The days prior race day were fun. I followed the team around and took as many pictures as I could. During the inspirational lunch on Friday my campaign manager told the other chapters that they may see Pikachu running with them during the race and she ensured them that Pikachu is real and they are not hallucinating. So naturally, I got up to the mic and told people why I run as Pikachu. In case you don't know here is a recap, I am running as Pikachu as a way to honor people who are going thru cancer treatment. They get stared at constantly because they are bald... so why not have people stare me as Pikachu so I get a sense of what they are going thru.
After lunch, the team went to pick up our packet and dropped off our run gear. We had dinner and the coach gave out gag gifts to people. Little did I realize, the coach actually got theWongStar to write the team an email wishing us good luck. I think theWongStar email is inspirational to the team. When is the last time an Elite Pro write an email to you? And did I mention she is Chinese. Asian Pride! *throwing peace sign*
When I did my one on one race talk with the coaches I just looked at them and they just looked at me. I told them I am good... and they said... cool. I guess this year they don't have any concern about me.
Race Day came fast. Came Sat at 4:00am, people started to show up at the lobby with 3 bags of stuff. Swim bag, Special Bike need bag, and Special Run need bag. You drop off these special need bags and they will be available at various point of the race (For bike it's at mi 56, and the run is outside of transition 2)
by 4:30am, everyone was here and we headed out in one bus. During the duration of the ride everyone was very quiet. I felt like we were a group of solider getting ready to parachute down to Normandy.
After our little 20 minutes bus ride, we arrived at transition 1. I setup my area, then walked around and took pictures. With 20 minutes to go, I told Rich to write 'I love WongStar' on my forearm to show her that I am still her #1 Fan in Monterey Park. Apparently I put too much bodyglide around my wrist and Rich couldn't get the writing on me. He finally got it on somehow.
With 10 minutes to go I handed my camera to Brad. During Vineman training weekend I FINALLY realized that taking pictures really slow me down, so I decided not to carry a camera this time. I did my warm up, the gun went off, and I started my 2.4 mi swim... I have two swim speed. Slow, and very Slow. Today I decided to go with the first one - I got out of the swim 2 hr later.
As I was running up to the transition people were yelling at my name. Go Louis, Go KwanStar, Go Kwan, Go Pikachu. I don't know who yelled what but there were a lot of names floating around. I really appreciated people being there for me, but I have this bad habit of not acknowledge them and just looking forward. Maybe I am shy, I don't know. I changed to my bike stuff and headed out. Knowing my back will probably start hurting soon after I bike, I took the first 4 mi easy. I spin at high cadence to get my leg fresh. After 4 mi I did not feel any back pain! Then I started to pick up my speed and I started to pass people... lot of people. Aero helmet people... checked, people with expensive bike... checked, pro-looking cute girl in perfectly fitted tri kit... checked, people that don't like Team In Training... checked, people with ego issues... crushed... and of course teammates... (I don't really consider myself passing them, more like I just caught up and say hi). When I passed Kim on the bike I told her she owe me a cupcake (we had a bet: whoever swim faster buy cupcake). I was feeling very good and very strong. I was having fun and I was enjoying my day. As I was a few mi away from the first aid station I felt sensation on my back, I knew the muscle is started to get tight. I decided the best course of action is to stop at the aid station, get off my bike and stretch. And that's what I did. Of course I took a few minutes and everyone I passed earlier passed me. Unlike running, passing someone in cycling is pretty easy. I can be a mile ahead of somebody and it will only take them 3-4 minutes to pass me. After my short stretch I got on the bike and kept going. I passed Kim, gave her a 'ha ha', then disappeared in front of her... only to have her passed me again at the second aid station. By then I saw a lot of my teammates and I was happy. Last year I saw 2 during the bike. This year I saw like 10.
I got to mi 56 special need area with a time of 3:20 (ave 16.9 mi per hour). If I didn't stop I maybe doing 3:10... who knows... but compared to last year, I was very happy with my time... and more importantly how I felt compare to last year. Last year I wasn't a happy camper. I couldn't even bent my back when I got off my bike at special need. I secretly cried a little at mi 58 because I didn't know if I can finish the bike. This year I felt great! I was giving people the Anna Wills smile (Anna is this triathlete I know that always put on a big smile... even after a bike crash!!!).
