EverymanTri Podcast Interview


Check out this print and audio podcast interview with Roman Mica of EverymanTri.com about my Ultraman experience.

As I am an avid listener of Roman's show, it was an honor to be interviewed by him.  And if you've never visited the site or listened to the podcast, check it out -- its loaded!  Great interviews with endurance and triathlon legends and tons of news and information on all things endurance and triathlon.

Click HERE for the article on EverymanTri.com

Click HERE to subscribe to the podcast.

Click HERE to listen to the podcast online.

Vega Ambassador


Thought I'd share that Sequel Naturals / VEGA just featured me in their recent subscriber e-mail.  Pretty cool.  They also added me to their site as one of their "Ambassadors". 

Click HERE for the link.

Here's the blurb that appeared on the site:

About Richard Roll
Title: Ultraman Triathlete

Richard Roll is a man of many hats. A husband, a father of four beautiful, healthy children, an entertainment attorney, filmmaker, writer as well as a passionate endurance athlete who placed 11th overall (third-fastest American, second-fastest swimmer) in the 2008 Ultraman World Championships-a multi-day uber-endurance event held on the Big Island of Hawaii at the end of November.

Considered one of most daunting and grueling endurance races on the planet, this 3-day / 320-mile, double-ironman distance triathlon circumnavigates the entire Big Island. Limited to only 35 carefully selected invitation-only participants from all over the world, Day 1 involves a 6.2 mile ocean swim, immediately followed by a 90-mile cross-country cycling race. Day 2 is a 170 mile cycling race, with the event culminating on Day 3 with a 52-mile, double-marathon run.

Having competed at the global level as a world-ranked swimmer at Stanford University in the late 80s, Richard has a robust and accomplished athletic background. He literally hung up his swimsuit in 1989, never to look back-or so he thought. By age 40, Richard was 35 pounds overweight and completely out of shape; it was time for a major life change.

To celebrate his 40th birthday in 2006, Richard overhauled his diet, became a dedicated vegan, put on his running shoes and jumped back into the pool.

Adopting the principals of Brendan Brazier's Thrive Diet, it wasn't long before ambition took hold and Richard's quest to participate in Ultraman began. Two years later, Richard has slimmed to a 165-pound machine, prepared to tackle the most challenging mental and athletic endeavor of his life—as a vegan.

Richard is probably the only vegan athlete to ever attempt Ultraman.

The Vega product line has been essential in not only ensuring my proper nutrition and wellness but also in aiding recovery between grueling dawn to dusk workouts that often exceed 140-mile rides and 40+mile runs. I could not have achieved my level of fitness without the help of Vega.

Out of Shape!


Man, how quickly it fades....

Yeah, I know I have this giant base built inside me, constructed over the last year as I trained for Ultraman.  But right now I feel like it has completely evaporated.  Like a magic trick -- POOF! and its gone.  

I took 3 weeks off after the race and did NOTHING except eat, spend time with my family, eat, work, eat, watch late night TV, eat, play with the kids, and eat.

In this brief period of time, I gained over 10 pounds, lost a good part of my muscle tone, became lazy and quickly reverted back to some old "former me" habits (let's not go there).  Oh how quickly it fades....

I realize (and embrace) that this is all part of a heathy long-term approach to training and racing.  I need to let my body heal, reset, rest and hibernate a bit.  Its healthy and necessary.  You just can't go all year round and remain fresh and excited about training and racing.  I pounded so hard, so relentlessly without a break for 7 months straight, that I needed to do this.  To avoid burnout and injury, to let my body and mind repair itself.  I'm not a head case.  I'm not the guy who can't resist overtraining.  I learned my lesson on this during my swimming career, during which time I obsessively and compulsively overtrained myself right out of the sport.  I know too much to make this mistake again.

But I'm over the break.  I built such a huge fitness / endurance base that I don't want to let it slip through my fingers.  I have a shot at quantum improvement by building on what I've done for a great 2009, so I started easing back into it this weekend.  With an emphasis on ease......

A leisurely long trail run on Friday, a social ride up PCH on Saturday with the Chris Hauth disciple crew on Saturday, and a swim / run on Sunday.  The verdict?  Officially out of shape -- in just 3 weeks!  This was most noticeable on my Saturday ride and my Sunday swim.  My running feels OK, but man, I felt like a total novice on the bike and was sucking major air in the pool.  It is astounding how quickly this happened.

That said, I know it will come back quickly with a little consistent effort.  This winter will be about core work in the weight room and a focus on cycling.  Looking back on my UM results and split times, it is clear that cycling is my limiter -- and also the easiest to improve with a concerted consistent effort.  I believe I can make major improvement here and return to UM next year with a huge leap in performance.

But that's a long way off.  Right now just dipping my toe back into it.  My ankles are sore and stiff, still ailing a bit from UM so I nee to be vigilant to avoid injury.  I really don't want to be sidelined.....So just slow and steady for now.

Brendan Brazier



In my last post (and in several previous posts), I mentioned Brendan Brazier, pro triathlete, vegan, inspirational speaker, writer of The Thrive Diet and the person behind the VEGA nutrition products that I use and have promoted on this site.

However, I have never met or spoken to Brendan.  Until now.  I just got an e-mail from him giving me a thumbs up on my Ultraman performance and thanking me for putting the word out on all things Vega.  My pleasure, Brendan.

And if that's not cool enough, turns out he recently moved to LA from Vancouver, so trying to hook up with him for lunch at my local favorite vegan joint, Real Food Daily.

So cool.

Check out this little video he put together....Nice.

Vegan Nutrition


In the wake of Ultraman, I have been asked several times -- how did you train for and race Ultraman on a vegan diet!?!  No meat?  No dairy?!?  That is impossible!

No, it is not impossible.  Not only is it possible, I suggest that in some cases, and for some people, it just might be advisable.

I realize that conventional wisdom suggests that one MUST eat meat and dairy if you want to train and race at your peak, build muscle, and recovery properly.  I respectfully disagree, at least when it comes to me.  Maybe its the punk rocker that lives deep down inside me, but part of this past year has been taking this notion head on and putting it to the test.  Turning it on its head.  And I think my Ultraman result speaks for itself.

Again, I'm not a doctor.  I'm not a nutritionist.  I only relate my personal experience.  This is an effort to show what has worked for me this past year as I endured 20 - 30 hour training weeks through a top finish at Ultraman, all while simultaneously working full time and being a husband and a father.

