Monthly Archives: March 2005

3rd Week Post Ironman

Still a bit off. Amazing that an Ironman could take so much out of you. Even marathons didn’t take that much out of me.
Swimming this morning still proved I am off the norm. Felt it in the lungs/chest on normal sprint sets whereas pre-Ironman I maintained speed and power. Running yesterday showed my HR on an easy jog to be 10-15 beats higher than normal.
It is interesting to note how much recovery an Ironman really takes. I definitely won’t push the body in this phase and let it recover back in its own time.
Thankfully, I am not putting on weight. I weighed 150 lbs. last night and was 151 lbs. on race morning. Looks like my metabolism is still up there.

Ironman NZ Recovery

Race Day + 1:
Sore and stiff in quads. Calves and hamstrings OK. Lungs experiencing that cool sensation of over-exertion and having been stressed for a long time. Legs very tight and hard to stretch out.
Race Day + 2:
A bit more sore and stiff in the quads. Usually I am less sore on the second day but seems like Ironman exertion has created more soreness instead.
Race Day + 3:
Quad sore/stiffness starts to fade. Unadvertised hike at end of caving experience of 2.5 km back to our van doesn’t help…! Hike was over hilly terrain tramping through sheep droppings. Definitely not recovered as body struggled to keep up and breath was very heavy and feeling it in lungs.
Race Day + 4:
Quad soreness almost gone.
Race Day + 5:
Quad soreness very slight. Flexibility is gaining.
Race Day + 6:
First day without over-exertion coolness sensation in lungs.
Coach says Ironman recovery could take as long as 4 weeks. Will start to build activity starting next week with swimming, and then biking. Running is last.
Definitely longer recovery time than for NYC Marathon. My soreness the next day was worst with knee aches, and then on 2nd day the soreness was gone. After marathon recovery took about 3 weeks with ramp up to Ironman NZ training late last November.
Next stop: 16 weeks to Vineman Half Ironman end of July.

Ironman NZ 2005 Post Race

Now it’s Wednesday and it’s 4 days past the big day. I am late in posting this due to activities and travelling around NZ, but here it is.
Sunday after the race, I manage to get my sore, stiff bod up early so that we can get down to the Ironman NZ store and pick up our cool Finisher wear. My other race buddy and I drop back from the other two people since our legs aren’t functioning that well and wish they would slow down. Oh well. It is good to get up and move around. Gotta get blood circulating down into the legs to flush out the lactic acid remaining from the race.
Amazingly, my knees and IT band do not ache. I only feel stiff and sore from lactic acid buildup in the muscles. As I race more, my body is definitely adapting to the stresses and I am glad for that.
I spend way too much money on t-shirts, jackets, hats, etc since everything is ridiculously marked up for this event. But, it is my first Ironman so I want to get some cool things to wear back home as now I am part of the Iron Club.
We then head for the Ironman Championships Qualification Roll-down meeting. Sometimes a race will have slots which will get you automatically into the Ironman Championships in Kona in October. It is the race that everyone wants to be in and competition to get in is tremendous. The only way I can get in is if I manage to get a roll-down slot from those who are ahead of me in finishing time, but do not want to go.
I have watched the Kona race twice and it is REALLY tough due to the extra heat, humidity, and devastating wind that whips up from the ocean and blows across the lava fields. Last year, there were 20-30 MPH winds lashing at the racers. Winds like that really test your strength and training. It is truly the ultimate Ironman out of all of them, and the ultimate test. I hope to get in so that I can race.
But alas, to no avail, no roll-down slots make it far enough down to me. I will try to qualify again at Vineman Half Ironman in August.
As you may have surmised by now, I am hooked on Ironman. Saturday after the race, I really thought Ironman was a ridiculous thing to have done and how could I ever want to do this again. Yet the morning after, I know that this was a momentary reaction to the stresses of the event. I am part of the Iron Club now and don’t want to leave.
What is it about Ironman that makes me want to keep doing them?
Certainly there is the basic benefits of maintaining and improving one’s health and fitness doing an enjoyable activity. How many people in the world are as fit as those who train seriously for the Ironman?
My coach is fond of saying that Ironman is a metaphor for life, and that during the course of training and the race itself, you go through physical and mental trials mirrored in real life. I like this aspect because it gives me confidence, knowing that I can apply the same principles in being successful getting through an Ironman and its training to other areas of my life, such as being successful as a father or entrepeneur or in relationships.
Conquering obstacles is paramount to finishing Ironman, and one can draw similarities between Ironman and how we solve all the problems that exist in all our lives. I think about my resolve disappearing with 3 km to go. How many of us have experienced the same despair? Did we conquer that despair or did we let it dominate us? The same despair exists in Ironman; do we have the fortitude to get past this despair and get to the finish line or do let it consume us and we drop out of the race?
The support I got during the race was phenomenal. I once again thank all the people who came to cheer me and my fellow racers on. They had an Ironman level workout running around doing all there supporting! And yet, when I receive this support I feel good and feel that there are others out there willing to give me, and that it is ok to receive it and use its energy and enthusiasm to do the impossible. As I experience this, I like to examine the feelings I have inside regarding this support and learn how to open up and acknowledge it more, and find ways to gather support for other aspects of life.
Then there is the challenge of doing something we could not before. Humans are pioneers in spirit; we are really good at pioneering externally – building, exploring, travelling to the unknown. But here, I believe Ironman is pioneering internally. It is exploring what you really can do and breaking down mental barriers and beliefs which prevent you from doing them.
Racing Ironman is like taking the ultimate test. We all have beliefs ingrained in us from people and situations in our past which put limitations on ourselves. It is about personal growth and breaking through those barriers which have been around so long.
Ironman is about perfecting our technique, certainly in our racing, but also taking that out to all areas of our lives, and thus we become more resilient and better people in general.
This is what I believe about Ironman. This is why I will continue to race Ironman, in the hopes that I will continue to improve and grow, and to not stagnate in life.

