Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ironman Arizona 2014 Race Recap

My usual race recap follows a sequential timeline from beginning to end.  While end of this story is what I was anticipating for over a year.  The beginning of the weekend was what really counted.  So here begins the end to beginning.  Enjoy! I hope the following words are grammatically correct and sequentially make sense.  I tried to squeeze as much as possible in the following sentences. 

Finally, the Finish Line.

About a half mile away to the finish line, I said to Brian Carty who kept me company for about a mile, "I'm going to pick up the pace."  Off I went down the fairly un-crowded dimly lit street of Rio Salado.  I can hear music ahead and the voice of Ironman shouting.  The fork up ahead created by traffic cones indicating 1 more loop for the run on the left and I was happy to stay to the right toward the finish line. 

About, 100 yards later, I saw my daughter, Emily focusing my wife's phone to take a picture of me.  That brought me back to the hospital room where I held her in my arms for the first time, and softly saying "I love you" with a gentle kiss on her forehead as she nestled into my chest.   I leaned over the fence to take a selfie with her and noticed my youngest sitting on the ground.  He eventually realized I finally made it back and stood up and he kept on rising taller like a bean stalk.  With is 4 foot tall frame, he smiled from his short slumber.  I thought to myself that smile is going to make a big impact on the world.  A spectator asked if he would like to take the picture and took the phone.  The image came out awesome!  I kissed the both of them and turned towards the finish line.

The speakers blared "Rock around the Clock" by Bill Haley and his Comets ahead of me.  The Lights shined at me like I was a Rock Star and the crowds on both sides were screaming at me, warming up the finish line ending the unexpectedly long chilly evening.  As I finished my pivot, I paused for a brief moment and said to myself, "Wow, this is it!"  I didn't want it to be quite over yet and at the same time I wanted to be complete with this chapter.

I picked up the pace, smiled ear to ear and gave a few high fives on the right side of the chute.  I waited for the voice of Mike Reilly to finally say my official finish statement that I have rehearsed for him in my head hundreds of times.  Apparently, he changed up the words and shouted into his microphone, "Noah Lam, New York. You're an Ironman, Noah.  Congratulations!"   With the last 10 feet into the archway, I crossed the finish line with mixed feelings about my performance and the complete satisfaction of doing my best.  I was feeling lucky to finish, lucky to be alive and just plain lucky.  My arms swung a little more to guide my last few steps before acknowledging my Wildwood Warrior Friends but looked at the wrong camera.  Taking it all in!

I scanned the sidelines for Irene and Zachary, and then I was greeted by a volunteer, Bill, who said they ran out of heat shields and I said that I was ok.  Bill said that he would take care of me.  There was a little jam up in front of me trying to get their medallions draped over them.  Bill asked if I needed anything and I replied, "I've been waiting for this all day." as I pointed towards the volunteer with medals hanging offer her arms.  I lowered my head and she said, "Congratulations" while draping me with my Ironman Arizona 2014 Medallion.

I continued to scan the perimeter for Irene and Zachary.  Finally, I heard Irene shouting for me.  I wanted to jump the fence but there was more space between and she started to take pictures.  Her smile was brighter than any spotlight and I am one lucky guy!  I am going to have so much fun being her Sherpa as she does her Ironman in 2016.   She supported me more that she would ever know. 

Then Zachary, my definite future Ironman, shouted at me, and I turned and he took more pictures with my phone of which my Facebook friends received a few updates during the day.  I look so forward to doing an Ironman with him.  He loves this stuff!  He even got me on video!

Bill, handed me my finishers hat and shirt, and I took my final poses with the official photographer.  Bill guided me to the finishers area and congratulated me one last time.  The chocolate milk volunteer greeted me with a bottle.  I saw the pizza thinking I would devour it, but ended up tossing it as I was not hungry at all.

