As I'm cleaning and reorganizing our studio apartment (600 sq ft shared with a 6'9" boyfriend), assembling our new IKEA furniture and such, I came across a couple of old notebooks during my O&P residencies that I had from when I first got recruited onto teamTBB and prior to going to any training camps. Dated May 16, 2007 and June 21, 2008.
It's kind of creepy, actually. I gave myself deadlines of "making it" according to my own standards by my 30th birthday--November 25, 2011. This was my 30th birthday blog post, and I sort of officially announced my retirement from pro triathlon a couple weeks later, on December 7th.
So it's eerie to see handwritten notebook entries where I had written things like "If I am nowhere near my goals as an athlete by the time I turn 30, I will return to O&P full time" and a list of "How to know that I have 'MADE IT' as a pro triathlete...according to my own standards by the time I turn 30".
What's crazy is that I achieved most of these goals, and during the process, kept raising the bar and then extending my deadline. After my successful rookie season in 2009, I really thought I'd still be racing as a pro triathlete until my 35th birthday, and then would re-evaluate then (I'm 31 now). I'd almost forgotten about my original 30th birthday deadline until just now...so what's on the 2008 list, and how did I do?
1. Be featured on an ad in a tri-related magazine.
- CHECK. or at least--better! I was featured in a full-blown article in Triathlete Magazine that profiled me. I was also featured in various Asian publications and the local Delaware magazine.
2. Break 10 hrs in ironman.
- CHECK! two times in the span of two weeks, IMFL and Greatman in 2009.
3. Break 4:30 in 70.3.
- NOPE. But the last time I did a half IM, er 70.3, was when I did a 4:51 as an amateur to qualify for my pro card, then raced exclusively full ironmans. So who knows if I coulda, woulda, shoulda.
4. Win $5,000 in prize money.
- CHECK! literally, and sometimes cold hard cash. I won at least $5k in my rookie season (in U.S. dollars, Korean won, and euros), which was the surprise of the century. If the WTC prize money rules hadn't changed the following year, I would've won more. That 8% rule bit me hard, and financial hardship was one of my top reasons for returning to the real world.
5. Date a pro triathlete boy.
- kinda. that's all I have to say about that.
6. Raced/trained in 5+ different countries. and 3+ continents??
- CHECK. Trained in the Philippines, Korea, Switzerland, France, Thailand, and the USA. Also raced in Singapore, Malaysia, China...I'm sure I'm forgetting some. The three continents would have to be Asia, Europe, and N. America. I meant to make my way to Australia/NZ and Africa and S. America, but it wasn't meant to be.
7. Be recognized and asked for my autograph at a triathlon.
- CHECK x 1 million. Ok, maybe not a million, but combining this with an item from the 2007 list "fan asking for photo op/autograph" I was shocked at how popular I got on the race circuit, meeting random people who knew who I was and asking for photos, how many people cheered for me by name (or "Wongstar") during races... Maybe I never "made it" financially, but this was a huge one in my own terms of "making it."
8. Sign a sponsorship deal with an Asian company.
- Check. Other than the team sponsors, I proudly went after the sponsorship with Haamonii Smooth Shochu on my own and hit a home run (the company and its website is currently under the radar like its former triathlon superstar, but their Facebook page still exists). Even after I retired, I met up with James, the founder of the company, and he mentioned that one thing that he'll always remember about our first "business meeting" was how well prepared I was and the way I presented myself. And this is coming from a guy who has had many corporate meetings with the heads of big businesses; he said I was more prepared than the big shots! I knew I was very good at marketing myself and selling myself, and had a whole list of other sponsors that I intended to go after...but it was always under the clause of "when I get faster, I'll try to get sponsored by XYZ." The "when I get faster" didn't quite happen...
9. Inspire younger Asian girls in the sport.
- Check! I am good friends with some of you to this day. What surprised me was this included both Asian-American girls and the Asian-Asians. In Asia. You know.
10. Top 5 at Ironman China.
- Not so much. But then they cancelled IM China the year I was ready to hit the podium, and well, I did get top 5 at Malaysia, which is close (but no cigar).
11. Move up to a solid "Lane 2" at Menlo Masters.
- Nope. I got better swimming, but Coach Sutto also had a very different style of swim training I did at home that didn't involve masters swimming.
12. Have a superhero six-pack - i.e. figure out the eating/weight thing.
- Sort of, but at the same time, this is still ongoing. I figured out how to get really skinny, and it wasn't through a very healthy or sustainable way. My weight battles from training camp still haunt me sometimes, but transitioning to my so-called imperfect Paleo eating style has helped. The six-pack will return!
13. Work at prosthetic clinics in Philippines, Cambodia, & Vietnam.
- Half check. Philippines and Thailand! Thailand instead of Cambodia and Vietnam, but I'd have to say that I got the gist of it.
14. Credit card debt in control, student loan payments being met by the time I turn 35.
- Um, well. If we go with the "by the time I turn 35" clause, then this could potentially still be a "check." I don't know what I was thinking at the time, or how much money I thought I'd actually make as a pro triathlete, but it's kind of laughable! Triathlon helped me rack up $15k in CC debt by the time all was said and done, and it wasn't until recently I could make a big dent in it. (Not just by trading in the tri life for a grownup job, but being VERY diligent about managing the $$$.) I should be out of that by September of this year, and then plan to pay off the $95k of student loans as aggressively as possible. Which would still take until my 36th birthday if all goes well, or maybe earlier, if all goes extra awesome.
15. Easily break 90min for half marathon.
- Nope. At my fittest, I never raced a half marathon. So who knows? I still think I'm capable, and just have to train for it. I'm signed up for the Navy-Air Force half marathon in September.
Conclusion? Amazingly, I accomplished a lot of what my 25yo and 26yo self put down on paper. What I didn't account for is that success is a moving target, as it should be. Do I still wish I was racing pro? Not really, but I do miss being fit and traveling to fun places. Being famous was fun too. But hey...I can still be fit, travel to fun places, and be famous in my own right...or at least, be important to those who are important to me. If anything, I'm re-inspired by the girl I used to be, the one who dared to dream big dreams.