We're moving!

I decided to make the move to WordPress for this blog. I like how WordPress will give me the stats on my blog and I can't really get that as easily on Blogger. Sorry, Google! I still love you!

So you can find me now at http://christymwong.wordpress.com! I hope you'll continue to visit me there!

Race Report: FleetFeet SuperSprint Triathlon

Lexie, my cheer pug, and me on race morning.
On Saturday, I competed in my second triathlon (not counting the relay because I didn't do the whole thing). This was also my second time doing the FleetFeet SuperSprint Triathlon, part of the Chicago Triathlon weekend. This is a great race for beginners and new triathletes, so my goal was to just beat my time from last year (about 54 minutes).

CCUC-N Triathletes Pre-Race
This race was a lot more fun because I was doing it with a bunch of friends: Pastor Luke, Callie, Dan, Maria, Tiffany, and Josh. I loved watching all their swim starts (except Tiffany's because I was swimming at that point) and cheering them on in the bike and run if I saw them on the course.

Here's a brief little recap of my race:

Swim - 375 m - 10:32 (including swim to bike transition)
This year's swim went MUCH better than last year's for me. For one thing, the race weather this year was PERFECT. Sunny and in the 70's compared to last year when it was cloudy at the start and like 65 degrees. It was FREEZING. The water this year was still a little cold, but I had a full wetsuit (great investment) and it not only helped me stay warmer, but it helped me float. I could feel my body floating closer to the surface of the water. So this year I didn't feel like I was drowning and didn't resort to breaststroke for the entire swim. I did freestyle the entire time (except for a few breaststrokes when there were a bunch of people in front of me), but I breathed on every stroke and didn't bother with bilateral breathing. It went pretty well though and I felt pretty good about it. I looked at my watch when I finished the swim so I did it in about 5 minutes, which was great. My transition was so slow though--that took about another 5 minutes. Luke & Josh dominated on the swim (they both did it in less than 5 minutes), but they're also both swimmers.
Me & Tiffany waiting with our waves before the swim
I look so happy to be starting out!
Still happy because the swim is over & I had a pretty good swim!

Tackling the bike course
Bike - 6.2 miles - 26:03 (including bike to run transition)
Rode my own bike this year, which was nice! I had a pretty good bike time, but the four hills (that we had to go over THREE times) were exhausting. I was getting tired and as I thought about how I want to do a sprint distance triathlon next year, I was wondering how I'd be able to do it!

Run - 1.55 miles - 16:13
Sprinting toward the finish line
Did a quicker bike to run transition and started out slowly. I was pretty tired by this point. I'm still not sure how I'd be able to run a 5k after biking 12 miles and swimming half a mile for the sprint distance (*sigh* but I guess that's why you train!). There was this elderly man who was in wave 21 (I was in wave 19, so he started after me) who started the run at the same time I did and he finished before me! I know this because I was behind him on the run and I never passed him. Just goes to show you're never too old to do triathlons! But good for him. I decided to keep a slower and steady pace on the first half of the run until the turnaround. Then I picked up the pace a little bit. I saw Josh sprinting to the end when I was just starting and then I saw Dan while I was running too. I saw Callie closer to the turnaround and then a little later I passed her, but I didn't know it was her that I just passed until she said something to me! I kept going until I started seeing the orange cones and heard the announcer at the finish line, so then I sprinted with what energy I had left, passed a bunch of people, and finished strong.

We all finished!
Overall time: 52:49; 348/804 finishers overall; 126/451 out of the women; 41/139 in the 20-29 female division. I beat last year's time by 2 minutes, so I'm pretty pleased with my results. I wished I could've run a little faster at the end, but it's okay.

Next challenge: to train for a sprint distance triathlon for next year!

What are your race goals for next year?

the flip side


When I was in high school, I always blocked out the first week of August from any other activities so I could go to Teen Camp. Teen Camp is organized and run by Chinese Christian Union Church in Chinatown (my church's mother church). My first year of camp, I remember Greg Speck being the speaker and how amazing and convicting his messages were. I grew up in a Christian family, but that year at camp I recommitted my life to Christ (going into my sophomore year of high school). So I recognize the profound importance Christian camps can have in the lives of teenagers and their spiritual lives.

Jessica, Tiffany and me on the last day of camp.
This year I returned to Teen Camp (which takes place at the Lake Geneva Youth Camp & Conference Center), but as a counselor instead of a camper. I was excited to be able to be on the counselor staff with my fellow youth counselors, Gerald, Tiffany and Pearson, and with Jessica, another friend from our church. It was such a joy to serve with them all week.