Finally, I emerged out of the finishers area and met up with Irene and the kids.  So happy to see them as they hugged me.  We took a few more pics, and Zachary asked it I heard him down the finishers chute.  I said it was very loud and so he showed me the video he took.  "Yeah, Dad!" says it all.

4:32 pm Run Start

I came out of the men's change room tent and it felt great to have gotten off my bike after the wind pushed me around.   I wore my New York City Marathon Asics Shorts and my Island Harvest running shirt.  The sunscreen volunteer stopped me and slathered more sunscreen on my arms, legs and the back of my neck.  The family was cheering me on from the left side as I ran out of the Run Out Archway.  It was a 4 mile out and back down the side of the reservoir that we swam in this morning, and I was doing good with my 12:00 minute pace that I wanted to do for the first hour then turn up the notch.  I was playing it safe.  Unfortunately, my pace suffered from GI Issues that probably came towards the end of the bike.  All the jostling around had me visit the Port-a-Potty all too often during the run course and I ended up walking a lot more than expected. 

As I returned and hit Mile 4, I stopped and kissed the kids and Irene for the first time on the course and that really helped.  However, I could not keep the running motion and I started to run/walk.  It was disappointing to start walking because I saved my legs during the bike.  I was really cautious not to burn my matches on the bike.  While, I was not planning on winning anything this year, so I just enjoyed the rest of the race.

I passed the Run Aid Station that Irene and I worked last year.  This year, their theme was some kind of Wild Wild West.  It was great with a bunch of people dressed in cowboy and cowgirl outfits.  And they even remembered me from last year :)  On my second loop, they had the World Famous Chicken Broth.  It was awesome!

By walking instead of running, I was greeted by my Cactus Buddies on the course, who ran or walked passed.  They recognized me from my jacket or face and tattoo, and thanked me for putting together  our Facebook Group Page.  This Ironman Arizona 2014 group banded together to talk about the race and training as it should.  What I was amazed with was the camaraderie that developed among us.  I don't think I could have finished with a smile without them.  They put a perspective that this race was more than any one of us and put it on whole new level of community.  We all came across the country to converge on Tempe and made the best of it! 

It was a surprise and very humbling when someone began their sentence, "Are you Noah, who started the Facebook Group?  I wanted to thank you for that."    Again, I have to thank each person in the group for making our group special.  Especially, Michael Dellow for heading up the Cactus Buddy Temporary Tattoo Project and Emory Fuqua for the awesome design!  It will be something that will be carried on for future Ironman Arizona Classes.

9:12 am Bike

As I ran past the "swim out" to log my time and I hit the lap button on my watch and I noticed that I swam for 2.75 miles in 1:58, no wonder it felt like forever, because it really was forever!  Expecting 1 hour and 45 minutes max, well at least I was under 2 hours!  A few of my Cactus Buddies yelled my name and a volunteer said, "Wow, you have a cheering section."   A female volunteer then yells, "Over here!"  I get on the ground and she shouts, "Hips up!"  It was interesting that I had 2 females struggling to get my wetsuit off!  Now back to the report.  The team handed me my suit and I ran towards the changing tent.  Irene and the kids yelled from the side lines as I passed!  So happy that they got a good spot, and so glad I got contacts to see them smiling!

Time to get my T1 bags and I hear someone shout my name.  I glance around and then finally upwards towards the bridge above to recognize Candi Jackson.  She can recognize me from that far away!   A volunteer shouted 2675 so that the other volunteers can get my Swim to Bike Transition Bag ready.  I don't remember if they handed it to me or I grabbed it off the floor, but all of the sudden I am in a tent full of guys stripping and getting ready to roll.  It seemed like a blur as I open my bag, pulled out my Island Harvest Cycling Jersey filled with my food, took off my Wildwood Warrior Tri Shorts, then put on my Island Harvest Cycling Short, wiped my feet with my shorts, socks were donned and finally my Pearl Izumi bike shoes.  Eventually, I stuffed my Xterra Wetsuit and anything left over that I did not need back into that red bag, and tied it up.  Hmmm, this wetsuit is going to be disgusting when it comes home?   As I left the tent, I handed my bag to a volunteer and got slathered with sunscreen.  My arms and legs were covered with a clear sunscreen, and when he applied the gel on the back of my neck.  Sting!!!!!  No time to complain about the chaffing caused by the wetsuit!