First off, if this subject interests you at all, I suggest checking out pro triathlete Brendan Brazier's book The Thrive Diet.  This is a cornucopia of information on not only overall wellness but also on performance nutrition on a plant based diet.  It is pretty fascinating.

Also, I am lucky in that I live near a fantastic vegan restaurant Real Food Daily, among others.  Plus my wife is a great vegan cook.  But if you are not in LA and don't have a wife like mine, no worries -- you can get the RFD cookbook, which has great recipes for everything from nachos to burgers, all vegan.  Click HERE for the link to the cookbook.

Second, get a juicer.  This has been the centerpiece of my program.  You can get a relatively inexpensive Jack LaLane model at your local Costco or Target for around $100.

Overall what I have discovered by virtue of this diet is that I tend to have good lasting energy all day, without the peaks and valleys.  I eat smaller meals and sometimes more than 3 meals per day.  I recover well from workouts and am able to bounce back fresh day in and day out.  Believe me, if I felt like I really needed to eat meat or dairy, I would have.  I just never felt like I really needed to.

There is this notion that you need a lot of animal protein in your diet to perform.  This is simply not true.  In a future post I will address this subject in detail.  But for now, suffice it to say that there is alot of misleading information out there about protein and just how much (and what kind you need).  In essence, you can and will get all the protein you need from a plant based diet.

However, one caveat.  I am human.  I am fallible.  And I do have urges.  Over the last 7 months I was not absolutely perfect in this.  I had a few (but only a very few) weak moments when I had some pizza or a piece of cheese.  And going totally gluten free is a very tall order.  There were times when this just wasn't possible and I had some bread or pasta.  I'm not a monk.  Like you I live in the real world -- business lunches, etc..  But overall, these moments were very few and far between.  

Ultra marathon legend and vegan Scott Jurek claims that his body has become so adept at absorbing his nutrient rich foods that he needs to eat less and operates at a higher efficiency.  I can honestly say that I know what he is talking about.  And I think he (and Carl Lewis) know what they are talking about?

Here's a rundown of some of my standbys and favorites, meal by meal.  If you have a Whole Foods nearby, you can get everything there.  Otherwise, you may need to check your local health food store for some of these foods, such as gluten free pastas and breads, etc.  If you strike out there, everything is available online.

BREAKFAST:
Carrot, beet, kale (or spinach) and orange juice with flax seed oil (or VEGA EFA Oil)
Gluten free toast with peanut or almond butter
Gluten free cereal (corn flakes or corn or rice based cereals)
Almond milk
VEGA meal replacement powder
Hemp or soy protein powder

SNACK:
Organic energy bars
Almonds
Raisins
Kombucha
Gluten free crackers

LUNCH:
Rice & beans
Veggie Burritos (preferably with a gluten free tortilla, but this can be a tall order)
various veggie broth based soups
Veggie Sushi
Salads of all kinds (just no dairy based dressing)
Avacados
Juice (carrot / beet / kale / wheatgrass / orange / berry) - preferably organic

DINNER:
Rice
Beans
Lentils
Salads
Vegan nachos (see Real Food Daily Cookbook -- cashew cheese)
Veggie Burgers (make sure gluten free -- most of them are not -- its the gluten that makes them stick together)
Gluten free pasta (with tomato or vegan pesto sauce)
Veggie chili
Soups
Greens of all kinds -- broccoli, spinach, green beans, brussel sprouts, etc.  The more the better.
More juicing!
Potatos -- salad, baked, broiled, even fried
Water -- lots of water!

CONDIMENTS:
Bragg's Aminos
Vegan Ceaser dressing
Olive oil
Flax seed oil
Mustards
Veganaise
Peanut / almond butter
Jellies

TRAINING & RECOVERY NUTRITION:
BCAA's (Branch Chain Amino Acids)
various gels (EFS is my current fave)
Soy Protein
Hemp Protein (Living Harvest) 
Peanut butter
Bonk Breakers
Potatos / hash browns
Endurolytes / Thermolytes
L-Glutamine
Creatine powder
Water!

I plan on going into some additional detail on some favorites as well as race / training nutrition in future posts.

Carl Lewis - Olympic Legend and.....Vegan!

As many of you who have followed this blog may know, I am a vegan.  Part of my Ultraman quest was to prove to myself and to other athletes out there that not only can one participate in athletics as a vegan, but rather that this is a recipe to excel athletically.

I think Ultraman proved my point -- 11th overall.  3rd fastest American.  2nd fastest swimmer.  Plant based diet.  Pretty certain I was the only vegan.

I will be posting more about my thoughts on nutrition in the coming weeks.  And I will be speaking only from my own experience.  I am not a nutritionist or a doctor.  I only share what has worked and not worked for me.

But here's a thought.  Olympic track and field legend Carl Lewis had his best performances on a vegan diet.  Don't believe me?  Check out this video.  And Carl is not alone.  It is my belief that this is the advent of a new movement in athletic nutrition.  And as always, its the triathletes and ultra athletes who are at the vanguard.  I hope to play a small part.

First Woman to Swim Across The Atlantic


OK, now this pretty much takes the cake.

On approximately Decmber 20, 56 year old Aspen resident Jennifer Figge (and mother of LeMans series race car driver Alex Figge) will attempt a trans-Atlantic ocean swim from the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of Africa to Barbados -- 2,100 miles!

The plan?  Swim 6-8 hours per day for 60 straight days.  During the other hours she will rest, eat and drift aboard her escort boat.  Her customized catamaran has a makeshift shark cage made of Kevlar attached to the back carrying her, her captain Bill Ray, a doctor, and at least one crew member and diver on a trek that will cost at least $250,000. The sailboat will be using its motor much of the way to slow down for Figge, consuming more than 700 gallons of fuel. Figge hopes to get sponsors to defray some of the cost, and Ray also has footed part of the bill.

Who is this person?

First, she's a mom.  Her son Alex Figge is LeMans series race car driver Alex Figge -- another endurance athlete in his own right.

Second, she is not new to pushing the limits.  As a runner, Jennifer has run 400 miles across France.  350 miles across Romania.  450 miles across India.  576 miles across South America.  300 miles across Thailand.  300 miles across Iceland, and 180 miles across Mexico, the final 60 miles in a leg cast!

