Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Race Report

My race day started with a rush to get ready. Peggy and I were staying about an hour's drive from the race and I had set my alarm for 4:30, but it never went off. Luckily she had set her alarm too and woke me up at 5. I had set up a breakfast consisting of 2 bananas, coconut water, 2 Clif Bars, 2 pieces of toast and 3 yogurt drinks (about 1,500 calories). I scarfed everything down and felt extremely bloated. I was hoping the food would go down soon. Peggy drove like a maniac and we arrived on race site where I got painted with my number and put on my wetsuit. I made my way to the start line still feeling very bloated but excited to get things started.

My goal was to finish within the 17 hour time period with a smile on my face and with no injuries. My plan for the swim was to avoid aggravating my shoulder which was still only at 90% after the accident. For the bike, I wanted to keep things very smooth and steady without pushing myself hard at all. Finally, I wanted to take it easy to avoid injury during the marathon since I had had only a month to train for it. My goal had obviously changed after undergoing the surgeries and yet again after dislocating my shoulder. I would not think about other people and just do my own thing.

At 7am, the gun went off and the race had begun! The water looked pretty calm from the beach, but once I got out there, the waves were fairly large. It was difficult for me to sight the buoys that marked the course and I was never quite able to get into a rhythm because I was either swallowing sea water or getting hit by other athletes. In addition, gasoline was leaking from the jetskis of the volunteers and the mixture of that with the saltwater made me throw up in my mouth (this is something that usually happens to girls when I talk to them). I decided to swallow the vomit because I needed the calories! I got out of the water in just less than an hour and 50 minutes (which is a long time). My legs felt a little wobbly because my blood was focused on my upper body and my shoulder felt pretty sore (about 80%). Good thing I wouldn't really need it for the rest of the day. Although one thing that worried me was my stomach, it was still very bloated and I knew I'd need to make a couple stops along the way.

The transition from the swim to the bike went pretty smoothly. It was funny how the volunteers were rushing to help me but I did not have any sense of urgency and I think it confused them. I changed into my biking gear and was off! The weather was pretty nice when started but about halfway into the first 56 mile loop, it started to rain. I was going very steadily and did not push myself at any time.

I fueled my body with the Gatorade provided on the stops in addition to a mixture I made with Gatorade powder and and tiny bit of water. This left me with supersaturated lightning in a bottle. I can't stand the texture of goo and this tasted much better anyways.

I finished the first lap in 3 hours and 40 minutes and headed out to my second. I wanted the second lap to be in about the same time while still feeling good. Though a LOT of time passed by, my mind was only focused on the task at hand. I continuously asked myself how are you feeling? Should you drink right now? What gear should you be in? Are you pushing too hard? After taking into account all these thoughts, there was no time to think about anything else.

Thankfully, it had stopped raining during the second lap. I finished the 2nd lap in 4 hours so I felt good about the lap split. Once I was done with the bike portion, again, I took my time in the transition. The volunteers were confused again by my nonchalance, but the way I saw it was that I had about 7 hours to do a marathon. Fortunately, my legs felt pretty good once I got off the bike and my mind stayed focused on the present again. One foot after another Rob just keep going! The course consisted of a long 13 mile loop and two smaller 6.6 mile loops. I did the first half of the marathon in 2.5 hours but my knees were beginning to hurt so I decided to take it fairly easy after that. At that point, I had 4 hours to cover 13 miles. I could basically walk the rest of the way and finish. I decided to run a little and walk the majority of the rest of the way because I did not want to incur any injuries, especially since my knees were already sore.

Once I got to the finish line at 11:22pm or so, I decided to do a little dance (hey, they had music playing, what else was I supposed to do?) to go out in style (you know how I do). I wasn't very tired nor that sore (though my knees were locked for half a day after). The conclusion of my race was actually very anticlimactic. It was like watching a movie and knowing how it ends. At first I thought I was so arrogant to think this, but then realized that the triumph wasn't from crossing some imaginary line.

The finale SHOULD have been a foregone conclusion. After all, the triumph was earned in the numerous sacrifices made to get to the line. It was earned in the long hours spent at the pool (getting disgusting tan lines) relearning how to swim from scratch. It was earned by getting back on a bike after 15 years and cycling until my bottom was sore. Or by running around a stadium countless times to the point that the police thought you're a possessed madman. Being an Ironman isn't about finishing a race on one day. The Ironman is about the actions you take months before the race and more importantly, the attitude you bring.

After I dislocated my shoulder, my house mom in Colombia said that god was trying to tell me to stop. She said I had been through a lot from the surgeries and now this freak accident happened for a reason. I said perhaps, but perhaps it's just another obstacle I needed to overcome to get where I wanted to go. Sometimes life comes down to perception and the attitude you take in confronting problems.

Saturday, May 30, 2009


I just want to take this last entry before the race to say thank you to everybody that has been a part of my experience.

Recently, when I was training in the US, I had the chance to ride by some places where I experienced certain milestones. I passed the very location I learned how to ride without training wheels. I passed the pool my grandfather taught me how to swim in (by throwing me into the water). And I passed numerous other places such as my old neighborhood where I grew up, my elementary, middle and high schools and of course, the Marine Corps Memorial.

Each step in life was taken with the help of others. Tomorrow I will take yet another step, so THANK YOU to everyone who has been there for me along the way. I would not be where I am today without all of you.

