Tuesday, February 2, 2016

In Our Corner: Slater Fletcher - Part II: Ultraman Hawaii

by Nick Mathers

This past fall, EC team member Slater Fletcher completed what Gordo termed “The Aloha Triple” -- the trifecta of triathlon world championships in Hawaii: Ironman in Kona, Xterra in Maui and Ultraman back on the Big Island.

Part II of our interview looks at Slaters preparation and experience at Ultraman in more detail.

In case you missed it, Part I looks at Slater's overall experience completing the Aloha Triple.


Endurance Corner: Because there's not much out there about Ultraman, can you share a little more about your preparation and race plan?
Slater Fletcher: Like I said earlier, I feel that that training that I couldn’t do before Kona I was able to do going into Ultraman.

The final training block worked out really well. I had learned a lot through the year with various camps and the level that I should be pushing myself without doing too much. That last camp was very effective for me as I applied what I had learned all year. It was the simplest camp of the year, but it was the best one in terms of good, solid workload -- no flights, no real travel, no gear issues. I had a bunch of friends train with me on back to back weekends and then the final week of the block I took off from work and went up to San Luis Obispo with a friend who was training also. We stayed with his parents, had food prepared for us and everything was only a couple minutes from his house. It was eat, sleep, train.

It really showed me how much having zero stress -- no work, no travel, no daily clutter -- made it so much easier to train and absorb it.

I think that the specific training is also something that I like about Ultraman and something I enjoyed about going into my first ironman this year at St. George. I didn’t have anyone else to look at and it was easy to focus on what was right for me. It’s a totally different event. It doesn’t matter how many miles or how many hours I train. I just trained the way I wanted to and I had a healthy fear of a three day race to keep me from going overboard.

I recognized that there’s no sense in beating out a hundred miles if a shorter ride was long enough. Most of my daily runs were 30 minutes. The only time I rode 100 miles or more in the 19 weeks before Ultraman was while racing Kona. I trusted that I had done enough throughout the year and focused on the process that I knew worked for me. I was keen on saving all suffering for the race itself. This camp was really just getting some good work in, but nothing crazy that would leave me shelled for the next day.

EC: Do you have a race plan for something so long?
SF: My greatest strength is on the bike. I can push kind of hard and not suffer much for it. I knew I wasn’t going to be killing it on the swim; I was just looking to survive it. When I got on the bike, I didn’t hesitate to hammer because there wasn't a run right after. Both days on the bike my power was right at Kona levels.

I never really knew where I was in the run on the third day because it was so spread out. And it’s easy to get caught up in that, and that could mess up your day. So many of the runner guys had this mindset of, “I need to run fast,” and they ran themselves into trouble.

I let everyone go in the beginning of the run and started by walking. That was probably the hardest part. I did Gordo’s run-walk strategy which I hated at first. But then around mile 16 I started seeing people and at mile 18 I started passing people. And I was still taking walking breaks. It made me a believer in the walking protocol and gave me a mental boost later in the run when it was most valuable.

I ran pretty close to even split -- 6 minutes slower on the second marathon.

EC: What were your overall impressions of the race?
SF: It was exciting and also very special. There are so many elements to Ultraman that you just do not find at other races. It is staged around distances that make you focus on the muscle between your ears, the support from family and aloha (love). The people there make it possible and that is special. It's such a team effort with your crew -- it combines everything I like about adventure racing and triathlon and ultra endurance in one event.

There were some brutal moments, especially on the first day with the huge winds. Running down the Queen K for several hours also offers some unique challenges along the way but that is part of the experience.

Being able to race around an island through 12 different climates, lots of turns and find myself in the front pack kept my support crew on their toes. It was so exciting and never felt like some kind of three day slog. The stages and distances are long enough to make for some ultra experiences but short enough to still be able to go into race mode each day. I also learned a ton. Even though this was a long race, I feel like I learned a lot about strategy that I can apply in all my races.

You can read Slater's Kona and Ultraman race reports on his blog at SlaterFletcher.com.

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