Ironman Lake Placid Race Report: Anything is Possible*

A man in a bikini on the beach.
[The following race report is written by No Limits athlete Kelly Chang, who finished his first Ironman at Ironman Lake Placid 2016. Here’s how his day went.] Welcome to my first ever race report for my first ever Ironman. Exciting, isn’t it? Ok, maybe not, but everything these days is exciting to me because I am an Ironman. Sorry, had to get that out of the way. Just to let you into my head a little bit. Almost every conversation I have whether it is at home, work, the grocery store, I end in my head with because I’m an Ironman. I may have actually said it out loud once or twice too. Well, maybe more than twice, but definitely less than twenty. This is sort of a non-traditional race report, but if you want to read an excellent one about Ironman Lake Placid, then click here. I’ve read this so many times I could recite it Melania Trump style. So how did all of this get started? One night my mom and dad… wait, too far back. (WARNING!!! The following may contain some disturbing images. Viewer discretion advised!)

Making Life Changes


No, that picture to the right is not Godzilla coming to destroy Cancun. This is me circa 2012. If anything, I actually got a little bigger than that, and as I approached 200 lbs and was about to move up another pant size, I finally had enough. I decided to start watching what I ate, by using the app Myfitnesspal, and to start moving. It started simply enough with walks after dinner or anytime I felt like sitting on the couch, I went for a walk instead. This new revelation came to me some time towards the end of the summer and I wanted something to keep me motivated over the winter. I thought about doing a Toughmudder. Why not? It’s physical and you have to be in shape to do it. I just needed someone to do it with me. I texted my boss, who is also a close friend, and asked him to do the Toughmudder with me. He texted back, “Wow, I don’t know sounds a bit too much for me. Why don’t you do a triathlon?” He had done the New Jersey State Triathlon the previous year so it wasn’t a completely random suggestion. My first thought was: That’s scary and sounds really hard. My text back to him was: “Sounds good, I’m in.” I found a training plan on, joined the local Y and bought a road bike off of Craigslist. I remember the first time I went to the pool. I was so intimidated by the size of the 12 lane pool, seeing all of these people swimming laps so effortlessly. How hard can it be? I thought. After 75 yards, I found out it could be REALLY f-ing hard as I climbed out of the pool completely exhausted, humbled, and embarrassed. I am fortunate enough that my Y has a swim class for triathletes, and I signed up that day. That was one of the best decisions I ever made.
This triathlon stuff is fun!
At some point in training, I got the same urge as most new triathletes get. I wanted to race and race a lot. The original race I said yes to was slated for July. July!? That was forever from now. So of course, I sign up for two other races, one in May and the other in June. May finally arrives and I am almost 40 pounds lighter. I complete my first ever triathlon and don’t you know, I come in first place in my Age Group! Hooked instantly.

I am about to do this.

So fast forward to July 24th, 2016. It’s 6:35 a.m. and I’m floating in Mirror Lake about to head to my corral for the start of Ironman Lake Placid. The music is blasting, Mike Reilly is working the crowd up to a frenzy, there is a fog laying on top of the lake. I get to the shore and into my corral. Looking around at all the faces around me, I see every different emotion as plain as day. I am excited, looking forward to what the day will bring, but not too far ahead. I think about how far I have come since the 2012. Why is there “water” in my goggles already? Before I have too much time to get real emotional, we start walking forward. Oh my god. This. Is. Happening. I am about to do this. img_6938-1024x447-3047457 The swim is definitely my favorite event. I am a confident swimmer and not afraid of the open water and all of the perils that come along with it. The worst part of the first loop was at the first turn. I was pushed off course a little by someone who was swimming to my outside that made me cut into the inside of the course. A kayaker had to block us so we would get back to the proper line and make the turn buoy. It was a sheer mass of humanity at the first turn and people were popping up and bobbing at the buoy like a bunch of empty beer bottles.
Whiff! So close.
The rest of the swim was what we had planned for: steady. I did wind up a minute off of my expected finish, but I was able to draft for almost the entire swim so at least I didn’t have to expend that much energy. I was out of the water and had some volunteers rip my wetsuit off. They had the wetsuit off of me so quickly that I had to do a double-take just to let my brain catch up. The run to transition is like no other race that I have ever been in. The crowd is shoulder-to-shoulder, with five or six people deep in spots. There is so much energy you cannot help but get tingly in your soul. Seeing my teammates Tim and Karl along with our coach Maria was exhilarating.

