The Ultraman Experience
I wanted to link up a single post to the day by day race reports (linked at the bottom) and get out some thoughts that covered the experience. . . and an experience it was!
Timothy Carlson of Slowtwitch sums it up well when he wrote, “Some call it a race. Others call it an elaborate way to work off Thanksgiving turkey. Some say it’s the best way to time travel back to the origins of the sport…Unlike the booming Ironman crowd, Ultraman is an intimate time travel trip to the way things were at the beginning of our sport. Race director Jane Bockus, who nurses this event like a precious child, limits the entrants to 35 persons selected as much for character and spirit as for talent and draws entrants from all continents. Each entrant must have their own support crew with van, just like the original Ironman events, thus leading to the limited fields that travel on the scenic, narrow Big Island highways.“
I cannot think of anywhere else on earth I would rather race around an island! This race was special in every way. While the ultra was focused around the distance we would cover, the experience was so much more than just a race. As epic mentally, emotionally and spiritually as physically and I could not have dreamed up a better way to explore it on all fronts. You and your mates circumnavigating around an island to take on something that at some point will break you down, cause friction and test everything from your best plans of nutrition to relationships along the way. Even with the big task at hand I drew greater confidence each day because of the support we had from our team and everyone involved with Ultraman. “Many hands make light work. “~ John Heywood
In many ways the experience was a combination of everything that got me out to train and keeps me coming back for more. The grinding climbs and adrenaline inducing thrill of mountain biking, the team work, adventure and unknown that I love about adventure racing. It magnified everything I have come to appreciate about going long, learning lessons along the way and there is no other place in the world I would rather be swimming in the worlds biggest pool or be riding alongside a coastline as dramatic as that of the big island. However, as much as this has all crushed my dreams more than I could express, I continue to think about what Gary Wang said at the awards dinner,”Its not what you do but who you do it with” and this is what continues to build such a special memory in my mind. “We meet as strangers. We compete as friends. We part as brothers and sisters.” The night after the awards dinner I starting thinking that the race was just a cover to get all of these amazing people together in one place and for the majority of them (I’m not included in this one…yet!) have projects bigger than this race that are helping others (check out their websites from the bios link). The distances could have been twice what we set out to do and it would still attract this crowd that believes in going after a challenge that maybe you cannot quite wrap your head around. I was honored to join such a welcoming family for three days of rip your mind off beat down fun.
I am also glad that our trip was extended just another day..or two or three because we all needed a vacation from this vacation. Monique and I spent a couple days hanging out with the ultraman crew and then did some playing around with Amber and Gary.
Amber and I also both completed the “Aloha Triple”. Finishing Ironman World Championships, Xtera World Championships and Ultrman World Championships on the islands all within a six week period. Amber went about winning races, setting course records and overcoming challenges of life that shows just what a champion she is from the inside out. It was a pleasure hanging with her and Gary but we had one more triple that Gary was going to have us compete in before we left the island.
This was my longest swim, bike and run but I also made some real efficiency progress during this race. When I did my first half ironman last year, I took to peeing off the bike like a natural (downhill without pedaling). I did not plan it then and I sure did not plan it for this race but I managed it across all three sports and this time without stopping my movement. During the swim, I let it go while my arms were moving. No need to slow down. On day two, I found myself peeing off the bike while my legs were still turning in circles and keeping some solid watts going. Then, during the run, I let it go while holding a 7:34min/mi pace without missing a step. All first for me and a huge time savings! Progress ;-)
Here are some more interesting nerd facts about the race:
- We took about 8,920 swim strokes and 114,300 steps during the run (glad I looked this up after!)
- Monique and Keevin opened the car doors well over 300 times in the three days
- I saw sheep, cows, pigs, dogs, cats, a bison, lamas, horses, big horn sheep, wild bore, a zebra, squirrels, chickens and donkeys…when I was not looking at the road
- The rides from day one and two were a total of 9,132kJ of work pushed into my power meter
- We passed through 12 different climate zones experiencing heat and humidity, tropical downpour and frigid air atop Volcano National Park
- We covered over 320 miles in 3 days across 3 sports. I finished in a time of 22:21:54 – an overall pace of 14.3mph/23Kph
- WKO+ software determined my TSS (training stress score) for the run to be 585.1
At our breakfast on Thanksgiving morning, Steven King (the voice of Ultraman) shared with us something that stuck in my head throughout the race. He mentioned that for us rookies, there was a lot of unknowns and that the unknown (along with countless other issues) can generate a lot of fear. Then he quoted something along the lines of …fear and excitement are very similar but with fear you hold your breath and with excitement there is breathing. He encouraged us to keep breathing and stay excited. That became my focus. Excitement. There were many times I found myself going into the unknown and I had a moments of fear throughout the course of the three days but these words would come back to me again and again. I would look around, take note of the people I was with, the scenery that no pictures can do justice to represent and realize there was nothing to be afraid of…I would take a deep breath, let go of the unknown and take in the experience. THIS IS EXCITING!
Going into my first ironman this year I was set on just finishing. The choice between just finishing and heading into a race to race is big. The difference between racing and trying to win a race is HUGE! Despite the distances and multiple days of this race I had my mind set on racing it. There was a healthy amount of fear wrapped around that but as the days unfolded the excitement took over without hesitation. Three long days of crushing my dreams was a bit overwhelming but welcomed. Seeing the teams in action for days on end was one of the most inspirational experiences I have ever been a part of and I hope to always be a part of it some fashion in the future. I am looking forward to getting back as a volunteer, crew member or racing in the years ahead.
I still find it hard to wrap my head around it (did I really run over 50 miles?) and I realize that you do not need to wrap your head around something to get started and commit to finishing. As ultra as the distances alone looked on paper, circumnavigating around an island of paradise in race mode could just never be expressed adequately or planned completely. You just have to do it. Here is how it went down for team bluesails: