Note from Rich: This post was written by my wife Julie shortly after our return from Ultraman in 2009. For some reason, the document got lost in the shuffle and ironically was never published; I just uncovered it now. I realize the past is the past and this is now ancient history. After all, the post recaps events that transpired almost a year and a half ago. However, I decided to nonetheless publish it, as Julie offers a very unique perspective on this unique race and the impact it had on her and my kids. Her views come not from that of an athlete, but from a spiritual perspective and her interpretation remains current and highly pertinent in light of our recent time spent with Chief Golden Eagle and the influence of him, his energy and teachings on me and my family. This is not your average race recap. I hope you enjoy Julie’s unique and compelling take on our family experience at this amazing event.
By: Julie Piatt
Crewing for my Ultraman husband Rich Roll’s 2009 double ironman race on the Big Island of Hawaii was one of the most epic experiences of my life. It forever shaped me as an individual and it shaped us both as life partners and all of us as a family. It was big moment for us, akin to the birth of all of our children and our wedding day.
I am deeply grateful that I was able to experience this race as his team member and wife along with our two sons, Tyler and Trapper. I have managed many tasks in my lifetime that require the ability to function at a high level under stress. I have worked along side Rich in various creative endeavors. We even shot a movie together when I was 4 cm dilated expecting our now six-year-old daughter Mathis. How much harder could crewing for Ultraman be? I figured we would work it out all right. My spiritual awareness that consciousness is taking care of all things pretty much puts me in the flow of life. But, in the aftermath, I must honestly concede that I had no concept of what I was in for and what would be required of my crewmembers and me over this three-day race around the Big Island. Fasten your seatbelts…
WHAT IS ULTRAMAN?
I’ve heard of Ironman. But what is Ultraman? Well, it’s a 3 day double-ironman distance triathlon that circumnavigates the entire Big Island of Hawaii. Day 1 is a 6.2 mile swim from Kailua Pier to Keahou, followed by a 90 mile bike up to Volcano National Park. Day 2 is a 170 mile bike around the southeastern side of the Island, up through Hilo and Waimea and finishing in Hawi on the northwest corner of the Island. Day 3 culminates with a 52.4 mile run from Hawi along the searing hot lava Field back to Kailua-Kona.
It was November 1st and we were celebrating our six year old daughter Mathis’ birthday one and a half months early so Rich could be at her party before departing for Hawaii. Mathis was born on December 17th, and we always celebrate early to avoid the excess of having a birthday one week before Christmas. It was truly a touched day, complete with a “Ganesh” cake that I created for her at her request. I have always made the birthday cakes for the children. They know that every year, they get a piece of art, as cake especially for them in the design of their choice. She had set the stage for the beginning of the journey by calling in Ganesh, the part boy part elephant Indian deity; the remover of obstacles and Lord of new beginnings. We had children representing all the colors of the rainbow. It was truly a sweet moment when all the children gathered around as the boys and I sang some of Mathis’ favorite songs from my soon to be released CD, called “SEED.” It was a day of unity.
Rich’s flight out of LA to Kona was on November 2nd. I drove Rich to the airport so he could catch his flight out that would deliver him three weeks early to train on the Big Island in preparation for Ultraman 2009. He would be staying with Jason Lester for a couple weeks. Jason is an amazing ultra endurance athlete who won an ESPY earlier this year for “Best Male Athlete With a Disability” – Jason has only one functional arm and is an inspiration to many. Rich and Jason had become fast friends after Ultraman last year.
I kissed Rich goodbye curbside. We both cried tears of joy for the depth of our experience over the past three years especially. The trials we had experienced were deeply profound and now we were emerging, reborn from the ashes — a little wounded and tired, but renewed nonetheless and feeling extremely grateful for it all. This race was going to be a pivotal moment in our journey not only for Rich, but as a family and we both knew it.
Miraculously, Abby, an amazing cellist, who played on two tracks of SEED, agreed to move in with me and help me with the kids while Rich was away. It worked out perfectly as she was in between living spaces. This was a huge support and we all got along really well.
The weeks passed by and Jason Lester and Rich were posting awesome YouTube videos on nutrition and plant based diets. Jason miraculously was able to put weight on his paralyzed arm for the first time ever. He was riding out of the saddle! The plant-based nutrition was definitely supporting him. The training was going really well and Rich loved the Big Island although he was missing us a lot. With three weeks left before the race, he still had no crew. And for the uninitiated, with a race like Ultraman your crew is everything. Each competitor requires a crew and a van to ride alongside the athlete to provide nutrition, encouragement, and mechanical and logistical support. In short, you simply cannot compete effectively without an experienced crew to support you over the 3-day race. I kept telling him to let go and have faith that someone would show up for him, but he was really starting to stress. In hindsight, I now, offer to Rich, “Okay, I had no idea, you should have been totally freaking out. Sorry about that.”