How I Got Over My Fear of Death

When I was in Kuwait before the war, I replayed numerous scenarios of my death. It preoccupied my life. I would think about getting shot, bombed and gassed and it terrified the hell out of me. The worst part was that I imagined a Marine in dress blues showing up at my parents home and delivering the news. It broke my heart.

The time came when they woke us up in the middle of the night and told us to get ready to cross the border into Iraq. It was a couple weeks into the invasion when I finally came to peace about death. This is after I was shot at, bombed and had frequent poison gas scares.

I decided that I could picture and dream up an infinite number of ways I could die, OR I could trust myself to face any situation life threw in my way and do my best to enjoy living. The choice was mine!

I was very worried about my race up until a couple weeks ago. I had lost so much training time as a result of surgeries and injuries. But I had created a Plan B and was sticking to it. It was after a 2 day period that included a 6 hour ride and an 18 mile run (both of which I had doubts about) when I remembered what I decided in Iraq.

I have never quit in life. Why would I start now? I am trusting myself to face what life will throw at me. No hill, no tide and definitely nothing short of serious injury will stop me from crossing that finish line. With this in mind, I am at peace.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Let´s Remember This Memorial Day

Below is the Citation for the Medal of Honor for John Bobo. It is just one example of many that displays the spirit of our veterans. Believe it or not, most of our servicemembers would do the same thing if put in a similar situation. Something to think about when you ignore the next homeless veteran on your way to Starbucks.


For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Weapons Platoon Commander, Company I, Third Battalion, Ninth Marines, Third Marine Division, in Quang Tri Province, Republic of Vietnam, on 30 March 1967. Company I was establishing night ambush sites when the command group was attacked by a reinforced North Vietnamese company supported by heavy automatic weapons and mortar fire. Lieutenant Bobo immediately organized a hasty defense and moved from position to position encouraging the outnumbered Marines despite the murderous enemy fire. Recovering a rocket launcher from among the friendly casualties, he organized a new launcher team and directed its fire into the enemy machine gun position. When an exploding enemy mortar round severed Lieutenant Bobo's right leg below the knee, he refused to be evacuated and insisted upon being placed in a firing position to cover the movement of the command group to a better location. With a web belt around his leg serving as tourniquet and with his leg jammed into the dirt to curtail the bleeding, he remained in this position and delivered devastating fire into the ranks of the enemy attempting to overrun the Marines. Lieutenant Bobo was mortally wounded while firing his weapon into the mainpoint of the enemy attack but his valiant spirit inspired his men to heroic efforts, and his tenacious stand enabled the command group to gain a protective position where it repulsed the enemy onslaught. Lieutenant Bobo's superb leadership, dauntless courage, and bold initiative reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

This Memorial Day, while you are enjoying your long weekend. Please take some time to remember and honor our amazing servicemembers and their sacrifices by donating to help homeless veterans.


Stories like this help keep me motivated when I´m having a bad day. I´m sure I can "endure" 140.6 miles on Sunday.

Race Week Conclusions - Discipline

"Robert do your homework! Robert practice the piano! Robert play your cello you have a competition soon! What are you going to do with your life!"

Welcome to the first 18 years of my life. While I was growing up, my mother would always yell these things to me (my sister too). I would have rather taken a (light) beating than to listen to what they had to say. As a result, I was average at everything I did. But as I grew older, I wondered why I never had the discipline to sit down and do any of these things.

A part of the reason I joined the Marines was that I wanted to get some of the elusive thing called discipline. I had problems waking up to go to class and my grades were suffering so I thought maybe boot camp could help.

At Parris Island, discipline was defined as "instant, willing, obedience to orders." Not exactly what I was looking for and though the experience changed me in many positive ways. I still struggled to get myself up in the mornings to go to class.

When I signed up for the Ironman a year or so ago, I felt that this would be my opportunity to see if I had what it took to be disciplined. My mother would not be threatening me with chopsticks, nor would a drill instructor be yelling in my ear threatening death and worse to do one more mile. If I wanted to reach my goal, I would have to do it on my own.

A year ago, I started an intense training program and have come a long way. Throughout the process, I discovered what discipline really is. Discipline is about finding a goal, a person, a cause, a place, a purpose, that you feel SO STRONGLY about that you would do whatever it took to obtain it. You would be willing to relearn how to swim starting from floating on your back, to force yourself up in the morning after swimming more than you ever have the day before only to swim even further that day, to say fuck you to the medical gods and keep going even after 2 surgeries and a dislocated shoulder.

Discipline is the dotted line between you and the location of something you are passionate about.

Newspaper Interview!

Recently, I was interviewed via email by the Pacific Citizen. It is a national Asian American newspaper with a circulation of 30,000 and nearly 300,000 hits on its website monthly. Below is the link to the actual article and below that is the full interview that I sent in.


With respect to donations, I´m at $8,500. I hope to reach $12,000 with your help. In order to donate, please click below.


1. Please tell us how your training has been going so far in Columbia. What is a typical training day like for you? I understand you recently had a tumor in your mouth? How are you and will this affect your ability to race at the end of this month?

