Moving the ‘big domino’ in a fitness trek

I am in Hawaii for the Ultraman World Championships right now, and I have people back home asking me about the race and the massive thing that it is, stating that the distances are beyond comprehension.

A 10 km swim followed by a 145 km bike on day one, a 276 km bike on day two, and a double marathon of 84.4 km on day three, all in the Hawaiian heat and humidity. Madness! (I don’t entirely disagree.)

Here’s the thing: just four years ago, I too thought that Ultraman was just ridiculous, and completely impossible for me, because I was just picturing and thinking about the final domino. (The race).

Why am I talking about the race like a domino? Well, there is a video on YouTube right now, where a scientist has just 13 dominos, with the first one about the size of a small camera memory chip.

The rule of these dominos in relation to physics is complicated, but put simply; it is that the maximum increase from tile to tile is 1.5. So in the video, the first domino is 5mm high and 1mm thick, and the 13th domino is over three feet tall (one metre) and weighs over 100 lbs (45 kg).

At first, it seems absolutely silly that a tiny little domino could move such a massive one. But it does.

Back to my first Ultraman, I started thinking about it, and started thinking about what training it would require to try such an event.

I spoke to people who had done it before, talked to my coach and soon enough, I put in my application for Ultraman Canada 2011. I trained for over a year, starting as usual with pool swims, indoor bikes and run training for a marathon.

We started with the smallest domino (the application for entry), and as each month went by, I progressed to a bigger domino, then bigger, then bigger. Soon I was riding indoors for five hours, and running outside in the cold for three or four hours.

As spring arrived, I got outside on my bike and before long, in the lake for my swims. Distances grew and grew until 20 to 25 hours a week was a normal training week. My body adapted, responded and the dominos continued to fall.

I began to check off the big training distances: 8 km swim, 240 km bike, 60 km run – the longest lead up distances. Then it was time to taper and race (the big domino!)

I was thrilled to arrive at the finish line in sixth place overall, and fourth place male. I was invited to the world championships here in Kona, Hawaii, but with finding that my wife was expecting, I knew I would take a year off at least.

So in 2013, I started the small domino again, and here I am with training momentum behind me and ready to take on that biggest domino!

The parallels in this apply to any goal you may have, and the big thing is to push that first little domino.

The decision to enter anything is a very small step, requiring no training or work at all. That starts the dominos, and then the clock is ticking!

It is my challenge to you, to ask yourself ‘What is my next goal?’ A 5 km run, a Spartan Race, a Marathon, a triathlon, a ski race?

It doesn’t matter, pick something, anything and commit.

Start that first domino.

Who you become and what you need to accomplish on the way to the big domino can be a lot of fun and also hard work and sacrifice of course, so keep the big domino in mind, but work on the smaller domino in front of you.

Trust that each step will lead to the next step. Don’t let that big domino intimidate you, just focus on the one in front of you.

To get ready for the Ultraman World Championships – I had to become someone else. I had to grow bigger and stronger, just like the dominos, and with each training workout, grow I did until I got here.

Now in 11 days I will see what it takes to knock over that big domino! You can follow my journey at and if you want to check out the domino video, here it is.

Scott McDermott is a personal trainer and owner of Best Body Fitness in Sylvan Lake.

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