Ironman NZ 2005 Race Day Report!!!

Early morning I wake up at 350a and start eating. I have 3 hard boiled eggs and half a bagel. I go to the bathroom and “purge” so that i don’t have to “purge” on the race. I recheck some of the gear and pack up a backpack to carry it all in. I stretch completely and use my little roller to work out any remaining knots in my legs. It also helps get blood circulation going as well.
We go to race area and I get bodymarked with my race number 861 on my right calf. I go to my bike and check everything once again. It’s got all this condensation from being outside all night and I cringe about the rust forming on my beautiful steel bike. The rows of bikes racked up is awesome. A small fortune sits before me in those bikes and i love looking at the high-tech (expensive) hardware.
I realize I forgot a towel in my T1 bag and I go put it in there.
My friends and I are ready and go to the changing tent to put on our wetsuits. They have this flame throwing heater thing which looks pretty scary, so we back up a bit from it as we don’t want to burst into flame. We are thankful for its warmth though. We rub bodyglide all over our bodies and slip on our wetsuit over our tri-wear.
Heading for the Beach
We’re ready to go. We exit T1 and the changing rooms and head down to the Yacht Club where race start is. I still am apprehensive of the swim as my previous swim time really sucked. I get into the water and start doing some easy laps to warm up. Other bobbing heads join me. I position myself in the middle of the pack near the deep end, so that I have the greatest possibility of finding someone to draft behind. Conserving energy is my number 1 concern on this race.
There is an Indy 500 like light countdown. It has 3 lights and the lights go off one by one as we get closer to race start. As the last light goes out, a cannon goes “BOOM” and its a free for all start, my favorite kind of swim race start. A mass of white capped people starts stroking fast and pulling away from me. I get kicked in the face and my right goggle lens gets stuck to my eyeball.. How annoying, but I keep stroking. I start finding people to draft behind and weave back and forth shifting from person to person, because I am not sure everyone knows where they are going. I can’t see the buoys marking the course and I feel like I’m swimming in a zig-zag. Every now and then I do see one and I steer for it, again trying to draft behind whomever I can latch onto.
Thank god for the turn-around. I finally reach the turnaround the buoy and it comes faster than I thought.
On the way back can’t see buoys even more than before. They told us during the race briefing that there would be yellow buoys on the return leg. Nope – don’t see any. Only hot orange buoys. But then, I saw hot orange buoys on the way out and think I am back following the first row of buoys on the outward leg again. I can only hope that the others around me know where they are going.
Soon I see the Yacht Club and breathe a sigh of relief. I see the beach and the swim exit point. I steer for that and go full bore for it. I am out of the water at 1:13 which I am very happy about.
Run to T1, the Swim to Bike Transition
I unzip my wetsuit and whip my arms out. We jog from the beach across the parking lot, cross a street, and then up some stairs to T1 area. It feels like a long way but that’s life. I grab my T1 bag and head for the changing tent. A volunteer comes over, sits me down and in my yank, pulls my wetsuit off me. Another dumps my T1 bag of stuff and then shoves my swim stuff back into the bag.
I grab my socks and bike shoes and put them on, my race number belt is buckled around my waist, smear some suntan lotion on my shoulders and back, and then hand my T1 bag to a volunteer and head out the door. I run into a porta-loo aka bathroom, and then grab my bike and head for the exit.
Heading for Bike Loop One
I remind myself that I need to keep to efficient cycling and to not make power moves to wipe out my legs. It is a long way to T2 and again I need to conserve energy. I take off down the main Taupo road along the lake and head for the first big hill. I ease up it, spinning for efficiency and I crest it no problem. After going over it, it’s really smooth sailing. The road is gentle rolling hills and there is little or no wind. It’s a beautiful day for riding and my spirits feel good from the swim.
I go into cruise mode and soon I’m doing 20+ MPH the whole way to the turnaround. I start eating my Balance Bars, one bite every 15 min, and start popping salt tablets every half and hour.
I pass tons of support signs which are attached to posts staked into the ground. They are great to read and I wonder if I’ll see some made from my friends. Some of them are silly and some of them touching. They are a nice companion on the ride as I head for the turnaround.
I think about strange things out there. I think about my life, my recent personal issues and attempts to resolve them, think about my daughter/family/friends, I think about my bike, my fears on the race like dropping a water bottle or losing all my nutrition or packing the wrong stuff in the wrong bag. I flip back and forth between random thoughts and focused race thoughts.
All of a sudden, the ABBA song “Dancing Queen” starts playing in my head and I can’t get it to stop. It takes me until the turnaround to get it out of my head.
I get behind a big peloton and can’t pass because they are all over the lane. This is a big no-no as there are no drafting rules in effect. They don’t spread out and sure enough a race referee rides by on his scooter and tells about 8 of them to stand down for a one minute drafting penalty. I am glad to see them pull off the road because now I can pass, and I whiz by them.
I finally reach the turnaround and think this is better than I thought. But it’s still cold from the morning and I’m a bit chilled. I pull out an energy gel and try to open it but my fingers are totally numb. I try for a while and then I fumble the gel and drop it. Dang it. Every competitors’ nightmare is to drop all your nutrition. I fear that I can’t refuel because my fingers can’t get warmed up.
Thankfully, about 10 minutes later, they thaw out enough so that I can open the next gel and suck it down.
The return leg is slower but then it was a slight downhill all the way to the turnaround. I’m still doing 19 MPH so I’m ok. I reach the first big hill and do a big screaming down hill to town. I almost make the wrong turn to go back to the loop, but the official corrects me and sends me on the right path. I make it back to Taupo and I zoom past my friends, almost without me knowing it. They yell encouragement but I’m all down in aero tucked position and pedaling comfortably into the turnaround and I head out on Loop 2 of the bike course.
