Race Reports, Triathlon

Race Report: IRONMAN 70.3 Muskoka 2019

INTRO

On Sunday July 7, 2019 I “finished” by first crack at the half-ironman distance in Muskoka, but there’s a DNF twist based on a technicality. I’ll get to that by the end of this report. Not to be concerned, this isn’t a sulking review. I’m in good spirits, I indeed receive my Finishers Medal, t-shirt, and cap within the total time limit. And most importantly, look forward to the process of improving myself! 

It was the first time in a triathlon where the idea of quitting did not cross my mind even for a split second. 

I registered for this race almost a year ago. And my triathlon history is super short having only done 2 sprint distance events before. Needless, to say I was cool and calm up until the day before. I was absolutely terrified in the 24-hours just before the big day. 

PRE-RACE

 

View this post on Instagram

 

I’m here! Feeling very overwhelmed and not going to lie, pretty terrified. But loving the vibe and experience in Muskoka! I signed up for @im703muskoka almost a year ago and have been training ever since. This will be my first attempt at the half-Ironman distance. I have no idea what to expect tomorrow. There’s so many variabilities in a triathlon. I only intend to not drown in the swim, crash/mechanical on the bike, and not get sunstroke on the run. It’s going to be HOT tomorrow. My goal is to have fun and finish strong. Final #carbloading with a delicious cheeseless Primavera pizza with mushroom, artichoke, red peppers, and black olives at @tlp_by_the_lights ???? #AnythingisPossible #Ironman #Ironman703 #IronmanMuskoka #poweredbyplants

A post shared by Sean Chin (@seanchin) on

I arrived in Huntsville Saturday morning and stayed at the Tulip Inn, which is close to the start/finish line at the Canada Summit Centre. My pre-race carb-loading involved a delicious veggie primavera pizza from That Little Place by the Lights in downtown Huntsville, and then a veggie fettuccine bowl from East Side Marios. I did this race and the lead up to it on a whole food plant based lifestyle. 

GOALS

  • Don’t quit
  • Don’t drown on the swim
  • Don’t crash on the bike
  • Don’t have a mechanical bike issue
  • Don’t faint on the run
  • Have fun 

SWIM (1.9KM) 

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/2513017844

This swim in Fairy Lake was gorgeous. I took a good 30 mins to put on and pull up my ROKA wetsuit. By putting this much attention into this, I had no chest or shoulder restrictions. The water was wonderful and warm with nice sandy bottom.

It was my best Open Water Swim (OWS) to date. No panic attack. No loss of breath. Kept calm whenever I got crawled over or kicked in the face. Continuous swim with no stopping. No reverting to backstroke. And completed under the 1 hour cap. Additionally, the volunteer wetsuit strippers yanking them off our bodies was a unique yet time efficient experience.  

Now that I know I can be completely comfortable in OWS, I need to work on building and bringing in more power and speed to my stroke.

BIKE (90KM)

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/2513076283

They call IM70.3 Muskoka the “Beauty and the Beast” for a good reason. It’s an insanely challenging course. With big climbs, and steep descents. Yet, it was such an enjoyable ride at the same time. 90K is my longest outdoor ride to date, with the previous being 50KM at the Tour de Gueph. I was honestly was surprised that I did not crash or fall over once and not one drop of blood was shed. My mounting and dismounting is improving too. 

Based on my history ex. Milton, I was certain that there was a 90% chance I’d end up in a bloody mess at some point and pull out. Shockingly and fortunately, that did not happen. 

I noticed that after around 25KM, my hands and arms got numb, and had to take breaks to feel the sensation again. So this needs to be figured out ASAP. I feasted on all of my Lara bars, cliF bars, gummy bears, did not like the waffle stingers though.

RUN (21.1KM)

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/2513232950

Just like the previous 2 Sprint Distance triathlons I’ve done, all I keep telling myself is to “just get to the run”. And that was no difference in Muskoka. I’ve been been so happy to see a “Bike Off” aka dismount sign before. my plan was to stay at a consistent power the entire-time. The run is when I passed a boat load of people. It was a particularly hilly course, no surprise, but I actually don’t mind running up hills since my Spartan races. I loved the finish chute with the finisher banner to hold over my head at the end.

 

THE TWIST “DNF”

This acronym stands for “Did Not Finish”. To me, it’s a rather vague term especially in the sport of triathlon, because it is used as a status on a handful of outcomes. It can occur if someone quits mid-race on their own terms ex. fatigue, a race-ending injury, an unfixable mechanical issue, not making the final cut-off time, or intermediate cut-off times. 

