In First Person: William Mark Blore: Why Endurance Racing Is Just What I Do

By William Mark Blore
Photos by Katrin Meier

There is an innate drive buried deep within me that always wants to know what the next level is and if I can do it. It doesn’t matter if it is completing the same event and you just want to go faster, or whether it is something longer or harder – when you finish something that once seemed impossible, you want to know if you can do more…and that is how my endurance career started.

I was born in San Francisco, Calif., and raised about 45 minutes north of there in the small town of Petaluma. I’m currently living in Coronado, and at age 49, I’ve been endurance racing for over a decade now.

After leaving the Navy in 1992, I wanted to complete a marathon. After that, I moved to triathlons; I progressed from Sprint distances to Olympic and then to Ironman. This led to longer bike rides, longer swims, and longer runs. I even did two years of obstacle course racing; I completed the 24-hour World’s Toughest Mudder a few years in a row, and then focused more on ultra triathlons. So I was basically an Ironman-distance triathlete; but in 2012, I started looking around on the Internet for something longer and harder. At about the same time, my friend Victor told me about two races – the Catalina 50-miler, and a trail race called the Old Goat 50-miler. I completed both races in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Despite that, I still did not consider myself an “endurance athlete”.

When it comes to races that have meaning for me, I completed the USA Ultra Triathlons Oregon Double Anvil on July 14-15, 2014. This was my first ultra, and I fell in love with the family-oriented vibe and absolute sincerity of all the people involved. The Oregon course is the most beautiful and challenging Double on the IUTA circuit. Steve Kirby, the race director, holds events three times a year, in Florida, Oregon, and Virginia, so there are no excuses to not get out there and try. As a bonus, these events cost less than a typical Ironman event!

The euphoric feeling of finishing an ultra event is indescribable. The best moment I ever had finishing an ultra triathlon was at a Double Iron with a fellow competitor in Oregon. I had my usual bout of puking through the night and was jogging and power walking when I came across Rick toward the end of the 52-mile run. I was two laps behind him. He told me he was done racing and had to walk it in. I told him I’d join him after I caught up on my two laps, and then we pushed on together for many miles and crossed the finish line together.

After completing the 2014 Double in Oregon, I traveled to the Florida Double in March of 2015, with no crew, not much training and an incorrect attitude. I had no idea of my caloric or hydration needs and went out with the podium in my sight. I made it less than 100 miles on the bike when I bonked; I felt like a truck had run me over. I curled up in a rental van and felt sorry for myself for hours. Needless to say, I didn’t finish the race. The positive part of dropping from any race is learning more about yourself. I decided to not be so serious about racing after that DNF (did not finish).

I love endurance events so much that if I were retired with all the time and money at my disposal, then I would do more. (Although my wife might have a different opinion of what we should do when I retire!) Like many folks, I have a full-time job, and a beautiful wife, two children and two dogs. I realize this is a hobby of mine, and try to always put family and work ahead of training and racing. That being said, I could not even come close to participating and training without the support of my family. For that, I am extremely blessed and humbled.

The feeling of completing something that you thought was out of reach is unmatched, and crossing the finish line of a 5K, especially if you have never run, can be just as glorious as finishing your first 200-mile trail run. When your family is cheering, your kids are running next to you and the race director drapes an American flag over your shoulder after 36 hours of racing, you will discover emotions you never knew existed…and that is worth discovering, even if you do it only once in your life.

 

Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is where you learn something about yourself that you might not have known; and this can be true for any part of your life.

In fact, as I get closer to the finish line of any ultra event, I usually have an overwhelming feeling of love for my wife and kids. I usually race self-supported, so there must be something to the line, “absence makes the heart grow fonder” that hits me toward the end of the event. I have had some emotional down-times after an ultra, where I lose motivation; but it has never lasted more than a month, or at least, until I sign up for the next challenge! I have also been known to take a few months off completely after a huge race, but I usually end up regretting the time that it takes to get back to Square One.

Over the years, I have tried every tool out there. I have had paid coaching, tried advice from fellow competitors, and self-taught and trained. I have read most books available on running, swimming, triathlon, nutrition, and planning. I’ve gone full tech, with wires sticking out of me, stats recorded and analyzed, and a very regimented program; and I have also spent numerous times “flying solo,” going purely by feel. I have learned only one thing: everyone is different, and what works for one person might not work for another. There is no right or wrong or a one-size-fits-all program.

Consider everything with an open mind, and learn something from everything you read, hear and try yourself. Then incorporate it into your own plan. Currently, I set my own goals and races. I train by feel, although I do like to exercise 1-3 hours a day, with something longer on the weekend. I have a rough goal of swimming 3 times a week, riding 4-5 days and running 3. I should be strength training 3 times a week and stretching daily. No, I never get it all done; and I never let it stress me out if I miss something.

I am a big believer in the theory that you can do anything you set your mind to. The old adage, “mind over matter”, has proven itself over and over in every endurance event I have attended. I have seen young and old, fit and not-so-fit, disabled, those fighting diseases, etc., all completing ultra events. I truly believe there is no excuse for not trying something if it is your desire. Yes, some people have to work harder, some have more struggles – but there is a way. Set your mind on something, make a plan, and go for it. If you are stressed out about training or racing, or if it is affecting other areas of your life, take a break or change things up. Here is the key to success: Have fun.

Note: In August 2017, I competed the Swiss DECA (one Iron distance a day for 10 days in a row). In October 2017, I will join my friends in Leon, Mexico, for the Classic/Continuous DECA Ultra Triathlon in Leon, Mexico (24 mile swim, 1120 bike, 262 mile run). In November 2018, I look forward to the DECA IRON in Louisana.

Blore’s Favorite Things
My triathlon bike is one of a kind and has been through a lot: crashes, internal routing failures, obsolete sizes, and numerous bike stores telling me I should have it replaced (FYI, not for safety reasons). I built up a custom carbon frame from Carbon Sports out of Germany that I bought used and outfitted with as many parts off of Craigslist, eBay, etc., as I could find. I am rather proud that I have not purchased the “newest, latest, greatest” bike and accessories available, although the addition of SRAMS’s Etap had to be done to keep it alive. Clothing choice is easy for me: anything American or red, white and blue. I do have some special clothing made for extreme heat that is not RWB, and occasionally have to wear something that is more functional than aesthetic; but if I can find it with the American flag on it, I will wear it. Political opinions aside, I think you should be proud of your country – and I have no problem wearing Old Glory wherever I go!