Rich had been very clear that he did not want me on his crew. He had said that it gets very intense and he didn’t want anything to adversely affect our relationship. Two and one half weeks out with no crew, he had a change of heart. He called me and said, “ Babe, I really need you. “ “ Yeah, I’m there, I replied.” I seriously wasn’t worried at all. I was excited to be with him over the three days and be a part of his experience, which had consumed much of our lives over the past two years.
I am not athletic in any way. I would never run a mile or swim laps or bike anywhere. I don’t “work out”. But I do practice yoga and that is what connects me and gives me that ability to embody life force. A side effect is that I am in great physical shape. When Rich jumps out to train, I am most often at home with the kids cooking. We test out our new recipes while he is out on an all day ride. When he gets home, he gets a recovery blend from the Vita-Mix and then later, we all eat dinner together. Crewing for him would mean that I would get a view of his process that I had never seen.
I had to figure out what to do with the girls. They are very bonded to me and I needed someone to cover them for me so I could be completely available for Rich. This needed to be someone who they loved. Otherwise, they would be begging me to come home. Something I didn’t want to be feeling during the race. I wanted to be there for Rich 500%.
Two months earlier, In mid September, I had attended a spiritual meeting with Chief Golden Eagle of the Lakota Star Nations in Phoenix Arizona. During the meeting, we received codes or what is called the living light language of the 13th Dimensional beings that are believed to be Whales. I met a girl there named Nicole. She is a Mother of two children ages 4 and 12. Nicole works with foster children as well as autistic and challenged kids. She really made a big impression on me and we had spoken on the phone a few times since the workshop. Nicole had mentioned to me that she really wanted to go to the Big Island and would love to find a way to come to Ultraman to support us.
On November 13th, I called her and she said she was fully in for whatever we needed. I shared with her that we still had no crew. I would drive and one of our sons would help out but we had no one else. She reminded me of a man I had met at the end of the spiritual conference, Alan Blackburn. She told me that she thought he was our guy. He had worked with Chief Golden Eagle and lived with him for over a year. He also was on a search and rescue fire squad and he was a steel worker. Alan had also wanted to go to the Big Island and he volunteered to get himself there and be in full service for whatever we needed.
There was no talk from Nicole or Alan of how many hours they would work or where they would sleep — only a complete offering of full service. Throughout the entire race and before and afterward, they never wavered. They worked tirelessly doing whatever needed to be done. And they were completely grateful to be there with us all. They were a complete blessing to us.
THE NUMBER 13
The spiritual significance of the number 13 is rebirth, transformation and renewal. It is the number that the Mayan Calendar is based on. The 13 dimensional living light codes are given from the whale beings.
The number 13 played a significant role in the entire race. Our crew came forward on the 13th of November, 13 days before our departure. The entire crew would be people that had been given the 13 Dimensional living light code transmissions from Chief Golden Eagle. Even Mike Field, the paddler who was not at the meeting and did not receive the codes from the Chief, is a whale rider who lives on the Big Island. Yes, he actually rides whales. He paddles into the ocean and grabs their tales and hangs on…so, if I had to bet, I would wager that he has them.
The number 13 signifies the return to the ONE. It is manifestation into form. It is the 12 dimensions folding in on each other becoming a thirteenth which is the ONE.
At the farmers market the Saturday before we left, I ran into Compton Rom Bada, the founder of Ascended Health. Ascended Health is the cutting edge nutrition company that is sponsoring Rich and Jason Lester. I shared with Compton the significance of the number 13. He told me, no coincidence, but the endurance drink he had mixed for Rich had exactly 13 herbs in it.
Later we all learned that Chief Golden Eagle, Compton and I all have a deep connection with a multidimensional being named Grandma Chandra. She has provided healing and support for us all. She works closely with the whales.
We all got on the same flight from LA. Driving to the airport, I was overcome with emotion and gratitude for this journey and the support of virtually complete strangers that had stepped up for us. We traveled like a large tribe, everyone taking care of the children and laughing and having a great time.
When we arrived on the island, my adrenals were fried. I had exhaustion beyond exhaustion. Jaya, our two year old had screamed the entire flight. She wanted to be naked and not wear her seatbelt. She wasn’t having any of it. I felt Rich’s energy and he was beyond anxiety. He could barely hug me. His energy felt like an explosive volcano. I knew that on one level none of this made sense. We had no idea what we were doing. Alan and I went to a quick tire changing clinic the night before we left. But I knew I would be of no help in that arena. Our flight arrived after the crew meeting where you are briefed on virtually everything and anything. None of us knew what we were doing. Rich would have to fill in the blanks as much as possible.
We got the kids and Nicole to the hotel and quickly changed. I drank some blue green algae –and it restored me so at least I could focus. I told the boys that Rich may snap at me, and that there was so much on the line with this race. They should not even pay attention. We all agreed that over the next three days, no one could take anything personally.
