Aug 9, 2009


Darwin Holt, me and Barbi Brochu at the start of the 52.4-mile double marathon, the third day of ULTRAMAN Canada. Barbi set a new world record for the 6.2 mile swim and shattered the prior women's record for the overall event. And Darwin is one of only a handful of athletes in the world who has completed the ULTRAMAN event in both Canada and the World Championship ULTRAMAN in Hawaii!

In March 2009, the reality of the daunting task of training for the ULTRAMAN hit me hard. Reviewing the credentials of those athletes who had been invited to compete at ULTRAMAN was incredibly intimidating because they had achieved so much and many were literally world-class athletes. I seriously doubted my ability to complete this event.

Both Darwin and Barbi contacted me completely out of the blue and were very encouraging from the start. These two heroes are responsible for me toeing the line at ULTRAMAN more than anyone else, and for that, I am deeply grateful.

In April, I nearly gave up this crazy ULTRAMAN dream altogether, but Darwin pulled me back. I had just completed the CA Ironman 70.3 and had a truly miserable day. The worst ever. I could barely complete the event, and in less four months, I would have to go 4.5 times that distance for ULTRAMAN. I sent Darwin an email and said, "Forget it. NO way I can do ULTRAMAN, I cannot even do this 70.3 event without nearly dying."

Three minutes later, the phone rings with a gentle soothing Canadian telling me that I CAN and that I WILL complete ULTRAMAN.

Darwin believed in me when I did not believe in myself. He helped me improve my confidence and then set out to custom-design a training regime like none other. In fact there are no training plans available anywhere on what or how to train for ULTRAMAN, so Darwin built mine from his own experience and his extensive ultra endurance background. We exchanged perhaps hundreds of emails and he got me ready both physically and mentally for the challenge.

But I saw another side of Darwin in the last 1.5 miles of ULTRAMAN.

I had severely hurt my foot at mile number 7 of the run and had 45 more miles to go. I believed that the foot was broken. The pain was excruciating. Every step it got worse and worse. But strangely, it was less painful to jog slowly than it was to walk. So I kept at it, but over time it became unbearable and reached a crescendo just before the finish line.

I lost the will to fight any more. I cannot explain it, but I did give up. I just could not take it anymore. By favoring the other foot, my bio-mechanics were all screwed up for 45 miles. This caused severe hip pain in the other leg. I was a mess and in extreme pain.

Out of nowhere, Darwin shows up.

He was calm at first, but that didn't last long. He would not hear of my complaints, he would not tolerate my yelps, my whincing, my grunts or my crying. None of that mattered now.

All that mattered was that he get me across that line under my own power.

He yelled at me. He was extremely serious. The nice, soothing, reassuring, calming influence and voice was gone. He shook me to the core by raising his voice and somehow shook me out of my stupor of pain to regain my focus. Miraculously, we crossed the line together, with literally just minutes to spare...I BARELY made the 12-hour cutoff and I owe that final push and final finish to Darwin.

My sincere thanks to Darwin and Barbi for pushing me and encouraging me. While I owe my ULTRAMAN start to them both, I owe my ULTRAMAN finish to Darwin. He got me over the line when I had lost my will and my fight to continue.

Aug 8, 2009


My incredible crew and I as we cross the finish line at the third day and conclusion of ULTRAMAN Canada. (click on photo)

Crossing the line are: My great friend and Crew Chief Kelvin Shields, my terrific son Connor, me, Darwin Holt - the patient and selfless hero that guided and coached me from the dream to an ULTRAMAN finish, and finally, my indefatigable nephew Ryan Weber. Not shown, but hugely instrumental in my finish, was my kayaker and outstanding swim pacer Marcel Allaire. Without this group of men, there would have been no possibility that I would have ever finished this 3-Day test of endurance. This should really be billed as a team-sport because it really takes a team to get the athletes through so much during the three days.

Day 1: 6.2 mile swim followed by a 90 mile bike
Day 2: 170 miles on the bike
Day 3: 52.4 mile double marathon run

It is claimed that over 50,000 people complete an Ironman Triathlon each year, and it was my dream to be one of those finishers; I'm still proud of that milestone. However, fewer than 60 people in the world will finish an ULTRAMAN under the cutoff times in any given year. That makes this event very special.

More than a "race" ULTRAMAN is an event that highlights the Hawaiian values of Aloha, Ohana and Kokua. Aloha means hello and goodbye. But it is so much more than that. Anyone who has stayed in the Islands understands instantly the friendly spirit, the easy way and the "feeling" of Aloha. Ohana means family, extended family or any group with a common bond, something that is very clearly evident at ULTRAMAN; it is a brotherhood for life. Kokua relates to generosity and to selfless giving, something that is critical from the crews in order for the athletes to complete the event. It also means that athletes are supportive of one another and generous in their encouragement, even to last place finishers like me!

There will be much more to say about ULTRAMAN, as I am still trying to process what I have just done. But one thing is clear: There is no possible way I could have completed this event without the Ohana, Kokua and Aloha of my ULTRAMAN family and especially from my incredible crew and Darwin Holt's patient, calming influence over these past six months while I was very worried about ever finishing.

On paper, there was no possible way for me to finish the 170 mile bike event under the 12-hour cutoff. I had never ridden that far or that fast for that long; never. In fact, it wasn't even close. But somehow, with the help of my crew and Darwin's belief and encouragement, we pulled off a miracle on Day 2 which kept this event, and my ultimate finish, alive.

Thanks to all of my new ULTRAMAN Ohana and to my incredible crew. Thanks a million times over!