LifeSport Coaching Podium At The Ultraman World Championships
3 Day Endurance Epic Tests Physical And Mental Limits
Determination of Will – Lifesport Coaching at the Ultraman World Championships
Lifesport Coaches Jeremy Howard and Inaki de la Parra placed 3rd and 13th respectively at the Ultraman World Championships, in Hawaii, Nov 27-29. Day 1 consists of a 10km, point to point, open ocean swim, followed by a 145km bike ride with 2600m of elevation gain, from Kona to Volcano. Day 2 is entirely on the bike – 275km with another 2600m of climbing – from Volcano to Hawi via Pahoa. The final day of competition is a double marathon from Hawi to Kona, with 475m of climbing and 650m of descending.
At the Ultraman World Championships the distances, while staggering enough, are only half of the story – the athletes have to battle the elements Madame Pele throws at them as well. This year athletes swam against a slight current the entire way, while dealing with 3 foot swells. Howard led the field out of the water in 2:26:03, 10 minutes ahead of his closest competitor. In a case of you never know what will happen – Inaki was dealt with an infection 7 days prior to the event that had him on antibiotics throughout the competition.
Howard relinquished the lead around the 100km mark when Mike Coughlin “passed me like a freight train.” On the day 1 bike course athletes saw crosswinds that gusted to 65km/hr on their descent to Naalehu and a headwind up the final 50km climb that remained steady between 20-30km/hr. He finished the day in 4th after battling nausea up the final climb and vomiting shortly after crossing the finish line.
Day 2 was a wet and sloppy day with reports of flats everywhere and numerous crashes. Two athletes, Scott McDermott and Christian Isakson, were taken to the hospital for their injuries and are thankfully doing well. Many other athletes went down in minor crashes, including Howard, at the 65km mark when his rear brakes locked up on a wet left hand turn. “Honestly I think the crash may have helped; the adrenaline starts flowing and it masks the normal pain of the effort.” He came across the line in 8th on the day, maintaining his 4th place position overall, 18 minutes out of third and 2 minutes ahead of fifth.
On Day 3 Howard started out steady, running through the half marathon in 1:38:01, the marathon in 3:21:21, and 50km in 3:59:24. For most of the way he kept Tony O’Keefe, who started the day 2:10 in arrears, at approximately that deficit. It was a dead even step-for-step 52 mile foot race with seconds separating them for third and fourth overall. O’Keefe who has a proven track record of strong double marathons made his move at 50km and stretched his lead up to 8 minutes, as Howard struggled up the largest climb on the course. With the final half marathon approaching Howard got back into his groove. “We passed the ¾ mark – it was a matter of now or never if I wanted to try and catch the guys up front. Things just steamrolled from there – I picked up the effort and was moving faster than I thought possible, I saw the excitement on my crew’s faces, then they’re giving me time gaps and it’s coming down like 2 minutes every 10 minutes, and I started seeing the guys up the road. It was the most fun I’ve ever had competing and I just didn’t want the feeling to stop, so I kept pushing.” Howard finished the day in third place in 6:49:23, propelling him into third overall in a time of 23:28:48.
Jeremy credited the time spent with Inaki, in Kona, in early October and again in the two weeks prior to the race as a huge factor in his performance: “the course specific work, the conversations we had and the training we were able to get in together gave me the mental tools necessary to execute the race I did. In particular were two 12 hour rides that Inaki absolutely dragged me through – I went back to those numerous times as I pushed in the back half of the second day.”
Inaki gave all the credit for his finish to his crew. They wouldn’t let him stop. He also credited the messages coming in via email and social media encouraging him along. I was ready to quit from 2-3km into the swim, but the look on Glee’s face (his kayaker) of focus and determination kept me going. From there I just said I will see what I can do. That was the story of my Ultraman – every minute I was thinking of pulling out of the race; it was really hard.” Despite not being the performance he had hoped for, going forward he says there is much to take away from the experience – especially the vital importance of the team dynamic between crew and athlete as well as simply maintaining a constant and even effort: “eventually you will get to the finish line.”
Of Inaki’s performance, Howard said “In an event like this, when you start each day together and you see your crew every 5-10 minutes you have thousands of opportunities to drop out. To persevere in a 24 hour event when you feel like death 20 minutes in requires incredible mental strength. He had the gutsiest performance, hands down. ”
Ultraman truly is a team effort. Like Inaki, Jeremy gave high praise to his crew as well. They kept him on track with fluids and calories, identified his low points quickly and kept encouraging him till he emerged. “My biggest goal entering this race was to put myself in a bigger hole than I’ve ever been in during a race, during the second half of the run. There’s a lot of satisfaction in achieving that and immense amount of gratitude to my competitors and support system for providing the atmosphere and tools necessary.”
LifeSport coach Jeremy is a USAT certified coach who has coached a number of triathletes from beginner to podium finishers. Jeremy has been coaching for 8 years and been successful with all his athletes finishing their events and berths at 70.3, Ironmans and Ultramans.Contact Jeremy to share your goals, race faster, or master the Ironman distance. Find more great training tips by joining us on