Three weeks ago I completed my second Nothingman (read about the first one from last year) – which is doing the full Ironman distance as a training day – a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike, and a 26.2 mile run. “What? Why would any one do that?” “That’s insane” “Are you kidding me?” are the usual responses.
I suppose there are many reasons for doing this (see last year’s post), but for me it’s for no other reason than because I can. It’s more of a mental challenge for me than physical. It’s easy to quit when it doesn’t really matter. It’s easy to quit when there is no reason to be doing it. It’s easy to quit when there is no finish line and no spectators.
This idea of setting up personal challenges outside of a race environment is one I have been thinking about quite a bit lately. I first read about Jason Lester’s EPIC 5 challenge about 4 years ago. And most recently Scott Ragsdale took on the challenge of 7 Iron distance events in 7 consecutive days. Locally, we have a Dante’s bike ride, where riders try to cover 28,000 feet of climbing over 280 miles in one day.
This is what Nothingman is about – the distances and disciplines don’t matter. It’s about setting up a personal challenge for yourself and giving it the best you have got on that day.
My friends Chuck and Dan decided to take on the Nothingman with me this year. Chuck had never gone this far before and wanted to get a taste of it as he will be doing Ironman Mont Tremblant next year for his first one. Dan had recently completed Ironman Lake Placid (as did I) and… well, I’m not exactly sure why he wanted to take part in this.
The majority of the day was pretty uneventful. At 7AM the conditions were perfect for an out and back swim in Cazenovia Lake.
We took about a 45 minute transition to drive to Dan’s house and set up in his driveway.
We took our time on the bike and set a comfortable pace. My friend Craig came out to join us for 35 miles. And Dan’s 10 year old son joined us for the last 26 miles.
At about mile 100 I was stung in the face by a bee. I was OK for the rest of the day, but the next morning when I woke up, I looked like Sloth from Goonies.
The first 12 miles of the run were slow and we were beginning to fade. We were running a 2.25 mile loop so we would never be too far from transition. At about 8PM it began to rain – and a few minutes later it turned into a torrential downpour. It was freezing cold and we were wet and miserable. There was absolutely no reason to be out there – risking getting sick and/or injured. It was completely stupid. And I suggested we throw in the towel.
We decided to head in and wait it out. A check of the radar map showed we had at least an hour of bad weather to deal with. At this point there was discussion about whether or not we should continue. We took the opportunity to throw our clothes in the dryer and dry off. After an hour, the rain subsided a bit.
I decided I wanted to run the remaining 14 miles for no other reason than because I said I would. Armed with plastic bags as rain gear, we headed out shortly after 9PM – each of us at our own pace. I wanted to run as fast as I could and bang it out in 2 hours and be done.
It was a lonely 2 hours of running in the dark. Only part of the loop had streetlights. On the other parts I would shine my headlamp into the woods and see creepy eyes staring back at me.
With about 5 miles for to go for me, Dan pulled up next to me on a mountain bike and said he decided to call it quits – coming up 8 miles short. I asked him where Chuck was and he said he was still moving forward. Good. I really wanted him to finish this.
With less than a mile to go it started pouring again. As I caught up to Chuck, he turned around and decided to call it a day with 5k left for him – “I just don’t want to be out in the rain.”
When I got back to our transition area, I was pissed. It seemed completely ridiculous to have to be out there that long in weather that wouldn’t cooperate. I was wet, cold, hungry, and tired. And it was 11:30pm, which means we had been going at it for 16+ hours.
I did not feel a sense of accomplishment or exhilaration this time around. But will I do it again next year? You bet.