If somebody asked me the perfect place to train for an Ironman, I would undoubtedly respond with Medellin, Colombia. Everything about it is conducive to training. The temperature ranges from 60 to 80 degrees everyday, it is at an ideal altitude and rain showers last only for an hour or two. In addition, the city has an Olympic sized pool and closes off certain roads (up to 14 miles) every Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday for cyclists and joggers (called Ciclovia).

There really is no typical training day since each day is different. But my usual routine starts with breakfast around 9am. Breakfast usually consists of an arepa with cheese. Then, if it is not a long workout day, I will workout until about noon or 1, including stretching, yoga, etc. After grabbing a lunch that consists of a soup, salad, rice, beans, chicken, fries and fresh squeezed juice (all for $2.50!) at a local restaurant, I head over to Casa Karah, which is a shelter for underprivileged children. I return home around 5pm to eat my second lunch and study up on my Spanish. I then eat dinner around 7pm and then talk to my roommates and hang out until 10 or 11pm at which point I read a book in Spanish and go to sleep.

Several weeks ago, I felt an acute pain on the right side of my gums. I initially thought that it was my last wisdom tooth growing in and had some x-rays taken in Colombia. My tooth showed up in the scans so I made plans to have it taken out in the States. When my oral surgeon in Maryland saw the x-ray, he told me that I should have a CT scan to make sure that nothing else was going on. It turns out that the scan showed a growth in my right sinus and the doctor suggested that I return the next week for a biopsy.

Meanwhile, my training had deteriorated because I would wake up several times a night because of the pain and my appetite had all but disappeared because it hurt so much to chew. I noticed a significant decrease in my performance during workouts during this period. With the race coming up so soon, I told the doctor that I didn’t have a week to have a biopsy done. He told me that he could do one that day, but I would only get local anesthesia. Thirty minutes and a massive right cheek later, the doctor had his biopsy.

It took me a week to get to the point of being able to workout after the biopsy because he had made a significant cut inside my mouth. When the results came back, luckily, what the doctor had originally thought was a tumor, turned out to be a cyst with tumor markers (a cyst that grows). I was told to return a week later so that they could install a drain to shrink the cyst for several months in order to make the final procedure less invasive.

Yesterday, they put the drain in after a minor surgery so I should be fine. As I had injured my foot earlier in training, I was unable to run until very recently. I basically have a month to train for a marathon. Although I was in pain, I popped a percocet and went for a run because the race date is so soon.

Am I scared that I’ve missed out on so much training? Yes. Have I revamped my expectations on my finishing time? Of course. Have I given up on this race? Definitely not. When I first looked at my 5 month workout schedule, I felt like I had all the control in the world. Just grind out each day and at the end, you’ll be an Ironman! But the problem is that there are so many things in life that I don’t have control over. It’s very frustrating to feel so powerless, but one thing I can determine is how I deal with it. The last thing I’m going to do is to feel sorry for myself and dwell. I have rearranged my training schedule and am working extra hard to get back on track so I have the chance to be successful at the end of this month. If I don’t finish the race, at least I will be able to honestly tell myself that I did everything possible. And that for me, is enough.

2. You talk about how your friend Greg impacted you to live your life to the fullest. Please tell us about some of the changes you made and especially your decision to race in the Ironman. Why the Ironman?

Prior to my deployment to Iraq, let’s just say that I left a lot of potential on the table. I knew that I was capable of a lot of things, but never made the effort to excel at anything. I actually lost my academic scholarship and was kicked out of my university’s honors program because I partied too much. After engaging in combat and experiencing several near death experiences, I figured that I needed to make some changes.

The Marine Corps is founded on our commitment to each other. The worst fate is not death, but rather disappointing another Marine. It is this commitment that makes us so successful in combat. Greg’s death made me contemplate on what he lived and fought for. I concluded that he lived to ensure that Americans would have the opportunity to live their lives to their full potential. With that in mind, I decided that if I were to continue to slack through life, I would be letting his legacy down. And that was something I could never let happen.

When I survived the war and returned to school, I received a 4.0/4.0 gpa and changed my major to something I was interested in, Economics (don’t get me wrong, I still partied like a champ). I also determined my career direction and pursued a position in investment banking.

The Ironman is another example of how I believe I am realizing my potential, at least physically. I knew that a marathon would be challenging, but the thought of it did not intimidate me. I hadn’t ridden a bike since middle school and my swimming was atrocious (little kids could beat me, in the kiddie pool!) so I felt that I would truly be challenged if I were to improve each of those disciplines to the point where I could complete an Ironman Triathlon. In addition, I thought that it would only be fitting if I were to give back to Greg’s memory, which has inspired me to constantly improve upon myself.

3. Please tell us about your friendship with Greg. Is there a particular moment that stands out for you when you remember your friend? What was is about Greg that you admired?

One specific memory I have of Greg is when I was guarding the vehicles. It was about 1pm and the temperature was around 130 or so and he was the only other Marine around. What amazed me was that he was cleaning his 240E machine gun. Just to give you a little background. If you touch anything made of metal in that heat, you would burn your hand. One would think he had better things to do at that time, but he said that he HAD to clean that weapon right then and there. It really showed what kind of Marine he was.

There are a lot of Marines who feel the need to beat their chests and talk really loudly in order to gain respect. You have to understand that the Corps has a very macho culture. A funny thing that I noted was that the toughest Marines were actually the ones who kept their heads down and didn’t feel the need to act or be macho. The way Greg talked and the way he conducted himself did all the talking for him. He was a very respected and fierce in combat, but one would never expect that from an educated person with a slight stutter. That’s what I admire in Greg.

