Tri-athlete Cam McKay faces his ultimate ‘ultra’ test

Tri-athlete Cam McKay faces his ultimate ‘ultra’ test

Published Thursday 12 May 2016

Port Douglas tri-athlete Cam McKay will be facing the ultimate test of his 23-year career this weekend when he tackles Ultraman Australia, a three-day, 515 km endurance race on the Sunshine Coast.

Limited to 45 athletes on an invitation-only basis – qualification is the completion of an ironman in under 12 hours – it attracts participants from around the world who face the following: day one: 10km swim and 140km bike ride; day two: 281.1km bike ride; day three: 84.3 km run.

Each stage must be completed within 12 hours or the competitors face elimination.

A veteran of more than 100 triathlons, the 43-year-old McKay told Newsport before leaving for Noosa that he’d never been so nervous before an event.

“This is brand new territory. This is challenging the pain barrier at its highest. I am not looking to win; the result will take care of itself. Finishing it within the allotted time will be the best result and this is the major objective,” he said.

In an event that attracts athletes who seek to explore the extreme in physical and mental abilities, McKay is no stranger to the rigours of “ultras”, which have to be experienced to be understood and appreciated.

A winner of the 2009 Super Sprint Triathlon on the Gold Coast; the Coral Coast Triathlon and the Cairns 70.3; a Top 10 world place in the 70.3; plus his century of other triathlons, McKay knows all about having a strong mind and strong body.

“It’s why you prepare yourself for these types of events. I am feeling good and reasonably confident I’ve put in the right amount of training,” he said after a bike ride earlier this week.

To put this into perspective, McKay’s weekly training regimen involves 10-20km of swimming; 300-500km of cycling and 30-70km of running.

McKay will not be alone when he starts and finishes each day at iconic Noosa Heads beach, in front of the Noosa Heads Surf Lifesaving Club. He has a support crew of three – Michelle Sant, Nathan Hunt and Duncan Dark – who will be with him to assist in any number of ways over the 515km.

Brisbane’s Dave Kalinowski won last year’s Ultraman, which was also held in Noosa, in a time of 21 hours, 40 minutes and 43 seconds (play video below for highlights).

The first Ultraman Triathlon was held in 1983 and organized by Curtis Tyler, Alex Smith, and Conrad Will. Among the group Curtis Tyler served as original race director with the goal of having more than just a competition but an event that focused on the guiding principles of Hawaiian culture.... “aloha” (love), “ohana” (family), and “kokua” (help).

In 1992 Tyler turned over Ultraman to Jane Bockus on the condition that there never be prize money.

Jane Bockus often referred to as “Ultra Mom”, has kept the event the same with the exception of a course change in the years 2001 & 2002 with a start and finish in Kailua-Kona instead of the around the Big Island format.

Popularity of the previous format won over and things have changed little since.

In 1993 a second Ultraman was organized in Canada (Penticton, British Columbia) which once served as a qualifier event to gain entrance to Ultraman World Championships.

Today that race is held under the Ultra 515 brand and is no longer a qualifier.

A third event, Ultraman United Kingdom began in 2011 and was held in Wales for three years. Ultraman launched in early 2014 in the Central Florida region. Ultra 515 events are also held in Brazil, Canada, Puerto Rico, Marble Falls, Texas and Mallorca, Spain and although the distances are the same, they are not currently qualifiers for Ultraman World Championships.