Life Journey Is An Ultraman Journey

Robert Fabes Ultra man Journey - Written In His Own Words

My name is Robert and I’m a 54 year old professional living in Ottawa, Ontario.  Until August of this year, I did not have much confidence in my athletic abilities.  Here’s how that changed.

By the end of August 2014 I had completed my third iron-distance race in 5 weeks and my sixth in 3 years, each of which I had done with just enough training.  Instead of appreciating this accomplishment, all I could think about was “what next”. I wasn’t satisfied with my performances. I felt like I needed to do more, that I needed to do something more extreme.  I was looking to prove something, I just didn`t know what or to whom. A friend of mine is an ultra-distance racer and put the bug in my head that I should try an ultra-distance triathlon: Ultra520K Canada, a 3-day event comprised of a 10 kilometer swim, a 425.6 kilometer bike and a 84.4 kilometer run in Penticton, British Columbia.

I quickly realized that, notwithstanding I knew I could finish the event through shear stubbornness, I was going to need some professional help if I was going to finish comfortably.  I was in good cardio-vascular shape but was overweight, and was clueless as to how to manage volume or determine proper nutrition. The only reason I was even thinking of these things is that my friend Julie Paquette, another LifeSport athlete, was training to do the 2015 Ultraman Florida (which she won!) and was being coached by LifeSport coach, Chuck Kemeny.  Julie had picked Chuck after chatting with him on-line; also, Chuck is the current world record holder for this distance race.

After some long discussions about what I was hoping to accomplish, which at this stage was finishing the race as comfortably as possible, Chuck agreed to coach me and training started in November 2014 after I ran the New York City Marathon. Chuck’s focus from the start was on building my volume without injury, improving my technique, proper recovery and getting my nutrition right.  I`m not going to go through all the details but here are some highlights: indoor spinning lasting in duration up to 7 hours; 2 ``century`` swims in the pool (100 times 100 meters, or 400 laps of a 25 metre pool); a 40 kilometer training run in 3 hours and 45 minutes (an incredible breakthrough for me given my complete lack of confidence in my running abilities); a planned 225 kilometer bike ride that turned into 300 kilometers thanks to one wrong turn; hip/Achilles/calf issues that were properly managed through changes in training intensity, physio and massage; and 4 weeks from race day I flew over my handlebars, broke 3 teeth, had a mild concussion and was on brain rest for 4 days.

Throughout this, there were other things happening, almost without me realizing.  My eating habits changed and my weight went down (I lost almost 30 pounds). And how I thought about myself and my abilities changed.  I started believing in myself and that I could compete in this race, rather than just participate.  Just finishing was no longer an acceptable goal for me – I wanted to race and finish as best as I possibly could. Chuck had succeeded not only in getting me ready physically for this challenge, but mentally as well.  Throughout the 9 months of training together, he had an uncanny ability to get the best out of me, especially when my confidence was at its lowest. 

Race weekend came and, I was ready.  I felt like the proverbial racehorse chomping at the bit, eager and excited to get out of the gate.  As important as training as planned was, sticking to the race plan was all the more important.  And that’s what my crew and I did – we executed the plan to the “t”: pacing, nutrition and recovery. And the results proved it: I finished 12th out of 25 participants and was 1st in my age group.  Also, I weighed exactly the same at the end of the 3 days as I did at the start.

Most importantly, I enjoyed myself: I never lost sight of the work I had put in, where I was, who I was with and what I was doing.  Throughout the 3 days I never doubted myself (ok, maybe a little after riding for 3 hours into the wind in 40 degree Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) heat, never took the experience for granted and drew strength from the incredible people in my life who had supported me and believed in me, even when I didn`t.

It`s October 2015, a full year from when I started this journey.  I`m not the same person I was physically or mentally. My confidence in my athletic abilities has also renewed my confidence in my professional abilities.

I no longer think “I can`t do that” but rather “how can I do that”.

Written by:

Robert Fabes
Ottawa, Ontario
October 2015


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