I jogged down the center aisle to greet the TARDIS, my Felt B12 bike.  She was still on the rack and the volunteer grabbed her then handed her to me.  I left my My Athlete Live tracker on the bike with my bib attached to the belt.  I took a few seconds to unclip then clip the belt around my waist and I shuffled off to the Bike Out.  No panicking, only calmness as I left the transition area to climb on to the TARDIS at the Bike Mount area.  I have at least 6 hours on the bike.  Irene and the kids made their way to that part of the course and screamed for me :)  Off I went towards the Bee Line Highway

Starting with Rio Salado Blvd, I passed Sun Devil Stadium and then a left on to S. McClintock Drive where I was hit with 20 mph headwinds.  I knew it was coming and all I had to do was stay in my power zone.  Staying within the watts that my Coach discussed would save my legs for the run.

Eventually, I turned on to the Bee Line Highway.  The wind seemed to get stronger and biking up an incline at the same time made the ride tougher.   I pedaled evenly up the long hill.  I was so looking forward to the turn around, where I knew I would make up some time. 

Finally, I see the turn around sign, and I get up out of the saddle to stretch and more important position myself so that I do not crash or crash into anyone.  Immediately at the last traffic cone, I pedaled stronger and felt the pull of gravity and the push of the tailwind assisting me.  I did not slow for any aid that was there on the west side of the highway and I zoomed passed.  

My bike climbing skills are lacking and I will be working on that during the off season, so I can keep up with my friends.  However, with Newton's discovery, I usually zip passed the good climbers to play tag.  "On your left!" was repeated many times today!  And when I thought I was moving quickly, on my left sounded like a freight train.  I heard, "On your left!" and someone passed.  The P on their calf signified Professional.  Hmmmm,  How do I get paid to do triathlons?  Ok, get your head in the game, I said to myself.

Heading back to town, there were the same lefts and rights that I had to navigate on my way out, and I enjoyed the clanging of the cow bells and cheers.  Before the turn around, taped on the road was 2+3 laps on the left lane and Finish on the right lane, and I was ready to make the turn.  I did not see the kids as I was focused on making the turn, and back out again!

This second loop, I knew I needed to relieve my bladder.  Note, the professionals and many fast athletes will just go on the bike.  Me on the other hand has not practiced that technique so I waited for the last minute to jump off my bike and go.  I remembered a  Port-a-Potty that seemed less congested and stopped at it.  There even was a volunteer to hold the bike while I did what I had to do.

On my way up the hill and into the headwind, I focused on the rider ahead to ensure the 4 length bike distance so that I would not be penalized.  That was difficult because the wind made it very difficult to maintain that type of distance (I know a few people who received red card penalties.

Eventually, I remembered to enjoy the race, so finally I got out of my aero position and sat up for a moment to look around.  This whole weekend I've been so focused on what to do during the race that I never saw any cactuses in their natural habitat.  Looking around for a minute, I saw a few cactuses.  Then I looked forward again, crouched down and increased my power and staying alert for the road ahead.  Biking in strong headwinds and eventual fast speeds requires concentration.  Unfortunately the sight seeing can be enjoyed the next time I visit, which we are due to visit the Grand Canyon.

There were many accidents cause by the wind.  My friend from the group, Amy Avery, cracker her skull, broke her clavicle and a bunch of ribs.  She was taken away by ambulance and is now stable.  Biking is something you can do at leisure.  For now, it's all business with wind gusts, and making sure I make the cut off times and distances.  Many of my friend were unfortunately pulled off the course.  The wind slowed many today.

