Friday, November 30, 2007

Fantasea

We took it easy on Friday! Spent the morning lounging poolside, catching some rays, and smoking weed with the locals. Jessa's doctor says "no Mary Jane" so she had to settle for vodka and cigarettes. Haha. No actually, look how healthy she is being:



Jessa getting her exercise. I've installed a special flotation device called "twin babies" in her midsection to help with her buoyancy in the water.



Afternoon foot massages. I saw Faris Al Sultan sail by on his bike during this massage. No helmet, just his signature hankerchief or whatever that is he wears on his head. He was with a couple other guys I didn't recognize.

We had some interesting conversations with our therapists...they about fainted when I told them how much we pay for massage stateside. This one hour massage for the two of us was about $8 apiece. Just so happens that the one on the right is the same that offered me "happy ending" to my traditional Thai massage. Not sure how she keeps getting "assigned" to me.



All done with foot massage. Glad *somebody* was willing to touch my feet for an hour, cracked toenails, mosquite bites, cracked heels and all.

GREAT NEWS! Friday night is the big night that we got to go to what is apparently Phuket's biggest tourist attraction - the grand Fantasea show, only about 30 minutes from our resort...we're so lucky! Or so we thought. They described it as a of a "state-of-the-art" show with a fantastic carnival and the greatest presentation in all of Southeast Asia, complete with dancing elephants, laser light shows, 4D special effects, and tons of fun for the whole fam.



I was like a little child in a candy store. Oh the joy of cheesy Thai tourist traps. What shall I do first? My head is spinning! Life can't get any better! This is at the gold plated gates of the front entrance. It went downhill from here.



They're ALL male. Even the one with 1 D cup and 1 B cup. It's kinda funny - I think the "botched" transgender surgical patients get the job at Fantasea. The pretty ones get to go to Bangkok and Patong beach.



This girl is obviously just super excited about the opportunity to wear pantaloons and a flowing white shirt.



Smile for the camera. Good, now everybody say it together: "G-A-U-D-Y!"



Great name for a kid's "sea-themed" store. Works for James Bond, so it should sell toys, right?



What a brilliant costume! Well worth the price of the ticket - which was almost as much as a Dave Matthews concert, which Jessa later remarked she would have much rather been at.



These random guys were just sitting there taking money for people to be photographed with them.



I didn't find out they actually wanted money until later, when Jessa asked me how much I paid them. Shoot, if only I would have known I probably would have forked over a couple Benjamin's for that rare photo op.



This is Jessa and Eric (a friend from California who happens to be here helping with a tour group for the race). I think they're pretending to be eaten by the giant tiger statue. Incidentally, there were *real* tigers at Fantasea. They were locked in a glass encased room and every single one was fast asleep and twitching strangely on the floor. I don't even want to know what kind of sedatives they feed these animals.

So in the actual Fantasea show, they wouldn't allow us to bring cameras. Well, it's *gotta* be good if you're not even allowed to photograph it, right? It started out OK. We walked in and were presented with an enormous, grandiose stage where regal music played to a stadium full of anxious tourists waiting to be thrilled. There were probably about 1000 people there.

That was about as impressive as it got. What was supposed to be the Thai equivalent of Cirque de Solei turned out to be a very cheap presentation that used shadow screens, strung together Christmas lights, cheesy dancers, and outdated neon lasers to tell what I think was the story of Ramadan. Not too sure because I fell asleep a couple times.

We didn't arrive back at the resort until midnight, and fell fast asleep, ready to go to race registration this morning. Jessa snapped a picture of me getting my bike ready.



After arriving at registration, i discovered that due to some kind of snafu, I had been placed in the 25-29 age division, and was not registered as a pro. It was my intention to race here as a pro just to see how I do mentally and physically against the big guns. So I approached the registration director and explained the situation. It actually turned out to be a pretty easy switch. They just assigned me a new race number and gave me a different swim cap, and I have to go to some special meeting for the pros tonight.