I’m coming into the world of triathlon from running. And I’m used to events such as a marathon having a singular cut-off time of 8 hours for example.

In the standard 70.3 or Half-Triathlon distance, the final cut-off time is 8hours and 30 mins. With a swim of 1:10, Bike 5:30, and Run until the total time. However, it’s still not that simple. at Muskoka 70.3 there is also “intermediate Time of Day cut-offs” on the bike ex. 9:55AM at 23KM, 11AM at 45km, 12:06pm at 67KM, and 1:15pm at 90KM. 

When I finished the entire course, I actually made overall cut-off time in 8hr 16mins. I did the swim in 58mins, bike is 4:49, and run in 2:15. And I also made all of the intermediate bike cut-offs. 

A few hours later, when I checked SportStats, I was initially shocked and saddened to see “DNF” even though I made all those times. 

Why? It’s because I didn’t realize that there is actually another cut-off. I failed to understand that the combined swim and bike must be completed “5 hours and 30 minutes after the final wave start.” I thought that this meant the bike alone had to be within this, but they actually mean BOTH the swim and the bike need to be completed in this time. My time for both the swim and bike was 5:55. This one aspect led to my DNF on Sportstats. 

So call it as you wish. I may have not officially finished according to that bike/swim technicality, but I did absolutely indeed complete a Half-Ironman distance race within the total time. I bared as much pain and hills as all the other finishers that day.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

#AnythingIsPossible. More thoughts on @im703muskoka to come! #IronmanMuskoka

A post shared by Sean Chin (@seanchin) on

LESSONS

Since I know that the bike and especially climbing such a hilly course like Muskoka is my weakest ability, I should not have used the restroom at the 3 aid stations. My initial thought was that I was going to cruise through the run and thus I needed to get comfy and use the sorta-potties before so I could run continuous without stopping. Once at the run, then that combined swim/bike cut-off would have been over. However, now knowing about this, I should have not stopped at all on the bike to hit that 5:30 time, then I would have had the entire rest of the run to use it.

Many will say that I took on way too much for a beginner triathlete too soon at this course difficulty. That’s probably true. I’ve only done TTF Sprint 2018 and Milton Sprint 2019. In hindsight I should have done at least one Olympics distance race before a Half. 

I absolutely know my bike needs a lot more work and practice. I did this entire 70.3 on non-aero road bike, without clip-in shoes/pedals, with very little hill training. So, all of these will be addressed soon. 

THINGS-TO-DO

  • Learn to use clip-in pedals
  • Get a true bike fitting with Saddle pressure mapping
  • Invest in an actual Triathlon bike
  • I need a real triathlon watch 
  • More outdoor riding to get bike-handling skills 
  • Learn to take hands of bars and eat/drink while riding
  • More Open Water Swimming and add speed
  • Get stroke analysis and improvement 
  • Get triathlon coach
  • Do more brick runs 

CONCLUSION

At the end of the day, I had an absolutely amazing experience at Ironman 70.3 Muskoka. The town of Huntsville, ON is gorgeous, and the athletes could not have asked for better weather conditions. As someone who has never been physically active for the first 29 years of my life and being overweight at 185lbs down to 140lbs via nutrition, to learning how to run 2 years ago, and then picking up cycling and swimming just a year ago, to completing an Ironman 70.3 on the challenging course at Muskoka, I am pretty darn proud of that.

As you can imagine, I was initially filled with mixed emotions. I’m not mad or frustrated with anyone. I have accepted and embraced the result for what it is. For all the possible DNF outcome scenarios I mentioned above, mine was in a weird situation. 

On one hand, it’s Ironman’s race, and it’s their rules, I misinterpreted it, that’s my bad. But on the other hand, I did not quit, I did not get pulled, I did not have a mechanical issue, and I actually finished the entire Muskoka 70.3 course within each activities times, and the total cut-off time. I completed the same course as the first place finisher. And I received my Finisher Medal at the end. I gained a whole world of experience, met inspiring athletes, day a beautiful day, and grow so much from this race. 

It’s also fitting that Stranger Things season 3 was just released on Netflix. Perfect timing for post-race recovery binging. A line that hit the spot from the last episode was from Hopper “Make mistakes, learn from ’em. When life hurts you, because it will, remember the hurt. The hurt is good. It means you’re out of that cave.” Much like when I attempted my first marathon, I hit the wall hard and finished in 5:17. But on my second go, I hit my sub-4 hour goal in 3:55. I will to do the same with triathlon.