4. Please talk about some of the difficulties your fellow veterans have had in adjusting to life after returning from war zones. Have you personally known some veterans who are having difficulty adjusting to life after their return to the U.S.?

When one thinks of veterans who are struggling, one probably has in mind an older Vietnam War vet. Reality really struck me when I found out about problems that guys were having with whom I had served. For instance, I was chatting with one of my buddies from the war and he mentioned that he really needed to get a job. This was a couple months after we returned and had saved sizeable amounts of money. I asked him what he had done with the money we had earned during our deployment and he replied that he had spent it all on alcohol. Another friend of mine was hospitalized because of post traumatic stress and yet another buddy of mine just messaged me and thanked me for my efforts because he was homeless himself and felt that he was not receiving the support necessary.

It seems like an issue that other people have to deal with. But what alarms me, is that guys that I trusted with my life are now seen as a liability to society. I really believe that this is an issue that should be front and center of America. We sacrificed so much for this country and the least it can do is to take care of us.

5. Why did you decide to raise funds for the Jericho Project? And please tell us how your fundraising efforts have gone so far.

I chose Jericho Project for a number of reasons. I knew that I wanted to honor Greg’s memory and help veterans, but did not know exactly in what manner. Then, I read an article that stated that 1 in every 4 homeless people is a veteran and that really disturbed me. As someone who has experienced the military and combat, I felt that a home would be the LEAST a country can offer its veterans. I then researched organizations that supported homeless veterans. I came upon Jericho Project’s website and in addition to its new Veterans Initiative, its approach to homelessness really impressed me. I think it’s great that soup kitchens provide food and sometimes shelter for the homeless; however, I don’t think it provides a long term solution.

Jericho Project provides housing, counseling and vocational training to build back not only the bodies of homeless people, but more importantly the minds. Its track record speaks for itself. Only 4 or 5% of its “graduates” return to homelessness. Also, by creating housing just for veterans, I believe that the veterans can begin a road of healing amongst others who understand and have experienced the same trauma. I believe that Jericho Project is confronting the problem in the best manner and that is why I chose to support them.

So far, I have raised about $6000 but am hoping to raise $12000. I chose that amount because that is how much it costs to support one veteran for a year.

6. We would also like to know about your time spent in Iraq. How long were you there and what were some of your daily duties while stationed there? How do you feel today about the current Iraq War?

I was a student at the University of Maryland and a Marine Reservist when my unit, Bravo Company, 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion was activated to serve. In February 2003, we deployed to Kuwait for a few weeks before the war kicked off. We stayed in a tent city that was named LSA 7 (living support area). We were told that we were the northernmost unit at the time and I believed them because we could see the lights at night from the oil refineries across the border. In March, we kicked off the war and headed towards Baghdad.

I’m not sure how to explain my duties, but they included engaging in combat, clearing Iraqi facilities, securing enemy prisoners of war, providing security for a Fox News crew that was embedded with us, standing watch (a lot of it) and providing humanitarian aid where possible. There are a million other things that I did, but to sum everything up, I would just say that I was a Marine.

After the invasion, my unit was tasked as the Quick Reaction Force for all of Southern Iraq. So if somebody was ambushed or a certain area was ambushed repeatedly, we would either respond or patrol areas.

Finally, in September (or an eternity, whichever came first), we returned home. I wanted my first meal to be a McDonald’s double cheeseburger (I swear they put crack in there), but I had to settle for Burger King. It’s amazing the things you crave while over there.

In hindsight (which is always 20/20), I feel that we were wrong to go into Iraq. However, I don’t feel like I wasted my time while I was there. On a micro level, I saw the genuine smiles and waves as we were welcomed into every place we entered. I witnessed the signs of gratitude when we gave medical aid or food to those who needed it. I know I made a difference while I was over there. It may have been marginal, but that’s enough for me. On a macro level, well, that’s not my call, though I feel that it could have been handled very differently.

7. Please tell us what your family and friends think about your Ironman training. Are they supportive? How are you coping with being so far away from your family and friends?

My family and friends have been great. I feel like they are more sure that I will finish the race than I am. I don’t really see being far away from my family and friends as a huge deal. I know they are there for me and I guess that’s how I know I’m blessed with great family and friends. I don’t need to be there all the time to know I have their support. Also, one thing I’ve learned while being away is to make new friends. I live with several Colombians and they’re all very supportive about my training as well as my fundraiser.

8. With the race less than a month away now, how are you doing and feeling? Is this your first Ironman?

This is my first Ironman and triathlon for that matter. After all that has happened with my surgeries and injury to my foot, I’m very anxious. I’ve come to accept that I will always be doubting and questioning whether I could do it until I cross that finish line. It’s just a matter of how I deal with that doubt. The good news is that I’m using my doubts to fuel me rather than to get me down.

9. Do you plan to race in additional Ironmans? After the race, what are your plans?

See #11

10. Please tell us about your volunteer work with Catapulta. How are you supporting yourself in Colombia?

I left Catapulta because of a lack of deal flow and am now working with Casa Karah on a more flexible schedule. My training schedule is very time consuming and tiring so it’s probably better that I have something with more flexible hours. I am supporting myself off of savings from working at UBS, although it would be great to find a few sponsors.

