The Epic 5 Challenge: 5 Iron Distance Triathlons, 5 Hawaiian Islands, in 5 days and Dani Grabol was the first woman to complete this challenge. Immediately I asked her, “Why Epic 5?” She simply stated, “The fact that no woman had ever done it before. I felt like a woman needed to go do it.” Talk about keeping it real!
Sam: What is your race history and how did this lead you to the Epic 5 Challenge?
Dani: I read about it in Rick Roll’s book Finding Ultra and that was probably about four or five years ago. I have more recently done some ultra-cycling races. I participated in Race Across America as a two-person team in 2013, I’ve done a double Ironman in 2012, I did a 422 mile bike ride across Florida in 2011, and I did a 24 hour bike race in 2014.
Sam: When did you realize you were an ultra-athlete?
Dani: My boyfriend got into ultra-running and he ran three 100 mile runs in three months. I crewed for him in all three races and knew that there was absolutely no way I was ever going to run for 100 miles. But, I wanted to see what it was like to work out for 24 hours. I knew I like riding bikes and decided to see what ultra-cycling was all about.
Sam: How long did you have to prepare for this race?
Dani: I signed up for it in July 2015 and the race was the following May 2016.
Sam: What type of training did you do to prepare?
Dani: I really didn’t have any idea how to prepare for it. I had a coach and we just did anything and everything you could think of. We did a lot of three day training camps where I took a Friday off of work and we did 25, 26 and 28 hours in three days and did that for like two weeks in a row. Essentially it was to just make myself just as exhausted as possible without becoming injured. There haven’t been a whole lot of people who have done this before, so there isn’t a lot of research for it. We were just doing some trial and error.
Sam: When were you first introduce to Oral I.V.?
Dani: Someone had given me some Oral I.V. about eight weeks before my race because I had started experiencing some issues where I started cramping and I never had issues like that before. I took it and I felt amazing and haven’t stopped using it.
Sam: How often did you take Oral I.V. during Epic 5?
Dani: That’s a good question that I am not totally sure I know the answer to because the days and times have just run together. Over a five day period I probably used about 45 vials. I think on the runs I took one every hour.
Sam: What is it about Oral I.V. that you like the most?
Dani: I think the fact that it doesn’t have sugar and is in liquid form. I have had issues with hydration products before that would shut my stomach down and this doesn’t. I feel amazing afterwards, more energetic, and definitely more focused. In terms of my recovery, I always feel so much better using it. More hydrated and I’m not as fatigued the next day.
Sam: Have you had any cramping since you started using Oral I.V.?
Dani: Nope, not at all.
Sam: How do you plan on using Oral I.V. going forward?
Dani: I live in Atlanta and it’s just so hot and humid here. It’s unreal trying to train in the heat here and so it’ll help me get through the summers.
Sam: What is next on your list for races?
Dani: I just signed up to do the Spartan Beast in South Carolina and so now I am training for that as well as continuing my cycling and running.
Sam: When we text each other the other day you mentioned that your boyfriend had competed in World’s Toughest Mudder last year and you crewed for him, has this played a part in you deciding to do your first Spartan Race?
Dani: Well, it was a very interesting experience. The weather was just crazy; it was cold and super windy. When he did that I thought, “This is horrific. Awful. I would never do this.” It was amazing watching the people out there. Unreal! But, what always happens is when you do these big races, afterwards, you always think, “What’s next? What is going to take me so far outside of my comfort zone?” For me, clearly, I’m a diesel. I have a lot of endurance, but I am not particularly talented at a lot of the things that it takes to do well or finish a race like an OCR. That’s why I chose the Spartan Race because it plays into my weaknesses and not my strengths.
Sam: Do you think you will compete in a WTM in the future or maybe choose an Ultra Beast because it is one day?
Dani: I love 24 hour events. I love it because you have to have so much drive and determination to continue to go and Jason (her boyfriend) did really well in WTM and he was in top 10% of the race and mostly because people just stopped and left. I think it is so much harder to continue in an event when there is nothing telling you that you have to stay there, but you choose to stay and continue to compete. I don’t know that I would compete in it because I was freezing as a crew member and spectator. If we could figure out a way to make it warmer, I would do it.
Sam: An Ultra beast?
Dani: From what I understand the Vermont Ultra Beast is the exact same way. Freezing cold. That would be really tough for me.
I didn’t mention to her that there is a Hawaii Ultra Beast. I guess she will find out eventually. When I think of the 31 miles in the 2015 Tahoe Ultra Beast it pales in comparison to her 703 miles in five days for the Epic 5 Challenge. She is now in their Hall of Fame and currently the only female in their Hall of Fame. Its women like Dani Grabol who continue to pave the way for female athletes showing that these hardcore ultra events are for everyone. Who knows? She could be a new name in the OCR scene. We will see!
Written by: Samantha Wishner