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Ultraman Canada: Prep & Day 1 Preview

July 31, 2009 By Jason Sissel Ultraman Canada

jason sissel ultramanOver the next three days I will be participating in the Ultraman Canada Championship in Penticton, British Columbia for Endure to Cure, which I founded to raise funds to help fight pediatric cancer.  In an effort to share this journey with you all, I plan to write a quick entry each night about the day's experience.  My crew team will attempt to provide you with real-time updates on my Facebook page on how the race is progressing.  After the race is complete, I will write a more detailed account on the experience as a whole for those of you who have a deeper interest.  But before I get started, I want to thank two people who have graciously volunteered to be my crew members and support E2C's cause: Paul Zirlin & Bob Shanks.  An Ultraman athlete does not exist without his crew team and it's as simple as that.

And before I break down how Day 1 will look, here is a quick overview on how Ultraman works.  The event is a three-day event performed in stages as follows:

Day 1 (Saturday): 6.2 mile swim & 90 mile bike

Day 2 (Sunday):  170 mile bike

Day 3 (Monday): 52.4 mile run (double marathon)

Each participant gets 12 hours to finish each stage.  After the stage you get a massage (kindly included with the entry!), eat, plan the next day, and then try to squeeze in some sleep assuming your not still abuzz from all the energy gels and drinks you've consumed during the day.  The event is not billed as a race but more as a journey of the soul.  It doesn't matter if you come in first or last because there is no prize money like in larger-scale races.  The event is limited to 30 participants world-wide and by invitation only.

Today was registration, a mandatory race day briefing where we met other participants and learned the ins and outs about the days to follow.  The the balance of the day was consumed by organizing supplies and planning a race and nutrition strategy for the next three days.  I met some inspiring people with great stories such as Todd Crandell who is a recovered drug addict and is now helping people overcome their own destructive addictions with his foundation, Racing for Recovery.

Here is a preview for what is going to happen tomorrow:

The weather here is extremely hot.  The mercury is hitting 100-plus degrees and it's sunny so a diligent nutrition, hydration, and sun protection strategy is of the essence.  If you don't take proper care to do these things on Day 1, chances are your next couple days will be pretty gruesome at best (as if it's not gresome under the best conditions, right!?) assuming you even make it that far.

Day 1, relatively speaking, is the "easy" day.  We'll start off at 7am Pacific Time with a 6.2 mile point-to-point swim across Lake Skaha.  Lake conditions look to be calm and warm so overall it should make for a good swim.  However, if it warms up fast in the morning, my crew and I must beware of the heat.  My crew member, Bob, will serve as my paddler who will be responsible for guiding me on the straightest line possible and also provide me with nutrition at regular intervals.  Bob's job is important in that if he were to guide me in a zig-zag style line the whole way, I could end up swimming upwards of a mile or two longer than necessary. No thank you,

For those of who who are thinking, "What the heck do you eat?" I plan to take in about 1,000 calories in a gel form and also drink about 24oz of water.  I hope to be out of the water somewhere between 3.5-4 hours.

After I finish the swim I will make a transition to the bike and complete 90 miles of the 270 total bike miles.  With a few exceptions, the bike course for Day 1 essentially mirrors the Ironman Canada bike course.  This ride will feature a combination of some tough climbs, rolling hills, big descents, and some flats that are generally accompanied by strong winds.  Again, it's going to be brutally hot so drinking lots of water and electrolytes on the ride will be extremely important.  Paul and Bob will be driving our crew vehicle around the course providing me with nutrition, aid, and direction around the course.

My primary goal of Day 1 is to simply have fun, hydrate well and take in plenty of nutrition.  Given the tough heat, energy conservation is of paramount importance for the remaining days.  It makes no sense to go out hard and blow yourself up on Day 1 because that will not work to get you through the entire journey. Day 2 features a very tough 170 mile ride and Day 3 is a double marathon so the hardest is yet to come.

Lastly, I have received a lot of questions offline about the Ultraman so I'll leave you with a few of the more common ones and then I'm tuning out to get a few hours of sleep.

What do you eat and drink?  I will eat a combination of solid foods such as chips, sandwiches, fruits, and cashews.  I also will consume gels and sport-specific powders that get mixed with water to provide the electrolytes and essential amino acids that I will need to sustain high energy levels over long periods of time.  Over a long distance like this, you really just need a variety so you don't get sick of any particular thing.

Do you listen to music?  No, absolutely not. The course is open to traffic and you need to be able to hear.

This is insane, why do you do this?  I am not a natural endurance athlete and these events are not naturally easy for me.  So I try to conquer incredibly difficult events so I can inspire you to believe that your limits begin where your vision ends.  I do this to help make a profound and positive difference in the lives of children trying to beat cancer.  I also do this as a way to help promote a healthy and active lifestyle.

What do you think about on an event of this length?  I'm not quite sure because I've never done something this intense.  From my Ironman experiences (and I don't think it will change for Ultraman), I mostly think about why I'm doing what I'm doing.  I think of my grandparents who lost their battles to cancer. I think the suffering I may feel during an event does not even compare to what it must feel like for a child to go through chemo.  I think about the people who believe in Endure to Cure, support the cause, and provide me with inspiration.  I think of someone I have never met who sent me a message saying I inspired them to make a positive change in their life and the successes that ensued. I think about ways I can use this experience to most benefit others. I think about random thoughts that come and go in a continuous cycle.  And lastly, sometimes I don't think about anything at all and just enjoy the moment.