Bite Sized Blocks

Off on to the bike. I definitely had to watch my effort at the start to avoid burning past my caps because of all of the excitement from the crowds. I think that most people when they think of Ironman are just so overwhelmed by the total distance covered on the day, and I am sure that the same feeling could overtake an athlete as well. However, I found that breaking each event into its own bite-sized blocks helps mentally and keeps me focused. I practiced this during my training over and over. It was still cool out on the first loop and the entire loop felt great. I was riding nice and controlled and staying within my power ranges with no big spikes or valleys. People were passing me all over the place, but I just stuck with the plan and I knew I’d either see them again on the second loop or definitely the run. As an aside, I do have to make one complaint on the day. On the first loop, there were at least four different pelotons of riders that passed me on the section after Keene to the out-and-back. I understand that there are a lot of people out there, but three wide and five deep, you have got to be kidding me. Soap box rant finished. img_2804-1024x768-6987324Coming back into town on that first loop was amazing, you feel like a rock star with all of the cheering. {Goosebumps} By the time the second loop started, the heat was starting to crank up a bit. At the hottest, my bike computer registered 90 degrees. I’m sure it probably did get a little warmer than that. I didn’t do the best job of keeping myself cool here and I did fade a little bit on the second loop. My stomach started to get nauseous on me at some point too, but nothing horrible to the point where I could not ride, it was just there. I tried not to focus on it too much. I focused on my effort and trying to remain steady to get back into town. I do remember thinking at some point during the second loop, “How am I going to run a marathon?” I left that question out on the course and just kept plugging along through Wilmington, headed back home. Getting off of the bike after 112 miles is one of the most satisfying feelings in the world. A fun fact about the second loop, I just missed hitting 45 mph on the Keene descent. 44.9 mph, so close!

I just kept running.

Coming out of T2.
Back into transition and getting ready for the run. I ate a couple of Tums in the hopes they would settle my stomach. As I hit the run course, I saw Karl, who took a great picture of me. There is such a boost when you see a friend out on the course; it helped me snap out of any bad feelings/thoughts I may have been dwelling on. The way I approached the run was as follows:
  • Run the entire time
  • Walk the aid stations
  • Power hike the River Rd bridge and Lisa G’s hill
Also, instead of looking at this as “THE MARATHON”, I looked at the run as a half marathon which I have done a million times in training and the second half would just be one mile at a time, each aid station at a time. The GI issues persisted for probably the first half of the run. However, I was still able to run. While it may not have been at an incredible pace, I was still running. I was shocked by how many people were walking the marathon. I had my blinders on and ignored the voices in my head. I just kept running. On the back half of the second loop, my hips started to ache. I did an assessment and while it was uncomfortable, it was not painful. So guess what? I just kept running. In distance, the out-and-back section of Mirror Lake Drive is relatively short compared to the rest of the course. But, mentally it feels like the turnaround will NEVER come–especially when you are on your second loop and just a little over a mile before the finish. It is like when you were a kid trying to get into a car and your buddy hits the gas to move the car as you reach for the door handle. I must admit that once I did finally hit the turnaround, I hit a weird zen like state. I felt no pain, fatigue was not a factor. The realization that the finish line is minutes away was awesome. Coming down the hill to the oval was great, seeing the signs for either the 2nd loop or finish and knowing I was about to turn right sent a chill down my spine. As I hit the oval I slowed down, yes even slower than I was already going, and started to soak in each second. High-fives for EVERYONE! At this point, I thought back to the bike accident I had 10 weeks ago, when I was hit by a car, and the work I had to do to get to this place, this moment. Almost at the very same time, I see Tim, Karl and my super coach Maria and gave her a huge hug. Tears, actually sobs, of joy were had.
Oval hugs
Perfect ending to an epic day. I am an Ironman. Ironman uses a slogan that I have really taken to heart. But I have changed a bit.

Anything is Possible.*

I think it is a great sentiment, but this crazy trip has shown me one thing and that is why I added the asterisk* to the slogan in the title. The * for me is “if you are willing to put in the work.” The magic of Ironman really happens when you put the work in. It makes the day more enjoyable and fulfilling. If you are thinking that you can’t do it because it is too far, too hilly, too scary, I say you are wrong because “Anything is Possible*.”
Ironman Lake Placid Race Report: Anything is Possible*
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