When we all sat down for our briefing, Rich was a perfect gentleman and motivating coach. He told us that we in effect would be racing Ultraman and that without us he could not finish the race. We were now a team, JAI ULTRA. He had prepared all the information for us and we went through it a piece at a time, trying to absorb as much as possible. As I watched him in that meeting, I saw him in a different light; I recognized for the first time, that he was a “pro”. He was in his dharma doing what God had always intended for him. I was completely in awe, and I now realized where he had come in the past two years. He had touched down into his soul and he was operating in his higher SELF. He made us all want to do the very best for him not only because he is the love of my life and the Father of my children, but because he is an amazing athlete. We would give it our all.
That night before I dropped him at his room, we took a short drive up the first incline of the race. The shoulder is very narrow and there is only one spot to stop .If you miss it, he has no water for another 2 miles. He knew he would need water badly after the swim. We would have to get it to him in this stretch. He showed me the spot I took a mental picture.
We turned around, headed back down the hill to his condo. On the drive back, I acknowledged that none of us knew what we were doing and that this had to be extremely stressful for him. But I did point out that while we may not be what he had envisioned as his crew, that we were the ones that God had sent and so we were all here in service to him and the greater whole. We were all here NOW. I kissed him good night.
I woke at 3:00 am and went into meditation. I set the field and cleared the channels opening our energetic field to receive the maximum capacity of the divine expression available to us all. I saw Rich fully connected to his God source and in his own boundary. This race was between him and God. Tyler, Nicole and Alan joined me in a circle as we kneeled, we asked for guidance and support for the highest divine outcome.
We met at Rich’s condo at 5 am to load the truck. We needed to load his bike, racing wheels, spare wheels, helmet, racing clothes, nutrition, food, tools, goggles, helmet, wetsuit, equipment bins for the 2nd and 3rd day, large cooler, creams, gels, and more creams and salves and the list goes on and on…needless to say the truck was packed.
We arrived at the Pier at 5:20 to a sea of bustling people. We found Rich’s paddler, Mike Field. He was stringing a line with a weighted lure that Rich could follow in the water, allowing him to avoid having to lift his head to gain his bearings and thus save energy. Meeting Mike made me feel a little better — he was a complete pro and it was clear he had it all covered, at least in the water…That meant the first 3 hours or so Rich’s crew would nail it. After that, we were the crew and God help us all.
All the competitors gathered at the waters edge. It was still dark, but I could see Rich warming up his arms. His Father has told me he has done that since he was six years old…I snuck down behind a wall and got some shots of him. Then we all counted them down, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1. THEY WERE OFF!
We followed them down the pier, I could see Rich’s trademark arm in the air as it comes out of the water and around. Finally, we couldn’t see him any longer. We had roughly 2 and one half hours to get ice and get him set up at the swim finish. We grabbed breakfast, met the race director Sheryl and had a nice chat. We then set out to grab ice for the cooler.
We found our way down to the swim finish and proceeded to set up Rich’s bike and gear for his transition. I checked the layout photo on my I phone for reference to make sure we had it exactly as he likes it.
Then we heard the announcer over the loud speaker say some of the sweetest words I’ll ever hear, “ Rich Roll is in the lead, way out ahead of anybody else! He is on pace to beat his time from last year” The energy was electric. Tyler went down to the water to get some video footage. I staged myself just in front of the banner for a stellar photo op. One of the crewmembers told me that he would need his shoes right when he exited the water. This is the first I had heard of this and Rich didn’t tell me to do this. But Allen sprinted to the car and returned with his sandals. I walked down to the water’s edge and I could see Rich’s trademark arm with flipper fingers coming in to the finish. When he emerged out of the water there were cheers and he momentarily tried to get his shoes on, only to abort and run up and onto his towel to get his wetsuit off and change. He was frustrated that I hadn’t unzipped his jersey and he snapped at me. He made a momentary stop in the loo and then he was on his way up the hill where Tyler was waiting with his bike. The transition was quick and successful, not more than 2 minutes. Maybe 1 ½ minutes -great job!
We ran to the car and quickly made our way up the big incline to the single stopping point just before the crest to make our water hand off. I was nervous as I headed up because if I missed it and had to proceed up and make a legal u turn, I may miss him. He was clear that he would desperately need water at this exact point. Simultaneously, Tyler our 14 year old was triple checking the map. At the top of the hill do we go right or left? When I felt we were almost at the top, I pulled onto the shoulder and Allen was out of the car.
Alan Blackburn had worked as an assistant to Chief Golden Eagle of the Lakota Star Nations. He is a guy that is all about service, lucky us. Allen was ready to run his butt off. He would get down low in sprinting position and start running, making the handoff like a relay baton. I ended up naming him “Running Elk” because he literally sprinted every handoff. Later in the race, Rich was teasing him as Alan would sprint ahead so fast that Rich couldn’t get to him for the handoff. “Dude, slow down, I can’t reach you”.
We made the crucial water handoff and we were off. We were cheering and screaming — totally psyched for this amazing lead. Now we just had to be there for Rich along the way. The trick is that we had to be getting him water and nutrition at regular intervals but not be on him so much that we were interfering with his groove. We leap-frogged him driving up ahead and pulling over just at the crest of a hill, doing a handoff, and then waiting ten minutes before pulling back onto the highway to reach him again.
