Canadian Michael Coughlin missed breaking the Ultraman World Championship men’s race record by 2 minutes 56 seconds, but he defended his 42-minute Day 2 lead with a 2nd-best 6:48:02 double marathon to finish with an overall time of 21:44:18. This gave him a 27 minutes 27 seconds margin over runner-up David Kalinowski of Australia and 1:44:30 over 3rd-place finisher Jeremy Howard of the U.S.
“This was a 10-year dream for me,” said Coughlin, a 42-year-old endurance coach from Guelph, Ontario. “Ever since I crewed here in 2005 for Michael Hanrack, who finished second, and since I finished second myself in 2011, I dedicated myself to winning this great event.”
Home town Kailua-Kona favorite Studer scored the women‘s fastest splits in every category during the 3-day stage triathlon circling the Big Island of Hawaii. Studer had the fastest 10k-swim (3:10:20), fastest 90-mile Day 1 bike (6:51:17), fastest 171-mile bike leg on Day 2 (9:42:21), and fastest Day 3 double marathon (8:45:30) to finish in 28:29:28. This gave her a 2:27:49 margin over runner-up Kat Calder-Becker of Montreal and 4:37:47 over 3rd place finisher Beth Brewster of the U.S.
Studer surprised herself with her victory, which made a large number of friends, co-workers and community acquaintances shout with joy as the shy physical therapist crossed the line. “This was the accumulation of the past 5-6 years,” said Studer. “I’ve been living here since I first saw this event in 2010 and I served on support crews every year before this.”
Studer set no records but her mastery of the 5-woman field was secondary to the emotional support that came to her in difficult times. “I just wanted to finish - I didn’t care about winning,” said Studer. “This summer brought me some challenges. I lost my best friend, my boyfriend, and I had to start anew. And I was training through all of that. So getting through that heartbreak, the community around me supported me and helped me physically, mentally, spiritually, and financially. I couldn’t have won it without them and I couldn’t have done it without my race support crew.”
Starting the finale of this three-day, 320-mile triathletic circumnavigation of the Big Island of Hawaii with a 42-minute lead on talented Australian newcomer David Kalinowski, Coughlin had two ambitious goals: first was winning and avenging a 2nd-place Ultraman World Championship finish in 2011 and erasing all the mistakes he made that day. The second was to break the 17-year-old Ultraman Worlds race record set by Holger Spiegel of Germany and nearly beaten in 2004 by Jonas Colting of Sweden.
Boosted by strong tailwinds and a 17-mile downhill for the first of Ultraman’s two marathons, 2013 Ultraman winner Miro Kregar, 53, of Slovenia charged into an early lead followed by Kevin Willis, 55, of Canada and Kalinowski holding 3rd. Coughlin played his cards conservatively, crossing the halfway point in 3:21 in fourth place, 5 minutes behind Kregar and 3 minutes behind Kalinowski and Willis. Coughlin was precisely at a pace that would give him the record and presumably maintain his victory. But he did not count on a switch in wind direction and a falling pace.
“That was when the wind turned and headwinds came and my pace just dropped like a stone,” said Coughlin. “I thought that third quarter took the record off the table. I was like ‘OK! Survival time.’” Indeed he finished the third half marathon in 1:51, 10 minutes off record pace, and needed a miracle - a final half marathon in 1:35 - to grab the record.
In the meantime, Kregar and Willis fell back while Kalinowski made a kamikaze run to the front, heading for a 6:32:59 run which might, if Coughlin blew up in a long shot chase for the record, steal the win.
A mile into the final quarter, Coughlin had surge of optimism and renewed energy. “My watch had died and I had no sense of where I was,” he said. “I was running pretty well for personal pride I guess. For lack of a better word. I wanted to have a solid effort. But many people said I had a chance. Not just my crew, but Jeremy’s crew started telling me ‘Jeremy is catching you but you can still get this record if you pick it up.’”
Coughlin made a calculated risk with six miles to go. “Let’s see what kind of a 10k split I can get. I said to myself, ‘I don’t want to go to bed tonight wondering what if?’ So I just went for it.”
Sure enough, the despair turned to hope and Coughlin fought back with a final half marathon of 1:39:14 which fell just under 3 minutes short of the record.
Kalinowski found renewed self-respect in his run, which cut 15 minutes from his deficit and washed away some of the regret from his first day swim and bike troubles.
“On Day 1, after the swim I had a bit too much to eat and my guts didn’t settle,” said Kalinowski. “That killed me for the first couple hours. That is when Michael put 40 minutes into me.”
Kalinowski gave everything he had on the run and said he was thrashed at the finish line. “I gave it everything I had, but it wasn‘t good enough today,” said Kalinowski. “I came here to see what my limits are and I really pushed myself. I‘ve never gone so deep. It hurt a lot.” Kalinowski said that the effort to race two Ultraman events took more out of him than he wanted to repeat. “It took me a couple months to recover from Ultraman Australia,” he said. “I will think about returning but not next year. I think I’ll need a bit of time to sit down and relax and digest it all.”
31st Ultraman World Championship
November 27-29, 2015
Day 1 - S 10k / B 90 mi.
Day 2 - B 171 mi.
Day 3 - R 52.4 mi.
Competitor (Country) Day 1 / Day 2 / Day 3 / TOTAL
1. Michael Coughlin (CAN) 7:46:12 / 7:10:06 / 6:48:02 / 21:44:18
2. David Kalinowski (AUS) 8:07:23 / 7:31:23 / 6:32:59 / 22:11:45
3. Jeremy Howard (USA) 8:16:07 / 8:23:18 / 6:49:23 / 23:28:48
4. Tony O’Keefe (CAN) 8:35:37 / 8:05:58 / 7:02:55 / 23:44:30
5. Miro Kregar (SLO) 9:20:33 / 7:58:41 / 6:57:55 / 24:17:09
6. Billy Edwards (USA) 8:09:52 / 8:05:51 / 8:29:05 / 24:44:53
7. Trout Wayth (AUS) 8:41:56 / 8:22:26 / 7:57:34 / 25:01:56
8. Kevin Willis (CAN) 8:48:03 / 8:43:57 / 7:34:04 / 25:02:04
9. Michael Owen (CAN) 9:02:06 / 8:31:15 / 7:32:29 / 25:05:50
10. Jochen Dembeck (GER) 9:06:16 / 8:14:38 / 8:12:05 / 25:32:59
1. Staci Studer (USA) 10:01:37 / 9:42:21 / 8:45:30 / 28:29:28
2. Kat Calder-Becker (CAN) 10:38:55 / 10:28:30 / 9:49:52 / 30:57:17
3. Beth Brewster (USA) 11:07:34 / 10:25:17 / 11:34:24 / 33:07:15
4. Iona McKenzie (CAN) 11:33:04 / 11:36:55 / 10:51:55 / 34:01:54
5. Kim Rouse (USA) 11:59:57 / 11:20:00 / 10:53:10 / 34:13:07