What happens when the world's fittest athletes need a new challenge? Well, for those that find the legendary Ironman triathlons too much like a walk in the park, the home of triathlon itself is hosting the 2009 Ultraman World Championships, November 27-29, which can be followed online via the event's website.
The Ironman contest emerged on the Hawaiian island of Oahu in the late 1970s, when the templates for three pre-existing races were combined to settle an argument about which endurance sports produced the fittest athletes. As a modern-day event, the World Championship, now on Hawaii's Big Island, comprises a 3.86km (2.4mi) swim, a 185km (115mi) bicycle race, and a full-length marathon of 42.2km (26mi).
By contrast, the Ultraman World Championship is necessarily spread out, taking the form of a three-day, three-stage event because of its great length. First up, there is a 10km (6.2mi) swim followed by a 145km (90mi) cycle race. On the second day, competitors cycle 276km (171.4mi) via a volcanic desert, coastal road, and 8,600ft (2,621m) climb that includes the Kohala Mountains. Finally, for those that are still able to move themselves, day three is a 84km (82.4mi) double-marathon.
Although registrations are still being accepted, the Ultraman World Championship's physical and mental rigous require each athlete to be accompanied by a two-person support team and the benefits of months of training and preparation.
So much so, that from 2010 onwards applicants will need to have completed either a previous Ultraman or one of the year's recent Ironman triathlons in order to prove themselves capable of taking on the challenge.
There are two recognised Ultraman events, the Hawaiian race which started in 1983, and an Ultraman Canada challenge based in Penticton, British Columbia, which followed ten years later.
Ultraman World Championships
November 27-29 2009
Big Island, Hawaii
July 30 - August 3 2010
Penticton, British Columbia, Canada