Author

Sean Chin

Race Reports, Triathlon

Ironman Texas 2024 – Race Report

“Heat, humidity, and strong headwind. All the fun.”

I’ve always wanted to visit Texas and they happen to host a famous Ironman race, so why not do both in the same go? Let me first start by saying I pretty much did all the cycling training for this indoors from last November’s Florida Ironman to now. I did a handful of big outdoor runs. So while I knew I could do this, my outdoor and bike handling skills is still questionable.

The 5-month build from IMFL to IMTX went very well. I did all the workouts coach Miranda prescribed, never missed a beat, and didn’t get sick or injured. If anything, it was the fittest I’ve ever been!

It’s really fantastic to have a direct flight from Toronto to Houston. The race venue is in The Woodlands, which is about 30 minutes north of IAH airport. I stayed at the Westin Hotel, which was very expensive, but everything was in walking distance, so I really enjoyed it.

I flew out on Wednesday, did athlete checkin, and built up my bike. On Thursday, I did a test ride to make sure everything worked, and a shakeout run. I also got to do a demo of the Apple Vision Pro, which was unexpected and pretty surreal. On Friday I went to the only sanctioned practice swim in the lake. And race day was Saturday!

My plans went out the window for this race. But I’m still glad I got to do it. Being able to participate in the North American Championship was really great. This was by far the largest Ironman I’ve attended with over 2,700 athletes. Having two-time World Champion Patrick Lange and defending IMTX winner Kat Matthews really elevated the prestige of the event as well.

Total: 13:45:19

SportStats: https://sportstats.one/en-CA/results/130475/415

Swim 3.8km – 01:31:16 @ 2:21/100m

As this race is in Texas, there is always a 50/50 chance for a wetsuit legal or non-legal swim. This is pretty much the most talked about topic the entire week, and perhaps two weeks leading up to race day. Thankfully it was wetsuit legal this year. It was also really great to have the US Navy helicopter do a fly over before the canon! 

For the first time ever in a race, I never got the “Wait, this is dumb, why am I doing this again?” Question that usually goes through my mind in the first 100 meters. 

While the waters was murky and dark, I think I’ve done a decent job at working on my sighting. This was the most comfortable Ironman swim I’ve done. And while the three I’ve done have all been close pretty much the same time, I felt the most “in control”. Despite this good start, the IMTX swim was chaotic. People were going over and pulling and kicking each other. Halfway through, someone bashed into my right arm/shoulder area, and I thought it dislocated for a moment. I lost a lot of power with my right arm, but I was able to keep going and get through the swim. I must say, the the spectators in along the canal was really cool. 

Bike 180km – 06:53:09

Where do I start with this? The bike was truly next level tough. Despite having really nice weather the handful of days prior, all the athletes knew that a significant wind system was coming right on race day. Before I get into the weeds, I must preface that my coach did indeed tell me that this race wouldn’t have ideal training. I did complete all of the training that was prescribed without injury or illness. But being from Canada, the entire six month bike training was all done indoors. So my lack of outdoor rides and already poor bike handling skills really wasn’t good for this race. This I knew and accepted as is, I just really wanted to go to Texas and do this event. That kept the dream alive the entire day. 

The first 30km was actually really nice going through the local town, but when I hit the Hardy Toll road, the main part of the course, 2 laps, 20 miles back and forth, twice, I knew within 10 minutes that this was going to be a very long day. It felt like I was going into a wall. Pushing power and not really going anywhere. 

It was insanely hot and humid and there was a few times that I felt light headed. So I had to dowse myself with ice and take in a lot of salt tablets.

This was pretty dangerous day. I’ve never seen so many bike crashes, flats, mechanical issues, and people crying and puking on the side of the roads ever. Half the time I just recall hearing ambulance and mobile medic vans going up and down the course. 

Never seen so many bottles and garbage flying over the roads! This wasn’t because the volunteers weren’t doing a good job either. It’s because it was so darn windy. Some of the aid station tents looked like they were about to be blown away as well.