As a swimmer, she has swum the Straights of Gibraltar, from Tahiti to Moorea, from Turkey to Greece, across the Cozumel Channel and through the heads of Sydney Harbor.  Last year she conquered 8 foot swells to swim from Cay Sal Bank in the Bahamas to marathon in the Florida Keys.

What she now attempts has only been accomplished by 2 people, both men.  Allegedly.  Both attempts are somewhat suspect.  The first guy used a kickboard and was unsupervised.  The second guys (Frenchman Benoit Lecomte) swam 3,716 miles from Cape Cod to Brittany over 73 days, but he stopped along the way at the Azores Islands.

"I wouldn't be doing this if I functioned on common logic," Figge said. "Those who don't know the impossible are the ones who make things possible."

Click HERE for both a video and print interview with Figge in the Miami Herald.

Click HERE to follow her trek via GPS for real-time navigation.

And if you are on Facebook, click HERE to join her fan club.

Jason Lester's Ultraman Race Recap


If you want to be truly inspired, check out my man Jason Lester's first hand account of his Ultraman experience.  As I've mentioned many times on this blog, Jason is the first physically challenged athlete to complete Ultraman.  



But that is only one dimension of his story.  

Physical limitations aside, this guy's spirit, determination and perseverance are beyond that of mere mortals.

Click HERE for the report and get ready to be INSPIRED!

Ford Ironman World Championships on NBC

Damn if NBC doesn't know how to dramatize.  Check out the promo for this weekend's broadcast of the 2008 Ford Ironman World Championships on NBC.  The tympanic drums, and symphonic musical score, the epic cinematography, the panoramic landscape, the warrior athletes -- NBC has a way of making this event seem like the Battle or Algiers or Saving Private Ryan.  Pretty cool though, I must admit, especially since I just traversed this same hallowed ground only 2 weeks ago.  

Every year NBC does a great job on this broadcast, balancing the pro race against always compelling human interest stories.  And speaking of inspirational human interest stories, Jason Lester told me the NBC crew was tracking him pretty closely during this event, so I have my fingers crossed that he is one of the highlighted athletes.

Pumped to check this out -- tune in December 13 at 2:30 (EST).


More Photos From Ultraman

Here are a bunch of photos taken by my crew buddy LW throughout the UM odyssey.  He gave me a disc with over 800 photos he took along the way.  This is the first batch.  I'll post a few more later.  But this should begin give you an idea of just how hard, fun, exhausting, exhilirating and incredible this event is.


















Day 1, and well into the 6.2 mile swim.  I tied an orange squid fishing lure to the back of the kayak with some ribbon and weights and just focused on watching it bobble all morning, like a mantra.  I still can't get that image out of my head.




















My dad seems happy.  But this was only the first day in the van.  Its not easy spending 26 hours in a van with a bunch of guys you don't know, but they were beyond great.  And although I'm sure he had no idea what to expect, I know he had a great time.  I am so grateful he made the trip.  Josef Ajram told me he is poaching my dad for his crew next year.




















Coming out of the swim.  Other than a few minor stings, I didn't suffer any sever jellyfish attacks. Many others were not so lucky.



                   
















Out of the water and onto the bike.  90 miles and almost 8000' of climbing ahead of me before I can rest.  Honestly, I floundered in transition.  It took me forever to get out of here.  I was completely out of it and dehydrated.  I think I drank 3 water bottles on the first 2 mile climb out of Keahou Bay.




















Brief father-son bonding moment before I head out on the Day 1 bike.  I think my dad is trying to figure out what to do.






           





  







LW on the road.  Pretty much sums up this guy. He doesn't mess around.  Glad he's on my side.  He was rock solid.




















My dad and Shanna Armstrong's crew dude Johhny Phillips.  I tried to convince my dad to put on the skirt.  It didn't really work out.  He was too focused on LW's tattoos and musing about the Hawaiian national bird, the Ne Ne.


























Day 2 bike -- 170 miles / 8600' of climbing.  Nice and steady for the first 100.  Not sure where we are here -- had to be about 1/2 into the day's ride -- but I'm thinking about that steep climb up the Kohalas at mile 150.























My crew captain Chris Uettwiller, always prepared and ready with my nutrition and motivation.  He worked his butt off for me.  I totally underestimated how hard the crew job really is.  I think he did too, but he totally rose to the occasion and beyond.  I owe him big time.




















My dad and Chris.  Shirking their crew responsibilities for a bonding moment.




















Day 2 again.  As you can tell, it was starting to get hot.


























Pre-dawn, Day 3 at the athlete and crew breakfast in Hawi.  Everyone is lathering up with sunscreen for a long hard hot day on the lava fields.  On the left is Tony O'Keefe.  A true badass super stud.  Not only is he Director of the Royal Canadian Military College, he is a perennial top finisher at UM, including a slew of runner up finishes as well as a couple appearances at the RAAM cross country bicycle race.  He crushed Day 1 with the fastest time.  I won't forget him whizzing by me a couple hours into my Day 1 bike leg.  He smiled at me, flashing a toothless gap that scared the crap out of me.  No doubt a hockey injury.  On the right is Dan Bodden, another member of the Canadian Military Mafia.  If we had been attacked during the race. these guys would have taken care of business.


























Lathering up for Day 3, 52.4 mile run from Hawi to Kona on the scorcher lava fields.


















Chris paces me with my nutrition.  No blisters, no stomach issues, no cramps.  I was being looked after very well.






































This should give you an idea of just how hot it was out there.

























DONE!!!!!

3 Days
320 miles

26 hours
33 minutes
42 seconds

11th overall
3rd fastest American
2nd fastest swimmer

I can't believe I just did that.












Peter Mueller, Shanna Armstrong and me, post-race.






























My dad and his girlfriend













































































Above, Josef Ajram totally out of it after the run.  I gotta give it to him -- he really went for it.  Out in 3:45 at the marathon mark, only to hit the wall with cramps, blisters, heat exhaustion, you name it.  He still finished the run in 8:33, but here he is in medical shock.  But after a couple cheeseburgers back at the hotel, he was fine.

Jason Lester and me at the awards dinner; the results waxboard; and Alexandre Ribeiro, the 2008 Champion.

Marathon des Sables


OK, this got my attention.

