Ironman Florida: Spirit of the Bricklayers
My race reports are not really race reports. They are stories that masquerade as something that feeble minded people like yourselves can probably never understand or fully comprehend. For some, what I write is considered a race report. For others, it's Vietnamese Shakespeare. Whatever it is, let it be known that I'm just a simple man with impure thoughts and immoral tendencies. I am, as many women will tell you, the opposite of the opposite of the anti-Christ. This is just what happens when you spent your childhood living in a refugee camp ... you grow four testicles, call yourself Royalty, and write things that make sense only to those who see Elvis in a loaf of bread.
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 children are terrified of me and why I sometimes pee while sitting down.
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)
I swore to myself that I would never write another race report again. No particular reasons really. It's just how it is when you grew up with only two channels on the television ... channel 1 and other channel 1. I don't expect the peasant class to understand this. They can't help it. Their men have only two testicles while their women have none. In truth, the real reason why I'm writing this report will be evident as you read further.
I really have no one to thank for this Ironman except myself. Sure, I could thank Kate Kaufer for pulling me on the bike for the past two years, but who are we kidding? The chick is faster because I suck on her wheels. It is I who should be thanked. I could thank Debra Brosnihan for pulling me in the later stages of this season after Kate blatantly showed her hatred for Vietnamese people. Again, how are women supposed to get faster if they don't have a Vietnamese sucking on their wheels? I could also thank Julie for spending countless hours teaching me how to swim ... err, I mean not drown, for free ... but again, who are we kidding? When I'm in the pool, I AM THE ENTERTAINMENT. She getting a swim and a show. When a woman has to take a deep breath before she gives you swimming advice, you know that you have issues :)
In all seriousness, I would like to thank Becky Hirselj and her support staff (boyfriend Dan and brother Sideshow Dan) for helping me out during the race. My family hates me. They didn't come out to support me ... something about me always doing shit to attract the attention of the CIA. Becky's support staff (mom, Dan #1, and Sideshow Dan) came out to support their favorite gal and ended up with their worst nightmare by being sherpas to Vietnamese #1. I had finished my race and barely came out of the shower when they showed up at my condo with my bike and all of my transition bags. It was greatly appreciated.
I had a small group of friends back in high school ... many of whom are my closest friends even to this day. We called ourselves the "Bricklayers" back in those days. This was our answer to another group in our high school that called themselves ... get this, the "Flaming Envelopes." I just don't understand Americans at all. What do you people feed your children for them to refer to themselves as "Flaming Envelopes?" Do you know how many lashings with a duck urine soaked bamboo stick you would get in Vietnam for something like that?
In the inner cities you have the Bloods and the Crips. In the north side of suburban Silver Spring, you had the Bricklayers and the Flaming Envelopes. 'Em were the good old days of the '80s when we were young and idealistic. Girls just wanted to have fun like Cindy Lauper. Boys enjoyed the silence of Depeche Mode. We were, as the 1980's historian Madonna would say, "like a virgin, touched for the very first time." Those were just the ways that we were.
If you have ever watched the film "Stand by Me" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FUVnfaA-kpI), you would kind of get a sense of what the Bricklayers were all about. Within the Bricklayers was a guy named Eddie Kulkarni. He was a big guy with a soft touch jumper on the basketball court. In our youth, we'd spend our winter, summer, spring, and fall driving around different parts of the DC area looking for a good place to get into a pick up game of basketball. I had a little game back in those days.
We went to middle school, high school, and college together. In our adult lives, we traveled together to 20+ different states, 12+ countries, and 4 different continents over the years. It was a friendship that spanned 25+ years. He was the guy that my future children would one day call uncle and his future children would one day call me the same. If there was a Bricklayer gathering, it would be Eddie who would arrange it. He was the soul of the Bricklayers.
I'm not an emotional person. In my adult life, I've shed tears twice out of grief or joy. Once when I first saw my grandmother for the first time in 10+ years due our separation as the results of the Vietnam war. The second was the recent death of my brother. A man named Eddie Kulkarni.
I dedicate this race report and my race to him ... in the name and spirit of the Bricklayers.
About 5 years ago, Eddie had returned from a vacation to his motherland (India) with a gift for me. It was a 24k gold bracelet with my name engraved on it. The bracelet was so big and shinny that I don't think Liberache would have considered wearing it. I'm sure it cost him a pretty penny. When he gave it to me I told him that "a good friend would have brought back a domestic help or a mail order wife for me. Instead, you got me a women repellent."
I have never worn that bracelet since the day he gave it to me. That is, never until the days leading up to this race.
For all of the number geeks out there, below are the breakdown of my race. There were 2800+ registrants but only 2402 who made it to the start line this year. That's a 15% no show. This reinforces the old saying that getting to the start line injuries-free is the primary goal.