Then they just wrote my name in pencil on the sheet, and voila, I'm a pro. ;) Kinda funny, because you go to the expo and look at the registration list, and there are 9 or 10 male pros, then about a dozen female pros (including Chrissie Wellington and Mirinda Carfrae), then at the very bottom of the list, scratched in pencil, is my name. I'm sure I'm also the only person on that list with hairy legs. Whatever.

I was the seventh amateur to cross the finish line last year, and beat a handful of the pros, so I know I can hang with a few of the fast guys, but I'm actually a bit apprehensive about toeing the start line with some of the individuals here, like Faris-Al Sultan, Richie Cunningham, and Massimo Cigana. I know that these guys can and will beat me by 10-15 minutes if they throw down 2:30ish times like previous years. I'm going to be happy with a 2:45. Last year, I was a 2:57. We'll see what happens! I need to have a *very* good day to get a time like that. There are 900 people racing, more than the 750 from last year.

You can't really follow this race online, but I'll post a blog on Sunday afternoon sometime with an update, which will be about 10 or 11pm Saturday night Pacific time.

Incidentally, here is one final shot.



Dirt roads, thai maniacs on scooters, beautiful pregnant woman. I like this picture. Over and out from Thailand.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

6 Tasty Dishes

Want to know what we actually learned how to make at our Thai cooking class?

• Clear fish soup with turmeric Pla Tom Ka Min
• Yellow curry with chicken Kaeng Ka Ree Kai
• Stir-Fried asparagus with prawns Pad Nor Mai Farang Kub Goong
• Thai fried noodles with prawns Pad Thai
• Spicy mixed seafood salad Yam Ta Lay
• Steamed banana cake Ka Nom Kuay

And my personal favorite: powdered coffee from a can.

The Mighty Coconut Picker Strikes Again



Thursday we went on a full day safari tour that included elephant trekking, coconut picking, rubber tree tapping, curry making, a baby elephant trick show...and the best part of the day: a sundown cruise on a junk boat in the beautiful Andaman sea off the coast of Phuket town. We had a chance to hang out with some really cool couples from Australia and Singapore, and two very comedic Irish girls. Here are some pictures below with the highlights of the day.:



The most romantic place on earth - the back of a farting elephant. Seriously, this thing sounded like it had a tiger hanging off it's butt. Our elephant "jockey" held a large metal spike that he kept striking the elephant's head with. I'm sure PETA would have flipped.



Tapping a rubber tree. It only takes 8 acres of rubber tree orchards and 400 hours of slave labor to make 1 basketball. Eat you heart out, David Stern.



This monkey had very soft hands, almost like velvet. He was trained to climb up into trees and pick coconuts.



I'd give anything to have one of those little joke "hand-shake" shockers. Poor little monkey wouldn't know what hit him.



Gas mileage, baby. Jessa and I would have made great third world country farmers in another life. As it is, I'm thinking that a water buffalo might make a great pet back in Liberty Lake, and a good companion for our babies to play with.



This is my back-up plan should I have any mechanical bike failures prior to the race Sunday. Notice the highly aerodynamic water buffalo horns.



So the safari tour advertised "Land Rovers" to take us up into the jungle. In America, a Land Rover is a luxury 4wd SUV. In Thailand, a land rover is way old school - essentially a rusted army-style bucket with wheels, squeaky brakes, and very hot vinyl seats. It didn't even have OnStar. Sheesh.



The best part of the day. We watched a beautiful sunset off the bow of a junk boat. You could practically hear the sun sizzle as it settled into the ocean. What a fantastic day!

