Monday, October 19, 2015

Ironman Barcelona - Penicillin Cream

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RACE REPORT:
Ironman Barcelona - Penicillin Cream
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Before we dwell into the Tuan Manifesto, I'd like to throw out some acknowledgments to the guys that I bike with every Sunday this entire season.  Kevin D'Amanda and Richard Rappine have been pulling for a few years ... probably wouldn't be the cyclist that I am today without Kevin and his wheels over the past 7 years.  Well, the past 5 years.   The first 2 years I got dropped before even leaving the parking lot in GTown.  Lots of suffering on the bike at the hands of that man over the years.

John Wasky is a new addition this year.  John had been sand bagging the entire season until a late night infomercial introduced him a new anti-chafing cream (a.k.a. Penicillin Cream) that allowed him to pull Royalty a little bit by season's end.  If he had only listened to me and just stood outside the Clarendon/Court House/Ballston metro station, he would have discovered this magical cream a lot earlier.

We also added a chick, Erin Bougie, to the crew this year.  Not just any chick, a chick that doesn't have any testicles.  It's a modern day miracle that such a thing exists in Arlington, proving once again that Siri is not always right.  If you don't believe me, just pull out your iPhone and ask Siri.  You'll just get, "LOL," as the response.  You know your life sucks when Siri LOLs you.

I often refer to Erin as the testicle-less wonder.  How anyone can ride that fast on a bike without testicles, I have no idea.  Riding a bike without testicles ... I hadn't seen something like that since the day the Viet Cong rode into Saigon on their Schwinn bikes, with an AK47 on one hand and their first cousin lover on the other.

Erin would tell you why she thinks Magic Mike should be shown on an outdoor movie screen at Rossyln Park, while soft pedaling at 25+ mph down River Road.  The only thing that I think about while going that fast down River Road is how I can convince John Wasky to lend me some of his Penicillin cream.  Dude produced twins on that cream.  He should patent that shit.

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TUAN MANIFESTO
================

This race report is part of my race report manifesto.  For those who have not read any of my previous race reports, but are aware of the flavor that I put in my writings, please visit the entire series to understand why, if you're not lubricating your crotch with Penicillin cream before every bike ride, you should move out of the Clarendon/Court House/Ballston area before the single women of that area get righteous with you.

I don't write race reports.  I write manifestos.  My manifestos have drama, intrigue, and a lot of CIA induced sexual overtones.  It's a byproduct of the American imperial public school system.  That, and a lot of free time during billable hours.


The Manifesto
--------------
Chapter 1: Making Love to Buoys at the Luray Sprint
Chapter 2: Vietnamese Saigon Tango with a Naked Anna Kornakova at the IM Longhorn 70.3
Chapter 3: Plight of a Vertical Swimmer at the IM California 70.3
Chapter 4: Confessions of a Bike Pee-er at the IM Eagleman 70.3
Chapter 5: Ironman Florida - I Hear Voices (2009)
Chapter 6: Ironman Florida - Spirit of the Bricklayers (2010)
Chapter 7: Ironman Germany - What Happens When A Man's Nut Freezes?
Chapter 8: Marine Corps Marathon - The Orphans Shall Be Fed
Chapter 9: Challenge Copenhagen -  The Nutcracker Does Europe
Chapter 10: Ironman Sweden - The Vietnamese Lesbian
Chapter 11: Ironman Chattanooga - OBGYN Coupons for Everyone
Chapter 12: Ironman Barcelona - Penicillin Cream

Who the heck came up with those titles.  It's freaken brilliant!

If this race report seems long to you then it's likely that you need to refill your  prescription of Penicillin cream ... or just contact one of your single female friends from the Clarendon/Court House/Ballston area.  There should be some free samples in the candy dish at the entrance of their apartment building.

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TRAINING AND RACE GOALS
========================

I started the summer with the goal of putting in some serious swim volume this year.  You kind of have to when you are coming off of a sub-1 IM swim.  Then, I hit the pool and realized I hate swimming.  Not a fan of drowning either.

1/3 way through IM training, I bought into Erin Bougie's propaganda about how we could easily ride from one end of Skyline Dr to the other and back, in one day ... hence, Ironman Vietnam Ultra was born.  I think she promised me a loaf of bread if we did it.  A freaken loaf of bread.  What am I, Cambodian!?  Plus, you're 1 for 100 at making an edible loaf of bread.  How do I know that you're not feeding me one of your other 99?


To prep for IM Vietnam Ultra, I sacrificed my swim (not a hard choice) and run training as well as three of my favorite testicles for the sake of the bike.  IM Vietnam Ultra got canceled due to the on-going ISIS threat.  I was going to just go back to normal/balanced IM training, but I was really digging the bike training and how powerful it made me feel when I was on the bike.  I just continued with the hard core bike mileages.  You kind of have to when your girlish figure is getting a lot of catcalls from Roadies.

I really wanted to swim sub 1:30 for Barcelona, but my swim volume leading up to it was less than any of my prior IMs.   The 1:30 goal, as Madonna once told me, was "like a prayer."  In my mind, I'm a fish.  In reality, I was on crack for pursuing that line of thought.

My bike training was solid ... best biking shape of my life.  I knew that a 5:15-5:20 was a realistic goal.  Chasing Erin Bougie and her relentless attacks on the hills of Poolsville all summer long gave me a lot of confidence on the bike.  Between her, Kevin, and Richard killing me on the bike every Sunday, I knew that I could put down a 5:15-5:20 bike split and still be able to back it up with a solid run.  Crackheads tend to live in this kind of alternate reality.  Pass me the Penicillin sauce, please.

My run fitness, though not in the best running shape of my life, was still solid and legit.  I believed that I was in 3:15-ish standalone marathon shape.  With that, the goal was to put down a 3:40-3:45 run at Barcelona.

My number one goal for this race was to PR.  I did a 10:44 at Chattanooga.  If we took that illegit swim time out of the equation, my prior PR was 11:31 at IM Sweden.  The second goal was to go sub-11.  I knew all that was going to depend on my swim time.

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RESULTS
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Below are the cliff notes of version of my results. 

Swim: 1:24  2:13/100m 
T-1: 8:20
Bike 5:20   21.0 mph
*T-2: 2:14
*Run: 3:51 (listed), 3:44 (actual)
--------------------------------------------
Overall:  10:46:06.

*For whatever reason, IM Barcelona decided to put the T-2 exit timing matt at the entrance of the changing tent.  This, of course, isn't how it every freaken other race on the planet is done.  Every athlete had a T-2 time in the 1-3 minute range.  This, of course, is as realistic as a virgin sighting in Clarendon.  The 1-3 minutes T-2 time represented the time that you dismounted your bike, re-racked the bike, and entered the T-2 tent. 

The run time included the time that you spent in the T-2 tent.  My Garmin had my run time at 3:44, which meant that my real T-2 time was ~9 minutes, not ~2 minutes.  ~9 minutes, in T2, isn't as bad as it sounds considering the self-service style of Euro transition areas.  Plus, I like to treat T2 like a first class lounge at the airport.  Free Vaseline?  Pss, I'd be a fool not to spend an extra 5 minutes lubricating my entire body.

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PRE-RACE
============

The day after I arrived in Barcelona, Heather H and I went out to the beach to do a practice swim.  Below was what we saw.  I'd be lying if I said that it didn't scared the Vietnamese out of me.  My initial thought was, "the vertical swim stroke has zero chance to get past the first bubbles."  We decided to be tourists on land instead.  I was actually going to jump in, but you know how women are when the water gets rough.

video

A few days later we went to Calella, the race site, where we hooked up with Tobias.  The three of us biked a little bit of the bike course to check out the biggest climb on the course and to make sure that TSA didn't withhold any of the screws to our bikes.

The evening before the race, I took the below video of the swim course, finish line, and expo area right outside of my hotel balcony.  You can hear the strong wind whipping in the background.  It was a deja vu of IM Sweden, definitely didn't give me the warm and fuzzies about race day.  Why does God hate all good looking Vietnamese people?

video

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RACE MORNING
=================

The morning of the race, the wind calmed down, waves flatten out, and the temperature was perfect.  It was as if the gods no longer held grudges against Vietnamese people.  Or, it could be that I was still high on the pre-race ganja.   Or, perhaps George Bush was right when he said that global warming was all hype.  Thank God Al Gore invented the internet or I would have never been able to verify anything.