What made the 3 loops of the bike course easier was playing "Look for Cactus Buddy!"  Many of us from the Facebook Group wore our Cactus Buddy Temporary Tattoo on our calves and when we passed each other, we would shout some encouragement!  That really helped take our mind off of the winds pushing against us. I also appreciated those who thanked me for starting the group.  I am still surprised with the acknowledgement.  Pedaling at single digit mph is not fun. 

Playing tag with Joanne Winglett broke up the monotony for part of the course.  Passing each other going back and forth, until I had to go to the port-a-potty.  She speed passed and shouted, "Ha! Ha! Tag Your It!"  I never saw her again for the rest of the race.  What made that special was that she was the first person that I met walking into the Tempe Town Lake Park last year to wait in line to register for this race, along with Javier Flores and Ramon Sandoval (who did not make it to Tempe this year).

Eventually, I made it back and smiled when I saw that Finish word on the road made with orange tape.  It was great to see the kids cheering me as I rode my bike to the dismount line.  Of course right after I handed my bike over, I ran through the wrong entrance.  I turned around then remembered that my Garmin was left on my bike.   I turned around and yelled, "Wait!"  4 volunteers stopped and I grabbed my watch.  I snapped my watch back on its wrist band and I hit the lap button.

7:04 am Swim

As usual, I find myself in line for the Port-a-Potties before the race and this was no exception.  Michael JJ Ennis gave me some great tips as we waited.  I was happily reunited with Roger Choplas who did Timberman 70.3 in August with me.   Irene eventually made it to the where I was waiting and took some pics.  She kept on prodding me to hurry up as the swim start was about to commence, and I kept it easy.  Maybe I was a little too relaxed.  In hindsight, I should have listened to my wife, as she is always right!

Eventually, my wetsuit was on and I even zipped it up all by myself.  I walked over to the swim start along with the thousands of athletes looking to get going.  Everyone looks the same, either they had green swim caps for guys, pink swim caps for the girls and the white All World Athletes who are typically the top athletes of the Ironman World. 

The cannon shot off at 6:45am for the professionals, and I was still in line moving slowly towards the jump-in point.  Unfortunately, the swim start was about 300 yards from the jump-in.  Now I was getting a little worried that I would have to add to my swim time and I heard the announcer say that they will be starting at 7:05am because there were still many people behind me.   Great, I have another 5 minutes and I still have to get down past the 2nd bridge.  Eventually, I jumped in and started my front crawl to the starting line.  After passing the 1st bridge, I looked up to see can catch Irene and the kids on the bridge.  I think I saw them, and I waved as if they can see me.  Regardless, that made me feel good and I took a few more strokes and the cannon boomed. 

I then said, "Oh well!"  At least, I will not have too many people kick me during this mass start and I started my watch time about 150 yards from the start,  I was worried about swimming as straight as possible and I did my best to get closer to the buoys, so that I can draft off of a few people.  But, it seemed that I stayed about 50 yards away for most of the race.  A few swimmers crossed in front of me, which I thought was odd because I was in the middle of no where.

Just before the first turn which would be about 1 mile, I looked up on my breathing stroke to see my watch flash 00:48:08, and I thought, doing good!  Then I made the 2nd turn and headed back to the start.  This part of the race I notice a few swells that made me go up and down.  I was thinking the boats were getting too close, but it seemed that the wind have really kicked up.  During the disorientation, I swallowed some of Tempe's Finest H2O.  Hope that does not bother me later on in the race.

I make the left turn around the last red turn buoy, and sited for the exit stairs, about 200 yards away.  That's about another 4-5 minutes before I can get out of the water.  Yes!

As I approached the final strokes of the swim I come up to the lowest step.  The volunteer instructs me to put my knee on the step to help get me up.  Instead I remembered what my friend Ramon said to do, so I placed my left hand on the step and my right hand on the railing to push and pull to put my butt on that step.  I heard the volunteer say, "That will work." and I eventually stood up.  I was worried that I would be wobbly as I was horizontal for almost 2 hours, but I step sure footed to the wetsuit strippers.

