Hillary Biscay of the United States smashed the women’s field by over three hours and finished 3rd overall including the men. At age 51, Miro Kregar of Slovenia finally broke through to win the men’s overall title in his 9th start at the Ultraman World Championship, a 320-mile, 3-day stage triathlon on the Big Island of Hawaii.
In this, the 30th edition of the race that began in 1983 and has been run every year since but 1991, the 40-entry field faced tough conditions on Day 1 - head currents on the 10k swim that slowed everyone at least 15 minutes and a driving rain in the final 20 miles of the 90-mile bike leg. After that, conditions were mild on the 171-mile Day 2 bike and increasingly hot on the Day 3 double marathon finale.
Biscay, the long distance specialist triathlete who has completed 63 Ironman- distance events, gained full redemption for her 2nd place Ultraman women's finish in 2010 behind the record-setting performance of 3-time winner Amber Monforte. Three years later, Biscay came fully prepared, combining a first day race-best (including the men) 10k swim of 2:37:46 and a women’s-best 90-mile bike split of 6:02:24. On the second day, she posted a women’s-best 8:26:45 split for the 171-mile bike course.
Today, she ran a second-best-ever Ultraman women’s double marathon run split of 7:23:55 [11:48 behind Ann Heaslett’s record 2009 run]. In 2013 Biscay’s split was the second-fastest double marathon including all the men. Finally, Biscay’s total elapsed time of 24:30:50 was the second-best women’s time in the history of this event, falling 23 minutes 39 seconds short of Amber Monforte’s 2010 women’s race record but 9:38 better than Biscay’s own 2nd place time in 2010.
This time around, Biscay turned the tables on Monforte, who said her work schedule had prevented her from her usual training mileage. The Tucson, Arizona resident led three-time defending champion Monforte, a South Lake Tahoe, California nurse, by 1 hour 5 minutes after Day 1, 1 hour 54 minutes after day 2 and 3 hours 25 minutes at the finish.
After the race, Biscay took a day or two to reflect on what it all meant.
“Before I experienced this race in 2010, I didn’t understand how hard and what a complex equation this race is,” said Biscay. “Because there are so many moving pieces and because it is three days, you are challenged mentally, physically and strategically.”
Biscay said that placing so high against the men made her accomplishment more understandable to the general public and gave her added satisfaction. “Winning this, becoming an Ultraman World Champion for me is right up there with my Ironman title at Wisconsin in 2008,” said Biscay. “For me this is right at that level – the top two sporting accomplishments in my career.”
By contrast, Kregar’s long-sought victory after two 2nd place finishes and two 3rd place performances at Ultraman Hawaii included no record splits – in fact his 23:42:07 overall time, which included two penalties totaling 18 minutes, was the 46th fastest men’s time in the history of the event and was only his own 5th-fastest Ultraman Hawaii time. However modest his performance, Kregar had the satisfaction of of being one of two men who were not chicked by Biscay.
Kregar put together a 3:14:52 swim and a 5:48:01 bike split to finish 6th on Day 1, 43 minutes behind 51-year-old Tim Sheeper, 22 minutes behind Biscay and 13 minutes back of six-time champion Alexandre Ribeiro. On Day 2, Kregar posted a 2nd-best 7:55:59 split for the 171-mile bike course from Kilauea to Hawi, which put him 31 minutes back of Sheeper, 15 minutes behind Ribeiro and 8 minutes ahead of Biscay. On the final day, Kregar and his rival, friend and occasional training partner Ribeiro went off the front as usual. But after 18 miles, Ribeiro faded to a 7:43:31 run, more than an hour longer than his average time, which he attributed to a lack of training occasioned by a heavy work schedule in his coaching business back home in Brazil.
Biscay outran Ribeiro by 19 minutes 36 seconds on the final day and the Brazilian's 24:27:21 overall time put him second overall including the women.
“This is the biggest victory in my 30-year career – it is a dream come true,” said Kregar. “When Alexandre fell back on the run, I thought I cannot make up enough time to win because I had a 6-minute penalty on Day 1 and a 12-minute penalty on Day 3 -- a media girl from Slovenia was leaning out the window of my support vehicle to take a picture on the final day. But on the second marathon, I kept getting reports that my lead was growing, so I push, push, push hard. Ribeiro told me he had little training and lost energy so I finally win this race I love so much.”
Ribeiro may have lost his chance at extending his Ultraman victories to 7, but was thrilled it was at the hands of his friend. “After the first marathon, I died,” said Ribeiro. “I would walk, get sick, try to run and it was very difficult for me to finish. But it was a great pleasure to see Miro finally win – he is a great guy and has been putting his heart into this for years.”
The Ultraman men’s podium was dominated by veterans – Kregar is 51, Ribeiro is 48, and Sheeper is 50. But perhaps the greatest age graded performance was by 58-year-old Kurt Madden, who won the inaugural Ultraman in 1983 and whose time for that race, albeit on a shorter course, is still the race record at 21:41:02. On this weekend after Thanksgiving, Madden finished 6th overall in 26:08:28.
At the awards ceremony the day after the race, the 48-year-old Ribeiro announced his retirement and gave a moving valedictory to his honorable career:
“Thirty years, this is the number [of my triathlon career] where I spent thousands of unforgettable moments touting the sport in Brazil and worldwide. I would not trade anything in life for the fate that I chose where I met so many friends and encountered many countries and cultures thanks to this wonderful sport which is triathlon. Imagine you have the opportunity to be in touch with nature, swimming, in various seas and rivers, pedaling over various mountains, running numerous trails an terrain, watching the sunrise, feeling the sea breeze the wind in the face – simple sensations and all this at your fingertips, for free, without paying a penny – thanks a lot! Just thanks once again, from the heart, to all the fans, for all the energy sent to Kona in my last Ultraman Hawaii. God bless you, thank you!”
30th Ultraman World Championship
The Big Island, Hawaii
December 1, 2013
S 10k / B 90.4 mi./ B 171.4 mi./ R 52.4 mi.
1. Miro Kregar (SLO) 23:42:07
2. Alexandre Ribeiro (BRA) 24:27:21
3. Tim Sheeper (USA) 24:57:12
4. Christian Isakson (USA) 25:22:34
5. Milton Sousa (BRA) 25:44:14
6. Kurt Madden (USA) 26:08:28
7. Christopher Draper (USA) 26:24:39
8. James Player (USA) 26:37:22
9. Toni Marsal Bonet (ESP) 27:20:10
10. Roberto Parseghian (BRA) 27:42:03
1. Hillary Biscay (USA) 24:30:50
2. Amber Monforte (USA) 27:56:28
3. Vanuza Maciel (BRA) 29:49:52
4. Beth Brewster (USA) 32:17:35
5. Kathleen Wood (CAN) 33:15:33
6. Dene Sturm (USA) 33:34:34
7. Laurie Beers (USA) 34:15:33