By September 7, 2017
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- Fort Drum Firefighter Evan Lynch likes to challenge himself, and the bigger the race, the better.
The Ironman is considered the toughest endurance race there is, and that's why Lynch completed three of them this year. The full event consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and a 26.2-mile run, in that order, and it takes the average athlete around 12.5 hours to finish.
"An Ironman is the type of event that has to be seen -- or better yet, participated in -- to really understand the experience," Lynch said. "It is incredibly challenging physically, technically and mentally. The amount of hype and positive energy surrounding a race is truly incredible. The race itself can be grueling at times, but the feeling of crossing the finish line at the end is unlike anything else I have ever felt. The sense of accomplishment not only from finishing the race, but from all the hard training required to finish the race, is overwhelming."
Lynch describes his training as "pretty laid back." For him, that's two-a-day training sessions at least five times a week.
"My training each week can vary, but it can reach upward of 20 hours a week," he said. "Every week is completely different but will include swimming, biking, running, weight training, stretching and core exercises."
There's much less leeway when it comes to his nutritional program.
"I typically stick to a precise number of calories and macronutrient ratio," Lynch said. "Often times I just eat the same thing every day. I am a creature of habit, so I enjoy the consistency of a specific diet routine. Currently I follow a fairly high fat diet. For me, it seems to work very well. My body responds much better to using fat for fuel during long, low-intensity training sessions than relying mostly on carbohydrates to fuel my workouts."
Before entering his first Ironman race in 2015, Lynch competed in two Olympic-distance triathlons -- consisting of a 0.93-mile swim, 24.8-mile bike ride and a 6.2-mile run -- to gauge his abilities. He realized that this was a sport where he could both excel and challenge himself if he were to pursue the Ironman.
"I decided that if I was going to commit to competing in triathlons, then I was going to commit fully," Lynch said. "The next year I did three 70.3 distance (half Ironman) events and an Olympic-distance event. After that I was ready for my first full-distance Ironman."
A typical competitive season for Lynch is one full Ironman and two half Ironman races.
"It has worked well for me so far, so I will probably continue this trend," he said. "I also do several half marathons and smaller races throughout the year. I have competed in other non-Ironman-sanctioned events, and they have all been excellent races. I compete in Ironman events mostly because of the size of the races. The number of competitors and the crowds of spectators are much larger than any other triathlon I have competed in."
Lynch has been a Fort Drum firefighter for six years, and because of 24-hour shift work, he can often commit entire days to training when he is off duty. And, because physical fitness is a requirement in his profession, Lynch is able to exercise at work.
"I have put a lot of miles on the treadmills at my fire station," Lynch said. "Physical fitness and firefighting go hand-in-hand. It is a very physically demanding profession, and as a result, training for triathlons helps better prepare me for the rigors of being a firefighter."
Lynch does most of his training on his own, but he will sometimes train with his wife Jennifer, who he said also competes in many of the same events. She said they have traveled to Lake Placid to swim, bike and run the course in preparation for races or share the workout room at home in the winter.
"As a result, we are both typically very busy training," he said. "Jennifer and I both encourage and motivate one another to compete and train for races. She is the one who motivated me to begin competing in the first place and has always supported me through my years of racing. I could not have started without her support, and I would not have done so well in the sport without her continued support."
When she is not competing, Jennifer Lynch said she enjoys watching the races.
"They are so much fun to watch and very inspiring. I can't even put into words how proud I am of him for everything he has accomplished," she said. "The events are amazing, but what people don't see are the hours that he puts in throughout the year to be able to compete in them."
Lynch said that her husband will often go on long runs for about 15 to 20 miles and ride the bike trainer for four hours at a time.
"I am constantly amazed at how dedicated and disciplined Evan is with his training," she said. "When most triathletes compete in the 70.3 and 140.6 races, they often hire a coach to develop training programs, workouts and nutrition plans to prepare themselves mentally and physically for races. Evan has done all of this without a coach, which is incredibly hard to do, and he continues to improve with each race."
This year, Lynch raced in the Syracuse Ironman 70.3, the Lake Placid Ironman 140.6 and the Maine Ironman 70.3, which he finished in 5:23:37 and placed 62nd in his division.
"I had a great race in Maine," he said. "I have had a difficult time dialing in my nutrition during my races -- it has always been my biggest challenge. My nutrition plan for Maine was flawless, and as a result, everything else came together. It was my first ocean swim, and the water was only 58 degrees, which made the swim especially challenging."
Lynch said his goal is less about beating other competitors than it is improving his race times in all three events.
"I am typically only competitive with myself during events," he said. "I just try to improve upon my previous times and stay injury-free in the process. With that being said, triathlons are inherently a competitive sport, and when I am close to another athlete in my age group, I typically do put in a little extra effort to make sure I pass him."
Fort Drum Deputy Fire Chief Jason Brunet marvels at how Lynch constantly puts his body through these endurance races.
"He's a machine," Brunet said. "If I go out and run a trail with a few guys here, and that's like 3.2 miles, we feel great about ourselves, and he's out there killing these Ironman competitions. That's awesome. He's an all-around good guy, and we love him here."