Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Ultraman Finale

I have finally mustered up the stamina to wrap up the Ultraman

Day 3: Double Marathon, 52.4mi from Hawi to Kona

After hitting the sack at 7:30pm the night of day 2, the alarm at 4am wasn't as bad as I feared it would be.  Of course, our best intentions notwithstanding, we found ourselves a little late and in a rush to get to the start by 5:30.

Day 3 starts at 6am so it was still dark when we got to the hotel and to the start line.  So please pardon the pics below.

We could start pacing Hillary from mile 2 on.  So Big Dave got the call and would take it out from 2 until he was gassed.  At the start we pushed up the road to the 2mi mark and waited for HB.  We soon saw Amber and Shanna come by and they were NOT taking it easy.  7min pace would be a conservative estimate.  HB wisely chose not to get sucked into that.
Waiting for HB
The next few miles were pretty uneventful with all going according to plan.  I took over for a quick mile from ~9-10 as Dave had a bathroom respite.  I was actually shocked at how upbeat and happy Hillary was.  I think the beautiful morning and cool temps helped, but most of all, I think she was finally allowing herself to grasp that the end was near (relatively speaking).

HB & I during Dave's respite
Dave took back over and things continued going well through the half marathon mark and on.  Sometime after that though, we got our first indication that maybe HB was hurting a bit.  At one stop her request was, "A fruit smoothie or fresh squeezed orange juice!"  You read that right.  It was clear she was looking for something that wasn't in our arsenal to help her along.  After  a mad rush, some OJ was retrieved and HB gulped down a whole single sip.  So much for that.
The views were calming though
After about 18mi or so, things started to unravel a bit.  It was that point in the race where you have gone very far, but there is even farther remaining to go.  This had to be an incredible mental obstacle.  Especially when your GI tract isn't happy.  Which her's was not.  This marked the beginning of the bathroom stops and another mad dash off the Queen K to get some Immodium.

After about 26mi or so, Big Dave was tuckered out and hungry.  It was time for Maiki and I to go to work.  We adopted a 2mi per shift plan and followed it pretty closely.

Knowing Hillary, I was well aware that she would not be a happy camper post race if she felt she hadn't given it her all.  I also knew that she was tough and ready & willing to suffer.  Additionally, given the makeup of our crew and the plan we had, I was also aware that I could find myself assuming the role of "the pusher" or as Hillary would later term it, the "tough love guy."  Sure enough, from about my second running stint on, I was in that role.  I was wearing a Garmin and just tried to keep our pace below 9min/mi.  I know getting half wheeled 35mi into a run could piss one off, but I was willing to risk it.  So I just kept staying about a half stride ahead of Hillary while we ran.  funny enough, after a few miles, she kind of found another gear, and round about 40mi into the run, really started climbing out of the dark hole she had been in.  Her attitude rebounded big time, she was running faster, and her famous smile and even laughter was back.  Chris Lieto and his family made it out to watch and his son Kaiden wanted to run with Hillary.  Frankly I was surprised when she found the energy to smile, yell his name and ask him to run with her for about 100yds. Cool.

We started picking off fading runners a little after the airport.  This was even more motivating.  I tagged in Maiki and while he was running we saw our friend Mike again.  he had been out on his bike, cheering on all competitors and giving them splits.  He told us that Hillary had been overtaken in the overall standings by Shanna and needed to make up 3.5mins on her to get back into 2nd.  I basically took this as an order and knew my job: get her back those 3.5mins.  I knew Hillary had worked too hard to let it slip away.  The problem was we were 5.5mi from the finish.  Thats a pretty big margin to make up late in a race. Especially so  when you have run ~46mi.  But we had our orders.

When I tagged back in to run, I told Hillary the split. Told her we could do it.  That 2nd was hers if she could dig deep and go get it.  What followed was one of the more impressive athletic feats I have ever been privileged to witness.  Step back for a second and think, in the 2 days prior, Hillary had swam 6.2mi in the open ocean 26mins faster than any female had done it before.  She had ridden her bike 260 miles up and over  a volcano and the Kohala mtns., and she had now been running in the Kona sun for almost 7.5hrs, covering some 47 miles.  And I was asking her, actually yelling at her to pick up the pace!  She responded.  And I watched first hand as she dug herself into a deep cave of pain.  I could literally feel the effort she was putting out.  It was visceral.  There were some scary noises, some tears, some requests that I just "shut the hell up" but all the while her pace was dropping.  Cresting the last hill I looked down and we were running 7:35s.  I was blown away.  About half a mile from the finish I handed off to Maiki and he ran her in.
Through her incredible efforts Hillary made up the 3.5mins on Shanna plus another 3 and took 2nd by over 6mins.  In hindsight, I guess she didn't "need" to push so hard.

52.4mi - 7:55:10
The aftermath of this race was anything but pretty.  I have never seen Hillary in such rough shape.  Things were a little scary for a few hours, but soon enough she was back to calling out food orders from bed.  No such luck sweetheart.  That ended at the finish line ;-)

Truly an INCREDIBLE experience.


  1. Really is amazing - what Hillary did AND what you guys did! Sounds like it was a team effort all around! So...will you be doing Ultraman as an athlete next year now?? :)

  2. Love the recaps Ian!

  3. Finally made the time to sit down and read the entirety of the post. Dude, not sure if I could dish out tough love when seeing someone hurt so bad, guess that's why I won't being 8:41 ironman times any time soon.

  4. Tough love is LOVE. You are rad dude. RAD!

  5. Great reports. I love crewing and will be headed up to Ultraman Canada again in 2011 to crew. It is really an honor to be chosen to help someone to get through such a tough weekend. You might find yourself in demand.

    Next step for you is to do it!