11. And lastly, please tell us about yourself (age, where you are from etc.)

I’m 27, grew up in Potomac, Maryland and attended the University of Maryland. I graduated with a degree in Economics and minor in Mathematics (hey, I’m Asian). After graduating in 2005, I worked at UBS Investment Bank in their Global Healthcare Group for three years. Since then I have been training for the Ironman and volunteering in Ecuador and most recently in Colombia. I hope to attend business school after the race and don’t plan on running other Ironmans in the future. I think I will take the lessons learned and focus my energy on other endeavors.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Race for the Fallen - Video Part 3

This is the 3rd and last part of my video series. I want to thank all my friends that were a part of the process. I hope they had as much fun as I did while filming it and that you, the audience enjoyed it as well.

If you are having trouble viewing youtube click HERE.

Please help me reach my goal of $12,000 by donating to my cause HERE.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Bad Accident

9 years ago I was in boot camp learning how to fall. The class lasted an hour or two and it went through all the different angles from which you could fall and how to decrease the possible damage from the impact. In training, we had the benefit of soft wood chips to practice these techniques. Last night, the class proved to be extremely helpful and perhaps saved my life.

Every Tuesday and Thursday night, Medellìn closes a main road off for cyclists and joggers. During this "ciclovìa," I was riding my bike on the correct side of the road and about 20 minutes into my workout, a 14 year old kid made a stupid decision to pass the person that was in front of him by crossing into my lane. Unfortunately, he was coming from the other direction and I had no idea he even existed...until he made a surprise appearance directly in front of me. I literally had no time to react as the person he was attempting to pass was blocking him from my view. A split second later, a head-on collision ensued where I was going 20 mph and I flipped over my bike (which was still attached to my cleats). I instinctively rolled onto my right shoulder over to my left and after a few rolls stopped with a dislocated shoulder, 2 numb fingers and numerous bumps and bruises. Bucephalus (my trusty steed) was/is also in bad shape. A number of things raced through my mind, am I ok? how will this affect the race? was that person really that stupid to cross the line without looking?!

After assessing no serious damage to myself save for my shoulder (which had popped back in by that time), I decided to assess the situation. I asked the crowd that had formed who had hit me because I had no time to even see who the idiot was. They pointed me in the direction of this kid, Felipe, who was sitting by the roadside. I asked if he was ok and he replied yes. I asked bystanders to call the police and for him to call him parents. The officials arrived and took note of the situation. His parents asked me what I was going to do and I told them that I was 7 miles from home and didn´t have a means to get back since my bike was messed up and I was in no condition to ride it. Thankfully, they offered me a ride home.

At this point, Felipe was completely freaking out, his parents, Felipe, his 2 younger sisters and I were in the car rushing him to the hospital because he said his head hurt. Once at the hospital, his uncle came over to drop me off at home. Once I arrived home, my Colombian family told me that I should get some treatment too. Until that point I thought I would be ok, but the pain was pretty tremendous and I agreed. My "mom," roommate and other friend came along with me to make sure I´d be ok. They stayed with me until 4am at the hospital.

The results came back and I don´t have any broken bones, but I will need to refrain from physical activity for a period. Luckily, things didn´t turn out worse, I could have broken my neck from flipping over. The race is just 2 weeks away. I´m not sure how much I can lay off training. I had just created a new timeline of training because of my surgeries and this has completely screwed up whatever I had planned. I´m not sure I will have enough time to recover for the race.

Unfortunately, Felipe is still in the hospital because he suffered a concussion and has a swollen brain. After learning that his parents don´t have many resources, I didn´t have the heart to ask them to pay for my medical bills, let alone for my bike. I suppose these things happen and sometimes there´s nothing you can do about it. It´s funny how right when you think you have control over your life, it´s taken from you just like that. I guess the important thing is how you react. Me? I´m going to compete.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Very Big Setback

A couple weeks ago, I noticed a sharp pain in my upper teeth and figured that my last wisdom tooth was making its untimely appearance. I made plans to fly back to the US to have it operated on and then return to Medellin to train (I have some crazy teeth). I was concerned about the training time I would miss out on to recover but figured that I wouldn't lose more than a week or so.

Last Thursday, I flew into Washington DC and on Friday made an appointment with the Dr. The Dr. suspected that there may be something else going on rather than a wisdom tooth and suggested I get a CT scan. Upon evaluation of my scan, the Dr. notified me that I had either a cyst or tumor growing in my sinus. He told me to come back in a week to get a biopsy.

When I told the Dr. I couldn't wait an entire week to get a biopsy (the pain was pretty bad and affecting my appetite and thus my training) he told me he could do one that very day; however, I'd only get local anesthetic. I agreed so he shot me up with a little novocaine, cut me open and fiddled around my mouth for half an hour and sewed me back up. Needless to say, our conversation was pretty one-sided throughout the whole ordeal.

The Dr. said that judging from the makeup of the tissue, his first guess would be that it's a type of benign tumor that has cyst-like properties, but would have to get the results back from the biopsy to make sure. I'll receive the final answer within a few days.

