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If you’re a few weeks or months on from your Ironman A-race and the post-race blues have got you feeling down, you’re probably not alone. Perhaps you’re a multiple-Ironman finisher or Kona alumnus? Regardless of where you sit on the spectrum, if you feel like you’ve reached the pinnacle of your triathlon career, think again. It’s time to talk Ultraman.
Ultraman is a three-day stage triathlon, comprised of a 10km swim and 140km bike (Day 1); 281.1km bike (Day 2) and 84.3km run (Day 3). Each day has a cut off time of 12 hours. Unlike Ironman, participants do not have event support and therefore must provide their own support crew (with at least two land-members), including their own swim escort to accompany them during the entire swim portion of the event.
The inaugural Ultraman was held on the Big Island of Hawaii in 1983. From its humble beginnings with just three participants, Ultraman races are now held in various locations throughout the world including Brazil, Canada, Spain, Israel, the USA and in Noosa, Australia.
In recent years, interest in Ultraman has gained momentum, however participant numbers for each event are capped at 50, and prospective athletes must apply for a slot. Athletes from all walks of life and athletic backgrounds are attracted to this unique stage-race – from professional triathletes to weekend warriors and everyone in between.
Given Ultraman Australia 2019 wrapped up recently, you may have (possibly briefly) contemplated whether you have what it takes to step up and take on this epic endurance challenge. So, who better to put your reservations at bay than our own T:Zero Head Coach, current Ultraman World Champion and Ultraman World Record holder Richard Thompson? Not only is Coach Rich an Ultraman specialist in his own right, but Richard and T:Zero Multisport have coached a number of athletes worldwide to achieve their own Ultraman success, including five Ultraman Australia podium place-getters. When it comes to all things Ultraman, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more qualified contributor.
We recently asked Coach Rich a few common questions that may have crossed the minds of prospective Ultraman athletes…
Q: What makes Ultraman unique or different to anything an athlete may have done before?
Q: What are the special aspects of training for an Ultraman that athletes may not have considered?
The answer lies with athletes who have done their “Ironman thing” or who have already completed another form of long-course/ultra-endurance event and are looking for their next challenge.
Stage racing is an incredibly awesome event and a challenging but equally rewarding journey to train for. Ultraman presents as an option for those athletes who are tired of Ironman or perhaps those who have achieved or resolved to set aside their Hawaii aspirations. Ultraman is the next level of seeing what is possible and what you are capable of achieving.
When everyone started Ironman (for the people who’ve been in the sport for a while) there was that lure in being genuinely uncertain about whether you could actually DO an Ironman. Now that this has become achievable for many more people, Ultraman becomes the next step – the opportunity to start a new journey not knowing whether you’re going to be able to go the distance. A new challenge.
Q: What are the common misconceptions about Ultraman that may deter prospective athletes?
So, there you have it. The seed has been planted.
Ultraman Australia 2020? Challenge accepted! Superb … follow us this way.
If you think you’re up for the challenge or just curious to know more, get in touch with T:Zero Multisport and let us help you reach your next level and #liveyourpotential
Coach Rich says he is a bit of a bad influence when it comes to setting the bar with races. And he’s right. Watching my work friend Dave Kalinowski and Richard do Ultraman had certainly lit a tiny little fire in me deep down, and I knew I would love to do Ultraman, but I would never have suggested it. Partly because it seemed laughable. And partly because I just couldn’t get my head around running a double marathon. Also because I would never have put my hand up for a goal I wasn’t sure I could achieve!
So, when I sat down after my first IM and said “You see my data. What should I do next?” and Richard said, “Have you ever thought about doing Ultraman?” it was probably like throwing accelerant on that little ember! I muttered about the double marathon and he assured me that he knew I could do this race. Yes – he is undoubtedly a bad influence. But without that influence I would have missed out on an amazing and life changing race that must surely have been the athletic highlight of my life!
I thought about doing a traditional race report, but nobody needs to hear the blow by blow about how much I swore when I found I had no gears on day 2, or how I nearly threw up my gel at the 70km mark of the run, so this is more about the things that I think were critical to success in the event and the ways in which it changed me.
So now I just need to realise that it is done. It wasn’t just another big long training weekend (where Steve Foster helped me down the stairs onto the boardwalk at the end – OMG major fan moment!) but the real thing. I achieved what I set out to do. I am an Ultraman. It’s just taking a really long time to sink in. I quietly went back to swim squad this morning, and when I poked my head up at the end of my first 100m the whole squad was clapping because Codie (Grimsey) had told them what I had done. Embarrassing! Nup – still hasn’t sunk in! 😊
My world-beating race nutrition strategy & tips for Mooloolaba Triathlon race nutrition
By Richard Thompson
Triathlon can be an incredibly complex sport with so many different elements affecting an athlete’s race-day performance. Elements such as preparation and managing injury spring to mind, amongst others.
At T:Zero Multisport, we do everything possible to get you to the race in your best possible shape. But once you arrive at the start line, you can’t possibly get any fitter. Only three things can impact the outcome of the day for any athlete:
Nutrition is something we certainly hold dear to us at T:Zero Multisport. Head Coach and Co-Founder Scotty Farrell is a qualified nutritionist and I was so grateful to have him in my corner for the Ultraman World Championships, particularly when it came to developing a plan of attack for my race-day nutrition. Further, having such a wonderfully long-standing relationship with CLIF Bar Australia, it wasn’t difficult to find the right nutrition within their extensive range to suit the plan that Scotty had developed for me. Indeed, their help enabled me to live my potential in Hawaii last November.