We were doing a great job and he looked strong. We decided to pull over and get gas and some crew food. We took maybe 10 minutes and when we pulled onto the highway, we got behind some slow island traffic. When we finally caught up with Rich again, he was upset. He yelled, “Where have you been, I need you!!!” Okay, we pulled up ahead on the crest and Alan was out of the car. “Sorry Chief!” Alan offered. We won’t leave you again.
Contrary to my perception before the race, there is no time to do anything when you are crewing. We had done all the preparation for nutrition for Rich but had no crew food. Tyler had brought along a “Them Crooked Vultures” CD, The new Dave Grohl, John Bonham, and Queens of the Stone Age band. We never listened to one note. All your attention and energy is with your rider and you are constantly checking and cross checking. The phone was ringing off the hook. We just let it go to voice mail. “What’s next?” Should we pull over here now? Should we go ahead?” It’s a group decision back and forth. We were literally on the edge of our seats the entire day. The adrenaline was flowing and where were the other riders? We hadn’t seen another crew van or official vehicle the entire race.
About ¾ of the way into the race, my cell rang with an 808 number. I decided to answer it. It was one of the race techs. “ Hey where are you guys?” “ I have no idea” I replied. “Ty, get the map, where are we?” We were in a dead zone so the iPhone wasn’t getting tracking information. “Are you past Puaho?” “Past where?” It was comical. All we knew is we were on our man. Finally we figured out about where we were. The tech offered, “Rich is way out ahead. I’ll check back and figure out where and who the next racer is behind Rich and call back.”
By this time, Rich was yelling something at us. “What’s my CAP?” That is what is sounded like. We asked the tech on the phone, “What’s a cap?” Later I learned he was saying, “What’s my GAP!” That’s just how novice we were…it also is hilarious because you have to get that communication when you do the handoff. There are no radios, so you try to yell something as he whizzes by and then interpret what he said. And it’s never clear.
We got a call saying that Mike LaRoux was 2 miles behind Rich. Alexandre Rubiero was not far behind him. Rubiero, the pro sponsored Brazilian athlete was the then 3-time Ultraman champion who is a super fast cyclist. Alan let Rich know the gap on the next handoff. He was not happy; actually that is not a clear description. He was screaming, “F”””k !, F”””K!” He was sure that if the top guys were just a couple miles back, he would get passed. We weren’t exactly sure how many miles were left to the finish line. The winds were fierce and sometimes it looked as if Rich was standing still. Every moment seemed like an eternity and we watched, wished, hoped, cheered and pushed for Rich to win the day. This was something that was not a possibility in the arena of stats and logic. Rich Roll wins the day? No way. No how. But our man was still in the lead.
All of a sudden we saw a rider turn the corner. Our hearts sank as we watched him easily ride up on Rich and pass. Alan told us not to lose our hearts and to stay up and pushing. “Drive up to the crest, I’ll hand him a bottle!” He jumped out to do a handoff. Tyler and I sat speechless as Alan handed off to Rich. Then the unthinkable happened. The other rider stopped and shook hands with Alan. Then they started having a conversation. Tyler and I started freaking out. What was he doing? Alan ran back to the car laughing hysterically. “That guy is not in the race!” We all screamed and laughed so hard. It seemed like a cosmic joke. Of course now, we saw there were no numbers on the riders jersey. We got back in our lead mode and pushed Rich forward.
One mare time I saw a rider come into view from the rearview mirror. I shouted, “Alan, there’s a rider coming up!” “ Relax,” Alan replied, “ that’s my friend Rob, and I know him!” It was the same guy that had fallen back. Again, we fell over laughing and resumed cheering for our man.
When the left hand turn for the finish came into view. Tyler, our 14-year-old son, jumped out to wave Rich in. We were absolutely floored. To see him make that turn and head down into the finish line was truly an epic moment. When Rich crossed the finish line winning the swim, the bike and the entire first day, he broke down in tears. Tyler was the first into his arms, then Alan. I threw the car into park and ran out to kiss him.
Nine minutes, 55 seconds later, Ribiero came in followed by the desert runner man, Mike LaRoux. Ribiero congratulated Rich and they hugged. I got some great shots of them together. It was truly a dream realized for Rich. As it turned out, all the information about where the other riders were was not correct. We must have been farther along than we thought. Rich owned that day.
Rich went to get his legs massaged which is rare for him, as he normally doesn’t like it. He asked me to lie on the ground so I could see his face through the cradle. We held hands as Tyler sat near us and recapped the day. Many many tears of gratitude were shed. It was truly one of the high moments of Rich’s life and of my life.
I woke at 3am to start setting the energetic field for Rich. I opened a field to bring in energetic and healing support from the inner planes.
We stayed at the Volcano House, which has a lot of charm-sort of, much like the movie “ The Shining” without the scary feelings. The whole place is damp and you never get dry. I was freezing the entire time we were there. I can’t imagine having to get on a bike in the pitch black and pouring rain and head down a steep descent. But that is what the riders would do at 6:30 am on day 2.