Since then, the right side of my face has swelled to a pretty ridiculous size (I haven't been this chubby since...never) and I stopped taking the painkillers they gave me after the 2nd day because they don't really help. Training has been nonexistent as a result although I'm hoping to at least go for a walk tomorrow (my swelling has subsided to a point I'm sure won't scare little kids).

The bad news is that these next couple weeks are the most important for training as they include the most rigorous workouts. But, sometimes life hits you in the face (literally) with things that take higher priority. I suppose the good news is that I have a major obstacle to overcome that will motivate me even more to reach my goal.

I haven't given up on the race just yet. I've progressed too far and dedicated too much to do so. I share the same sentiments as the wise man who once said, "I have not yet begun to fight!" (I'm pretty sure he won too)

Monday, April 6, 2009

A Video Testimonial by my Personal Trainer

For 3 years, I worked at UBS Investment Bank and sat next to a standup guy, Ryan Kaplan. We would always tell each other about our weekends and also pulled a few antics of our own while grinding away in our cubicles. Little did I know that he dominated the triathlon scene on weekends (I guess superhumans don`t think it`s a big deal).

When I told him that I would be training for an Ironman, he insisted that he be my coach. He told me his credentials, and since he`s such a great and trustworthy guy, I never bothered to verify his claims. I have found his training methods to be a bit unconventional and cruel at times, but the results are undeniable. Thanks Kap!

Having trouble with youtube? Click HERE

To find out why I need a coach, or to donate to my cause, please click the below.

Race for the Fallen

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Race for the Fallen Video - Part 2

Disclaimer: The political views of Robert Seo, the actor, may or may not coincide with those of Robert Seo, the triathlete.

CLICK HERE if you missed the first episode.

To find out more information about my fundraiser or to donate, please click below.


If you are having trouble viewing youtube, click HERE

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Oye Chino!

I hear this all the time as I walk through the streets of Medellìn. I initially would go out of my way to correct them and say "No, soy Koreano!" Then I realized that they don´t intend to be hurtful or racist and that instead they think China is a continent.

As I look back now, I think it´s funny how I was so sensitive about my race. I volunteer with underprivileged kids at Casa Karah (aka I play with really cute little kids). At first, I was very surprised that the kids would call each other racial slurs. Hey morocho (brown one) come here! Yo negrito (little black one) pass me the ball! But then I realized that they weren´t racial slurs, but rather terms of endearment! It is amazing how they acknowledged the differences and then appreciated them.

It seems Colombia´s race relations is light years ahead of the US´s. Before I realized this, my roommate, Luz Dary, asked me if she could go to the US and call an African-American a negrito or an Asian-American a Chino. I laughed at her and told her that we would consider her ignorant if she did. But looking back, maybe the joke´s on us and we´re the ignorant ones...

The True Test

During basic training at Parris Island, one of my drill instructors would frequently ask us, "when is the true test?" This question was usually poised towards the end of a long, hard day of training.

The answer: When you´re hungry, exhausted and feeling sorry for yourself.

His point was that anybody can start the day fast and furious, but who you really are and what you are really made of shines through if you can put forth the same effort in the end as you did in the beginning. Though it takes a lot more effort to follow through to the end, the results are exponential.

I ask myself the same question towards the end of every workout to make sure I finish strong.

To find out why I´m training or to donate to my cause, please click on the below link.

Race for the Fallen

My Favorite Quote

"`Cause I think we can make it, in fact, I´m sure, and if you fall stand tall and come back for more."

As I was listening to my ipod on shuffle today, the song "Keep ya head up," by Tupac came up and my thoughts drifted to when I heard the song in Iraq. There were times during the war when I really didn´t know how I was going to make it back home given the situation. During one of those periods, I heard the song on my discman (ipods hadn´t been invented then) and immediately derived strength from the quote´s meaning.

"Cause I think we can make it"
This shows that he was doubtful at first but has a positive outlook on the future. He has hope! But as he mulls over what he just said, he grows more confident and concludes...

"in fact, I´m sure"
...that he WILL make it. He will not let the situation determine the outcome, the decision is his. And the decision is made.

"And if you fall stand tall and come back for more."
You will get where you want to get, but also keep in mind that you will face difficulties. Whenever you "fail," don´t get down on yourself, make sure you pick yourself back up and carry on.

Lo and behold, I made it through the war and came back stronger for it. As I have struggled the past several days in my training, I lost sight of how far the right attitude and perseverance can take me.

Now I know I can make it, I´m sure of it.

To find out why I am training for the Ironman Triathlon or to contribute to my cause, please click on the below link.

Race for the Fallen


From the moment I signed up for this race, my mind has been filled with doubts on whether I can do this. At times (especially lately), these feelings of uncertainty have caused a lot of stress. But I realized that nothing I do until I cross the finish line will completely extinguish these thoughts. The best thing for me to do is to channel my anxiety into my workouts to ensure I succeed. I just wish it were easier done than said...

To see why I am training or to donate to my cause, please click on the below link.

Race for the Fallen

Monday, March 16, 2009

Still Out

I still haven't been able to run because it it is too painful to do so. I have self diagnosed myself with plantar fascitis on my right foot. Though it's gotten a lot better over time (acupuncture works!) it's still not 100%. I'm starting to get concerned about the run portion of the race...

