I think about it. It was awesome to see the finish line and I broke into a real smile again. I was honestly surprised that most people I was running with ended up turning right to go to their second lap, and I had the whole finish chute to myself!

That meant I got to do airplane arms and high fives, and really soak up the finish line, like I had won the race or something. It was cool. (Special note to spectators: make sure you wash your hands after high five-ing Ironman racers. You don't know what they've been touching all day.)

And Kellie was one of the finish line captains and this time got to be the one to put the finisher's medal around my neck. Yeah!!!

And I had that really awesome sore feeling, where you are afraid to sit down, because you are pretty sure you will cramp trying to get back up. The physical feeling that you actually DID something!

Sherpa and Amy and all the crew were there right at the finish line, which was pretty darn special. I think they were the biggest crowd of people that had ever been at the finish line with me in all 22 Ironmans (even though most of them were Amy's crew, but she can share).

In the end, even today as I write this up 2 weeks after the race, going over my training leading up to the event and the race itself, and talking to the sherpa, I ask myself: Would I have changed anything in my training or my race experience, if I could? Would I have trained more? Gone with a different nutrition plan? And the answer is no. I can honestly say that everything I did, I did with a purpose. Sure, I could've trained more, but after going from "I never want to do another triathlon again" to "maybe I do still want to do triathlon," I didn't want to push myself to take on more than I would enjoy, while I'm still learning to balance how to be a working age grouper again.

Of course, now that I have my "first" one under my belt, of course I want to go faster next year! And if I were to do one next year ("not if, but when" says Sherpa knowingly), I will definitely train more and probably shoot for a goal time. But you know, I did beat my previous amateur best time (12:08) and I did beat my driving time (11:56), with my 11:47. It's funny, because if we erased the last 6 or so years, I think I would've been ecstatic with an 11:47 in Louisville. But the last 6 years really did happen, and I'm still trying to figure out how to deal with that part of my life that no longer exists.

In the meantime, thank you all for your support. Especially thanks to Kellie and Brian Jones and their family for hosting us again in Louisville, Amy and her family for being awesome, and Mr. Sherpa for coming to his first Ironman and being my daily moral support. Love you all!

Photos courtesy of Jason Rice, Kellie Jones, and FinisherPix.