4:00am: I slept surprisingly okay the night before. I woke up and had a great BM in the morning, which is always a good sign. It was still dark out. The skies were cloudy and held secrets to be revealed later. The air outside was hinting at warm. I ate breakfast in my room; a PB&J sandwich, banana, and tropical fruit juice for breakfast. I started loading up on electrolytes; I took an anti-fatigue pill, an Endurolyte pill, and an adrenal pill.
5:00am: Zack, Lynda, Gregg, GT, Luis and I walked from hotel to the Transition Area. I loaded my nutrition on the bike: 2 bottles with Hammer Perpetuem and tropical fruit juice, 3 half PB&J sandwiches, 2 Waffle stingers, 5 power gels, 6 Pill packs of 2 endurolytes, 2 anti-fatigue, adrenal. Each pill pack was individually bagged for easy mouth action. It came in handy that the bags were water proof too, so I didn’t have soggy pills. Next, I walked over the to other side of the Transition circus tent and loaded nutrition for run: 1 half sandwich PB&J, 2 Waffle stinger, 5 Power gels, 5 pill packs same as above. I dropped off Bag Special Needs Bike and Bag Special Needs Run. These bags would not be returned so, it was just extra nutrition and throw away emergency shirt and socks and headlight. I shook Mike Riley’s hand and took a selfie. I said that he would say my name later tonight. He was said ‘G’luck and have a great race!’
5:30am: I walked back to the hotel for another BM. All was going so smoothly. I grabbed by wetsuit, goggles, swim cap. I wore my PTC tri top and bottom.
6:00am: It wasn’t cold outside. We all made the short walk to the beach swim start. The whole town was walking to the start. The sun was brightening up the clouds and skies. There were high clouds and moving fast.
6:30am: Swim warm up. The beach set up was awesome. The athletes could swim around on one side of the ropes. The corrals were on the other side with volunteers holding Swim Cap Signs. The starting corral was adjacent. An opera lady sang the Canadian National Anthem, with a perfectly timed fighter jet flyby AND fireworks! The Pro Men went off with fireworks and another loud jet flyby. That was really exciting. The fireworks kept going off for every wave. Awesome.
Swim: 6:51am: My wave, with Gray caps 45-49, had 400+ guys. Crowded by manageable. The swim is a long single loop, with the swim out at an other beach about 1km away. I felt good going out. The first half was awesome. I swam on the inside of the buoys and had plenty of swim space. Smooth and easy sighting. A few bumps with guys, nothing too bad. I was gliding along pretty good, even passing some slow guys. At the turn, it all went south. About 35 minutes. Heavy chop arrived. I took a couple gulps and coughed. The older dudes and really fast ladies from the next waves starting plowing through. I got swam over and dunked. I gulped and coughed and threw up. I took a big breath, then re-focused, and took off and picked up the pace to get the hell out of dodge. The second half we were headed into the choppy water. Breathing was harder, and swimming straight was harder too. I got swam over again and drowned again, gulping, coughing, and throwing up. I spit it all out, took and deep breath, re-focused, and picked up the pace again. The paddle boarder lifeguards kept us on the outside of the buoys. I swam into one and they pushed my toward the buoy. I swam at a faster pace and shorter stroke than the fist half. As I swam to the final couple buoys, I could see the bottom with pipes and rebar and rocks. It was getting shallow and guys started standing up, but it was still really rocky. I swam over the rocks in until my knuckles were touching. Fortunately, there was mud and sand. I stood up and heard the roar of the crowd. It felt great to be done with the swim. I peaked at my Garmin and saw 1:25. I was stoked. I unzipped my wetsuit, peeled off the arms and ran a bit wobbly to the wetsuit strippers. The pulled off the legs and I gave them a big hug. I felt so excited and happy I actually ran on the red carpet to the Transition Area, which was a few hundred feet from the beach, across the street, through the parking lot.
T1: I grabbed my Bike Bag and went into the changing area. I dumped out the bag and made a big decision I would regret later. It was not raining at the time, I was trying to be optimistic. I stripped out of my tri top and bottom and put on my cycling jersey, cycling shorts, vest. I chose that set of clothes instead of my rain coat. I ran out of the tent grabbed my bike. I mounted and headed out.