Had back pain around halfway, the lack of outdoor training probably contributed to this. In many ways I’m just really happy to survive and get through that unscathed!

Run  42.2km – 05:05:44

As usual, in every triathlon, I am most looking forward to getting to the run. My happy place among the three activities. While I was very glad to get off the bike without any incidents, I was absolutely toast after and immediately couldn’t hit my target pace. And while I knew my dream to sub-4 the run, and sub-12 overall wasn’t going to happen today, it was okay with it.

It was actually really neat to have a 3-loop course. Running along the canal, shorelines, and fancy houses was really neat. I never stopped, and slow-ran and walked the aid stations pouring more ice and water over me to keep the engine cool. The world famous Hippie Hollow lived up to the hype. The spectators really brought this run course to life.

Conclusion

I’d really like to try this course with no insane gusts one day as they market it as a “lightning fast PR course”. Yet I don’t really think many achieved that from what I heard at the awards ceremony. It’s okay, that’s the name of the game. Mother Nature is absolutely a factor is any race.

Did I question my life decisions? Yes, that always happens. However, for the first time ever in ANY race, the thought or concept of quitting didn’t go through my head ONCE from start to end. It wasn’t my best, and it wasn’t my worst performance, and that’s okay.

Overall, I truly and throughly enjoyed my stay in The Woodlands, Texas. Despite not getting an amazing personal best, it’s not always the result that matters. I completed all the training prescribed without injury or illness, which I am incredibly blessed and thankful for. I did my best with all that I had. It was a great decision to do something my heart really wanted to do. While Ironman number three for me is in the books, I will be back to race Texas again in the future for sure.

Thank you to my fiance Jenna, my parents, coach Miranda Tomenson, and all the volunteers for making this all happen!

Extra Mentions

In my previous two full distance Ironman races, I really tried to stay to myself and keep isolated, and not do anything social at the race venue. I never wanted to risk getting sick right before a big event.

However this time, I made it a goal to get the “full experience”. This involved attending the Welcome Banquet, the Pro Panel, Award Ceremonies, and while not an official event, since pro athlete Joe Skipper was racing, his infamous post-race “Beer Mile” (note: I didn’t drink, I just ran haha)

I am so very glad I made an effort to go to each one. I met so many new friends and learned so much.

Race Reports, Triathlon

IRONMAN FLORIDA 2023 – RACE REPORT

An unforgettable experience in the sunshine state. 

My journey to becoming an Ironman formally happened in November 6, 2019 when I signed up for the 2020 edition of Ironman Florida (IMFL). I gave myself one year to train for it. I’ve been asked this many times, “why Florida?”.  I’ve always seen Florida as my second home, I have a lot of family on my dads side that lives here. IMFL is the race I wanted my first Ironman race to be at. I also just felt a “calling” from my heart to do this one. But we all know what happened in this time frame. A pandemic came through, and while all the races around the world were cancelled or postponed in this period, IMFL 2020 was the only one that went on. However, with all the travel restrictions that happened, there were just too many risks of missing flights or not being to come back etc. so I deferred my race entry to 2021. Great, I gave myself another year to train. 

All during this time, I was pretty much self-trained. Running is my first love and discovered this in 2017 after I began eating healthy plant-based food, then I took up cycling and swimming in 2018 only a month before I did my first sprint distance triathlon. Very self-taught, and probably slightly foolish tool, but alas. I primarily trained on the bike indoors with various programs, and while I built up a decent power to weight ratio, it did not make up for a lack of childhood experience riding outdoors. So my bike handling skills are still pretty mediocre at best. The same goes for swimming, I pretty much did all of my training in the pool with minimal open water training. 

