This past Fall, barely six months following a heart attack, Chris McDonald entered his first ultra-marathons. We caught up with the 7x Ironman champion to learn more about his motivation to enter these races, his experience and whether this might be the beginning of a new direction in his athletic career.
Q. What prompted you to want to do an ultra?
A. It was honestly a last minute decision. I did some pacing up at the Leadville 100 and thought that the vibe was super cool and wanted to explore doing an ultra or two.
Q. Is this the first time that you’ve done this type of race?
A. Absolutely. The longest I have ever run prior to Saturday was 26.2 miles and one step. With how I feel today, I would not recommend doing that to anyone else.
Q. How does it compare to Ironman triathlons? Road marathons?
A. It is a LOT different and also I believe a lot harder. the first 4 to 5 hours seem very easy actually but then you start to deal with a lot of joint and muscular pain that you never really get to in an Ironman race. Cardiovascular wise it is actually "easy" as you are never really going that hard.
Q. You were on the roster to race Chattanooga this same weekend, why didn’t you race there?
A. I would have loved to have been on the start line for chatty as the race has been on my bucket list for a long time. Problem is I have been dealing with a health issue since February and I thought it was better and safer that I didn't start in Chatty.
Q. Does this feel like a bucket list type thing or a new career type of thing?
A. Maybe not a "new career" but I may jump into another if I was a little more trained.
Q. Anything else on your list? Everest? Kilimanjaro?
A. Hell no! I know my limits (I think). I will have something pretty new and fun to announce soon though :)
Q. Let’s talk gear! As a first timer, what did you learn about proper gear requirement?
A. Let's just say that 9 hours is a long time to be running and having the right shorts, socks etc., is critical. I was wearing the new Own Way 100 running shorts and ultralight running singlet.
Q. You were also decked out in Ruby’s Anti-Chafe, how did this help you? Apart from the obvious nether regions, where else does Ruby’s get applied?
A. I pretty much used an entire tube of Ruby's on my feet. We had 15 water crossings during the run and having wet feet was always going to be an issue. I'm happy to say that I don't have a single blister and I am not going to loose any toe nails.
Q. Any other tips for endurance athletes looking for a new challenge?
A. I say get out of your comfort zone. Be adventurous. I have done 59 Ironman races and they just didn't scare me anymore so I wanted to find something that made me second guess things.
Q. I heard that you did some pretty unconventional training to get ready, care to share one of those experiences?
A. Well, I did throw in one pretty epic day of training with my friend Richie Cunningham. We ran/hiked 6 of the peaks here in Colorado that rise above an elevation of 14,000 feet. Oh yeah, we did that in one day. That was pretty solid training!
Q. Would this type of race format and training help or hurt an athlete focused on IM training..?
A. I think doing 62 miles may be a little long for most IM athletes but it sure helps to put things into perspective in terms of pain level.
Chris finished his first 100K ultra-marathon in 9 hours and 11 minutes placing 2nd overall. At the Pass Mountain 25K, Chris finished 7th overall (2nd in age category) with a time of 2 hours flat (average pace of 7:49)