“Some peo­ple are in­tim­i­dated by the dis­tances in­volved in the Ul­tra­man. They think it is im­pos­si­ble. But I am not any spe­cial kind of per­son.”

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - FEATURES -

This Year’s Ul­tra­man

The first Ul­tra­man World Cham­pi­onships was held in 1983. The sched­ule for this year’s 515-km com­pe­ti­tion, held on the Big Is­land of Hawaii be­gin­ning Nov. 27, is:

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3

Race days: a team ef­fort

Swim: 10 km Bike: 145 km Bike: 276 km Run: 84 km Kevin Wil­lis’s ob­jec­tives for the world cham­pi­onships are to go faster than he did in Pen­tic­ton and im­prove on his age group world record. He and his four-per­son sup­port team, made up of Cary and three mem­bers of a fam­ily as­so­ci­ated with Team Tri­umph, their triathlon club in Ot­tawa, will ar­rive in Hawaii early to re­view the course and pre­pare the 7,000-plus calo­ries of daily nu­tri­tion that Kevin will need, but also food to feed the sup­port team too. “Cary did an amaz­ing job feed­ing us at na­tion­als and she’ll do the same at worlds,” ex­plains triath­lete An­nemarieke Gold­smith, who will ac­com­pany Wil­lis in a kayak dur­ing the 10-km swim on day one. “It’s three days of hard work, and some sup­port crews at na­tion­als were eat­ing their ath­lete’s food be­cause they for­got to bring enough for them­selves!”

In Pen­tic­ton, Wil­lis felt ex­hil­a­rated af­ter the swim and en­joyed that on day two he didn’t have to start run­ning when he got off the bike. “You can give it every­thing on the bike and then you have a good night’s sleep to re­cover.” He says the third day is the hard­est, partly be­cause of run­ning two marathons back to back. The best feel­ing for him was cross­ing the fin­ish line in first place and crum­pling in a heap. “My body had been scream­ing at me to stop for hours. It felt great to fi­nally be able to do so.”

The sup­port team is al­lowed on parts of the bike and run course. While An­nemarieke’s hus­band David drives their van, their daugh­ter Ni­cola, an 18-year-old ki­ne­si­ol­ogy stu­dent, runs the hills with Wil­lis dur­ing the last 5 km of the dou­ble marathon. “It was quite emo­tional to see Kevin in so much pain, run­ning on sandy gravel and up steep slopes,” Ni­cola re­calls. “But he was self-dis­ci­plined and held his speed. Run­ning with him taught me a lot. I’m look­ing for­ward to do­ing it again in Hawaii.”

Wil­lis is grate­ful for all the help. “In an Ul­tra­man you have a sup­port team that en­ables you to fo­cus on rac­ing. They feed you and carry all your gear and en­cour­age you. If you need a spare wheel, they have it ready. You are to­tally re­liant on them, and a great sup­port team makes all the dif­fer­ence.” He also loves the small, in­ti­mate scale of the race. “It’s a unique ex­pe­ri­ence. Be­cause it takes place over three days, you get to know the other par­tic­i­pants and their crews.”

Fifty-five-year-old Wil­lis, who three years ago was ranked third in the 2012 Iron­man Age Group Rank­ings, won’t be the old­est com­peti­tor at the Ul­tra­man worlds, where over half of those reg­is­tered are older than 40. “The com­mit­ment re­quired makes it harder for triath­letes with young fam­i­lies to take part. The ages of those com­pet­ing in Ul­tra­man shows that older triath­letes, while they may not be as fast in the sprints, have the en­durance and ex­pe­ri­ence to be com­pet­i­tive in th­ese longer dis­tances.”

Kevin Wil­lis in­sists that he does noth­ing ex­cep­tional. “Some peo­ple are in­tim­i­dated by the dis­tances in­volved in the Ul­tra­man. They think it is im­pos­si­ble. But I am not any spe­cial kind of per­son. With train­ing and prac­tice over time, many peo­ple could per­form in th­ese sorts of events. The hu­man body is re­ally ca­pa­ble of a lot more than we think it is.”

Theresa Ann Wal­lace is an Ot­tawa writer.


Kevin Wil­lis at the RAAM Chal­lenge in Texas

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