Sheldon Boreen - Ultraman 2008 Race Report
I have endured a few obstacles in life. However this past September long weekend will not be easily forgotten as I was one of the solo participants in one of the world’s most demanding ultra-endurance challenges.
One of my goals turning 43 years old was to be one of the 12 individual ( along with 10 relay competitors) in the field for the three day 512.6 Km ( 318.6 miles) Ultraman Canada Triathlon held in the Penticton/ Okanogan region of British Columbia, also home of Ironman Canada that is held one week prior.
The eighth edition of Ultraman Canada, a Canadian event, was established in 1993, follows the format of the original Ultraman established in Kona, Hawaii in 1983.
Stage 1 starts with a 10km swim in Skaha Lake and a 145 km bike ride the first day, which ends in Okanogan Falls.
Stage 2 consists of a 275 km bike ride starting in Penticton and ending in Princeton.
Stage 3 is an 84 km run from Princeton to Summerland on the old Princeton/Summerland Highway
The race was definitely the most difficult athletic challenge I have faced. I have been racing in long and ultra distance events for the past 10 years, in various categories including four Ironman’s in the last four years. For this race I completed Ironman Switzerland in early July as a training race and also was required to complete some epic training session, swimming up to 8.5 km at times and even using the famous bike race “Ramrod” a 170 mile / three mountain passes /10,000.00 of climbing around Mount Rainier, Washington as a warm up for this three day event.
I was a bit nervous when it started due to the fact an athlete walks a fine line when competing at this level for those distances. A key component is having the body replenished with proper nutrition during the event and avoiding injury. It takes years to get to this level of fitness and months to plan a race like this with your support team. The support team travels the entire course in a vehicle basically acting as a traveling Aid Station. With out the support team it would be extremely difficult if not impossible to complete the event.
Day 1, The 10 km swim in it self has to be as straight as possible to avoid extra distance and time, spotting from your escort kayaker is crucial. The 420 km bike ride is where the majority of time is spent during this event. This year’s event provided the most brutal conditions ever seen in its history. High winds early morning produced heavy chop in the lake that hit during the tail end of the swim and unfortunately slowed my swim and bike times and caused severe stomach upset on the remaining 90 miles of cycling that day.
Day 2, of the 170 mile bike course saw the unrelenting winds continue and provide more challenge with almost 150 miles of that 11 hour ride into head wind, rain and some sleet. It was the toughest cycling day I had personally – that day also saw two veteran Ultraman drop out. Everyone remaining after day 2 knew that the final two marathons to run on day three would not be easy if those weather conditions persisted.
Day 3 On this final day the weather provided some relief with a sunny cool morning, no wind and clear skies. All remaining participants on day three finished the 54 mile run under the 12 hour cut off time, however everyone’s body took a major beating to the lower legs and quadriceps due to the last 20 miles traversing uneven gravel road surface and mountainous terrain.
Ultraman is in a different league compared to Ironman in terms of the time commitment and training along with the support required to complete the event. The mental determination and ability to stay focused for up to 12 hours at a time and be mindful of every stoke or stride so as to be efficient as possible to conserve energy and stay uninjured. An interesting fact is that there have been more people who have climbed Mount Everest (approx 1900) than who have done an Ultra man.
There are many extreme physical, mental and emotional highs and lows experienced on the course over the three days. Some say they even meet God. I have experienced all of the above, but what imprints on me the deepest is the amazing support given by everyone involved for all individuals to be successful and to complete their goal. It is real testament to see the best of humanity at the extreme fringe of human endurance. In this race there are no winners or losers, only participants, the event is actually not advertised as a race. Everyone commented on the fact it was the best event they had every attended. The feeling after the weekend was if we had all become family and lastly it gave us all the opportunity to discover the potential we all have with in.