“Everybody wants the finish line. Everybody wants a medal. But people don’t want to put the work in.”
In 2010, the tireless and intrepid Jason Lester hoodwinked me into his latest fit of voluntary suffering insanity: an attempt to complete 5 Ironman-distance triathlons on 5 Hawaiian Islands in under 5 days. Hence was born the EPIC5 Challenge — and somehow we survived to tell the tale.
Now institutionalized, EPIC5 annually attracts a global handful of athletes adequately unhinged to retrace our steps. Over the last 8 years, 29 individuals have successfully completed the challenge. Three of these intrepid humans are women. Two of them are here today.
Meet real-life Wonder Women Danielle Grabol & Melissa Urie – both athletes thriving on the cutting edge of ultra-endurance.
But it wasn’t always that way.
Pushing 225 pounds, 15 years ago Dani was a junk food junkie and a pack-a-day smoker who couldn’t even climb a flight of stairs without losing her breath (sounds familiar!). In 2005, her doctor told her that if she didn’t change her ways she’d be dead before she turned 40.
So she hit the gym. It was hardly overnight, but ultimately Dani reinvented herself wholesale. Down 70 pounds, an athlete was born. But on a training ride a year later, Dani was struck by a drunk driver. Her injuries were so severe she was told she would never run or bike again. Instead, she went on to compete in multiple Ironmans and even a double-Ironman. In 2013 she was one-half of the youngest two-person female team to finish RAAM — the legendary bike race across the entire United States. And in 2016, Dani became the very first female to compete in and finish EPIC5 — a stereotype shattering story she lays bare in her beautiful memoir, Fear No Distance.
A mental health nurse from Melbourne, Australia, Mel grew up active but never competitive. But in 1998, in an effort to lose a bit of weight and get fit, she participated in the Great Victorian Bike Ride with her dad. Thus was sparked a passion for ultra-endurance. Over the years, Mel has completed 6 Ironmans and a few double ironman distances races, including Ultraman Canada and Ultraman Australia*. Like Dani, she discovered EPIC5 by way of Finding Ultra, signed up and in 2017, Mel became the second female to ever complete the challenge.
The bottom line? Mel and Dani are two badass women who know how to get it done. And this conversation is about just that.
It’s about putting in the work. It’s about patience. Determination and grit. Not being afraid to fail. It’s about the mindset required to break stereotypes. And it’s about the mental toughness demanded to compete at the highest level in an arena dominated by men.
So check your excuses at the door and enjoy!
Peace + Plants,
*I recorded this interview way back in mid-November. At the time, Mel was preparing for the Ultraman World Championships in Hawaii. Unfortunately she did not finish that race. I’m not sure what happened but I’ll find out and let you know.
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- Connect with Dani: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Strava
- Connect with Mel: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Strava
- Check out Dani’s book: Fear No Distance: A Journey to Life without Limits*
- FOX 5 Atlanta: First woman to finish Epic 5 Challenge, an ultra-distance triathlon
- Triathlete: Danielle Grabol Becomes First Woman To Complete Epic 5
- Moxie Cycling: Q&A with RAAM Team Riders Dani & Kacie
- Triathlete AU: Mel Urie – Simply Epic
- WITSUP: Epic 5 – Mel Urie Reflects
- Kyle Pease Foundation: kylepeasefoundation.org
- Team Hoyt: teamhoyt.com
- Rich Roll: Blog: Some Ruminations On EPIC5
- Rich Roll: Blog: Lester Does It Again
- Ultra Endurance Event: EPIC5 Challenge
- Ultra Cycling Event: RAAM | Race Across America
- Ultra Cycling Event: Race Across The West
- Ultra Triathlon: Uberman
- Film: 3100: Run And Become
Notable People Discussed:
- James Lawrence (a.k.a.”The Iron Cowboy”): completed 50 Ironmans in 50 States in 50 Days in 2015 and (2x) podcast guest
- David Goggins: Navy SEAL, Endurance Athlete and podcast guest
- Courtney Dauwalter: one the nation’s top ultramarathoners, she has run 159.32 miles in 24 hours, breaking the American women’s world record
- Knox Robinson: New York City-based runner, writer, coach, co-founder and captain of the Black Roses NYC run crew and podcast guest
- Rebecca Morgan: race director and CEO of EPIC5 Challenge
- Jason Lester: endurance athlete, the author of Running on Faith*, first disabled athlete to complete the Ultraman World Championships and Rich’s EPIC5 Challenge partner
- Sri Chinmoy: was an Indian spiritual leader who taught meditation in the West after moving to New York City in 1964; He advocated athleticism including distance running and formed The Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team in 1977
- Chet “the JET” Blanton: has done more than 100 Ironman triathlons in his lifetime
- Kacie Darden: endurance athlete, 4x Ironman, 1x double Ironman and 2-person Race Across America female record with Dani Grabol
- Craig Percival: Aussie Ultraman legend, 1st to do 8 Ironmans in 8 consecutive days around Australia who sadly passed away in 2016 after suffering multiple heart attacks during knee surgery
- Kate Bevilaqua: Australian triathlete and the winner of the women’s 2010 Ironman Western Australia Triathlon
Related Podcasts You Might Enjoy:
- RRP #149: 50 Ironmans. 50 Days. 50 States: The Iron Cowboy’s Assault On Impossible — Musings On Limits, Conviction, Family & Service
- RRP #389: Sanjay Rawal On Running As Spiritual Practice
- RRP #037: Hillary Biscay: 60 Ironmans And Counting
- RRP #311: Ultra-Athlete Samantha Gash On Suffering For Your Passion
- RRP #397: Fiona Oakes & Keegan Kuhn Are Running For Good
*Disclosure: Books and products denoted with an asterisk are hyperlinked to an affiliate program. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.
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