We met at Jason Lester’s room at 5 am for a Vita-Mix. We decided to skip the breakfast. We had bought an expensive dinner in the restaurant the night before that contained minimal nutrition. So we tried to get Rich and the crew “juiced” up with good nutrients.
We later found out that both Rich and Jason were vomiting throughout the entire swim. Rich doesn’t like to eat in the morning. So it’s always a challenge to get him the nutrition he needs when training and racing. Usually he can handle a lean Vita-Mix. But on day one he ate some cereal and toast.
We teased Rich that he was being a whale. Mike the paddler, said he was hearing this guttural sounds coming from Rich. He wondered was Rich trying to tell him something. Then he saw Rich roll over on his back and spew vomit into the air. Just another detail that didn’t make the news…the true inside story…
We pulled into the starting area and unloaded Rich and his bike. I made eye contact with Sheryl the race director. Each crew captain had to check in at the start and finish of each day. She gave me the thumbs up and I kissed Rich good luck.
The cars had to proceed before the bikers and wait at the bottom of the descent. The plan was that Rich would remove his jacket at the bottom and we would need to grab it. You get penalized for leaving anything on the road. We saw the other crew vans gathered in a parking lot. We pulled in and grabbed a spot on the side of the Highway. Tyler, Alan and I had our cameras out and all of a sudden the first pack whipped around the bend going about 40 mph. I didn’t see Rich. Then Alan said, “That was him, he was in the center”, “No, it wasn’t him” I replied, “ Yeah it was”, said Alan. At that moment, we realized that we had no choice but to assume that it was, If we lost him, we would jeopardize his race, and standing here arguing about it wasn’t saving us any time. In hindsight, we could have waited a spot for the next pack. But we jumped in the van and we were off. We had to catch the first pack and verify if he was in there. We finally caught them and Rich was not there. I was starting to freak out. Then we saw Rich coming down as we were driving the opposite direction with no jacket on. We had to get that jacket so we backtracked to the beginning only to get caught in a slow Hawaiian traffic light. I wanted to whip a u turn so badly but you have to drive safely and within the laws so I cussed a lot until we were headed back in Rich’s direction. And Rich’s jacket was nowhere to be found. Allen saw something in the road, “That’s not his jacket!” I said, Alan screamed, “Stop, and pull over!” He jumped out of the van and in full on “Running Elk” style, he ran out into traffic grabbed something and handed them to me. “Purple gloves? Are you f’ing kidding me? Rich doesn’t wear purple gloves!” I was out of my mind! We had lost our rider and didn’t have his jacket. We later found out they were Miro Kregar’s – the Slovenian athlete who would go on to win the Day 3 double marathon leg of the race…
We finally caught up to Rich. Alan jumped out and gave him some nutrition. Rich was okay and we were back on track. For the next hour, we rocked it. Rich had bottles and nutrition and he was rolling really well. Coming up fast was the sacred “Red Road” – a sacred 18 mile section of the Island and also the only part of the entire course off-limits to crew vehicles. It was thus critical to get Rich his nutrition and hydration before this turn. He had made it very clear that “no matter what” he needed fuel before he left our company. Unfortunately. We completely miscalculated how quickly this turn appeared. In fact, Alan handed Rich a bottle and I saw Rich shake it and throw it to the ground. Rich yelled “ there is nothing in here!” Just then Rich made the turn onto Red Road – without any water or nutrition! Alan tried to run after him, but Rich was gone. We had missed Rich’s key nutrition handoff of the day. Now he would ride 18 miles without water or nutrition.
I asked Alan what was up with the empty bottle. He replied that he didn’t want to weight him down. A creative choice no doubt but the timing could prove critical.
We silently made our way to loop around where we could meet Rich on the other side of the Red Road. Tyler was navigating a very tough task for anyone, much less a 14 year old. The road doesn’t look like the map and the course arrows are about 6 inches long by 2 inches high. They are not easy to see.
The energy of the day had been this sort of adolescent knee jerk approach. I felt we were flying high on the adrenaline of the first day and making stupid moves. Tyler told me to make a wrong turn and I saw the course arrow out of the corner of my eye.
I pulled the car onto the shoulder. I think I remember a car honking. I ordered them out of the car and to the back of the van. “Get down on you knees!” I demanded. I got down on my knees and in the rain; kneeling in the mud, I called for help. I opened the field and I asked all of our guides and higher selves to come forward and clear this negative energy and to reset and harmonize us in the highest divine potential. I asked for the grace to wipe the slate clean and begin again as ONE
We got back in the car and I grabbed Tyler’s hand. “You all right honey? I love you and you are doing a great job, but we all needed a reset…. You okay Alan?” “Yeah Mom, I’m good.” Later on Alan and Tyler laughed and said, “ You had to give us some get back in line Mom energy!”
