Turning an Ironman into ULTRA Steel

UltramanFlorida

 

In the world of triathlon, most people think that the pinnacle distance of the sport is the iron distance race:  2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run.

There’s no denying that the iron distance can be a beast.  I know from personal experience.  Having finished an Ironman, though, gives me confidence that I could likely do another one day (and with this year being the fifth anniversary of me crossing that bucket list item off, I’d love to do an anniversary version again).  Frankly, however, for many athletes, the concept of doing an iron-distance race is daunting.  Heck, for some people, even toeing the line for any triathlon is daunting.

Ultraman races are the extreme distance for extreme triathletes.

Wrap your head around this:  6.2 mile (10 km) open water swim, followed by 261.4 miles (420.6 km) of cycling and then 52.4 miles (84.3 km) of running.

Yeah.  You read that right.  320 total miles (515 km) of multi-sport madness.  Ultraman Florida was held this past weekend; 34 athletes participated.

Frankly, it’s difficult for me to comprehend even one component of that event.  The first person out of the water this weekend took 2 hours 22 minutes.  The last competitor pulled himself out of the lake in 5 hours 9 minutes.  What the hell does one think about while they swim for 4 hours or more?  For comparison sake the guy who was first out of the water would have averaged about 1:15 per 100 in a SCY pool!  I can’t even do that at my peak conditioning for any length of time – even one 100!  Cycling 261 miles?  Seriously?  I have a hard enough time riding 261 miles IN A CAR – forget pedaling that far.  Then, after all that, go and run not one, but a DOUBLE marathon.  All in the same weekend.  Yeah.  Right.

It’s pretty much unequivocal that the nut-jobs who tackled this distance are freaks.  I mean, come-on.  How many people would voluntarily submit themselves to this soul-crushing, toe-blistering, delirium-inducing event?

The answer, in short, is a few hardy, superbly conditioned athletes.  Ultraman isn’t about a race, so much, but about the ultimate cathartic event.  The community that is built at these events is apparently second to none.  The guys and girls who even attempt this kind of race are pure rockstars.  The creme de la creme.  The epitome of uber-athletes.

Carbon turns iron into steel.  Pure grit and a love of endurance sports turns an Ironman into an Ultraman.

My sincere congratulations to all who participated in Ultraman Florida this past weekend.  A special shout-out goes to Susan Haag, my Team Rev3 Tri teammate.  She was one of just six women who raced.  She is pure bad-ass.  And hilarious.  She literally danced across the finish line!

 

 

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From Entertaining to Disturbing

I was asked yesterday what was the most entertaining or disturbing thing I’ve seen at a race.  That question really spurred a few vivid memories of races gone by – and the things, both amusing and some revolting, sprang to mind.

Events that we compete in tend to be a cornucopia of sights, smells and tastes.  And trust me, over the years I have seen some doozies!

Take, for example, those triathletes that run out of transition without their shoes – only to turn around and run back in to get them.  I’ve seen that happen at least three times.  What about the triathletes that put on their helmet backwards in transition.  I’ve actually done that before, even though I didn’t leave transition with the helmet on backwards.  I’ve seen people singing to themselves on the run, people skipping, and people bent so far over at the waist that it was amazing they were still (somewhat) vertical.  I’ve witnessed athletes sounding like a motorboat due to flatulence with every step.

I’ll never forget the lady at a local race here in Jacksonville that tied a helium-filled balloon to her handlebars so she could find her bike in transition.  Novel idea, I suppose.  I can only imagine if she were to leave transition with the balloon still tied to her bike, trailing her like a balloon follows a four-year old at the circus.  The same lady was equipped with a 5-gallon bucket of water so she could wash her feet of after the run up the beach following the swim leg.

I’ve seen crazy costumes at races.  I’ve run with a pink-clad Spiderman, been whipped by spectators dressed in S&M outfits, and accosted by a guy in a hot dog costume.  I’ve run by people literally tailgating – cooking out and drinking beers.  During a few marathons, I’ve seen people partaking in mimosas while they watched runners pass.

I have seen pictures, as you may have as well, of an athlete who was so focused on finishing his Ironman race that he defecated on himself and ran I don’t know how many miles with his…um…poop running down his legs.  While getting a Kona spot is a big deal, I frankly can’t imagine what a poopy run would be like.  For the runner or for the runners/spectators near him!

We’ve all likely witnessed our share of vomiting athletes.  Maybe we’ve done it ourselves.  While I haven’t thrown up at a race, one time I did blow a snot rocket right into some other guys face (on accident, of course).

Of course, we’ve seen our share of disturbing images at races.  Images that haunt us or bring back bad memories.  Crash victims, full of road rash and blood.  Cracked helmets.  Broken bones.  I once rode with a guy who did an endo and landed square on his face.  He broke his jaw and lost several teeth.  It was one of the grossest things I’ve ever seen.  I’ve seen a rider at a criterium suffer a compound fracture of his femur.

The fact of the matter, though, is that every race has some element of hilarity and some element of disgustingness or disturbingness.  It’s a matter of perspective.  Do you notice the amusing things and tend to not “see” the other stuff, or do you focus on the grime, slime, and vomit?  As a people watcher, I’m drawn to all of it.  I observe, make mental notes, and either smile or say a prayer.  The comforting thing for me is that as a back-of-the-pack athlete, I’m often on a course so long that I get to see lots of things!

