Saturday marks the beginning of Ultraman Australia. Over the next three days the athletes will swim 10km (6.2 miles), bike 421.1km (262 miles), and run 84.3km (52.4 miles) throughout the Sunshine Coast landscape. In 2016, only 41 athletes have put their name on the start list. To put that in perspective, Ironman Texas is also on Saturday and boasts a bib list 2500 strong. What drives these people to go the extra distance and keep their body in almost perpetual “tri mode” for 3 days? To find that out we sat down exchanged emails with TRS Racing’s very own Australian Superstar Melissa Urie.
Zach: Let’s start with your background. How long have you been doing triathlon? Have you always been interested in the longer distances?
Melissa: I did my first mini triathlon in 2005. Started long course racing in 2008 and ironman 2009. I realized I loved long distance when I thought I should work on my running in 2007 and did a half marathon. I enjoyed the fact that I could run and not be out of breath and feeling like I wanted to die! I still do a few short sprint club races but they are more for fun than anything.
Z: Is Ultraman Australia your first Ultraman event? If not, what are you hoping to improve upon this time around?
M: No, I did Ultraman Canada in 2014. I broke a vertabra in my back in December 2013 and my first thought when I found out what had happened was, shit, does this mean I won’t be able to do Ultraman anymore?! My training for that race was a mixture of rehab and then building back into training.
My finish time for Canada was 33:00:10. I would love to go under 30 hours but I honestly don’t care. I won’t be paying attention to my total time during the race, just making sure I make the 12 hour cut offs each day.
Z: Why Ultraman? Why not just stick to the more “typical” Ironman distance?
M: I found out about Ultraman in 2010 and it seemed like an impossible race to do. I don’t have much sporting background before triathlon so I figured I needed a few years to train up for it and set myself a big scary goal. I figure the bigger the goal and the more daunting it is, the more I want to push myself to see if I can do it. And to be honest, I did Ironman Cairns in 2014 before Ultraman with a broken arm. It doesn’t feel like a hard challenge anymore. I need something to push me further. (Editorial note: I dropped out of my last race because of a paper cut. clearly I am not cut out for this stuff)
Z: I’m most interested in the training. I’m fairly familiar with what a build looks like for an Ironman athlete, but have no clue when it comes to Ultraman. What’s a typical week of peak training look like? Is it really that much more than a standard Ironman?
M: My average week is between 24-25 hours. I was doing a lot of long rides and back to back bike days with runs off the bike.I remember one weekend where I did an 8 hour ride of hill repeats on Saturday, Sunday was 6 hour bike with 30min run and Monday I had a 6 hour walk with a heavy pack. My coach likes the idea of pack walking to build strength and decrease risk of injury. Personally, I feel like he’s doing it to torture me!
Z: How long have you been prepping for this specific race? I imagine that it takes quite a bit longer build?
M: I got married in January and went to Disney World to do the Dopey Challenge. I started with a new coach the day after I flew home. I already had a good base so we could start and build reasonably quickly. With my old coach, I think I did a 20 week build? I can’t remember. Similar to Ironman though.
Z: How in the heck do you fit all the training around your day job/family/other life stuff?
M: I don’t do much else!! My poor husband gets neglected a bit in my heavy training weeks. I work shift work so this helps me fit it in a bit better. My afternoon shifts don’t start until 2pm so I can do a big chunk of training before work and still get my 8 hours in. Either that or like this morning where I was up at 4am to do a 90min bike session before I started work at 7am. Just have to do it to get it done however you can. All of my friends know that if they want to see me, they have to either come training or have dinner early so I can go to bed early otherwise I would be close to falling asleep on them. My husband did introduce a rule at home when I was training for Canada that I wasn’t allowed to go to bed before 8:30pm so we actually would see each other as we would sometimes go 2-3 days without seeing each other with my shifts and training as he has a job with ‘normal’ hours.
Z: How many people will be on your “crew” for the race?
M: I have 4 people this year. All friends. You need minimum of 2 people but my friends wanted to come up and see what it’s all about as well. Easier since it’s in Australia this year for people to come along. In Canada, I had my parents and husband as I figured that they were the only people I could ask to come along and would not be able to say no to me!
Z: What’s harder: finishing Ultraman or reading Webstey’s horrible twitter jokes?
M: The jokes feel like they’re short and painful, like a sprint race. I would take the pain of Ultraman over that anyday! 🙂
Any other comments?
I have been accepted into Epic 5 for next year as I feel like that’s the next logical step for me to take in endurance triathlons! At times I find it hard to not start day dreaming about how that race is going to be and focus on Ultraman first! I do tell people, if you don’t want to do Ultraman, then go and crew. It’s a really fun few days with some amazing people. For some reason, the longer distance races really weeds out the stupid/annoying people and leaves the nice people behind so you’re guaranteed to have a great time.
I extend a good luck to Melissa from all of TRS Racing! If you would like to ask Melissa additional questions, go over to the forum and ask her for yourself! We have started a thread for her that will be ongoing. Be patient though, she may not get back to you until after the race. We will also post updates about her race on the same thread.