So, when the time finally came for 2021 Ironman Florida, I thought I was ready, and while I might have made it though the bike and run, my swimming skills just did not cut it. Add to that, the 2021 race had horrendous rip tides where 25% of the field Did Not Finish (DNF) the swim itself! Unfortunately, I was in that statistic. However, the one thing I am proud of is that I never quit despite being asked 3 times by staff to be skidoo’ed out back to shore. I told them I am going to finish the swim. I ended up swimming over 5km (supposed to be 3.8km) do to poor sighting skills and the rip current making it feel like a washing machine. I never quit. But I did not meet the swim cut-off time limit of 2:20 hours, so staff at the swim exist took my timing chip, and my first ironman attempt was over just like that. My tail was between my legs and went back home to Toronto to ponder my life decisions. 

After sulking for a few weeks, and friends reaching out, I decided it was time to find a coach. Especially one that was a good swimmer. After a number of calls and shortlists, I found coach Miranda Tomenson of Tomenson Performance and Wellness (TPW) based in Toronto, Canada. She taught me to be more relaxed in the water, worked on my swimming technique, did video analysis, greatly improved my sighting and learn to take straight lines in open water. And with her guidance, I achieved my goal by completing Ironman Mont Tremblant 2022 in Quebec, Canada. I was thrilled when I became a first timer. This was a tremendous confidence boost for me. However, while I was very happy and grateful, there was this sensation that something was missing. And about 4 weeks prior, I had a heat stroke and crashed my bike, which made me miss a few key bike volume sessions leading up to the race. While I did become an Ironman, it wasn’t where I wanted it to be or to my full potential. 

In our post-race debrief, I told coach Miranda that I am signing up for the 2023 Ironman Florida. We have one year to train for the original goal I wanted to achieve almost 4 years prior! 

Jump forward to this year, the 2023 season started off with a mixed bag of results. First, I got a brand new spanking Trek Speed Concept bike. I set a new 5K PB on a hilly course with 21:05 minutes. But then had rather lack lustre sprint, and Muskoka 70.3 due to a lack of training and recovery from a crash a few weeks prior. I broke my new bike, but fortunately insurance covered it, and my good friends at Evolution Cycles got me back on it in no time. A got a big surprise confidence boost at Barrelman 70.3 in Niagara with a 38 minute PR (05:04 hours). 

I must also say, that with training for 70.3 and full distance races, it’s very rare that you get a “perfect build” in which no illness, sickness, injuries, crashes, or life lemons get in the way and throw training off. For Barrelman I was fortunate and it paid off. And leading up to IMFL 2023 I had the same luck of no compromises in training. I did every workout session as prescribed by the coach. Nothing more, nothing less, I nourished myself, I took care of my self, and better yet, I still made plenty of time to spend with family and friends. And then it was time. 

Wednesday November 1, 2023, I packed my bike and gear and flew with Delta Airlines back to Panama City Beach, Florida. How the sights, smells, and sounds of the Gulf Coast never get old. 

I met so many new friends, heard and told a lot of stories. From all walks of life, all ages from young to old. From all over the world. We were all here to participate in the 25th anniversary of Ironman Florida! AND I FINALLY DID IT. I finished the ocean swim in a pretty good time, and rocked the bike and run and accomplished my original dream and athletic goal of finishing Ironman Florida! Not only that, but smashed my previous full distance triathlon PR by 2:08 hours! Additionally, it’s actually the first international race I’ve ever competed in as well.

The Race: [Official Time: 12:27:04 hours] 

We had a professional star-studded men’s and women’s field featuring the likes of Magnus Ditlev, Skye Moench, Cam Wurf, Rudy Von Berg, Matt Hanson, and more. This really made gave IMLF a big race vibe.

The whole day didn’t go without some adversity though. Right before the swim start, my chest Heart Rate monitor strap broke as I was putting it on. Initially, I was frustrated, but realized it doesn’t affect me that much as I don’t really look at it during a race. My watch would still track my HR on the swim and run, I’d just be missing data for the bike, but I got over that quickly. Coach told me just to not wear it as I McGiver’ed it with duct tape, but she warned me that could cause chaffing, so I ditched it. Glad I listened to her. 