I got back to Taupo in a little over 3 hours and that makes me feel good because I’m on track for a 6 hour bike and haven’t wiped my legs.
Bike Loop 2: Wind Picks Up Out of Nowhere
I hit the big hill again and as I crest, I pick up my special needs bag with two water bottles. I stop and toss my old ones, sticking my new ones into my bottle cages and off I go.
But as I hit the same road as before, I realize the wind has picked up in a big way. On this road I was doing 20-25+ MPH, now I’m barely doing 18-19 MPH. It trashes my time on the second leg because I’m tired and I won’t do any power moves, so I can’t make speedy headway against the wind because I don’t want to risk the marathon after. Later in the loop, my speed cranks down to 8-13 MPH. UGH.
I finish my third Balance Bar (usually I have 2) because I know I’ll need the calories for later. I also wolf down a banana later in the ride. It’s important to eat now on the bike and get calories into my stomach before it can’t process solid calories later in the race because it tends to shut down after hours and hours of physical exertion.
I start tossing water bottles as I finish them and start grabbing the cool Pro4/Ironman NZ bottles for my friends. A kiwi rides by and comments, “hey mate, you could ride a lot faster if you threw away some weight (the 3 full water bottles).” I tell him that my bike time is thrashed so I might as well bring home some souvenirs for my friends. He laughs and rides on.
Somewhere about 25% of the way through Bike Loop 2, my feet start hurting like crazy. It sucks because I still have 2 hours (I hope) to go. I gut through the pain but by the time I return, my feet are throbbing with pain.
My second bike leg was about 3:45, a whole 45 minutes more than I planned because of that wind which seemed to be hitting my head the whole time.
Onto the Run
I am thankful to enter T2 after such a grueling ride into the wind. I make a mental note to myself to keep working hard on the bike to improve my strength in handling hilly and windy situations.
I pull in and someone grabs my bike. As I run to grab my T2 bag, my right hamstring starts cramping. This raises fears in me since I have big problems with cramping and still haven’t solved them completely. I relax and the cramp doesn’t fully develop but I am watchful for it.
I pull off my bike shoes, put on my run shoes, my fuel belt, turn my race number around to my front, and I’m off to another porta-loo stop.
I do notice that my quads don’t feel tight at all, which they usually do after a long ride and which causes cramping there too. Also, I am glad that the switch from bike shoes to run shoes seems to remove the pain my feet.
After the porta-loo, I quickly head out onto the run course.
Back out on to the Race Course
I decide to jog the first loop to conserve energy. Having never done an Ironman before, I had no gauge of how my energy stores were doing after that bike, and I was determined not to run on fumes near the end. I also am wary of burning through my energy early on and then I start cramping when I get tired. I want none of that!
Despite my disappointing 2nd Bike Loop, my spirits are relatively high.
At the first aid station, I try Pepsi. WHOA. What a power boost! I decide to try Pepsi at every aid station. Very bad move in general to change your nutrition mid-race, but I thought I would give it go nonetheless.
As I run, I start wondering about my jog pace and realize i need to figure out the conversion from km to miles and apply that to time pace. Geez. too much math but I somehow figure out i’m going about 7min/km which is probably around 10:30min/mile.
I also realize that the run course is kind of hilly and it will be a challenging path to complete the marathon leg of the Ironman. I keep on jogging.
I am thankful for the support along the way. People can see my name which is on my race number and shout encouragement. I smile back and say thank you.
I also see signs made by my friends. By the way the big sign in the printing shop window was made by my friends. I guess I wasn’t supposed to see it! But now it’s hanging on the side of the road and I’m glad for the mental boost it gives me. I also see other signs made for my friends who are also racing.
Every support station, I drink pepsi, and also grab water which I dump on myself to keep cool. The Taupo sun is intense and it is refreshing to have water splashed on my head. I gel every 45 min, and take salt tablets every half an hour. So far so good. No lows in energy yet, so I cruise the first leg of the run course.
I think about all the Pepsi I am drinking and think this can’t be healthy. But my coach says it’s like rocket fuel and i definitely believe him now. My head is clear and my body feels good and all I’m drinking is flat Pepsi. Go figure.
My heart rate is moderated and right in range. I can see how the months of training have helped this aspect. I keep pace and my HR is in the right place. I am glad to see that my heart rate has not shot up into lactate threshold range, signalling eminent flame out.
I do worry about hyponatremia, because my stomach is really full of fluid right now. I also wonder if I will puke my guts out soon because it does feel really full with all the Pepsi I have taken in, as well as salt tablets and energy gels. I ignore the thought for now and keep moving.
By the time i hit the run turnaround, I realize that this is a pretty tough rolling hills course. Lots of long hills and I am not looking forward to the second repeat loop.
I get back into town and move onto the second loop.
Last run leg, almost home
I seem to feel pretty good, so I pick up pace. I can’t help but start computing my finish time, so as I pass my friends I shout my finish time spread to them of 12:50 to 13:20. And then I’m past them and keep moving.
I start passing people as later finishers of the bike leg start run loop 1. I also start running up hills; hard for me in past, but I gain confidence when I dont cramp on the hills. I’m still drinking Pepsi like it’s going out of style and really worried about my stomach. It feels full of fluid and I slow down on the gulping down of coke. Now I grab two waters. One to dump on me, one to take 2 mouthfuls and swish around and spit out because my mouth is all gummy from drinking so much Pepsi. My stomach, although full, is thankfully stable and I don’t puke my guts out like so many people I’ve heard about before. Probably about 40% of Ironman competitors have digestive problems of some sort in a race. I don’t want to have any and hope I don’t. I keep moving.