My new Ultraman buddy Josef Ajram from Spain is trying to convince me I should do Marathon des Sables -- a ludicrous 6 day / 151 mile (243km) endurance race across the Sahara Desert in southern Morocco.  Many consider MdS to be the toughest foot race in the world, covering a distance equivalent to six marathons over six days.  On sand.

This is insane, incredible, compelling, exhilarating and absurd.  If you don't believe me, click HERE to watch this beautiful short documentary by Canal + / Spanish television of Josef and his his friends making the attempt last year.  One of Josef's teammates is former Spanish soccer star Luis Enrique.  It is beautifully shot, and although in Spanish, you will quickly get the idea.

Josef has done the race twice and is going back in April for a third attempt.  Despite his urgings, don't think April is in the cards for me.  But I admit the wheels in my head are turning -- maybe 2010?  It will be the 25th anniversary of the race.  Hard to think of anything more epic.

Click HERE for the Marathon des Sables website


Lester Does It Again

Check out this sweet article that appears on the front page of Ironman.com today on my Ultraman buddy Jason Lester.  I can't say enough about this guy.  I had the honor of getting to know him in Kona, and he never ceases to inspire and amaze me.

Lester Does It Again

Dawn Henry profiles Hawaii's Jason Lester

Published Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Jason Lester was nearing the end of day two of the 2008 Ultraman World Championships. He was 160 miles into a 170 mile bike ride on the Big Island of Hawaii, clinging to his bike with one hand, working his brakes on the steep, winding descent with two fingers, while crosswinds repeatedly blew him across the road.

Every athlete who has competed in the Ford Ironman World Championship, or who has watched coverage of the race on television, knows of the legendary "road to Hawi." Slicing like a blade through barren volcanic plains, the narrow strip of asphalt transports suffering athletes through undulating heat and body-pummeling crosswinds along the sparkling northwest coast of the Big Island of Hawaii.


There's a second road to Hawi that escapes the attention of most Ironman fans. Rising from the ranch town, Waimea, it winds like a serpent up and over the rippling flanks of the Big Island's oldest volcano, Kohala, romping along through the birth place of the winds that each year haunt even the strongest Ironman World Championship competitors.

Here, the Ultraman World Championship course requires cyclists to endure switchback after endless switchback through cloud-dusted hillsides. As Lester had ascended toward the peak of the mountain, a screaming tailwind carried him and his fellow competitors along at speeds of more than 20 miles an hour.

The road bent down and those tailwinds became crosswinds that blew through scraggly tree stands and bore down on everything on their path. Calorie-depleted, with muscles from his neck to his ankles spasming and cramping, Lester battled his way against the invisible demons to the day two finish line in Hawi. He'd made it in just over 10 hours. A remarkable feat for any endurance athlete on the planet, made more so by the fact that Lester's right arm is paralyzed.

Lester has been an athlete all his life. Growing up, he took to one team sport after another, including football and baseball. He was hit by a car at 12 and was fortunate to survive the accident that left him with 21 broken bones, a collapsed lung and a paralyzed right arm. With incredible determination, Lester returned to sports as a teen, even with the paralyzed arm.


A high school teacher who was training for the Ironman World Championship inspired Lester to try multisport events. It didn't take long before he was a top duathlete and for years he raced biking and running events. Then, in October 2004, he happened to be visiting the Big Island on the day of the Ironman World Championship.

Lester came out to watch and found himself identifying with the competitors on a very deep level. He told himself, "This is you. This is what you've always wanted to do. This is your lifestyle. This is everything you represent."

By the end of 2006, Lester had left behind a successful career in California and moved to Kona. He signed up for the 2007 Ford Ironman Arizona, although he still hadn't managed to swim the length of a pool.

Enter Karlyn Pipes-Neilsen, Kona resident and masters swimming world record holder. Pipes-Neilsen worked with Lester to teach him how to make the most of his one-armed freestyle stroke. In his very first Ironman, Lester exited the water in 1:29:29. His finish time was 12:38:53. Lester was hooked. He asked himself, "What's next?"

The next challenge came at Ironman Western Australia last year, with a 1:35:00 swim and a race PR of 11:48:06. There, Lester met his current coach, Dave Ciaverella, who offered Lester something other coaches had failed to do – a plan to prepare for an even larger challenge – the 2008 Ultraman World Championships.

Held each year on the Big Island of Hawaii over Thanksgiving weekend, the Ultraman World Championship challenges 35 of the world's most rugged endurance athletes to 320 miles of racing over three days. Day one includes a six mile swim starting from the famed Kailua-Kona Pier. Competitors swim out to the turn-around buoy for the Ford Ironman World Championship and then just keep on going, through five more miles of ocean swells and currents. They top off day one with a 90-mile bike ride to Volcano. Day two is a scenic, undulating 170-mile bike ride from Volcano to tiny Hawi. On day three, the Ultraman athletes put on their running shoes for a double-marathon from Hawi back to Kailua-Kona, along the same broiling route that Ironman competitors bike in October.

Although other physically challenged athletes have attempted to complete the Ultraman World Championship, none had ever succeeded. Lester decided to become the first.

While training last spring, another dream came true. He was selected through the lottery to participate in the 2008 Ford Ironman World Championship. Lester says he's watched every Ironman World Championship on video. He says he went in knowing he was prepared, knowing that "I belonged there."

With the Ultraman just six weeks after the Ironman World Championship, Lester says he did not race all out. Instead, he "really tried to enjoy it, enjoy every moment." Lester still managed a 1:35:56 swim and a 13:07:21 overall time, placing first in his division.

Two days later, Lester was training again, preparing for the Ultraman. On the Friday after Thanksgiving, he walked into the clear, blue Pacific Ocean at Kailua Pier for the start of the race. Despite ocean currents that added hours to some of the swimmers' times, Lester managed to make the swim cut-off and bike one-handed through rain and mountainous ascents, finishing in the darkness in Volcano within the race's allotted twelve hour time cut-off.

Day two finished with Lester's charge up and over Kohala mountain and his refusal to give in to the Big Island's strongest winds. On Day three, Lester ran the same course he'd ridden six weeks earlier to return to Kailua-Kona, finishing the double marathon under Hawaii's relentless sun in just over ten hours. All told, Lester completed the Ultraman World Championship in 24th place, racing just over 32 hours in three days and becoming the first physically challenged athlete to complete the event.

