Ultra Trail Runner Versus Ironman. Which One?

Ultra trail runner.  Ironman.  Both descriptions fit me.  Both descriptions also represent my passion for endurance sports.  Triathlete is another description but earlier today when John asked me via Twitter the following:

ultra trail runner - ironman - endurance sports

My response to this question was Yes and No but it was something that I had to think about for a few moments.  The reason I had to take pause before giving that non-committal answer is that I love the sport of triathlon.  The opportunity to compete at three different sports on one day to accomplish a task that seems larger than life is grand.  Add in the fact that the training is not boring because of the multi-sport discipline and you can understand how much triathlon appeals to me.

I have also found a home at ultra running, specifically ultra trail running.  En route to being able to add the title ultra trail runner I found a re-kindled fire for the sport of running.  For nearly 18 months every run I did was on the heels of a bike ride.  There were long runs but they were not for the sake of running, but rather  to help build the Ironman machine.  For the past 18 weeks each run was done to help put me in a position to succeed as an ultra trail runner at the Lake Martin 100.

When I set out on this endurance lifestyle I had no clue where it would take me.  All I knew is that I enjoyed it.  More than that I loved it.  The freedom to be out on the road while biking or  running.  The chance to spend an hour with friends swimming in the lake all under the guise of training.  While training for different events I would have different goals for each.  My first goal was to qualify for Boston but then I found triathlon.  As anybody in the sport of triathlon would attest to the goal was to reach Kona.  Today that goal has changed again.  I am now in pursuit of a Western States qualifier.  The 100 mile run is in my blood. The ultra trail run is in my blood.

After Lake Martin was done and I managed to not hit the deck from passing out after the race Jeff and Dave said something to me that still resonates, even over a week later.  Their words (I am paraphrasing) were:  You may have found your niche.  Thinking about that they might just be right.  I found the whole idea of running 100 miles to be incredible.  The ups and downs (literally) of the entire 28 hours was somewhat enlivening.  There was something about being out there going through the woods that I loved, even when the dark moments settled in.  The battle of wills between my mind and body.  Between me and nature.  All of it was, for lack of a better term, awesome.  I wanted to keep going to prove to myself that I could do it.

On the car ride back from Alabama I started to think about Rocky Raccoon 100 at the end of January 2015.  This race is a Western States qualifier, but fortunately for me it is not the only shot I will have at qualifying.  The Bandera 100k is also a qualifier and takes place 3 weeks prior to Rocky Raccoon 100.  Thinking about this, and typing the words, has me very excited.  The idea of these challenges is frightening and simultaneously awesome.  Conquering the distances and the terrain is the great unknown which makes ultra trail running more exciting than an Ironman.

For me, I know that I am capable of going 2.4 miles, 112 miles and 26.2 miles but each 100 mile run will present a whole new set of obstacles.  No two races will ever be close to each other outside of distance.  This unknown is what makes being an ultra trail runner inviting.  Triathlon, and Ironman, is something that I will come back to for sure but I think once Ironman Chattanooga is complete that ultra trail running will take over even if just for the first few months of the year.

Ultra Trail Runner versus Ironman.

Today it is ultra trail runner.  Who knows what tomorrow will bring.

ultra trail runner - lake martin - endurance athlete

Finished The Lake Martin 100


** Cover Photo from Braynston Bombers


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  1. Jeff Irvin says:

    You and me have had this conversation already so nothing new here, but I have backed away from Ironman/Triathlon and gravitated back to running as it is less time in training. Triathlon and especially Ironman is just a huge time suck. I can run 100mi in a week and it is only about half the time needed to do swim/bike/run training. And even more of a reduction in time if you take out all the commute time to drive to bike friendly roads or time to get to the pool or the time it takes to pack up the bike gear and nutrition.

    Dave said to me a few days ago, “We’ve missed a lot of fun stuff doing all the ironman training over the last few years!” … and he was right! Just look at the race schedules we all have lined up for the end of this year and next year … none of these cool events would be happening if training for the next ironman. “Can’t miss that 6hr long ride!”

  2. Steven Baskett says:

    Great article Jason, I’m not in the same league as you guys, I have not done a full IM but I did my first HIM 2013, also did something called Vätternrundan (300k bike event in 13 hrs) same year. I have dreamt of doing a full IM for about 3 years, and love watching the coverage on TV (particularly Kona) but something changed in me after seeing a program called ‘Boundless’, shown on Swedish TV last week. It was about Ultra Running (but to the extreme), after watching just 1 episode of this program, it hit me like a thunderbolt, I realized that some of the joy of running had been lost to me due to the technical aspect of Triathlon training. I have since decided to make this year my last HIM for a couple of years, which of course means the full IM will be further away from my reality for at least 3-5 years.

    As Jeff mentions below, there is a significant amount of time wasted when training 3 disciplines. The logistics involved for pool swims, open water swims, good bike routes is an utter pain in the ar*e. Not to mention the cost of gear across all 3 sports.

    For the last 6 weeks I have ONLY been running in preparation for my fave half marathon (Göteborgsvarvet).
    I do full marathons, but this little race (actually the biggest of its kind in the world) is a good indicator that even though I am getting older (44) it’s not slowing me down, new PB’s for the past 3 years, this year I intend to finally get around 1:45 which to me is pretty good since I only took up this sport to lose weight :) Anyway, my point is, there’s nothing like a long run to unwind, to be one with your thoughts, to feel at peace. This isn’t a feeling you can achieve whilst swimming and biking, there’s just too many things you need to be aware of, particulary from a safety perspective.

    I think next year will be a good year to start with a 50k for starters, and then progress to a 100k and then see how it goes from there.

    • Jason Bahamundi says:

      Steven – thanks for stopping by and commenting.

      I absolutely love the focus of ultra trail run training and am going to be incorporating that sole sport focus into my training for Ironman Chattanooga.

      My hope is that the sole sport focus rekindles the fire for triathlon and Ironman. As of right now there will not be an Ironman in 2015 and while it seems odd it also feels freeing.

      If you have any questions as you begin your quest for the 50k and 100k races please let me know.

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