I learned from 2021, that race day morning is pretty chilly. So, this time I bought a throwaway pair of sandals and cheap hoodie to toss away right before I got into the water. I also brought a spare pair of goggles just incase. But once I got near to the start, I gave them to a by stander spectator and told them if any athlete needs it to give it to them. 

After the professionals started, the nerves kicked in until Eminem’s “Lose Your Self” hit the PA speakers. It was on.

SWIM (3.8KM) – 1:30:22 hours @ 2:20/100m

Out of everything, this swim was by far the biggest mental and physical obstacle for me to overcome. Last time I could barely sight and battle the rip currents. This time, while still wavy, I sighted each and every buoy, stayed calm and steady, and swam straight lines at a sustainable pace. The salty water does throw me off when it gets in my mouth, but coach Miranda had me train at the pool with a bottle of salt concentrated water which got me accustomed to the sensation. There was thousands of jelly fish, but fortunately I never got stung. I was happy when I saw my time upon the first lap, I felt good and strong. And was super thrilled when I finished the second loop. I GOT MY REDEMPTION RIGHT HERE! As a matter of fact, I pretty much swam the same time I did in Mont Tremblant, and that was a mirror lake. That says a lot to the swim training coach gave me. 

T1 – 11:59 mins

This was a rather long run into the transition zone. Just the wetsuit peelers (no longer on the beach it self anymore, which is good as you won’t be covered in sand) and used the showers to get the salt water residue off.

BIKE (180KM) – 6:07:29 hours @ 29.43kph

They said Florida is flat and fast, and that she was. While not super flat, there was still some light rolling hills, and a sketchy area in a park, but it seemed like time just flew by. We had to ride one giant loop, which I found really fun and scenic for the most part, except when we had to ride behind a Publix grocery store, but that’s fine. I have never rode on such nicely paved roads in my life before either. Wow, we got spoiled big time. We had some headwind going out of town but a nice tailwind coming back. 

I stopped at Personal Needs station, which kind of threw me off guard as it was at 80km instead of 90Km. I also took quick stretch and pee breaks at 3 aid stations. But I could have probably not stopped at 2 of them and hold it a bit longer.  

I used the stock 11-33 cassette that came with my bike. However, next time I will use a 11-28 cassette as I was either spinning at 90rpm or 70rpm. On a flat course like Florida, it would be nicer to have more increment options between gears so I could target 85rpm better. 

My goal was to target between 150-160 watts, and I stuck to the more conservative side and at the end averaged 152W. 

T2 – 6:26 mins

RUN (42.2KM) – 4:30:50 hours @ 6:25mins/km

Finishing the swim, then the bike, were the main concerns of this race for me. Running is my first love, so I’m just always glad I get to run. The first half-marathon went pretty decent with a 2:08 hours. I fuelled according to my plan with coach exactly with the right amounts of carbs and electrolytes all day. But the inevitable heavy legs and body became to take place just shortly after the half-way turn around. I slowed down quite a bit, but I never once walked on the run. Only slowing down at the aid stations to pour water on my head and get water. The suffering was real though. And I think every athlete gets this at some point in the marathon. I had to used the portal potty twice, but probably could have still done without, or only 1 half way. The thought of telling myself “this is my last ironman ever, this is my last marathon ever” crossed my mind at least a hundreds times on the run, until the last 5k where you can hear the announcer echoing at the finish line. And what a finish line it was! Right down the Pier Park main street with the lit up ferris wheel in the background, absolutely a wonderful moment I will always remember. I finally got the emotionally finish and feeling of satisfaction and fulfillment I wanted out of this. 

All day, I stuck to my nutrition plan, which was basically 95 grams of carbohydrate and 5grams of sodium citrate (1100mg sodium) per hour. 