Thank you to all the super awesome volunteers, athletes, spectators, race organizers, and the town of Huntsville and Muskoka for welcoming us into your home. I look forward to racing in Muskoka in the future!

I’ll definitely continue participating in triathlons, do more 70.3s (probably look for flatter courses), and maybe, just maybe attempt the full Ironman distance one day. 

Until then, the journey continues. 

Race Reports, Triathlon

Race Report: Milton Sprint Triathlon 2019

Howdy! Well today was an interesting experience at the Subaru sprint triathlon in Milton, ON. Long story (it will come later) short, I finished alive in one piece. This was my second Sprint. However, Milton was slightly longer than usual as it is a 750m swim, 30km, and 7k run.

The Swim

I improved a bit in the chilly open water swim. Only had to resort to backstroke a little. Maybe I’ll practice with the wetsuit in the pool and definitely get more open water swimming experience at local lakes.

The Bike

Crashed 3 times on the bike and got mechanical service twice…big cuts and bruises on all 4 limbs. Was asked many times if I was able to finish…still hit the run, and I was certain I was the last person, but still ended up passing a handful of runners. A bunch of lessons learned. Need more practice bike handling and doing actual hills. My poor bike absolutely needs to get repairs. Anyways, I live to see another day, however that was the most painful shower I’ve ever had. Milton bike course is actually ranked one of the hardest climbs in Canada. And of course I decided to pick this race. Well, the Rattlesnake Point has a 8% average incline with a 16% steeper one. I crashed twice, fortunately no one else was hurt. Once trying to power my way up the hill, that didn’t work and I crashed to the right side of the road. What goes up, must come down. I totally was not ready for that mad descent back down and panicked and bailed out. Both times required mechanical assistance which took 20 mins off my time. But at that point, I just wanted to finished. I was asked several times if I was sure I wanted to continue the race. I didn’t hesitate once and said “let me keep going”. Essentially what I learned from this is that indoor training on the smart trainer is fine, and is great for time effective workouts. But nothing beats getting the real on-road experience of handling, balancing, and braking, specially for someone who just picked up cycling. My good friend Iain said “You aren’t a real cyclist until you’ve had your first crash”…I guess I’m in the club! Bike needs to be taken into the shop for repairs as well. But she’ll be fine. What’s kind of messed up and funny is that even after yesterdays bloody mess, I actually have no demotivating feelings on cycling. Really surprised I didn’t come in last! What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger right? My mind is looking forward to healing up, getting my bike fixed up,

The Run

The run to the finish was fine. I was just so happy to get to this segment. Aerobically felt fine, but I was still pretty shook up from the bike leg. All my limbs especially my shoulders were stinging from the ripped skin, so I wasn’t able to use my arms for optimal momentum to hit my full desired race pace. 

Aftermath

 

View this post on Instagram

 

*DO NOT SWIPE LEFT IF YOU ARE GROSSED OUT FROM BLOOD* Happy #MedalMonday and happy #WorldBicycleDay ????? Completed my second Sprint distance triathlon in beautiful #MiltonON yesterday. The swim was cold, but my open water swimming and anxieties are improving. The run to the finish was fine. The cycling segment of the race though…now that was something I’ll never forget. The @subarutriathlonseries Milton bike course is actually ranked one of the hardest climbs in Canada. And of course I decided to pick this race. Well, the Rattlesnake Point has a 8% average incline with a 16% steeper one. I crashed twice, fortunately no one else was hurt. Once trying to power my way up the hill, that didn’t work and I crashed to the right side of the road. What goes up, must come down. I totally was not ready for that mad descent back down and panicked and bailed out. Both times required mechanical assistance which took 20 mins off my time. But at that point, I just wanted to finished. I was asked several times if I was sure I wanted to continue the race. I didn’t hesitate once and said “let me keep going”. Essentially what I learned from this is that indoor training on the smart trainer is fine, and is great for time effective workouts. But nothing beats getting the real on-road experience of handling, balancing, and braking, specially for someone who just picked up cycling. My good friend @djiain said “You aren’t a real cyclist until you’ve had your first crash”…I guess I’m in the club! Bike needs to be taken into the shop for repairs as well. But she’ll be fine. What’s kind of messed up and funny is that even after yesterdays bloody mess, I actually have no demotivating feelings on cycling. Really surprised I didn’t come in last! What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger right? My mind is looking forward to healing up, getting my bike fixed up, and practicing more before @im703muskoka. As they say Allez! Allez! Allez! #triathlontraining #ironmantraining #miltonontario #bikecrash #wipeout

A post shared by Sean Chin (@seanchin) on

Lessons Learned

  • More practice in wetsuit
  • More practice in Open Water
  • Work on bike handling/braking
  • Work on bike climbing
  • Work on bike descending

Conclusion

THANK YOU to all the awesome volunteers, road side bike mechanics, medics, and organizations. It was a beautiful event nonetheless.

