Becoming an Ultraman! 2015 Ultra520K Canada

This story begins with reading “Finding Ultra” by Rich Roll in 2012 after breaking my foot.   I was inspired by the book to eat healthier and go for bigger goals and it’s where I  first heard of Ultraman.  Rich completed Ultraman in Hawaii which has an 6.2 mile ocean swim which didn’t sound that appealing. In researching Ultraman I found there is an Ultraman in Canada with a lake swim.  In first looking at Ultraman Canada it looked beautiful and I started looking at what it would take to do it.  I found you have to have completed an Ironman in under 14 hours and you had to have a crew and the entry fee was very expensive not to mention the travel.

I completed my first marathon, ultra-marathon and 100 mile ultra-marathon in 2013.  Also in 2013 I listened to a podcast called -No Meat Athlete that said you should pick a race that sounds crazy and gets you excited to train for.   I kept thinking in 2014 about possibly signing up for Ultraman but needed an Ironman.  Two weeks before Ironman Louisville I signed up and became an Ironman in August.  Around January 2015 I signed up for Ultraman Canada now known as Ultra520K Canada.    Just before signing up I asked my dad and brother if they would crew me and they said yes.

Originally Celeste and the kids were all going to go to the race but that changed in June when I changed jobs and we decided Ayden would go with me to meet my brother Jon and dad at Ultra520k Canada.  Celeste ended up taking Kyler and Brooklynne to spend the week with her sister and kids and her mom in Texas.

Ayden and I had a long adventure getting to Canada.  After dropping Celeste and K and B at the Airport we were supposed to fly out 1 hour later to Spokane, WA but the flight was cancelled because the airport got hit by lightning.  We ended up getting rerouted to Seattle through Baltimore and Chicago.  We got to Seattle in the afternoon and drove 6 hours to Penticton BC for the race.  We started Wed morning at 3AM in Nashville and didn’t get into Penticton until 1:30 AM Pacific or 3:30AM Central. A marathon of traveling to start the race week, not good but the race didn’t start until Saturday.

The race format is 3 days, 1st day is 6.2 mile swim then 93 mile bike.  2nd day is 173 mile bike. and the 3rd day is 52.4 mile run.

Day 1

This day full of a lot of firsts!  My dad and brother have never crewed anything and same for my 9 year old son Ayden.  I had never raced a multi-day ultra event or swam more than 2.4 miles.   A requirement of the swim is you need a swim escort in a Kayak.  My brother Jon said he would do this, also a first.   The race morning began on the beach of Lake Skaha with a total of 25 racers from 12 different countries.

The plan was for Jon to paddle alongside me and for my dad and son to go to the other side of the lake and set up transition to the bike for me.  The swim went well except once I got off-course and heard Jon blowing a whistle to let me know I was swimming off-course.  Another tough part of the swim was my brother told me I was in last place but later found out I was 13th place in the water.   I thought I would do the swim in 3 hours but it took me 3:45.  I got out of the water at the same time as Ricardo from Mexico and was excited to get on the bike.  I had a quick transition and I passed the first rider on the uphill to the main road who was Nat from NY(Nat was great to race with and kept telling me how lucky I was to have my son along with me).  Shortly after I passed Anel from Kazakstan.

I was feeling great and enjoying the ride the first 35 miles mostly flat or down and with the wind.   I passed Shane from Canada, Shane and I passed and re-passed each other a lot over the 3 days. I also passed Chika from Japan and first saw her crew jumping up and down cheering.  Every time I saw Chika during the race she was smiling and her crew was yelling go Dustin!

The first day it was around 100 degrees and once I started climbing around 35 miles it got hard.  During the race briefing the race director Steve told us it was going to be very hot and if needed to get into the crew car for a few minutes to cool off.   Around 75 miles into day 1 I got in the car for 5 minutes and cooled off, I was extremely overheated.   I got a great shot in the arm from a competitor Robert from Canada with about 10 mile to go he passed me and we passed each other back and forth many times leading into the finish.   We must have passed each other 10 times in the last 3 miles alone.  I decided to follow him into the finish and passed him just before the line by 8 seconds and finished day 1 in 9:30Hrs and 9th overall!

I fell asleep at the restaurant waiting for the food and passed out as soon as I got to the hotel.