I took longer breaks during the second loop of the bike. When I was at the last aid station Lilly caught up to me and told me two things: - She had been having Asthma attack on the bike... 3 times - Yvonne had two flats and she had a big cut on the tire So I did my own Ironman triage. Lilly was there with me and she didn't look like she was dying, so I focused on Yvonne first. Lilly told me Yvonne was ok physically, but she didn't know if the tire will hold up. Since I did't know where Yvonne was I couldn't really help. I decided to just tell Tom and Sharon when I see them at around mi 105. And with Lilly, I asked her a few questions to make sure she wasn't dying on me. I asked her if she had her phone and she said no. I asked her if she want to carry my phone just in case and she said no. She said she'll just take it easy and finish the ride. We rode together til chalk hill. She seem fine so I took off (actually, I probably looked like the one having an asthma attack when we rode up chalk hill) I hammered the last 6 mi of the bike course and got a time of 7hr and 40 min. In was hour 10 into my race. Only a marathon to go.
As I started my first lap some of my teammates are already finishing their first. One such person is honored teammate Gordie Lat. All reason he doubted himself. He wondered if he can finish the race after the mini stroke back in Jan. He wondered if being a cancer survivor will affect his performance. I saw all my teammates and everyone look great! I felt like I was running a good pace until I checked my watch... 13 1/2 min per mile? Are you f@#@ing kidding me? I felt like I was running at 11 min per mile. I kept running at a constant pace hoping to get out of this slow poke pace.
At some point Coach Paul came up to me on the bike and check on me. He is actually a sensible man. I told him I felt great and I could of gone 40 minutes faster on the bike. He said let it go. You are here and you are not hurting. Who knows what happen if you hammer the bike... maybe you'll be walking now. I said... Paul you are the best coach ever... then continue my run (actually I didn't say that... but that's what I wanted to say). Sometime in lap 1 I decided to stretch my legs. Bad idea. They started to cramp right a way. Lesson learn... no stretching during the run portion of the Ironman. Near the end of Lap 1 I saw PikaRich cheering for people.
After a while I finished lap 1. Everyone was there cheering for me. That pumped me up a little bit. The beginning on lap 2 is uneventful. I do my usual random chat with people. When people yell at my name I act surprised and ask them how do they know my name? (it was on my shirt), I also told people that forcing food down now was tougher than the actual run... most of them agree. I wasn't kidding, I had a lot of liquid in me and I just wanted to vomit. Actually I stopped running several times just to make sure I don't vomit.
Then came Jenny at around mi 11. Jenny is one of the ncal TNT teammate so I started talking to her. Jenny was on her second loop like me and she was doing her first ironman. Then I made the biggest mistake of this race. I told her I will finish around the same time as her. Minutes after I said that, she picked up her speed... and I picked up my pace just to keep up with her. It was Pac Man time for 15 miles. She was the ghost and I were the Pacman. I wanted her to be ms Pacman because labeling a girl as a ghost is just wrong. But hey she seem to be the faster one and I was really running away from her just to keep up. so ya I am Pacman.
At times I pulled away from Jenny only to have her caught me when I went to the restroom. At the later half of my lap 2 I saw this woman with LA Tri Club and I wondered if she is Amy Berkin-Chavez (aka ABC). I never met ABC in person but I known of her from our mutual friend Alison. As I was thinking if I should talk to her Amy asked me if I am Louis Kwan... Before she even finish telling me who she was I was like are you Amy Berkin Chavez LOL. Yes, Amy is famous and I am infamous! We chatted a little and she disappeared in front of me.
Jenny and I finished lap 2 together and she passed me once again at the beginning of lap 3. By then the Pacman game caught up to me. I was more tired than usual because I wasn't running at my own pace, I was running at Jenny's. At mi 22 or so I wanted to give up (not the actual race, but keeping up with Jenny). I wanted to tell Jenny to go ahead. I had a slow bike time and I knew I wasn't going to PR on the marathon. I needed to drive back to LA the next day. Why bother? My body was fine but there were ten thousands reasons why I don't want to push myself. But there were one reason to keep me in this pacman game - Tyler. Tyler almost die few weeks ago. I am serious. And I thought to myself, I am doing this race in honor of Tyler, I needed to dig deeper and make an effort. Unlike the bike where I took breaks to avoid injures, I know I can push myself on the run... and so I did. I started to pick up my pace and I started to pull away from Jenny. I looked back often to make sure I had a good distance between Jenny and I.
