And I wrote a few paragraphs to describe the pre-swim. I stopped right there and decided that it will take me another 2 months to finish my blog if I were to go into this detail. Instead I will just do a random talk kind of deal.
The VitaPanda Send off Dinner
So a few days before my event Kevin and I had dinner with a few friends... kind of like a send off. In case you don't know who's Kevin, he is the other VitaPanda that are going to do Western States the same weekend as me doing IM CDA. Thus the joined blog.
Since I have the garmin cake for a while, I decided to eat it that night. But check this out. Erik bought me cupcakes and Lily also made me cookies, so the cake was mostly untouched. Afterward we went to eat Icecream
My flight delayed and I ended up running from one terminal to the next (glad I am an ironman and I can run with a backpack lol). When I got to Spokane the car rental guy try to make me pay a lot more for my rental. Then I was told my Corolla's seat wouldn't fold down... only to find out later that day that it does fold down. So shady!
Since I done this a few times I have my routine going. First, I checked in at the athlete check in and double check that I have all the numbers, swim cap, timing chip... etc in the goodie bag. Then I bought a bunch of stuff. I did not buy a single item at Ironman Arizona so I guess I have an excuse. Met up with the Ironteam from Ncal, met up with Coach Jason, drove the bike course, rode the run course just to make sure all the gears on my bike work, went to the athlete meeting, then checked in my bag with my bike/run gear on Sat.
My Home Stay
I had a great time and they made me as comfortable as I can be. Allowing myself to prepare and focus on the race. They even wait for me at the bike course! Thank you Denny, Jan, and Denise.
Denny also has a few cool hobbies so I get to learn about American muscle car, hunting, deadly arrows...etc. Interesting stuff.
VitaPanda Kevin's Western States Finish
VitaPanda Kevin (the other contributor of this blog) started his race 100 miles run on Sat so I have been tracking him though out the day while I was out doing my Ironman errands. The cutoff time for his race is 30 hours and he wants to finish under 24 hours (finisher under 24 hr get a silver buckle while 24+ get a bronze buckle). He was pace for a sub 24 finish before I went to sleep. I would totally stay up to watch. In fact I would of be there to cheer him on if I wasn't doing Ironman CDA the next morning.
Long story short, I checked on Kevin and June's progress (June is another friend of mine who was also running the Western States) the morning of my race. I wake up and check, and check again after the shower. Check when I drove to the start line parking lot. After I confirmed that he crossed the finish line, I sheared a little tear, txt him to congratulate him, then headed to the start line with my 3 bags of stuff (morning clothes bag, run special need bag, and my bike special need bag). I felt like Kevin just finished the race and passed me the baton. Now it is my turn to continue the VitaPandas race. It was emotional for me because Kevin and I started this blog to talk about the journey. And a few months after, he raced his heart out to finish, now it is my turn.
I dropped my bags off and set my bottles on the bike (I didn't leave my nutrition over night). I chatted with Coach Jason and the Ncal Ironteam, then went to the swim start. I should be nervous but I didn't. I had this very clam feeling in me while others around me where kind of in a panic. There was no wave, what else can I ask for right... well I can always ask for warmer water. But sometime you just have to deal with things (cold, wave, cancer...etc). There is no point to complain or worry, just focus to finish the task at hand. And today, my task is to finish this Ironman.
Since the course is a tilted rectangle, I positioned myself on the far right on the beach (to aim at the turn buoy) and I stayed in the middle but toward the back. I really don't care about the extra minute or two. I am a ok swimmer but not a great one (but good enough to finish 3 ironman). I figure I don't want people to knock off my goggle, swim over me, or punch me in the face.
When the canon finally fired, 2500 people run into the water (well most of us walk because there is no room to swim in). I am sure it's crazy to look from the shore with all these people on a tiny beach.
I found myself a little spot to swim and start swimming. I swim very very very very very very very slow to get myself to warm up. During one of my practice swim I jumped into the water, swam as fast as I can, and I cannot catch my breath for the rest swim. So my plan is to swim very very very very very slow... so I can control my breathing... and it worked. All these people that passed me earlier were in a panic. They either just floating around or swim on their back. Sighting wasn't an issue because everyone is swimming toward the same direction and you can't even see the freaking buoy because there were so many heads ahead of me. So for almost 1/2 the first lap I just swim toward that one direction. I wasn't that far off to the turn buoy.
