Before I begin, let me just take a few minutes to give a special shout out to Doug Hartman for completing the Ironman New Orleans 70.3 (also this past weekend). His was done in much much more severe weather conditions than mine but I will bitch more.
This race report is dedicated to all of the lovely ladies out there who use the word "hideous" when describing their swimming. You and I are one in the same. You had me at "hideous." You complete me!
April 7, 2009
Ironman California 70.3 Race Report
Plight of a Vertical Swimmer
The triathlon world is separate by two different entities. There is the Ying and there is the Yang. The Yings are those who can glide through the water with perfect body rotation and balance. These freaks of nature can breath on both sides of their strokes! And, there are the rest of us Yangs. We swim with the same vertical body motions as our walks. In our minds we are Michael Phelps knifing through the waters. In reality, well ... reality can't comprehend our kind. We are just freaks.
Hi, my name is Tuan and I'm a vertical swimmer. This is my story. During my first tri I was literally the last person in my age group to get out of the water. Do you know what it's like to be THAT guy ? Mothers won't even let their children near me. Women treat me like I'm some kind of walking STD. You see my friends, this is the life of a vertical swimmer. This is my life 24-7, 365 days a year.
This past weekend I took the vertical show to the Ironman California 70.3. I did this to prove to the world that us verticals no longer need to live in shame. We no longer have to live in the shadows. I'm outing myself and putting a face on the vertical world. So what if we swim like we walk ? Are we less human because of that ? If you tickle us, do we not giggle ? If you bitch slap us, do we not say "what the F** ?"
As a child growing up in Vietnam I never had a swimming pool to practice in. Instead, I had a cousin whose sole purpose in life was to throw me into the Mekong River to gage the water's temperature and its acidic level. You see, our village needed a dumbass and my cousin was the chosen one. Do you know what it's like to have a dumbass in the family ? It's not as glamorous as the liberal media portrays it to be. So please realized that my verticalness is a defensive mechanism and don't judge me for it.
I also wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth. I couldn't afford a swim coach while growing up. Correction, my swim coach was my child labor camp "counselor" or as we called it back at the camp ... the headmaster of the lovely "Ho Chi Minh's Head Start Program." My counselor's name was "Uncle" Quang and he counseled us with metal chopsticks. He didn't have much of a sense of humor and me with the way that I am ... well, let's just say that the swim sessions weren't something you look forward to.
I signed up for this race to guilt myself into working out during the off season. I'm not one of those who work out for the sake of working out or works out because it's healthy. Nope, I need a race to tickle my tummy. In theory this race was supposed to be that motivation tool to get me going but truth be told, it didn't work out to be that way. Was this supposed to be my "A" race ? Well, when one glimpse of you in the water gives women the impression that you are a walking STD, by default you have no "A" race or "A" game. You plateau at "B."
Below are my race goals:
1. Survive the swim
2. Touch, feel, and talk to my bike after the swim to let it know that I'm ok ... that I'm now in a good place.
3. Run around for 13.1 miles so that people know that I've survived the swim
By the way, did you know that I survived the swim ? Well, I did :)
The swim was an out and back swim. It was a wave start in waters that were too deep to stand. Folks would swim from the pier to the start buoy, float out in the middle of the ocean, and wait for the horn to go off. This was a bit nerve wrecking for a swim-challenged person like me. I don't do floating. I don't do treading. I can't do the "fly", the "pull", the "back", the "breast", or any of that stuff. When I'm in the water, I only have two strokes to count on. I have the vertical freestyle stroke and the "play dead" stroke. I can play dead better than most dogs.
Allow me to vent here: It was announced during the pre-race video that the swim from the land to the start buoy was about a 150-200m swim. ARE YOU FREAKEN KIDDING ME ? They are adding distance to my swim ? I risk my life for the first 150-200m in the water and it doesn't even count ? ARE YOU FREAKEN KIDDING ME ? Serenity now, serenity now, serenity now!
The good news was that the wait between waves were only about 3-4 minutes apart. The bad news was that there were 11 waves behind me ... not something a vertical wants to see. It also didn't help that the water temp was 58 degrees and the air temp was in the upper 40s. My god, talk about the shrinkage factor.
Sighting was difficult for me for most of the swim. Heck, swimming was difficult for me for most of the swim. It was an ocean swim so obviously salt water was the drink of the day. The back leg of the swim was towards the direction of the rising sun. The glare from it made sighting almost impossible. I just swam towards land and prayed that it wasn't Mexico that I was swimming towards.
