Ironman Germany: What Happens When A Man's Nut Freezes?
What happens when a man's nut freezes?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Women probably aren't going to understand what I'm about to write. You see, their nuts are internal. They can't possibly comprehend the anguish and despair that are in a man's head when his nut freezes during an IM.
When a man's nut freezes ... it hurts me just to type that.
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 of lit candles.
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?
If this race reports seems long to you, it is not. Your nut is probably internal.
Ironman Germany is the WTC Ironman European Championship. It is billed as the second most competitive Ironman race next to Kona. There are no qualification standards, but the cutoff is 15 hours (normal is 17 hours). My goal for this year was to put myself in the best shape of my life. I had no illusions that I would come anywhere near the mid, let alone the front of the pact. I just wanted to make sure that I wasn't last in my AG since there are some serious studs on EPO in this race.
Vietnamese EPO? If I had a dollar for every Quang, Minh, and My-Lai who swears that they possess the real stuff, my nut would have thawed by now.
My prior IM PR was 11:57. That's 11:57 with a 30 minute T-1 due to a little "issue" with my bike helmet. My goal this year was sub 11:15. I felt like I had a legit shot at it. My bike fitness/speed this year had been pretty breath taking ... for me. I've been able to hang onto the wheels of people for 60-100+ mile rides who only a year earlier had put me in the fetal position after the first mile of every ride. My run fitness was also pretty rock solid. Swim fitness? Well, vertical swimming ... don't hate the playa, hate the game.
IRONMAN GERMANY HISTORY
Ironman Germany is billed as one of the fastest IMs in Europe. Last year, one of the worst heat waves to hit Europe in awhile occurred during the race. Age group athletes were subjected to a non-wetsuit swim, 90 degrees heat on the bike and run, and a bike ride that was 3 miles longer than the normal distance (due to known road constructions).
This year, there were no such heat waves. The swim was wetsuit legal, even for the pros. The bike ride was its usual 112 miles, yet the overall winning time for the pro men and women were about 10 minutes slower than last year. If you were to adjust last year's results with a 112 mile bike ride and compare it to this year's result, the 2011 pro men's winner would be outside of the top 5 looking in. The 2011 pro women winner, with the same criteria, would have been outside of the 2010 top 3 looking in.
My final time this year was 13:14. I've done an Ironman on a fractured clavicle that was faster than that ... so what happened to me and the pro field?
Well, when a man's nut freezes ...
The swim was a 2 waves mass start. The pros and the super fast age groupers who have been validated with their prior swim time (sub 1-hour) get to start 15 minutes before he rest of the field, with the pros lining up 30 meters in front of the fast age groupers. My sister told me afterward that there were quite a few age groupers who came out of the water before some of the pros ... just to show you how fast and competitive the age group field was.
The front of the swim wave was far enough out in the water that you that to tread water. Vertical Swimmer extraodinaire don't play that game. I stood in on the beach at knee deep water and peed inside my wetsuit like all of the other slow age groupers. I then aqua walked to the start buoy once the gun went off.
As we have found out from Afghanistan and Iraq, the Europeans are lovers not fighters ... same thing can be said for this swim. This was one of the most serene and non-violent mass IM swim start that I've ever been apart of. Nobody was trying to cup or tongue me. I was like "can somebody please spoon me?" I do not feel the IM mass swim love! How is it possible that there is no spooning going on during a mass IM swim? Where are all the French? We know they're not in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Don't get me wrong. It wasn't smooth sailing from the start. For the first 500 meters, I couldn't take any more than 4 strokes before I had to stop due to the congestions. However, unlike any of my prior races, folks just seem content in letting the bottleneck free itself. At IMFL last year, the savages would doggie style or gone S&M on you had you stopped or slowed down. It probably took me a good 25-30 minutes to get to a point where I had clean water to work with. Once I had clean water, it was one of the most relaxing swim that I had ever had. That lake was awesome to swim in. The water temp was just right for a wetsuit swim.
The swim was a two loop swim. The first was 2300 meters. The second was 1500 meters. You would swim one loop, get out of the water, run across a timing matt, get back in, and swim a different loop. I felt awesome coming out of the first loop. I couldn't have asked for a better swim. I felt fresh, like I had exerted zero effort on the swim.