2:00 am Waking up the Day of the Race

Going to bed early and waking up early due to the change in time zone seemed ok for me.  However I was not expecting to open my eyes at 2am MST.  I creep out of the room and walked to the elevators and sat down and made some quick posts before going back to the room.  Eventually, I got another 30 minutes before I was waken to my alarm ringtone of Ironman Anything is Possible YouTube Video with Hall of Fame theme song. 

Surprisingly, I was not anxious or nervous.  I was chilling :)  It was because I trained for this day, and I treated this day no different than any training workout.  It just happened to be an all day workout!

8:15 am Saturday Swim Practice

After breakfast at NCounter, Irene and the kids went back to the room to hang out and relax.  I head over to the swim start to take a practice swim.  I set up a meet and greet before the swim practice and thought it would be great to see some faces in 3D instead of the memes and 2D images that typically populate our profile pictures.

I was a little anxious, since I have not swam in open water in a long time and with the combination of scary stories about the water.  I was not sure want to expect. 

I approached the area by the steps and notice Michael Dellow dolling out some Cactus Buddy Tattoos and Mike Kreza talking to a few people, and I thought I must be in the correct vicinity of our Ironman Arizona 2014 Facebook Group.

All of the sudden, I was greeted by several people who were waiting for me.  And I did my best to chat with everyone as each person was so amazing and inspiring.  Then we took our group picture and then prepared for the swim.

By the way, the water was fine as I swam to the swim start and back to practice on the steps to exit.  While murky, the water was at the right temperature and freshness!  My wetsuit even felt good, probably because my body shrank in the cooler water.

Friday - Bike Problems

I was excited to be reunited with the TARDIS, and as my Coach instructed.  I took her for a spin. However, it was cut short as my rear shifter popped right off the aerobar.  I grimaced and sighed.  I turned around and headed towards he Ironman Village and straight to the Bike Repair.  Thank goodness this happened this day and not on race day.  They were able to replace the shifter.  It might not be the best shifter, but it would do and get me through the bike.

Again, I was not phased and even if it did happen during race day.  I think I would have taken it in stride.  Now off to get the family from the airport!

Visiting the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Phoenix on Thursday

My flight from Islip MacArthur Airport to Phoenix, Arizona was uneventful.  I enjoyed the canned water and the famous Southwest Peanuts.  Both airports are uncongested and easy to arrive and depart from. 

I timed it just perfectly to check in the hotel room and it was ready.  Perfect, I can check in at the Ironman Village and get my wristband and park my bike in the room. 

I walked down Mills to the Village.  As I checked in, I heard someone call my name.  It was Pamela Batungbacal and Suzanne Peasley.  I was surprised someone recognized me.  I said hello and off I went to sign the waivers, get my wrist band and goodie bag.  It is cool bag!

Next, I went to get my bike from Tri Bike Transport.  They must have transported about 1000 bikes.  I scanned the area and found my bike in the group.  It just so happened to be close by and on the side.  They attached my pedals and water bottle cage.  All set and returned to my room.

Michael Dellow and I were invited to speak to the kids at the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Phoenix.  This started when someone from the group said that they created a tattoo doing a different Ironman, which made it easier for the members of the group to recognized each other.  Emory Fuqua created a cool image and Rebecca Ann Neumeier name it, Cactus Buddy. 

Who knew that we would raise close to $2,000 for this great organization that provides a refuge for many kids from elementary to high school by selling one Cactus Buddy Temporary Tattoo at a time.  So every time I saw that tat, I felt proud that we were able to give back to those kids. It was an amazing feeling knowing that the group I started last year was able to give a gift to some amazing kids, who one day might grow up to become President, incredible Business Leaders and are the next generation of athletes.  I look forward for them to pay it forward!

