Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Race Report: Challenge Copenhagen - The Nutcracker Does Europe

I will eventually post it in the DCTri forum and elsewhere, but wanted to vetted here first.  As always, it's best to insult people here before I insult the rest of the world :)  Let me know if you've been insulted or offened by what is said.

Race Report:
Challenge Copenhagen:  The Nutcracker Does Europe
The Nutcracker is my bike.  It's what I named it.  It has an Adamo seat.  For those who do not know what an Adamo seat is, below is a link to a picture of it.  It has two prongs specifically designed to mercilessly crush a man's nut from all angles.  You can try to bypass nutcracker technology, but you would most likely fail.   Back in 'Nam, we call this the Vietnamese anti-theft system.

The sad part to all of this is that the Adamo didn't come with the bike.  It's an aftermarket item that I actually purchased to specifically crush my own nuts.  That's right. Vietnamese logic is a gift that keeps on giving.
Challenge Copenhagen is an Iron distance triathlon that takes place in Denmark.  Swim 2.4 miles, bike 112, run 26.2, and walk like you have multiple STDs for the rest of your life.   The race is part of the Danish Long Course Championship, with a 15-16 hour cutoff, depending on your swim wave.  The race finishes in a courtyard of a castle.  When you go to pick up your bike after the race, you go to another castle with a moat.  How freaken cool is that?
Let me just stop here and give some props to the Danes.  I've been to about 35 different countries in my life, I would rank the Danes as one of the top 2-3 friendliest people out there.  Incredibly helpful and warm.  In DC, if you hold out a map, the locals would yell, "get off the freaken street tourists!"  In Denmark, they'd come by and make sure that you get to where you were going ... without you even asking.  I can't say enough good things about them, the city, or the country.
The city of Copenhagen is a great city to visit if you ever get a chance to visit.  I have never in my life seen so many beautiful women in one city.  Every time that I thought that I saw a drop dead gorgeous woman walk by, there would be another one ... and another one.  The only time that I've ever come across that kind of beauty is when I look in the mirror.  Just stunning beauty and incredibly nice ... I mean my reflection.  Well, Danish women too.
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 I sometimes pee while sitting down in a room full cats.
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
If this race report seems long to you then your nut is cracked beyond repair.  Try wearing a cup next time.  If you are single lady living in the Clarendon/Ballston/Court House areas, try wearing underwear for once. Repeat after me ... underrrrrwareee
I came to Denmark with Ed M, Saguna H, and Dan A.  Along the way we picked up an American expat/super Ironman stud living in Denmark (Adam W), who is a friend a DCTri chick with an extreme Asian fetish (Lisa Kilday).  Adam came in second in his age group at the Danish short course championship.
Ed (swim), Adam (bike), and Saguna (run) made up the relay team while I did the entire show.  Dan, Saguna's boy toy, was our sherpa.  This was a vacation/race for us.  Ed and I did Iceland, Denmark, and Sweden while Saguna and Dan did Germany, Denmark, and Spain.  I believed Ed also went to visit his motherland, Iran, after everyone left Europe. Ed and Dan are two of the guys that you should always travel with.  They know their European history and places of historic importance.  It was like traveling with a tour guide and a history teacher.
Prior to the trip, we got some helpful race and local dinning advice from a 2x Ironman and fellow DCTri member, Kaj L.  Kaj is a Danish military officer, living in DC, who did the race last year. I believed his advice to me was to not get naked in the coed changing tent.  Apparently, Danish women don't like naked Vietnamese in the changing tents.  It scares them, but I didn't come to Denmark with a G-string just for show.  I came to represent America! 
This was definitely my best overall experience of the 4 IMs that I've done.  I'm not just talking about the race, but all the stuff surrounding it.  For example, I did one of my pre-IM practice open water swim in a lagoon, heated by volcanoes ... in Iceland.  It doesn't get any better than that.
Below is the pic of the lagoon that I swam in.  Those black things that look like mountains and hills surrounding the logoon are volcanic ashes and rocks.
