Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Yi Hsueh of California, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!

Hello All!

Yes, this is a long race report but it was a long race.. read on :). Oh before I forget, Rich of LA's TNT chapter- How was your race?! Shoot me am email!

Story behind Rich. During practice swim-
Rich says to me, "Go Team! What chapter?"
Me- "San Francisco."
Rich- "I'm LA. I read someone's blog on the SF Team."
Me- "Oh yeah? Whose blog?"
Rich- "Yi?"
Me- "That's MY blog!!!!"

The Team and I arrived in Louisville on Thursday afternoon and checked into the race hotel, the Galt House Hotel by the Ohio River. There were shiny bikes and fit triathletes everywhere we looked. Being that this particular race was comprised of 80% men and 20% women, eye candy was everywhere! At least for me and the girls..sorry guys! Like my teammate Liz said, "Being here is like being at a Star Trek convention. We're finally with people who understand and think that this is normal!"

Days leading up to Ironman were fun! We had dinners, gathering, practice swims, drove the bike course and yours truly even got pushed out of an elevator by a claustrophobic old lady! The day before the race, we did the mandatory bike check in and dropped off our T1 (swim to bike) and T2 (bike to run) bags. The volunteers from start to finish were so awesome! So here goes my day..

Entrants- 2200 athletes

Finishers- 1791 athletes..I want to say about 200 didn't start.

Volunteers- A LOT!! More than 1.5 per athlete!

Best quote during the Athlete's Meeting by the USAT Rules guy- "Guys, if you get passed by the girls, it's okay. It happens. Just let it go."

Weather conditions- heat index of 101 degrees, humidity, and wind!

Key to race- like one has said before, if there were no volunteers, there would be no Ironman. For me personally, if Heidi, Tessa, teammates and Coaches were not there, I would not have finished Ironman Louisville!

I woke up at 3:30am and ate my peanut butter sandwich and started my hydration. We walked down to the start, pumped my tires and dropped off my bike and run special needs bags. You can put whatever you want in those special needs bags. You see them at the half way point of the bike and run... I had pringles and beef jerky in my bag along with other stuff that I didn't need but had in there just in case! I made the walk down to the swim start with teammate Doug and made it to the middle of the pack of the swim start line. The swim start at Ironman Louisville is a time trial start. They start all the time cut offs after the last person jumps in the water which in this case was 7:40am!

Swim- I've almost mastered the walk and pee AND swim and pee!

Prior to start, everyone is silent! The Star Bangled Banner is being sung, the canon goes off and off the Pros went! 10 minutes later, us age groupers were moving along! As I was walking down the boat ramp..I really had to pee but I didn't have time to go to the portable so I made the decision to walk and pee at the same time. Let me just tell you that Ironman is not a vanity sport! And I had felt better about it knowing that my teammate Robin had sat in the grass and pee'd in her swimsuit just minutes prior! Josh says out loud, "Yi?" I turned around and smiled.."I'm peeing!" We all laughed! I approached the dock and jumped in with no hesitation. My race was starting…NOW! During the first 1/3 of the swim, I looked up and saw the sun rising and it was beautiful! The 2.4 mile swim took me a lot longer than I thought! Not sure if it was due to no wetsuit, not having done any long swims in the past month because of my rotator cuff earlier on or I just had a bad swim. Everywhere I looked, I saw red caps (men) everywhere! My only fear during the swim was that my timing chip which was strap to my ankle would come off because people kept grabbing on to my ankles. I must have swallowed a crap load of water as I had to pee three times during the swim. I couldn't stop and pee because if you stopped in that water of mess for more than 2 seconds, you would get knocked! What did I do? I learned to pee and swim! I think by the third time, I quite mastered it! My mantra during the entirety of the swim was "just keep swimming." Aside from my lack of speed, the only other big problem I had during the swim was Mr. Guy who was zigzagging in front of me and getting in my way so I literally took my arm and shoved him over. Out of my way! 1 hour and 53 minutes later, I was out of the water! Man! That was long but I didn't have time to dwell on my bad swim and just had to move on. I was pulled out of the water finish by a volunteer, saw my friends' smiling and cheering faces, given my T1 bag by a volunteer and headed to the changing tent. I sprayed with sun block by the volunteers, grabbed my bike and I was out of there!

Bike- 2 breakdown of tears, 1 burst of laughter and a drafting of an email in my head to all of you as to why I couldn't finish the race!

