Dr Joanna Lin: Clocked a personal best at the Ironman Melbourne 2015

Dr Joanna Lin, you are an Iron(wo)man. Credit: Ironman Melbourne.

Dr Joanna Lin, you are an Iron(wo)man.
Credit: Ironman Melbourne.

Last year, Dr Joanna Lin, aged 50, had been one of the oldest participants to take part in the Ironman Melbourne – which had been her first-ever triathlon.

But since then, the medical oncologist, who was once a self-professed couch potato, has become addicted to triathlons. In fact, later this year, she will be tackling an Ironman 70.3 triathlon in Danang, Vietnam in May and another 70.3 event in Bintan in August this year.

Shaved more than 20 minutes off her previous Ironman Melbourne timing

As well, she had also returned to the Ironman Melbourne again this year – and successfully shaved more than 20 minutes off from her previous timing for this race. She completed the Ironman Melbourne 2015 event, in 16 hours 32 minutes and 27 seconds and she is very pleased with this timing. Said Lin, “Overall, I am very happy that I managed to do a personal best for this year’s race. My swim was faster by a few minutes and I managed to shave off 40 minutes from my bike leg.”

Faced difficulties during the running leg

Done with the 3.8km swim, now it's a gruelling 180km bike ride to go. Credit: Ironman Melbourne.

Done with the 3.8km swim, now it’s a gruelling 180km bike ride to go.
Credit: Ironman Melbourne.

However, Lin faced difficulties with the running leg at the Ironman Melbourne this year. She said, “The run was the most difficult, because of my back stiffness after the long bike ride, as I had been in the aero position for much longer than last year. Later on, I started having problems with my stomach which felt very uncomfortable for most of the run. So I wasn’t able to get in enough nutrition during the run. These factors, plus other minor ones such as painful toes and chafing, made my run this year much slower than last year’s.” She had completed the 42.195km running leg in 7 hours 10 minutes and 48 seconds.

Running leg was not the most challenging section of the Ironman Melbourne

But that said, she doesn’t consider the running leg as the most challenging segment of the Ironman Melbourne this year. Explained Lin, “The biggest challenges this year were the rolling swim start and the weather on the bike leg. Last year it was a mass swim start, so all 2,000 participants started the swim together. It’s an amazing thing to watch, but can be a bit daunting for some. So this year they decided to hold a rolling swim start, whereby the swimmers go off in groups depending on how fast you swim. Unfortunately I encountered more kicking and shoving in the water this year – which surprisingly, I didn’t get at all last year.”

The bike leg is underway. Credit: Ironman Melbourne.

The bike leg is underway.
Credit: Ironman Melbourne.

Added Lin, “On the bike, I encountered a head wind blowing down from the north this year. The difference in my bike speed was 6 km/hr slower going into the head wind compared to the the other direction. It was also a lot warmer this year, with temperatures reaching 30 degrees C. The sun was beating down very strongly. Many athletes got sunburnt. And it became so important to drink plenty of fluids and trying to keep cool too. But last year, temperatures were lower, at around 20 to 22 degrees C.”

Used her previous year’s experience to better her timing

The triathlete had definitely used her experiences gained from last year – to improve herself. Said Lin, “I was able to take my experiences last year, especially the head wind on the bike leg, and prepare specifically for that, this year – and this showed in my bike leg timing. As a result, I was definitely more comfortable on the bike leg compared to last year’s event. As a whole too, I felt better prepared and things were a lot smoother overall.”

Lin had shaved more than 40 minutes off her bike timing compared to the previous year, having completed the 180km cycling leg in 7 hours 19 minutes and 28 seconds – last month.

Peaked her training at 12 to 14 hours per day

Dr Lin crosses the finishing line. Credit: Ironman Melbourne.

Dr Lin crosses the finishing line.
Credit: Ironman Melbourne.

To prepare for the 2015 Ironman Melbourne experience, Lin had increased her exercise duration by about four hours each week and peaked at 12 to 14 hours per week – about three weeks before race day. Added Lin, “I did at least one long run and one long bike ride per week, peaking at around 20km for the run and 130km for the bike ride.”

Tips for those who dream of conquering the Ironman

What tips does Lin have, for those who have been dreaming of conquering the Ironman triathlon?

Said Lin, “I was very much a couch potato before I started exercising more regularly. That was about six years ago. As I felt better physically and mentally with exercise, I naturally did more. But the important thing to remember is to start slowly and increase gradually, listening to your body as you go along.”

“Entering races is just a way to keep yourself motivated. Races themselves are fun, as your family rallies around you to provide wonderful support. You also get to meet so many nice people and at the end, there is a real sense of achievement when you finish. An Ironman is just a very long triathlon, but the feeling is very special when you finish, because it is the longest one-day race in the world, and you feel that if you can achieve that, you can achieve anything. As the famous Ironman mantra, says, anything is possible.”

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