The bike racking in T1 occurred along a man-made beach.  Along this beach, near the transition area, are beautiful drop dead gorgeous Danish women sunbathing ... topless.   It was as if I died and went to Vietnamese heaven ... you know, the one that has Pho for dinner every night of the week served by topless Danish women.  Yep, that one.
Anyway, you go to rack your bike and you are confronted with Euro bike racks that you have no idea what to make of.  You want to take pictures, but you are afraid of getting arrested on foreign soil.  What other race out there has that kind of transition set up!?
The swim was a wave start, which was a bit of a disappointment for me.  To me, the essence of Iron distance racing is throwing 2,000-3,000 people in the same open water and let them beat the crap out each other.  It doesn't matter if you are a 70 year old church going grandmother, you get an elbow in the face and a foot in the mouth if you were in somebody's way.  That's the beauty of Iron distance racing ... everybody treats you like you're a Vietnamese.
The swim took place in brackish ocean water off the coast of Denmark.  It was a beach start, taking place in a protected cove.  You'd swim straight out into the Baltic Sea toward Sweden, make a quick left in the middle of freaken nowhere, another quick left in the middle of another freaken nowhere, and then head back toward land.  Somewhere along the swim, you pray that you don't get picked off by Somali pirates or taken as a sex slave by Danish Mermaids.
The water temp was a bit cool to start (65-ish), but was perfect once you've warmed up.  It was probably one of the most scenic swim I've ever been in.  On an out and back swim, you'd swim under two bridges going out toward the North Pole and three bridges coming back.  I'm not sure how that happened other than the fact that I was so slow that they built another freaken bridge while I was still at sea. 
You had spectators lined up on all of the low hanging bridges cheering you on as you swam underneath.  Each bridge had a gigantic sign showing the meter marker that you were at.  There were very few buoys on the course, but you really didn't need any.  You just aim for the bridges and away from the Somali pirate ships and you'd be ok.  They also had scuba divers out on the course, which scared the shit out of me.  I didn't know if those bubbles were coming from scuba divers or Danish Mermaids cruising for a good looking Vietnamese sex slave.
Below is a pic of what the swim looked like from on top of one of the bridges.  The pic was taken by Saguna.  It's a beautiful pic showing what swimming in the open water is like and what vast distance a 2.4 miles swim actually is.  You can't even see the start line over in the horizon in the pic ... scary image for a non-swimmer.
This was my first 2.4 miles of continuous swim of any kind.  I've never even done it in a pool.  I'd figure that in a man's lifetime, he only has x number of 2.4 miles swim in him before he drowns.  Why waste it in a pool where someone can find your body?
My other three Ironmans had been two loop swims where you get out of the water, cross a timing matt, vasaline your nipples, and jump back in.  It was a frightening to be out there that long.  I mean, how the heck do you prevent nipple chaffing if you can't take a break in the middle of a swim?
Being out there for hours like that, a lot of things go through a man's head.  I was like, "what kind of dumb ass swims out into the middle of the Baltic Sea without a cuesheet and a compass!?"  After awhile, I would realized that I was that dumb ass.  The mental strain was great.  The only thing that pulled me through was my royal pedigree.
When I say royal pedigree, I meant the ability to walk on water.  There were a few stretches during the swim that the water level was low enough (chest high) for me to walk.  I gave some thoughts to manning up and swimming the whole thing, but then the vertical swimmer in me took over.  I'd be a fool not to take advantage of my aqua walking skills. 
There was point at the last turnaround buoy where my hamstring cramped.  The pain was so intense that I couldn't even swim.  I pulled up to look for a kayaker for help, but none was around.  I resorted to what I do best.  I floated on my back and played dead, as a mechanism for recovery.  Luckily, my playing dead was only an act.  It took about 15 seconds of intense praying before it went away.  I then just slowly swam the last 300 meters toward the swim exit.
By the time that I got out of the water, I was too distraught to figure out what my swim time was.  I was filled with tears and other female emotions.  I swear to you that I thought that it was somewhere in the 2-hour range.  I did a lot ... a lot of walking during the swim.  It wasn't until later, when I meet Ed biking around the run course, that I found out what my swim time was.  Ed told me that I was somewhere near 1:30.  I thought that he was lying to me.  In the vertical swimming scene, that's Michael Phelp's territory.
