Race Report: Ironman Florida
I Hear Voices
November 12, 2009
Mother of Satan,
Children of the corn,
Corn on the cob
Today I stand before thee ... an IRONMAN!
Ashes to ashes,
Dust to dust,
Clavicle to one,
Testicle to three
Today I stand before thee ... an IRONMAN!
Bring the children out of the sweatshops and give them cake! You peasants will now bow before me and feel honored for such an opportunity.
THE PHRASE HEARD AROUND THE WORLD
The sweetest words that I've ever heard came over the million amps speakers under the glaring lights at about 10 feet from the finish line. It went EXACTLY like this: "Tuan Nguyen from Silver Spring Maryland, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!" I still get goose bumps just thinking about that.
Seven weeks before the Ironman the x-ray of my clavicle looked like this:
A few days after the Ironman the x-ray of my clavicle looked like this:
Boys and girls ... you must believe. That is what a reckless F-you attitude and a belief in yourself will get you.
Before I begin with the race report, I have a few observations about IMFL (in no particular order).
1. I observed that I spent over $500 on IM swag. If you see a Vietnamese on the metro with an IMFL thong on, it's not a hallucination ... it's Vietnamese Royalty displaying his $500+ worth of swag. A $199.99 price tag on an IMFL branded thong is a steal of a deal in my book.
2. The first marathon that I ever ran, I did it in 4:43. I ran the marathon leg of this Ironman in 4:39. How cool is that ? 11 more Ironmans and I may just pull a 3:30 on the marathon leg :) For the sake of full discloser, it felt like a death march from mile 0.00000001. I thought that the fourth testicle was not too far behind.
3. Fact 1: A large white towel at the Walmart one mile from the race site is on sale for $3.99 plus tax. That same large white towel with the world "IRONMAN" written on it at the Ironman Village is $28. Fact 2: I'm going to SE Asia in 7 days. Give me whatever you want to be branded with the word "IRONMAN" and I can get it done by an 8 year old at 8 cents per hour. Mammasan has promised me that that kid won't get fed if it takes him longer than 1 hour to do it. Please help feed a hungry child today.
4. You have one life to live ... live it! Whether that's doing an IM or volunteering at a local soup kitchen ... live it. My broken clavicle tells me that things can be taken away in a split second and you won't be ready when that happens. Live it now. There will always be reasons why you can't do things. Take advantage of the now.
5. Walking into that ocean after the start gun had gone off is such a surreal feeling. I kept telling myself that I couldn't believe that it's happening ... that I was actually in an Ironman race. The 2.4 miles distance never crossed my mind. It was just "hey, let's start banging bodies." Very surreal feeling ... can't even put into words. Of course, after they start banging bodies against you ... you are like "WTF am I doing out there with all of these peasants ? I feel dirty."
This race report is the final chapter of my IM story. After this chapter is written, I will hang up story telling pen and retire for good. It's been a wonderful ride and a better journey. To fully comprehend this race report, make sure to review the other chapters:
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
I hear voices.
I began hearing voices in my head during the week leading up to this race. As the race got closer, the voice got louder. I would sometime wake up in the middle of the night in a pool of cold sweat. There were times when I would scream Vietnamese gibberish at a Cambodian. No matter what I do, the voices were loud and they were clear. I tried not sleeping to try to keep the voices away. I tried meditating. Sometimes it's just one voice, sometimes there would be multitude of voices but no matter what I do ... nothing would silent the voices.
The sound I heard goes something like this: "Tuan Nguyen You Are An Ironman!" ... so begins my journey.
I came to Florida a few days before the race. The sights, sound, and overall experience that the Ironman folks gives you is like giving Viagra to a 16 year old boy. As a participant in the race, you are jacked up as is but to be surrounded by so many of your brothers and sisters in arms was intoxicating. If you drink the M-dot Kool-Aide then this was your Mecca.
