I’m grateful to have made so many new friends along my journey. And on the road to IRONMAN Mont Tremblant, I got to meet Ian Lawrence @hybridathlete4life_training on IG, then in real life at Muskoka 70.3. We both completed our very first full distance triathlon this season and I was so honoured that he brought me on his new podcast to share my story to achieve this feat of fitness, grit, and passion for the sport. It’s now available to listen to on Apple Podcast (see below), Spotify, and the video version is on YouTube! (see above!) Thank you so much for this opportunity Ian! If I can do it, anyone can if you put your mind to it!
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.
Definitely NOT the post I wanted to make…Today was not my day. Mother nature won. My first attempt at completing an IRONMAN in Panama City Beach, Florida ended in a DNF (Did Not Finish) from the ocean swim. The first 800m felt really good. I gave it my all, but not too soon after, I just felt like something was off. I was putting in the effort I trained for, but wasn’t going anywhere.
The rip tides and waves were legit. I knew I wasn’t going to make the swim cut-off, I was asked twice by the kayaks if I wanted to call it quits, but refused. I did not give up or quit on my own will. But after coming out of the water, the official took my timer chip despite me wanted to still do the bike and run. It is what is, and was out of my control. As I went to the transition area to collect my bike, I was stunned to see how many were still racked. Apparently 300-400 triathletes also DNF the swim, which was abnormal. I later heard that there was double red flags on the beach, which meant no one should have been in the water to begin with. I really don’t want to make excuses, the swim is my weakness to begin with, and after this it’s well confirmed that I need to focus on the swim. It absolutely sucks, and I’m feeling so many mixed emotions. I cried and hugged many of the other DNF’ed athletes, a lot of them were 10+ veteran Ironman finishers too. Everyone close to me know how much training, time, and effort I put into this over the last 2 years. Even coming back from a broken collar bone. I wanted to be called an “IRONMAN” so badly. Right now, not really feeling clear minded and very doubtful in myself. So, it will take a long while for me to get motivated again. Despite this, I could honestly not ask for a more phenomenal first IRONMAN experience than this entire week. And on the positive side, I can proudly say I swam over 5km in ocean rip tides.
It was a roller coaster of emotions 100%. however I got to meet all of my heroes, even made into a Lionel Sanders YouTube video and got a high-five from hi at the finish line, and made the best people ever. At the end of the day this is all about the community. And it’s a beautiful one. I will finish what I started. I will become an IRONMAN one day. But for now, time to reflect, settle the feelings, and rebuild. Thank you all for all the kind messages and love today. It means the world to me.
On my last day in beautiful Panama City Beach, I ran to where the IRONMAN Florida Finish Line at Pier Park was. I don’t have a medal to show for it. But I’ll always have the good memories. Thank you to all the volunteers, spectators, and race organizers for making this an ironic classic event. In such a short time, I met new friends, Amanda, Chelsea, Marissa, Jenny, Logan, Chris, & many more, who turn out to be some of the most kind and best people on Earth. After about two years of training for IMFL non-stop, I’m officially in off-season! A few weeks of very unstructured exercise for fun and a ton of time to reflect, and recalibrate. Despite not having the race and result I wanted, and leaving empty handed, I got and learned so much more. This will be a week I cherish forever and never forget. I’ll be back Florida, one day, I promise. Peace.