I’m sure people passed and they wondered, “What are these people doing on their knees?” You know an old friend who performed Rich and my marriage ceremony, Bhagavan Das, used to tell me, sometimes you got to lay it down to rise up. We had gotten out of balance and we needed to get back in our humility and reverence to make our way out…
In hindsight, I somehow had known that something was off.
As Rich appeared coming out the mouth of the Red Road, he was moving slow. I knew something was off. He emerged, bleeding from his legs and shoulder with a broken pedal. I just stayed neutral and observed what he needed. “I’m done” Rich said. “I don’t have another pedal” Just then another crew member says, “No, you’re not”, within minutes they had another pedal on. Rich took some water and nutrition and handful of roasted potatoes. Another crewmember offered him salve to put on his wounds.
This is one of the moments that we experienced the deep Ohana or family spirit of this race. It was a beautiful offering of support from another team. I will never forget that.
Rich was back in the race. As it turns out, we needed that reset, and we would need all of our wits and energy to support him. He still had 130 miles to go over some of the toughest inclines and strongest winds I have ever seen.
We stayed right with him for the remainder of the race. It was agonizing seeing him make his way up another and then another and yet another steep incline, agonizing in pain from the crash. It just kept going for miles and miles. It was raining for much of the ride and the winds were howling. So much for that Hawaiian heat! It was downright cold outside.
Ultra-legend Shanna Armstrong her Swiss foe, female competitor Trish rode up on Rich and passed him. Not good. Later he passed them both. But in the end they both passed him again and rode up ahead. We didn’t know whether to tell him there were riders coming up on him or just let him stay in his own space and race his race. He was in agony and just pushing through. I think we decided to say nothing and leave him be.
Rich just kept going. Our heart’s bled for him with every rotation of the wheels. But there was no way we could know the experience he was having, enduring the pain from his knee and the 4“ open wound on his shoulder, the mental upset from the crash, and riding in shock in the cold rain and wind. He put his head down and pushed and pushed.
What most people don’t know is that Rich suffered a very severe crash in June of 2009. It was a moment that forever changed us. He crashed on his face and had massive open gashes inside his mouth and the skin was completely torn from his nose. I remember him soaking in our bathtub completely unrecognizable after he left the ER. I asked him, “ So if this had been your exit point from this life, is this it for you?” He replied, “ Yeah, this is it.” “Great, let’s do it then.” I replied. Then he asked, “What are you thinking?” I answered, “ I’m thinking ‘English Patient’.”
Crashing on the Red Road brought back some of those memories and it upset him more mentally and emotionally than physically. This crash was not even close to what he endured in the June crash. But he also was hit by a car on PCH in August and suffered a cracked rib.
We kind of thought our crashing quota was up, so when he crashed on Day 2, it definitely affected us.
If you look at the road rash in the photos, it doesn’t look like that much. But I am writing this six weeks later and he is still in pain and healing.
When we arrived at the final incline – an 8 mile ascent up the “Kohalas” to Hawi, it was a beautiful ascent, unless you are the rider who has suffered the wrath of Red Road. It was a constant formidable grade that seemed to have no end. There is virtually no shoulder and you are not allowed to drive alongside your cyclist. We leapfrogged to the best of our ability; there was no way we would lose sight of him now.
For the descent, he wanted us behind him with flashers on. Close enough to give him some protection, but not so close that if he crashed we would run over him. Okay sounds reasonable. We tried to calculate when that descent would present itself, keeping behind him and pulling over into the narrow shoulder when other traffic came up on us.
Finally, the grade started to drop. We were in the final miles of day 2. We carefully stayed behind him and we started to feel the exhaustion of the emotion and tragedy of the day.
As Rich crossed the finish line, we parked the van and ran to him. He broke down from the pain. We laid him down on some towels and the race medic came to assist us. He told me that was the hardest day he had ever endured. I apologized to him for our mistakes. The race director, Sheryl, congratulated him on finishing the day. And she thanked me for getting him in safely. I told her that although we had gotten him in safely, we had failed him many times that day.
We had experienced the thrill of victory on day one and now the agony of defeat on day two. A little like real life. The yin and yang. The light and the dark, the truth of the spiritual journey.
He had dropped to 6th place overall from first the day before. But all told, he hung in very tough.
The doctor gave me some live aloe vera plant. I hugged her and thanked her. Jason came in some minutes later and had no idea Rich had crashed.
We all drove over to the house where Jason and Rich would be staying. I got Rich in the bathtub and washed his wounds in a hydrogen peroxide solution mixed one part to five parts. The doc had told me to do this so it wouldn’t scar.
Rich and I had some private moments and talked about the day. As I wiped the open wounds with Aloe I asked Rich to speak to Alan and Tyler. I was worried about them. We were really beat up and I had been harsh and stern with them.
Rich called them in and thanked them for their support and he assured us that we had done a great job. He acknowledged the fact that it is really hard to crew especially if you haven’t done it before. He was grateful beyond words. We all shed a tear together. Rich was not sure if he would run the next day on his knee. I had him move it and looked at everything. I didn’t say a word, but I was pretty sure he would run.
