The Epic5 Triathlon Challenge: How to Complete 5 IRONMAN Distances in 5 days!
Sometimes the craziest things come up in casual conversations when chatting to a stranger after a race. Even though I’ve been racing and running most of my life, I had never heard of the Epic5.
Enter Chad Esker. An athlete who took part in some of the most strenuous triathlon, ironman, and extreme runs known to man.
The longer I spoke to him, the more enthralled I became with his story of participation in extreme sports.
What Is the Epic5?
Have you heard of an Ironman? Considered one of the largest tests of the human body and spirit, in an Ironman, the athlete swims for 2.4 miles, bikes 112 miles then finishes off with a 26.2-mile run. Yup. That’s a marathon at the end of all of that.
If you are like me, the idea of doing that 140.6-mile test of endurance sounds crazy.
In the Epic5, the athletes who have been chosen complete five 140.6 mile triathlons in 5 days. You read that right.
Five consecutive days of sheer grit and determination.
The Epic5 is held each year on 5 Hawaiian Islands, finishing in under a week.
The Crew Behind the Epic5 Athletes
Every athlete who enters the Epic5 gets a crew of men or women to help ensure success. Many people have their athletes training alongside them throughout the entire process, which is a crucial component because when things get rough, you will need them.
Esker’s crew is tasked with keeping him safe and healthy as he completes the task ahead of him. He will become so exhausted; he won’t be able to. The crew will calculate nutrition intake and needs, ensure he does not dehydrate, and keep him on target.
Their job is to keep him as physically and mentally strong as they can. Given what the Epic5 entails, that is no small task.
“On the swim on one day, my crew became my lifeline. I did not have the strength to keep my head above water.” Esker had a friend alongside him every step of the way when things got challenging. Including on day 5 (pictured below) after he got sick on the swim two days in a row.
No one anticipated Esker would struggle on the swim of all things. The pool is his happy place, but the waves and unpredictable ocean are a game-changer to a midwestern man.
Esker said, “The crew is one of the most crucial parts of any Ultra event. They monitor nutrition & hydration. My crew could even monitor my heart rate. In a challenge like Epic5, the bike needs to be dismantled and placed in a case to be transported to the next island.
You need a key person that knows this equipment and can make repairs as needed. With Epic5, not all the roads are marked, so your crew will guide you through turn-by-turn directions. On one of the islands, there were over 100 turns in the 112-mile bike ride. We always had a driver, and another crew person was navigating with a phone, laptop and following the directions in the race manual.
During the run, we were allowed to have one crew person pace to keep us going when times get tough.”
Race Fee & Course
This race was founded as an idea for adventure. However, you can’t just pay a fee and become part of the elite group of those who attempt this feat. There must be a documented history of ultra triathlon experience to be accepted into the Epic5 family.
Athletes who apply and finance the $8,500 bill can potentially become part of the elite group of athletes who have attempted this challenge.
That fee is not all-inclusive. You also have to get yourself to the Hawaiian Islands.
I was surprised to find that there are other common costs, including:
- Travel for yourself and crew.
- Meals for yourself and crew.
- Fuel for athlete while on the courses.
- Crew fee of $695 per crew member.
- Lodging while on the islands.
- Rental vehicles and parking fees.
Since there are 5 races on five different islands, you have to complete each day’s event with enough time to travel and get to the next destination to race. That means if you don’t make the cutoff to hop a plane, you don’t move on.
Why Join Something Like the Epic5?
You are probably wondering why someone would travel across the country to swim, bike and run 703 miles. If you ask Chad Esker, the answer is, “I met a group of people that became close friends. They invited me into their swim group and pushed me to sign up for a sprint triathlon.
After doing that it just became addicting, and I started to up the challenges. I signed up for a marathon, then an Olympic distance tri, then an Ironman. y friend Justin Mulder (who was 16 at the time) said “if you enjoy Ironman so much you should apply for this Ultramann Race I found on the internet.”
After reading about it I became very intrigued. I never thought for a second they would accept my application but decided to apply anyway. It was a total shock when I received that phone interview and was accepted to be in the race.”
How to Train for an Epic5
“It’s 3:00 a.m. and we were up for a long run to get used to the sleep deprivation.” This is a quote from a video featuring Esker and some friends getting ready to head out for a run in full safety gear.
When I asked Esker what his overall training looks like, here was his response.
“Nick Bradfish, my best friend, crew chief and coach created the training plans for me. He made a 26-week plan and started it easy with about 14 hours a week of training. We peaked out at 32.5 hours of training in one week.
He planned all of my works out in hours, not distances. Every Sunday, Nick would give me the plan for the week that would start on Monday morning. He would never let me see the entire plan he created and a week before we left for Hawaii I understood why.
I was on my way to do a motivational speech to a local high school track team. On my way, there was a little panicked about what I was going to talk about. I called Nick and asked him if he had any idea how many miles I did in training. He responded, “I have every mile documented. (He took the computer from my bike and my watch weekly and pulled the data from it.)
You swam 170 miles, you biked from your house (central Wisconsin) to San Francisco and back, you ran from your house to Orlando This was just in training. I was blown away and never thought that was possible.
His response was “that’s why I only gave you one week at a time. If I would have shown you the entire training plan you would have said you couldn’t do it”.
The Craziest Ultramarathon – Ultraman Florida
While talking to Chad Esker, I found myself asking if this was the craziest thing he had ever done. “You mean besides Ultraman in Florida?”
Ummm, what’s Ultraman? Oh, that’s just a 3 day, 321.6 ultra-endurance event. Oh… that little thing.
“Ultraman Florida is a three-day athletic endeavor guaranteed to test an athlete’s physical and mental limits. It is a journey that will touch your soul and create memories that will last a lifetime.
The race covers a total distance of 321.6 miles (517.5km), around central Florida; it requires that each participant complete a 6.2 mile (10km) open water swim, a 263 mile (423km) bike ride, and a 52.4 mile (84km) ultra-marathon run.
Day 1 consists of a 6.2-mile swim and 92-mile bike, Day 2 is a 171-mile bike, and Day 3 is a 52.4-mile run.”
Why do such an extreme race?
Well, Esker surprised me when he responded, “I never played sports in high school; I never considered myself an athlete. I was in my mid-30s, overweight, had high blood pressure, and decided to change.
I started running and ate less. I dropped 50 lbs in 3 months. When winter set in, I decided to try swimming. I showed up at the YMCA and saw this group of swimmers, and they invited me to join them. I declined because I knew I could never keep up. One person insisted I try it out.
So, the next day I joined them but only made about 1/2 the workout. Pat looked at me and said, ” don’t give up on this, be here tomorrow.” I had no idea those 7 words would change my entire life. They saw a talent I never knew I had.
I always encourage people to try new things, and if you want something in life, there are no limits!”
In Esker’s spare time, he does have a real job. Although, admittedly a very flexible one. Oh, and he also races, pushing a Captain for My Team Triumph.
Inspiring Others To Try New challenges
My favorite part of this interview was learning that, at one time, Chad Esker was just like the rest of the world. And one day he woke up and decided to change his life because someone told him not to give up.
If you are reading this thinking, “Ummm.. no. I couldn’t possibly do that.” Well, Chad would tell you that you are right.
However, if you are reading this and find yourself thinking, “Hey! Maybe I should choose a new challenge. I bet I could do something epic.” Well, Chad would also tell you that you are right.
Why? Because your attitude and mindset is the only thing separating you from reaching beautiful destinations.
Check out our story on the Iron Cowboy James Lawrence, an athlete who completed 100 triathlons in 100 days.
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