I run through some soakings from garden hoses and it feels good and refreshing. But one splashing drenched my front and i realize that my salt tab zip lock bag is probably wet! Ziplocks are supposed to seal water out but I know they aren’t that great. I then realize the inside of my salt tab bag has drops of water in there and I pray that they don’t melt. Later, some of them do melt and I hope that I can still eat them. One has already completely melted and running out of them before finish would be very very bad. I need them to help manage my electrolyte loss during heavy exertion and preventing cramping of the muscles.
I make it thru 32 km or 20 mile mark easily – this is the classic wall that people hit. Maybe its the fact that it’s the metric system and that my body can’t figure out when it was supposed to hit the wall (Hahah).
I make it back to town and an incredible sunset is waiting for me above the lake, probably the best i’ve seen all week. I think its a fitting end to an incredible day.
But then it happens. I hit the last 6 km and it gets really tough. I start looking at each lamppost and tree and just saying to myself I just need to reach that tree or post. With about 3 km to go, I hit the main road along the lake, and all of my resolve evaporates. I start to run-walk to keep moving. My brain is just saying “Dave why don’t you just sit down and stop.” I do not know if I can break through this but I keep moving nonetheless.
Strangely when i walk, my quads start to cramp but when I run, the cramps go away. Maybe this is some higher power telling me that I need to run to the finish or else my legs will seize up in excruciating pain…?
I get my energy back around 800m left. I see people there and don’t want to seem like wimp walking to the finish! Somehow I gain new energy, and I start sprinting big time.
I sprint to the finish line and put my fists into the air for a great finish line picture. The camera guy is still waiting there and I think, “what’s he freakin’ waiting for?” because I’m tired and can’t hold my hands up much longer! He finally snaps the shot. But I was robbed – the announcer didn’t say, “Dave Shen, you are an Ironman!” What a pisser.
I finish in 13:06. I am proud to say that I landed right in the middle of my finish time prediction that I gave my friends at the beginning of run loop 2! Ha! Prior to the race, I also thought that I would finish in 13 hours but there are so many variables you can’t predict which are out of your control. If the second bike loop hadn’t been windy, I could have come in 45 minutes earlier. If I bonked on the run and ran on fumes, my 4:50 marathon could have been much worse. As I have said before and now truly believe, once you start, you are as much in the hands of fate as you are in your training and race preparation.
I must say that was the hardest thing I did. Two things really made it hard. I was really feeling good on the first bike loop and was hoping for repeat performance on the second. But when the wind picked up, it cranked my speed down so far. I don’t have enough strength yet on the bike and I need to emphasize to my coach that I need to build more strength for cranking against the wind.
The second was losing all resolve near the last 3 km. I was ready to stop but forcing myself to keep going was incredibly hard. Plus I’ve never done anything so physically demanding continuously for this long. My brain hasn’t gotten used to this yet. I think about Cameron Brown, the men’s pro winner who did it in 8:21 (as i start my 2nd run loop, I pass the finish line and hear the announcer announce his finish!). It motivates me to train and get my time down. Who wants to be out there for 13 hours!
I guess that’s why they call it Ironman and not Flower man or Easy man or Simple man. Ironman is a hard trial and isn’t for everyone, but now I’m glad to be part of this special international family.
Finisher’s Tent
I get to the finisher’s tent and get the medical check. They weigh me and I lost only 2.4 kg which is good. So I think that although my stomach was really full, it kept me from losing too much fluid so I suppose I did the right thing.
I get the free massage, and eat to get carbo recovery going. I drink more Pepsi and haven’t seemed to have gotten sick of it yet. I take a swig of Accelerade in my Fuel Belt and promptly spit it out. It went bad from the time I took the last swig to now! I could have thrown up on the course from drinking that!
I find my friends and have a late night meal, as well as a freezing but good ice bath. We all relax a bit and talk over the day.
I get home to take a shower. I chuck my sneakers – all my stuff really smells bad! We head back out again to see friends come in. There is great excitement at the finish line where we watch my friends’ finishes. Music is blaring and everyone is yelling and screaming. I firmly believe the true Ironmen are the people who finish after 15, 16 or right before the course closes at 17. It was hard enough to keep going at 13 hours, and I admire their ironwill to make it to the finish line after that many hours of being out there, stiff and in pain.
I want to say thanks to my supporters – they took phenomenal pics, running back and forth to grab equipment and clothes and food and ice, and driving all of us around. I also want to say thanks to my coach M2 for getting me ready for this huge effort and thanks to my ART team at Team Clinic for keeping my body together and making it to the race minus injuries.
I am not sure I will do it again. I complain to my friends jokingly, “What was I thinking?!?!? You were supposed to talk me out of it!” But somehow I know I will.
Tomorrow, I head for the qualification for the championships in Kona roll-down meeting at 2pm. If I get in, I will definitely go. Tiny chance, but funnier things have happened. Besides I’ve already started looking at the list of ironmans to sign up for. I must be getting to enjoy pain….
I am not looking forward to tomorrow since I am sure my body will not be too good. I am happy to have walked away from it. Early in my triathlon career, I would do a race and literally limp away from it in pain. Tonite, I am stiff and sore, but I can walk. Others who have finished don’t look so good. Some have collapsed due to the super-long exertion and are taken away to the medical tent.
Pain or no, I am now an Ironman and I am content.