I ended up going 1:28, which was a 12-13 minutes swim PR.  Not bad for a vertical swimmer.  Pretty incredible, actually, since I had spent less time in the pool than in all of my prior IMs.  I think it has a lot to do with the fact that lots of you bastards are peeing at the Wilson pool.  That kind of thing distracts me and gives me the false impression of how awesome my swim stroke is.  I curse at you all.  May your children not be potty trained until they're 20.
Good 'ol European transition tents ... coed.  Need I say more?  I think that I saw Ed, who was doing the relay, sitting in T-1 with a cigar, Hugh Hefner bathrobe, and a lawn chair in the corner observing this European phenomenon after he completed his swim.  If you look him up, I think his T-1 time was 16 hours.
P.S. The next time that you see Ed, ask him to show you all of the pics that he took in T-3.  Do the stuff in some of those pics in 'Nam and they'd canned your ass to Cambodia.
Coming out of the swim, I was greeted by the Nutcracker.  It was like coming out of a bar holding hands with a girl, only to be confronted by your wife.  In your mind, you see a threesome developing.  In reality, you know it ain't going to end well.  You can try to wear a cup to defend your boys, but there is really no defense for Nutcracker technology.  You just gotta either man up or beg for forgiveness.  I ain't stupid.  I begged for forgiveness and off we went on the 112 mile journey.
The Nutcracker was angry, but I was focus on the task at hand.  The nutrition plan was gel every 35 minutes, electrolyte pills every hour, Infinit for extra calories and hydration, eggroll and fish sauce at the 56 mile mark, and Pho at mile 100.  You can take the man out of Saigon, but you can't take Saigon out of the man.
The bike was a two loop lollipop course.  The stick of the lollipop was a fast and flat 12 mile ride out of Copenhagen toward the country side.  I think that I was holding 22-23 mph without much issues.  After that ... lord have mercy on us all.
It was one of the most technical course that I've ever done.  Lots of 90 degrees turns and winding/twisting roads.  I saw a guy in full aero gear and disc wheel go down about 5 miles into the race near one of the hard turns.  It was then that decided that I wasn't going to try to be a better man than he was.  I was going to get out of aero at anything that looked like a turn or a twist.  The Tuanman wasn't about to prove that he can fracture the only good clavicle he has left on foreign soil.
We had some bitching and relentless rolling hills for about 70 miles of the ride, with a few climbs to top things off.  There weren't any major climbs, but those rollers just test the strength of your nuts, in the aero position.  Kaj had told me ahead of time that the bike course was extremely flat and fast.  Let me state for the record that
    A.  Kaj is a liar
    B.  A European's definition of flat and fast is not the same as a Vietnamese's definition of flat and fast.
The wind was also a major factor for me.  It was just head wind galore.  I've paid my dues on the hills of Poolsville.  I can handle hills.  I've ridden Hains Point for a few thousand miles.  I know wind, but wind and hills for 112 miles does take its toll on you.  If I weren't such a talented and good looking guy, I wouldn't be here today to tell you all of this.  Have I mentioned yet that I like to bitch and moan?  For all we know, the bike ride was a 112 miles of no wind or hills and I just get off on bitching and moaning about anything and everything ... such as the life of Vietnamese Royalty.
During the first loop, I reached an intersection of a quick right and quick left.  The police officer standing there held his hands out in two different directions.  I chose one and kept going.  About a mile later, I noticed that there were no one in front of me.  I looked behind me and noticed that there were no one behind me.  I was too stubborn to admit that I **may** have made the wrong turn and veered off course.  About 1/2 mile later, I came across a local Danish cyclist and asked him where the race was.  He pointed in the opposite direction.  Yep, I was that dumb ass that managed to ride off course during an Ironman.
The cyclist waved his hand toward his wheels, told me to ride behind him, and he would pull me back to the course.  This is why I love the Danes.  Their men not only do not mind you sucking on their wheels, but they encourage it.  Their women, as you already know, hang out topless near the transition area.  What a wonderful group of people.
