Why I’m Going Back to the Ultraman World Championships
I’m usually not a fan of doing the same races over and over again. I prefer to try new races and new distances. But the Ultraman World Championships is a race that I can’t seem to stay away from. In 5 short months I will head off to the Big Island of Hawaii for the third year in a row for the Ultraman, and the 4th time in total I’ve taken on the Ultraman challenge. For some context – the Ultraman is a 3 day triathlon consisting of 320 total miles: a 6.2 mile swim, a 260 mile bike, and a 52.4 mile double marathon run. Here is why I’m going back (in no particular order):
- Last year was FUN. I had a really great crew and a solid race plan. They kept me on track and put out lots of positive energy. Though there were certainly some down moments, they helped me to race my fastest time yet. I’m grateful to anyone that wants to volunteer to spend 3 days to wait on me hand and foot. As soon as I crossed the finish line, I knew I’d be back this year.
- It’s in Hawaii. Hawaii is my favorite place on the planet. Every time I have been there, it has been a life changing experience. The race circumnavigates the entire Big Island of Hawaii. You see every side of the island from sea level and from altitude (the end of day one is in Volcanoes National Park). The scenery is spectacular.
- It’s the only race (that I know of) where you can see a zebra on the course. Enough said!
- It’s really hard. I enjoy the challenge of doing something most people wouldn’t think to take on. However difficult you imagine the distances being, they are 10x harder. For me, it will take 28-29 hours to complete this – this is as tough mentally as it is physically. Just the transition on day 1 is a shock to your body: imagining swimming for 3-4 hours and then immediately hopping on a bike in 85 degree heat to ride 90 miles from sea level to the top of a volcano.
- The people putting the race on really care. The support and communication from the race director and assistant race director is great. I can’t imagine the planning that goes into an event of this magnitude. They want every single athlete to cross that finish line successfully.
- The other athletes. I like being around other athletes that “get it.” If you haven’t heard of Ultraman before, it sounds crazy. And I’m probably one of the least accomplished athletes at this race. The camaraderie here is something I haven’t experienced at any other race.
- It’s not “ultra” competitive. From what I have seen, there are about 5 men and 5 women who come into Ultraman trying to win it all. For the other 30 of us, it is more of a personal challenge – trying a new distance, overcoming some difficulty, etc. This takes some pressure off and makes it more enjoyable.
- It is unpredictable. Anything can happen. No matter how much you prepare, nothing is a guarantee. I have seen athletes who have completed the race in the past, and even won, have to dropout. Not only are there physical problems to consider, the weather in Hawaii can often be polarizing – heat, humidity, cold, rain, wind, the tides changing – nothing is the same from year to year. If I wanted to race and know what was going to happen, I would sign up for a marathon.
I’m sure I’ll think of a few more reasons, but for now, this was enough to get me back to the starting line this year.