Exclusive Interview with Barry Lee: Youngest Malaysian to qualify for Ironman World Championships
“You are an Ironman” – not only did Barry Lee hear these four words at the finish line of the Ironman Malaysia in Langkawi, but he is also floating on cloud nine after qualifying for the toughest Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii next year.
Standing tall at 23 years of age, Barry Lee completed his second Ironman Malaysia in Langkawi with an impeccable timing of 10h 23m for a sterling young triathlete across swimming 3.8km, cycling 180km and running 42km. The Team TIME triathlete had also qualified for Ironman Kona five years ago, but did not participate in the World Championships then.
“I’m happy and will train for Ironman Kona. It will be even tougher, especially when weather wreaked havoc this year, but we can’t control the weather,” said Barry Lee.
As if one sport wasn’t hard enough
While this endurance sport incorporating three sports – swimming, cycling and running would be difficult for anyone of his age, Barry took it all in stride and at times made it look easy.
How can anyone who just finished 225.8km swim, bike and run in total, finish looking dapper like James Bond?
Clad in a team TIME Trisuit from Spiuk, helmet and sunglasses from Rudy Project, Barry was riding a Ceepo TT bike on Zipp 404 wheels and Ultegra groupset on the 180km cycling leg. Most Ironman athletes found the hilly route around Langkawi tough, but Lee has been used to intense, long distance rides with local club P2K, cycling more than eight hours at a time. In fact, he was feeling strong on the bike, and kept the pace to improve his overall timing.
Barry says he didn’t embrace the hot weather, but told himself,
“Everyone else is suffering too. I just shut my mind off and kept pouring water on myself at the water stations to let my body and legs relax.”
“My legs started to cramp at 21km as I did not have enough mileage in training. So, I drank a lot of Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) to replenish. I tried to keep a smooth pace, but by 30km, I could really feel the cramp in my legs, but I kept the pace and ate a lot Power Gels to prevent cramps,” said Barry Lee on the running leg in Brooks shoes.
How do you cope with hunger?
“Coming out from the swim, I was really hungry so I ate one banana. On the bike, I had 6 Power Gels, and another 7 or 8 Power gels on the run,” said Barry.
Compared to his previous Ironman five years ago, Barry’s run slowed by 2 minutes but he made up for it by improving 6 minutes in the swim and a bit more on the bike. Barry also suffered an injury to his Iliotibial band (ITB) and had to reduce his training, which is not ideal when you need to build up the long miles in training. His iron-steel performance doesn’t come without sacrifices, as Barry trains everyday without rest until the eve of the Ironman. He definitely puts the ‘taper’ theory to rest there.
Parents play a pivotal role
David Lee, Barry’s dad is responsible for getting his son ‘addicted’ to triathlon from a tender age of eight. With a passion for multiple sports himself, David was the perfect example to young son Barry who followed dad on every training session.
Barry has been shattering all records since then, starting as Malaysia’s youngest triathlete and Ironman and now, the youngest to qualify for the Ironman World Championships.
Being parents to an Ironman athlete is equally demanding. Barry’s parents were out on motorcycles on the running leg, to check on his needs and to make sure he had enough rehydration salts and water.
Go forth and prosper
“Training for Ironman and SEA Games requires different strategies although it’s the same sport,” says Barry, but he aims to do both, first the Ironman followed by the Malaysia SEA Games in 2017.
It will be a long and tough road to glory. Barry plans to participate in one more Ironman in Australia next year, before the World Championships in Kona. It is extremely demanding to participate in two Ironmans in the same year, especially when Barry aspires to finish under 10 hours. After which, he will take a short break before focusing on the SEA Games.