P.S. I've had a few people ask if I'm actually doing any *training* while I'm here. As a matter of fact, I am! The body is feeling pretty good, and I had a chance to ride the 55K bike course yesterday with a large group of other cyclists, including the 70.3 World Champion Mirinda Carrfrae, who is a really cool gal. I'm interested in how this race actually shakes out for me. There are 800 participants, and in both the practice bike and practice run I was way out in front of nearly everyone. I haven't seen any of the male pros, so they're either laying low or just haven't arrived yet. My legs feel good. I think I may have torqued my shoulder a bit on a practice swim in the ocean, but it shouldn't be a big deal. So that's the triathlon update, for those of you who are concerned that all I'm doing is drinking Singha, eating Pad Thai, and smelling elephant ass.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I Made an Onion Flower.



Jessa and I set out first thing in the morning to weave through crazy Phuket traffic for nearly two hours towards a remote side of the island where there is a famous Thai cooking school. We enrolled, and for the entire morning and afternoon, learned the art of Thai cooking. I even made a butterfly out of a raw carrot. This an important survival skill I'm certain I'll use someday.

Here are pictures with the highlights:







We fought traffic all the way home, watching our lives flash before our eyes as we dodged garbage trucks, semi trucks, and entire scooter gangs through busy Phuket rush hour traffic, while Jessa tried to simultaneously clutch my back and hold a crumpled map in my face. We arrived home stinky, sweaty, and full of creative Thai recipes that we look forward to preparing for our friends back in the States.

Sawadee! (goodbye in Thai).

Ben

P.S. It is very hot and humid here. This makes Kona, Hawaii seem like a winter wonderland. This will make for very difficult race conditions on Sunday...

Dinner and massage with a happy ending.

Tuesday: I spent the better part of my morning negotiating the price of a scooter down to just $8 a day. It's the little things in life that count, like saving a few bucks on an outdated piece of dangerous machinery. Jessa and I are now like Lloyd and Harry from Dumb and Dumber, except Harry is pregnant and Lloyd is attempting to speak Thai to the natives.

Tuesday evening, we went out for Thai dinner and massage. Our Thai restaurant served fabulous cuisine, but we happened to be the *only* people in the restaurant, so we goofed the entire time. I'm sure our friendly waitstaff was convinced we were drunk Americans that had just polished off a few cases of Singha. Here are a couple of our food critique videos:

video

The massage experience was interesting to say the least. Since Jessa is pregnant, she opted for a foot massage and I went for the traditional Thai massage. I just don't see how they can spend an hour on your feet only. Hell, if I'm going to have a 1 hour foot massage, they better power-wash, hair-pluck, nail-paint and heel-shine for me to get my money's worth.

So anyways, my personal massage therapist got about halfway up my hamstrings, then leaned over and asked me if I wanted a "happy ending". I'm pretty sure by happy ending that she didn't mean a lollipop or free sticker, like my happy ending at the dentist. I think she was surprised when I said no, because I don't think they get that response much. She actually left the room, then came back to finish the last half of the massage. Maybe she had to ask permission to do a normal, clean, healthy routine. In the end, they actually gave me a 15% discount. That's all the happy ending I need.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Smile for the camera



Not that you don't *want* to hear about every subtle nuance of our 17 hour flight to Phuket, Thailand, but I'm jet-lagged, sleepy, and have a million very important things I want to do (meaning I'm going to go find some good shrimp pad thai as soon as I finish this post, then go sit on the beach and read a book).

So I'm going to write this blog in "pictures" with captions underneath. For those of you who have ADD, like pop-up books, are dyslexic, have bad eyesight, or just don't like to read, what a goldmine this blog posting will be. For the rest of you, TOUGH LUCK because I'm not going to type any more than I have to today. ;)

video

My lovely wife. News flash: if you haven't heard, there's two lovely little twin boys inside!



I know it's sideways. Cock your head. That's me eating an unidentified meaty object at the Seoul, Korea airport.



Breakfast, at our resort in Phuket. Getting the feeling that I eat alot when I'm on vacation? Highlight of this breakfast was the painfully spicy fish sauce I put on my chinese chicken porridge. Please pass the mouthwash.



Looking out over the lagoon from our resort.



Feeding YumYum, the baby elephant hanging out in the hotel lobby.



