When the question of what's the greatest athletic feat of all time arises, there are many candidates. There is Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point basketball game; baseball's Cal Ripken's 2,632-consecutive-game streak; and swimmer Michael Phelp's record eight Gold Medals at a single Olympics, to name three. To that list I'd like to add another for your consideration: Vito Bialla's Double Ultraman.

What? You've never heard of Vito Bialla or a Double Ultraman? As Ricky Ricardo might have demanded, "Ed, you got some 'splainin' to do." Here goes.

You may not be familiar with the fairly rare Ultraman race, so let's start with the much better-known Ironman triathlon that airs from time to time on TV. You may have seen this Ironman race and questioned the -- how shall we say it -- sanity of these ultra-endurance athletes who attempt to swim for 2.4 miles, then immediately cycle 112 miles and THEN race 26.2 miles on foot, all the while going as fast as humanly possible. Well, hold onto your hat because an Ultraman is an Ironman triathlon on steroids and a DOUBLE Ultraman is next to impossible, but not impossible, as proven by Vito Bialla.

Specifically, the Ultraman is a 3-day stage triathlon in which competitors swim 6.2 miles and bike 90 miles on day one; bike race an additional 171.4 miles on day two; and merely run a double marathon (52.4 miles) on day three. What Vito Bialla did, in 2000, was to up the ante by completing the 320-mile Ultraman twice over a six-day period. That's right, he raced 640 miles in six days. Oh, did we mention that he was 52-YEARS-OLD at the time?!

Here is Vito's six days of ultra-distance racing in a nutshell:

Day 1 -- Vito made the 6.2-mile ocean swim off the coast of Hawaii in 3 hours 30 minutes and then raced on his bike for another 90 miles.

Day 2 -- Due to strong headwinds, a very hilly (and even mountainous) course and ongoing searing heat, Vito struggled to make the 12-hour cutoff for this cycling leg; as a result, he had to hammer full throttle the last few miles of the 171.4 miles to stay in the race. His time: 11:58:24.

Day 3 -- Despite the pain of blistered feet and the exhaustion of the previous two days' efforts, he was able to run the 52.4-mile double marathon in an impressive 10:33.

Day 4 -- Due to having to fight against strong ocean currents much of the way (causing nearly half the competitors to miss the cutoff limit), Vito took almost an hour longer than day one to complete the swim (4:28). He then completed a tough 90 miles of cycling with a mere 24 minutes to spare.

Day 5 -- Despite powerful headwinds, hills and a very hot day, Vito was able to bike the 171.4-mile course in 10:13 -- improving greatly on his day 2 close call.

Day 6 -- After wrapping his badly swollen and blistered feet in vaseline-soaked socks and then duct taping them and cutting out the sides of his running shoes and dealing with the cumulative stress on his body of the previous five days of nearly 600 miles of racing, Vito Bialla was able to summon the courage and strength to run the 52.4-mile double marathon a little faster than he ran it on day 3 -- 10 hours 25 minutes, or slightly less than a 12-minutes-per-mile pace.

Vito finished 16th out of 35 competitors in the second Ultraman (the annual Ultraman Championship race) even though he was the only one to have run a double Ultraman. Amazingly, his second 3-day Ultraman (32:14:36) was only about an hour slower than the first; his 6-day total was 63 hours 30 minutes 15 seconds.

How did he do this? There was, of course, the physical training, including the hours of swimming and cycling and the 30-mile Sunday training runs. There were also the marathons to build up an aerobic base and the shorter triathlons to gradually condition his body for the more extreme ultraman races. Beyond being physically ready, Vito prepared himself mentally. An answer Vito gave Zoot Sports writer Scott Schumaker explains the mental conditioning best: "I learned how to kill negative thoughts the minute they popped up, kill them right then and think about something else. Negative thinking is like a disease. It starts with a wart and turns into cancer so you have to kill it right at the onset ... it works."

For a more detailed description in Vito Bialla's own words, go to: http://ultramanlive.com/ultraman-extras/contestants-stories/ultraman-sto... or Google: Double Ultraman and Vito Bialla

If a 52-year-old CEO and father of three, who didn't take up endurance sports until age 46, can conquer a six-day, 640-mile double Ultraman triathlon, what does this tell us about the potential we have that lies dormant? Are we living life to the fullest like Vito Bialla? During the challenge, Vito experienced what he called being "intoxicated with joy" and at the finish, the euphoria of having done something that had never been done before. These are states of being that we can only enjoy when we venture outside our comfort zone, as Vito Bialla did.

Author's Bio: 

And now I'd like to invite you to claim your FREE Fitter After 50 / Fitter for Life e-newsletter when you visit http://www.FitterforLife.com

From Ed Mayhew -- the author of Fitter After 50, Fitter For Life and other books, CDs, videos and articles on how you, too, can make falling apart as you age merely an option -- NOT a mandate. Why not make the rest of your life the BEST of your life? http://www.FitterforLife.com