Kale Poland: Hard Core IRON

By Alix Shutello

Kale Poland was bored with triathlons and looking for something a little more “challenging”—so he hopped into a 40-miler and just ran it.

“I’m an impulsive person. I saw this 40-miler in Virginia on an ultra race calendar that was just a few days away, and decided to just go for it. That was my best experience in an ultra EVER. I slept in the trunk of my car the night before and came in third overall!” he said.

Poland is no stranger to competition. He competed in his first triathlon—an Olympic distance—at age 17, while still in high school. “I figured I would just do my own thing,” he said.

The next summer, Poland completed a half Iron. At age 25, he completed his first Ironman on “almost no training,” and decided there and then that he needed to find a bigger challenge.

And so he did. Poland has completed in every type of ultra triathlon — the 2x, 3x, 5x, and 10x IRON distance.

“Racing ultras is not something I want to do. It’s something I need to do. It makes me feel clear mentally. Ultras are one of the few things nowadays where you actually see hard work pay off. I also enjoy it because ultra distances cannot be broken down scientifically and analyzed like cycling or another singular sport might. There are too many intangibles that go along with swimming, cycling, and running massive amounts of miles.”

When it comes to training, Poland believes training alone makes a person tougher…but he does train with others and enjoys group rides out of the bike shop where he works.

“I do not own a car, which forces me to be a disciplined cyclist,” he said.

Poland strives to compete in ultras, and monitors his budget by living a simple lifestyle. “I lived in a tent for most of 2010 and 2011. Those were the best years ever! Training my brains out and going wherever the wind blew me,” he said.

In 2012, however, Poland turned his focus toward the king of all races: He spent his time training for the Monterrey Deca IRON held in Monterrey, Mexico, in November. The Deca Iron is the longest ultra triathlon race officially recorded in the calendar of ultra-triathlon races; the world record to complete it is 8 days. It is not a race for the weary or weak.

Poland’s Deca IRON Race Report is an excellent account of his experience; Poland touches on the real emotions along with the mental and physical challenges that occur during an ultra race. Constant nausea, dry heaves, pain, trembling and mental fatigue can really tear at an athlete in these long races; however, it’s not just the athlete who is affected. Poland’s father at the Deca, watching and worrying.

Poland, who was sick during the swim phase, turned to inner strength to complete the 24-mile swim phase. The swim is done in a pool—760 droning laps to cover a distance longer than the English Channel. After swimming for 27 hours, Poland decided to forgo sleep and move to right into the next phase: 1120 miles of cycling. The final phase was 262 miles of running—which Poland embraced, for he prefers the running to the cycling.

Oddly, says Poland, it’s in the running phase when your body can fall apart. “The skin on your feet betrays you. You become swollen, blistered and dehydrated. Your bowels may not work, and you can experience everything from extreme pain to renal failure—and that’s why you need a strong support team behind you.

“And yet, while you may not be able to remember what happened an hour ago, you can have more clarity than you’ve ever had in your life.

“It’s a mind-blowing experience.”

Poland’s sponsors are Meineke Car Care Center in Laconia, N.H., and Northern Physical Therapy in Presque Isle, Maine.