As I finished 1/2 of my 1 st loop I started notice something. I was passing people! Then I realized if I swim faster I'll pass people with my swimming pace. So that's what I did. I focused on my swim and pass people. I think a lot of them can't sight well so they need to stop swimming and look. With a few ironman under my belt, I am a good enough sighter where I don't need to stop and sight. I didn't feel cold, I didn't feel tired. I just kept on swimming and I got out of the water after like 1:54:01
Since the forecast the high of CDA is only 71, I left my tri-top on and put on my cycling jersey. I also put on my arm warmer just in case. The temperature was nice and there is a strong cool breeze on the bike. Everyone told me to save energy on the first lap and that's what I did. Nutrition was perfect as I drink them on time! After an hour of biking I started to feel some heat but I thought it was fine because there was a strong breeze blowing my face. I didn't take much water in the aid station as I tend to pee too much during the bike. I also didn't pour water on my body because of the breeze. And when my projected 56mi bike time is going to be slower than my vineman I figure it is because there are more hills in IMCDA than Vineman.
My spirit was uplifted when I saw my home stay cheering for me at around mile 42.
After mile 42 the course became straight and fast. I picked up my speed and made some good time.
During the later part out the course I started to feel a little sleepy. At around mile 53, I really felt sleepy. It was kind of strange because I had been sleeping the last few days so I shouldn't feel this sleepy. Is it because I had been riding in a straight line and felt bored? Maybe I should get some gel to get a boost? I kept on riding for a few miles and then I stopped to stretch. That's when I realized the weather forecast is wrong. It's not a high of 71. The weather was more like in the 80s. I did not know how hot but I felt like the hot was cooking my skin. I guess I 'noticed' how hot it is in bit and pieces but I never put it together because of that constant breeze that made me feel good.
I got to the next aidstation, stopped, drunk water, pull water over my head and body, and I felt a little better. I know I am in a bad situation and I need to get out of this overheating/not dehydrated thing. This is the kind of reasons why you want to join a team like the Ironteam so you get the coach to share their knowledge with you. They taught you that sometime you will have issues (no matter how strong you are) and you have to deal with it by yourself. Knowing I will pee whatever that I drink if I were to drink too fast. I slow down my pace to cool myself down and to force myself to drink more water, a bit at a time. I know I can push thru the rest of the bike, but I know I needed to feel 'normal' again for the run.
During the later part of the bike I felt bad because I know people were tracking me online and they wonder what happened. I would of stop and post a message on facebook telling people I am ok. But I didn't have my phone with me, not this time. It's the first time I race Ironman without a phone (I carry my phone for safety reasons) because I didn't think anything will happen. For a second I have the thought of biking faster to catch up. That thought quickly disappeared because as much as I know you guys are worry about me. It is my own race and I need to follow my own plan. Going at a pace faster than what I want will only screw me up.
As the ride went on I felt better and better. I would pushed myself to and average like 22+ mi on the flat and a lot faster on the downhill. I saved my leg on the uphill and but stop at aid station to drink, allowing myself time to take in the liquid and pour water over me to cool down. I passed a lot of people when I ride but they passed me as I was re hydrating at an aid station, then I passed them again when I ride. (This is why it is important to not stop unless you have to because if you passed people for a mile, it will only take them 3-4 minutes to catch up). At 8:03:57, I finished the bike.
There were two water stops at T2 before I went in to the changing tent. One right after the bike finish and one before the changing tent. I changed and ran out the other side of the tent wanting to drink some water as I just took a electrolyte pill. No, no water. I was told I will have some water shortly after. No, didn't hit the water til mi 1. If I knew, I would of take an extra 30 seconds to run backward and get some water before the changing tent.
Anyway, I felt great on the run. My legs was ok and I was able to run a lot. However I felt a little sluggish because my nutrition was off from the bike (because of that overheating thing). I calculated my time and I know I can push for like 5:20 marathon to offset the extra time I took on the bike. But with Ironman Cananda coming up in 2 months, I decided to save my leg and have a faster recovery time. I run/walk the first half and I was able to see everyone on the course. The weather was still hot so I pour water over me and put sponges on my body, switching these sponges every mi. This went on for a while and I finished the half the course. At mi 14 I picked up my special need, I resupply myself and took out my panda costume from the Run Special Need back. I ran with it for like a minutes and lay it next to this cone. I told the volunteer I will pick it up when I came back. Not knowing if VitaPanda Kevin finished Western States as Panda I just decided to finish Ironman CDA as Panda... just in case.
