Ul­tra­dis­tance Marvel

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - FEATURES - MIKE COUGH­LIN:

Mike Cough­lin takes the Ul­tra­man World Cham­pi­onship

Guelph, Ont.’s Mike Cough­lin cap­tured the 2015 Ul­tra­man World Cham­pi­onship, cov­er­ing 515 km over three days (Nov. 27–29) on the Big Is­land of Hawaii. We caught up with Cough­lin to find out about his big win and what it takes to com­pete at the Ul­tra­man dis­tance.

First of all, what’s your per­sonal his­tory with triathlon and how did it lead to com­pet­ing at Ul­tra­man?

Af­ter fall­ing in love with triathlon at my first sprint event in 2001, I fol­lowed the typ­i­cal age­grouper’s pro­gres­sion/ob­ses­sion of push­ing my lim­its in both dis­tance and speed. I fin­ished my first Iron­man in 2003, qual­i­fied for Kona in 2006 and achieved se­cond in my age group at the Cana­dian na­tion­als (Olympic Dis­tance) in 2009. More than re­sults, how­ever, what I have en­joyed the most about my time in triathlon has been the chal­leng­ing train­ing and rac­ing ex­pe­ri­ences in beau­ti­ful lo­ca­tions with great peo­ple. Wit­ness­ing the 2005 Ul­tra­man World Cham­pi­onships as a sup­port crew mem­ber I re­al­ized I had found my race. I took sev­eral years be­fore I felt ready to race Ul­tra­man, and sev­eral more to fig­ure out how to win it, but the jour­ney has been in­cred­i­ble.

Take us through your world cham­pi­onship race. Did all go to plan?

One thing I have learned about Ul­tra­man is that it never goes to plan. I did not swim as well as I ex­pected and I ex­ited the wa­ter be­hind my main com­pe­ti­tion on the bike. In ret­ro­spect, this was a bless­ing be­cause I had the op­por­tu­nity to pass them rather than just try to stay away. Pass­ing peo­ple on the bike has a psy­cho­log­i­cal im­pact, par­tic­u­larly in a race where there is a se­cond bike ride on Day 2. I gam­bled with an ag­gres­sive pac­ing strat­egy to max­i­mize the im­pact and set the tone for the week­end. It worked and al­though I was shat­tered at the Day 1 fin­ish line, I had the fastest bike split by 28 min­utes and a 21-minute lead. A big part of be­ing suc­cess­ful in Ul­tra­man is re­cov­er­ing well be­tween stages. I’m told that I looked the most ex­hausted of all the top fin­ish­ers at the end of Day 1, so I had my work cut out for me. My crew was in­cred­i­ble at putting me back to­gether and mak­ing sure I kept eat­ing and drink­ing all af­ter­noon and evening. I even woke up in the middle of the night to eat. That set me up well for a fan­tas­tic Day 2 bike ride, where I was able to in­crease my lead de­spite get­ting two flat tires and a solid Day 3 run where I gave a bit of time back to my clos­est com­pe­ti­tion, but kept the lead over­all to get the win.

What did you learn from your pre­vi­ous at­tempt at the Ul­tra­man?

Af­ter my 2011 race, I took ex­ten­sive notes while the ex­pe­ri­ence was still fresh in my head and put them all to good use. Ul­tra­man, and the Hawaii course in par­tic­u­lar, is very cog­ni­tively de­mand­ing and be­ing able to vi­su­al­ize the course and con­di­tions is a huge help. I knew which sec­tions of the course were de­ci­sive, as well as where I could re­lax a bit more.

Do you use a power me­ter or heart rate mon­i­tor?

I use a heart rate mon­i­tor, a power me­ter and a GPS watch in train­ing and rac­ing. At Ul­tra­man, th­ese tools helped me cal­i­brate my rac­ing strat­egy to be ag­gres­sive with­out be­ing reck­less and kept me mo­ti­vated to main­tain a strong ef­fort to the end of each stage. One of the few mis­takes I made dur­ing the week­end was not recharg­ing my watch fully for Day 3 and hav­ing it die at the 58-km mark on the run.

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