'Here, hold my beer': Athlete commits to weekend of pain
DURING the day, Gympie's Ben Johnston is an information technology infrastructure analyst, but this weekend he is an ultraman.
The 42-year-old is attempting the Ultraman Australia title, a three-day "sufferfest” which starts at Noosa today and ends Monday May 15.
It starts with a 10km swim off Main Beach followed by a 145km bike ride through Cooroy, Pomona, Kin Kin toward Gympie and back again.
Day two consists of a 421.1km cycling loop beginning and ending in Noosa, taking in Boreen Point, Amamoor, Kandanga, Imbil, Kenilworth, Eumundi, Bli Bli and Mudjimba.
Then there is the tear-inducing Monday, day three, a 84.3km run to Twin Waters and return.
Each tortuous day has a 12-hour cut-off for the athletes.
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Johnston said he got into the sport because he thought it was a good idea at the time.
"It seemed like a good idea at the time. A classic case of 'Here, hold my beer'.
"I watched some of the 2015 event and thought at the time that it looked like a supreme challenge. I looked up the entry requirements, and set off down the road to qualifying. As it turns out, qualifying was the easy part.”
He has since trained his socks off day in, day out, sacrificing much of his life in the pursuit of pain.
"Missing social events with friends and family. I miss sleeping in and waking with the sunrise. Coming to terms with lack of sleep, training fatigued, and backing up day after day, and sticking to the program when I'd like to do something a bit different from time-to-time.
"I'm lucky I have a great group of people from Atlas Multisports who've been training with me.
"I feel like I've been training forever. This event has been a gradual progression from 2013 when I decided to give triathlon a go.
"Yes, that's right, I've only been in this sport for four and a half years. I could barely swim 50m, and I didn't own a bike when I started.
"Ironman Australia in 2016 was my qualifying event, and each race after that was with the purpose of building toward Ultraman 2017.
"The peak weeks have been upward of 20-25hrs covering all disciplines, with majority being long runs and rides. I lost all feeling in my butt months ago, my legs don't talk to me anymore, and my cat no longer recognises me.”
Johnston said he had worries about the race but stopped short of admitting fear.
"The run. It's not a fear, just a concern about how to deal with the accumulated fatigue over three days. Every step beyond the first marathon will be a personal best for me.
"I'm relying heavily on my crew to keep my mind off the sheer size of the task ahead of me. Letting go of the details and allowing my crew to take over has been a challenge for me.
"It'll be hard, very hard, but I'm hoping it will also be fun and I'm wishing all the competitors a great few days.”