Lester says he couldn't have accomplished his incredible year in triathlon without the help of so many in his life, but even he acknowledges how important mental determination has been to his successes. "When I got hit by that car, I could have stopped ... I kept telling myself, 'never stop. Keep going forward.' We all have setbacks. We all have amazing stories."

Lester's most amazing story from Ultraman came during the swim. Halfway through, Lester ran into a pool of jellyfish. Tentacles wrapped around his neck and down the length of his swimming arm and he began to have trouble breathing. A rescue boat plucked Lester from the water and, after checking him out, told him they were going to have to call 911 and bring him to shore.

Eighteen months of training and sacrifice flashed through Lester's mind and he did what came naturally. He jumped out of the boat, back into the same pool of jellyfish, and swam for all he was worth. "I refused to allow that to be the ending," says Lester. Congratulations to a man who, no matter what script he's handed, writes his own ending.




Ultraman Year-By-Year Results Comparison

Because I am obsessive compulsive, I just had to take a look back and compare my Ultraman finishing time of 26:33:47 against prior year results to see how I might have fared.  Don't hold it against me.  I can't help it.

Of course, time is close to meaningless in this absurdly long event -- there are so many variables that play such a major part -- ocean currents, high winds, rain, mechanicals, etc.  And this year we had GREAT conditions.  Although I'm told the swim currents this year were quite adverse and cost swimmers anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes, I can't honestly say that I noticed anything major (although I have nothing to compare it to).  But we had basically no rain and despite some occasional headwinds, it probably wasn't bad as compared to prior years.

That said, I couldn't help but notice that my time holds up pretty damn well against prior year results.  In fact, I would have placed substantially HIGHER in every year other than one over the last 15.  I would have been top 10 in every prior year except one (in 1999 I would have finished 11th just as I did this year).  Amazingly, my time would have been 2nd in 1992, 1993 and 2005; 3rd in 1994 and top 5 in 7 of the last 15 years!

Again, I can only assume that conditions were horrible in those years, as I just can't believe I could have placed that high.  But still, I admit its sort of cool to wonder....Then again, maybe the field this year was just that fast.  Just that deep.

Here's how my time would have measured up over the last 15 years of Ultraman Hawaii.  This kinda blows my mind:

2007: 8th
2006: 4th
2005: 2nd
2004: 6th
2003: N/A
2002: 5th
2001: 7th
2000: 5th
1999: 11th
1998: 6th
1997: 6th
1996: 6th
1995: 8th
1994: 3rd
1993: 2nd
1992: 2nd

What Now!?!

I wouldn't say I'm depressed.  None of that big post-race letdown.  Actually I'm enjoying a bit of time off and resuming some balance in my life.  Time with the family and getting on top of work.  Money has been very tight (I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir for many), so I'm focused on bringing in some dough.

But in the back of my mind is: what's next?  I am already getting enthused for the next challenge.  I need to put some thought into what I want to accomplish athletically in '09.  With the huge base I have, I am thinking about working intensively on my running and popping off a good LA Marathon in March.  Then maybe Wildflower or Vineman?  But I think I'm set on going back to Ultraman as my key race for next year.  I thought about trying to qualify for IM Kona, but its just so competitive in my 40-44 age bracket, maybe I should wait on that until I age up.  Focus now on some ultra events -- Bulldog 50K (in my backyard), a double marathon, I dunno.  If you have any interesting ideas for me, I'm all ears.

On another note, I wanted to set the record straight on something.  I'm no pro athlete.  Yeah, I swam in college.  At Stanford.  With world record holders.  But I wasn't one of them.  I was good.  But not great.  I was lucky to score a point or two in a dual meet, but never met the qualifying standards for the NCAA Championships or the Olympic Trials.  We won 2 NCAA Division I Championships while I was at Stanford, but since I fell just shy of the qualifying times, I didn't make either of those trips.  I was on the team, but no rings.

After college, I began a slovenly 15 year descent into alcohol addiction that came close to killing me, and those around me.  By 32, I was basically a broken man -- unemployable and alienated from my family and friends.  Its a long boring story.  But needless to say, during those years there was absolutely nothing athletic about anything I did.  I got drunk.  I fell down.  I crashed cars.  I got DUI's.  I never showed up.  I was an asshole and a liar.  It was a dark time.  But through the grace of God I was able to get sober in 1997 and begin the long slow process of piecing my life back together.  It wasn't easy.  

And for the next 9 years, that's what I focused on.  After a year of sobriety I met the love of my life and we have been together ever since.  10 years later and again through God's grace I am still sober, happily married, self-employed and the father to 2 wonderful little girls and 2 stepsons, who make my world go around.

But from 1998 through most of 2007 I barely lifted a finger.  I was completely sedentary for the most part.  By October 2007 I weighed 198 lbs (30 lbs more than I currently weigh) and decided to make a change on my 40th birthday.  I got a bike for my birthday (I hadn't ridden a bike in about 18 years) and decided to get "active".  There was no big goal.  Just wanted to get my blood moving again.  But like a good addictive personality, once I started riding, I wanted more.  But again for the record -- I'm no bike racer and I'm certainly no born runner.

On New Year's Day 2007 I decided to do a 7 day "cleanse" and went vegetarian.  Two months later this morphed into a total vegan diet.  It felt really good.  I started working out more and some weight gradually started to come off.

But I was still a weekend warrior -- one ride a week and maybe a 45 minute run or swim here and there; nothing to write home about.  I tried the Wildflower long course triathlon in the Spring of 2007 and DNF'd.  The bike killed me and I quit 1/2 mile into the run.  I was pissed and decided (again gradually) to start training a bit more.  Just on my own.  I entered the Long Beach Marathon but ended up walking after 18 miles (told you I can't run).  Not impressive.

It wouldn't be until May of this year that I would hire Chris Hauth as my coach and begin to "train".  I looked around to try to get into an Ironman race, but all the races were sold out.  I had no idea that you had to sign up a full year prior.  What was I going to do?  I'm officially "training" with no race!  I had read an article about David Goggins and Ultraman and was instantly captivated.  It just sounded like the coolest thing ever -- what a great way to celebrate 10 years of sobriety.  I have no idea why, but I felt compelled to do this.  So I just called up the race director and asked if she would let me in!  I had no idea what I was undertaking, nor what I was asking her to do.  Here I was, a duffer.  No IM experience.  No ultra running.  My only attempt at something like a half-ironman resulted in a DNF.  Not even a decent marathon result to fall back on.  But Jane was gracious and open.  And after a few weeks of decent training my coach e-mailed her and told her he would have me ready.  That made the difference and she let me in.