I began the second loop feeling just as good as the end of the second loop. The second loop had the return leg a little bit longer than the out leg. Back in 'Nam we called that the Vietnamese two steps. Somewhere along that return loop I began to veer left and away from the buoys. Let me stop here and say that, with my unique swim stroke, whether in a race or in a pool, if I'm veering off course, it is ALWAYS to the right. Taxes, death, and me veering right are givens. I had no idea why I was veering left. It kind of freaked me out a bit since that has NEVER EVER happened before.
I took me almost as long to swim the shorter second loop as the first loop. When you are a very poor swimmer, there is a heavier price to pay if you were to veer off course. It was very disheartening. After I took off my goggles and swim cap, it then dawn on me. During the second half of my swim, it had started raining and raining hard. The wind that came with that rain was what was pushing me off course. I was so focus on swimming that I didn't even realized that it was raining until I got out.
Swim time: 1:40. A PR, but I was aiming for a 1:30. Even with the bottlenecking on the first loop, I was on pace ... freaken rain errr.
Germany gives you the option of a tent transition like normal IMs and a more traditional transition at your bike rack. I chose the bike rack option since you can avoid the cluster f**k of the changing tent by bypassing it. I think that about 75% of the athletes chose this route. It also save you a bit of transition time.
It was a great move/decision in the morning prior to the race. Totally regretted at the swim exit. I don't think anyone of us there (including the weatherman) predicted a downpour in the morning. Having the changing tent at your disposal saves you from some wetness. Try putting on your socks, gloves, and other gear in 52 degrees weather and in the middle of a freezing rain storm ... not an easy task. My hands were shaking and quivering so hard that it made it an interesting routine.
Time: 10+ minutes. Not bad considering there were no wetsuit strippers and I had to put on extra clothing due to the rain.
The rain slowed a bit by the time I got on my bike and left T-1. I was still quivering. Try riding your bike at 20 mph+ while soaking wet in 52 degrees weather. I knew the road leaving town was flat. I was shaking like I was on opium. I figured that in order to warm up, I'd laid down the hammer a bit and generate some body heat. I was cranking at about 23-24 and was beginning to warm up and hit my groove. Then, it started to rain and rain and rain.
When the rain stopped, the winds picked up. I've ridden Eagleman about half a dozen times and IMFL twice. I know wind and I can ride small with the best of them. This wind was on par with those, except it was in 52 degrees weather and I was soaking wet. I started to quiver and slowed down significantly. On a fast stretch, if I were to generate speed, the resulting wind resistance would make me quiver. Fast or slow, it was a no win situation.
I pulled out my Ironman card and started peeing on myself to create some warmth. That lasted for about 3 seconds before the wind and cold took over and well, .... when a man's nut freezes, all of his operation centers go into defcon 1.
It was like that for the entire ride. Your nut either froze because of the freezing rain or it froze because of the bone chilling wind. The wind was so strong in some sections that I was going 12-14 miles hour going DOWN an incline that I would had no issues going 25+ on a normal day.
I was so freaken cold that I was afraid that if I push too hard that I would cramp up. It was a constant mental struggle in my head. Do I go hard and risk cramping or go slow and risk a DNF. I snuck my hand down to say hello to my boys a couple of times to make sure that they were ok. The boys were awfully quiet for this race. Usually, they're screaming ... pee Vietnamese #1, speak Vietnamese to them. When it's this cold and wet ... shrinkage factor. I had to make sure that I had all my men on deck.
Goal: sub 5:30.
Like I said previously, my IM bike ride with a fractured clavicle was faster than a 6:48. 'Nough said about how my bike ride went.
When a man's nut freezes ...
T-2 is a place where most people change their clothes, if they were going to change their clothes. All I could think about during the bike ride was putting on some dry warm clothes in T-2 when I get there. I dreamt of naked women, Vaseline, and hot chicken broth in that tent. In a North American IM, there is a private changing tent for women and one for men. I was looking forward to showing the Vietnamese family treasure at the transition tent.
I ran from my bike to the transition tent. Immediately upon entering the tent, I noticed a lot of women standing around. My first reaction was, "holy shit, wrong tent!" I turned around and was about to leave when I was pushed from behind by a male volunteer. He said "here's your transition bag, sit down over there!" I was like "WTF? I know that I have soft radiant skin and a girlish figure, but I'm a dude."
He lead me to the end of the bench where a female volunteer was waiting for me. She proceeded to unload my T-2 bag and asked what I needed. She took out my running shorts and DSG running shirt. I was like "I need for you to leave so that I can change." I looked around the T-2 tent some more and noticed that it was co-ed and no one was going Euro. I ain't a trailblazer. I ain't going back to the re-education camp in Da Nang. I ain't going down like that.
