My last triathlon race of the season couldn’t have finished off better than at Barrelman in Niagara!
After two 70.3s and a full Ironman just a few weeks prior, I didn’t come into this one with much goals other than just to have fun. I had achieved everything I wanted and more already. This was a victory lap for my biggest year of sport and physical activity ever. Somehow I PB’ed! More on that later.
The distance wasn’t exactly quite the same as a 70.3 (1.9k swim, 90km bike, 21.1km run). This was 2k swim, 87km bike, and the run turned out to be 20.5km. The production “feel” wasn’t big like an Ironman branded race. But the local grass roots feel was wonderful. And actually the community its growing as Barrelman had the most athletes participating in its history.
The Tomenson Performance & Wellness team showed up in good numbers and we all did well! A big congrats to our leader and coach Miranda who won! What does being Queen of Muskoka and now Queen of Barrelman make you? Queen of Ontario!! Also good work to fellow team mates Corwin, Alfred for PBing, and Phil for staying strong!
While it was a beautifully hot day. This swim today is still something I can’t quite figure out. It was a big drop in pace in for me. I was actually very perplexed when I looked at my watch as I came out of the water. There is an additional 100m vs a standard 70.3 race, but that shouldn’t be almost 7 minutes slower. I personally felt totally fine, no soreness of arms or core, not tired, I prepped as normal. The swim was in the safe calm canal of the Flatwater Centre, there was a cable to follow, drafted and all. I was expecting a fast swim. But today was just not that day. My average heart rate was also pretty low around 103bpm for the entire swim, usually it’s around 120bpm. So, the only thing I can think of is either I just took it too easy by accident. Or I was all caught up in the idea of following the cable line which made me stuck behind slow athletes. Next time, I will swim as I did in previous races.
My confidence in the swim has gone down a bit from this result. My recent Critical Swim Speed (CSS) test and training swims showed that I should be about the same as pre-race season. So, I’m hoping this is just a one off bad fluke.
Anyways everything was calm, came out feeling really relaxed. Got out of the water, and ran up the stairs as spectators were in the bleachers. Such a cool experience.
This race featured a unique two-transition setup. Meaning we had to put our wetsuits and swim gear into the bike bag, which would then be transferred to the finish area later.
The Bike (87KM) 02:44:01.0 @ 31.83km/h
This was FLAT and FAST. However, the first segment bit, had strong headwinds. So I put in more power in the attempt to get over that area of the race sooner. Because after that turn around we got a fantastic tailwind back into the Niagara region. I think I might have slightly overcooked it though. And I did experience some lower back pain again, even on this flat course! I need to get this checked out. Is it the bike fit? Or Chiro? Or am I cycling incorrectly?
Silly me, I dropped my hydration belt twice and struggled to get it on properly. Need to practice this. At least 40 seconds lost here.
The Run (20.5KM) – 01:59:25 @ 5:49min/km
I knew going into this just a few weeks after IMMT, that there is no way I’d be able to run as I usually do. My legs felt relatively fine, but I just could feel the residual stiffness and fatigue in there. I tried my best to overcome it. This run course is NOT flat like the bike. I wouldn’t say bad, but that we had to run up Burning Hill in the Dufferin Island area twice made this spicy. And did I mention it was hot and humid! I am proud that I didn’t resort to walking at any points of the race other than briefly at aid stations.
It was great to see so many friends on course as well. I had so many of them loaded onto my tracker! I was so happy and grateful to see Miranda, Amy, Phaedra , and Amy D cheering me at various points. But when I saw coach Miranda at the half way point and gave me a high five, that provided me with the extra second wind I needed. I always get the Mel Gibson/ Braveheart vibe when she’s also racing! Fearless leader leading us to battle!
I managed to gather enough energy in the last 1km to come back swinging, and sprint finished to the end passing one more athlete there.
I’m really happy I needed my 2022 Triathlon season on a good note overall! After 2 hard 70.3s Tremblant and Muskoka, and then the full IRONMAN Mont Tremblant, I somehow still managed to snag a 1+ minute PB at the half distance! Even though the distances aren’t exactly that of a 70.3, Barrelman is billed as such. And so I will count it as one!
Also, I finally got to meet long time Instagram friend Todd MacKay, who totally smashed his PB and Sub-6!
There is definitely many things I need to work on and improve. I learned so much since starting to work with coach Miranda. I pick her brain all the time!
While my tri races are over. I still have one more road run at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 3 weeks on Oct 16, 2022. After Barrelman, I don’t think my legs have what it takes to PB or do well. But I trust in coaches plan to work with my tight schedule.
