Of mice and ironmen

To some, a regular triathlon would seem like a pretty big challenge. To most, an ironman would be the ultimate task. But to one guy I met recently, even the ironman wasn’t enough. Did you even know that there was something longer than an ironman????

Let’s just quickly recap what an ironman actually entails:

2.4-mile (3.86 km) swim

112-mile (180.25 km) cycle

26.2 mile (42 km) run

Yup, that’s a marathon after doing 160 lengths of a pool and a ridiculously long cycle.

Try doing that not once, not twice, but THREE TIMES!!!!

7.2 mile swim

336 mile cycle

78.6 mile run

Now that’s my kind of crazy! And that is exactly what Justin Woodward is.

I had the pleasure of meeting him while I was visiting retailers as part of my job (for the moment) working for Orca. Justin, along with his two friends Jason and Chris, opened up their own multi-sport shop in Swindon about three years ago called the Big Adventure Store. All three of them compete in mountain biking, triathlon and adventure racing, which is wicked because that means they really know their stuff and can properly advise customers on what they need. Anyway, when I showed up (early) for my meeting with the boys, Chris told me that Justin had just completed a triple ironman less than 48 hours prior and would be coming into work shortly.

A TRIPLE??? I can never even heard of one. I needed to meet this guy. Immediately images of a 2 percent body fat, veins popping out of the arms, bulging calf muscle, hardened athletes came into my head. Scary. But truth be told, when Justin walked into the store a few minutes later, I thought he was one of the customers. In came this giant teddy bear of a man with a huge smile on his face…. although the biggest thing on him was definitely his enormous cankles. The swelling on Justin’s feet and ankles would put my ultrarunning cankles to shame and it was the only piece of evidence on him that he had actually completed this crazy event. In fact, Justin looked so good and cheerful when he strolled in that if it wasn’t for the cankles, I would have thought that the guys were pulling my leg.

Justin is not your typical ironman (or triple ironman, although I don’t think there is such thing as a typical one of those!). He is obviously fit, but he’s got some meat on the bones! Justin admitted, “I think weighing 120 kg is a bit much for doing that kind of distance…” Gee, Justin, ya think?? That is over 260 pounds!!! Since runners strike the ground with a force about three times their body weight, each extra pound carried around is tripled in force. Justin was hitting the ground with a force of 780 pounds. YIKES!

Justin finished the 7.2 mile swim in just 4 hours and 15 minutes, had a “quick bite” to eat and then went straight onto the bike. Now, knowing how much food IIIII need to eat after that amount of exercise, I couldn’t imagine that anything less than a medieval feast would sustain someone over twice my size. Sure enough, on about the 3rd lap of 24 on the bike, Justin realized his nutrition had gone “badly wrong” and he lost an hour while he was catching up on some much-needed food! A few sleeping spells whilst peddling (and you thought nodding off while driving was bad) and a sore knee was all it took to make him look forward to that 75+ miles of running at the end.

Justin commented that once he was on the run, he “settled into a nice run-walk strategy” and “the first two marathons went by without a hitch”. (Bet that is the first time you’ve heard anyone say that!). But heading into the last marathon, his achilles tendon became his, er, achilles heel and he had to pop into the physiotherapy tent for ice, a massage, and I’m guessing was not-strong-enough pills (why don’t they ever carry they good stuff at these public events??). By this point, Justin could no longer eat, his knees were hurting, his blisters flaring, and his ankle was strapped. Not good. But who is going to quit after swimming, biking and running hundreds of miles??? Justin’s speed slowed down to just 1.5 miles an hour, but at least he was still moving!

He was over 8 hours past the time he had hoped to finish in and the last person left out on the course. That is enough to make anyone want to quit. What on earth was going through his head?  “My body was slowly packing up and I had now been out [on the course] for 60 hours with just 2 hours 40 min of sleep! The last three laps [one of the race organisers] talked to me around the course as I stumbled, fell asleep whilst walking, talked to imaginary goats and people…” Oh dear. After a total of 63 hours and 44 min, Justin “dragged” himself to the finish, only to find that everything had been packed away and all the supporters had gone! As he shuffled around the corner with his wife holding his hand, the race staff gave him a big cheer as he went to pick up his finisher’s medal.

Goodness. It is rare that I am impressed, but I am impressed. This guy is an absolute legend in my books. He doesn’t take himself too seriously – he just goes out and finishes what he sets out to do.

Please, please, PLEASE, if you are in the Swindon area, drop by the Big Adventure Store and say hello! They are a great bunch of guys and I’m tellin’ ya, they know their stuff. They will give you solid advice and won’y try to ‘sell’ you on anything you don’t need (one of my pet peeves as I am extremely gullible and will convince myself I need everything). Details below!

The Big Adventure Store is located just a 5 minute drive from Junction 16 of the M4. Click on the website link for directions and a map!

General Enquiries: 01793 488882

Mail Order: 01793 490000

Email: thebigadventurestore@hotmail.co.uk

-Ultra Runner Girl aka Stephanie Case

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