I was quite nervous about my swimming. Before coming to FL, I hadn't put on my wetsuit since the injury so I wasn't quite sure how it would react. I was fearful that a mass start of 2500+ people would mean that 5000+ pair of feet and 5000+ arms would find their way to my clavicle and end my day early. Even as of today my clavicle is still not 100%. I can't wear a two straps backpack because it still bothers me.
The swim was a mass start two loops ocean swim. You would complete one loop, get out of the water, cross a timing mat, re-enter, and do it again. 2,500+ type-A personalities and one Vietnamese Royalty doing anything at once is never a good thing. It also didn't help that I was at the starting line with two very uncivilized peasants (Mark Z and Jeff S). They were jacked up and talking A LOT ... A LOT of smack.
The conversation went something like this ...
Mark: "I can't wait to shove some heads into the waters."
Jeff: "I can't wait to smack some bitches around"
I thought that that was funny for about 3 seconds until I realized that I was the bitch and the head that they were talking about. I was like that ain't funny. You know what's funny ? NOT smacking any bitches or heads around. You give a peasant one grain of rice and they want a sack. WTF!
When the gun went off I calmly walked into the ocean. As the water was about waist deep I went into the infamous Vertical Three Point swim stand and felt a bigger drag than normal. I couldn't understand why my feet were dragging. The ocean was supposed to be more buoyant after all. I then realized that I still had my tube socks on. So while the rest of the world was swimming, I was busy standing there trying take off one tube sock at a time in the middle of the ocean and in the heat of competition ... lovely way to start an Ironman :) In my defense, I didn't want to be Mark's of Jeff's bitch in the water.
2500+ in the swim start is a sight to behold. It felt like I was getting whacked every other second for the first 1000 meters. At about the 500 meter mark I had a nice little kick to the head that knocked the goggles off of my face. I had to flip over to my back and put the goggle back in place. I then grabbed my crotch to make that my 3 testicles were still there.
The other problem that I had was that due to the injury, my right stroke is a lot stronger than my left. This caused me to severely swim off course. I was chased down by a jetski at one point because I was so off course. He wanted to know if I was swimming toward Saigon. I told him not to mess with Saigon!
I finished the first loop in about 51 minutes. I was so happy that I ran along the beach giving folks high 5s. I saw Angela D standing right there and gave her one too. One of the race officials then approached me and told me that I couldn't run along the beach and that I needed to get back into the water. I told him that I was Saigon Tuan and I don't do waters ... but there was still another loop to go.
The ocean swell got a lot bigger the second time around. Hurricane Ida was two days from the gulf after all. I think that every time that I went up to look for a buoy I saw God but no buoys. After awhile I was like, God ... dude, you need to get out of the way so that I can find me some buoys. Do you know how freaky it is to think that you were swimming towards land and all that you see were big blue skies and ocean swells ? I tried to follow other swimmers but then I realized that if they were still in the water along side me then it meant that they were as clueless as me. It was like the blind following the blind. I swear that there were a group of us who just swam laps around the same buoys for like 10 times.
My second loop was about 10 minutes slower than the first. Five minutes of that were due to me pretending to be Farrah Fawcett running along the beach and five minutes of that can be contributed to the CIA moving the buoys out further into the ocean just to screw with me.
The beautiful thing about this swim was that you could see the bottom of the ocean as you were swimming. I saw a bunch of schools of fish. Jeff said that he saw a sea turtle swimming beneath him. As you got closer to shore the bottom got shallower. It was a very comforting sight. The moment that I saw the ocean floor coming toward me I began to hear those voices again ... "Tuan Nguyen YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!" Every stoke that I took the voices got louder, the pride was more intense.
Final Swim Time: Who gives the F -- I'm an Ironman :)
The best thing about the bike was the swim. Because I'm so freaken slow in the swim, I can pick off a lot of people on the bike. I don't think that I saw one biker pass me until after the special needs bag area around mile 50. By the end of the race, I had picked off about 300 bikers and another 500 runners. It just gives you so much confidence when you can pass people like that.