My hot pregnant wife, gettin' jiggy wit a frog.



Lounging in the resort lobby.

Cheers, I promise I'll say more words next time...we're off to Phuket town tomorrow for a Thai cooking class! I'm going to make my speciality, the Oops I Cut My Finger Pad Thai.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Clearwater Race Report

I awoke on Saturday morning after an interesting night's sleep on Dr. Pearce's hotel room floor. As the medical director for the World Championships, he actually had to head down to the race before me, so the alarms were blaring at 5am.

The night before the race, I was very nervous because my right calf *really* hurt bad. For the first time in 2 weeks, I ran that day for 15 minutes on the road, and it felt like I did some serious damage. I iced, iced, iced, but on race morning, as soon as I stood up, I groaned, because the left peroneal tendonitis hurt and the calf hurt. The back was very tight still, but the pain, in the past 48 hours, had subsided.

I contemplated not racing. I just wanted to go back to bed, really. I've never been this "non-pumped" for a race. But I went to the vending machine in the hotel and filled a couple bags with ice, then sat watching Fox News until about 6am with ice bags on my foot and calf. I then rubbed Arnica and Hammer Balm into the affected areas and self-massaged both injuries for 10 minutes. They still hurt, but if I was going to race, I really had to get going down to transition, so I put on my sweatshirt and warm pants (atypically cold in Florida rightnow), listened to Kanye West's "Stronger" song (namely the phrase that says "what doesn't kill me makes me stronger", ate 2 sweet potatoes, and headed out. My right calf was tightly wrapped in an ace bandage.

My plan was to take my custom orthotic for my left foot, that I've only been using in my running shoes, and actually use it during the entire race, transferring it from the bike shoe to the run shoe during transition. I'd never done this in training, but it was a last ditch desparate effort to try to alleviate some of the left foot pain. This made transition a little tricky.

Conveniently, our hotel was literally *on top* of the beach where the race started, so all I had to do was walk downstairs, as bike check-in was the day prior. Technically, the race started at 7am, with my heat being the last wave at 8am (which affected the race quite significantly, as you'll read). Transition closed at 6:45, so I had to have all my pre-race prep done by then, then basically sit around in my wetsuit for an hour, waiting to race.


This venue was huge. The air was buzzing with tension and excitement. I believe 1600 athletes raced, and they were spread out over the beach in multiple colored caps, waiting for their wave to start. As this was the World Championships, there were 52 countries represented, and multiple dialects being spoken all at once. You could barely hear yourself think. The entire race transition and finish line area covers 4 blocks of the city, so it's pretty bigtime.

I reluctantly headed down to the water as our wave was called, not really wanting to be there. My plan at this point was to swim my perverbial ass off, then probably withdraw from the race. This was how I felt inside, but I was really trying to put on a strong face and not look intimidated or weak. *Please* quit hurting I kept telling my foot and calf, *please* God let me just be pain-free for the next few hours.

We couldn't get in the water, so I did "shadow swimming" as I waited, standing alone on the beach in my wetsuit, trying to block everything out.

Finally they lined us up. There were 143 athletes in my division, and some very fast European looking dudes. We stood motionless on the beach for what seemed like hours as the announcer introduced our division over the loudspeakers. Finally, they called out 60 seconds to the cannon boom start.

This was going to be a running beach start, with a 40 yard sprint before you get to the water. As you lean forward onto your toes and await the cannon boom, it feels like you are in a some kind of midieval battle waiting to rush the enemy. The breathing becomes short and shallow. The heart races. The fingers tingle. Every sense of your body is on fire, super-tense, hyper-alert. I am addicted to this feeling and love this type of race start. I live for that moment, just *waiting* to attack. It is true when you watch a movie like Braveheart and you see the guys in the front line urinating themselves, because it is a natural reaction to the pre-battle tension. I always pee in my wetsuit prior to a running beach start. Strange but true.

