The race to be the next Uberman will begin in under two months.
This time, Bradley Joyes, a 34-year-old from the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia, will swim, bike, and run in the 556-mile ultra-triathlon that stretches from Catalina Island to the Mojave Desert.
Joyes found out about Uberman, created by Malibuite Dan Bercu, when he googled “toughest endurance races in the world” around five years ago. Joyes, previously a clearance diver in Australia’s Navy, had just left the military and was feeling a bit lost and wanted some adventure.
“When I researched what was involved I actually thought it was crazy and had no plans to attempt it,” Joyes typed in an email.
Since his web search, the Australian has completed three triathlons including the Ultraman Triathlon Australia. On Oct. 10, he will compete in his first endurance race in the U.S.
“I guess the Uberman has always been in the back of my mind,” Joyes wrote. “It has never left me alone mentally. Now, I hope I’m ready for it.”
Uberman begins with a 21-mile ocean swim from Catalina Island to Palos Verdes, followed by a 400-mile bike ride that passes through Malibu, out of the Los Angeles area and up 20,000 vertical feet before dropping to Death Valley’s Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America. The concluding portion is a 135-mile run through the northern Mojave Desert to Whitney Portal, the trailhead of Mount Whitney at 13,000 feet.
The race takes participants multiple days to finish and the winner is named the Uberman.
Bercu created the event for people looking to challenge themselves.
Joyes is Uberman’s lone participant this year.
This year’s competition will be the sixth version of the event.
Bercu, a commercial real estate developer, said it feels good to have a race that challenges endurance athletes. He touted how more people have walked on the moon than have completed Uberman.
“It’s cool that people hear about it, know about it, talk about it,” he said. “It is hard to find things that are adventurous and unusual and that are still kind of low-key.”
Uberman is free to enter. The race has no sponsors or monetary prize, and isn’t recognized by a governing body. Competitors must provide their own equipment to help them complete the swim, bike, and run.
Bercu doesn’t know of any other ultramarathons that have long distances in each discipline.
“The Catalina Channel swim is one of the seven great swims of the world,” he said. “The Badwater run is one of the hardest runs in the world and then there is the bike.”
Rob Decou completed the 2020 Uberman in 157 hours and 2 minutes. He finished the swim in 25:39:00, the bike ride in 40:59:00, and the run in 69:19:00.
A relay team composed of triathletes James “The Iron Cowboy” Lawrence and Casey Robles and open water swimmer Catherin Breed completed Uberman in 71:34:00 that year also.
Ultramarathoner Adam Scully Power completed Uberman in 125:45:00 in 2019.Canadian Gerard Charlton was the Uberman winner in 2018 in 166:40:00. In 2017, Australian Timmy Garrett won it in 214:30:00. Giorgio Alessi, an Italian, was the inaugural Uberman the year before.
At the completion of Uberman, the winner gets to hold the Uberman trophy — which resembles the hammer of Marvel character Thor wields — and pose for pictures with their supporters and Bercu on Mount Whitney. Bercu also gives winners an Uberman pin. Additionally, he has their name engraved on a dog tag that is drilled to the case that holds the Uberman trophy.
Bercu said the race is all about self-recognition, so there are no victory speeches or podiums waiting at the end of the endurance spectacle.
Joyes, traveling to America for the first time to compete in Uberman, has been training for eight months in preparation for the race. He believes the toughest portion of the event will be the swim from Catalina Island to Palos Verdes. Joyes is confident in water, but just slow.
“I have had to do a lot of work to get to where I am now, and I still have my doubts,” he typed. “But hopefully I have prepared enough. I also have a great team of people who really know what they are doing, so hopefully they will get me through.”
Bercu said the 21-mile swim scares a lot of people away from Uberman.
“Jumping into the ocean at night in Catalina, and swimming from Catalina to L.A. at night,” he said. “You have to have super strong mental will and overcome a fear of sharks and all that to do that in the dark. That is the hardest part.”
Joyes isn’t focused on finishing Uberman in a particular amount of time. He is racing himself, not a clock. He said the challenge and the remoteness of Uberman’s course is something he will enjoy.
“You feel alive when you attempt something like this,” Joyes wrote. “I will really enjoy the scenery as well. Going from the Pacific Ocean through the California coastline, then into Death Valley National Park and finally finishing up in the mountains, it will be beautiful.”
Bercu views his event as more of a holistic journey than a race.
“Its all about enjoying the scenery and being challenged and not just putting your head down without seeing the ocean and all the amazing things,” he said. “Just focusing on your time really isn’t the way to go.”
Joyes plans to visit Las Vegas with friends after the race.
Endurances contests are a mental and physical journey, Joyes said.
“While I’m doing them I wonder why I put myself through the pain, but after its done there is huge satisfaction,” he said. “There are so many highs and lows, doubts and fears but when you get through it all and actually finish an event, no matter what adversities you have faced it’s the best feeling in the world.”