It was only a matter of time before we had to break down and name an age group athlete our Triathlete of the Year. In a year that saw none of our top pros make it to the podium at the Olympics, or at a world championship event, it was impossible to ignore the accomplishments of Milos Kostic, who hasn’t lost a triathlon since 2006, and has been at the top of the podium every time he’s race at the at the Ironman World Championship.
While we’re used to seeing Kostic dominate his age group at various events around the world, this year he took his performances to an entirely new level. The 71-year-old finished the Ironman North American Championship in New York in an incredible 11:20. In a career of “years to remember,” this one might go down as his best yet. As if he doesn’t have enough records to his name, we’ll add one more to that impressive resume: the first age group athlete to be named Triathlon Magazine Canada’s Triathlete of the Year.
Milos Kostic’s Banner Year
Saskatchewan’s Milos Kostic’s stellar performances are commonplace, but in 2012 he managed to raise the bar even higher. Opening his 2012 season on the international front, Kostic competed in the Celtman Scottish Extreme Triathlon on Scotland’s rugged northwest coast. The arduous race consists of a frigid 3.8 km swim in the waters of Loch Shieldaig in the Atlantic Ocean followed by 202 km of biking over the Torridon Mountains, all the while completing over 2,000 m of climbing. The day concludes with a 42 km off-road mountain trail run. Kostic managed all this in 20:36:15 for the category win. He also had the distinction of being the eldest finisher.
As if that performance wasn’t enough, in August Kostic took a pass on his yearly assault on the record book at Ironman Canada for the opportunity to compete in the inaugural Ironman race in New York City. Kostic’s stunning 11:20:56 finish time ensured yet another age group win on the hot and demanding urban course. For some perspective on how incredible that time is, it’s worth noting that he was the only 70 to 74 finisher in the tough New York conditions and that his time would have won both the men’s 65 to 69 and the 60 to 64 age categories, which were won in 14:04:10 and 11:33:28 respectively.
Double Ironman World Championship wins
As if that weren’t enough to guarantee his TOY status, his performance at the world championship events at Lake Las Vegas in Henderson, Nevada and Kona, Hawaii were every bit as imprssive. Kostic was the class of the field in the sweltering conditions in Las Vegas, handily winning his division by 36-minutes with a finishing time of 6:17:17 in the heat of the day.
Four weeks later, Kostic captured his age group once again at the Ironman World Championship, coming across the line an hour and 42 minutes ahead of his age group rival with his 12:15:41 clocking. (That performance would have netted him second in the men’s 65 to 69 category. That kept his Kona-record intact: he has an incredible string of six Ironman world titles in as many attempts, annihilating the record book in Kona as he goes. Kostic’s Ironman and Ironman 70.3 World Championship double wins this year mirrored the same feat he accomplished in 2011.
The triathlon beginnings
A youthful Kostic attended the University of British Columbia as a foreign student from Belgrade, Serbia (formerly Yugoslavia). Electing to remain in Canada after finishing his engineering degree, Kostic eventually settled in Regina where he remains today. After Kostic picked up the running bug in the midst of the craze in the early 70’s, running became a life-long passion. The veteran roadrunner no longer tracks the total number of marathons he has completed, but believes that he has finished close to 200 marathons since taking his feet to the road.
In 2005 Kostic drifted towards triathlon after taking up cycling and swimming as a means of cross training. At the encouragement of some local multi-sport enthusiasts, Kostic entered his first triathlon, which led him to enter a half-Ironman race in Morden, Manitoba. Kostic’s success in Morden netted him a surprise qualifying spot to Ironman Canada later in the summer. He finished second in Penticton, which got him a qualifying spot for the Ironman World Championships. Reluctantly, Kostic turned the spot to Kona down due to a commitment to run four marathons in four days in Nevada and California later that fall.
On a mission to qualify for Kona the following year, Kostic doubled his chances of success by entering Ironman Coeur d’Alene and Ironman Canada. In Idaho an unfortunate bike mishap resulted in Kostic missing the win (and a trip to Kona) by a mere three minutes. It was also the last time he was beaten in an Ironman. At Ironman Canada later that summer, Kostic thrashed his closest rival by almost two hours, which ensured he would be at the start line in Kona.
Keeps him young and motivated
“When I was working, sneaking out at noon for two hours to get in a run or a bike was a treat for me,” reflects Kostic of his early days of triathlon training. “Running, swimming and biking were a real hobby back then. Now that I have retired, the training sometimes is more of another chore, another thing to do that day.”
He’s made training less of “chore” by adding group work outs into his training regime. Kostic credits a pair of local Regina groups that provide incentive and inspiration to his training throughout the year in weather-challenged Saskatchewan.
“I regularly train with the members of the Marathon Matters and Regina Multi-Sport Club,” says Kostic. “I have consistently been involved with a group of fine young people who keep me motivated and inspire me in my training with their enthusiasm for the sport.”
When asked to critique the three disciplines of triathlon, the multiple recipient of Triathlon Canada’s Grand Master Age Group Athlete of the Year confesses that he sacrifices some time to his competition in the water. His solid riding ability then propels him close to, if not into, the lead during the cycling leg. It is the run where Kostic excels, though. “For most people, the run is where they fade,” says Kostic. “For me, I just can’t wait to get to run.”