Ironman NZ 2005 EVE Friday 3-4-05

Ironman NZ Friday 3-4-05
I wake up early and open the curtains. Pea soup fog resides over Lake Taupo with an amazingly strong breeze.
I remember swimming Alcatraz during relatively heavy fog conditions. The fog, if floating lazily above the water, is a welcome sight for Alcatraz swimmers as it means that there is no wind and the water is relatively calm. Of course if the fog is floating right on the water, then we don’t go because we can’t see where we’re going. Very bad.
The fog over the lake worries me, as well as the breeze so early in the morning. If it is pea soup like now, I doubt the race directors will start the race as we won’t be able to see the buoys. And the wind itself will be a big hinderance on the bike, as well as whip up waves in the lake during the swim. We can only hope that the conditions will improve by tomorrow.
This morning I double check my gear. I may go out for a ride but that may end up just being a quick run. 9am we have a mandatory race briefing so I cook breakfast and wait to walk over with my friends. After breakfast, I go for a quick bike. It is definitely chilly out there, but I know I should be ok in the race. After exitting the swim, I am usually all keyed up and my HR is racing so I probably won’t feel too cool out there until the sun comes out.
A geeky thought goes through my head. One of these days I need to figure out how to mount a mini-video camera on my body and let it record the whole event from my view. That would be REAL COOL. It would probably catching me cursing, eating, pee-ing, humming “Gonna Fly Now” through the whole race….ha!
We head over to the mandatory race briefing. They go over the rules one more time and then add more detail, like what color the buoys will be and how the swim start will begin. So much info, but I can’t remember hardly any of it. The only thing I do remember is that the weather report says it’s going to be beautiful tomorrow. Unfortunately, that also means that the sun will be really intense and I probably will get a little burnt. At least it won’t be raining. That is a good thing. Supposedly light breezes only as well. That should help generate really fast times especially for us weaker bikers.
By the time the race briefing starts, the fog has disappeared breaking away into a beautiful sunny Taupo day.
After race briefing, I go for a quick run. Things feel pretty good. A few tight spots but I’ll work on those late afternoon.
I get back to my room and check over my bags one more time. Somehow I feel that something more should be in there, but I can’t think of anything. The bags seem kind of empty to me, but maybe that’s just me. I go over to the bags check-in and drop those and my bike off. I never like the day before check-in. I always wonder if I forgot something. If I have, I’m sunk. But we’ll see.
I feel so fatalistic now. Everything seems so much in the hands of some higher power: the weather, my physical condition, did I pack the right stuff?, will I drop all my nutrition on the bike, etc. etc. All I can do now is sit back, have a big bowl of pasta, and get a good night’s rest.
I know I put in the time. I know my fitness is there. I do need to pace correctly and not burn out and run on fumes at the end. It’s always the run that gets me – don’t know how hard I can go on the bike to leave some fuel in me for the run. What else can happen – the wind picks up and the bike split goes haywire. For me, the bike is the critical juncture – to save enouigh energy for the run.
Later, I head over to my friends’ room and have a huge pasta meal. I keep shovelling down until I can’t eat no more. It is a pleasant evening over Lake Taupo. The sun is setting over the lake and it is a fitting end to an excitement-growing day.
I sit with my friends for a moment and go over tomorrow’s plan. I ask for some pictures to be taken, and the super important recording of the announcer saying, “Dave Shen You..Are…AN IRONMAN!!!!” (Hahah!). We coordinate a bit for after the race, and then we are all set.
I am also incredibly happy for my friends’ presence at this race. People have done it alone and it’s tough when others can’t come for various reasons on your behalf. I was ready to do this alone because in truth this was about my personal journey and something I needed to do. But as race day approaches, I realize that finishing Ironman can require every ounce of support you can get from within or without.
Having someone on the sidelines yell support at you when every fiber of your being is saying quit will be re-energizing and probably necessary. It’s also a rush when you run or bike by and you see a sign saying “Go Dave #861 go!” – even a bigger rush than when I hum “Gonna Fly Now” to myself!
I won’t forget their support for me on this very important day of my life, and again I thank them profusely for coming all the way to New Zealand to cheer me on. I can only hope to reciprocate someday in the future.
Next morning, I schlep all my swim stuff down to the beach and….jump in to prepare for start! Stay tuned!