I see races as a metaphor for life. No matter what happens, always keep a positive mindset, and finish strong.

Running

Some TO Marathon Analysis

A brief little analysis of my two marathons. While I did not “hit the wall” in spectacular fashion like at STWM, I did slow down a tad, yet stayed beloved my race pace at the Toronto Marathon. The follow data is from my Strava


As seen above, in Toronto, I began to slow down starting at 19KM. I noticed this, and started taking my flat Cola at 25KM throughout 35KM. I’m thinking next time, I’ll start taking it BEFORE I actually start to slow. So maybe around 17KM? 

Similarly, at STWM I began to slow down at around the 15KM mark. And while it wasn’t totally bad at that point…you can see how bad not training for an entire month prior due to ankle issues was. At 24KM, I not just hit the wall, I crashed and burned in it. Yet somehow mustered up a way to speed up to the finish line.

Anyways, just a little interesting thing I’m being aware of for my rematch with STWM this October 20, 2019.

Race Reports, Running

Race Report: Toronto Marathon 2019

Here we go. It’s been a week since the Toronto Marathon and I’ve had good time to reflect. This was the second crack at the full marathon 42.2KM or 26.2miles. If you remember, my first one at STWM last year did not go exactly as planned. Yes, I finished, I became a marathoner, but without proper training and running an entire month before, I hit the wall in stunning fashion at 30KM. I finished STWM in 5:18…it was time for redemption.

GOALS 

A – run without hitting the wall

B – sub-4:00

TRAINING

This training block, I got appropriate physiotherapy from Dwane Rebello of Spectrum Sports Institute. This got my left ankle back in working form. This allowed me to complete a 12-week Running Room training plan with 4:00 goal marathon race plan in mind.

Prior to this during winter, I did a bunch of intentionally ridiculously slow Zone 2 Heart Rate (~135bpm) long distance runs on the treadmill. This is one of the best parts of the treadmill as you can really dial in a pace according to your heart rate. I did 4 of these half-marathon 21.1KM distance big slow runs in total. I feel like this really benefited my winter aerobic build up. 

In addition, I strength work 4-days a week. This involved 4 main compound movements. Deadlift, Backsquat, Overhead press, and Bench press. I found that these staple resistant weightlifting really help develop my core, and back structure and form. 

RACE NUTRITION

  4x Endurance Tap 

  250mL flat coca cola with 1/4 tsp Himalayan pink salt

  • Water from every aid station. No Gatorade as it doesn’t sit well in my stomach
  • PS Coconut oil makes an easy natural chaffing cream!

GEAR

  • Nike Vaporfly 4%
  • Underarmor singlet 
  • Patagonia strider pro shorts
  • 2XU compression long socks 
  • Apple Watch Series 4

PRE-RACE ITNERARY

3:30AM – Wake up

3:40AM – 32oz Water + BCAA/Creatine

4:00AM – Breakfast Bowl* with coffee

5:00AM – Stretch & Yoga routine 

6:00AM – Leave house

6:30AM – Arrival to Yonge & Sheppard Centre 

6:35AM – Bagel with peanut butter, strawberry spread, honey

7:00AM – Clif Bloks Black Cherry + 50mg caffeine 

* 3/4 CUP DRY OATS 

1 BANANA

1/2 CUP BLUEBERRIES MIX 

1 TBSP CHIA, HEMP, FLAX 

1 CUP SOY MILK

THE RACE

I dropped by backpack at bag drop-off at 6:45AM near the start line, which was actually still being set up for the 7:30AM start time. I met up with awesome Instagram running friends Lisa, Joy, Denoja, Vanessa, and Jon. We went to find the 1:50 pacer. But we kind of ended up doing our own thing. Joy, Lisa, and myself pretty much stuck together for the first half of the race. Being in their company really made time fly. I got a quick surge of gratitude within the first 2K when I heard someone yell “Yeah, go Sean!”. It was my good friend Randall, who was doing the Half-Marathon later on that day. The weather was absolutely beautiful, I could not have asked for better race conditions. I felt pretty good from the get go. There was one big hill at 8K, but then the course became an overall downhill and then flat for the most part. We pasted by some cool spots like Casa Loma, the CN Tower, St. Lawrence Market, Ontario Place, and many tempting restaurants along the way. 