That Speedo wearing German, Tobias, had told me that the wind and waves would die down on race day.   I thought at the time that his Speedo was too tight when he made that comment.  My bad, dawg!  Pass me the Penicillin cream, please.

I tried looking for Tobias, Adriana, Matt, and Heather in the start corral, but couldn't locate any of them.   We had all agreed to meet at the 0.15 km marker.  I'm a freaken Americanized Vietnamese.  I don't do the metric system.  WTF is 0.15 km?  Why can't they speak American?  Anyway, I did have a brief conversation with two of our sherpas, Pam and Kindy.  Kindy could probably KQ at any IM race, but refuses to go long.  Both of these ladies are American, so we obviously meet where we thought the 0.15 km marker ought to be.

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SWIM
========

After that studly sub-1 swim at IM Chattanooga last year, I decided that a fish, like me, doesn't really need to do that much swimming.  My swim training this year consisted of a lot of 30-45 minutes swim sessions, 2-3x per week, starting in the first week of June.  I think that I had a total of 2 sessions that lasted an hour during the entire training cycle. 

I took the cautious approach to swim training because I didn't want to end up with an overuse swim muscle injury.  I think Hillary OE described my swim training best when she said that I spend more time in the showers of the pool than the actual pool.  Haters gonna hate, I supposed.  Plus, I live on the wild side.  I would have swam more, but chlorine makes my skin wrinkly.  I didn't want my skin to be wrinkly.

The swim was a self-seeded rolling start.  I seeded myself in the 1:25 corral, for no reason other than the fact that I averaged out my fastest and slowest IM swim to come to the conclusion that 1:25 was where I needed to be ... nevermind that my fastest swim was in white water rapids conditions.  Average is average.  You can't mess with American math.   Besides, the spirits spoke to me on race morning.  It said, "Tuan, today, you are a 1:25 swimmer.  Believe in the force and don't drown, young grasshopper." 

Had I used my pool swim time to come up with the proper/honest corral seeding ... let's just say that the corrals didn't go that deep.  I didn't want to look like some weirdo lining up in the parking lot while the rest of the athletes were on the beach.

The swim was one loop rectangular swim, out in the Mediterranean ocean or whatever ocean it is that they have over there in Spain.  All oceans taste the same to me.  The layout was pretty simple, not like IM Frankfurt, where it looked like somebody's uterus.  Well, most swim courses look like a uterus to me. 


I was expecting Bahamas-like water clarity.  I got clarity up to about 5 feet. It makes it a little bit more difficult to find feet when you can't find any until you are on top of them.  You had an entire ocean to  maneuver around, so overall contact for the entire swim was very limited ... pretty clean race and lots of clean water to play with.  Like most races, the only real congestion/contact during this race occurred around turn buoys.

I would love to tell you how I hugged the buoy line during the entire swim, but I don't sight when I swim.  I just don't.  It makes my neck hurt and my eyes watery.  My sighting technique is "like a little prayer."  Madonna wrote that song after seeing me swim in her backyard pool.

During the first 200 meters out to sea, before the first turn buoy, I got a lovely kick in the face.  It didn't do much harm.  I have a hard head and a wonderful personality to absorb the physical contact.  It did, however, cause my swim goggles to shift, thus opening a canal for fish pee to flow in.  Muscle memory must have taken over because I swam directly toward a kayaker without even trying.  As I was adjusting my goggles, while hanging onto the kayak, I heard a loud "HELP" scream.  The freaken kayaker then told me to "get off" so that he could paddled toward the voice.  Vietnamese lives matter, people!

If you are keeping score, it's 7 IMs running that the Freshest Prince of Saigon has to say "hi" to one of the kayakers.  Sometime I do it because I want to stop and take a gel in the middle of the swim course.  Sometime I do it because it would be rude not to stop and thank the volunteers.

The swim was 90% parallel to the beach.  The problem with this is that I'm not bisexual.  I only breathe on one side when I swim.  That meant that I was subjected to CIA-style waterboarding during the first half of the swim.  Every time that I went up for a breath, a freaken wave would decide that that was a good time to waterboard the shit out of Vietnamese #1.  The waterboarding session off the coast of Spain lasted almost as long as the one that resulted from the time I peed into Master Quang's shoes at the Ho Chi Minh Daycare Center.  Needless to say, I had underestimated Master Quang's sense of humor ... and his early morning routine with his favorite transvestite mistress.

The flip side to the one-sided Cambodian breathing maneuver was that, after the turn buoy, the back of my head got waterboarded.  The return trip was one of the best swim experience that I've ever had during a swim.  Being able to breathe air and pee in your wetsuit at the same time does nothing but enhance your swim experience.  Well, that and a threesome with a mannequin on Master Quang's waterbed.

I try to avoid carrying extra weight that would cause me to drown faster when I swim, so I don't wear a watch when I swim.  I had no idea what my swim time was when I left the water.  Once my sister told me what my swim time was, 7 hours later while I was on the run course ... man, was I excited.  My random corral placement came to fruitrition.  At my next IM, I'm going to seed myself in the 1 hour corral.  Playa gotta play.

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T-1
========

European IMs are self-serviced IMs.  There is no such thing as wetsuit strippers and people handling your bike before/after the bike ride.  There are no volunteers in the changing tent to tie your shoes for you.  There are no volunteers helping you find or stow away your transition bags.  If you yell, "help!"  They yell back, "no English!"  That's the bad part.

The good part is that the changing tent, singular, is co-ed.  It's one of the reasons why ISIS hate Europeans.  My philosophy is to live and let live.  We're all human beings under one tent.  They sunbathe topless on the beach of the swim course, so why shouldn't they do it in the changing tent?  They did have a small area in the transition tent for the modest to change.  Apparently, there are either no modest people in Europe, they're all Cambodians, or no one got the memo that there is a modesty area.


What did I do?  Well ... when in Rome, BABY! ;)  That's right.  I showed the international community my three different shades of tan lines. Each shade has its own unique story.  All were earned, not given, over the hard summer training months.  Not only that, I took out a bottle of Vietnamese Penicillin Cream (Vaseline) and went old school Clarendon with it.  I wanted to give the Europeans an authentic ethnic cultural show that they paid 600 Euros for.

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BIKE
==========

The bike course was a 2.5 loop course off the Spain coastline.  Very scenic, especially on the climbs, since you can see the ocean and coastline all around you.  The roads were completely closed to traffic.  They deployed Tomahawk cruise missiles along the coastline to take out any cars or Vietnamese that accidentally wanders onto the course. 


It's fast course, on pretty good roads.  Total elevation was about 2,200 feet.  All of the climbing were concentrated in one section that you traversed 3 times.  The above picture is the highest point on the bike course.  You bike from sea level to that point .. rinse, repeat 2 more times.

Being on a flat course along the beach, my main concern about this bike course was the possibility of bad wind.  After enduring the anti-Vietnamese wind at IM Sweden, I had no testicles left to sacrifice to the wind gods.  Luckily, the wind never became a problem.  What headwind there were, was more of an annoyance than a hindrance.  It was more like getting waterboarded by Master Quang's cute little niece as opposed to the man himself.  The wind did, however, picked up on every loop on the bike.  It was as if Master Quang's cute little niece was getting the hang of things.

The only bad part of the bike course was the first 3-4 km and last 3-4 km of the course (same out and back section).  That section had very narrow and bumpy roads, with a bunch of 90 degree turns and speed bumps.  You then top that off with lots of cyclists fighting for limited real-estate.  They announced beforehand that drafting would not be enforced in that section for the stated reasons.

It was probably the most nerve wrecking section of any race that I've ever been in.  Heather got her back wheel clipped on that section, causing her to slam into one of the barricades, damaging her derailleur, and fracturing her finger.  That ended her day before it really began.  I don't think that I was able to go faster than 15 mph on that section due to the congestion and quality of the road ... spent most of that time soft pedaling. Outside of those 3-4 km sections, the roads were probably the best IM roads that I've ridden on.

If you do IMs long enough, you will hear about blatant drafting stories at every IM that you will ever do, including Kona.  Barcelona is no different.  I've heard stories about peloton riding at IM races across the planet, but have never really witnessed it firsthand in the other 6 that I've done. 