I stuck to Chris' training plan.  I think I only missed about 4 workouts in 7 months.  I was terrified.  Only 7 months to go from duffer to Ultraman.  But somehow I did it, and often against the protestations of some people close to me who said I was taking on too much.  That I was risking my health.  That it was foolish or compulsive or the manifestations of "untreated alcoholism".  But with the help of so many people, and in particular the unwavering love and support of my wife and my coach, I saw it through to a fantastic and life-altering result.

Not only did I finish Ultraman, I raced it!....I was competitive!  I was riding and running with world-class athletes that have been doing this race and other insane ultra events for years, and in some cases decades.  Guys who have been racing their bikes and going pro and breaking records and running fast for the better part of their lives.  And although I'm not saying I was up there with them, I was in the 'hood.  In the mix.  11th overall.  3rd best American.  I still can't believe it.

This is all a very long way of saying that I am nothing special.  God inspired me to do this.  I trained hard and was supported.  But I'm just a regular guy.  Married with kids and a career who somehow pieced this crazy adventure together.

I'm not saying that I'm anything special. 

I'm not saying Ultraman is for everyone or that everyone should try it. 

I'm just saying that you just might be more capable of achieving something (anything) you think you can't.

I'm just saying there's something to be gained by exploring yourself outside your comfort zone.

Because from where I sit, and where I was 10 years ago, its almost unfathomable to see where I now reside.

Thank You!

Just wanted to drop a line of thanks to everyone who supported me over the last six months in pursuit of my Ultraman goal.  As I mentioned from the podium at the awards dinner, nobody gets to Ultraman alone.  I know this for sure.

First, my incredible wife Julie and my 4 kids.  Without their love and support, it would not have been possible.  Julie is and has been so supportive, it moves me to even think about it.  Despite all the long training weekends, she has been my backbone and my biggest fan.  And I can honestly say that we have come out the backside of this experience more in love than ever.  My only Ultraman regret is that she and the kids could not make the trip due to finances.  This is something I intend to correct for '09 and a great experience to go back next year!

To my coach Chris Hauth.  The man with the plan.  Chris knew exactly how hard to push me and wrote the perfect training plan for me.  Then came through with the optimal race strategy -- including my strategy for the 52.4 mile run that made all the difference and kept me up high in the overall rankings.  There is NO WAY I could have even approached this feat without Chris.

To my UM Crew -- Chris Uettwiller, LW Walman and my dad.  I had no idea what a rough job this would be.  They rose to the occasion with flying colors, always ready with the solution.  I owe all of them big time!

To the Maximum Hope Foundation -- Jill & Kimberley have been a fantastic support throughout.  I raised a fair amount of money for this worthy charity, only wish I had raised more.  Again, another reason to return in '09!

To my training buddies -- Chris Uettwiller, Dave Meyer and Vinnie Tortorich, as well as the occasional rides with Tony Pritzker, Darren Wald, Bob Steinberg, Jeff Seabold and Gary Bub.  Although most of my training was lone wolf, these guys kept me going both on and off the bike.

To the Ultraman staff and particular Jane Bockus.  When I called her 8 months ago and begged her to let me in the race, she must have thought I was crazy ("You've never even done a half-ironman?").  So grateful that she took a chance on me and let me in the race.  She had no reason to let me in, as I had done close to nothing to warrant an invite.  Jane, you changed my life.  No joke.

To all the great friends and colleagues I met at Ultraman, always quick with encouragement and advice for the newcomer -- Grant at BikeWorks who worked on my fit; Gary Wang who had tons of advice for me and made sure I was invited / included in all the pre-race athlete rendezvous; Jason Lester, with whom I know I will be growing closer; Shanna Armstrong, always in control -- just another day at the office for her:); Peter Mueller, Miro Kregar, Brian Smallwood, Josef Ajram and on and on.

To my law partner Steve Kaplan, who supported me throughout, despite some afternoon arrivals at the office and a few sneaky Fridays mysteriously gone from work.

To my parents and my sister, always encouraging, so much so that my dad flew all the way from DC to crew for me, certainly unprepared for what he would encounter, yet thrilled by it all.

To all my friends all over the country and overseas who followed my journey on Facebook or by e-mails and phone calls.  The outpouring of support was truly moving.

I love you all.

A Few Pictures

Still waiting on a disc with tons of Ultraman photos, but in the meantime, thought I'd post a few from the UM website. They are low res thumbnails, so apologies for the small file size & fuzziness. 

Here I am at the end of Day 1.  I was 2nd out of the swim and held that spot for a while before being passed by Seedhouse, O'Keefe and Ribeiro a couple hours in.  I gave it all I had but was starting to fade on the 22 mile climb ('3950 of elevation gain) to the finish.  Here Miro Kregar passes me with only 1/2 mile to go for the day.  That was hard to swallow, my only comfort being that Miro went on to win the 52.4 mile run in a stunning 6:14 to finish 3rd overall. 

Another one of Miro blasting his move on me.  I was powerless!



Out of the water and onto the bike for the Day 1 90 miler with 7600' of elevation gain.  My crew captain Chris Uettwiller hooks me up.


Coming out of the water in 2nd position, 2 minutes behind leader Marty Raymond.  He busted a surge on me at 2K, opened a gap but never widened it.  Should have gone with him.  I'm looking pretty wobbly.  Though my time was a bit slower than I was expecting, the currents were not favorable this year, slowing everyone at least 10 minutes.

Group photo of all the competitors at the pre-race meeting the day before.  That's me in front, 3rd from the right.


More Ultraman Photos on Slowtwitch

Click HERE and HERE for some great pictures of Ultraman taken by Timothy Carlson for Slowtwitch.com.

There's a nice one of me running alonside my crew captain Chris Uettwiller in the pre-dawn early / feeling good phase of the Day III 52.4 mile run -- last photo in the first series.

Ultraman Recap on Slowtwitch

Click HERE for a great UM recap article on Slowtwitch.com by Timothy Carlson. Great profile and insight on the top guys -- Tony O'Keefe, Eric Seedhouse, Peter Kotland, Alexandre Ribeiro, Miro Kregar and Shanna Armstrong.


