Ironman Barcelona - Penicillin Cream
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.
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.
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.
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.
Below are the cliff notes of version of my results.
Swim: 1:24 2:13/100m
Bike 5:20 21.0 mph
*Run: 3:51 (listed), 3:44 (actual)
*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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 :)
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.
Below is a link to my race photo album. It includes pics of my visit to Calella, Barcelona, Lisbon, and Istanbul.