BOOM. Everything goes quiet and you're just running. Suddenly you have complete tunnel vision. Straight ahead focus. The swim goes by fast. Stroke, breathe, stroke, breath. The muscles are on fire within 3-4 minutes, and they maintain an enormous burn for the next 30 minutes.

About halfway through the swim is where it got messy and stayed messy. We ran into the back of the wave that started 5 minutes prior to them. We swam over their bodies. You feel bad, but they're in your way and they're swimming slow. Then we ran into the next wave. And the next. I did not draft in this swim. I towed from what I could tell 3 or 4 other racers in my draft for the first half, but things just fell apart when we started swimming up onto the slower waves. You can't draft because you're weaving side to side trying to get through people.

I came out of the 1.2 mile swim in 27:48 and hit the beach. Running through transition hurt, but I didn't care. I forgot about my plan to quit after the swim. I got on my bike like a madman and hit the pavement. The bike was a complete cluster. Crashes everywhere, orange cones flying as people hit them, bikes sliding into each other. It was the same as the swim, really. Just riding *through* people the whole time. Flat and windy, but a fast course. If I come back to this race, I don't even know if I'll bring my triathlon bike. I may just bring a road bike with better handling. I was only in my aerobars for maybe 30% of the entire race. I averaged 25.64 miles per hour and finished the bike in 2:11:02.

My foot hurt during the entire bike, but I think the orthotic helped me a little. Today my foot is sore is a *different* spot, probably because I never trained on the bike with an orthotic, then went out and hammered 56 miles. I drank 260 calories of Perpetuum every hour on the bike, and also consumed 1 gel.

The run, just like the rest of the race, was full of people the entire time. I cannot express how much my body hurt during the run. i thought my legs were going to fall off. Not because I was running incredibly fast (I actually had to hold back and I think I could have run closer to a 1:18 on this course), but because my foot and calf hurt so teribbly, horribly bad. I just tried to block it out. I kept counting to 20, over and over again, telling myself just a few more steps and then you'll have to start walking. But I just never really stopped. Dr. Pearce said on that morning as he left the hotel room that it was, after all, the last really important race of the season and I would have some time to heal if I injured myself, so I should just push through it. So I did.

The run was a 1:26 and my pace averaged a 6:38 mile. The finish line came up quicker than I expected and I wasn't able to wave at the crowd too much or even flash the smiles that I like to display at the finish because I ran around a corner and the finish was *right there*. I should have been paying more attention!

My overall time was a 4:10:54. I was 12th in the world for my age group and 77th in the world overall. I'm happy with that. I guarantee you one thing: if I had not been injured, I would have been on the podium. I think I could have biked slightly faster and run much faster, and probably ahd closer to a 4:00 split. I had the fitness to do it. I will do it. Just stay tuned.

My body hurts today. Much. But you know, that's what I love about this sport. If it was easy, everybody could do it. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger baby.

I survived...

I'll post a race report later today or tomorrow....8am Sunday morning....just woke up...exhausted...going back to bed, goodnight.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Clearwater Race Plan

Dear reader, promise you won't steal my strategy and beat me someday.

-pre-race breakfast at 6am (my wave begins at 8am). After breakfast head down to body marking.

-swim: it will be a small pack in this 1.2 miler. In a race with this much potential bike drafting, it is important to have a quick swim. In these rough conditions I will be going out hard with a very high stroke cadence (due to waves) and trying to sit on the legs of the lead pack. I hope to come out in the top 15% of the field in the swim. I'll push very hard on the swim, because in the presence of the injuries, it is the aspect of my training that has been best the past few weeks.

-bike: i'll split the bike into 5 portions and consume 5 scoops of perpetuum split into 8 minute 1oz fueling cycles, and 1 e cap every 15 minutes. Avg speed goal: 24.8-25.2

1) Transition to Drew St turn: try and stay with the fastest lead group

2) Down Drew St., all the way to Landsbrook Parkway turnaround, settle into a rhythm, see what the packs are pushing for pace. Realize I may need to race outside myself to stay with the leaders.