After I don't know how long I was finally in the final .5 mi or so. I wanted to wait for Jenny and cross the finish line with her. But at the same time I don't know if she wanted this random dude to ruin her finish picture. I wanted to give her the moment so I decided to finish first and wait for her at the finish line. I ran the last .5 mi., crossed the finish with my Coyotes running shirt, and I became a second Ironman finisher. It was the toughest marathon I ever ran (including the one where I was injured). Thanks Jenny =)
One of the first thing I did was to give my Rachel my campaign manager a hug. She offered a hug to me last year after I crossed the finish line but I was too cold to hug her. So this year I made sure I gave her a hug! I waited until Jenny came in then I gave her a hug. I then changed out my wet cloth to some dry one, put on my mountain hardwear beanie, popped open a few chemical heat patches, and put on my mountain hardwear shell. Yes I am a mountain hardwear fan.
To tell you the truth, there were so much going on at the finish line and I didn't get a chance to thanks everyone. However we were all doing one thing. We were all cheering for our teammates to come home. Lilly came back, Sandra, Tony, Ale, Nurit, Yvonne, then Andie ran across the finish line with her Canadian Flag. She was crying with tear of joy and I had tear in my eye... she's my favorite Canadian.
The support of my teammates were awesome. Sarah helped me pick up my swim and bike stuff so I don't have to walk around. Sara also helped me with my bike. I am sure if I demand a back rub I would of get one... damn it. Next year.
I got back to my hotel, took a 45 minutes shower to get my body temperature up, ordered a glass of chocolate milk and ate country fried steak at Carrows, then went to sleep.
After thoughts (Ironman)
I had a very good day. My back didn't hurt when I got off the swim. I took it safe by getting off my bike and stretch at every aid station. I always encourage others to be active and not worry about the time. Yet this time I was feeling 'ashamed' of my time shortly after my race. All the could of should of thinking got to me. I should of been at least one hour faster (not counting the swim).
I made the decision to stop and I made the right one. When your back hurt, every mile sucks!
Then I thought about what I did. I did an Ironman. Things can go wrong and will go wrong. We had teammates that did not cross the finish line this year. That's not because they didn't train enough. 0ne of them was sick in the med tent for 2 hours half way on her bike. One just had a very bad day. My team consist of very capable and strong willed athletes. As a support staff, a teammate, and a friend, I am prod of very single of them. The strogest will of all is probably Lilly. I didn't know it at the time but Lilly ended up going to the ER because her blood pressure was too low... crazy woman!
I ran my first marathon back in March 2008, in 2 1/2 years I ran more than just a few marathons, finished 3 Half Ironman and 2 Ironman. Heck I didn't even know how to swim back in Nov 2008. anyway. If I am not happy with my time, I just have to do another one. And if I don't have a good time next time, I'll do another one. It took me maybe 10 half marathons to finally finish one in under 2 hours. I just need to be patience with my Ironman.
Endurance Sport (hiking is also an endurance sport) is not in my 'check list', it's part of me. What I lack in speed I make up with endurance and solid performance. I am very solid this year compare to my first Ironman. For that I am happy.
After Thought (the last 10 months with Ironteam)
This year I took a lot of pictures for the team to help my teammates document their journeys. *I take payment in Tonkatsu or Korean BBQ Thank You very much*. And hey two SGV marathon alumni that I recruited, Strawberry lover IronKimbo and Cancer Survivor Gordie Lat , finished the race! Freaking Gordie stressed me out because he kept saying he can't do it... only to finish an hour faster than me... jerk j/k!
I also experienced a few unfortunate events last year. Renee Benson and Jessie Mastan passed away from cancer this year. Renee was 2 weeks shy of her 30th birthday. Jessie was 14. These girls never get a chance to experience a lot of things in life. I decided to live my life to the fullness. I am running Carlsbad half marathon in memory of Renee and Disneyland Half Marathons in memory of Jessie.
Little Tyler also got very sick this year. Social Worker asked Tyler's parents to see if they need help with funeral arrangement. The kid was dying. Fortunately he went over that huddle.
I had my ups and downs this year. But I learn that you have to constantly move forward. You can't blame on stuff that did not favor in your direction.
If you don't like the current situation you are in, you need to take initiative and start changing... doesn't matter if is your health, your finance, your relationship, your career. Nothing is going to change if you just stand around. You may find yourself running in circle, but eventually you'll break away and start moving forward. That's what the Ironteam taught me. Stop watching those infomercial and think that you can 'lose 20 lbs in 20 days' or 'get rich by following the secret'. I trained 10 months for an Ironman and I did not lose an oz (well it has more to do with my eating habit). But there is definitely no short cut to the top.
I would like to thanks my donors again for their donations, my friends and family for their supports, and my teammates who are always there for me.