Bike: The two loop course is marked in kilometers. It’s mostly miles and miles of rollers. At mile 8, it started sprinkling rain. By mile 10, the rain was horrendous. I was soaked to the bone in a matter of minutes. It rained for the rest of 100 miles / 7+ hours. There is one long climbing grade 15 mile. I made a potty stop at the top. Unexpectedly had another huge BM. That was weird, where was that coming from? All the descents were very sketchy / scary in the rain. Typically, I would love the descents and carry my momentum through the rollers, but hitting 45 mph in the rain was my fear limit. Plus, ladies were descending and they would typically brake pretty hard on the descents and wander left/right in front of you. My visibility was low through the whole bike. I had to keep blinking hard and wiping off my glasses. My left eye caught some road grit kicking up from the rain. My vision was blurry in that eye from about mile 20-112. I constantly blinked hard to get the rain out. We never ride in driving rain, so this was all new territory for me. My bike shoes are wide open, they flooded early on and just poured out water with every crank. My fingers were pruney all day. Zack caught up to me on the Media Moto and interviewed me for a couple minutes. His camera gear got completely soaked, when he asked me questions for a couple minutes. I was on the main hwy at that time, and it was pretty loud. Back on the hilly section at mile 45, I saw a severe crash, 3-4 riders down with bloody heads and mangled bikes. There were people running to their aid, so I kept going. This solidified the sketchy descents and I slowed down on the downhills. Although we had previewed the hilly section a couple days ago and I thought it was okay at that time, on race day, it was much harder. I felt my right quad to start to cramp. I never cramp on the bike. I took some extra Base Salt and crossed my fingers. Stomach felt fine. By the time I got to the top of the hilly section mile 50, two ambulances were coming down to scoop up the accident victims. It was raining very hard on the descent. Sometime during the bike, I saw GT, Amy, Luis, Trevor, and Allison. I stopped at several aid stations to refill my bottles and eat bananas. Mile 56 you ride make to transition and go out for the second loop. That was tough mentally to do it again. Second loop was the same, just harder and wetter. I kept my watts low on the first loop on purpose, with a target 120W, except on the hills. At the Special Needs Bike area, I reloaded my bottles with Perpetuem powder. Even in the rain, I kept on my nutrition plan, which was pill packets every hour, and half sandwich each hour. At the end of the bike, I was tired from the hills, but still felt good. My emotions were all over the place during the bike. I got mad at myself for not wearing the rain coat, but I wasn’t freezing too bad. Then, I had a premonition that I didn’t have run shorts in my Run Bag. I tried to remember putting them in the bag before drop off the day before. Panic set in. Then, I just kept driving forward. The power was dwindling as much as my spirits on the final hills.
T2: I dismounted my bike, and a volunteer took it and racked it. I took off my bike shoes and ran on the red carpet to the Transition Tent. I grabbed my Run bag and dumped everything on the ground and full panic set in when there were no run shorts and no socks. I had already taken off my soaking socks and cycling vest, jersey. I sat in disbelief. I swore I had packed them in there with extra clothes for all the options. I could not believe I had no dry run shorts and no dry socks. I put on a dry running shirt. I left my cycling shorts on, since that’s all I had. I didn’t have access to my tri shorts which were in the bike bag now and locked up. I stuffed my bare feet into my shoes and hoped for the best. At least the rain had stopped for a few minutes.
Run: I trotted out and waved happily to my friends. The happiness didn’t last long. Alas, at Mile 2 Medical tent, both my achilles were bleeding from rubbing without socks. I felt blisters starting on the balls of both feet. The lady at the first medical tent was retarded. Fortunately, there was another guy who knew what he was doing. He added Second Skin and Taped up my heels. I hit the next few medical tents between miles 2-9, and keep having the tape replaced as they would rub, bleed, and peel off. By mile 6, I was depressed and mad at myself. I went into very dark place. I was tired, my feet were bleeding and blistering. My butt developed a new saddle sore, because soaking wet cycling shorts chafe in new and horrible ways. At mile 13, you loop back in town, I was in a bad place mentally. I had already cried and yelled and said horrible things in my head. Yeah, the rain was bad, but I was blaming myself for making bad choices and screwing up the bag packing. I tried to sing a happy song, then it started to rain in the forest again. I was soaked to the bone. My shoes started filling up and I lost it again. Zack interviewed me at mile 13. It was bad. Hopefully, he doesn’t share much of that. I’m ashamed of what I said. After I left him, I felt even worse cause I couldn’t take back my words. I saw Jaime after special needs area. I said I needed a hug. I squeezed him tight and cried again. The loop goes through town and everybody is cheering, I felt a little better, until I had to peel off and go do the second loop. I saw Lynda coming into town as I was going out for the second loop. I gave her a hug and apologized for being stupid; she didn’t know anything I was talking about. It took me mile 14-26 to let it all go. I saw a lot of my friends on the run. They could see I was in a bad place. Deana was really sweet, she really cheered me up. I saw Tyler, GT, Alvin, Amy, Trevor, Gregg, Ben, Deanna, Tiffany. I knew I was lucky to still moving. I knew I wanted to be happy under any circumstances. I wanted to enjoy the end. I power walked miles 14-20. I kept a fast walk 14 min/mile. It was pitch black in the forest on the second loop. At mile 22, my groin and my abdominals gave out, I was down to a regular walking speed, they call it the Ironman shuffle. Mile 24 I could see the town square lit up and the roar of the crowd. I had plenty of time to beat the cut off. I kinda wondered why Lynda hadn’t caught up to me. At the final 1km, you run through the center of town, down the cobblestone path. Allison and Mike were cheering at that corner, I smiled and exhaled. I started to jog again. My bib has my name on it, and everyone who was lining the chute was yelling my name. High fives. I smiled and crossed the line to Mike Riley saying, “Joe Wong from South Pasadena, father of two, You Are An Ironman!”
