Our roving reporter, looking pretty chipper.
JT's Korean Journal - Part 2Ironman Asia 2001
Jeju Island, Korea
Preparation week for Ironman Asia has gone quite well. The longest part was the 7,000 mile commute. The rest has been pretty painless. Unlike the North American Ironman's, the registration process was very quick and easy. It took all of about 3 minutes to walk up to the line and pick up my entire race packet.
There have been a few challenging moments in the process, as always seems to be the case Ironman week. Like for instance, figuring out that the bike has a speed wobble when picking up speed…yikes! What to do? There are very qualified bike mechanics available, however, they only speak Japanese. Hmmmm. Through a bit of charades I was able to demonstrate what the problem was and sure enough, a loose headset was discovered. Whew, big disaster avoided!
The race director really tried to take care of us well, and in so did things like set up a bike course tour. Oh boy…I had a feeling I didn't want to do this, but I didn't want to refuse his well intended efforts, so off we went in a hotel limousine, driven by a local driver. This means there was no common language and long story short it took us 5 hours 15 minutes to get around the course!! Yes indeed, many of the men pros and some women pros could ride it that fast! Oh well, I knew what I was in for!
Before I knew it the day before the race was upon me. Time to check my transition bags and bike in. There was quite a thorough bike check by the mechanics. The bag drop volunteers were instructed to make sure everyone had all they needed out there so they went through each and every bag to make sure you had everything. This being the first for most and the 2nd for some of the volunteers of ever seeing an Ironman, there were some pretty entertaining looks on their faces while they perused the bag contents.
And then it was race day. Up early, a little food and out to the race site. Wahoo! Actually I was feeling pretty relaxed, maybe it was the fact that I'd just done one of these crazy long races not long ago. For showing up in a foreign country all on my own to race there were quite a few good luck hugs in new friends that had been made in the short week prior to this morning.
Ok, time to get in the water…it was a surf start and the water was bit washing machine like the whole way, but it was alright. Two lap swim, man I was wishing I was done with the swim as I rounded the gate out of the water to head out through the surf for my 2nd lap. A leg cramp somehow along the way slowed me a bit and a long swim got longer, but no major disasters, and on to the bike…that is after the what seemed like almost a mile hike through the sand and up the winding cliff to the bike transition area.
The volunteers took their jobs very seriously and when they were told to check for something, they certainly did….as I rounded the corner out the change tent a man in his officers uniform grabbed my helmet strap and jerked, hard, to make sure it was clipped…ouch….that isn't what I needed at the moment….nor the other guy who made me run all the way around the bike transition area after almost reaching my bike the first time. No arrows, no pre-race directions, but certainly and officer there to enforce direction! As I found to be true on the entire bike course…there were more cones and police officers on the 180 K course than I could have imagined. A complete moron could not have gotten lost if they tried! Unlike our tour driver!
So off on the bike I went, up another gnarly climb and out around the beautiful Island of Jeju…all the way around. Expect anything or nothing at an Ironman in a foreign land. The women came out dressed to the nines and stood to hold out the water bottles, complete with screw top lids…on! For some reason the little chocolate cakes that looked sort of like ding dongs didn't look very appealing, but the full bananas, peels and all, did when I managed to drop a big bottle full of my "food" at 35K, and yet another one at 50K. This all happened as a result of things like being passed on the left and the right, and then the big slow down in front of you again. The best one though was my last bottle that went due to the guy who decided to try the classic "look, no hands"!!! riding along next to me and lost control into me…I somehow got myself slowed and out of his way just before I hit the gravel at the edge of the road and avoided the big crash. In all the excitement I didn't even think to check for my bottle…so down the road a bit I knew I was in a bit of trouble when I discovered my last bottle gone. Special needs was conveniently placed at 120 K, a bit of a wait….but as one learns in Ironman, you just deal with it! Needless to say I was ready to get off the bike when time rolled around for it….and as I came rolling into the T2 with the women in my age group I knew I had to stay with, all was going well.
And then, there she went, wahoo, the women could run. Another of those all out competitive 35-39 age groupers who jumps off her bike and runs a 3:27 marathon! My Gawd…I gave it all my might during the whole run, but staying on her heals wasn't in the cards for me on this day!!! The run course was a bit of a relentless one, you were either going up or down all the time. Some Hawaii veterans said after the race that it was a harder run course than they had done at Hawaii…don't ya love that? It's the famous comment after any race in the world…this course HAD to be harder didn't it. Yeah, yeah, always, right up until you do you next course!
This run wasn't my fastest in an Ironman, but it was work for me. I had a chick about 3 minutes off of me…another of those 35-39ers and so I had to keep my head in it and race. That last uphill was brutal, but as I came off it into the mile downhill to the finish I knew I had her and it was a great feeling, as well, the 11:24 that popped up on the finish line clock. It was a new PR for me, how could one not be happy with that? Dramas or no, it was a successful day out there and the smile that came across on the finish photo spoke it loud and clear.
Turns out the ever elusive Hawaii slot has slipped away by one, again! It would have been nice to get, but there are many other things I got from this race that are just as important in the big picture. Great times were had, things that will stay with me. New friends that make the sport even more fun….seeing different cultures and how they value things, being supported in what you do and being able to support others in their personal goals. The good fortune of being able to go at all, and compete in another Ironman is not to be taken for granted!
It's all about the opportunities we create for ourselves and how we intend to implement them around us. Lets not forget the people who end up becoming a part of it, sometimes it isn't really all about you…..but then again not to be feared, sometimes it is all about you…be careful what you really want!