One of the main reasons Gerald, Tiffany, Pearson and I decided to be counselors at camp this year was because we visited camp one night last year and realized the importance of being there for the kids in our own youth group. I know I loved it when just one of our youth counselors was a Teen Camp counselor when I was a camper. There's just something comforting about knowing that this person already knows you so well and knows where you come from. So if any of our youth needed to talk, they'd know that we're there for them and available if they need us.

Though that week of camp was one of the most tiring and non-stop weeks ever (it's way more work than my usual 40-hour work week), it's definitely one of the highlights of my summer. I also think I like being a counselor better than being a camper...and not just because of the special counselor privileges. ;-) Here's why:
All the counselors minus Gerald (he had to leave early).
  • Seeing God at work: Not that I didn't see God at work when I was a camper, but as a counselor you get to see how God is working in the entire camp. At our morning meetings, we always shared things that were going on, so we could hear how God was working in certain students and/or counselors lives throughout the week. There were many non-Christians at camp this year and God was definitely working in the hearts of many. Several students accepted Christ that week.
  • Connecting one-on-one: I loved having one-on-ones with the girls in my cabin. It allowed me to get to know them better and some of them really opened up and shared their struggles with me. At times I felt so inadequate because I just didn't know how to respond or what to say. I felt like I was just rambling and saying things sometimes, not really sure if they were making sense or helping at all. But by God's grace, He gave me the words to say and helped me to realize just how much I need to depend on Him and how He can work despite my weaknesses. I was also able to connect on a deeper level with some of our own youth group members, which is such a blessing because I'll still see these teens back at home and can continue to follow-up on the things we talked about.
  • Serving with the body: Our Teen Camp staff this year was an awesome group of people. Everyone had strengths that contributed to a great team. We all worked together, and I enjoyed getting to know the counselors from other churches better. It's awesome how you can instantly connect with people when you know that you're all bonded together in Christ. I also got to know Tiffany a lot better since we shared a room (where we stored our stuff & went for refuge). We shared what God was doing in our cabins and Bible studies and in individual students and we've been able to become more open with each other too about what's going on in our lives, which is another blessing. 
  • Serving with Gerald: My boyfriend, Gerald, and I didn't really get to see each other much during the week since we were always busy with our own campers, but we both felt that even though we didn't get to spend much time together that week, our relationship grew closer just through serving together in the same ministry. We did get to perform one of our songs, Hallelujah, together for our combined Bible study skit, which was a lot of fun. You can watch it here. This was Gerald's first Teen Camp ever and I'm glad I was able to share the experience with him. He's already planning what he'll do when he's a counselor again next year.
 So even though I did get bed bug bites at camp (I found out some of my girls found bugs in the cabin and also got bitten), I was sleep-deprived, and I had no free time, it was absolutely worth it. God was present and moving, and it's my prayer that what we all learned at camp will transform our lives so we won't ever be the same again.

What are some of your great camp memories?

CCUC-North campers & counselors!
Meredith Andrews came to perform for us.
Me, Boyi, and Angela, two of my youth group members.
My awesome Bible study group!
My wonderful cabin girls - Birchwood #5

Bed Bugs?!?

I got back from my first year as a counselor at Teen Camp about a week ago. Another post to come on that soon. But first, I wanted to write about the little blood-sucking vampires that I seem to have been plagued by for the past few days: BED BUGS! I may or may not have gotten them at Teen Camp. I'm not completely sure, but I'm pretty sure I got more bites since I've been home.

It's kind of ironic because when I was a camper at Teen Camp, my friend Priscilla and I made it a tradition to write sunshine mail (daily notes of encouragement) to all the guys at camp. This year I discovered that's been our legacy...all the other counselors who went to camp remembered me as "Pristy Chong." (that's Priscilla and my names combined).

Anyway, I know at least one year we used to write, "Good night, sleep tight, and don't let the flesh-eating bed babies bite." Now we all know "bed babies" is supposed to be like bed bugs, but I never really realized what a problem bed bugs can be until this past week.

You can see the linear pattern of 3 on my bites on my leg.
Maybe I noticed this on Sunday (day after I got home from camp), but I definitely noticed on Monday that I had more red spots on my body. I dismissed them as mosquito bites. Then when I was talking to a coworker at work on Monday, I felt some more bumps on my arm. I also thought I may have been breaking out since they kind of look like pimples too. But then I wondered why I'd be breaking out so much and everywhere. Somehow I started looking up "red, itchy spots on skin" (thank you, Google) and as I read more, I learned that most likely, these were bed bug bites. Bed bug bites look a lot like mosquito bites (and the bites weren't too itchy for me at first), but bed bugs like to bite in linear patterns, which they call "breakfast," "lunch," and "dinner." Well guess what the meal is? YOU!