In the FUTURE
For Age Group swim start waves races, I will start at the front of the pack. I prefer to be swam over, than to be stuck behind people. And when those swim over me, that means they are indeed faster, and worth trying to draft off of.
I have NOT signed up for any races in 2023 yet. I will wait until the season is fully over and I consult with coach!
The words I have been dreaming of hearing for the last three years has finally come to fruition! Thank you to everyone who has helped me along the way. I am thrilled that my mom and dad attended and got to witness me crossing the finish line. I am forever humbled and grateful.
I am beyond happy and satisfied for this extraordinary experience at this magical race venue in Mont Tremblant, Quebec, Canada. The race didn’t go fully the way I wanted with some really dark places and emotions, I will describe below. But I did something not many people can say they’ve done. And I loved every moment of it.
My journey to IRONMAN
For the first 29 years of my life, I was an 195lb (88kg) overweight couch potato who played too many video games and ate way too much junk food. I changed all that with a plant-based whole food lifestyle from the book “Eat to Live” by Dr. Joel Fuhrman in 2017, dropping down to my lowest at 120lb. Not too long after that, I found plant-based endurance athlete Rich Roll’s book and podcast “Finding Ultra”. So, I took up running and I did the Toronto Waterfront Half- Marathon 2017, and then the TO Waterfront Marathon in 2018.
After a handful of 5Ks, 10Ks, and halfs, I got a little ankle niggle. What do a call an injured runner? A triathlete! Haha. But in honesty, while recovering I stumbled upon Canadian professional triathlon Lionel Sander’s YouTube channel, and as well as US Navy Seal David Goggins work. And from those two, I was hooked on Tri! I used this time to also build and put on some muscle through CrossFit and strength training and got back up to 140lb, but with lean muscle. And actually, I was running faster than ever!
I bought my first road bike ever about four weeks prior never knowing how to ride before, and “taught myself” how to swim in the pool about five weeks before my first sprint distance at Toronto Triathlon Festival in a thunderstorm. It was also the first time I ever swam in open water, and first time I ever used a wetsuit. My first few triathlon races all went pretty terrible, but I did them and never quit any. Oh, how far I’ve come…
My plans of becoming an IRONMAN has had many highs and many lows. The adversity go back to when I broke my collar bone training for IRONMAN Florida 2020, this put me out of action for 3 months. Then even though I recovered, I eventually had to defer IMFL 2020 due to the travel restrictions of the pandemic going from Canada to the US. I got on the start line for IMFL 2021 the following year in Panama City Beach, felt good for a flat bike an run course, but then Mother Nature took a bite with rip tides and as a weak swimmer, I DNFed the swim along with 25% of the field. And then even this season, I had a scary blackout and crash on the bike due to severe heat just 3 weeks ago. But I came back through all of them.
Yes, I was initially heart broken and sad. However, I do no regret it, and I learned so much from IMFL 2021. I made so many new lifelong friends, met professionals like Lionel Sanders, Gustav Iden, Skye Moench, Renee Kiley, and more. I lived the IRONMAN experience.
At this point I did a total of 5 triathlons, TTF sprint 2018, TTF Olympic 2019, Milton sprint 2019, DNF’d the swim/bike cut-off at Muskoka 70.3 2019, and DNF the swim at IMFL 2021. Not a great track record at all.
However, from IMFL 2021, I took away that I needed to greatly improve my swimming. I also needed to do bike/run bike workouts. What I needed is a triathlon coach. Especially as a newbie.
Getting a Triathlon coach.
Shortly after this in November 2021, I researched a handful of the best local coaches in the Greater Toronto Area. I talked to a few, and then decided to do a swim video analysis with coach Miranda Tomenson of Tomenson Performance & Wellness (TPW). It was really eye-opening to see myself swim and what I was doing wrong. She was very patient and gave me good advices. I immediately felt a connection and good vibes. And made the decision to work with Miranda on making my dream of becoming an IRONMAN.
From February 2022 to Aug 2022. I managed to overcome my fears of the open water, learned to sight, and stay calm. I improved my bike handling skills, and learned to ride in aero position. Implemented frequent brick workouts.
Swim – seed yourself around the 2:00/100m group or about 1:15-1:20, aiming for 1:30hr.
– crocodile eyes, bend the right arm
– swim straight
– easy effort, save if for the run!