Anyway, the cyclist pulled me back to the original intersection where I went off course.  I shook his hand and said "thank you!"  Today, he's probably telling all his friends that he ran across some dumb ass Vietnamese who veered off course during the Ironman.  We shall not speak of this misdeed again!
Bike time: 5:59 ... why go 6:00, when you can go 5:59.
Good 'ol Saguna and the coed T-2 tent.  I'm not sure how long she was in there when I got there, but she seemed to be having a time of her life in there.  I had to remind her that she wasn't a volunteer and that helping a Euro dude disrobe wasn't really necessary.  Ed, of course, somehow made his way from T-1 to T-2.  Words on the street is that he's still there taking pictures.
Prior to the race, we were notified that there would be 30 (not a misprint, 30), timing stations out on the s/b/r course.  There were so many freaken timing stations out there that you couldn't even urinate without getting a timing split.  You'd go into a port-a john and when you'd come out, there would be a dude standing there with a stopwatch telling you your splits. 
These European races are like freak shows.  I didn't even feel like pulling down my shorts when I was in some of those port-a johns.  The pressure to produce a fast port-a john split was tremendous, no wonder people pee on the bike.  However, like they teach you back at the Ho Chi Minh Daycare Center ... shake it once and leave.  No need to stress the little fella.  Again, Vietnam ... the gift that keeps on giving.
When I got off of the bike, I had absolutely nothing left.  That bike ride of neither wind nor hills just broke me.  I just kept singing that song in my head over and over again.  You know, the one that goes "you're sexy and you know it!"  There is sexy and there is tired sexy.  I was damn tired sexy, but sexy nevertheless.
I could barely breath the first 2-3 miles of the run.  Everything hurt, but sexy had to keep his feet moving.  I just kept telling myself that sexy didn't get up at 4:30 AM every morning to train just to walk the IM marathon.  I just tried to keep one foot in front of the other and slugged away. 
The run course was just packed with spectators.  I've never seen such support throughout the run at any triathlons that I've ever done.  They were enthusiastic in their support.  Each one of our bibs had the flag of our country.  I heard "Go USA!" quite often as I passed spectators.  It was a beautiful run course.  You run through the city of Copenhagen as well as along the river.  Below is a picture of it.
After the bike ride, I had given up all hope of attaining any kind of decent time.  The run was just an exercise of how to suck in air without feeling pain.  At about mile 24, Ed came by on his bike and told me that Athlete Tracker had predicted that I would be 30 seconds over 12 hours at my current run pace.  I'm not sure why he would play with my emotions like that.  I was perfectly content at my current pace.  He then proceeded to mock me by telling me to suck on his wheels.  I've never wanted to bitch slap someone so bad in my life, but breathing took precedence.
I just sucked it up and ran as fast as I could for those last 2 miles.  I probably passed about 30 people in that stretch.  As I approached the finish line, I looked up at the clock.  It showed that I was about 4 minutes under 12 hours.  The only thought that was in my mind at that moment was "BASTARD!"  I had swallowed about a liter of my own vomit trying run as fast as I could to make it under 12 hours, but as it turned out, I could have run 2 min/mile slower and still would have made it.  Ed Moser made me swallow my own vomit for no good apparent reasons other than for his own amusement ... bastard!
Run time: 4:15
My final time was 11:56:40.  I PRed by 1 minute.  Not too bad considering I went off course on the bike, cramped during the swim, and bitch and whined like a Redskins' fan during the run.
I've done a bunch of half IMs and have never broken or come close to the 6 hour barrier.  This was the second time that I've broken 12 hours at an IM.  I'm going to have to reevaluate that Vietnamese half Ironman training plan.  Perhaps that plan has me swimming too much.  Or, perhaps I need to institute more aqua walking during the swim leg of my half Ironmans.
You want to hear something else?  My IM swim split is faster than my fastest Sprint swim split.  My fastest IM bike split is also faster than my fastest Sprint bike split.  No, I don't know what the f**k is wrong with me.


Here is the Iceland, Denmark, Challenge Copenhagen, and Sweden photo album of my entire trip.  Maximize your browser for a better view.  If the slideshow moves too fast, you can mouse over the pic and pause it.

Tuan, I'm sexy and I know it.