Barcelona is an out and back course the entire time, so I was finally able to witness what folks were talking about when it came to peloton riding.  These folks were worse than the Sunday Bike crew.  They weren't even pretending that they accidentally wandered into a draft zone.  It was Tour De France style.  On one hand, I want to say, "SHAMELESS CHATERS!"  On the other hand, I was taking notes to see how we could improve the Sunday Bike ride peloton.  I will note that I only saw this among the fast KQ types, males in particular.  The regular age groupers were very clean.  I didn't see any pelotons among them.



The bike leg of this race didn't start off well for me.  I lost my aero bottle within the first km of the bike ride on the bumpy road that I mentioned.  It flew right off my bike.  First time that has happened to me in a race or training situation.  Fortunately, it rolled to the feet of one of the spectator.  He picked it up and lobbed it across the road to me, Peyton Manning style.  Thank God it wasn't Kirk Cousin lobbing it or that bottle would have been intercepted, twice on the same throw.

Leaving the first 3-4 km danger zone, I was greeted with the first climb of the day.  It was a steady climb, nothing much, 1/2 mile long.  I was going at a pretty good click when my left quad just seized up ... never happened in any race or training ride before.  I've chased Erin, Kevin, and Richard every freaken Sunday with harder efforts than what I was producing on that climb.  I couldn't understand why it was seizing up.

[Toilet break.  Excuse while I go to apply some Penicillin cream before continuing with this race report.  One can never apply enough Penicillin cream while on billable hours]

Anyway, the cramps were painful enough that I couldn't pedal.  I tried to unclip so that I could stop, stretch, and let the cramps pass, but the pain was too intense for even that simple task.  During the cramping episode, I saw my entire summer of training flashed before my eyes.  All I could think about was how painful it would be to complete the remaining 100+ miles on the bike and the marathon.  The idea of soft pedaling the remaining 100 miles after all the work that I had put in on the bike over the summer months did depress me for those few brief moments.

To make matters worse, the freaken cramps occurred on an uphill section and I couldn't pedal.  I had some momentum to roll up the hill, but I knew that I was on borrowed time.  I was like, shit, I'm going to tip over like a non-domesticated cow in the middle of the Sahara.  If a non-domestic cow tips over in the middle of the Sahara, does it make a sound?  I don't freaken know, but that's what I was thinking.

Fortunately, the cramps disappeared before the awkward tipping over quagmire reared its ugly head.  I soft pedaled for another minute or so to make sure that it wouldn't return.  I steadily increased my power output to a point where I had convinced myself that it was a false positive-PMS cramp.  I knew my cycle wasn't irregular.  The cramps never returned.

Near the end of my 2nd loop, I saw a group of KQ types going out on their 2.5 loop.  It looked like a TDF broadcast ... 20-30 cyclists just bunched up like they were in one of the stages of the TDF.  I've never seen anything so blatant.  Not long after that, I was swallowed up by the same peloton.  I was clicking at about 22-23 mph beforehand and they just swallowed me up.  The few brief few seconds that I was caught up in that, I was clicking at 25 mph with a soft pedaling effort.  I just got up on the hood of my bike and let the peloton pass.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm not really righteous about cheating like that.  I'm sure if I had a legit shot at a KQ, I might have joined in on the kumbya lovefest.  However, I had spent all summer training my ass off.  I wanted to see real results of that training, untainted.  It was more important to me to see the honest results of my training than to achieve some arbitrary fast race split that was tainted.

Anyway, not long after the first peloton, a 2nd and 3rd wave of pelotons flew by.  I saw a motorcycle referee pulled up next to them, but all he did was tell them to spread out instead of issuing a red card.  It's a funny sight seeing a 20 person peloton fly by and none of them would make eye contact with the other.  It was as if they were all riding in denial.

Considering the issues that I had at the beginning of the bike ride, I was very pleased with my bike effort/split.  Before the race, I had a secret plan in my head.  I told myself that if my legs felt fresh and lively and the conditions were right, I would time trial the bike to see how fast I could really go.  I would do this even if it meant a horrible death march on the run. 

Barcelona wasn't my first rodeo.  Although I love a good overall race split like everyone else, I don't place the same premium on it like I once did.  My line of thought for my recent IMs have been, "how can I make this thing more interesting," as opposed to "how can I squeeze another 3 minutes out of my overall splits."  The cramps that I experienced at the beginning of the ride made me a lot more conservative and disciplined on the bike ... something I always lack at this distance.  I was so freaken conservative that I actually use a port-a-john, for once.  It's such a freaky weird feeling to not pee on yourself while biking ... definitely takes some getting used to.

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T-2
======

Co-ed changing tent deja vu ... got the GoPro out and just let it rolled.  Facebook won't let me post it due to its content.  I'll try posting it on the CIA's forum sometime tomorrow.

Freaken Spaniards had their T2 exit timing matt at the entrance of the changing tent.  The 6-7 minutes that I spent in there to butter up my behind with Vietnamese Penicillin Cream was added to my run split time ... sons of bitches.  The choice was to either get out of the tent quickly or butter up the little bundle of joy a little bit more.  Needless to say, I chose the later.  A soft buttery ass is a terrible thing to waste.


Anyway, I told my former DCTri NTP mentee, Andrea Lytle Peet, that I would do this race under her team banner to raise awareness for ALS and her fight against it.  I was going to run for TeamDrea #179.  I changed out of my bike jersey and into the above shirt for the run leg.  It would serve as a constant reminder for me to not take anything for granted.



=========
RUN
=========
 The run was a 4 loop run on 97% flat roads that consisted of concrete, asphalt, and packed dirt.  80% of the course was next to the beach.  The other 20% was on the main road.  The main issue that I had with the run course was the wind.  Running in one direction, you think how sexy and awesome you are.  After the turnaround point, you're like "holy headwind, Batman.  WTF!"  You get to experience that WTF moment 4x.  It seemed like the wind picked up on each lap, but that Speedo wearing German, Tobias, said that he felt no wind.  Dude,

   A.  Not only are you emotionally dead on the inside, you're also emotionally dead on the outside
   B.  Stop visiting Amsterdam


On the first loop, I saw my mom and then my sister.  I stopped for a little bit to chat and let my mother go all Asian with the camera.  I was excited and looking forward to seeing them on each lap for the emotional support.  Well, that first lap was the first and only time that I saw them on the run course.  They said afterward that napping was more important to them than cheering on favorite son #1.  I'm beginning to see that the "favorite son #1" banner that gets thrown around a lot in my house is all propaganda.

On my second loop, I ran into Tobias while he was on his first loop.  We conversed a little bit before I left him.  Dude was true to his German upbringing.  He had a complete wardrobe change WHILE on the course.  The only thing on that freaken run course was nature and you.  There were no changing area, bushes, or special needs tent. It's open air nature. You. Period ... and the dude was able to do a complete wardrobe change.  I kid you not.  Just take a look at his race pics.  I believe he said something along the line, "this is ain't America.  This is how we roll in Europe!"  Well bro, I take it back.  Your Speedo IS too tight.

On my third loop, I saw the PeasantMan co-RDs Adriana and Matt Anderson running in the opposite direction.  We literally stopped and chatted for about 60 seconds.  She wanted me to pick up hers and Matt's bike boxes from a vendor before they close for the day since they would finish way after.  Yup, in the middle of an Ironman, we stopped to chat about bike logistics.

Apparently I'm a wonderful conversationalist because it was deja vu on the next lap.  This time, however, the middle of the run course conversation was about PeasantMan business.  I told Adriana that I couldn't talk about PeasantMan business while low on Penicillin cream, but she kept wanting to converse.

My sister and mom eventually woke up from their 3 hour nap to make it down to the finish line to see me finish.  They said something along the line, "we would have been down there for the other laps to see you, but, well, you know ... well, you know..."  At least they were there at the finish line to take a picture (below) of Vertical Swim stroke in action at the finish line.



I was quite pleased to hit my run target.  My final run time, on my Garmin, was 3:44.  Without stopping for all the conversations and picture taking, I would probably have ended in the 3:41-3:42 range.  Next time around, I might have to go after Kevin D'Amanda's ~3:31 IM run ;)

The best part for me was the finish.  I'm not talking about the actual finish line chute.  I'm talking about the entrance to it.  Literally, one inch is what separates you on run course and the red finish carpet.  You're so close it that you could lick it.  We run past the red carpet entrance to the finish line chute 3 .. THREE TIMES! ... before we could turn into it.  Each time you approach that section, you would hear loud music and the announcer saying "xxx YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!"  Then, you would bow your head and continue with your run of shame for THREE MORE TIMES! 

