Monday, August 20, 2012

The Legacy Continues – Ultraman

This August, my eldest son, Bob, competed in Ultraman Canada. The traditional Ironman triathlon consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 26.2 mile run and 112 mile bike ride, all completed in one day. The Ultraman competition, however, is a three-day 320-mile test of long-term endurance, featuring a 6.2 mile swim, almost three times the distance of the Ironman, a 52.4 mile double-marathon and a 261.4 mile bike ride spread over two days. Not only did my son complete Ultraman Canada, finishing the competition in 30:38:28, but throughout the 15 years the competition has been held, only 117 men have completed it – far fewer than the number of men that have climbed Mount Everest.

He’s previously completed 5 Ironman competitions and numerous triathlons, but his training for the Ultraman was very different.

“In Ironman, you concentrate a lot on the transition between bike and run. That’s called a brick. For Ultraman, I was doing a lot of back-to-back workouts – I might run 20 miles in the afternoon and then wake up the next morning and ride 60 or 70 miles. You have to get used to running and cycling on tired legs. During the competition, you have to be prepared for waking up the next morning, being exhausted, and having to knock out everything on tired legs. Training was much different just because of the distance. The swim was almost 3 times the distance, the bike is 2.5 times the distance and the run is a double marathon. It was pretty intense.”

Not only is the distance a hurdle in the Ultraman competition, but throughout the three days, you are left unsupported and must bring your own team to help get you through it. My son didn’t just compete in Ultraman, my grandsons Bobby and Chas, my daughter-in-law Michelle and my daughter Michelle were all there to help him along the way. On the swim, Bobby was his kayak escort – kayaking with him for the entirety of the 6.5 mile swim and stopping with him to provide him with water and nutrition. During the bike ride, all four supported him in the car, stopping every 8-10 miles to feed him and let him fill up on water. Bobby and Chas both helped to pace him during the run – Bobby ended up running close to 16-17 miles side-by-side with his dad and Chas ran a solid 8-9 miles alongside him.

As my son Bob says, “We were all at the finish line, we were all crying. It was a victory for everyone. Without them, I couldn’t have done the event. I ended up being in the record book for completing it, but there should be an asterisk next to it, because without them I couldn’t finish it.”

From left to right: Chas, Michelle, Bob, Michelle, Bobby
I’m so proud to see the legacy I’m leaving behind for my son and grandsons. When I started running, Bob began exercising – he was only 14. We would run together, we did triathlons together in the early 80s. This is a legacy I’m passing along from my own father, who was still running marathons into his 80s.

This next year, our family is venturing to accomplish something that no other family has done before. My son Bob, my grandson Bobby and I are attempting to do an Ironman together in May of next year. 3 generations of Bob Willix-es all competing in the same Ironman competition – we’ll see what happens.