Ironman NZ 2005 Thursday 3-3-05

When my buddies from San Jose arrived, I’ve been mostly hanging out with them. It’s been great having them around as they’ve done the race before and have been giving me lots of tips. In the morning, we head over to registration and already by 845am there is a long line to get our race bags. I hand in my picture, which they seem to make super important but yet they just throw into this box with a hundred other pictures. I get a red wristband with my race number written on it and it stays on until after the race. The wristband admits me to the carbo load party as well as into the transition areas so that I can change or pick up my things. I get weighed and I weigh 69 kilos, which I guess is 151.8 lbs. Very low weight for me and in the last few weeks, although I feel that I’ve been munching continuously, I have gotten down to my fighting weight. This is even with sneakers and clothes on too! I am glad I did not balloon out, which just means extra pounds of fat to carry with me to the finish line. Waste of energy!
We wander through the sports expo where there are sponsors with booths. We grab some Ecuadorian micro bananas from the Bonita Bananas booth, the main sponsor of the event. Very tasty! I guess they have extra small monkeys in Ecuador, to have evolved such tiny sweet bananas!
After registration, we head to the beach for a quick swim. VERY SCARY. Today the wind had picked up in the morning, which is unusual because every other day it has been very calm. There were 2′-3′ swells out there.
I once swam an Alcatraz swim in those conditions. I remember the water being somewhat calm in the beginning, but once we got out about half way between Alcatraz and Aquatic Park, the water started getting real choppy. You wonder if you’re even moving forward because the waves are tossing you around. Several people get seasick due to the motion. Not pretty. Don’t want extra one-time edible stuff out there to attract sharks! Every breath you take you wonder if a wave will wash over your face and give you a mouthful of salty water – yeeech. It drains you because you try to keep moving but the waves keep sweeping you around. Amazingly, you still move forward even if you can barely feel it. Sighting – when you occasionally stick your head up to make sure you’re moving the right direction – is very difficult as you float up and down between the waves. You need to time your head going up at the top of the wave so that you get a quick look before swimming a few more strokes. And all the while, you’re expending more energy than in calmer conditions and always wondering if you’ll burn out before hitting the beach.
Today was just such a day on Lake Taupo. At least when you’re out there with a few hundred other racers, it doesn’t feel so lonely. But I quickly lost my two swimming buddies within the waves and tried to remain calm and stroke. Upon clearing the beach, it was a bit easier because the shallow waves caused the waves to rise higher and break. Still very tough swimming and glad to have made it back to the beach.
I wonder if race day will be like this. I am sure they will pull people from the water. But at least I know that I’ve swam in these conditions and while tough, I know how to survive and keep moving. I am still worried about being those waters for 2.4 miles though….
We get cleaned up and eat. On the way back, I pick up an extra Memory Stick (one I brought didn’t work!), some suntan lotion as well. I head back to do laundry and take a shower.
Later in the day, we head back to the tents for the carbo load party. On the way there, I look to my left on a street at a printing shop. In the window was a sign that said, “Go #861, DAVE SHEN, Stopping is Not an Option”. Wow! What a pick me up! My spirits rise as I snap a few shots and remind myself to stop in the store tomorrow and say hi. Maybe they will give me the sign after the race! I think they must have seen the message I wrote on this T-shirt in a small department store where they try to get all the competitors to sign it each year. I wrote the exact same message on the T-shirt and they chose to print it to help sell their printing services to create signs for spectators.
Those signs are great. It helps you locate your supporters and also it is an incredible boost as you’re struggling to the finish line and then you see a sign on the side saying, “GO DAVE GO”, and you smile, wave back, and some of your energy returns knowing there are people out there supporting you and encouraging you to the finish line. My friends will be doing the same and I am glad for it.
At the carbo load party, there are some pre-race festivities like a Maori performance and a parade of nations. Certainly amazing that people from so many nations come to compete. We run for a large table as we have a party of 10 or so who will sit with us. We load up on pasta and food and eat. Then some announcements from our race directors. They show us people who have done an incredible number of Ironmans. One Japanese guy has done 53 Ironmans! Unbelievable! And there are 2 people who have done 20 Ironman NZs, which is every year since its inception in 1984. They bring the pro field up. They are an interesting bunch and it will be exciting to watch them, so I remind myself to tell my friends to make sure they watch the pros come in.
Last, Greg Welch, Ironman competitor and announcer, gets up on stage and gives us a few words of encouragement. He gives us 3 amazing ironman stories which have always inspired me:
Julie Moss 1982 – She is in the lead of the women field and as she hits the finish chute, she collapses, her body all but spent and out of control. She tries to get up but can’t. But the finish line is so close and she wants it BAD. The second place woman comes up and passes her. That prompts her to crawl. Her face is a grimace of determination as she puts one hand in front of the other and doggedly makes her way to the finish line. Even with the crawl, she comes in second. But I think she really is the top finisher. It is an incredible series of photos to see. Her crawl is the crawl that put Ironman on the map. It is her crawl which so accurately described the iron will of the competitors to reach that finish line at all costs.
Paul Newby Fraser 1995 – Queen of Kona, she is the top seed for the women. All race week she is beset by reporters hounding her about how she will do, will she win, etc. The pressure breaks her resolve. About a few hundred meters from the finish chute, she is way out in front. But then, she just collapses and sits down on the road. She cannot go on. The pressure just wore her down the will to go on just evaporates. Nothing will move. She just sits there and weeps. Other competitors pass her. But then something changes, she gets up and walks to the finish line, learning a valuable lesson which was to not let the pressure get to you. It can be tremendous. And that the battle is truly between you and yourself, not everyone else out there. It is what Ironman is all about.
Shawn Welch, Wendy Inagraham 1997 (I think I have the year right, but let me know if I did not) – Shawn Welch in the lead and hits the finish chute. But something happens. One minute she’s running, the next minute she just collapses. Her body has lost all control. Her legs will not support her. Her arms are flailing about, her balance gone. She tries to rise but can’t. The second place woman, Wendy Inagraham is running and makes it up to her. But somehow, there is some psychic field around Shawn which touches Wendy. She collapses next to her, limbs flailing. They both lay there unable to control their bodies. But then, something recovers in Wendy. She realizes that even though she cannot get up to run, she can still get to the finish line. She starts crawling, crosses the finish line, and claims first place ahead of Shawn. This is the second best crawl in Ironman history!
Truly unbelievable stories. I, too, hope to have some great stories to tell after race day is over. But, as Greg Welch calls it the “Dance of a Thousand Headless Monkeys”, I really hope I don’t do the same dance that Julie, Shawn and Wendy did so many years ago, when your body has been pushed beyond its limits and at some point the brain and body just shut down, your limbs go whipping about, your balance gone, and you collapse uncontrollably to the ground.
After the carbo load party, I get to my room to do some pre-race preparation as I need to check in some stuff tomorrow. I attach race numbers to my bike and race belt. I get out my nutrition, fluids and electrolytes. I put things into the right bags and get all my clothes ready to go. I put some reflective dots on my race jersey and one of my friends remarks that it looks like a disco suit! I just hope the reflectors don’t ruin my race pictures… The pre-race preparation is a welcome activity usually the night before but in this case two nights before race day. I mentally go over my check list on everything I’ll need for race day and for the transitions.
I talk with my friends and plan on how and where to take pictures. One person will video my finish. How cool is that! I also ask my friends to use my digital recorder to record the cry that we all want to here as I cross the finish line: “Dave Shen, YOU…ARE…AN IRONMAN!!!!”
Also, I am happy to feel some of the annoying knots in my legs start to unwind finally. I hope they are all gone by race day. One more day and then…IRONMAN.

