CANADIAN CHAMP KEVIN WILLIS PREPARES FOR THE WORLDS
ANATOMY OF AN ULTRAMAN
WHEN JULIA AIMERS first started coaching Kevin Willis almost a decade ago, she told him that, physically and psychologically, we all have a triathlon distance we are best at. Last year, when she phoned him at the finish line in Penticton after he won Ultraman Canada and set a world age group record, Aimers said, “Kevin, I guess you’ve found your distance.”
The Ottawa triathlete is in Hawaii preparing for the Ultraman World Championships, which accepts a maximum of 40 competitors. Here’s how he has prepared for the world championship and how he plans to compete in this punishing three-day race.
Training like a triathlete
Last year in Penticton, his goal was to finish, but Kevin Willis won Ultraman Canada in an overall time of 23:32:07, more than an hour ahead of his closest rival. He swam 10 km in three hours, biked 425 km in thirteen, then ran a double marathon in seven and a half hours.
To train for the upcoming world championships, the 5'8" triathlete, who weighs 138 pounds, does the same periodized training as other triathletes – just a lot more of it. By September, Willis was logging 25 hours per week, balancing distance with intensity. “I think it is important to get used to swimming, biking and running for long periods, but also to build up strength and endurance through intensity.”
What does he think about while training? “During those long hours, there’s very little oxygen going to the brain, so I am unable to do things like think deep thoughts or navigate,” Willis jokes. According to his support crew, he isn’t kidding about his lack of navigation skills. In Penticton he lost nine minutes on the bike due to a wrong turn. “I do most of my training alone, and I usually just focus on technique,” he adds. “How is my swim stroke? Am I pedalling smoothly? How is my run form? It is a very long race, and as soon as you lose your technique, you start wasting energy and slowing down. So I do not think of distance covered but focus on technique and keeping steady.”
Coach Aimers says this ability is key. “Kevin puts his head down and gets the workout done with very little