Ed. Note—Amy VanTassel (known better in all circles, triathlon or otherwise, as "VT") is a second-year pro in her first year with Wattie Ink. She's been the Wildflower Long Course Age Group Champion, and has posted 8th place overall finishes at Ironman France and Ironman Mont Tremblant. Her real love, however? Going even longer than Ironman. A veteran of several ultraruns, she took on Ultraman Canada in 2014, running an amazing 7:51 for the double marathon on the final day, barely missing the overall victory. She's headed back to Penticton, B.C. this August with the top step on her mind. Want to see more? Here's a short vid of her 2014 second place.
There are 365 days in the year. Most of us race around a dozen major races, leaving well over 300 days of training. If we aren't forging positive identities and cementing valuable friendships during those remainder days, then something is amiss.
The most imposing part about Ultraman for me is relying on friends. The first time I tackled the event, the distance wasn't nearly as daunting as entreating partners to help me endure mega-distance training sessions, and more bafflingly, recruiting two crew members to sacrifice five entire days of their lives for the sole purpose of supporting me. I pride myself on my accountability, independence, and self-reliance, so asking for such sacrifices proved the ultimate challenge.
That said, the distances can be daunting: day one comprises a 10k swim, followed directly by a 90-mile ride; day two is bike only, but you ride 171 miles through the British Columbia mountains; day three is single sport, too: a double-marathon and 3000 feet of climbing on mostly dirt roads through deep forests. It was one of the hardest things I'd ever done. On three subsequent days, I swam farther than I'd ever swam in one session, ridden the longest ride of my life, and then posted my biggest run, ever. On the final day, running through the B.C. woods, I went through a lot of things that aren't fit to publish, but through it all my crew simply showed up every few miles with a bottle and a sleeve of crackers, asking "Need anything?" And even though it was difficult, I cannot wait to go back this August to do it all over again.
As my training waxes more Ultraman-specific, long rides surpass 120 miles; long runs are five hours, and swims constitute either a double-a-day, or a cold and tedious 7k sesh. Even weekdays, usually reserved for speed or tempo sessions during regular training, look like long workouts. I couldn't bear it without company, so I usually put out an A.P.B.: "Here are the dates of my long swims, rides, and runs. If you join me for even just a fragment, I'll bring the PowerBar® product."
Ultraman, now officially trademarked Ultraman®, requires a bunch of litigious stuff to be eligible to race. You need to apply and be accepted, submit a slew of medical forms for approval, and name at least two crew members who will support you during all three days. The red tape grows even more complicated beyond these first steps, but asking for the ultimate favor of crewing is by far the biggest "ask" I've ever surmounted.
My first crew member, no prob. Husband = coach for me, so he's a shoe-in. The second I couldn't imagine. Crew members sacrifice a full week (three days of racing, one day of formal celebration, and at least two days of travel) for...um...nothing in return. The deadline to name crew members looming, I just screwed up my courage and flat-out asked an ideal friend. She didn't bat an eyelash. She's in. I'm baffled as to why, and I'll eternally grapple with how to sufficiently thank her, but my lesson rests in the simplicity of the sitch: ask for help when you need it, accept it when its offered.It's friggin' hard to ask for help! But, our identities aren't reduced to posts about results and Clarendon-enhanced pics in our pretty race kits on race day; we are those 300+ days and our peeps. Whether it's a local 5k, a World Championship, or an
Ultraman® on the horizon, we can only get by with a little help from our friends.