I had one of the worst swim of my entire life during this race. Everything that could go wrong went wrong for me. The goggle that I've been using suddenly decided to leak during the swim from the pier to the start buoy. I pretty much spent the entire race with one eye of my goggle filled with water. The wetsuit that gave me no chaffing issues for the previous 20+ open water swims decided to start chaffing. I must have stopped at least 10 times during the swim to let water out of one of my goggles. The only time that I found rhythm was when the volunteer helped me out of the water at the swim exit.
I tried to stop in the middle of my swim to adjust my goggle but ended up getting whacked by other swimmers. I tried flipping on my back to adjust my goggles, that too was a whacking magnet. I drank so much ocean water that not only will I never be able to have children but my children will never be able to have children.
Swim to the left side and away from other swimmers ? That's another whacking.
Swim to the right side and away from other swimmers ? That's another whacking.
Swim to the rescue kayaks and away from other swimmers ? That's another whacking.
Stop and let other swimmers pass to adjust the goggle ? That's another whacking.
Pray ? That's another whacking.
I don't think that I've ever been mugged, molested, fondled, and humped as many times as I was during this race. Usually it's the men who do this to me but for some reasons the women also got into the hack-a-Tuan action. I was like "What the F** ? Stop molesting the Vietnamese. I have feelings!!"
My swim time: 1:02. This is 20 minutes slower than my last half IM but on the bright side, anytime that I can get out of the water before the swim cutoff time, I'm happy. Again, don't judge me. I HAVE A CONDITION.
As I was leaving T-1 I heard a woman yelled out "you're almost there!" I'm not sure what would posses a woman to tell an athlete after 1.2 miles of a 70.3 miles race that he's almost there. I was about to stop to give that woman a little lecture then I realized that it was my mother. I've said it before and I'll say it again, they have got to stop letting fresh off the boat Vietnamese into this country.
Before I start, let me just say that when it comes to biking, my fine Italian Lamboghini of a tri bike has a Vietnamese engine. Back in the motherland we call it a Vamboghini. To all of the non-judgmental ladies out there who are open minded enough to not mind getting out of the vehicle to push the bling bling for a couple of blocks, let me state for the record that my ride is a pimped up Vamboghini. If you have a fetish for a lot of bling bling and can careless about horsepower, the Vamboghini is all that you will ever need or want.
The bike was a one loop ride around mostly flat pristine roads. The only exception was a little 15 mile detour through Camp Pendleton. They had some big o'hills on that base. I swore to you that when I looked up at the top of some of those hills, I saw God. The local Marines have a nickname for the hills at Camp Pendleton. They called it "Mount Mother F-er". I kid you not. That's what they called it. I don't know what kind of military think tank came up with that name but "Mount Mother F-er" was indeed a Mother F-er. The only thing that I was telling myself during those climbs were "sons of bitches!"
Mount Mother F-er #1 was simply the longest and steepest hill that I've ever climb in my life, in a car on a bike. To see the uptrend from a distance just makes you want to go into the fetal position. It think that it took me like 20 minutes to climb that and Mount Mother F-er #1 was followed by Mount Mother F-er #2 which was followed by Mount Mother F-er #3. Stopping in the middle of the climb was not an option when you have clipless. Lose momentum and risk falling and rolling down the hill. It was just curse and continue. Up to that point (first 25 miles) the course was awesomely fast. I would be shocked if my average pace was less than 20 mph during that stretch.
Besides from the three Mount Mother F-ers, there were also a bunch of rollers on the base. The Vamboghini lacks horsepower when it comes to climbing so it was brutal trying to get up those hills. There were many people walking their bikes up some of those hills. It was as much physical as it was mental. In a sick fetish kind of way, I kind of enjoyed it. Even though I was climbing at 2 mph and people where walking up at 3 mph, the pride of the climb was all worth it. There is nothing like conquering 3 Mount Mother F-ers on a single ride.
Bike Time: 3:24 or about 10 minute slower than my last half IM even though I think that I'm much better biker today than during my last half IM. Yes it's still slow but what can I say ? The Vamboghini is all about the bling bling.