Oh the bike! I've always considered the bike to be my strongest leg but on this day, that was not the case. I took the advice of many others and started out slow while keeping my heart rate in check. I let people pass me and wasn't worried. About 5 miles into the bike, I noticed that I was started to get this headache so I popped a Thermolyte salt tab. The headache wasn't getting better so I took another one 20 minutes later. After the fourth one, I realized that the more I took, the bigger my headache was getting so I stopped taking them and relied on my Infinit calorie drink. I was worried about not replenishing the salt in my body as I could feel my face crusting in salt but I couldn't really dwell on that as I still had a lot of mileage to go! I never felt good on the bike and on a day that I really needed power in my legs, I didn't have it! My only hope during this bike course was that my spin coach, M2 would not ban me from his classes due to my poor bike performance! 5 hours and 30 minutes into the bike, I saw the Ironteam support group at La Grange and broke out in tears as I passed them! It's official, I was miserable! I saw Heidi and Alex after that was couldn't fake a smile. Why is this course so hard? It's not supposed to be this hard! I thought these were only supposed to be rollers...why is it not rolling me up? What was worse other than me feeling miserable on this very hot and windy bike course? They placed the first loop mile markers right in front of the second loop mile markers so I would see mile 40 and then right behind it, I would see a marker for mile 70! It was awful and demoralizing to say the least. As I was on the second loop, I started to draft an "obituary" like email in my head trying to figure out how I was going to explain to you guys that I couldn't finish this race and didn't. I was going to try to someway some how put a positive spin on it and was just trying to figure out the right words. I passed La Grange again and saw the Ironteam support group.. I was stone faced..saw Helen and Daisy shortly after and just broke out in laughter. Daisy, a blow up doll decked out in an Ironteam race kit! I turned the corner and saw Heidi and Alex. Alex comes up to my on my bike and in a serious and concern tone said that I had 2 hours and 10 minutes before the bike cut off. I asked him what time that would be and he said 6:10pm. I thought in my head, there is no way I still had 30 miles to go and on this course with these conditions, I couldn't average 15 mph. Alex then said, "keep pedaling..I'll see you on the marathon okay Yi?" I was shaking my head when Heidi came up along me and yelled, "You're going to do this! You trained so hard for this!" Those were the magic words I needed to hear as a light bulb went off and I thought to myself, "I did train so hard for this!" I turned my heart rate monitor off, switched it to time mode, left the pity party I was having for myself and just cranked it from there! I descended the downhills like I didn't have a life to live on my aerobars and just hoped for smooth roads and no pot holes otherwise my @ss would have been grass or actually on the grass with the horses! I saw Ironteammer Mel..yelled "Hey!" Minutes after, I saw Ironteammer Liz and yelled "Come on Liz!" Miles later, this random guy named Joe came up next to me and said, "I did the math and if we keep an average of 12 mph..we can make the bike cut off!" I thought, wow I really made some ground from 14 mph earlier! We rode together for a little bit until he left me. I approached the water stop at mile 88 and was a bit concerned to find out that they had run out of water as that is all my system could take- just plain water. The next water stop was at mile 96 and between miles 88 and 96, I asked every cop out there.. "water?" "water?" "water?" Nope! No water! As I approached mile 96, I grab a water bottle with relief but also was a little shocked by the scene of many people on the side of the road waiting to get picked up either by an ambulance or a SAG vehicle. I got a glimpse of the Louisville skyline and knew I was close! Approached the transition area, shoved/ threw my bike at the volunteer, grabbed my T2 bag and into the changing tent I went! My only worry now aside from having to run the marathon? I realized that because water was the only thing my system wanted and could take in, I didn't have any calories for the past two hours..but hey at least my headache is gone!

Run- For the first time ever, I felt better on the run than I did on the bike! A 26.2 marathon fed by bananas, coke and water.