Ironman NZ Wednesday 3-2-05

Again another glorious morning in Taupo. Starting to sound like a broken record I think!
I awoke early today, almost time zone changed completely at around 4am. I do not want to sleep in too much as race morning I will be up early to prepare for the race. I bring out my little MIDI keyboard and practice a bit of piano. However, as I practice, unbidden thoughts of uncertainty and fear arise in my mind about the race.
Yesterday I swam really slow by my standards. I also have a new wetsuit now which hasn’t stretched to fit me yet, and is a bit constrictive about the chest. It is a bit hard to inhale, which I wonder might have affected my performance yesterday. And on race day, that distance will stretch almost another 4 times. I also have some knots in my quads which have been nagging me the entire training period. Part of me wants to just take a few days off and maybe that’s the smart thing, but I also want to go out onto the course and familiarize myself with it. And perhaps gain a bit more confidence.
I’ve been thinking about uncertainty and fear of…performing. Of what my friends will think. Of how my body will react and behave under such stress. Of what my coach will think. Of quitting in the middle. Of my bike getting flats. Of forgetting yet something else. Or the worst – of how I will judge myself.
A lot of these feelings have always been minimized by me, as in years past I have been a supremely confident person. No wall high enough, no barrier strong enough. I always knew I could find a way, an answer. As Mr. Spock of Star Trek fame once said, “There are always possibilities.” I’m such a geek to quote Mr. Spock, but the spirit of that statement and the context in which it was presented always inspired me, even if it was science fiction. No matter what situation Spock and Kirk were in, they always found a solution, even if it meant bending, breaking, or rewriting the rules.
But in these last few years, doubt, uncertainty, and fear have slowly crept into my being on variety of fronts. How funny that as I approach probably the most arduous of physical and mental trials in Ironman, that I think more deeply about these feelings.
In my life coaching, the book I am reading “A Path With Heart” talks about these feelings and acknowledging them, embracing them, and then they don’t seem so bad. I apply that here and it seems to be working, and the thoughts seem to dwindle a bit.
But also, I shift two more things. I was thinking about hitting a time goal of 13 hours. Instead, I shift to “Have fun and finish!” The pressure of achieving is totally unnecessary and only serves to distract me.
The other mental shift was realizing that everything I feel is just a state of mind. We all have total control over what we want to feel and what we don’t want to feel or what we let bother us. So applying the principles in “A Path With Heart” along with this principle, I acknowledge the negative feelings, and then just let them go. They are free to wander about my mind, but I do not let them dominate my thoughts and know that I will focus only on the race itself and getting from one stage to another, and just enjoy the ride.
I also know that Ironman is truly about exitting the comfort zone. Whenever we exit the comfort zone, uncertainty, fear and doubt always easily come out. But it is also when we exit the comfort zone that growth can truly take place.
Next confidence boost: Today I learn there is a damn current in the lake which was flowing quite strongly yesterday during the swim! I have no doubt that was what slowed me down quite a bit. I also heard they will close the dam on the river into which the lake flows into so that the current will be minimized. So maybe I don’t suck as much as I thought….!
Biked at 11am with my tour group. We cruised the run path to the turnaround and came back. Lots of rolling hills, and at least the hills didn’t seem short, choppy, and steep, but rather long and gradual. Could be killer after biking 112 miles…!
Man are the roads funky here. They use some sort of crushed gravel mixed with tar which creates this annoying vibration in your hands all ride long.
I am also worried about the wide variance in temperatures. When we get out of the water, it may be 55-60 degrees. By mid-day, it will climb into the mid-70s. I have arm warmers for the morning but hopefully the excitement of the race will warm my body and it won’t bug me too much.
The next crazy thing is that the bike course is not closed to traffic, and around here that means these double-length logging trucks roll by at 60 MPH and they wind they create is immense. It is really nerve wracking to have these guys barrel past you when there is practically no shoulder.
But the most crazy thing is the fact that I ride on the left hand side of the road, with passing on the right. Everything is reversed from the US! I hope I don’t zone out out there and forget which side of the road I’m supposed to be on. Today, I seem to be getting more used to it, but I concentrate quite heavily when riding.
Even crossing the road is challenging and knowing which side to look. In London, they mark the near the sidewalk “Look Right” so that foreigners know which way to look for oncoming traffic. No such markings here.
The Ironman expo is in full swing. I went over there and probably bought way too many things! And I better finish now or else I’ll feel funny wearing Ironman NZ ’05 gear. Cool hats, shirts, bike jersey and tri-shorts. Very nice.
Again, still a beautiful day in Taupo. All of us pray that the weather holds until Saturday.
First Note:
One of the funniest things about triathlon is the tan lines you get. Swimming in speedos in the sun gets you the cool euro tan, but when you wear a race singlet or jersey and are out there all day, you’ll get weird overlapping patterns of tan no matter how much sunscreen you put on, not to mention having the bike shorts leg tan line. One friend remarked to me that if you wear bike shorts and switch to tri-shorts, which are shorter than bike shorts, you’ll get the Neopolitan Ice Cream tan line set on your legs.
Today I got my first Orca race jersey tan lines. It’s gonna be funny when I hit the beach this summer, for sure….
Second Note:
There is this public bathroom called the “SuperLoo”. Now mind you, this is no ordinary “loo” as the brits or near brits call them. This is a SUPER LOO. Why is it super? Well apparently there are toilets from every country in the world. Want a pee wall? Got it. Want a hole in the ground? Got one of those too. And you can take a shower there and all sorts of other things too. Amazing!
I just posted pictures here at Yahoo! Photos. Enjoy!