I took an Endurance Tap at 8K, 12K, 16K, 20K. Like I said, I felt pretty solid. While I did not hit the wall, I started my legs begin to slow down at around 28K. So, I immediately began sipping on my flat coke throughout up to 35KM. It’s weird because I don’t normally drink coke (from my weight loss journey), I was surprised that it actually worked magic on me during a long race. My legs quickly got energized within a few minutes. The last 5K stretch along Lakeshore was pretty draining, and I dug deep to keep the pace. I recall my eyes closing at times, as I just wanted to push through. When I saw my Watch at the 1:50 mark, I started to get a little worried, but knew if I kept to my plan, I’d be fine. I did not want to be greedy, and blow up by accident. I stuck to my pace and the sub-4 goal would be mine for the taking. The only 200m was a sudden uphill and then across the Ontario Place bridge to the finish line in front of the Better Living Centre. Crossing the finish was an amazing feeling. I did it. I accomplished what I originally wanted to do, but failed at STWM last year, which was to run a sub-4 hour marathon. 3:55:37.2 to be exact! I PBed by 2 hours! I sub-4-ed a marathon! 

POST-RACE

When I saw the clock at the finish line, I was thrilled and relieved. I hobbled over to a volunteer and received a ginormous finisher medal. This thing is the size of a pancake! I surprisingly felt pretty good overall. My form was good, and other than the normal soreness expected, I was in pretty good shape aerobically and structurally. I made my way into the the Better Living Centre to get a banana, coconut water, and some Clif bars. I collected my bag, and changed into some dry clothing. I found Lisa and Joy and we all got a nice photo of the three of us and our super sized medals. 

I’m usually not craving any solid foods after big bouts of effects. But I knew my body was in much need of nutrients, and it’s best to consume them within 30 minutes. I whipped out my Recovery Smoothie which includes Banana + 2 Dates + 1/2 cup frozen mangos, 1sp Tumeric powder, and Iron Vegan Sprouted Protein. It was delicious. 

THOUGHTS

I felt like I had solid form all the way through. This somehow, was by far the single best athletic performance of my life, so far. It was most likely the combination of spectacular weather, the 12-week training, nailing the nutrition, and the positive vibes. 

Getting my own squat rack and doing compound strength training movements such as deadlifts and back squats really help improve my lower back and core stability. The training paid off. I also noticed that my appetite returned much quicker after an extensive long run effort than before. And I guess my body is now getting used to the longer distances. I had no muscle cramping, no noticeable stomach issues, and never really got out of breath. 

While I was sore the following 2 days, it was expected. What I was surprised about is how NOT so terrible my body felt versus STWM 2018. 

Also, if you’re wondering, the Nike Vaporfly 4% lived up to the hype. They are an absolute dream to race in. I will only be using them for important races as I’ve heard that don’t last too long, and the cost a pretty penny. But if they’re good for the great Eliud Kipchoge…then why not? 

WHAT TO DO NEXT TIME 

I’m very happy with the training plan I followed for the Toronto Marathon. While, I know that I have something that works, I still want to strive for a 3:30 goal time next. 

Before I get into full training for STWM 2019, I will do a few more of those Zone 2 HR super long runs, to continue building my aerobic base. 

Thus, I’m now looking for some other training options, possibly a coach, and/or using power with the STRYD foodpod. 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

What do we say to the god of DNF? NOT TODAY. They say #Hardworkpaysoff…AND I CASHED THAT IN. Finally hit my goal at @torontomarathon this gorgeous day! SUB-4 hour marathon with an official time of 3:55:37.2. I had to dig so deep in the last 3K. Big props to @belovedrunner & @joysofrunning for running with me the majority of the course. It was awesome seeing @attherockshow root me on at the beginning, and congrats to him on completing the Half!! Thank you so much everyone, the organizers, volunteers and spectators for this BEAUTIFUL RACE ??????? All #poweredbyplants ? More thoughts to come after sleep, food, and of course Game of Thrones…#MyTorontoMarathon #TorontoMarathon #veganathlete

A post shared by Sean Chin (@seanchin) on

Close