END: An escort grabbed me and walked me out. He held me up, while they took off the timing chip. He leaned over and reminded me to turn off my Garmin. As soon as I hit the button, my Garmin blacked out and died. It had been “Low Battery” from mile 16-26. I was lucky to get the whole marathon data. That was my first marathon.
A few minutes later, Lynda crossed the line. I gave her a big hug and said I was happy again. Our friends were back and showered up. Ben, Bryan, GT, Luis, Deanna, Tyler. We took a bunch of official pictures together. It was great. Zack took more video there.
I dropped off my bike with TriBike Transport and hauled my bags of gear back to the hotel. As I stepped into the shower, my wife called to make sure I had finished. She had been watching the check points online from home in LA. The computer didn’t post the last two run check points, and she got worried that I didn’t finish. Even though it was really late, I needed to unwind. I went downstairs and gave Lynda a recap of my race. We commiserated with each other. We congratulated each other. We sat and thought about being Ironmans. GT and Luis stopped by too. I went to bed that night, still shaking off the big dark cloud, and trying to bring the big happy skies.
Day After: I was only sore high behind the calves. Walking was hard due to the popped the blisters on both feet. Sitting was hard, due to the saddle sores on my rear. We shuffled around a little that day. Rehydrating and stretching. Napping and packing. The highlight was a very nice steak dinner, and a couple of bottles of wine. After dinner, Alvin, Zack and I had a few more drinks and stuff to close out the celebrations. We ran into Tyler and Deanna and chatted with them in a very friendly state of mind. I drifted off that night in a happy fluffy bed.
Day 2 After: We drove back to Montreal and flew home.
There’s lot to learn from an Ironman. It’s still sinking in that I actually finished it. With all the preparation, I knew I would finish. There was never any doubt that we would finish. The adverse conditions and related decisions added twists and turns. There were so many details and opportunities for better or worse.
- Preparation pays off. All the long rides and long runs. All the early morning swims. They all paid off. I could trust that my arms would bring me in. I knew my bike handling skills in all conditions. I knew that running was moving forward. I want to thank Mike for having GRA master swim to keep improving my swim every Monday, Fridays. I want to thank Steve and Lynda for improving my running, every Thursday. I have to thank my friend Barry for having training discussion about the race last year and plotting out a race schedule to lead up to this event.
- Training with friends. I was a pleasure and a privilege to have so many friends racing at the same event. It’s incredibly unique to do a full Ironman see friends at almost every turn. I have to thank my friends at PTC and VOLT: Lynda, GT, Luis, Gregg, Amy, Deanna, Tyler, Ben, Trevor, Nicole.
- Know your gear. I love my ROKA wetsuit. It’s a huge improvement over my old used one. I could stretch way out there and breath much easier. I love my trusty black Cannonade Supersix bike. We have ridden over 7900 miles together, by now. I love my Altra shoes. I know with socks, that I would have had much fewer and less severe issues.
- Be honest with yourself. There was a lot of talk about what time I was expecting to finish. Those expectations came and went. Overall, I was happy with my swim and bike. The run was what it was. I expected it to suck, but not for these reasons and not that badly. I’m not disappointed with my finish time.
- Be easy on yourself and move on. I learned that the day will have its ups and down. Faced with rainy day choices, I made some bad decisions, and I had to live them those decisions and move on. It doesn’t do any good to stew on it for miles and miles. And, it certainly shouldn’t spoil the greatest moment of my athletic career. Even if the pain and suffering were direct results of my choices, it didn’t mean that I had to be angry and upset at the end.
- Celebrate and soak it in. It was an honor to celebrate everyone’s accomplishments on the same day. It was terrific that Scott, Jeff, Cheryl, Zack, Jo, Jaime and other loved ones came along to cheer and watch us. They shared pictures and videos. Soaking it in means adding all those experiences into my identity. Tyler said that, you’ll forever be known as an Ironman, from this day forward.
Wow. I’m an Ironman.
[I’ll add more official pictures and video, when I get them.]