3) Landsbrook to Park Blvd. LONG stretch. Stay at a high cadence. Stay very aero. F-O-C-U-S.

4) Turn at Park Blvd down Belcher st to Gulf/Bay blvd turn: don't blow up. If legs start to feel rubbery, back off a bit.

5) Gulf to Bay blvd back to T1. Spin, prepare for run.

Run: I'll have one gel flask with 400 calories (extra calories just in case my injured foot forces me to run slow). Run half marathon goal: 1:24-1:27. Be shooting for 7 minute miles on the first loop of the run, then I'll open up to whatever I'm capable of after that. Hopefully 6:15 on down.

The run is just three portions: 1) the first loop. 2) the second loop all the way to causeway blvd. 3) causeway blvd to the finish line. I'll be almost halfway thru my gel flask after the first loop, and have 1 serving left coming onto causeway blvd. If I'm in a footrace for the podium, I may not have time to squeeze the last bit of nutrition in, but it's extra so I probably won't need it. I'll be carrying endurolyte caps during the run, and will take 1 every other aid station.

We'll see how it goes.

Ben

Do As I Say....



-Drove up to Clearwater yesterday just in time to hop in the water for the Gatorade morning swim. This means that all the athletes line up, drink as much Gatorade as possible, then jump into the ocean and swim the course following their energy drink chug-fest. The athlete who doesn't pass out, throw up, or die is the winner. No, actually, it means that the kind folks from Gatorade, bless their hearts, watch our backpacks while we swim. Am I doing Gatorade penance from a previous post? Perhaps...

-The swim was way choppy. And cold. Very tough water - worse than Ironman Coeur D' Alene. And I'm out there in my Blue Seventy Point Zero 3 Skinsuit, looking at all the other athletes wearing wetsuits. I'm the only guy not in a wetsuit, as a matter of fact. Could this race be wetsuit legal? Could it be that I should not have left my wetsuit hanging in my closet at home? Oh, crap.

-"Hi Jessa, this is Ben. Would you mind doing your husband a huge favor? QUICK GO HOME AND GET MY WETSUIT AND FED EX IT OVERNIGHT AND THROW MY ELECTROLYTE PILLS IN THERE AND ANYTHING ELSE I FORGOT I LOVE YOU BYE!"

-So rather than driving back up to Clearwater this morning to take part in pre-race meetings and to check out the water again, I'm hanging out at my cousin's place until the wetsuit package arrives at 3pm. To all the athletes out there that I coach, let me say one thing...Do As I Say and Not As I Do.

;)

Pre-race dinner and celebration was fantastic, with the flags of 50 countries parading through dinner, tasty lasagna and Greek salad, a smooth reggae band, and great on stage entertainment. Everyone was decked out in winter coats, hoodies, and long pants because there is an atypical cold front moving through Florida rightnow. I'm looking forward to making some snow angels before the race, or maybe having a cup of hot chocolate and making a snowman.

Body still hurts today, back, ankle, same old story. I've been resting it hard. So if anyone out there would like to join me for Celebrex Cocktails on Saturday morning, meet me on the beach.

Tomorrow is the big day. Track it on ironmanlive.com and look for an update on my blog on Saturday night or Sunday morning..

Ciao,
Ben

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Floating Hotel

I have officially arrived in Florida and I am staying...

...on my cousin's boat...

...parked out behind his condo...

..the boat's name is "Silly Jilly"...

...and here are pictures...






Awesome! I actually had a pretty good night's sleep, and caught some tasty fish for breakfast. No, just kidding. Anyways, I'm heading up to Clearwater (from Bradenton) in a few minutes to check out the water. It's about an hour away, so on Friday night, I'm staying with Dr. Pearce (the medical director for the race) at the host hotel, which is literally just smack on top of the swim start.

My body still feels beat up, but what the heck, I'm in Florida.