05/11/2011 08:16 am ET | Updated Nov 15, 2011

Charlie Wittmack Completes 10,000-Mile Triathlon 3 Weeks Ahead Of Schedule

After finishing a 10,000-mile triathlon that took him from the River Thames in London to the top of Mount Everest, Charlie Wittmack had just one word on his mind: pizza.

"Oh yeah, I'm having it right now," Wittmack told AOL Weird News from a Nepalese village near the entry point to Mt. Everest. "It's a Margarita -- just cheese and tomatoes."

It's a small prize after spending the last 10-and-a-half months attempting what triathlon experts believe may be the most grueling, most extreme physical achievement ever attempted by a human.

Last July, Wittmack, 37, an attorney and adjunct college professor in Iowa, set off on "The World Tri," by taking a gentle, leisurely 275-mile swim down the River Thames and the English Channel.

OK, "gentle" and "leisurely" may not be the best words since he was attacked by jellyfish and lost two toenails during the swim. And he was turned away from France after swimming the English Channel because laws don't allow official entry to the country via the beach.

That was followed by a 9,000-mile bike ride from France to Calcutta, India (including a jaunt over the Himalayas), and a 950-mile run starting from sea level at the Bay of Bengal to the summit of Mount Everest, 29,035 above the sea level where he completed the journey.


Wittmack reached the summit on May 6, nearly three weeks before he was scheduled to reach the Everest base camp.

"When I got to the mountain, I took an aggressive strategy because I was mentally worn down after 10 months," he said between bites of pizza. "I did six days of climbing spread out over five weeks. You have to do that to let your body acclimate to the altitude."

Wittmack had actually climbed Everest before, so he didn't feel obligated to do a lot of sightseeing up and down the mountain.

The incredible feat is something Wittmack will always remember, but not everything was positive.

"When I was in Tibet, I came down with pulmonary and cerebral edema," he said. "The first one is when an air bubble gets in your bloodstream and the second is when it goes to your brain. Both can be fatal and are usually caused by climbing too quickly. I had to return to the U.S. and come back."

He had other problems on the journey as well. When Wittmack was doing the biking portion of his jaunt, he showed up in Kurdistan during political upheaval.

"I was delayed by a week," he said. "And I made five attempts to leave Kurdistan and take the Torugart Pass into China. The first time my bike broke. I then tried to leave on another bike but it was the Kurdistan equivalent of a Huffy. Another bike was stolen and another bike broke."

Finally, Wittmack finished with his original bike, but it only had one working gear.

To the layman, all this sounds incredibly grueling and, you know what? Experts like Matt Fitzgerald, a columnist for Triathlete Magazine, are pretty astounded as well.

"It's hard to imagine anything more grueling," Fitzgerald told AOL Weird News. "If it's not No. 1, it can't be far behind."

That said, Fitzgerald believes there will be others dying to follow in Wittmack's footsteps.

"Whenever someone sets a bar, others want to push it further," Fitzgerald said. "The 12 people who attempted the first Iron Man competition in 1978 probably couldn't imagine what has happened since then."

Now that Wittmack is finished, it would be understandable if he just wanted to chill for a while. However, he's just beginning some hard work.

"I have signed on to a three-year commitment with Save The Children to help reduce infant mortality," he said. "I also want to make the World Tri a competitive event. I think it's important for the future of ultra-endurance sports and I'd like to see it opened up for others."

But before Wittmack gets that ball rolling, there is another thing he has to do. Get back to Charlotte, North Carolina, where his wife and child have been staying the last five months.

"We ran out of money for her and the rest of the support team when we were in Prague so I'm really missing her right now," he said.