KREGAR, RIBEIRO AND KOTLAND ON THE LAVA FIELDS

KOTLAND

RIBEIRO, 2008 UM CHAMPION

SEEDHOUSE

O'KEEFE

Ultraman -- Day 3 Recap


I set my alarm for 4:30, but awoke at 4:00, restless and unable to sleep.  How is it possible that I could have problems sleeping after the past 2 days?  The mysteries of the body.  Top UM finisher Peter Kotland said he couldn't sleep for 3 days after winning the event (with his epochal 5:33 course record setting double marathon) 10 years ago, so I guess its a thing.

Anyway, I got out of bed, hyper aware of just how tired my legs were.  I wouldn't say sore, just a deep fatigue.  Running at all (or even getting out of bed) seemed like a bad idea.  But the notion of throwing down 52.4 in the Hawaiian Sahara?  Almost inconceivable.  But my heavy training and the 5 race simulation weekends I had under my belt had prepared me both mentally and physically for this.  Just five weeks ago I rode 140 miles then woke up the next day on shredded legs to run 45 miles, so I knew I would be fine.

Had some coffee and Chris, LW, my dad and I headed down the road to the competitor and crew buffet breakfast.  I rarely eat much of anything before a long run, but again I knew I needed to get some calories in.  I loaded my plate as Josef Ajram looked at me like I was crazy.  "You can't eat like that before running!"  Maybe he was right.  But I was starved.

As we finished eating, it began to pour rain.  Great.  

I headed for one last bathroom break.  Waiting for a stall I chatted with race leader Alexandre Ribeiro, who would be facing a battle today with Miro Kregar and Peter Kotland.  I told him I wished I could be around to watch the showdown and asked his thoughts on the day, particularly if he thought he could beat Kotland.  And it was at this moment that Peter Kotland himself appeared from the stall we had been waiting on!  Dude, that was seriously embarrassing.  Not that I had cast any dispersions on him, or any of these guys for that matter.  They are all incredible athletes and champions.

But as we ventured out to our vans to caravan about a 1/2 mile down the road to the race start, the rain mysteriously stopped just as abruptly as it began.

Crowding along the side of the highway in the dark, the runners and crew readied themselves with last minute preparations as race director Jane Bockus gathered the competitors in a circle around a native elder.  Arm in arm in a large circle, we bowed our heads in unison as an elder said a prayer blessing, then blew a resounding tone on a huge conch shell to begin the day.  We all moved to the road and within seconds we were off.

5 seconds later, our fearless leaders -- running gods -- were off.  Miro Kregar, Alexandre Ribeiro, Peter Kotland, Tony O'Keefe -- gone and never to be seen by me until the finish line.  Today was to be my tortiose moment.  Slow and steady.  Conservative and smart.  So slow and conservative in fact, that almost the entire field was ahead of me by the end of the first mile.

My plan was to break the run into an interval workout.  8 x 1 hour repeats, with about five minutes of walking in between.  I ran the first hour according to plan, right along side Jason Lester.  We chatted nervously, agreeing that we would take it super easy.  Its a long day and we both knew there would be countless roadkill by mid-afternoon.  The first long section is a descent, which may seem easy but can prove fatal to the thighs later on if one is not careful, so my pace was nothing to write home about.  Heart rate steady at 128 - 134 max.

I took my break at the one hour mark and was being very careful to hydrate and take in proper nutrition and electrolytes.  The morning sky was very clear, so I knew it was going to be blazing on the Queen K highway lava fields very soon.  

I had been unable to get my coach Chris Hauth on the phone that morning and I knew he wanted to impart some stratagy, so I had Chris call him from the van.  He wasn't able to reach him initially, but around the 90 minutes mark, they connected.  Chris hopped out of the van and jogged alongside me.  "So what's the news?"  

"Well," Chris said, reluctant.  "he wants you to run 4 miles, then walk a mile.  Then repeat."

"What?!?!?  Walk a full mile every fifth mile?  You gotta be kidding me!  I trained to run this thing!  I did a 45 mile run 5 weeks ago!  I can do this."

"I think you should listen to him."  Chris' words fell like a ton of bricks.  To me this sounded like conceding the day.  A loss of faith in my abilities.  Like throwing in the towel.  Giving up.  Not an option.

"He says it will pay huge dividends late in the day.  You need to follow his advice."

Shit.  The guilt trip.  Hauth knows what's he's talking about.  This I know.  He is a top ironman pro.  He has trained people for this race.  Chris was right.  I needed to take the advice.  It was just so counter to every competitive fiber in my body.  But I relented.  And this restraint was probably the hardest part of the entire race.  Harder than the swim, the Day 1 climb or the ascent over the Kohalas.  I knew I needed to be a tortoise today, but not a slug.

I agreed to give it a shot.  The first mile I walked, I was passed by so many people my head was spinning.  On the second cycle I think I was in 32nd place.  Only 3 people behind me.  I was in 9th place overall dammit!  This was not how I though the day would play out.  And this is precisely why my coach didn't lay the strategy on me the night before -- he knew I would revolt.

At the 1/2 marathon mark, I was still in 32nd.  It was the slowest 1/2 marathon of my life.  "Can I please start running!?"

"No."  Chris said abruptly.  I get the walking part.  Just not the full mile part.

But it wasn't long before this highly suspect strategy started to prove its point.  Every time I ran, I would pass bewteen 2 to 4 people.  Then when I walked, 1 of these people would again pass me, but not the others.  When I again ran, I would pass that person, plus 2-3 more.  On and on.  Again and again.  Leapfrogging.  I started to believe.

By the marathon marker, I had begun to slowly move up the field and had seriously negative split the course so far.  But even better, I felt totally fresh and fine.  26 miles so far?  No problem.  

By now it was hot.  I mean really hot.  about 88 degrees with intense humidity.  I took in water, CarboPro1200 and Endurloyes.  I held ice cubes in both hands to cool my core temp.  I was holding an even pace on the running, still maintaining about 135 bpm.

By mile 30, things were starting to get ridiculous.  The bodies began to pile up on the road and I became the hunter.  The highway is so straight and long, you could spot people 1/2 mile up the road, like blurry oases.  I would spot someone, then challenge myself to pass them before my 4 mile spurt would end.  And generally I would do it.  "Whose next?" I'd ask the crew.  Then I'd reel them in.  One after another.