What about you?  What are some of the things that you’ve seen at races?  What are your lasting memories?

Helping Boston’s Victims

Without a doubt, you’ve likely seen a tremendous outpouring of support for Boston and the victims of the horrific attack last week.  There are so many people who were impacted and injured it’s almost unbelievable. 

All last week – and even as we headed into this week, local running clubs all over the country (and perhaps world) were holding solidarity runs for Boston.  People ran to honor those injured and killed. 

While each of those impacted certainly is worthy of being honored, I fear that so many of those impacted will have a greater burden to bear.  The sheer monetary cost of the crime will be difficult for many to overcome.  I can only imagine how staggering the medical bills and costs for ongoing care will be for the most injured.  Far too many will incur huge medical bills.  Many will be out of work due to their injuries.

There has been no shortage of fundraising efforts, either.  The One Fund was established as one way to get funds to the victims.  Announced earlier this week by Massachusetts Governor Patrick and Boston Mayor Merino, the fund was seeded with a $1,000,000 committment from John Hancock.

Closer to home, the triathlon community is stepping up to support victims of the bombing.

Rev3 Triathlon announced yesterday that it was partnering with the city of Knoxville and the University of Tennessee Athletic Department and will be donating all proceeds from the Revolution3 Glow Run 5k – which will be held on Friday evening, May 3rd – to help fund the treatment and recovery of a former UT swimmer, Nicole Gross.

Nicole was near the finish line with her husband and a friend when the bombs went off.  She suffered a catastrophic leg injury – and has had at least seven surgeries already.  Her sister was also critically injured.

If you’re planning on being in Knoxville for Rev3’s race that weekend, hopefully you’ll consider also running in the Glow Run 5k on Friday night.  If you’re not able to race – or aren’t even going to Knoxville for the weekend, please consider making a direct donation to help Nicole with her medical bills.  You can contribute directly at www.bestrongstaystrong.net.

I’m encouraging you to help support those affected by this tragedy.  Please consider supporting Rev3’s efforts to raise money for Nicole.  Please make a donation to the One Fund.  I know that I’m going to do both.

When Evil Brings Out the Best

I spent a good part of the late morning yesterday watching the Boston Marathon online.  I was particularly intrigued by the women’s race, and enjoyed watching the race unfold over the last six miles.  I was awed by the sheer speed that the lead groups – both men and women – were running.  It blew my mind to think that athletes can run five-minute miles for that distance.  I laughed at the commentators saying that a pace of 5:30/mile was “loping along”.

That awe, and likely any awe you might have had as well, flipped to shock and horror in the span of 12 seconds around 3pm when some coward purposefully hurt and killed innocent people for a reason that I will never, ever understand.

The local newspaper headline today read, “This is what we should expect when we’re at war.”  Certainly we are at war.  Most of us, though, don’t have to experience it played out so close to home.  War happens in the world, but it happens in places like Iraq or Afghanistan.  In Syria.  In Israel.  But not here.  Not in the United States.  It’s a foreign concept for most of us; and difficult for us to wrap our minds around.

My feelings today are mixed.  I’m certainly sad for those injured or killed.  I’m dismayed.  I fear for how my life would change were I involved in this tragedy.  I’m heartbroken for those who suffered traumatic injuries.  I read this morning of two brothers who each lost a leg in the blasts.  The senseless violence of this hurts.

I’m disgusted as well.  I’ve seen way too many pictures of blood.  Of injured people.  I’m angry at people who tweeted and retweeted images of the carnage.  I’m not sure why we need to see those images and what compelled people to send them out.

Confusion is another emotion I’m feeling today.  I suppose I understand why some people might not like actions and decisions that our government might make.  Without a doubt, our government has done (or not done) things that could be viewed as awful, antagonistic, lethargic or uncaring.  I suspect that literally every government in the world has done similar things.  Having a beef with a government is one thing.  Attacking innocent people is another issue, and one that I’ll never understand.

Perhaps the most overwhelming emotion I’ve had in the past 17 hours is awe.  I’ve been awed by the reactions and actions of so many in Boston.  Courage.  Kindness.  Giving.  Literally seconds after the blasts, first responders, bystanders and even athletes ran directly towards the carnage to render first aid.  Their first concern was helping others and not running and cowering for their safety.  I wonder had I been in that situation what I would have done.  Would I have run away?  Would I have dropped everything to help others?  I hope I’d have helped people, but I just don’t know.

I’ve read of athletes taking off shirts to create tourniquets.  Of local Bostonians offering up their apartments and homes to athletes who didn’t have a place to go.  Of athletes comforting one another on Boston Common.  Of people going out of their way to help others.  A big topic online today is solidarity.  Runners all over the globe are wearing blue and yellow.  They’re wearing race shirts.  There’s a huge sense of family and togetherness that has come from this tragic event.  And that is a great thing.  The human spirit is unstoppable.  It’s innate that we come together in community to love each other, to help, to share joy and to grieve.  Even despite the pain and suffering endured by so many, the fact that people have come together in such a wonderful way is overjoying.

That will be my lasting memory of this tragedy.