2009 2010 2010 Goal
Swim 1:54:21 1:44:23 beat 2009's time
T1 7:57 11:39 beat 2009's time
Bike 6:26:12 5:46:04 sub 5:30
T2 5:54 9:40 beat 2009's time
Run 4:39:29 4:05:26 sub 4:00
Time 13:13:52 11:57:10 sub 11:30 (but quite happy with 11:57)
Place 1488/2424 877/2402 less than 1,000
For 2010, I came out of the water in 2261st place out of 2402. I passed 1384 athletes or 61% of the field during the bike and run. I ended up in the 36 percentile.
For those playing at home wondering how I was able to knock off such a significant amount of time off of a course that I consider tougher (more hills, more wind, rougher ocean swell/current) than last year, the answer is to not break your clavicle 7 weeks prior to your Ironman. The liberal media will tell you that a 7 weeks taper period is sexy and revolutionary out of the box thinking. The liberal media is controlled by the CIA. 'Enough said.
To me, there is always something special and surreal about an Ironman (WTC) distance mass swim start. Everyone that lines up is there to traverse the same 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run. There are no relays or aquavelos. There are no special waves for the super studs, Athenas, Clysdales, handicaps, or regular Joes. Everyone is the same. 2,400 athletes lining up at the beach at the same time waiting for the gun to go off and the mass mayhem that follows.
Situate yourself at the front, middle, back, or to the side, it does not matter. You are going to get whacked, hit, and bumped before the day is over. It's not unusual to hear stories about people getting black eyes and dislocated joints during the swim. It's part of the show and part of the game. Make a game out of it and you will enjoy the show. Let it affect you and the game is over before it has really begun. It is my favorite part of the race. It's put up or shut up time. Injuries, excuses, and etc are irrelevant. They call you an Ironman whether you finish in 8 hours or 16:59:59. Finish in 17:00:01? Better luck next year.
As proud members of the mid of the back of the pack swim club, we these truths are self evident
1. None of us knows how to swim
2. All of us depend on one another for sighting
3. None of us knows how to sight
4. We all swim and run with the same body motion. It's not spasm ... it's called muscle memory
Do you know how you know that you are a vertical swimmer? There was a blind athlete tethered to a swim guide that passed me during the swim. I had bumped into the guide and the next thing I knew, the blind dude was passing me. I tried to draft off of him but I'm a sinker so that didn't last too long.
Since I can't swim, I have no real pace or goals other than to survive the cutoff. My strategy is simple. Swim as fast as I can to the nearest buoy, kayak, or land mass before I run out of breath and have to flip over. When I do flip over, I cover up my boys with my hands and I pray to god that there is a wetsuit underneath me.
This was one of my most brutal swim ever. I've been beaten up and molested in the water in prior races but the savages have never drawn blood. We've always had a gentlemen's understanding. They don't draw blood in the water, I don't pull in front of them on the bike and pee free wilily. Well, that truce was broken within the first 500 meters of the swim when I got kicked in the face. The force was strong enough to cause a cut underneath my lower right eye. It wasn't a big cut but salt water on a cut isn't a pleasant experience.
I had tried doing the smart thing by swimming in the back but somehow got caught up with the mass washing machine mayhem. There was no possible way to get out of it. Every directions had people just flailing away. It also didn't help the that ocean swell and current were stronger than I had ever experienced during the second loop. There was a point during the swim when I had to come over to one of the kayakers because I couldn't locate where any of the buoys were. It was kind of like asking for directions at a gas station. The dude asked me where I was going. I told him "land, but I can't seem to locate it!"
I don't think that I had clean water to swim in during that first loop. Just when I thought that I had broken free, another school of savages and people who sleep with their first cousins would surround me and beat the crap out of me some more. By the time the second loop came around, I was a broken man. I had a lot of free and clean water to swim in during the second loop but ocean swell, rising sun, current, my whininess, and energy spent fighting people on the first loop just took its toll on me. The time difference between my first and second loop was about 10 minutes. The only good thing to come out of this was that I wore a cup so to all of the ladies out there ... I can still procreate without issues.
The other issue I had was chaffing from the wetsuit. I don't know what Mark Z does in his private life but that dude knows his way around vasaline and body glide. Last year he gave me a thorough vasaline/body glide bath prior to the swim. This year he wasn't doing the race so I had to apply it to myself. If you see me within the next 7 days, take a look at the back of my neck. You will see some bad ass rashes back there. Now imagine those rashes when dipped in ocean salt water ... re-education camp all over again.
