By Alix J. Shutello
It’s done! The Swiss Deca Ironman is done!
Over the past couple of weeks a small microcosm of the human race made their way to Buchs, Switzerland to complete (and compete) in the Swiss Deca Ironman, a continuous race equivalent of 10 Ironman triathlons. The race covers a total distance of 2,260 kilometers (1406 miles), and the athletes have 345 hours or 14.4 days in which to complete the race. While the Deca takes place from Aug. 16-31, 2017, Endurance Sports & Fitness Magazine followed a few athletes, from start to finish.
Shanda Hill, 35, from Vernon, Canada was one of the athletes we followed. Hill won the women’s division of the Lake Anna Quintuple Anvil (five continuous Ironman triathlons) last fall. In the last 10 months, she prepared, competed and completed the Swiss Deca Ironman Triathlon in record time. She is the first Canadian to ever complete the distance and she did so in a swift 11.5 days. Her hometown already posted an article about Hill’s massive accomplishment. Read all about her at https://www.castanet.net/news/Vernon/205208/Hill-crosses-Deca-finish-line.
During the race we also followed two other athletes, Joey Lichter from North Miami Beach, Fla. and Laura Knoblach, 22, who attends college in Boulder, Co. and is the youngest person in the world to ever complete the Deca Ultratriathlon.
Lichter, who finished the Swiss Deca in 12 days and 19 hours is part of the extreme triathlon scene in southern Florida. He is one of six athletes on the Beyond Brave Endurance Racing Team to help raise funds and bring awareness to Beyond Brave and its mission to help Wounded Warriors. He has also been an integral part of the endurance racing world for years and has both competed in endurance triathlons as well as helped crew other athletes. Lichter, who, like Shanda Hill, has competed at the Lake Anna Anvil races run by Race Director, Steve Kirby. Lichter finished the Double Anvil Ultratriathlon (double Ironman distance race) in 2016. His race report is located on the USAUltraTri.com website. Before completing the Deca Ironman, Lichter completed the Florida Double Ironman in March, 2017, and then ramped up and completed the Deca a mere 5 months later!
After Lichter finished the race he reported that the Deca “was more an occupation than a race. It was all day constant motion, focusing on maintenance of the body and staying in the moment not getting too a head of myself or worried about the last few laps. It was being surrounded by people who were courageous enough (or dumb enough, depending upon what day you asked) to test their physical limits.”
Laura Knoblach’s accomplishment is probably the most extreme. Knoblach is the youngest person in the world to compete the Deca Ironman. She did so way before the cut off time, finishing the race in a little over 13 days. Knoblach, who was goaded into competing in Switzerland by Hill and Lichter said, “Five months ago, I was peer-pressured into signing up for the race of my life by Joey Lichter and Shanda Hill. 1,406 miles and nearly 13 days later, I’m so happy to have completed the Deca Ironman as the youngest finisher in history. But I’m even happier to have raced with my best friends, and to have made so many memories that I’ll never forget.”
The Mental Side of the Deca
For some of us, it’s hard to fathom running one marathon or one triathlon, but when athletes decide to focus on taking an endurance challenge which lasts for over two weeks, many take pause and scratch their heads. A lot of people ask me, why the Deca Ironman. Doing one Ironman is tough enough. Who has the time, money an energy to pursue such a long and painful endeavor?
What many don’t understand about endurance sports is that all of us are capable of doing great things. When an athlete decides to pursue a distance which seems longer and greater than what most would consider reasonable, many become leary of the mental state of these athletes. We often hear, “he or she” is crazy.
I have to ask you, is that truly the case? Or is it we, who shun the idea of pushing our limits who are crazy? The Deca Ironman, like many endurance/ultra distance races of this nature are not completed by the athlete alone. These races are supported by a staff of volunteers, many of who are loved ones who are enduring the extreme time constraints, sleep deprivation, and managing both the athletes expectations as well as their own. These races are about a team dedication unlike no other.
I don’t expect people who are not interested or involved in endurance sports of this nature to understand. In fact, I’ve been challenged by some regarding the nature of the Deca and other similar races where the swim portion is conducted in a pool, and the bike and run portions completed on a continuous loop of 2-5 miles, for example. Some say, that this race format is not a race.
Many races are loops or up-and-backs. That is the way they are designed. The Deca Ironman and its brethren are so long in their distance that racing from point to point is not only not achievable because such a long distance must be mapped out and managed, but dangerous for both the athletes and the crew and volunteers. Can you imagine trying to find and feed an athlete who is swimming 24 miles along a channel, river, or in the ocean? What about finding someone along the bike route or while running? Without the loops, the race becomes unattainable.
Congrats to everyone who competed in this race and for others who travelled to Switzerland to compete in the other endurance races (1 x 10 Ironman per day) and the Quintuple races.
Alix Shutello, CEO and Publisher, can be reach at Alix@EnduranceSportsandFitness.com