For this race, I used the Nike AlphaFly 2. While it’s a great shoe for standalone marathons, it’s not great when your form and technique is poor. Ex. entire during an Ironman. Next time I participate in a 70.3 or longer distance triathlon, I will use the ASICS Metalspeed Sky.

And for the second time in my life so far, hearing the phrase “Sean Chin, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN” is bone chilling. 

In Conclusion 

I want to say thank you if you’re reading this and got this far. All those early morning alarms, early workouts, long weekend, were all worth it. I love and embrace the journey and training the most, and it’s what keeps me going. But race day, that’s the cherry on top where we get to finally celebrate our fitness, health, and community. 

Dare to dream big, and whatever obstacles come your way, look inside yourself, and find that path through it. 

Thank you to all my family and friends who put up with me and my training, thank you to all the volunteers, police, and race organizers for putting on such a spectacular event as a very family friends race venue in Panama City Beach, Florida. I will definitely be back!  

Race Reports

Barrelman 2023 – Race Report

“No killer training days. No crazy volume. Just consistent training.” – Coach Miranda Tomenson

This was my second year in a row racing here in beautiful Welland, ON and Niagara Falls and I’m always thrilled to support local races! 

Total surprised Personal Best for me! While not an exact 70.3 distance, we had to endure a 2km swim, 87km bike, and 20km run. I honestly was not expecting anything spectacular as I did not do any insane hero workout or massive volume. I just had a really rare and fortunate consistent build with no injuries, missed workout, or illness. Very grateful! 

Last year I completed this exact same course in 5:41:23. So I took off about 38 minutes!

The RACE: [Official Time: 05:04:22]

SportStats: https://www.sportstats.ca/display-results.xhtml?raceid=118022&status=results&bib=153

SWIM (2.0 km) – 0:44:10mins @ 2:12/100m

Okay well, in the actual swim itself, I thought I was doing poorly and slow!! A good amount of people passed me. But around the area with 800 left, I realized that I was starting to pass some people (I literally rarely pass anyone in the swim!) Anyways, I was feeling a bit demotivated initially, but when I looked at my watch I was pretty shocked 2:12/100m pace for 2K OWS is my PB! 

Other than the usual kicking and grabbing from other people, this was pretty standard. I just did a pretty easy/moderate effort level. No panic. If I can pull this kind of swim off at IMFL in 6 week, I’d be so delighted. We’ll see! 

T1 – 0:04:05

BIKE (87km) – 2:34:45 hr @ 33.73 kph

This was flat and fast! 33.73km/h is my fastest outdoor ride pace for over 50K! and this was close to 90! There actually wasn’t a super big tail wind like last year (which I was looking forward to, but alas) Avg 175W (higher at beginning with some headwind, and lower in back end) I managed to take ALL my nutrition compared to my failure at Muskoka 70.3 a few months ago. This was a HUGE difference in my overall race. 

T2 – 0:03:03:11

RUN (20km) – 01:38:11 hr @ 4:57/km

While I gladly accept the PB from the swim and the bike, This run was probably the biggest surprise of the day. Coach Miranda Tomenson said to start at 6:15/km pace, and to me that just meant “go easy”. So I started off what felt “easy” for 5 mins, then I looked at my watch and it says 4:50km pace right off the bat. I thought it was wrong because I felt so fresh! Anyways this somehow continued for the entire course, I thought I would blow up at some point too. I followed exactly what coach said on how to approach the Burning Hill first and second encounter and that worked, it didn’t even really feel that hard. All those weeks of increased hill repeats helped a lot I think! It was wild because the entire time I was nostril breathing in. I only switched to mouth in the last 5k when I emptied the tank to the finish!! No niggles, no cramps!