Even with all of those issues, I was still able to knock 10 minutes off of my swim from last year. This is pretty good considering that I had spent a LOT less time swimming this year than last year. I think that working with Julie definitely helped. The results speak for themselves.
As always, I was pumped when I got out of the water. I ran to get my bike transition bag and into the changing tent. As I was carrying it, I though to myself that the bag felt kind of empty and light. I got into the transition area, dump my stuff on the floor, and to my horror ... my bike helmet was not there. I panicked. I asked all of the volunteers if any of them found a lost helmet. I ran back and forth between the changing tent and the bike bag area looking for my helmet. For the next 5 minutes (seemed like hours), I was flustered as I scrambled to find my helmet. I asked for a race official to see if I could borrow a helmet. Surely I am not the first person that have lost a helmet. No one seems to know where any of the race officials were.
I had given up all hope at this moment. Luckily, I had brought a spare helmet with me to Florida. I decided that I was going to go to my run bag in the transition area, get my running shoes, and jog back to my condo to get my spare helmet. My condo was a 5 minute jog away so I figured I could go there and back and still beat the transition cutoff. At that moment, I realized that I had mistakenly put my helmet in my run bag. I ran with a volunteer to my run bag and changed right there. The volunteer took my bike bag and store it away for me. That man was my hero!
I got me helmet and off on the bike I went. In all of my haste in trying to locate my helmet and get on the road as quickly as possible, I forgot to put on my arm warmers, leg warmers, and wool gloves to cover the exposed portions of my bike gloves. The temp was in the 40s and I just got out of the water. I'm riding the bike at 20 mph+ and there was a head wind. Needless to say, I was freezing my ass off ... but hey, this is the Ironman. It's not supposed to be easy.
After about an hour on the bike, I got my groove back. My strategy was to take a chill pill if a head wind was present, go normal effort if the wind was sideway or neutral, and be really aggressive if there was a tailwind. My bike conditioning has been solid this year. Those Sunday bike rides with the vertical swimmers have helped me tremendously. I was able to suck on the wheels of people that I have no business of sucking. There are a lot to be said about riding with folks who are better cyclists than you are. If you ask any of them, I'm sure that they will tell you that I displayed a lot of raw talents and great passions when it comes to sucking on wheels.
My goal was to go sub 5:30 on the bike. I thought that that was a realistic goal based on my knowledge of the course and my bike conditioning. I felt that I could hold that speed and still produce a good run. I did the first 56 miles in 2:43 and felt as fresh as mile 1. My nutrition plan of eggrolls and fish sauce were living up to the hype.
They changed the course this year and I knew that there were some hills added. What I didn't expect was the magnitude and the fact that the wind was blowing down at me as I was climbing. I decided then to take it easy on the back 56 and save it for the run. I think that overall that was a good decision but man ... I had a lot of fight left in my bike legs after coming off of the 112. Last year I wanted to pack it in after mile 90. This year, I felt like I could go on for another 80 miles.
There was one notable note during the ride. There was a chick that sucked on my wheels for about 5 miles during the bike ride. I wanted to hammer it and get her off of my wheels but didn't want to do it with a headwind and kill my bike legs. As you all know, I suck on people's wheels not the other way around. After I got tired of looking at her shadow next to my bike, I decided to stand up and go Vietnamese on her. I stood up on the bike with a headwind and pee like I have never peed before. When I finished, I sat down, unclipped one of my feet and I SHOOK like nobody's business. That's right. I peed and I shook. Word to your mother!
My run conditioning had been solid all year. Running a regular marathon mileage schedule with my running group, DSG, has gotten me in pretty decent running shape. I knew that I had a sub 4:00 IM marathon leg in me. As it turns out, I did it in 4:05. This means that for the next IM, I need to learn how to pee while running as well as while biking. We can't waste 5 minutes in the porta-johns like that. DSG peeps ... don't run behind me next year. Nothing new on race day. I will be practicing my craft next year ;)
Last year I made the mistake of running a 7:45 min/mile during the first mile and spent the next 25.2 miles paying for that sin. This year I decided to take a more calm approach. The strategy was to run/walk/run for the first mile at an extremely slow pace then let my body get into its normal rhythm. I did the first mile is 9:45 which but seemed like it was a 12 min/mile. The second mile was a little bit faster. Eventually I got into my rhythm. If you look at my pace splits, you would see that I was right on target with a sub 4 hour marathon (9:04-ish pace) for the first 20 miles. Not sure what happened for the next 4 miles but I slowed significantly. It wasn't my legs. I still had a lot of fight left in them. At around mile 20 was when the sun went down completely and it got pitched dark. I think that I lost focus during those moments and slowed down.