It had been raining all day so I figured why bother with the dry clothes? I just changed into a new pair of arm warmers, socks, and jogging shoes. My T-2 time was 6 minutes, but 5 of those minutes were dedicate to the "WTF?" moment. Seriously, I couldn't even Vaseline in front of her ... I mean, I'm a gentlemen to the very end.
By the time I started running, the rain had stopped. My legs had never felt more fresh at mile 0 of this run than any of my prior IM runs. I was cranking at my target pace of 8-8:15 with little effort. The wind started to pick up in the middle of the first of 4 loops. I tucked behind two bigger runners to break the wind and just let them pace me.
I was passing people and kept telling myself "finally, the boys have thawed!" After the first loop, the rain picked up. It was coming down hard. There was no place to hide. You just had to tough it out. My shoes took on liquids and it felt like I was running with two 5 lbs weights wrapped around my ankle. Water was sloshing inside of my shoes. I completed the 13.1 mile run in 1:55-ish ... still on my goal and feeling fresh.
For the next 13.1 miles, the rain became fierce. It would drop on you like a monsoon and stop just long enough for you to dry before it went at you again. I was like "my nut is already frozen!! You can't hurt me anymore!!" ... but I was wrong and it did. I remember one time I went into a port a-john when it was dry outside. When I came out a few seconds later, it was pouring rain. I was like "what kind of freaken twilight zone port a-john is this?"
That rain and cold almost broke me during the run. I wanted my mommie, but my mommie, daddie, and little sister were waiting for me in the stand. Vietnamese #1 told them that he would be done in less than 11:15, so they were there at the finish line waiting for him while he was still out in the run course trying to figure how many good testicles he still had left.
There is a little decline ramp at about 1 km from the finish line. During my third lap, while my nut was still numb, I told myself that when I get to that spot on the fourth lap that I would lay down the hammer. On my fourth lap, as I was making a 180 turn to get to that ramp, it appropriately began to pour harder than any moment during the race.
I put my head down and said "f**k this, you can't break me!" I ran that last 1 km in a sub 7 min pace. I have two photos of me coming to the finish line. One was taken by my little sister and the other was by the official photographer. My sister's photo was blurry because of all of the rain. The finisher's photo had me with my palms facing toward the sky and my tongue hanging out Micheal Jordan style mocking the rain and the gods. Why did I do this?
When a man's nut freezes, but he still has perseverance on his side ... he can't be broken!
Run time: 4:29
Goal: Sub 11:15
Number of starters: 2508
Number of finishers: 2212
My ranking: 1476/2508 ... not too bad in a field of studs
DNF rate: 12%
Once out of the water, I passed a net of 924 athletes, but it felt like everyone and their grandmothers were dropping me. My frozen nut probably affected my sense of perception.
I was very disappointed with my time to say the least. I came into this race stronger and more fit that I had ever been. However, my disappointed only lasted about 24 hours. This is just a race. It's not my first, it won't be my last. I've been doing endurance sports for over 10 years. To last in endurance sports, in this hobby, or anything that you care about, you must be passionate at what you do. Part of that passion is the disappointment that you agonize over when your nut freezes on you on such an important moment (that's what she said), part of it is the high you get when it all comes together like when the chick that kisses you is actually a chick.
It was not too long ago that my family and I lived in a refugee camp and ate off of the generosity of the United Nations and the International Red Cross. There are a lot of people in this world who do not have the health or financial resources to do what we do. Whether we finish first or last, we are truly the fortunate ones to have the opportunity. I hoped that those that have both their health and financial means can continue to do this. It won't last forever, and when it's gone ... you don't want to look back with regrets.
See you all next year in Copenhagen, Denmark ... hopefully I'll have a prosthetic nut by then.
Testicles left on an IM Course unite!! Great job Tuan. Maybe you should think about building an insulation layer in the off-season. Copenhagen must me a cold race as well.
Thanks for the race report! I enjoyed a few good laughs. I will use your determination & drive as motivation as I suffer through Louisville in what I'm sure will be 100-degree heat.
T -- you should be proud of what you accomplished under those dreadful conditions (I should have told you, Germany ain't exactly known for its balmy weather...). You're a true inspiration!
What a race, Tuan... Great job struggling through it. Agree you have been looking a lot stronger than 13+hrs this season.
I'll send you a race report on Copenhagen '11 in a couple of weeks. Hope there wont be ice on the water.....
You have the best race reports! Congrats. Hope your babies are nice and warm now.