I continued to run and it got dark. I took the headlamp out of my belt and kept running. I know CDA gets cold after it got dark so I actually stopped pouring water on me the hour before. This way my clothes get a chance to dry up as I did not want to suffer from hypothermia. I built myself a cushion to make sure I can finish under 17 hours if other stuff went wrong. After a while I am almost to the finish. I was delighted to find out my Panda is still there... hanging from the cone. I put it on and started running. As we were at the finish stretch I told the people around me to start running very fast. Right around that time I saw Coach Jason and took a picture of me. I ran with this girl (her first Ironman) for a while and I told her that I will slow down so she can have the finish line (I remember what Kristi told me about having her own finish line). I hung out with the crowd for a few seconds and people went nut about the Panda. A Panda? What the heck right? I crossed the finish line at 16:41:46. My marathon time was 6:19:36 (Holly Cow that's my second slowest marathon time!... with the first one being my first marathon)
After I crossed the finish line a catcher went up to me expecting me to pass out or something... as people tend to really give it their 100%. Sorry... no, I am totally fine. I need to feel good enough to pick up my bike/gears, walk back to my car and drive home. He kind of escort me to pick up my shirt and I was 'forced' to have my finishing pictures taken *_*. Dude I am fine, stop holding my arm!
After I finished there were 3 tents in front of me. Med Tent. Massage Tent. And Food Tent. I didn't need to go to the med tent as I am fine. I wanted a massage but I know my priority is to get myself warm so I skipped that. I walked thru the food tent and I don't want pizza. They did have other stuff like water, cola, cookie, chip... but I nicely declined the offer. I HAVE BEEN DRINKING COLA, EATING COOKIE, CHIP...ETC for the last 6 hours... do you really think I want to have anything to do with those???
My goal was to pick up my bike/gears so I can at least walked (with my bike and 3 gear bags to the finish) so I can see the closing. No... didn't make it, I was a few minutes off. At least I am now warm!!! Planning ahead proved to be a good thing. Since I know no one will help me carry my bike bag, run bag, and my morning bag. I put a backpack in my morning bag so a lot of stuff actually went in there. I packed everything in the car and drove home. I was going to find a Denny's to eat my victory dinner but apparently I drove passed it. I was gonna find a mcdonald as but I drove passed it as well. I went home, took a shower (there is this window cleaning thing in the shower as the door are made of glass ... so I had been cleaning the door every time I took a shower. I totally did not want to do it this time but I did. I was like... Louis. You finished an Ironman, you can freaking clean the water off the shower door. See, I am a good guest), and then I just went to sleep.
The morning after
I knew the Ironman store gets crazy the morning after as everyone is trying to buy the finisher gear. Really... do I want to wake up at 6:30am in the morning and wait in line to spend more money? No. I just wanted to sleep til whenever (but before the tribike transport drop off deadline). I figured if I really wanted finisher gears I can buy stuff from Canada. So it was nice to get an early morning text from Coach Jason asking me if I want something there. Since I already spent a lot of money I told him to have fun. Thanks Jason, that was very thoughtful.
I drove to the expo to drop off my bike and my gear check. Did some walking around and went back to the house. I passed out, ate dinner, and went to sleep.
I said good bye to my wonderful, I meant... super wonderful home stay and headed to the airport. When I was at the Spokane airport a few people congratulated me on my finish (remember to wear your finisher gear going home!). I saw a few people wearing the finisher shirt and I congratulate them as well. A few hours later I arrived back to LA. I went to the Ironteam swim practice to 'surprise' my teammates and to tell them that 'yes... I am still alive'. Then I went to meet up with VitaPanda Kevin for dinner. This concluded my IM CDA 2011.
The Thank You
Like my coaches always tell me, I did it all by myself. I swim, bike, and run 140.6 miles. But I can't do it with the help of my coaches. They made me an athlete, but more importantly they helped me grow as a person. There is no real way to measure my personal growth (kind of like how you can't always measure yourself by your finishing time). But I know I grew a lot the last few months. At times I feel like I am just walking in a circle and not make any progress. But the important thing is, I kept on walking. And when I am ready to grow, I will find my way to move forward. We can't force ourselves to grow unless we are ready... even with the simplest ideas. Our coaches are like shepherds that lead sheep to a lake. Unless we (the sheep) are ready, our coaches can't make us drink the water (to grow). They provided you with the resources you need, and it's up to you to use it (this whole sheep thing is from Coach Jimmy at the Coyotes). My coaches took me to the lake and wait, and wait, and wait (and that's what you are supposed to do, you can't make people to change/improve, you need to show them a path and just wait, and wait... if you care about that person, you wait)... and I think finally I am able to drink the water from the lake on the stuff that I need to grow.
