Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ironman Extravaganza Weekend (Part 2 of 3 Series)

The Rockstar Race Report (“RRR”).


I’ll often admit that I like to engage in feverish discussions surrounding anything cardio-related (this is the reader’s clue and disclaimer for a lengthy “RRR” to come). You’ve been kindly advised. ;)


On the eve of my first ironman, my mind was restless. Unconsciously, my mind was tickled with running every possible scenario that could unfold on m-dot day, right down to the nitty gritties. I probably had just one actual hour of solid snoozing. I was losing patience – I would press the indigo on my timex watch to reluctantly check and see what time it was and then compute the remaining hours for sleep. This would happen every 15 minutes interval. On the plus side, I had plenty of opportunities to rehearse my game plan strategy during that 6 hours or so to get everything all mentally “dialled in” for race day. Here’s some “dialled in” thoughts:

(1) The Flashback:

Flashback to last year, race morning at 8 am when the stream of nearly 3 thousand athletes cruise by along Main Street in Penticton. I was not only inspired, but I noticed two distinct groups of ironman athletes. No not the fat ones versus the skinny ones, nor the fast ones versus the slow ones, though I was impressed with every one of them for attempting this challenging feat.

The difference in mental approaches was what I noticed. Some clearly were keen on blitzing out of town and determined to get a fast time. Others were waving and showing their appreciation for the stream of fans cheering them on along.

Q: I mean how often do we, as athletes get to show our rockstar-love back towards the fans?

A: Not very often because triathlon is not exactly the most spectacle-friendly sport, it’s more a participation sport.

Deep, I know (cough cough...sarcasm). I knew which group bracket I wanted to be in. Okay maybe I wasn’t completely willing to jump off my bike to give people hugs, but I definitely wanted ease my tempo coming in and out of town of Penticton and show my support for the truly exceptional fans.

(2) The Prep Talk:

“Don’t forget your A game. Flies in your soup. This is the big leagues. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.”

(3) Soft goals:

I knew I was capable of finishing in the 11-12 hour range. I budgeted for a 1.5 hour swim, a 6 hour bike, and a sub 4 hour run (subject to heat). I should fashionably make the cut-off times and the rest will be history. Oh yeah, finishing in style was a must. I planned to be running awesomely throughout the run course. =)

(4) The Finish

How cool would this be, just imagine Steve King calling out the words, “Winston Guo...[pause]...YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!” My tiny voice in the background resonating the words, and expressing “oh really, really, thank you so much!”

Race morning:

I felt optimistic and confident. I was nervous for the forecasted throbbing towards my body, but confident about the plan.

The body-marking line went smoothly and I saw Andrew, and Derrick (2012 to be IMCers) near the body markers. Funny I see myself in their position last year; reminiscence has a funny way of repeating itself.

I had realized I forgot my slurpee straw (a.k.a. aero bottle straw) and was in luck. A race saviour, thanks to Ceilidh, who happened to be at the right place at the right time. I was floored with my floor pump, it broke last minute, but I checked the tire pressure and figured I was fine. Phew, crisis averted!

Promptly, the national anthem was played and then a moment of silence before the anticipation for the cannon. I paused, looked back to absorb the inspiration. Then the cannon went off.

The swim:

I was envisioning three VOWSA laps and this leg of the race would be over with. There was certainly a higher degree of credit card side swipings and feet thrashing than my previous races. I guess you don't mess around in the BIG leagues, beatings were unavoidable, even on the left side. I tried to avoid the smashing as much as possible – even if it meant losing a few precious seconds. As I past the buoys markers, I was converting that distance to the percentage of VOWSA laps. My goal was to save as much energy as possible and it was going to be an eventful day, given that I swim out of the waters. I was sticking to the plan.

Ran over the mat and saw my time was 1:28:XX, ah just where I expected to be. I was ready for the bike.

The T1:

Organized chaos, I flew by and was peeled out of my wetsuit. Missed the sunscreen pit stop unfortunately and went my way gingerly on barefoot until I finally reached my bike. Popped on my new aero helmet and embraced the loud cheers.

The bike:

I was caught in the bottom end of the mob, and was in no rush to book it out of town. Did my princess-waves on Main Street and carried on. Haha, this was certainly a true rockstar moment.

I was flying at 36 km/hr barely pedaling. A combination of tail wind and downhill, and of course not drafting - I’m quite a law-abiding stickler on that or at least try to be. ;)

There seems to be clusters of riders barraging my passing lane anyways. An official on a motorbike was hovering at the same speed of a group, I just blew by everyone. The royal escort was over it seemed. Then it was to town of Osoyoos and up Richter’s Pass. I was just trying to save as much energy and stay on course of the plan. In attempt to employ the Craig-Alexander approach, I knew every little bit of energy saved here would mean a killer run split.

Because I was borrowing Derrick’s deeper rimmed race wheels, I was descending delicately down the rollers. Normally on my old clunkers, I can just rip down the hills without the worry of a cross-wind effect.

My nutrition on the bike for the most part was going well, and I was taking in salt pills every half hour and making sure I got in my Carbo Pro.

