Jared Chan's IRONMAN Lake Placid Race Report
A Calm Race Reflection by Jared Chan
The Lead Up
I'd dreamed of racing at the 2019 Lake Placid since about a year prior. I had started to get pretty serious about triathlon at that point and ended up finally signing up for it in October of 2018. The past year presented me with many challenges, especially that of balancing training with the demands of being a 3rd year biochemistry major in school. There were points where I thought the sacrifice was too great and would be pretty down on myself about it-- there was plenty of second-guessing and moments of “am I actually going to be able to pull this off?”
Once summertime came I was able to ramp up my training by a huge amount-- enough to get a few months of really consistent blocks in before tapering out about 3 weeks before the race. My summer wasn’t entirely free though; I’d still been enrolled in a summer class (Calc II, I took my final just four days after the race) and have been working long days/nights as a server at a Chinese restaurant called Dian Xin (New Orleans, LA). I always thought about how the server gig would affect my racing-- sometimes I felt that being on my feet for so long would help with my endurance but at other times I felt like it had robbed me of an opportunity to recover, esp. after hard training days.
Anyhow, onto the race. My parents sent me off before I headed onto the 2-loop swim course in the gorgeous Mirror Lake. This is the longest swim I’ve ever done. The water was perfect and amazingly clear. I’d decided to take it REALLY slow, as my swim technique isn’t fantastic and I didn’t want to burn out. I will mention that swimming for two hours straight presented me with a slough of mental challenges. It’s hard to paddle yourself through a body of water for so long, constantly timing submerging your head in the water. A lot of the time I distracted myself by matching my stroke to music, usually theme songs from Japanese Anime shows, and that actually helped so much. Also thinking back, my wetsuit may have felt a bit on the small side, though I can’t complain about that because it was a really thoughtful 21st birthday gift (thanks Justin lol) and I was spared the burden of getting my own. All-in-all I had a decently consistent swim, 0:54:40 for the first loop and 1:59:16 for the whole thing. I was cool with going sub 2 hours. First Ironman, nbd.
As I emerged from the water and had my wetsuit stripped off me, I saw my family standing right there. They shared in my energy, and I shared in theirs as they were jumping up and down and screaming, “You did it! you finished the swim!” This was a particularly great feeling-- I was so pumped that I had gotten over one of my biggest fears (I’d worried about that particularly extensive open-water swim for a long time) and was hyped up on adrenaline. T1 was chill, I got my bike ready and all that good stuff. The volunteers were especially cool and helpful here.
The bike was incredibly fun, and presented us with some of the most beautiful scenery; the course ran along towering mountains, huge rivers, lush forests, exhibiting the pinnacle of natural beauty. I told myself around certain points that I would remember exactly how I felt, but it’s all honestly kind of a blur at this point. The trek out of Lake Placid (the town) presented itself with some decent climbing to get the legs sore already. Around mile 12-ish, there were some FAT descents (I’m pretty sure they lead into the town of Keene). And holy moly, I SENT those descents. I’m pretty sure I maxed out at 50 mph. Apparently I had moved up 15 spots in my age group on the bike course and I probably owe that to the sheer rolling power of the mighty ORR 8.4 wheels. Freakin’ spectacular.
It wasn’t this easy the whole time. I found I was sweating way more than I thought I would, had trouble keeping a good solid food/gel balance, and I feared bonk city was right over the next climb for me. It was hot and humid and even rainy at some points, and it really threw my body off in terms of adaptability. Throughout, I took most of the climbs slow and steady, keeping in mind to conserve energy for the run. By the end of the second loop, I was feeling pretty drained but good nonetheless. I tried to hype myself up by standing and pushing the last climb up Papa Bear (one of the infamous climbs on the course); the spectators were so freakin’ hype, I was screaming “WHO THE F*** IS PAPA BEAR? THIS S***’s A CUB! PAPA BEAR WHO???” If I was going for a time in this race, that would have been my coup de grâce, as it was agreeably very dumb of me to turn suddenly belligerent and reach zone 5 in a matter of seconds just to publicly slander the segment of the course that I was hammering up. But wow, next to hearing good ol’ Mike Reilly call my name later on that may have been one of the greatest moments of my life.