Let's just say, I've learned a lot more about bed bugs than I ever wanted to know. It's kind of gross to think about them crawling all over you at night and biting you. I searched for all the signs of bed bugs in my apartment--looking for the spots on my sheets, checking and vacuuming the mattress and box spring, looking in all the possible cracks they could hide...I found nothing. I washed all my clothes and sheets and blanket in HOT water. I even had Orkin come in and check for me. They also didn't find any obvious signs of bed bugs, but that doesn't mean they're not there. It would cost me about $450 (and that's a special deal) to chemically spray my apartment for the bed bugs. That's a lot of money, and I don't really want to spend that if I can help it.

This used to be a line of dots on my stomach, but they allmerged together.
So a couple nights ago, my mom bought me a mattress cover and we vacuumed like crazy all over my entire apartment (it's pretty clean), vacuumed my mattress, put my sheets, blanket, and stuffed animals on high heat in the dryer, and sealed up the box spring with the mattress cover. Then that night I marked all my bites with a washable marker so I'd remember if they were there or not in the morning, wrapped myself up in my blanket like a cocoon and then went to sleep. I woke up these past two mornings and didn't find any new bites. I'm hoping that maybe there weren't really any bugs and that I'm safe now.

Needless to say, this causes some paranoia. I come home & I immediately check my bed, mattress, blankets, everything for any signs of bed bugs. If one shows up, I'll know (hopefully). So I'm praying that I didn't bring any bed bugs home with me, and if I did, that they just died (which wouldn't normally happen). We'll see what happens when I go to sleep tonight. All I know is from now on, I'm washing my sheets every week and vacuuming often and ALWAYS checking for bed bugs no matter where I sleep. Doesn't matter if it's a really nice hotel. They can be anywhere!

Have you ever had a bed bug problem? How did you deal with it?

Spa Day

Lexie here. I'm doing a guest post for Christy (one of my moms) today because we did something really fun and I wanted to share it all with you from MY point of view.

Mom's apartment complex was having a Doggy Day Spa, so even though I don't live with her, she invited me to come for some special spa treatment. I'd never been to a spa before so I didn't know what to expect. But when we walked up, guess what I saw? ANOTHER PUG! I met a 9-year-old pug named Puglsey. I'm just 9 months old, so it was fun to see that he still had energy to keep up with me.

After playing with Pugsley for a little while and hearing all the humans "oohing"  and "ahhing" over us, I got a bath. They made me get in this big tub full of water and bubbles. Then they sprayed me with this hose thing. The water was kind of cold at first, but after they shampooed me, they gave me warmer water which was much better.

They tried to put Puglsey in the tub too, but he jumped right out! I guess he doesn't like baths that much. Or maybe he was already clean. 

After my bath, they dried me off with a towel. I liked this part. It felt like a nice massage too. 

Then they brushed my fur and put some perfume on me so I smell like coconut. I don't know what a coconut is, but I think they thought I smelled good. They also gave me this red bandana so now I look like a cowboy--or...cowgirl. I was still kind of wet, but I didn't care because...

...lots of other dogs that were not pugs started showing up! I wanted to play with ALL of them. Stella, the cavalier king spaniel, came over and I shared my secrets on how to get the most treats by being cute. Hopefully she takes some of my advice.

Yep, the treats were the best part of this spa day. We went back to my mom's apartment and they blow dried me so I'd dry faster. But I really wanted this big milkbone. Yummy! I also ate lots more treats at the spa. I'd say it was a good day. No wonder humans love going to spas!

Review: Picking Dandelions

Author Sarah Cunningham asked me to review her new book, Picking Dandelions (Zondervan, Feb. 2010), as part of her blog tour. I'll admit that I have to give Sarah my deepest apology because I thought I had given myself enough time to read her book, but somehow life got in the way and I've only just begun her memoir. Today is my tour date and I'm only on part two of the book.

So Sarah, I apologize for not being able to read the entire book by the day I'm supposed to review it. I hate to be one of "those bloggers" because I know that as the manager for the Tyndale Blog Network, I want bloggers to post their reviews for scheduled blog tours on time. How horrible that I can't even manage my own schedule to do that.