At the aid station shortly after special needs, I managed to get a nose-bleed and calmly dealt with it. The volunteer was super helpful, giving me ice. The incident cost me nearly five minutes, but it was also a five minutes break to a very long day.

I’ve done Yellow Lake climb a couple of times, and both times were soul-sucking to the point you question yourself to re-evaluate the plan. On this race day, those fears were not relived and the cheer zones made every bit easier and I didn’t even question the plan. Case closed!

The last 20km on the bike was basically a descent. I was alright with one rider passing me, but then behind him, a mob of approximately 15 riders was shamelessly drafting and zoomed by me! No attempt was even made to avoid it. I was not impressed and yelled out “No Drafting guys!” Oh well, I kept reminding myself to stick to the plan and the run would be epic. No flats please, I have no idea how to change Derrick’s sweet race wheels!

Before I knew it, I reached the dismount line and saw none other than Andrew Wight bike-catching. The home/run stretch was finally here. I felt in control and on the driver seat. Awesome, I got this!

The T2:
Ran to the sunscreen tray and did my own screen job. Couldn't wait for an epic run.

The run:

Some could say I had the “smile” of Chrissie Wellington, when I really shouldn’t be. I was supposed to be suffering in the blistering Okanagan 33 degrees Celsius heat. I knew there were doubters and that the WORLD was watching and waiting for me to drop my smile in the Ironman distance. Unfortunately, I can officially report the WORLD may be overly disappointed that not only did I not drop that “smile” of Chrissie Wellington, but managed to dare to say “enjoyed” the run. It wasn’t as bad as I had thought, I was bad-ass for still sporting a smile. My technique was light and efficient, and my muscles were willing to perform the task at hand. The first 5 miles was a cruise. I managed to shake off those biking quad cramps and when I saw some gentle hills, I was picturing Miranda Carfrae and Andreas Raelert in Kona attacking those hills like it was a 5km TT. No big deal right? Heat management was definitely in play. I was stuffing ice everywhere I could and turning into Sponge Bob like how Macca does it.

The one thing I could do better was resisting the temptation to grab everything at the aid stations. The mix of powerbar ironman perform, warm pepsi, ice water and jels didn’t sit too well with my stomach. I managed to use the washroom four times on the run course and for one instance barely escaped disaster by keeping "it" all together for a solid 2 km to the next available portapotty. At the latter end of the race, I was walking thru the aid stations to cool down and get my heart rate down. Then I ran the next 2 km. My body was craving of ice at every aid stations and that was the most awesome part. Now only if there were slushies for everyone!

As I ran closer and closer towards Penticton, the cheers grew louder. My body had this dialled in and I skipped the last three aid stations to give my stomach a break. I placed both of my hands on my head and celebrated. I was estatic - I was officially an Ironman!!! The clock read 11:25:33. What a ROCKSTAR feeling it was, no words could describe it.

Date/Time: August 28th, 2011, 7:00 am
Weather: 32ish, blistering hot!
Distance: IM
Gun time: 11:25:33
Swim: 1:28:01 (2:19 per 100m pace)
T1: 4:31
Bike: 6:00:53 (29.9 km/hr)
T2: 2:50
Run: 3:49:20 (5:26 per km)
Age Group: 35/126
Overall: 436/2832

Friday, September 2, 2011

Ironman Extravaganza Weekend (Part 1 of 3 Series)

I hate taper. The week heading into my first Ironman was a huge drag, I'd just been so used to walking on sluggish legs. I was not sure I could handle walking around with these 'fresh' looking legs. I just had been so grumpy all week because I was ready to put down the hurt (that's just triathletespeak for "I want to go train").

All this negativity was normal to me because somehow I always "seemed" to feed off a plethora of positive energy on race day, even when I was having a super bad race (e.g. Vancouver's little cone fiasco).

Despite all this excitement, it seemed to be perfect timing that my client offered a cruise social just before my weekend trip to Penticton. I knew it would be impolite to refuse free food! My little princess cruise just before getting picked up for the extravaganza road trip – now that was tapering in fashion.

Watch it, it's the far right Yacht!

There seems to be no easy way to transition from epic cruise boat into town of Penticton. So without a further a do, here's some more randomness and pre-race pics.  

(psst...spoiler alert -stay tuned for part 2)  Me - potentially

Just a tip, doing your first Ironman is a super good excuse to borrow a friend's race wheels...Thank you Derrick!!
 My prison bracelet...DUN DUN DUN, with my race number kindly labled 2-0-4 (if you believe in Chinese superstitions that is, oh I'm so asian).

In short, the number 2 sounds like 'easy' and the number 4 sounds like 'death' or something like that.  Ah should be fine, I keep telling everyone I'm feeling confident...
And as confident I was...I was getting the feeling Christmas came early and I was stoked to see how far my preparations for this "A" race of the season will turn out! I started from scratch a long time ago and this was the defining moment of a rockstar to say I've done the real deal - DEE IRONMAN. Stay tuned for part 2 of series (too bad I have to work all through the long weekend, otherwise this post may have came sooner)!!