The course was wickedly windy. You would ride down a straight road and one minute the wind would be at your back, the next minute it would swirl underneath you, and the next minute it would be bitch slapping you in your face. I hadn't been bitch slapped like that since I told my mother that I don't plan on giving her any grandchildren.
At mile 50 is the special needs transition area. I was greeted by a camera crew from the IMFL video department. It was the same one that interviewed me as I was lying on the beach with my 1970's tube socks on just before the start. The cameraman said "didn't I interview you at the start?" I said "yes you did" ... but I wanted to say "your dad must work for the CIA and your mother must be a Communist because there ain't no way in hell that out of 2500+ participants spread over 140.6 miles that you could find the only Vietnamese in the race TWICE!" Seriously, why does the CIA hate Vietnamese people so much? Why must they follow me everywhere that I go ? Supergluing my toilet seat while I sleep was not enough ? I'm beginning to think that the kick to the head during the swim to knock the goggles off was no coincidence.
At about mile 80 of the bike ride I couldn't take in anymore solid foods. Every time that I tried to pop one in my mouth I would gag. I then decided to go strictly with a gel and fluid diet. That lasted for about another 20 miles before the thought, let alone the sight, of a gel would make me want to vomit. I figured with 12 more miles to go that a fluids only diet would have to do.
During a couple of my training bike rides I had gone with a strict rice and dried squid diet. I decided not to go that route during the Ironman because I thought that that was a bit too much fresh-off-the-boat Vietnamese. Well, for the next IM I'm going to put a bowl of Pho in my aero bottle, Vietnamese egg rolls and fish sauce in my Bento box, and Kimchi in the back of my bike jersey. You have to go with what brought you there. Mark my words ladies and gentlemen, there will be a bag of Kimchi in the back of my bike jersey for IMFL 2010.
The final stretch of the bike ride was very fast downhill glide down one of the bridge overpass. I could recognize the top of my condo from the distance. It was such a great feeling. Bikers were just lining up one behind the other and coasting toward the transition area. I was just sitting there imagining what it would be like to cross that finish line. I kept hearing those damn voices again .. "Tuan Nguyen YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!" Wow, what a feeling and what an adrenaline rush.
Final Bike Time: Who gives the F -- I'm an Ironman :)
Due to the injuries, the last 7 weeks of my IM training plan had absolutely no volume. I did put in a long bike ride, long run, and long swim to build my confidence but had no volume outside of that to back it up. I was a bit nervous about the run. I was in shape but didn't think that I was in great Ironman shape.
The first 2 miles of the run was pretty much a walkfest. I couldn't even breathe. My waist/lower back area was sore but I just couldn't breathe. I was very concerned. I knew that I had enough time to walk the marathon but I didn't want that kind of suffering. Fortunately, after a couple of miles I was able to run again and was clicking at pretty good pace (8:30ish).
After about 8 miles my waist/lower back began hurting again. Once more I had a very difficult time breathing. It wasn't cardio. It was just pain. I walked/run for the next 10 miles. At about mile 18 a woman came by running a little bit faster than I was walking. I decided that at minimum that I could do the same. We talked a bit. Not sure what happened after that but I got my second wind. The last 8 miles had me running the entire distance. The only time that I stopped was to use the bathroom and to take in fluids at the aide station. I was pretty shocked by that.
For those who are doing this race next year, be forewarned that the turnaround point, especially on the second loop, is pitched dark in a park. They have some artificial lights in place but there are long stretches where you are lucky to see further than 10 feet. That park was probably built by CIA labor. It's a 1-1.5 mile loop. You would go in there and 3 hours later you were still in there. Next year they probably will put in a cemetery and have Freddie Krugger hiding somewhere in there to scare the living bizerk out of all of the Vietnamese going through there.
