Last November, age-grouper Lloyd Henry became one of only five athletes to complete an Ironman on all six continents. A peek into how he got into—and mastered—paincations. Er, we mean racecations.
Lloyd Henry’s Ironman career had an inauspicious start. In 2004, he traveled from his home in northeast Washington, D.C., to South America to race Ironman Brazil. On the swim, he chased after a rogue buoy, and ended up getting pulled from the water when he missed the time cut-off—and got hypothermia. “Instead of becoming discouraged,” he says, “I trained harder and smarter, and set even bigger goals for myself.”
Fast-forward to now, and 42-year-old Henry has completed one of those big goals: to finish an Ironman on six continents, an accomplishment he nailed in November 2016 at Ironman Malaysia. He is now an “Ironman globe finisher” (a term he coined), one of only five athletes reported to have done so. He’s also a 17-time Ironman finisher, including a 2014 Kona finish. When he’s not training, he coaches new triathletes and owns a race management firm.
Looking back, Henry wouldn’t have guessed triathlon would become such a central part of his life, even though he was exposed to it early on. A native of the U.S. Virgin Island of St. Croix, he had spectated and volunteered at the first ever Ironman 70.3 St. Croix in 1988.
After college and grad school, he started his career in science, managing clinical research trials. His life became sedentary, and when he joked that he had a hard time running and catching his subway train without missing it, his sister said, “You’re a little too young to not be able to catch your train.” That led to a challenge of doing a sprint triathlon.
A race in St. Croix was a natural pick for that first race in 2002—and his first experience of mixing racing with travel. He trained for six months, and once he crossed that finish line, he wanted to come back the following year to do the half-Ironman. “And once you do the half, the next logical step is, ‘Well, hey, can you do a full?’” he says.
That’s what led him to Ironman Brazil. And once he got started in Ironman, he realized it offered a unique vantage point from which to see new places. “One of the appealing things about Ironman racing was that they had races all over the world,” Henry says. “That’s your excuse to travel.” (For the record, his favorite race, and the only one he’s done multiple times, is Ironman Cozumel—the bike course is almost completely closed to traffic. And thanks to its long list of fun-in-the-sun activities such as kayaking and snorkeling, it’s an ideal post-race vacation spot.)
Next up on Henry’s bucket list is completing the Ironman races that have been ranked hardest in the world, starting with Lanzarote this May. “I think you’ve always got to try something new and challenge yourself,” he says.
Lloyd Henry’s advice for international Ironman racing
BYOF (bring your own food). “Some countries may not have your favorite brand of gels, energy bars, hydration mix or even things like peanut butter and jelly. After months of training your body to perform on a specific nutrition plan, you want to limit any last-minute changes on race day.”
Care for your support crew. “Companies like Endurance Sports Travel can help you organize race-week activities and take care of all your support crew’s needs on race day. When your support crew has a good time at your race, they’ll be open to another training season.”
Arrive early. “So your body has a chance to adjust to any time changes and acclimate to changes in temperature.”