Bike –normalized power around 130-150W average, effort should be 5/10 for 60km, 6/10 for 60km and 6/10 for 60km (on average, ok to be 8/10 on climbs but always climb feeling like you could go faster if you wanted)
– HR < 155bpm mostly
Run – asole focus will be to keep the HR down! < 170bpm for sure. walk the aid stations and long hills if HR creeps into 180-190bpm range,
This time around in Mont Tremblant, we stayed inside the village at Tours des Voyageurs I. We were lucky to get an upgrade to tower one with an included kitchen! The best thing about this hotel is that its literally right beside the transition area, so there is absolutely no need to drive anywhere. We left home in Markham Thursday morning and arrived by 4pm that evening. Got to eat and sightsee the wonderful village.
I did open water swim practice with Steve Upton, who is a fellow vegan triathlete, a great human, and super fast!
On Race day, I woke up at 3:30AM ate breakfast, and headed to T1 for 5AM. Then it was time for action.
I had absolutely zero fears going into Lac Tremblant. It was great to start with my friends Ian and Amy, all doing our first full distance triathlon. As a matter of fact, 400 of the approximately 1000 athletes were first timers!
I kept a straight line and sighted like practiced and just counted down the buoys. Unlike the 70.3 there was overcast, so I didn’t get blinded by the sun on the first turn. I got kicked in the face once and goggles fogged up, so had to quickly get that back in order. Other than that, it was pretty good. I just felt so far to swim versus smaller loops.
As mentioned earlier, things didn’t go the way I wanted. But ironically, out of everything, the swim was the only part that went according to my plans. I was aiming for 1:30 hour, and got 1:29.50! You can even see how happy I looked from the photos. I don’t think I’ve ever seen myself smile that hard!
This was the time I got to experience the “clean transition” area and changing tents of a full IRONMAN race. I kind of like it better as you don’t need to fight with others for space beside your bike in T1.
Took advice from coach to ensure goggles and cap are off before getting to change area.
Was able to get my wetsuit off really quickly, and my half-rolled socks + baby powder trick worked like a charm again.
BIKE (180K) – 07:38:08.0 @ 23.57km/h
Once I was out of the water, I knew I would become an IRONMAN today.
However, it wasn’t so smooth sailing. Even though I did the exact same bike loop at the 70.3 and knew the route, I found this extremely humbling and challenging.
I stuck to a lower power target as prescribed to ensure I made it all the way through.
I managed to ride in aero for a decent part of the first half of the bike as well. Still building confidence here.
The big thing that got me was the same thing from the 70.3 a few months ago. Which was the long big climb on the Hwy 117 return. My lower back really ached again. And actually the first loop was ok, but since we had to do it twice, then I got a really bad back spasm.
This pretty much ruined my form and power for the remainder of the bike and run.
I had to stop at Personal Needs to refill all my nutrition and quickly relieve myself.
After the second long 117 climb, as I passed by an aid station , a bike mechanic actually yelled out to me saying it looked like I had a flat. I stopped, and he inspected my rear wheel. And didn’t find any puncture. But my tire was about 60% full, so he was able to pump it back up quickly on the spot. I have no idea how long I was riding like that for. But glad he could help.
I got caught in about 30 mins of thunderstorm and pouring rain. This freaked me out because I don’t ride in the rain and was worried they might cancel the race! Fortunately it ended and didn’t affect me too much.
The second climb up Duplessis was insane. I saw so many people walking up it and I almost had to as well. This is probably was the nail in the coffin for my run.
However, one cool note is that since I knew my bike splits were going to be slow, I didn’t even feather the breaks at all on the descents and went all in hitting 70.3kph!
Anyways, I looked at my time on the computer and as long as I was within the swim/bike and intermediate time cut-offs, I’d take it.
As I rolled into T2, and unclipped right before the dismount line, I was so full of joy. I did it. It’s up the run now. In every triathlon, my subconscious goal is to just get to the run.
I was so glad to get off the bike and tried to stretch out my back and it didn’t seem like anything would help. So just got my run gear on and headed out for the marathon.
RUN (42.2KM) – 05:11:38.0 @ 7:23/km
Once I got out of T2 I could feel my dreams getting so much closer. But I still wasn’t done and it wasn’t time to celebrate yet.
Because what was my slowest bike pace ever also turned into one of my slowest run paces ever as well (however, still better than my very first marathon when I bonked half way!). But this was indeed a challenging 2 loop out and back run.
My lower back was preventing me from getting into optimal form, and my quads and hamstrings were sore from the climbing. And I just couldn’t hit the paces like practiced. I was very sad and disappointed initially. However, I was motivated by all my friends and other athletes I saw on the course.