In Conclusion

Overall, this is the best rank I ever got in a triathlon ever. In the Top 28% (17/60) for my AG. Top 22% (132/600) overall. I still need to work on my T1 and T2! Could potentially save another 4 minutes to go sub-5 next time! Congrats to everyone who raced! Thank you to John Salt, race organizers, police, and volunteers for making this all happen so is crazy folks can do this to ourselves! ? While I would have loved to end on a high note, my season is NOT over. All eyes on Ironman Florida in just 6 weeks! Taking a few days to recover and reflect, then it’s back to work. Bread and butter.

Race Reports

IRONMAN 70.3 Muskoka 2023 – Race Report

This was my third time racing here in Muskoka and it’s always fun and convenient to do a local event! 

However, there was no PB today. I didn’t have a good proper build up to this race from a bike crash 2 weeks prior. I got a bunch of road rash, bruised left side of body, and a broken bike frame! I was absolutely devastated. Because of this, I missed out on a handful of key training sessions, and came to this race just grateful to get the start line. 

The RACE: [Official Time: 06:03.17]

SportStats: https://www.sportstats.ca/display-results.xhtml?raceid=128814&bib=86

SWIM (1.9km) – 47:53mins @ 2:28/100m

For some reason my swim pace is slower by around 15 seconds per 100m compared to last year. I am not sure why. Maybe because I missed out on the feel for the water the past few weeks? Might need to go back to the drawing board for this. 

Despite this, I sorted out 3 things.

  • I solved my goggle foggy issue with the Orca Killa 180
  • I can sight, but still need to not legs sink
  • And importantly, I did this swim for the first time, not hating the open water, I actually kind of enjoyed it too

Apparently there was a strong as well, so maybe that contributed to me being 3 minutes slower than last year. 

T1 [5:23]

They had wetsuit peelers! Yay! 

BIKE (90km) – 3:03.50 hr @ 29.41kph

I had really great memories of this bike course from last year. While it was still just as fun, my lower back seized up around 45km and I was losing power through the legs to the pedal. As my Trek speed concept Disc was being repaired, I was fortunately to still own my rim brake version. The issue is that it’s a frame size too small, and while still useable, it wasn’t the most comfortable. Additionally, because of my recent crash, my left elbow was still pretty bruised and couldn’t get into aero position. 

I dropped a chain with 5km to go, so I had to quickly stop and put it back on. This is what made me not get that 30kph avg. 

However, the BIGGEST upset on the bike segment is that I only got HALF of my nutrition. I was able to get all the liquid from my cockpit XLAB Torpedo bottle. But only 1/4 of my SpeedFil came up the straw. For some reason I wasn’t able to suck the rest up. And my the end of the bike I was really hungry and I knew I would be going to the run in a big calorie deficit. Not good! Especially when I know my numbers and had it down pack. 

If this happens again in the future, coach says it’s best for me to stop at an aid station and get it sorted to save my run. 

T2 [2:39]

RUN (21.1km) – 2:03.32 hr @ 5:51/km

This run was BRUTAL. It’s so interesting how I can do the exact same course back to back years and yet they felt so very different all because of nutrition and lack of fitness from the crash. 

I almost instantly cramped but quads on the big hill right out of the T2. I knew this was going to be a painful half-marathon. I stopped at every aid station to get as much nutrient and salt to make up for the calories and hydration lost on the bike. I didn’t really work and for the first time, I had to stop to use a porte-potty in a 70.3! After this I did feel a big better and started to feel some energy come back. It was also pretty hot which added to the suffering. I fought and fought as much as I could to try get under 2hours, but ended up running a 2:03hr half-marathon. It’s not my best by a long shot, but also could have been a lot worse. So all things considered it was “okay”. 

In Conclusion

Despite all the adversary I encountered leading up to this race, I am extremely thankful and grateful that I was even able to get to the start line and being this race. I thank all my family and friends who gave me their support and best wishes while I was injured and out. 

Congrats to my good friend Steve Upton who got 13th in our Age Group, getting closer to top 10! And congrats to Camila on completing her first 70.3! Fast swimmer too!

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