Running is my favorite part of the triathlon. It's the place where I can regain some of my manhood. I'm not going to claim that I'm fast but there is no way anyone can mistaken me for a walking STD when I'm on pavement. Unfortunately, by the time that I get to pavement, women already have a preconception idea of me as a walking STD. Damn that swim! Why can't kayaking be part of the first leg of a tri ?
The run for this race was two mostly flat loops with 2 rolling hills that can't be mistaken for anything but hills. The run was also along the beach so the scenery was spectacular. I had it going during the run. The best thing about being so slow in the water and on the bike is that I get to pick off a lot of folks on the run. It always gives me a lot of motivations/inspirations when I see folks who are slower than me on the run just grinding it out. I always tell myself that if they can do that then I have no reasons to bitch and moan.
The worst part was running on beach sand. There was a quarter mile stretch where athletes were either running on soft beach sand or compact beach sand. Either way, it totally bites. Because it was a two loop run, we would run on that stretch on 4 different occasions. I was averaging a good 8-8:10 pace then the sandy part would reduced me to walking because I didn't want to risk an injury.
Run Time: 1:52. Very respectable half marathon time especially after a 56 mile bike ride and 3 Mount Mother F-ers but I was shooting for a 1:45-1:48. Had I not had to run on the sand, I think that I would have had a good shot at my pre-race goal.
Overall Time w/ transition times added: 6:28 or 15 minutes slower than my last half IM. I don't want to make excuses but Verticalcerosis is no laughing matter.
MY IMPRESSIONS OF THE COURSE
In all seriousness, this was one of the most beautiful courses that I've ever seen ... and I've seen two. There were lots of variety in terms of scenery and terrain. Biking along mountains and prime beach real-estate, what more can one ask for ? At about mile 10 of the run you would become tired and you start to see things. You want to give up but then you look up and see a beautiful woman wearing a dental floss swimsuit walking along the beach. You see that nice ass so you follow it. By the time you realized that that ass belongs to a dude, mile marker 13 would have come along to save you from a lot of embarrassments. What other non-European 70.3 race can you experience something like that ?
Was the course challenging ? I think that the course was fair and fun. I bitch and I moan because I like bitching and moaning. That's how I amuse myself. The course had spectacular hills for the climbers and flats for the racers ... a little bit of everything for everyone.
This is part 3 of a multi-part series documenting the road to my first Ironman. I hoped that you all have enjoyed them so far. Please be sure to read the other two parts; Making Love to Buoys at the Luray Sprint and Vietnamese Saigon Tango with a Naked Anna Kornakova at the Longhorn 70.3. The series will end when I cross mile marker 140.6 (2009 IMFL) or when I can do a flip-turn without looking like William Hung (American Idol) dancing to that "She Bangs" song.
If you see me on the street, please remember to show me some vertical love. I swim like William Hung, I dance like Pee Wee Herman, and my mother is a fresh off the boat Vietnamese. I desperately need love. One day, just one day, women will learn to accept men with Verticalcerosis. Fish will no longer have the audacity to mock us. THEY WILL LEARN TO FEAR US! This is America after all. It is the land where hopes and dreams do come true. Hopefully one day my dreams will be fulfilled, for hope is my only salvation ... well, that and antibiotics.
Oh man.... I haven't laughed that hard in a LONG time. That was an awesome race report Tuan. Great job on finishing the California IM 70.3. You rock man! You give me faith that I'll actually be able to complete one. :)
And I'm not laughing AT you. I'm laughing right beside you. ;)
I wish you had more races so you could entertain us more often. I look forward to the rest of the series.
Congrats on your second HIM- an ocean swim is very impressive for a vertical swimmer.
Awesome report!!!!! I could not stop laughing.
Great race report as usual, Tuan! I needed a good laugh. Congrats on making it out of the water alive again! I've learned to stop fighting it - bad swimming and bad driving - it's just in my genes.
Welcome back and see you out on the road!
Pictures ... proof that I actually went into the water :)
hahah - great report
Someone get this man a blog.
Tuan - great job! I have to pass your report along to my running friend that just took up tris. She is convinced that one length of the pool is equal to a mile. I'll have her at Providence 70.3 next July with this inspiration!
seriously brilliant race report! please do more races and get yourself a damn blog. i laughed my ass off reading this!
Strong work Tuan. Love the Vamborghini. More proof you can still look good even if you don't go fast. And does Anna K know when your next race is? ;)
As usual great report Tuan. Thanks for the good laugh...I so needed it.