These kids are our future and we got the chance to introduce Ironman to them.  Yes, they thought we were talking about Tony Stark at first :)

Training hard for a year to do give something back was priceless!

Final Words

The Ironman Motto of "Anything is Possible"  pushed my limits and made this year magical.  I did things in 2014 that I thought was not possible a few years back.  Many thanks for many that made it possible for me to keep doing what I LOVE doing.  And to put that into perspective, my goal is to make this a Healthier World for All Kids to step into, especially mine.  Creating the next generation of athletes and having them pay it forward keeps me going.   We raised about $5,000 for help fight hunger for Island Harvest and raise about $2,000 for the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Phoenix.  My Cactus Buddies all together raised well over $100,000 for various charities to make this world a better place!  How cool is that!

So what is next for the Lam Gang.  Now that my comfort zone has expanded so that I have more space to grow.  Grow in awesomeness, not my waist line!  I am looking forwards to help more people become healthier and wealthier!  My personal racing  goals for 2015 will be to run a 3:45 New York City Marathon in November, A Sub 6:00 for Challenge Maine and run a bunch of Half Marathons and shorter races.  What will be really excited is to train with Irene for her first 70.3 at Princeton and volunteering at Ironman Lake Placid, so that Irene can get an entry for IMLP 2016!  More races for the kids to participate in, which always inspires me.  Working on a triathlon relay, Emily-Swim, Zachary-Bike and Elijah-Run.

Regardless, of how I do in any event.  The one thing that I am most proud of was that I had the opportunity to make someone's race experience better.  I am so looking forward to seeing more of that community help shape the future.  Triathlon has the right combination of people to make the world a better place!

Again, congrats to all the Finishers!  And more importantly, I so admire and super inspired by those who are looking for redemption because they did not get to the start or did not finish!

Ultimately, it's about being part of something larger than ourselves!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

9 Days Left Until Ironman Arizona - Oh Boy!

Last year with my registration letter!
The feelings of coulda, woulda, or wished, basically all the worrying about maybe if I did more of this or that I would be better prepared has subsided.  My friend Charlie reminded me there is no sense in worrying because I can't do anything about what might or might not happen, so why bother worrying.  I think I was getting myself all caught up in the moment and needed to step back.  I am glad Charlie put me in the right frame of mind.  Right now, I am super excited and pent-up with different emotions that are about to explode, like a caged tiger waiting to pounce. 

Irene finished her 3rd NYC Marathon
I knew I had to invest some time into finishing an Ironman but swimming 81 miles. biking over 2100 miles and running 518 miles all in one year was very unexpected.  That's a lot of time to be in the water, pedaling or pounding the pavement.  Thank God, my focus was on how lucky I was to get to swim another 100 yards, bike or run another hour.  Knowing how lucky I am to be able to do what I get to do and share it with my family is a real gift.  Especially understanding how precious and short life can be.  Might as well live it all out as it should be.  We have no time to worry about something that might or might not happen.  As Nike one marketed, Just Do It!  More importantly, being married to the most wonderful wife, Irene, made it easier when I was gone for hours.  The kids were fantastic with being patient and waiting for me and Irene (She did the New York City Marathon last Sunday!)

Skipping a workout can be very easy.  Many times, I wanted to skip a workout and so glad I did not.  Other times, I was really tired and had to miss a workout.  And Coach Danielle Sullivan kept me on course by making adjustments.  There was a big gap with my running due to Tendonosis that developed in my right Achilles.  She and I made it work and now I feel 100% to run.  I will do my best during the last leg of the race!

Can you believe it, 354 days ago, Irene and I traveled to Tempe Arizona to volunteer at a water station so that I can register for Ironman Arizona 2014.  It seemed so far away then and yet only 9 days away!

If you have time, you will be able to track me at http://www.myathletelive.com/events and they have an app you can download

Also you can see how I am doing at http://www.ironman.com/triathlon/coverage/live.aspx and choose Ironman Arizona.  I am Bib# 2675