I went downstairs to get Rich some ice to put on his legs and ran into Jason in the kitchen in front of his Vita-Mix. Jason says, “ I feel like I’m going to pass out.” “Sit down” I say to him. “ No, I need to get my nutrition.” Jason replies. I climb back up the stairs, thinking “ Who ARE these people?”
We left to head back down to Kona to see the girls and Trapper. Also we would pick up Mike Field for day three. Ty would stay back and Trapper would join us for the 52 miles.
None of us had eaten a thing all day save potato chips and peanuts. We were emotionally fried. We found a café and stopped in to feed ourselves. We were so relieved to have come through this day. Tyler and I had veggie sandwiches and a carrot coconut soup, which was divine. Running Elk had a — you guessed it — Bison burger. It was the best food we ever tasted and we kept thanking and honoring the woman who owned the café. She was sort of taken aback by our enthusiasm. She had no idea what we had just experienced.
We drove down the coast and headed into Kona. We arrived at our rented beach house. It was great to see the kids. Nicole our child crew did the most amazing job. The girls were happy and fully enjoying the islands. They were naked, with malas draped around their necks, flowers in their hair and third eyes, adorned. If you know my girls, this is how they love to be. Nicole is the child whisperer, and a Reiki Master. They had built a labyrinth on the sand. She took such great care of everyone.
I woke at 3 am. Trapper, Alan and I kneeled in a circle and called in support for the day and sealed our energies as one in service to Rich.
We picked Mike Field up at 4 am in the Starbucks parking lot. We got acquainted on the drive up. We had met Mike briefly on the dock in the dark on day one. Mike and his crew had done a stellar job for Rich. Mike and his family are truly a soul connection that will endure the test of time. We were so happy to have him with us for day 3. They are all so dear to us.
We got lost on the way up. Mike drives this road often and even he got lost momentarily. I guess it’s not that easy to navigate this island. We arrived at the breakfast to a sea of competitors. But I couldn’t find Rich or Jason for that matter. They started announcing that we would all caravan to the start in five minutes. I told Trapper to call Rich’s cell. He kept trying, but it went right to voice mail. I was starting to get really worried. Did Rich decide not to run? But Jason wasn’t here either. Mike and I decided it best to go with the caravan to the start. Maybe they decided to skip the breakfast and socializing.
We were at the front of the line of crew cars. Mike said, “I’ll throw on my running shoes and run back to see if I can find him.” Trapper and Alan stayed in the car. I went to find Sheryl the race director to check in.
A circle was forming in the pitch black with all the competitors holding hands around a Grandmother Kahuna with a large conch shell; she would blow in the four directions to call in the ancestors. They were taking roll and calling for Jason Lester who was missing. I think Sheryl checked Rich in as she saw me, but Rich was not with me.
All of a sudden out of the dark, I saw him step forward. There he was all in white and looking great, beautiful and strong. My heart smiled. I walked to him and I kissed him good luck as he stepped into the circle. I knew it was going to be a great day.
I found Mike and got Trapper and Alan out of the car. We could stay back a bit and enjoy the energy of all the runners and cheer Rich on to a great day ahead. The atmosphere was really upbeat. At least it felt that way to me. It was an honor to walk among all these amazing men and women. They are varied in age and origin. It could have been anyone there. Well not anyone, but you can’t tell an ULTRAMAN competitor by looks alone. I think it takes something deeper, that is unseen by the human eye. They are much more than human…
Day 3 was a much-welcomed relief from the tragedy and intensity of the prior day. Rich looked just great. He was in good spirits and running at a good pace. I had a lot of time to take pictures and we had a lot of fun on this day.
I was kind of disappointed that Tyler couldn’t be with us. He had endured so much on Day 1 and Day 2. It would have been a great wrap up to the experience. He really put in a lot of energy and it had been intense for him. But Trapper had waited patiently for his turn to be with Rich on the race and had put in his hours with his little sisters. Trapper is the runner of the family, so he really wanted to be able to run with Rich. He got his opportunity more than once and he did really well to lift Rich’s spirits. I have great video and photos of them running together. Mike was also an awesome pacer. He ran I think a total of 20 miles that day.
As we passed the first marathon mark, it was inconsequential. It just seems like they just ran five miles, there is no one blowing up or freaking out like you see on TV. They are just moving on…surreal. At least that was the view from our vantage point.
Somewhere in the second half of those 52 miles, Mike stepped out to join Rich on an incline. Mike said that their legs were starting to lock up and just then they saw a whale breach. This gave them new energy to get it on and tackle that incline. The healer named Grandma Chandra I had mentioned earlier told me she would appear to Rich as a whale during the race a show of support that her energy was with him. We had all assumed this would be during the swim, which didn’t happen, and then when you least expect it, it appears…Thanks Grandma!
