Challenge Wanaka

Supporting UltraHumps

In May 2016, I had the privilege of being a member of an UltraMan support crew.  Along with Scott and Ray, I went to Noosa to support Humps in his first UltraMan event.  He has asked me to help again this year, and I’ve been pondering my response.

Ultraman Oz
As UltraHumps made his way across the sand for the final kilometre of the double marathon (84km) on Day 3. Derrick (right) lead him home. © Barry Alsop

If you’ve read Scott’s Blog post  you may recognise a common theme in some of my comments……  When Humps (AKA UltraHumps) asked me if I would be in his support crew for the 2016 UltraMan, my initial thought was, how hard can this be? A week in Noosa, it’ll be warm, it’s not like I’ll be running or anything like that. It’ll be a nice relaxing break away!  Yep – Like Scott, I was wrong…….

It was only after Humps confirmed that I’d actually paid for my plane tickets that he outlined what the support crew would be responsible for.  Any notions of a holiday in Noosa were quickly dispelled as we began to understand the size of the task at hand for our man; a 10km swim and a 140km bike ride on Day One, a 280km bike ride on Day Two, and a double marathon on Day Three.  Say it quickly and it sounds impressive.  Say it slowly, taking the time to reflect on the individual distances, and the word ‘impressive’ doesn’t seem to do it justice.  

Because many people relate easily to running, I’ve gotten into the habit of emphasising the run distance when I tell people what our guy did on a hot Day Three in Noosa last year.  He ran a marathon out to the turn around point and then ran a marathon back to the finish line.  Eighty four kilometres.  And that was after two gruelling days of swimming and cycling.

Challenge Wanaka
At the end of the swim and start of the bike on Day 1, UltraHUmps needs a lot of help to get everything good to go as qwikly as possible. Derrick is on the right with food ready to feed Humps. © Barry Alsop

I have great memories of that trip.  There were some long days organising ourselves and UltraHumps, but we were all focussed on helping a mate achieve something very special.  In turn, we were blessed with great support from friends and colleagues, and we were all very much aware that in addition to the three of us supporting UltraHumps on the ground.  There were hundreds of others around the globe, supporting him in spirit and on social media.

We were especially fortunate to have the support of Debs and Simon Pohatu, both former members of the NZDF and great friends of ours.  Like me, they have had a long association with Humps.  Based in Brisbane, Debs is a key member of Anodyne Services Australia (ASA), and she saw to it that we were well set up with vehicles and equipment.  The support from ASA was humbling and significant, and was a huge assist with our preparation.

Lots of things worked well for us as a team.  We were all able to get time off work, we had great accommodation, thanks to Debs and ASA we had great vehicles and equipment, and luckily for Humps, all three of us could rustle up a decent meal.  We learnt lots of things too, like donuts aren’t always a good idea, throwing food at a speeding cyclist doesn’t always work out well, and everyone feels better after a tanty……

One of my enduring memories though was how inspirational the experience was.  There were some 40 elite athletes competing last year.  All had to meet rigorous selection criteria, and I think I expected them all to be racing sardines with glazed looks in their eyes.  The reality is that they were real people from all walks of life, with differing reasons for competing.  Not all were racing sardines, but all shared a common goal of pitting themselves against the UltraMan challenge and conquering it.  UltraMan resounded with me – probably because I saw in the people competing in this event those qualities we in the NZDF hold dear:  Courage, Commitment, Comradeship, and Integrity.   I saw athletes stop to help each other, I saw athletes fall down, get up bloodied, and keep going, and I saw rival support crews help each others athletes without being asked.  I saw incredible examples of ordinary people facing down personal demons, and crossing a very special finish line.

At the finish line Team UltraHumps (Derrick is on the right). © Barry Alsop

The event culminates with an Awards Dinner.  Every athlete who finishes UltraMan is invited onto the stage to receive the UltraMan Medal, and then has the opportunity to spend a few minutes with the microphone.  Listening to many of those stories was truly inspirational.  Our guy modestly talked of the charity he was fund-raising for.  He glossed over the fact that not too long ago he couldn’t swim, and couldn’t ride a bike very well.  Not only did he complete UltraMan, but he won the Military Division.  That’s inspiration right there.  Think I’ll go back to Noosa this year and toss another doughnut at him…….

If you wish to donate to UltraHumps charity of the Children of the Fallen Heroes, which is what the 3+2+1=Charity is all about, then please use the enclosed link.   100% of the funds raised goes to the cause.  UltraHumps is paying all other expenses himself.

– Derrick McMillan (Team UltraHumps 2016 & 2017)

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