Just a few yards shortly after I had passed mile marker 24, a guy approached me as I was talking to the big Buddha and contemplating the meaning of life. He was a guy that I had ran with and talked to earlier. He said "keep it up man. It's 6:40 PM. If you can hold a 10 minute mile for the next two miles, you will go sub 12."
With that, I kept my head down and just ran as fast as I could at that moment in time. As I was running, I kept asking Eddie to help me through the pain and exhaustion. I kept telling him, "dude, push me and get me that sub 12." I said it over and over and over again until I saw the finishing chute. As I approached the finishing chute, I could hear the announcer say, "all of you runners out there, you have 4 minutes to get here if you want a sub 12 IM!"
I kept pressing on until I saw the finish line. It is a thing of beauty. It's like approaching the gates of heaven. There are people on the other side smiling and cheering for you as you approach it. The cameras where flashing. The crowd in the bleachers were going crazy. I get goose bumps just looking back at it. I did my airplane glide from 20 yards out and straight through the finish line. I thanked Eddie for pushing me through and helping me get that sub 12. This is after all what the spirit of the bricklayers is all about. This is what brothers do for one another. Rest in peace my friend. On this one particular day, the spirit of the Bricklayers was reborn.
SPIRIT OF THE BRICKLAYERS
The question that is often asked of all Ironman finishers is always "are you doing another Ironman next year?" For me, the answer is yes. I have already registered for another one in 2011 (IM Germany). I do it not for the all of the obvious reasons that one does these things. I do it as a way to honor my friend. At mile marker 100 of the IM bike leg when I'm tired, I want to think about Eddie. I want to be inspired to continue with that bike ride and the 26.2 mile run that follows.
This is the mechanism that I have chosen to honor my friend. If Eddie were to read this race report he would rolled his eyes and say "why can't you go back to Vietnam and bring me a domestic help or a mail order bride like all the other Vietnamese?" I of course would respond, "yo wingman, would you like me to show you that women repellent gold bracelet that you gave me 5 years ago?"
This is the spirit of the bricklayers. This is how we roll on the north side of suburban Silver Spring ... may it follow me to my grave.
Congrats Tuan on another IM well done!
You are no where near ready for your grave, but when that time comes, don't let them bury you at sea!
Now that you have that IMFL out of the way, start planning the Peasantman for us mere mortals.
Bravo Zulu on an awesome race! All the hard work over the summer really paid dividends. And no Europeans better not draft off of you next year at IM Germany!
Congrats on an incredibly executed race.
More than that, what a beautiful way to remember and honor your friend Eddie.
I, too, use the memory of a lost loved one when the going gets tough. I find it's the perfect time and opportunity to reflect and visit with those whom we miss dearly.
How amazing - the strength we can gather from the spirit of others!
Well done, Tuan!
Congrats Tuan! And thanks for inspiring me...again :) and you made me a lil misty eyed too
It was an honor and a privilege to race with royalty! Sharing my sherpas was the least I could do since Tuan was a driving force in my registering last year... after all those Sunday rides for just the heck of it he convinced me I could do it. I'm glad I listened and am glad I'm in such good company as an Ironman!
Tuan is Vietnamese for "Warrior".
There are few people like Tuan in the world - a true gentlemen, athlete, Ironman, and gawdam tunnel rat. As a gal who tips the scales at over 3 bills large, I can say with certainty that biking with the VS on weekends got me to my Ironman goals too.
Reading most race reports bore the typical urbane set, but reading the pidgin Engrish from Tuan is like verbal heroin. I cannot get enough of it through my Athena body.
I have no idea why this board, and especially Tuan, did not mention the Poopman. There are only 2 ways Ironman makes it to major media outlets like ESPN or even Deadspin - 1) Watch Lance do it 2) Be an age group competitor who craps himself yet goes 9:09.
Can you believe he ran with a full Cleveland Steamer (minus the nutt) for 15 miles, and still had a sub 4 run? WTF?
Congratulations, you're amazing, yadda yadda, but why the hate on the 7 week taper??? Let's do one of those again next year, shall we?
First you dream it, then believe it – It is not surprising you Achieved It! Big Congrats on an AMAZING performance! Hugs, A&M
Pictures ... enjoy :)
Slave to the billable man and his controlling chinese wall internet security. Forced labor on a Friday and I cannot access your photos. Now I know how those guys building the bridge over the river Kuai (sp?) felt.
Great job Tuan!
And thank you for the graphic explanation of why we all need to do our job pulling Royalty. Because the implications of drafting off royalty are far, far too scary to contemplate.
Absolutely amazing race report. Congratulations! Thanks for sharing.
We know you're trying to keep a low profile in Maryland, to avoid further trouble with The Man, but it was obviously Maryland law enforcement folks who slipped your bike helmet into your running bag.