We had some other spiritual totems and signs given to us. Alan, aka Running Elk, was speaking to us of the sun dance ceremony that he will participate in during, June of 2010. He was telling us of the chest piercing that the men endure as an initiation. The cherry wood sticks are pierced in one side of the skin and then out the other to form a tab where they are lifted up onto this totem pole that has been erected. It reminded me of the movie “Little Big Man”, with Dustin Hoffman.
The next time we pulled over, we discovered a sun dance piercing in the sidewall of our tire. Very bizarre, in all my life, I have never seen such a thing in a tire. And the synchronicity of the timing of it all well lets just say we knew we were not alone.
As we headed into Kona, Mike jumped out and showed Rich exactly where the finish was. It was such a smart move. It was the last five miles and Rich was feeling the fatigue. When Mike showed him it lifted Rich’s spirits. At the final left turn, Mike again jumped out and we pulled into a nearby parking lot. Mike paced Rich for a stretch and then jumped back in as we drove in a bit ahead of Rich to get to the finish before he crossed over the line. We were cheering loudly for him now; he had it in the bag. He completed the 52.4 miles in 7 hours 51 minutes. Over an hour faster than his 2008 run performance, on an injured knee and shoulder. It ended up being good enough to hold on to 6th place overall with a total time of just over 24 hours. Not bad.
Nicole, Tyler, Mathis and Jaya were waiting for us at the finish. We all rushed to congratulate Rich on his stellar race. It was the experience of a lifetime and we were all forever changed. Like a fine sculptor, Rich had added to our beings, a beauty we had not known before. He had then taken something out that was no longer needed, and finally in the end, he smoothed out the open wounds and engraved deep meaning into our hearts.
We enjoyed the kids at the finish line and waited to cheer in Jason and the other competitors.
All the top finishers teased Rich, asking him why he was wincing? One asked him in a guttural European snide, “What’s wrong? You want to go for a short run together now?” To which Rich replied, “ no, but I’ll go for a swim with you!” “No, I would drown”. He replied. Very funny humor. They don’t really look like they are hurting so much but the next day in town you see them limping and struggling up an down the stairs…well I didn’t see Ribiero limping… ever…
On the beach that evening with Rich, we gave thanks to Creation that I was his crew. That the children were here to experience this with him was it connected us at a whole new level, deeper than we ever thought possible. What a blessing of life we were given.
We spent the next week recovering and enjoying the island and our new friends. We had dinners with Mike Field and his family, Jason, and Jochen Dembek and wife Judith. We spent a day with Mike out on his paddle sailboat that he made himself. And Rich and I even had one dinner out alone. We were really loved by the Big Island and we felt totally supported there. We know we will be back soon.
The morning our flight departed, we gathered in a circle on the beach and we gave thanks to all who had a part in this. From our friends and families to the great divine ones and nature spirits that loved us and blessed us, we offered a deep Namaste, and Aloha. It is forever in our hearts and we consider it our Ohana…. until next time…JAI!
Rich’s number was 493, which contains a 1, 13, 7 and a 6. Which were all significant numbers for his race. A 1 for the day one win, a 6 for the day two overall place, a 7th for day three overall. And the 13, the master number for the whales. Rich’s total time 24:20:31 adds up to, that’s right, 13.
Since the race, we had Chief Golden Eagle and his tribe host a workshop at the JAI house. I have picked up a new name, Ina Waste, meaning beautiful or good Mother. I am honored to take on this robe of the Lakota Star Nations. We are starting our JAI SEED School and he offered his blessing and foundations for it.
Rich and I finally had a moment’s peace after everyone departed. We have been moving a lot of energy with first Ultraman and then the Chief’s visit. After eating dinner with the girls, he asked me if I wanted to watch Ironman 2009 that he had recorded. Now, usually, I exit the room quickly whenever Ironman footage appears. Not this time. I anxiously watched and enjoyed every minute of the race. Rich and I laughed at the contrast. “Wouldn’t it be hilarious if I started racing?” I asked him. “Yeah and then we can fight over who gets to train!” At this point I can’t see myself putting my body through that kind of pain. I am a different breed of human. I think my efforts better spent in meditation and yoga practice, which consists of asana, cooking, loving my children and my husband singing, painting and creating…but never say never….
It is evident that the beauty of this race is rooted in the hearts of the founders, Jane Bockus and Sheryl Cobb. They are doing a great healing for humanity and for the planet. Without them, this race would not carry such a high vibration. As these athletes gather and move their bodies to places never before experienced, they are anchoring new DNA coding for creation. Winners or not, just the act of committing the physical to this experience, training and racing is much more than an egotistic endeavor. The Ultramen (meaning both male and female) are a unique breed of humans shifting the planet and healing all of creation.
To all of you, I offer my love and respect and deep Namaste and thanks for your presence on the planet.
The divine in me, sees the divine in you.
Thank you and Aloha!!!
Ma Ananda Shreemati
What an amazing, beautiful and inspiring story! I read every word and even had tears in my eyes after Day 2. Thank you for sharing this.
Love from Emily in Israel
What a great story thank you very much for sharing with us.
Moving story Julie.