When I got to the finish line entrance for the last time, the athletes in front of me made the turn to continue with their run.  The athletes behind me were getting ready to turn and continue with their loop.  Me?  I looked around, smiled, and ran into the entrance, solo, while others watched and wished that they could do the same, just like I had to do the previous THREE TIMES.  Very rewarding and satisfying feeling.  I wanted to go down and do a breakdance move, but at mile 140.5 of the Ironman, if you go down for breakdance move, you won't get up until the next day.  If help does come, it would just say, "No English!"

The more IMs that I do, the more I love these loop runs where you have to run past the finish line a billion times.  When others are turning into the finish line as you are continuing with your run, you just want to say, "oh, F** YOU!"  When it's your turn ... all smiles and fist pumps.  Earned, not given :)

==============
CONCLUSION
==============

I felt strong throughout the run.  My IM runs usually have a lot Vietnamese curse words between miles 18-24, but not this time.  The headwind made my run a little bit more difficult than it needed to be, but never once during the run did I tell myself that I needed to dig deeper to finish.  First time in 7 IMs that that has happened.  At Chattanooga last year, I was cursing up a storm after mile 6.

It was the same thing on the bike.  I usually want to get off the bike at around mile 90, but not this time.  Legs felt strong during the bike and after dismount even though my splits were faster than any race that I've ever done.  Amazing how good my legs feel on a long bike ride when Erin, Kevin, and Richard aren't attacking the shit out of me.

It's a good feeling to see all the work I put in during the summer months paying back on race day.  There's a still a little piece of me that still wishes that I had time trialed that bike course, but the early cramping just put the fear of god into me.  Perhaps more Penicillin cream strategically placed in the right places will offer that opportunity next time.  One can only hope.

See you guys out on the road ... and don't forget to share the Penicillin cream.

--Tuan

Below is a link to my race photo album.  It includes pics of my visit to Calella, Barcelona, Lisbon, and Istanbul.

https://goo.gl/photos/XJABtzLa4f2obxVe9

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Ironman Chattanooga - OBGYN Coupons for Everyone

=================================
RACE REPORT: Ironman Chattanooga
OBGYN Coupons for Everyone
=================================

You've heard of the Four Headless Horseman?  Before we begin, I'd like to throw a shout out to the four testicle-less men that have been pulling me on the bike throughout this season.  Kevin D'Amanda, TJ Collins, Richard Rapine, and Jason Brez ... whaaazzzzup fellaaaass!?  How are 'em things not hanging?  Or, is it too soon?  Someone is getting some OBGYN coupons for Christmas this year.  That's right!  The Freshest Prince of Saigon spares no expenses when it comes to taking care of his Holy Knights, the men sworn to take a bullet for Royalty.

Ask anyone who knows anything about biking and they will tell you that the best way to get faster/stronger on the bike is to find someone stronger than you and hang on for dear life.  They can't be touchy-feely friends with you.  If you utter the words, "I love you, man," they will bitch slap the shit out of you.

When you are bonking and are in desperate need of a gel, they will hand you a gel packet.  It will be empty.  When you complain about saddle sore, they give you a tampon.  They smirk with joy when they drop you.  When you curse at them in Vietnamese, they have to pretend that they don't understand you.  For that, I thank them and will refrain from decorating their front yards with tampons ... but only during the off season.

================
TUAN MANIFESTO
================

This race report is part of my race report manifesto.  For those who have not read any of my previous race reports, but are aware of the flavor that I put in my writings, please visit the entire series to understand why, Kevin D'Amanda, TJ Collins, Richard Rapine, and Jason Brez have littered their properties with "Exit Only" signs.  To that, I say, oh please, dime-a-dozen tattoos among the single women of Ballston/Court House/Clarendon area ... been there, video taped it.  Heck, I've even shelfie it.  Had 400+ "likes" on Facebook once.

The Manifesto
--------------
Chapter 1: Making Love to Buoys at the Luray Sprint
Chapter 2: Vietnamese Saigon Tango with a Naked Anna Kornakova at the IM Longhorn 70.3
Chapter 3: Plight of a Vertical Swimmer at the IM California 70.3
Chapter 4: Confessions of a Bike Pee-er at the IM Eagleman 70.3
Chapter 5: Ironman Florida - I Hear Voices (2009)
Chapter 6: Ironman Florida - Spirit of the Bricklayers (2010)
Chapter 7: Ironman Germany - What Happens When A Man's Nut Freezes?
Chapter 8: Marine Corps Marathon - The Orphans Shall Be Fed
Chapter 9: Challenge Copenhagen -  The Nutcracker Does Europe
Chapter 10: Ironman Sweden - The Vietnamese Lesbian
Chapter 11: Ironman Chattanooga - OBGYN Coupons for Everyone

If this race report seems long to you then you're likely not reading this during billable hours.

===========
RESULTS
===========

Cliff notes version of my results:

Swim: 58:34   1:30/100m
Bike (116 miles): 5:33:07   20.9 mi/h
Run: 3:59:03   9:07/mi
--------------------------------------------
Overall, including T1+ T2:  10:43:55


Official Video of Ironman Chattanooga:

http://youtu.be/-_pzpe4gO2Q

Longer/Tear Jerker Version of Ironman Chattanooga with the human interest stories

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PksYR3JpKJc

Race Photos from the weekend festivities

https://plus.google.com/109373803137498967682/posts/H7cYFJeToRD?pid=6067248371886109922&oid=109373803137498967682

============
PRE-RACE
============

Morning line for swim start.  First come, first start

Race day didn't start off well for me.  First, I think the dude occupying the hotel room next to mine was a pimp.  That room was-a-rocking all night.  Either that or some Cambodian was getting waterboarded and screaming like a little girl.  How many times does a girl have to yell, "oh my god, oh my god, oh my god" before someone gets the Vatican on the line?  Royalty can't get his standard 16 hours of sleep when people get religious like that.  Royalty was in the bible belt.   They tell me that that's how people pray in that neck of the woods.  What could I have done?

Second, all that religious stuff threw me off of my game.  I forgot to mount my Garmin 305 to my bike and brought it to the swim start, a 2.4 miles shuttle bus ride from transition.  I couldn't swim with it since it wasn't waterproof, but I've forgotten worse things for an IM start ... like timing chip last year and bike helmet 3 years before that.  The Ironman is about being able to adapt and overcome stuff on the fly.  Well, that, and peeing on the bike and Vasalining your nipples during billable hours.

I'm the anti-triathlete.  I don't train with any sort of electronics ... makes it easier to avoid NSA monitoring.  I don't use any bike computers, heart rate monitors, power meters, or any those types of items during training or racing.  I only use my Garmin on race day.  That's just to tell me when to eat and how further I have to go.  Not having my Garmin on my bike, while disappointing, was just another small blimp on the radar.  The Vietnamese finger does a pretty good job of telling me how fast I'm going, what my heart rate is, and who the virgins are among the crowd.

I thought about peeing on my Garmin to make it water resistant.  I mean, you pee on a jellyfish sting, can't you pee on a Garmin 305 to protect it from the river?  As my wise mother once told me, "NO, you dumb ass!"  You see, these are the kind of thoughts that occupy the mind of a Vertical Swimmer prior to any open water swims.

Fortunately, PeasantMan War Council member, Dagmar Salazar, was spectating at the race.  We had been texting each other a few minutes prior.  I texted AND called her back to ask her to carry my Garmin to transition.  Unfortunately, Mexicans hate Vietnamese.  They once accused us of calling immigration on them.  In our defense, we thought they were Hondurans.  Nevertheless, conveniently and all of the sudden, none of my urgent calls for help were getting to her.  The Mexican Embassy will now be added to my list of embassies to pee on before I die.

I then found Bob Leamon, the Australian husband of fellow competitor, Hillary OE.  I told him my predicament.  Unlike Mexicans, Australians love Vietnamese.  He took out a ziplock bag, containing food meant for his infant daughter, and offered it to me.  He was willing to starve his own child just to help me.  That baby cried her head off for her food and her mother, but Bob just ignored her like a Zen master.  That's a good Australian right there.  He basically said, "you'd do the same for me, Tuan."  I almost had a cramp just trying to contain my laughter.  For Christmas this year, Bob will get an extra batch OBGYN coupons to share with Australia.

