Race Preparation Article 1


By Ean Jackson


My wife, good friend Dave, and my mother (Team Action-Jackson) agree that I looked like a dog’s breakfast as I completed my first ULTRAMAN in Hawai’i. I remember feeling even worse! The accomplishment, though, is one I’ll be proud of for the rest of my life.

Over the three days, I believe we picked up what ULTRAMAN founder, Curtis Tyler, hoped we would learn about Aloha, Ohana, and Kokua. Most importantly, we had fun. So much fun, we’ve gone to complete yet another ULTRAMAN event and if my old bones permit and the crew can still put up with me, hope to do many more in the future.

Ed.note: Team Action-Jackson (including Ean) filled in as a Support Team for another athlete when Ean had to withdraw from ULTRAMAN Canada due to an injury a week before the 1993 event.

I hope you too, learn a lot, enjoy yourself and cover the ULTRAMAN distances within the official time limits. To that end, my crew and I have put together the following thoughts that worked well for us, and which we hope will help you. Good luck with your ULTRAMAN-and don’t forget to have fun!


Perhaps it’s my accounting background, but we found it pays big dividends to write down all requirements well before the event. A comprehensive list can be shared with friends, crew and ULTRAMAN veterans for constructive criticism. It can also act as a packing list before you leave home.

Some general headings to start with are: tasks to do, clothing, medical, food, mechanical and crew supplies. Be sure to list exact quantities. Include spares and plan for contingencies such as three days of rain or if a dog runs off with one of your running shoes.

Space can be a problem in the crew vehicle. If your budget permits, strongly consider renting a van. Whatever your vehicle, we found it helps to organize a list day by day so that swim stuff doesn’t get in the way of bike stuff and so on. Be sure to check with the director to confirm which supplies (water coolers, sports drinks, etc.) may have been donated by sponsors. Buy more food than you think you will need and know where to get more along the way. After the event, make the time to review and update the list with your crew so that you have a better list from which to plan your next ULTRAMAN.


One of the special things about ULTRAMAN is that it fosters an atmosphere of Ohana, or family. I was scared to death before my first attempt. The veterans I spoke to however, were overwhelmingly enthusiastic and helpful. Their encouragement convinced me that I too, could cover the distance (and they were right!). At the time of this writing, there are still precious few individuals who have participated in and ULTRAMAN and they seem to be spread out all over the world. Our numbers are growing however, and there may now be a vet not far from where you live. Find out who in your area has completed an ULTRAMAN. If possible, get together for a bike ride. Ask what they did right and what they would do differently if given the chance. After it’s all over, make the time to help others who come to you for advice.


The distances speak for themselves. The ULTRAMAN is not a challenge to be taken lightly. There is no training recipe that I know of that will guarantee success at ULTRAMAN. Part of the challenge is guessing how many swim, bike, and run kilometers your body can handle at a given intensity, and which foods work best for you.

Try to build strength by racing a few shorter triathlons. Train longer distances at a slow pace to build endurance and confidence. Experiment with food and drinks in training. Many ULTRAMAN finishers use heart rate monitors to maximize their training effort. Gently push your body and remember injury, illness and mental burnout due to overtraining are an endurance athlete’s greatest enemies.


Be it your training buddy, a volunteer from the community or your significant other-these people want you to finish as much as you do. Make the time to help them understand what you need and how you need it. You are their coach, so prepare to suffer if they are not coached well.

We have found the ideal crew size to be between two and four. It helps to assign tasks (driver, medical, mechanical, camera, navigator, chef, etc.) to avoid chaos in the crew vehicle in times of crisis. One person (your crew captain) should be given the authority to make important and final decisions.

Tell your crew how you like your sport drink mixed. Teach them how to feed you on the uphill and explain why they should let you get ahead before proceeding to “leapfrog” ahead to set up for the next handoff-if you should run into problem, they will see this when they catch up to pass you. Provide your crew with a decent place to sleep, good food to eat and a nice souvenir to remind them of their role at ULTRAMAN. Train them to anticipate you at your worst, but treat your crew with respect because if there is a mutiny, you will not be allowed to continue alone.


If you’ve made it this far, you are no stranger to competition. For the three days of ULTRAMAN however, try to remember that this event is not billed as a race.

Enjoy the countryside you pass through. Make some new friends. Push yourself further than you may have ever gone before, but do it for yourself, not to beat the person beside you. When it’s all over, everyone’s effort will be given equal recognition at the wrap-up party.


Your crew, race volunteers, sponsors and members of the communities you pass along the way all appreciate that you will be digging deep to complete the ULTRAMAN. Some will help and applaud your effort; others may choose to ignore you or treat you like a lunatic. Such is life.

Smile when a child waves at you. Try not to pee where a family is enjoying their family picnic. Stop to encourage a fellow athlete who may be going through a tough spot. Don’t crucify your crew if you run out of cola, or lambaste the director if the course distances don’t agree with those shown on your bike computer.

Make the time to write a few letters of thanks-perhaps to the convenience store owner who put the chocolate bar in our registration packet or to another crew who lent you a bike part you couldn’t have continued without. You are what makes ULTRAMAN a special event.


At some point in time, you may either stop having fun or just run out of luck. Don’t let the adrenaline rush or natural fears of failure pressure you into doing something that might harm you or the event.

Tell the director about any disabilities you have. Discuss your physical limits with your crew. Give your team captain the authority to pull you from the event if you lose sight of what’s good for you. Be prepared to graciously accept it if the director or your crew ask you to withdraw.

There is no shame in a DNF (Did Not Finish). If you don’t make the swim or the bike cutoff, go for the other days just the same. The experience you gain this year will help you immeasurably the next time around.
Ean Jackson
March, 1995