And if I still wasn't a full believer, around 38-40 miles I passed Gary Wang, who was ahead of me in the overall.  Gary is a supreme ultra-runner, having competed several times in the Western States 100, among other legendary races.  He was hurting badly and suffering from stomach issues.  And I just kept feeling stronger.

But 52 miles is still 52 miles.  And the Kona heat is still the Kona heat.  All bets remain off and at around 40+ miles things started to get difficult.  I didn't want Chris or LW running alongside me anymore -- any outside stimulus was too much.  I had to narrow my focus and conserve as much energy as possible.  I had no room for any movement not essential.  And each 4 miler became progressively more difficult.  The first mile was all about finding my running legs again.  Miles 2-3 were hitting a solid stride.  And mile 4 was holding on to that pace until it was time to walk again.

And the Kona landscape can be so deceiving.  When you pas the airport, you think you are almost home.  And yet still so far to go.  Every mile started to feel like 10.  With about 9 or so miles left, I took my last walk break, which I cut short when I saw Mike Rouse behind me just a little too close for comfort (he was still almost a half-mile behind).  So I cut the walk break short and focused on running the last 7-8 miles straight through to the end.  Chris ran with me through the intersections to ensure my safety.  But everything began to hurt.  I resisted every temptation to slow, thinking about how much I sacfrificed for this moment -- time away from wife and kids, missing my stepson Trapper's soccer games (he made the All Star team), date nights with my wife, trips to the zoo, birthday parties with my 4 year old daughter, and all semblance of a social life.  There was no way I was going to slow down.  So I sped up.

I pass the Marina and headed for home.  Just a couple miles until the turnoff down the hill to the finish line.  Every stride was painful and I could feel my left hamstring and right calf / achilles starting to go out on me.  I finished the last salt tabs I had and prayed I wouldn't get a cramp, the only thing I feared could sideline me at this point.

As I made the turn down the hill, the emotions began to swell.  I got goosebumps.  My crew was cheering.  Chris ran along side me for a bit, telling me it was an honor to be there for me.  The feeling was mutual.  Tears began to well as I laid down the last half mile into Old Airport Park.  And yet the actual finish was still so far down the road!  I tried to pick it up, but I was maxed.  It was all I could do to just hold my pace across the line.

I finished.  9:00 hours even.  Certainly not a time I can brag about.  But I did negative split the course and I am pretty damn sure I was the only one who did.  That said, I was again prepared to learn that I had plummeted in the overall rankings.  I was so far back.  There was no way I was in the tope 15, maybe not even in the top 20 anymore.  And I was OK with that.  I had given it everything I had that day.

Final place: 11th.

Shock.  I had only dropped 2 spots from 9th the day prior.  That can't be right.  Some people must have dropped out.  Or been DQ'd.  Nope.  

11th place.  10th Fastest Male (Shanna Armstrong kicked my butt on the run to move up on me).  2nd Fastest Male American.  And (I think?) the top finisher amongst the UM first-timers.  Fair and square.

Damn if Chris Hauth wasn't right.  A freakin soothsayer.  Had I ran my race, I would have been keeled over on the side of the road.  Or at least in the medical tent, like so many others I saw at the finish line.

Josef Ajram was experiencing shock.  His toes terribly blistered and suffering from going out way too hard.  He was 3:45 at the marathin (I think I was like 4:40 or something absurd like that) and yet he only finished 27 minutes ahead of me.  And many others.  Sure my legs were toast and I could barely walk, but I was lucid.  And happy.

I was greeted at the finish by my crew, as well as by Chris' girlfriend Erin and her parents, who supported throughout.  I was elated, if not depleted, exhausted, dehydrated and all sorts of other "-ted's".

But I was an Ultraman.  I am an Ultraman.  And I will never forget this experience.

More thoughts, reflections and tons of photos to come.  But for now, below are the official race results:

24th Ultraman World Championship
November 28-30, 2008
The Big Island, Hawaii
S 6.2 mi/ B 90 mi./ B 171.4 mi./ R 52.4 mi.

Final Results

Men

1. Andre Ribeiro (BRA) Swim 3:12:00 (7) Bike 1&2 12:22:06 (1) Run 6:15:32 (2) 21:49:38
2. Tony O'Keefe (CAN) Swim 3:04:06 (6) Bike 1&2 12:40:40 (3) Run 6:46:58 (4) 22:31:51
3. Miro Kregar (SLO) Swim 3:19:53 (16) Bike 1&2 13:06:00 (5) Run 6:14:16 (1) 22:35:24
4. Peter Kotland (CZE) Swim 3:19:53 (12) Bike 1&2 12:45:30 (4) Run 7:33:20 (5) 23:38:48
5. Carlos Conceicao (BRA) Swim 3:29:27 (14) Bike 1&2 14:11:42 (9) Run 6:46:28 (3) 24:27:17
6. Erik Seedhouse (CAN) Swim 2:55:53 (3) Bike 13:37:16 (7)) Run 8:03:59 (7) 24:37:08
7. Josef Ajram (ESP) Swim 3:35:03 (16) Bike 12:31:50 (2) Run 8:33:45 (11) 24:40:38
8. Scott Gower (USA) Swim 3:03:39 (5) Bike 1&2 13:56:03 (8)Run 8:24:46 (10) 25:24:28
9. Peter Mueller (SUI) Swim 3:14:33 (10) Bike 1&2 14:33:18 (10) Run 8:17:14 (9) 26:05:05
10. Richard Roll (USA) Swim 2:41:28 (2) Bike 1&2 14: 51:42 (12) Run 9:00:32 (15) 26:33:42

Women

1. Shanna Armstrong (USA) Swim 3:02:44 (1) Bike 1&2 15:05:06 (1) Run 8:17:13 (1) 26:25:03
2. Suzy Degazon (USA) Swim 4:59:08 (3) Bike 1&2 16:22:47 (2) Run 10:01:57 (2) 31:23:52
3. Catherine Paulson (USA) Swim 4:37:33 (2) Bike 1&2 16:52:33 (3) Run 11:16:11 (3) 32:48:22
DNF Leslie Holton (USA) Swim 5:46:58 (4) Bike 1 DNF Run 11:48:12 (4)

JASON LESTER, ME & BRIAN SMALLWOOD
AT THE FINISH LINE