By Lori Sonken
For most people, running, swimming and cycling 500 miles over the course of five days in a row sounds daunting. Maybe even crazy. But for Shane Eversfield of Ithaca, who has participated in hundreds of triathlons, there are two reasons to accept the challenge.
First, he is honoring his stepbrother who died this past year from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Known also as Lou Gehrig’s disease for the baseball player afflicted by the neurodegenerative disease, ALS weakens nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord, causing muscle atrophy and eventually death. Eversfield is using the endurance event to raise funds for the ALS Association supporting research and assistance for those with the disease.
Secondly, Eversfield is celebrating what he calls “the gift of mobility.” A former modern dancer, he recognizes how his ability to move has profoundly affected his life. He says he is “59 years young.”
To rejoice, Eversfield, whose friends call him “Zenman,” set out to do the equivalent of five ironman competitions in one event. An ironman consists of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and a marathon, or 26.2 miles of running.
But he wanted to keep costs as low as possible. The course was confined to what he calls a “squirrel cage.” All the swimming was done in the pool at Island Health and Fitness. With permission from the City of Ithaca, Eversfield identified a 5-kilometer course in Cass Park where the bicycling and running occurred.
Beginning in the pool on June 22, he swam back and forth, lap after lap, 846 lengths in total. In other words, he traveled 12 miles in the swimming pool.
Then he showered to warm up and rinse off the chlorine stench that hung on for days afterwards. After an hour-long break giving him time to hydrate, get some nourishment and talk with his friends, he hopped on his bike at 6 p.m. He rode to Cass Park for the next phase of the journey. Cycling all night long without stopping to sleep, Eversfield says it is “really eye-opening” to see all the activities taking place by humans and their dogs in the park.
With a light on his bike, he was able to notice the skunk crossing in his path. There was some drizzle but he was able to stay warm wearing a jacket and gloves.
After riding 400 miles, he took a break. He went home to sleep but returned again to Cass Park—this time to run 88 miles. He had intended to go further, but when the temperature climbed into the 90s he decided to stop on June 26 after completing 500 miles in 99 hours.
Expressing appreciation to his many friends and supporters, including Tess Guckenheimer who stayed up all night making sure he had water and other necessities, Eversfield refuses to call himself an athlete. “I’m an artist and my art form just happens to be triathlons,” he says. “Movement for me is what I do to practice mindfulness for my inner growth and for being healthy.”
When asked if he gets bored, he explains why he doesn’t. Imagine a musician beginning a symphony. As the musician begins, he or she is not counting down how many more notes are left to play before the piece is finished.
“Instead, the artist or the musician is focused on playing each note as perfectly and as appropriately as possible. That’s really the approach I use for doing this kind of endurance event, “ he says.
Thus far, Eversfield has raised more than $8,500 for the ALS Association through the website movingbeyondals.org. All of the money is going directly to the association. He hopes to reach his fundraising goal of $10,000.
When he’s not participating in an endurance event, Eversfield turns to his role as an athletic educator teaching others swimming, cycling and functional strength skills. He concentrates on the kinetic intelligence that he learned as a modern dancer. Kinetic intelligence is mindful movement—being present with every movement and training the muscles, metabolism and neural system to operate efficiently and gracefully.
Eversfield believes most athletes in training focus on aerobic fitness using heart rate monitors, GPS units and power meters. Following the numbers, they set out to reach a goal. But eventually they push up against a wall, he says.
Eversfield has a different training method. Using neural intelligence, he says, he is able to transmit clear electrical signals through the nerves repeatedly. He focuses on doing the strokes exceptionally well, one step at a time.
“If form is there, I am using less energy and can go further,” he explains.
Standing 6-foot-4, with his weight fluctuating from 175 to 180 pounds, Eversfield exercises an average two hours a day over the course of a year.
He has some advice for people who want to take on an ironman challenge. “An ironman is not 140.6 miles. It’s one mile, 140.6 times,” he says.
By Lori Sonken