The road less traveled
Training for a long-distance triathlon in the Swedish weather this time of year builds character, but its probably not something that I will do again for several reasons. For the past month, I have done almost all biking indoors and due to massive snow fall, I even had to do many of my runs on the ”dreadmill”. November is also the month when most people get their first winter cold and stomach flu and that was no different in our family, everyone took turns but I have been fortunate enough to stay rather healthy.
Spending 10-15hrs on the trainer per week have not only given me a crouch of steel and further hardened my mental strength, but also given me opportunity to catch up on some documentaries that I have wanted to watch for a long time. One of those were Berkley Marathons (Netflix).
Berkley Marathons is a +100miles running race in so difficult terrain that it took several years before any participant finished it. To apply for Barkleys, you must somehow find the address and send in your application – by post – the address is not on the web or Facebook and its a mystery how you get hold of it. After you have submitted your application along with 1,60USD (non-refundable) you might be selected to participate (only 30-40 people/year) if you are selected – you will get a letter of condolences and further instructions.
First time participants must bring an entry fee in the form of a vehicle number plate from their country or state and a clothing item that the organizer has need for that year. It might be a white shirt, socks or a flannel shirt – all depends on what the fonder/organizer needs.
You wont get a timing-chip, you wont even get to know ahead of the race at what time of the day the race will start. To make sure that you completed the course you will need to find books that are hidden along the course and rip out the page that correspond to your race number. Pages will be checked at each of the 5 loops and you get a new race number for each loop. The course in unmarked but you get a map and compass. Its mad.
When I saw the comradery between the participants, the passion of the fonder/organizer its hard not to think about how it must have been back in 1978-1980 when John Collins and team put on the first Ironman race on Oahu. It was an adventure – it was unchartered territory it was wild and so remote from what we now know as the Ironman theme park.
The documentary put words on my own experience that I get in smaller races. It seems that the smaller extreme races attract people who are passionate, who want to explore and experience something different and not just qualify for Hawaii. I have meet amazing people at the small races and many of them share my experience of racing Ironman and Hawaii – they prefer to remember it as it was.
My view is that Ironman nowadays is like a fast food chain – you know what you will get independent where in the world you are, from excellent aid stations and the fantastic volunteers – to the crappy backpack that will break before you reach your hotel after prerace-registration. Its convenient, predictable and safe.
As I write this, I am seated on the second of three flights to Ironman Cozumel, November 27th. Skimming through the Athletes guide for the event I must admit that I look forward too many aspects of it – even if its a theme park race. I look forward to race in Mexico for the first time, to swim in crystal clear warm waters and to be back in hot humid conditions.
Ironman Cozumel will however (probably) be my last Ironman race. When I signed up for it, I was thinking that I just might pay for a Kona slot if I have a good race and win my age-group. I thought that after all – its been almost 20 years since I raced Kona and it would be fun to go back. But, after seeing what has happened with the unavoidable drafting situation in Kona (due to the dramatic increase in number of participants) I changed my mind. I dont want to pay 950USD to participate in a race where the main interest of the organizers is to squeeze in as many participants as possible rather than make it possible for athletes to obey the race rules. I think Its a bad joke to call that World Championships for age groupers. I will wait until more people start to ”vote with their feet” and the organizers clean it up before I go back.
For 2017 I am instead looking at some more adventuress races like:
– Astroman – Japanese Championships (full distance)
– ICON Levigno Extreme Triathlon – Italy (full distance + some extra)
– Podersdorf – Austria (full distance, did it together with some friends from SPIF back in 1995 and it would be fun to go back and do it again – if they are up for it).
– Lapponia – Gällivare, Sweden (full distance, a bit too cold for me – but perhaps)
– ITU races – long distance?
Hopefully I will get the possibility to say no to a Kona slot at Ironman Cozumel as that would mean that I placed top 3 in my age-group and for that I would be extremely grateful and happy. One week to go and I am looking forward to swim/bike/run outdoors again and hopefully be in peak shape by Sunday morning.