I cruised into T2 feeling super sweaty and with my feet hurting; at that moment I swore I’d never use road shoes for something like this ever again. I was relieved to get out of those damned shoes, they had really started to bug me around mile 95 of the bike, to the point where I had the sensation of blistering all on the soles of my feet and on my toes (thankfully they didn’t actually blister). Transition was simple enough; as I was running out toward the course I noticed a table with about 15 Theraguns ®️ on them. I stopped in my tracks as if I had realized I’d completely skipped over the dessert section at an all-you-can-eat buffet, and took a minute to massage out my legs. After that, I was almost convinced it’s worth the $600. That said, I don’t think I’ll ever be convinced. $600? Not for this college boy.
The marathon following was a roller coaster of emotional and physical sensation. I was able to hold steady for the first 10-or-so miles, though I found myself walking up some of the hills. Additionally, I had *still* been profusely sweating out all the water I was taking in at a surprising (and concerning) rate, so much so that the brisk climate in combination with a soaked tri-suit and body made me feel very cold. Case-in-point, I had pretty much run the entire thing with goosebumps, at some points even shivering a bit. It’s not unlike me to get cold easily, but there were points where I was definitely concerned that I was risking my health. Around mile 14 I stopped where an ambulance was stationed and asked the personnel there if I could do anything to warm up. They suggested I drink down a bottle of water, which actually helped, though I sweat it all out within the next hour. Once it got dark and the aid stations started serving chicken broth, I found myself in a better head-space and able to keep consistent while feeling less pain. The broth was warm and soothing and restorative- I’ve never tasted anything better in my life, especially since I was so sick of Gatorade and gels by then. Quite literally chicken soup for the soul.
What really helped me endure the run, though, was the experiences I had with other athletes and spectators on the course. I had paced and conversed with some really amazing people out there; if it weren’t for them, I would have been in a much worse head-space and the whole challenge would have been much more difficult. One woman, a 55 year-old first-timer by the name of Debbie, gave me nutritional advice and instinctive motherly nurturing when I was dehydrated and cold. Another athlete by the name of Wolfgang had been DNF’d by 12 minutes because he didn’t make the bike cutoff time (he was riding a fat-tire bike!) but still ran the course because he had raised money to support cancer research. Hearing about his efforts really helped me push through. My own brother Ryan, who was spectating, ran 2 miles alongside me around mile 10 when I was starting to hit the wall hard. I finished the last two miles of the race with a man by the name of Jay, who came all the way from Thailand to race IMLP. We’re planning to meet up later this week for a run.
I finished the race with a time of 15:19:57. By then it was dark out and so many people had finished before me. I regret none of it though- pacing myself easily and really enjoying the *whole* day nice and steady was all part of the plan. If I want to be fast (and I want to be fast) then I’ll train to be faster on my next one. Crossing through the chute as the party was just getting started was an unforgettable experience which represented the culmination of a lot of hard work and hoping and dreaming about how much one can accomplish in the sport of triathlon.
Moral of the story: IRONMAN changed my life. When you sign up to do something of this caliber you know it’s going to take a lot of sacrifice both on and off the course, through the things you learn, people you meet, and sense of accomplishment you gain when you actually do it is second-to-none. I was in tears when I crossed the chute and a really cute volunteer put my medal--that I earned--around my neck. I was in tears when my family came to help me with my equipment after I was done. I was in tears when I turned on my phone afterward and had read in the Full Send team GroupMe that my teammates--athletes whom I really look up to-- were tracking me and rooting for me over the course of the entire day. I treasure this experience and I wholly wish for so many others to know the feeling-- that of accomplishing something so grandiose that you can hardly believe it yourself. And from there, it sparks a fire that keeps you wanting more, and wanting to do better. It turns out that my IRONMAN (and triathlon) journey has only just begun. I wonder where I’ll end up next.