From what I've read so far though, I'm enjoying Sarah's writing. This is a memoir of her spiritual journey and I can relate. She sets the beginning of her story in small town Michigan, which reminds me much of the small town of Upland, Indiana where I went to college. We had our single blinking traffic light too and the sole restaurant in the town, Ivanhoe's, which I happen to like. :)Small towns have their charm.

From the back cover copy:

Sarah Cunningham, the daughter of a pastor, is exceedingly familiar with coming to Jesus and being born again. But it took her a while to realize that a real Christian grows from the point of rebirth--that a God-following person is a changing person.

Cunningham admits that her conversion was sandwiched, almost unnoticed, between ordinary childhood moments. In recounting some of these moments, Cunningham candidly explores how she got stuck in her laissez-faire Christianity and shares what she learned along the way. Whether describing life as a child living next to a cemetery, or her grandmother's life as a WWII bride from England, the author's images of growth and renewal, planting and reaping, greenery and weeds remind us that life, even in God's grace, involves challenges and change.

My Thoughts:
Although I haven't really gotten very far in the book, I like how Sarah share about her child-like faith--believing so easily in God, Jesus, miracles, and the power of prayer. I can relate to that in a way because I grew up in a Christian family and always knew about God. It wasn't until later that I realized I needed to allow God to transform me too. It's not enough to just know about Him.

I also liked Sarah's subtle, yet satirical ways of describing things Christians get hung up on--like arguing over what color the shingles should be as part of the new church expansion project. When you see this through a child's eyes, it seems so innocent, and yet you feel the conviction when you realize that what the child perceives is true. Funny how kids often make adults see things the way they really are. I also really like the dandelion metaphor carried throughout at the beginning of each new section. Before part II, I love this last line:

"The seed cannot grow unless it detaches itself from the original plant and braves unfamiliar soil."

How true that those of us who grow up believing in our parents' faith cannot fully grow in our own faith until we separate our faith from that of our parents and go out on our own spiritual journey, learning more about God through the trials and joys of life. When our faith can stand alone (on nothing but Jesus Christ), that is when we know our faith is genuine.

I'm sure I haven't quite gotten to the "meat" of this narrative yet, but I'm looking forward to seeing more of Sarah's perspectives and insights as I continue reading.

Sarah also asked for three book recommendations. Given that I work for Tyndale, these all happen to be Tyndale books (that's mostly what I read), but I hope you'll check these out!

1) Her Mother's Hope by Francine Rivers (and watch for Her Daughter's Dream in September!)
2) Imaginary Jesus by Matt Mikalatos
3) Crossing Oceans by Gina Holmes

Happy summer reading!

A, B, C's of Sun Protection


I'm a fan of Neutrogena products. I've used their face and body washes, and some makeup, and generally been pleased.

Recently, I was given the opportunity to review Neutrogena UltraSheer Liquid Sunblock, courtesy of Tidal Labs. I jumped at the chance because I was going to Mexico this summer and sunblock was a necessity. I thought that might be a good place to test this stuff out.

The small bottle of sunblock was perfect for travel. I spent my first full day in Mexico on the beach, so I used the Neutrogena UltraSheer Liquid Sunblock on my face. It has an SPF of 30, which makes it a good daily sunblock. I liked how the lotion doesn't feel greasy on your skin and is easy to apply.

It's super important to wear sunblock year-round. I learned in my high school AP Environmental Science class that UV rays are like your A, B, C's. UV-A causes aging, UV-B causes burning, and UV-C causes cancer. I don't really want any of those things (although some of them were not avoided...like burning), but any protection is better than no protection! I'd like to keep my youthful skin for a while. :)

I didn't really use the sunblock on the rest of my body since I think this is meant more for the face. The applicator doesn't really make it seem like you can use it on your entire body for sun protection (though I have used it since my trip on my arms for when I'm out running). For the rest of my body, I used another Neutrogena sunblock with SPF 100+. Unfortunately, the Mexico sun is so hot that I still got burned (and I probably needed to reapply though).

After a day out in the sun, my cheeks were a little red (as in you could tell I got some sun), but they didn't burn like other parts of my skin did. In general, I think this is a great sunblock for everyday use. It's always important to wear sunblock (even in winter) to help protect against those damaging UV rays that cause aging, burning, and cancer. I'm still using Neutrogena UltraSheer Liquid Sunblock daily on my face as my general morning moisturizer and sunblock.

Would you like to review UltraSheer®, too? Then go here. Or get $2 off your UltraSheer® purchase with this coupon.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the product mentioned above for free for review purposes from Tidal Labs. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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