Ironman NZ Tuesday 3-1-05

Yet another beautiful day in Taupo. Partly cloudy, sunny skies, slight breeze blowing. The air is once again super-fresh and it is just lovely country out here. The pace of life is so much slower. The stores are open only from 9 to 5 – something I’m not very used to at all.
Early this morning my Ironman group was supposed to meet at 8am to go swim part of the course. So I put on suntan lotion, get all my gear ready, bodyglide lube up everywhere. Then, I go to put on my wetsuit. I carefully shimmy up the legs, get my arms in there. Then, I go to zip up the back of the suit. It’s a bit hard to pull the zipper up because sometimes the neoprene sticks to my skin and I have to stretch it around a bit first. But this time, I don’t. I just give it a real hard yank and SNAP! the zipper pops off the wetsuit!
Holee moley! Here I sit at 7:40a in the morning, with a wetsuit that can’t close! I was pretty mad but after I calmed down, I impatiently waited another hour or so before setting out to the Orca store. I brought the wetsuit with me and the saleslady took pity on me and gave me $100 NZD off a new Orca Pflex Suit, a suit I’ve been wanting for some time now but just too lazy to get because I had a wetsuit. Now I need one! At least I walked away from New Zealand with a new very cool wetsuit!
I wander over to the official Ironman store and buy lots of stuff to bring back to my coach and others. Not much of a selection here which is too bad. But I would have had to lug all that back anyways. So maybe it’s just as well.
Later at 11a, I join the tour group to ride part of the bike course. I have worried about this big hill on the elevation map provided in the race manual. I ask Andrea Fisher, our pro-Ironman tour guide about it and she says, “Oh don’t worry! It’s just a pimple!” Ha, I say. It’s just her making me feel better. Probably the hill is monstrous and totally energy sapping. So we take off and there are rollers up to the “big” hill and once we hit it, I realize that it truly is just a pimple. It wasn’t bad at all. What was kinda bad was the slight headwind on the way back. Just enough to slow you down and sap precious energy away. I just hope that on race day the wind is mild or non-existent. I feel better passing some of the tour group, thinking that my training had been a bit better than theirs. But then I am humbled by a few who dust me in headwind conditions. Still more work to do on my bike.
A little past noon, my two friends make it to the motel. We eat a wonderful lunch at a place overlooking the lake. It is definitely a relaxing environment, totally unlike what I came from back in California.
530p comes and the swim course is open for swimming the whole course, if you want. Too much to do for me so close to race day, but I did miss the swim this morning.
Man, was I sloooooooow. There was a 1 km timed swim and a 3.2 km timed swim, just for fun and some prizes. I didn’t enter but I swam the 1 km for kicks. I came in at 26 minutes! Too slow for me – I should have been faster! Sure the water was choppy so hopefully on race day the conditions will be more perfect.
So I still wonder about my time on the race. I hope to not stress about it but can’t help thinking about achieving some sort of time goal. I think I will just relax and enjoy the race. 13 hours, 15 hours, 17 hours – as long as I cross the finish line, I’m good.
Sign up for Pacific Grove is tomorrow and I hope I can get in. Already I am thinking of another Ironman and exotic place to do next year. Maybe Ironman Brazil or Ironman Western Australia. Maybe to Europe for Ironman Germany, although that is REALLY hilly I hear. Even though, I am not sure I will do another Ironman, I need to still plan ahead now or else it won’t be possible at all to do another one next year due to the popularity of these races.
Off to dinner and then to the Internet cafe for blogging this entry.