Final Run Time: Who gives the F -- I'm an Ironman :)
What a special place. I think that I ran a 7:30 mile for the last kilometer. I could feel it. I think that I ran past about 20 people during that stretch. I wouldn't be denied. I kept telling myself
"TUAN NGUYEN YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!"
"TUAN NGUYEN YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!"
"TUAN NGUYEN YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!"
"TUAN NGUYEN YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!"
"TUAN NGUYEN YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!"
The more that I said it, the faster that I ran. Whatever pain that I once had no longer existed. People on the street were yelling "YOU ARE AN IRONMAN, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!" I would then make one final turn where I could see the final stretch. People were lined up behind barriers slamming their hands on them and just screaming at the top of their lungs. Before I knew it I would see the "Ironman" chute. Then I looked up and saw the bleachers. I could hear the announcer reciting people's names. I pumped my fist and I raised my arms during those last 30 yards.
Then finally, I saw flashes from cameras and I could hear those magical words ... "Tuan Nguyen from Silver Spring Maryland, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!" I crossed that finish line and they put a medal on me. I walked toward the finish photo area and had all of these wonderful volunteers and race officials come up to me to shake my hand and say "congratulations, you are an Ironman." What a spectacular feeling.
You'd work so hard during all of those long lonely runs, long lonely swims, and long lonely bike rides that you would sometime wonder what it was for. You'd wonder when it would end. When you see that finish line and hear those magical words ... that's when everything begins to make sense to you. You realized why you trained so hard and why you sacrifice so much to get to that point. The juices from the fruit of life is so very sweet when it finally ripens ... man what a feeling.
ENDING OF THE JOURNEY
Today the voices that I once heard seemed like but a whisper from a past lifetime. No longer do they echo so loudly in my mind. I no longer hear "Tuan Nguyen from Silver Spring Maryland, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!". No. The voice that I now hear just simply says "Tuan Nguyen ... you did it."
I still hear the whisper in those voices and it just makes me smile.
I still hear the whisper in those voices and sometimes it makes me relive that wonderful day ... that wonderful moment in time when I saw that finish line arch and the world just seemed to have stopped for me.
I still hear the whisper in those voices and I never want those goose bumps to go away.
"Tuan Nguyen ... you did it." I hear voices.
that is the bomb-ass diggity
amazing tuan, just amazing. huge congratulations, its so remarkable that you turned that injury around and claimed ironman fame. also perhaps the most interesting race report i've ever read, but we all were expecting that i think.
Yes.... YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!!! Way to kick some bootay out there.
Thanks for the blubberfest while at work....
I'm so overwhelmed...or simply hormonal.
So impressed, and very happy for you.
Congratulations Tuan...you have been a true inspiration, in the true spirit of Ironman.
Tuan - your royal ass never disappoints. Can't wait to see the Ironman thong on Metro - what line do you ride?
After seeing that xray - you make one believe all things are possible - even running in the rain today.
Congrats - Ironman!
you're my idol.
i laughed, I cried!
"The best thing about the bike was the swim."
I don't think by any stretch of the imagination that this is the last chapter. (At least I hope not. What would we read??)
I love your final times--priceless.
Well done, my friend!
Well done, your highness!
Great work. You earned that voice. In fact, you could think of it this way: every syllable of the "you are an Ironman" announcement probably cost you 15 hours of your life.
Sweet race reports and a great capstone to your season. Congrats.
Hey Ironman Tuan,
Great job out there and I was so happy to high five you half way through your swim. Glad you decided to get back in the water to finish up.
I have seen a LOT of Xrays in my time...but never have I seen one that actually sent shudders of pain through me! OUCH! Congratulations, hats off to you for gritting through it! UNBELIEVABLE!
Way to go Tuan!
So, if they have to install pins, screws and plates into that shoulder...now you can make sure they're official IRONMAN (TM) brand titanium/carbon fiber composite. You've earned them.