I was going to place my Garmin inside the ziplock and wear it underneath my wetsuit, but then 3 lovely lesbian American ladies (Dena Richardson, Karen Willard, Tammy Farmer) showed up to offer their assistance to me.  "Don't worry, Tuan," they said.  "We'll make sure that you get it when you exit the water," they said.  "You can trust Clarendon women," they said.  As we will find out later, American women, like the Mexicans they're trying to keep out, hate Vietnamese.  Somebody ain't gonna be getting any OBGYN coupons for Christmas this year.  I tell you that much.

========
SWIM
========

View of swim course from a bridge

My swim skills can be best explained from the below quote.

"Girls with arms slimmer than my wrist can kick my ass. Dudes who look like they're one Twinky away from being a perfect sphere blast past me like they're fricken' harbor seals."

You've heard about making snow angels?  My swim stroke resembles making water angels.  People mock my stroke, but I knew one day that the spread eagle maneuver would hit pay dirt.  Ironman Chattanooga was that day.  Sometimes, good things do happen to sexy Vietnamese men.  With the current flowing faster than the mighty Mekong, the spread eagle/water angels maneuver offered maximum body surface for the Tennessee River to push upon.  I'd explain it more to you, but it has to do with Vietnamese physics.  You public school educated folks can't handle Vietnamese physics.

The swim was a 2.4 mile, point to point, river swim.  The swim start was a time trial start that resembled kids at the local pool jumping in one after the other.  Some did the belly flop.  Some dove in like an Olympic swimmer.  I did the classic ... pinch the nose with one hand while the other raised into the air to control airflow.  Feet went in first, while praying that I would float back to the surface before air ran out.  Thank God Agent Orange provided all Vietnamese with more lungs than testicles.

The swim was straight down river.  The entire city of Chattanooga must have flushed their toilet at the exact moment that I got into the water because boy, was it flowing.  There were buoys to guide you along the way, but the ability to sight wasn't really necessary.  All you had to do was just swim.  There were very few body contact.  I got a toe tap and a "I love you" elbow to the rib cage now and then, but no biggie.

The middle of the river provided the most current, so I stayed there most of the day.  The flip side was that it made my go-to stroke, "The Cambodian Aqua-Jogger Stroke," a bit more problematic to execute.  It seemed like the buoys were closer to shore.  That was where most of the pods were.  I'd like to say that staying away from them and in the middle of the river, with the rip current, was the best decision that I made all day.  The truth was, like Marion Barry on a bad acid trip, I was just out there, man.  That freaken current went old school with the spread eagle maneuver and just took me where it took me.  I probably couldn't have swam toward those buoys even if my life depended on it.

It was probably once of the cleanest IM swim I've ever had ... very disappointing.  I wanted stories to tell about how women were clamoring for my cashews.  Instead, all I have to say is that I saw a yellow buoy, an orange buoy, and a red buoy.  Oh, the water tasted good ... probably has to do with the dead body (not an athlete) that they pulled out of the water about an hour after the swim had started.

Here is video of the swim
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgOtcIW6OrE

========
T-1
========

I came out of the water and looked down at my made-in-Vietnam watch.  Vietnamese technology is water-resistant up to 2 feet of water.  The watch said, "58" minutes.  I was like, "WTF!  Is this a watch or a magic 8-ball?"  Like a single woman from the Clarendon/Court House/Ballston area with underwear on, I was dazed and confused.  I didn't know what to make of it.  Why was I wearing underwear?  Why is there a magic 8-ball on my wrist?  What is happening, America!?

I got my composure and ran toward the changing tent.  I began looking for those Vietnamese hating Arlington women that had my Garmin.  I was like, "where the hell are they?  Was wearing underwear throwing them off their game?" ... never did find those hoochies or my Garmin.

I went straight into the changing tent and oh my god ... so many naked dudes in there.  My first thought was, "hey, is that Karen, Dena, and Tammy in the corner taking pictures? ... can't be.  They're lesbians.  They're taking pictures of the wrong team."

My second thought was, "man, there are more full moons in here than a typical night at the Clarendon Ballroom."  Dudes were Vasalining their freaken nipples.  What the hell is that about?  The sight was almost more than a Vietnamese could handle.  If shit like that were happening in Saigon, they'd all be sent to a re-education camp outside of Da Nang to be waterboarded.

==========
BIKE
==========

The bike ride was listed on the IM's web site as having 3.7k of climbing.  I've seen about 20 different Garmin files.  Depending on which Garmin file you believe, they were pretty consistent in reporting between 4-5k of climbing.  Needless to say, I think that you have to be on crack to believe that there were that much climbing on this course.  Maybe those Garmins were made in Cambodia.  I don't know, but I doubt anyone who has ridden this course thinks that there were that much climbing.  It's simply a very fast course, with zero sustain or hard climbing.

I got on my bike and left transition.  Since I didn't have my Garmin (again, thank you Dena, Karen, and Tammy), I had to leave transition commando style.  Next time, those ladies should just call immigration and get it over with.  It's ok though. I hadn't ridden with a bike computer, during training, in 5 years. I don't train with any electronic devices, so racing without one wasn't a big deal.  That's what happens when you grew up in Vietnam ... you let your first middle finger tell you how fast you're going and your second middle finger to tell you how much power you were producing.

I had drove the first 10 miles of the course the day earlier.  I knew that it was mostly flat and fast.  Without my Garmin, I decided to have fun with it.  I decided to time trial the son of a bitch.  I just put my head down and hammered away for the fun of it.  Why not?  We have to create our own paths in life, so I went for it.  I've already done 5 IMs.  I've got nothing left to prove, except stupidity ... freaken dumb ass Vietnamese time trialing an Ironman bike leg.

At mile 10, I saw Hillary OE.  As I passed her, I gave her the standard Vietnamese male greeting by slapping her on the ass.  She smiled back with a little smirk on her face and said, literally, "what took you so long!"  Think about this for a second, folks.  A dude with spandex comes by on a bike and slaps you on the ass.  Instead of getting offended, you get turned on.  I swore to you, that's what she said when I slapped her ass.  The woman is a freak.  She's got what we, in the Vietnamese community, often refer to as, "The American Woman."  Hillary ... you're a mother, for heaven sake!

At around mile 20-ish, a dude jumps on my wheel and yelled, "hey Royalty! Slow down! It's a fast course, but save it for the run!"  Turns out, it was PeasantMan War Council member, Eric Guzman-Alvarez.  I heeded his warning and took it down a notch or two.  I later found out that my first split (first 28 miles) was done at 24.54 mph ... and yet they say EPO doesn't work.  Puleez!  Had that Puerto Rican not yelled at me, I'd probably end up with a 26-27 mph for that first split.  That's a good man right there.  Why he's dating a Mexican, I will never know.

Let me tell you the problem with going 24.54 for the first 28 miles.  You spend the next 90 miles peeing and vomiting on yourself for no good reason.  You stand next to a port-a-john.  Instead of going in, you just let it go right there in front of southern folks with Confederate flags in their hands ... GO VIETNAM!  You try to breath and your lungs yell back, "no mas!"  It's like dating a woman from the Clarendon/Court House/Ballston area ... fun for the first 30 seconds, then, she decides to bring out the props to put a hurting on you ... and the flash photography to record that special moment for all her Facebook friends.

I managed to stayed around the 21 mph range for first 90 miles.  I got tired of peeing on myself for unexplained reasons, so I decided to take a chill pill for the 26 miles ride back to transition.  Who the f*k am I kidding?  A Vietnamese never gets tired of peeing on himself while on the bike... NEVER!

======
T-2
======

I went through T-2 pretty quickly.  As I was about to start my run, one of 'em Vietnamese haters/lesbian, Karen Willard, yelled, "Tuan!"  She said, "do you want your Garmin?"  Uhmmm, yes, 116 miles ago.  "We were waiting for you at the swim exit," she said.  Uhmmm, I left the water 6 hours ago.  Were you waiting for confirmation that the body that they found was mine?