In addition, I've had some bad workouts the past few days. I'm guessing it's poor nutrition but I've felt especially lethargic and groggy on the bike and in the pool. I loaded up on carbs today so hopefully this will turnaround tomorrow. My morale is definitely suffering though.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


I´m getting fairly concerned with a foot injury I incurred while running. My right running shoe´s arch support was digging into my foot and now it´s irritated or sprained. Either way, I have not been able to run on it for 2 weeks now and am not sure I will be able to anytime soon. I have 3 months to get my running up to marathon level and I´m sure I can do it but it sure doesn´t help to have this hit me right now.

Hopefully, my mom can acupuncture it out next week while I´m stateside...

To find out why I am training or to donate to my cause, please click here

Monday, February 23, 2009


So I finally found a place to live here in Medellìn with some college kids, a lawyer, electronic engineer and a 40-something year old mother of 2 young girls. I pay $220 a month for food, housing and laundry (not a bad deal).

Somebody tell me why the 40 y/o and another girl roommate had to walk by the TV during the only prolonged sex scene of Forgetting Sarah Marshall? They asked if I was watching a porno and I tried to explain the situation but I´m not sure if they believed me. I was always great at first impressions...

Why Colombia?

It´s been a hectic couple weeks because I moved from Quito, Ecuador to Medellìn, Colombia. The reasons are numerous for my move, but the main reason is that I was unable to ride my bike in Quito. And since the biking portion of the race consists of about half the time, I needed a much better location that was conducive to training overall. Luckily, I am still able to work with Catapulta remotely while in Colombia.

Medellìn has a horrible reputation since it was the headquarters of the Pablo Escobar era; however, it has turned around dramatically as has the rest of Colombia. It´s safe to say that it´s a LOT safer than Quito (no pun intended). It also boasts a true Olympic sized pool, miles of road to ride a bike (including a 15 mile stretch of highway that is closed off every week specifically for bikers) and to put the cherry on top the weather is perfect year round at 70-80 degrees.

Another reason Colombia as a country was so easy to choose was its people. I have never visited a country where its people go so out of their way to make you feel so welcome. While visiting, I was approached at least once a day by a random stranger not because he or she wanted anything from me, but rather because they just wanted to make sure we were enjoying our time in their country. At the end of our conversations they would always give us their contact information and tell us not to hesitate to call them if we needed anything. We were even invited to a wedding party!

Also, I love how the society is based on trust. This was evident from the moment I stepped off the plane. During my cab ride, I told my driver that I´d be paying him in dollars and when I told him the exchange rate he said, "Are you sure, I thought it was lower?" When I told him I was sure he said ok I trust you and that was that. Also, I have run into the situation numerous times at a corner store where they didn´t have enough change and they told me to pay them later. In each of the situations, I always wondered how events would have unfolded if we were in New York. The longer I stay here, the more I´m convinced that everybody in the world can learn something from Colombians. The country´s tourism slogan is "The only risk is that you´ll want to stay." You won´t find me suing them anytime soon for false advertising.

PS - This link has absolutely no credibility because Colombia is not on it.

To find out why I am running the Ironman Triathlon or to donate to my cause, please click on this link

Friday, February 6, 2009

Instructional Video: How to Stay Fit on Vacation

So here's a step by step guide on how to stay fit while you're on vacation.

Step 1: Cut a hole in the box

Heh heh jk...

Step 2: Have a friend get down on his hands and knees

Step 3: Have another friend lay on his/her back with all limbs in the air (it helps if this friend has big arm muscles). This friend should be positioned so that his/her head is perpendicular to the other friend from Step 2.

Step 4:
Take a seat and pedal as if your life depended on it (notice the wind streaks, they mean you're going fast!)!

Step 5: Relax!

To find out why I'm "training" while on vacation or to donate to my cause, please click here!

Venezuela Picture Update Parte Dos

After Canaima, we had a brief stay in Isla Margarita where we celebrated New Year´s Eve in grand fashion with the locals.

The celebration included the customary spraying of bub...

And of course, Stu and I demonstrated to a lucky local what we do best...

After our NYE celebration we went to Los Roques. My friends and I concluded that Los Roques has to be one of the most beautiful places on Earth. The views from the plane were a good indicator of what we would encounter on the ground.

Once we were on the ground, we were not disappointed by the views that we experienced. Los Roques is an archipelago so we took a boat to different keys each day where we were met with white sand and clear water wherever we went.

On one of the days, we were lucky enough to have a tiny island to ourselves. We spent the day in isolation relaxing...

Getting silly...

Digging for buried treasure...

Feeling the sand between our fingers...

Enjoying the platos tipicos...

AND taking in the fresh ocean air...

OR maybe not so fresh...

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Grind

I woke up today a LOT more sore and tired than I usually am and was deciding between skipping my long run today and just grinding it out. I'm glad I chose to grind it out but my body is cursing me (in numerous languages). Hopefully my body gets used to this at some point..

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Fundraiser Event!

If you are in NYC and have a few moments and liver cells to spare, please make it out to a happy hour this Thursday to support my cause, Race for the Fallen.

What: Happy Hour Fundraiser to support homeless veterans
Where: Town Tavern (134 W. 3rd St)
When: Feb. 5 (this Thursday!) from 6:30 - 10:30pm
Why: Drink specials, great people and a worthy cause!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Venezuela Picture Update

Right after the holidays, I was fortunate enough to have friends join me in this beautiful continent. We started our travels in Venezuela, but before I go into what we did, let me introduce the cast...