I started out on the run course and saw Larry who said, "Yi, you need to start running." I gave him the look of death and if he could see under my sunglasses, he would have seen it! I heard foot steps behind me at the start of the run and it was Joe, the random guy from the bike. "How did he get behind me?" I asked myself. He asked me if I saw all those guys dropping off towards the end of the bike finish. I said, "yes". He said, "That last guy that you passed..he stopped at the same spot last year!" Wow, why would anyone ever want to do that?? Twice?! We walked/ran the first few miles together..coming up with strategies of running to a certain light post, running to a certain sign, every 20 steps of walking would be followed by a run (he only agreed to that if I counted). I saw Coach Pete at the beginning of the run and told him that my stomach was not feeling good. It wasn't a bathroom issue being that I hadn't taken in any calories for the last two hours but it was just uneasy. So he suggested the coke but reminded me that once I got on the coke, I wouldn't take anything else. So at the next water station, I grabbed the coke and a bit after that, I was able to run steadily..not fast but steady. At the first turn around point (not the halfway point but just a turn around), Joe said, "I'll catch up with you..I need a moment." I said, "Okay.." I never saw him again after that. I saw Coach Ted and was very excited to see him on the course! I waved and without skipping a breath or a beat, he said, "How's it going girl? Ok, good!" I thought, "Huh? But I didn't even answer!" Haha. I found out later that was during the 3 mile stretch that he was just out of it. Clearly! He asked me a question and answered it himself in the same breath! Haha. I saw Heidi before approaching the half way mark and she ran with me as she was on her way to the transition area to give my bike to Tri Bike Transport for me and pick up my transition bags! As I approached the halfway point, Larry tells me that I had to maintain a 14 minute mile run pace. I nodded as I couldn't muster any words. My mantra from then on out was "14 minute miles..14 minute miles.." Normally, that isn't hard at would almost be too hard to try to go that slow but during an Ironman but the outlook is bleak, 14 minute pace was indeed a challenge! I saw Alex at a point and I said, "Larry told me I had to run 14 minute he lying to me?" Larry had lied to Hez at IM Lake Placid so I had to ask. Alex responded with, "Well, I am not very good at doing math and running at the same time…but that sounds about right..just keep moving." He asked who was behind me and I said, "Deb." He asked if I was going to be okay for him to check on Deb and I said, "Yes." I saw Coaches Mike Wasserman and Dan after that and they said if you keep the pace you're at (which was "fast" at the time), you would have no problems. I saw Mike Kyle shortly after that and he asked if I wanted company, I said, "ok..but I am not talking." Mike and I ran together for a good stretch before we speed walking the last 4 miles. I saw Skip and Nancy again and with their words of encouragement..we carried on. I saw Coach Pete as the miles went on and heard his phone ring. It was Ted. He asked Pete where I was and Pete said, "Yi is approaching the finish..2 more miles." I turned around and said, "Pete! 1.5 miles!" Less than .25 miles, Mike Kyle congratulated me and told me to carry on and enjoy my moment as I thanked him for charging on with me. I turned the corner, heard the noise, saw all the bright lights, ran towards the finish chute, heard my name and was just relived to be greeted by my catcher with medal around my neck! As my name was being called, Mike was close by breaking down in tears as he told me later on that although he had hoped I wouldn't want or need running company that it was the best 10 miles he has ever ran. I survived on coke, water and bananas for the entirety of the 26.2 miles and negative split that marathon time too!

Due to the time trail swim start, race cut off time was 17 hours and 40 minutes. My final official time- 17 hours and 11 minutes but like a volunteer in the changing tent said, "At the end of the day, everyone gets the same medal." I was relieved that I finished. I couldn't believe that I finished! I am forever thankful to all the Coaches and my friends that helped me along that course. I could not have finished without YOU! Mr. James Gracey, you were not on the course but your words of encouragement and timely advice helped me get to the start line so THANK YOU!

So on Tuesday, I'm at the airport in Louisville on my way home. I get hungry and went for Burger King. While in line for Burger King, this guy in front of me sees my "finisher" shirt and asked, "Did you run that race on Sunday?" I said, "Yes." He said, "You swum in that water? The Ohio River?" I said, "Uh huh!." He said, "Man, that water is f*cked up!." I said, "Is that why I haven't had an appetite since my race?" Ha ha,

Video of my finish line, courtesy of Hez! Apparently, I was high fiving people as I was approaching the finish. I have no recollection of this but Ironteammate Doug has the picture of proof. It was a long day and a worthwhile journey!

Thanks to all for your text messages, emails and support! I will post pictures in the next few days..until then..

With gratitude,


Unknown said...

Congratulations! You are an inspiration Yi!

Laurie said...

YOU DID IT! I am so proud of you! I seriously welled up with tears reading your race report. CONGRATULATIONS! :)