She said to wait there and she'll bring my Garmin to me.  I waited and waited ... and waited.  I know women are slow to get warm up, but come on!  I've got an Ironman here.  She finally came back to give me my Garmin. I quickly left T-2.  About 100 yards later, the other Vietnamese hater/lesbian yelled at me.  She said, "hey, I see you have your Garmin."  I said, "yeah, thanks, Dena."

=========
RUN
=========
Eric and I

This run course was the real deal.  It was the toughest run course of my 6 IMs.  You have gentle baby incline.  You have sustain real climbs.  And, you have hard up the mother f-er climbs.  The reverse side of that was going down inclines.  Sounds great to be running downhill, but the quads and hamstring have differing views on that.  It's ok though, because the last 0.2 mile of downhill running toward the finish makes up for all the cursing of the prior 26 miles.  I'd bet those four nutless guys that I bike with would have no problems with the course ... being nutless and all.  IS IT STILL TOO SOON, FELLAS!?

The start of the run course was a 0.2 mile uphill run.  After the climb, you'd make a turn and was greeted by, well, a 0.4 mile "gentle" incline.  I hit the port-a-john right before the climb to reduce some extra weight.  As I was powdering my nose inside, I heard a voice.   It said, "hey, Royalty!  Get out of there!"  I was like, "WTF!  Where are the cameras?  Why is the CIA in the port-a-john with me?  I can't get out ... I'm lubbing, man!"  As it turned out, it was that Puerto Rican, the one with the Mexican fetish, Eric, that was yelling at me.

I caught up to Eric a few minutes later.  We tango for the next 16 miles together.  He started telling me about his Mexican girlfriend, Dagmar.  I was like, "man, I didn't know Mexican women were like that?!  She should move to Clarendon."

Eric was a beast.  I gave him the stare of death to slow down, but the dude must have been on EPO.  When we got to one of those big ass hills, I was like, "dude, it's a hill.  Why are we running up?  The boarder patrol is looking for Mexicans, not Puerto Ricans.  You guys are almost Americans."

After mile 16, I pulled a fake cramp and let Eric go.  Dude was just too strong for me to keep up.  It turned out, at one of the later miles, he was patiently waiting for me inside of one of the CIA field offices (aka. a port-a-john).  That's a very cultural man right there ... always know the local hangouts of Vietnamese people.  After I crossed the finish line, like a Puerto Rican Viet Cong, out of nowhere, he pops up right next to me.  Apparently, he crossed the same finish line only a few seconds earlier.

Overall, it was good day for me.  The weather gods were on our side.  After making some poor nutrition choices during the run that came back to haunt me during miles 16-23, I was able to recover (thanks to a great nutritionist bystander who knocked some sense into me) and finish pretty strong.  My last 3.2 miles had some of my fastest splits of the day.

Should I have taken the a more casual approach to the bike ride?  Maybe, maybe not.  I tell you this much.  I had a much more fun overall experience because I was time trialing at the beginning than I would have had I taken the chill pill approach.  I wasn't going to KQ either way, so I might as well walk my own path to the beat of my own drum.

==============
CONCLUSION
==============




On tap next year is Ironman #7 (IM Barcelona).  People often ask me why I do this distance.  The answer always come down to the fact that it's always fun for me.  It's fun for me to hang with my running group on Saturday.  It's fun to hang with the fellas on the bike on Sunday.  If I had neither groups to fall back on, I doubt that my Ironman journey would have gone past #2.

The long stuff on the weekend isn't exercise to me.  It's like going out and having fun at an event with a bunch of your buddies ... kinda like folks tailgating for a football game.  I guess, as is most things in life, it's not the event.  It's the company that you keep at those events.  I don't want to get too sappy here, so I'll just leave you all with the following message:

More OBGYN coupons coming your way, everyone.  Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Thanks for reading,
Tuan

P.S  As we all know, triathlon is a first world sport with a first world problem.  We sometime take for granted that in order to do this sport, we have to have disposable income, free time, and good health.  We sometime forget that, among all the useless stuff that occupy our minds during training ... like PR, mileage, heart rate, pace, power, and etc.

I'd like to dedicate this race report to my 2013 DCTri's New Triathlete Program (NTP) mentee, Andrea Lytle Peet, a beautiful young lady inside and out.  After going through that NTP last June, she completed her first half Ironman last September.  Since then, her life has taken a different journey.  Rather than telling you about her journey, I encourage you to visit her blog and decipher the coded message that I just spew.  Read about bib #179 and the significant meaning that it represents.

http://teamdrea.blogspot.com/

Andrea completed a sprint triathlon last weekend.  I was so touched and inspired by her journey to complete that triathlon that I've decided that, for the 2015 PeasantMan Triathlon,  I'm going to pull bib #179 out of circulation.  I will carry it with me throughout the bike and run of my 2015 Ironman, Ironman Barcelona.  I will use it as my source of energy and inspiration throughout the race.  When I approach that finish line, I will pull out that bib from my pocket and run with it down the finisher's chute, with that bib in full display, front and center.  That bib will remind me what real courage and life is all about.    It will put everything into perspective.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Race Report: Ironman Sweden

========================================================
RACE REPORT - Ironman Sweden - The Vietnamese Lesbian
========================================================

Before we begin, I'd like to throw a shoutout to my comrades in arms for this race ... the beautiful lesbian Supermodel, Deb Hopkins (2x Ironman), the hippie from Cali, Mike Leshnower (7x Ironman), and the old Iron horse, Doug Hartman (5x? Ironman).  This was my 5th Ironman, 3rd overseas.  I've also done 5 Ironman Vietnam, but due to the Fascist political environment that we currently have in America, you won't find any of my Ironman Vietnam results anywhere on Athlink.

Every race report needs eye candy.  Deb, 2x Ironman.    Don't let the smile fool you.
She's beautiful on land, but she will eat your first born alive in the open water
 On a more serious note, Ironman training isn't easy.  Much like watching porn on govt issued computers, while on billable hours, it is *often* done in isolation.  It's hard to explain why we spend so many hours training in the pool, on the bike, and on foot to those who have never traversed the path.  It's simply a passion ... the training, not the porn during billable hours.  You don't log that many training hours without that passion that burns from within.  At some level, you have to love and be excited about the hardcoreness of it all.

Sometimes, you go on a 100 miles+ bike ride in the middle of the DC summer heat, you feel so physically and mentally exhausted that your testicles itch.  You question your sanity.  You ask yourself if it's all worth it.  I mean, the itch ... could be a STD for all I know.

Speaking of STDs,  all you single ladies in the Clarendon/Court House/Ballston areas, what's a cool STD to have these days?  I'm not into those old school retro ones.  I'm looking for something hip, modern, and Penicillin resistant.

Anyhow, sometimes you finish those 100 mile bike rides so strong that you feel like you don't need any testicles.  They're overrated and make you less aero.  I carry one spare tube on my bike.  Why the heck do I need to carry more than one spare ... you know ... on a ride?

The race crew and our sherpas

================
TUAN MANIFESTO
================

This race report is part of my race report manifesto.  For those who have not read any of my previous race reports, but are aware of the flavor that I put in my writings, please visit the entire series to understand why, as a young Vietnamese college coed living in America, I experimented with peeing while sitting down ... for a few years.  What made that worse was that I wasn't even a Liberal Arts major.

Pee-ing while sitting down isn't something that I'm proud of.  It was just something that we all did in college back in the '90s.  Just ask any women in the Clarendon/Ballston/Court House areas that went to college in the same era.  They, too, experimented pee-ing while sitting down.  I'm sure glad we *ALL* outgrew it.

The Manifesto
--------------
Chapter 1: Making Love to Buoys at the Luray Sprint
Chapter 2: Vietnamese Saigon Tango with a Naked Anna Kornakova at the IM Longhorn 70.3
Chapter 3: Plight of a Vertical Swimmer at the IM California 70.3
Chapter 4: Confessions of a Bike Pee-er at the IM Eagleman 70.3
Chapter 5: Ironman Florida - I Hear Voices (2009)
Chapter 6: Ironman Florida - Spirit of the Bricklayers (2010)
Chapter 7: Ironman Germany - What Happens When A Man's Nut Freezes?
Chapter 8: Marine Corps Marathon - The Orphans Shall Be Fed
Chapter 9: Challenge Copenhagen -  The Nutcracker Does Europe
Chapter 10:Ironman Sweden - The Vietnamese Lesbian

If this race report seems long to you then you should do what I did during my senior year in college ... stand up when you pee!  It's 2013 for heaven sake.  You can't party like it's still 1999.  People will judge!