The first loop was actually kind of enjoyable even at the slow pace. But in the second half when it started to get dark and the sun was going down, thats when things got a bit real. I’ve never raced at night before, so that was new to me. I cried and got emotion at some parts, “I should be able to do better than this.” “What did I do wrong?” “I crushed the 70.3 here a few months ago, what is different now?” Were some of the dark thoughts in my mind. However, I was quickly able to shut these doors and make the best of it. The sun was starting to go down fast in the trail section and that made me want to bust a move and get out before true darkness. I felt hard and bad for the athletes just entering into that section without headlamps. At the 30km turn around I saw Amy and gave me the last drops of hope I need to get to the finish. It was a combination of walk, jog, walking. I just aimed to get to the next aid stations, the next light posts, the next group of spectators. And soon enough, in the distance, I could hear the roar of the village and Mike Riley calling athletes names. I was getting close!
After 5 hours+ of coke, Maurten gels, Red Bulls, pretzels, water, I got to the village. I found some last wind to make it strong. I embraced and enjoyed the beautiful atmosphere of the Mont Tremblant buildings, the cobbled road, and all the spectators so happy to see us and welcome us to the finish chute.
And finally, I got to hear the words “Sean Chin, from Markham, first timer, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN.” From the voice of IRONMAN himself Mike Riley. Not only that, we called me again saying “Sean, did you hear that? You’re an IRONMAN!” I looked up at Mike and gave him two thumbs up, and then looked back at the finish arch, and took a bow.
What a magical day and wonderful experience.
I AM AN IRONMAN.
I had the time of my life at IMMT 2022. All the ups and downs was all worth it. I would not go back in time and change anything, because this was perfect and my dream and goal came true.
Thank you to my mom and dad for supporting me through all my crazy training days for the last few years, and watching me transform as a person all my life.
Thank you to all the volunteers, race organizers, and spectators for making this a truly world class event.
Thank you to the pros at the event like Cody Beals and Josh Amberger who keep the sport exciting and took the time to take a selfie with me morning of.
Thank you to my coach Miranda Tomenson, who trained and got to know me well in a short period of time. You understand what I need to work on and prescribe the right doses of workouts, and are able to adjust when things when they don’t go well, especially like the heat blackout not too long ago! You always know how to push just to the edge of my comfort zone and take me to new places. You helped me become familiar with the open water, sight, ride in aero, to brick workouts, feel various intensity levels, nail 70.3s, and helped me to finally become an actual triathlete, and an IRONMAN! We did it coach! In just one season! Thank you!
In our post-race analysis call, we worked out what can be improved on in the future. But also, analyzed the race in TrainingPeaks, and overall, I did follow the prescribed plan relatively closely power and effort wise, which made me feel better.
The swim was where I wanted. The Bike was under 270 TSS (300 TSS), with the major gains to be made from not stopping at personal needs, and not riding with a flatter rear wheel. And even though my run was slow, my run split is still 2hours less than my bike split. So overall, I am very happy with how everything went.
I have a thirst to work on improving my 70.3 further and come back to do a full distance race to my full potential in the future.
Last but not least, Thank you to all my friends and triathlon mentors who I’ve met along my triathlon and running journey!
Note: what made this moment even more special was a few weeks later, the world found out that after 33 years of announcing, Mike Reilly would be retiring at the of the 2022 season. Making IMMT his last call in Canada. I am truly blessed that within my tri-journey, I can say that Mike called me an IRONMAN!
While I told myself “this is one and done” quite a few times during the bike and run, I still feel like I can do at least one more full IRONMAN in my life. And have every intention of going back to IMFL and finish what I originally started.
I feel like I need to really get my OWS swim pace down to 1:50-2:00m/100m at least before I can do the IMFL ocean swim again, regardless of weather conditions.
I know they say to not try new gear on race day, but in the future, I will ensure that I use a new fresh pair of goggles, that are the exact same model I trained with for a race to lower the chance of fogging, which I experienced here twice and had to stop to defog them
When my new bike comes, that is a proper size, hopefully riding in aero will be more stable and comfortable, allowing me to hold it for an entire ride. Especially on a flat course like Florida.
I need to work out my post bike run nutrition and sodium intake. Especially on the second half of the bike.
Switch to no fibre diet 2 days before
I believe I can do an IRONMAN and want to feel like I did with Tremblant 70.3 and Muskoka 70.3 to my full or at least 90% potential. And I will.