Fuelling during an Ultraman is different to a standard Olympic distance triathlon in that you have the opportunity to fuel during the swim with the assistance of an escort in a kayak paddling next to you and further, there is no run off either portion of the bike leg; the result being that you can afford to eat heavily in the backend of the ride knowing that you won’t be running until the Day 3 double marathon. For Ultraman, our fuelling plan was based on grams of carbohydrate per hour.
SWIM – DAY 1 (10km)
In the swim, our plan of attack was to hit roughly 60 grams of carbohydrate per hour. Following the adage that one should consume small amounts often as opposed to a large amount at once, I was aiming to fuel myself with 15 grams of carbohydrate every 15 minutes (versus having one big hit of 60 grams at the one-hour mark). There are obvious benefits to this, most notably not overloading the stomach when you want your blood to be directed to other parts of the body as opposed to your digestive system only.
Obviously, it’s pretty difficult to chew under water and I didn’t want to stop swimming completely so the Citrus CLIF Shot Energy Gel (with 25mg caffeine) was my go-to here. To prepare, I squeezed the required amount into a drink bottle and added water, shaking it up until it became one consistent liquid. I then marked the bottle, indicating where I’d need to drink to for each 15-minute increment. This had worked perfectly for Ultraman Australia where we broke the world record and again worked well in Hawaii at the World Championships.
BIKE – DAY 1 (145km)
Both Day 1 and Day 2 were very similar in that we were trying to hit 80 grams of carbohydrates per hour. Again, I was aiming to digest something every 5 to 10 minutes, following the principle that consuming carbohydrates when your body is working hard is a lot easier when they’re ingested in small increments as opposed to one large hit.
I managed to execute my bike nutrition plan with precision on Day 1, consuming only the CLIF Bloks in Mountain Berry, Strawberry and Margarita (extra sodium boost) flavours, aiming to take-in 1.5 packets per hour (roughly).
Once I crossed the finish line on Day 1, I went straight into recovery on the wind trainer to ensure I cooled down effectively, not dissimilar to how professional cyclists warm down during the big cycling tours. I also immediately consumed both carbohydrates and protein in the form of CLIF Bar’s greatest flavour of all time – Chocolate Almond Fudge.
BIKE – DAY 2 (275km)
We always knew Day 2 on the bike was going to be a long day, and during the first half of the ride my heart rate and effort was going to be much more controlled than in the back half. Therefore, whilst we were trying to maintain 75 to 80 grams of carbohydrate per hour, we were happy to consume some more solid food in the first hour of the day. This constituted a combination of CLIF Bars and the ever-trusty vegemite sandwich. Once I began climbing up the volcano (a 40km climb), I diverted to my Day 1 method of 1.5 packets of CLIF Bloks per hour. This continued until the latter stages of the day, whereby – for a complete variation - I changed to a bottle of diluted CLIF Shot Energy Gels.
This strategy and well-paced nutrition plan not only allowed me to feel full of energy but also maximised my ability on the bike without having sluggish side-effects at any point in time.
In the final 40 kilometres of the bike leg, I managed to average 303 watts; and this was after 7.5 hours of hard riding. I attribute a lot of this to both a well-developed nutrition plan and high quality nutrition products that complemented it perfectly.
RUN – DAY 3 (84.4km)
A much more difficult prospect came in the form of the double marathon run from Hawi to Kona (point to point) on Day 3. Again, the plan of attack was to hit 70 to 75 grams of carbohydrates per hour. Throughout the day I relied solely upon CLIF Bloks, moving to Coke only in the latter stages of the run.
Often, it’s not until the run leg that we as athletes get “found-out” on a nutrition level. On the bike, it’s generally always too early to know whether or not you’ve paced your nutrition well. Too much nutrition and you’re going to feel bloated as you head off out of T2, but too little and you’re going to feel lightheaded and despondent. Whenever I feel that my mind is turning negative on the run, my first thought is to my nutrition. In my experience, the mind turning against you is the first trigger that you may need more fuel and it’s a good reminder to ask yourself how well you’re fuelling at that current moment in time.
My race at the Ultraman World Championships was executed with precision by my entire team and we were thrilled to cross that finish line in first place, in such a great state. While I couldn’t walk properly for a few days following, at no point in the race did I feel like I had a carbohydrate deficit or surplus. We planned and implemented our nutrition strategy to perfection and I am so thankful to CLIF Bar Australia for helping me perform at my peak.
Nutrition Tips for Mooloolaba Triathlon
As always, when it comes to nutrition the overall principle is: do not try anything new on race day. Practice makes perfect so keep testing your nutrition and honing your plan until you’re 100% confident it’s right for you; then you won’t go wrong.
T:Zero Multisport wishes everyone all the best for their training. Stay safe, and have a wonderful race at Mooloolaba.
An amazing collection of training and racing advice from the T:Zero Multisport coaches- with the occasional guest blogger! Read this blog to help you live your potential!