To leadoff, we have your run of the mill primadonnas MIMI and STU

Next up we have the always amiable PEDRO with his not always so friendly personal bodyguard, ALEX "THE TERMINATOR" CHOI.

Then you have CHRISTINE (Big Spoon) and SHU (Little Spoon)

Finally you have me, ROBERTO SEO (El Tigre for short). You know, lately I've been getting a lot of comments on my hair. I like to call it the "Lion's Mane," some others call it the "I can't believe you were too lazy to not cut your hair for 5 months" look. You say potay-to I say po-tah-to.

Our adventure started in Canaima Park, which is home to Coca Cola colored water (due to minerals or something) and beautiful waterfalls (including Angel Falls, the tallest waterfall in the world).

We spent several nights in the area and went on several day trips via foot...


and plane...

Random Question: Why do I get this reaction from girls so often??? =(

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Ecuador Picture Update


Beginning from the end of November through early December, Quito is pretty insane because of the city's birthday (around Dec. 5 or so). The city celebrates with bullfights and people partying all the time and everywhere.

I was able to attend one of the bullfights, and though some may find them interesting, I found them cruel because they made a huge show about toying with a poor bull and then killing it when it was in a weakened state. I say bullfighters should grow some real balls and kill bulls with their bare hands. That would be more interesting (and fair).

I must give Quiteños credit and say that they know how to party. During the Quito days, streets were PACKED with revelers and live bands.

As the Quiteños showed me how they rolled...

I had to represent my hood and show them how we roll...

Random point of the day: If you're still wondering why China is becoming a superpower, this is why. Quito is a ghosttown on Sunday and hardly anything is open, except...


Manta is a beach/fishing/shipbuilding city on the coast of Ecuador. Not much going on there but kinda cool.

In Manta, as in the rest of the world, if you're holding 2 machetes, you pretty much don't need to be wearing any pants.


Hard times call for desperate measures...

Puerto Lopez is a very small beach town where my buddies and I took a boat trip. The most enjoyable part was catching our own fish and eating it for the best ceviche I have ever had.


What has Greg MacDonald done for me to dedicate the funds I raise for Jericho Project in his honor? Well, his sudden death made me realize how fragile life was and how I had not quite lived life because I had never pushed myself to excel at anything. I had carelessly bided my time as if tomorrow would be handed to me. In fact, I had lost my academic scholarship and been kicked out of the Honors Program just before my deployment because of my hard-partying and careless ways.

Though his death helped me realize what I had been doing wrong, it is what he lived for that inspired me to take control of my life. He LIVED to ensure that we, Americans, had the opportunity to make the most of what we have. Since I returned from the war, I have dedicated my time (the most important asset in life) to challenging myself in all aspects (while still partying pretty hard). My decision to run the Ironman is a byproduct of this newfound attitude towards life. By dedicating the race in Greg’s honor, I am displaying my gratitude for his impact on my life while contributing to his legacy. In addition, as he inspired me to take control of my future, I can do the same for another veteran by raising funds for Jericho Project. Please help me raise $12,000 (the amount necessary to house and support one homeless veteran) by donating to my cause and thus positively impacting the lives of a struggling veteran and his family.

Mac gave his life and in doing so taught me a valuable lesson. I must take advantage of life’s opportunities. If I fail to reach my full potential and let any opportunities to improve myself go to waste, I am not only disappointing myself, but also all who sacrificed so much to help me reach this point. As a US Marine and responsible human being, I will never let that happen again. Semper Fidelis Mac…and thanks.

To learn more about my story and/or to donate to my cause, please click here.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Quality not Quantity

I know I have been MIA and I apologize. My excuse is that my writing capacities have been taken up by applications to Master’s programs. Since my writing tank was pretty much on empty, I did not want to dilute the quality of this blog so I refrained from writing about uninteresting topics such as “what comes first, cereal, or milk?” or the number of papayas I ate on that particular day (papayas, the new crack cocaine?). I’ve also been traveling for the past several weeks to get in some quality vacation time before I hunker down and begin training for the race.

With that said, the “Official” 5 month training program started on Monday so yesterday was training day numero 3. I definitely did my part to prepare myself to begin the training program (yes, there is a prerequisite level of fitness in order to begin training for the race), but I am BEAT! Maybe I woke up on the wrong side of the bed 3 days in a row, am eating the wrong cereal (somebody Google Translate “Wheaties” for me please) or maybe it is because I have just begun.

I have always encountered the most difficult period during the beginning of any experience. At boot camp, the training regimen was consistently more challenging with each passing week; however, I recall the first few weeks to be the most trying period. While working upwards of 100 hours a week at UBS, I struggled the most during the first few months of employment.

I believe that in every meaningful undertaking, you will reach a breaking point where you can either turn back, or fight through. Since many people turn back in these situations, I believe that what you do at the fork in the road not only sets you apart, but also defines you.

Are you going to be discouraged after your first glimpse of choppy seas? Are you willing to do what it takes to reach your goal? Are you willing to sacrifice for what you believe in?

I believe in this cause. Though I have not quite reached the breaking point yet, I know that when I do, I will fight through it because though I may be beat, I will not be beaten.