==========
PRE-RACE
==========

On race bag check-in day, my little sister asked if I had everything that I needed.  I told her that it was my 5th Ironman.  I have everything under control, I said.  Apparently, that was the wrong answer, for I had only brought ONE biking shoe and no race bib to transition.  She then asked me how I could possibly bring only one bike shoe with me?  Was I waiting for the shoe fairy to bring me the other one, she asked.  Needless to say, I didn't dignify that with an answer.  She also wondered how I expected to enter transition without a bib.  Man, these kids that went to public schools ... they ask the most stupid questions at the most inappropriate time.

 
Bike check-in.  Day before race.  Volunteers are there to make sure you
have everything ... like your bib and two biking shoes.

On race morning, my sister asked me again if I had everything I needed.  I told her that it was my 5th Ironman.  I have everything under control, I said.  Apparently, that too, was the wrong answer.  As we entered the swim start, I noticed that everyone was sporting a cool looking timing chip, except Vietnamese #1.

I feverishly ran around looking for a race official to find a replacement chip, but one official kept passing me to another.  With only a few minutes before the start time, I decided to enter the water and just do this race in stealth mode.  That's right, I was going to hidden dragon crouching tiger this son of a bitch.  Timing chips are for the weak and the sterile.  Besides, this was the Ironman.  Dealing with adversity is part of the program.

=======
SWIM
=======

The swim course was shaped like the middle finger.  Well, all swim courses are shaped like the middle finger from my vantage point, but that could just be my own middle finger pointing at the open water.  I tend to do that a lot prior to open water swims.

I'm not sure what the water temp was, but it was cold enough to be a "wetsuit mandatory" swim.  That's the first time that I've heard that phrase used at a race.  I think that my fellow lesbian racer, Deb Hopkins, said that it was 62 degrees.  In the straight world, it is common knowledge that lesbians have an uncanny ability to gauge water temperatures without usage of a thermostat, so I didn't doubt Deb one bit. 

The swim was in the Baltic Sea, off the eastern coast of Sweden.  It's a place, I'm told, that had testicles eating fish.  No, a lesbian didn't tell me that.  CNN did.  I didn't know if they were screwing with me or what, but I wore an extra cup during that swim just to be safe.  I'd be a fool not to.  I mean, think about the extra buoyancy in an area that really needs extra buoyancy in case of an emergency.

The swim was an in-water mass start that consisted of two loops.  Nothing beats the beauty and artistry of a mass Ironman swim start.  Once the canon goes off, a mass sea of humanity takes flight.  It's breath taking to be a part of.  Everyone jockeys for clean open waters where none exists.  The bumping and grinding that goes on in that water resemble a typical Saturday night at the Clarendon Ballroom.


Last stretch of the swim.  I'm not in the picture.
I'm still out at sea getting gropped
From shore, the splashing from 2,000 swimmers probably looked like a school of fish trying to outmaneuver a pod of killer whales ... simply beautiful and terrifying at the same time.  It's kind of like staring into the eyes of your wife/girlfriend.  You want to say that you think that she's beautiful when she's angry, but you also don't want bad thing to happen to your crotch when you utter those words ... out loud.  Well, I don't have to tell you all about how emotional women are when you try to give them a complement in the heat of battle.

IM Sweden had signs set up to allow people to seed themselves properly.  Having swam a 1:28 last year in Copenhagen, I had planned to line up in the 1:30 corral.  However, with the chip issues, I was late getting into the corral.  This meant that there was no way that I could have weaned my way to the proper place prior to the gun going off.

I found myself literally all the way in the back.  The last swimmer, to be exact.  What that meant was that I had to fight my way through a lot of world class vertical swimmers.  That just made the first lap brutal.  I had a guy whacked me across the head so hard that it almost dislodge my goggles.  Treading water to adjust the goggles meant taking in a few more licks for the team.  I don't know why people swing their arms so hard when they're aqua jogging.  Vertical swimming is about grace and technique.  Trying to muscle your way to verticalness will only result in tipping backward.  Nobody likes a showoff.

The other thing that I had to deal with was the constant ankle touching and nut grabbing.    If you can't tell the difference between a Vietnamese and a buoy, you shouldn't be doing an Ironman.  Brother couldn't even pause to pee in his wetsuit without someone grabbing him in his naughty place with the Vulcan grip of death.  I should have dated more women from the Clarendon/Court House/Ballston area in my younger days to prepare for this race, but I digress.

I'm vertical enough in the water without needing the assistance from other swimmers pulling my legs even further down.  Because I started so far back, I had no clean water to swim during that first loop.  Swim a little to the left, I'm greeted by some dude that wants to tongue me.  Swim a little to the right, some chick is trying to cup me.  FREAKEN ANIMALS, are these vertical swimmers.

The second loop, the swell and current from the Baltic Sea became much stronger.  I was convinced that my wetsuit was leaking and taking on water, but that could have just been me peeing inside the wetsuit. I don't know.  I couldn't triage properly because I was under so much duress.

Every once in awhile, I would get a mouthful or noseful of water as I attempted to go up for air.  Now, bilateral breathing might have fixed that quagmire, but the Tuan-man does not bilateral breath.  He's got other issues to deal with when he's in the water ... like trying to not drown.

I got out of the water at around 1:45.  I was still in stealth mode so I have no idea what the exact time was.  Suffice to say, it was 15+ minutes slower than what I was expecting.  On the brighter side, no testicle eating fish made their way to the family jewels ... knock on wood, still plural.   The number of testicles that I had before the swim = the number of testicles I had after the swim.  That's a win on most days.

==========
T-1
==========

Still in stealth mode, I ran to the Nutcracker (my bike).  On the other side of the fence, near my bike, stood my sister cheering for me.  I approached and told her that my timing chip was in the backpack that she was carrying.  Again, she threw some public school type questions at me ... like, "why didn't you wear it during the swim?"

She quickly searched for it and gave it to me.  I strapped it around my ankle and left T-1.  I was now legit.  No more stealth mode IM racing.  The CIA can now track me with their drones ...  happy early birthday to the fellas back at Langley.

Tu (my sherpa sister), Kristin (Deb's sherpa), and Sean (Mike's sherpa).  They were everywhere on race day.
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BIKE
=========

The bike course took the form of a figure 8, all on closed roads.  The first half was on the island of Oland.  The second half was on mainland Sweden.  Oland, in Swedish, means "the land of wind and sun."  It did not disappoint.  Let me paraphrase what my fellow lesbian racer, Deb Hopkins, wrote in her race report ... 20-25 mph sustained headwind, with 35-40 mph wind gust.  Besides from an innate sense of water temps, lesbians are also known for their abilities to gauge wind speed with remarkable accuracies.

I've done IMFL 2x and have ridden Eagleman about 6x.  The wind conditions there were minor leagues compared IM Sweden.  It was just long and sustained wind.  There weren't much you could do except to just stay aero and ride small.  The crosswind were, by far, a lot more difficult to handle than the headwind.  My speed into a headwind was faster than what I could muster during those crosswind sections.  Staying in aero in some of those crosswind sections was like giving the Gods the middle finger.  You were basically riding sideway with fear in your heart.

The wind was so strong that I didn't even pee on the bike the entire day.  I feared the crosswind/headwind ramifications.  I had to do the unthinkable.  I stopped and used the port-a-johns.  Sons of Bitches ... I had cheated myself out of the Ironman experience.  It was one of the low moments of the race for me.

To get to Oland, you had to ride across a spectacular bridge that is 6 km long <<-- That's what she said!

That's 6 km on the way out to Oland and 6 km on the way back to the mainland.  The bridge, when it was first built, was the second longest bridge in Europe.  Let me tell you, it was very cool to be biking on that bridge ... until that 40 mph crosswind decided to make your front wheel flap back and forth like a fish out of water.  My bike was shaking and vibrating so hard that I wasn't sure if I was sitting on a vibrator or VMW  ... Vietnamese BMW.

I actually feared for my safety during the bridge stretch.  I first tried to man-up by going aero on the bridge ... until I saw that 2 feet from me was a 200 feet drop into the Baltic Sea.  I'd be damn if I have to swim twice in the same Ironman!