Day 2

We had to get all our stuff out of the hotel in the morning because we would be staying in another town 50 miles away after day 2.  Jon and my Dad did a great job packing and helping me get ready for the ride.  I asked the Day 1 bike winner Dustin from Seattle what he was eating on the bike and he mentioned peaches.  I would ask for lots of peaches throughout the day.  The day started out very fun with the front 7 or 8 riders staying close together at a fast pace.  I stayed with this group for about 10 miles.  The first 35 was out and back on the same route as day 1.   I got to see the leaders coming back before the turn around and Ross from England was leading with Kate from Australia in 2nd (she was leading overall after day 1) and the other Dustin was 3rd but was stopped fixing a flat.  Around 70 miles into the ride there was supposed to be a big steep climb called the wall. As I was approaching this climb Ross who had been leading came by.  I asked what happened and he said his bike broke. (I later found out he also had 2 flats later that day.)

I was in 7th place on the road and around 135-140 miles or so I passed the finish line and headed up hill into the wind for another out and back.  About 10 minutes later I decided to get in the car to cool down and eat.  When they poured cold water on me and turned the AC up my body started to shake uncontrollably and my brother called for a medic.   The medic said all my vitals were okay.  Ayden kept asking “dad when are you going to get out and go again?”His words got me out of the car.  This was the lowest point of the race for sure.  I went to get up and go again and Jon said you have a flat!   I am lucky my bro knows how to fix a flat and in a few minutes I was riding again. It was hard in the car watching about 5 riders go by.  It was a tough slog to the turn around but on the way back I kept going faster and faster. – I could smell the finish line.  I saw other racers going out and I was worried some would not make the 12 hour cutoff. Karen from CO was a long way back and I was hoping she was going to make it and I heard someone had just made the cutoff and someone just missed it.  I found out Karen had made it but Anel from Kazakstan didn’t.   (Anel was so inspirational running a great 52.4 mile the last day despite not being an official racer.)  I was so excited to see the finish line on day 2 after 11 hours and I was in 13th place overall.  Steve the RD after the race told me to call my wife because she was very worried after she heard they announced my crew had called for the medical crew.  I texted her that night and called her the next morning to tell her I was okay.  I felt so bad Celeste had told me her and her sister and mom were very upset and worried if I was okay.  All they had heard was my crew had requested medical to come and help.  I ended the day falling asleep at the restaurant in Ayden’s lap waiting for dinner.

Day 3

After two hard days there were only 20 racers left.  The morning it was cool and crisp and great to know at the finish I would become an Ultraman.  I had decided like most of my Ultra-marathons I would start out fast and hold on at the end.

I had looked at the run profile and it looked like the second marathon was down hill.  I must have read it upside down because the 2nd marathon was more climbing than the first 26 miles.  Jon had trained in preparation to pace me part of the run.  He had done 20 miles as his longest run and was thinking of running the last 26 with me.   He ended up running 45 miles!

I started out in 3rd place behind Ross from England and Juan from Spain.  From around 2 miles to 6 miles I ran with Kate from Australia (who became the overall winner).  A really cool thing happened around 5 miles,  Ayden came running up next to Kate and I with a water bottle in hand and the pacer ribbon yelling he wanted to be my pacer.  He did a great job and ran at our pace of about 8min/mile for about a half mile.  It was great seeing his enthusiasm and excitement.  It was like a dream having Ayden there cheering me on all three days!

Around 6 miles into the run Jon joined me and it was great having him to run with for what ended up being his 1st marathon, and 1st Ultra-marathon!   We grew up running in the woods together and it was so great running in the Canadian rockies side by side.   Around 25 miles into the run we passed Ross the early leader who was now throwing up alongside the road.  I told him to keep going and he said he had been suffering for 5 hours.  I could not believe he would keep going after being in so much pain for so long.  Wow what an inspiration!!  Ross ended up walking it in after puking 40 times to finish before the 12 hr cutoff.

We had a great time running with Frederico from Portugal and his pacer/coach. They even shared a sandwich with us!  All of the other teams were so supportive and encouraging throughout.   The Japanese team even gave Jon and I tomatoes and fruit and of course lots of cheers!

I finished the run in 10:30 hours which was good enough for 9th overall and was now an Ultraman!  I ran across the finish with Ayden, Jon and my dad which was just incredible!

I want to thank Celeste for allowing me to chase my crazy dreams.  I want to thank my brother Jon for being my crew captain, for being my swim escort, team leader, bike mechanic, watching Ayden, navigator for dad and my pacer for 40+ miles!  And thanks to my dad for making the long trip, driving 10+ hours a day for 3 days and giving such great support!  Also would like to thank Steve and his Daughter Alexis Brown for putting on a world class event that I would recommend to anyone!  To the other athletes I want to thank you for being such great inspirations that I will never forget.