Some people prevent themselves to move learn and forward. Or rather, they did not believe themselves that they are move forward. They may think that they can't drink the water from the lake because their neck is too short, or that the water they drunk before was toxic and they do not want to drink the water again...etc Rather it is an injuries, or a mental block, you can move forward. It may not be easy, you may feel like you are in the same situation an eternity, but you just need to keep trying. It doesn't matter what it is, Athletic goal, a better job, a better relationship, or to find the best Tonkatsu in Los Angeles... anything that troubles you. One bad shepherd doesn't mean that all shepherds are bad. Stay away from toxic shepherd, stay way from toxic sheep and you'll be fine.
And of course my friends have been supportive of me and offer me help when I need them. And yes, my teammates. Seeing them go from not knowing how to do something and to be in Ironman ready shape give me the strength to do what I do.
The surprised Party
So a week after my events a few friends organized a not so surprised party for the VitaPandas. It was a good way for the VitaPandas to wind down and to share our stories to other endurance athletes. Below are a few pictures from the party.
ok I am done with surprised pictures and captions... But really. Thanks for creating this party. I am surprised by the effort everyone of you put in for the VitaPandas. I am touched.
I wrote all the stuff above just so I have an reason to write after thoughts. But I'll focus on the training aspect first. Is this my slowest Ironman? Yes. But do I care about my time? Absolutely... not! If I were to go back and change something, what will I do? Nothing. I want to experience this. If anything, I was sad that I didn't experience this in my previous races.
Late last year I decided to go all out at all races. I went all out on all races except Tokyo Marathon (fun race) and this one (because I decided to save my leg for Ironman Canada). Out of all these races, I PR at every single one of them except Carlsbad Half Marathon and Ironman CDA. But in turn of what I learned, I learned the most at my 2 bad races.
As an endurance athlete, it's not all about going all out, it's about making smart decisions... especially when you are out there for 14, 16 hours. Little mistakes can build up into a major one. If I have been drinking and pouring water over my body like I do every time, this over heating thing wouldn't happen and I will PR. However, if you don't have setback, you won't learn. I am glad that I have the opportunity to prove to myself that I can get out of a very bad situation. I realized the problem and I fixed it. And even though my time was slow. I felt stronger than ever.
I am confidence with my swim to run in with 2000 others in this tiny beach, I feel strong on the bike where I made up a lot of time when I was riding, and for the marathon... I can actually run at a good pace, but I decided to hold back because of Ironman Cananda. Some measure by time, I measure how I feel. Ironman Canada will be my last Ironman for at least a few years. I do not need to hold back at this race and I am looking forward to it.
A word from VitaPanda Louis
During the last few months a few things happened and I grew a lot as a person. When VitaPanda created this blog we were planning to share our training experiences to others. As it tuned out Kevin and I supported each other for many things. This experience helped me work on things that I am not good yet... and I am not referring to Ironman. Sorry kids, I am pretty good at doing Ironman, I am not Mr. Fast and Furious, but I did finished 3 Ironmans in a year, (it will be 4 Ironman in 13 months) that said something right?
My coaches have been passing me their knowledge to raise the inner coach in me. While I do not want to be coaching anyone now (although I am very good at teaching people stuff), this helped me guide other athletes to make them successful. But more importantly, the things they taught me help me become a stronger and better individual, which is actually what I am looking for.
Some may think that I inspire them to do stuff, but I draw my inspiration from my team.
And always... always remember. Chemo is tougher than anything we do. Anabel = bad ass.
Her direction to cheer this weekend: Don't say... Anabel you are doing a good job. Yell at her... she likes tough love
My previous reports
Reading my previous Ironman reports I saw the change in me. Both as an athlete and as a person. My experience is not based on so much about how much faster I went but how much I grew. I am definitely heading to the right direction.
Vineman 2009 Race Report
Vineman 2010 Race Report
Ironman AZ 2010 Race Report