A little voice then came over my head.  It said, "don't be a dumbass, Vietnamese #1.  Get out of aero!"  I then gave my handlebars the Viet Cong grip of death ... 6 fingers on each hand working as one.  That 6th finger didn't do much to stabilize the front wheel (Zipp 404) from flapping feverishly.  That little voice then came back to me and said, "oh Vietnamese #1, you are sooooo going to loose your favorite testicle on this one!"  Emotionally, I was devastated, but I had to dig deep for the team.

After that little side wind action on the bridge, the bike course took us directly into the path of a 20-25 mph sustained headwind.  For the next 25-30 miles, it was nothing but headwind.  Sons of Bitches!  It was like riding up a 25-30 mile hill with no end in sight.  After the headwind action, the bike course had us making a sharp left and directly into the path of a 20-25 mph crosswind ... Again, Sons of Bitches!  God must have ate a burrito the night before or something.

The crosswind was bad enough that I saw two riders get knocked off their bikes during the course of the race.  I saw a few more bandaged people with road rashes during the run.  I thought to myself, "man, it was either a typical date with an Arlington chick or the wind had really caught people off guard."

I also heard of a report of a rider going down hard during the Oland Bridge section.  All I could think about during those heavy wind sections was how judgmental my future righteous wife would be when she sees that I am a man with no testicles.  It might just be enough to drive her into the waiting arms of a Casanova Cambodian ... might.  This is why I advocate no sex before marriage.  It's like a game of poker.  You don't want to show the family jewels too soon.  You're Asian.  There are ramifications.

Eventually, the bike course led us to the direction of the mainland.  For the next 25-30 miles, it was all strong tail wind.  It was a beautiful thing.  I was easy pedaling and saw 26-28 mph on my Garmin.  It sure beats drinking your own vomit while trying to stay above 10 mph into a head wind.  I finally knew what it was like to be like Lance Armstrong ... riding a bike fast, on one testicle.

Once back on the mainland, it was same the same shit ... 20 miles of tail wind leaving town, 20 miles of head wind coming back to transition.  Sons of Bitches!

Back on the mainland for the last few miles of the bike


At around mile 100, I rode past Mike.  We exchanged pleasantries and recipes.  He told me that his boys were hurting.  I told him that if they hurt then he's got too many.  Stop bragging!

Final bike time was 5:45.  15 minutes slower than anticipated, but given the wind, I'll take it.

==========
T-2
==========

No co-ed transition tent this time.  Instead, I was in a tent full of naked Euro men.  That's what every straight dude want to see after a 112 miles bike ride ... a room full of naked sweaty Euro dudes.  Sons of Bitches!  It's as if the NSA had been reading my emails and sent in those naked dudes there just to screw with me.

I'd tell you what my T-2 time was, but with not having the timing chip at the start, my entire splits were out of whack.

=========
RUN
=========

I didn't see Deb on the bike, so I was hoping to see her during the run.  Besides from their great abilities to judge water temps and wind speed, lesbians are well known for their abilities to detect air temps.  I wanted to know what the air temp was, but we never connected on the course throughout the day.  As it turned out, she was having a race of her life, with an IM PR of almost 1 hour to go with an IM marathon PR of almost 50 minutes.  I'm going to have to note it down that lesbians are also known for getting PRs at Ironman races.


Deb celebrating her incredible PR
 I think that I paced very appropriately on the bike because I was quite fresh and minty for the run.  The run was 3 laps on mostly flat roads.  You spent a few total miles running in the old city of Kalmar and the rest on trails and local neighborhoods.  Each lap had you running parallel to the finish line.  Some people would find that demoralizing.  I find that exciting.  The crowd were the biggest and loudest in the areas leading up to the finish line.

My run nutrition plan was simple.  Two cups of water over my head at every water stations.   That's right.  Call me an elitist if you want, but I don't drink water given to me by peasants.  Part deux of the nutrition plan was to not pee on myself ... I was no longer on the bike after all.  A gel now and then.  A coke from the most beautiful female Swedish volunteer I could find at each water station  ;)

After my second lap, I saw our group sherpas (Tu, Kristin, and Sean) sitting at a cafe literally right next to the run course, very close to the finish line.  I stopped, chatted for a few seconds, signed a few autographs, and off I went.  They were everywhere on race day.  I saw them a few times in Oland and mainland Sweden during the bike ride.

On my third lap, I picked up a little green prop (pic below) from Mike's sherpa, Sean, to run across the finish line with.  It's an Ironman, so I figured that I should enjoy myself a little bit.  Ironman racing isn't all about peeing on the bike.  It's about other stuff that I can't think of at the moment.

Running toward the finish line
As I approached the finish line, I saw the announcer standing 100 feet in front of the arch.  I went into my Rocky simulation boxing stance with my props and went toe-to-toe with him for a few seconds.  The folks in the stand seemed to enjoyed it ... then off to the finish line to celebrate the end to a wonderful journey.

The Ironman always lay out a carpet in the last 50 yards or so of the finish line.  When you reach that carpet and see that finisher's arch, it's a beautiful thing.  In a marathon, you have a few dozen people crossing the finish line with you at about the same time.  In an Ironman, it's just you, the bleacher full of spectators, and the finisher's arch.  The guy/gal behind you will back off to let you have your moment just like the way you backed off of the guy in front of you so that he can have his moment.  It's an unwritten rule and it's an awesome experience.

Mike putting on some warm clothes for his final lap
As I've said, this was my 5th Ironman.  Listening to the announcer say, "Tuan Nguyen, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN," as I cross the finish line, does absolutely nothing for me.  I know, I'm jaded and emotionally dead on the inside.

What I look forward to is seeing all the volunteers at the finish line smiling at me and congratulating me.  It's just you and 20 different volunteers smiling back at you.  It's a very satisfying feeling.  IM Sweden assigns a volunteer to you the moment you cross the finish line.  That volunteer walks with you until you've picked up your finish line clothes bag and have reached the food tent.  The volunteer takes care of your every need and makes sure that you get your medal, finisher's pic, and points out the locations of everything (i.e., port-a-johns, med tent, massage tent, food, showers, swag, etc).  I thought that that was a nice touch.  It doesn't happen at every Ironman.

Final run time:  somewhere in the 3:45-ish neighborhood.  It was within 20 minutes of my Boston Marathon time back in April and exactly where I thought I would be for this race.  Not too bad.

Final overall time:  11:31:58.  That's about a 25 minutes PR.  People,  lesbians are known to get PRs at Ironman races.  Facts are facts.  I just became a Vietnamese lesbian.  I can't wait to break the news to mamma Nguyen.

I would have liked to have gone under 11, but there are still many more IMs in my future.  I'll get there.  I still have a bunch of testicles left.  Let's hope they're all still functional after I go under 11.  One can dream the dream, I supposed.

This is the 3rd time that I've gone under 12 at the IM distance, but have yet to crack 6 hour at the half Ironman distance.  Sons of Bitches! ... is the swim at all HIM races longer than advertised?
Finisher's pic

=================
FINAL THOUGHTS
=================

Deb and I exchanging war stories in the bleachers
as we waited for Mike to cross the finish line

IM Sweden is an awesome course.  Swimming underneath the bridges full of people was cool.  The mixture of running in local neighborhoods and old city Kalmar were neat experiences.  Yes, the wind was bitching, but Ironman races are always too hot, too cold, too windy, too choppy, too hilly, too this, and too that.    You're out there all freaken day.    Conditions will change with the rise and fall of the sun.  That's what make them fun.  You do them.  You bitch and whine a little.  At the end of the day, you just sit back with a sense of pride and say to yourself ... "man, that was cool!"

More than any destination races that I've done, it seemed like the Swedes in Kalmar take great pride in their city and the race.  When you talk to the people in the store or the volunteers on the course, you sense that pride.  It's kind of nice to see the community vested in a race like that.  It's got that small city charm to it.

People often ask me why I do Ironman races.  Why I spend so much time training for an Ironman, year after year.  The answer is simple ... I get great pleasures in being a Vietnamese lesbian.  Don't hate me because I'm beautiful!

Take care,
Tuan

EDITOR'S NOTE:  Deb read the draft version of this race report.  She wants all the single and semi-single straight dudes out there to know that she's not a lesbian.  That still does not explain how she was able to gauge wind speed, water temps, and air temps with remarkable accuracies.  Me thinks someone is in denial.



Cool medal to wrap things up