Champ an Ultraman in fifth fastest time

John Bergen is the 2011 Ultraman Canada champ.

Penticton’s Ed Marbach catches his breath after finishing fifth overall in just over 27 hours.

Penticton’s Ed Marbach catches his breath after finishing fifth overall in just over 27 hours.

John Bergen is the 2011 Ultraman Canada champ.

The Seattle resident crossed the finish line in 23:48.29, good for the fifth fastest time as he completed the 84.4-kilometre run Monday in 7:29.03.

“There has been some amazing champions and some amazing course record holders here,” said Bergen. “Just to finish and have a first-place is icing on the cake.”

Bergen, who completed 16 Ironmans since trying the sport in the mid 90s, said he was happy with his performance. He said the distances on all three days are intimidating and are very difficult to prepare for.

“You never know on any given day how your body is going to react,” he said. “My crew was really good about making sure that I was disciplined on my nutrition, kept me within myself to stay smooth and fortunately each day ended up being a really good day and it carried over to the next.”

Bergen finished Day One (10-km swim, 144.8-km bike) in 7:36.02, while Day Two (273.5-km bike) went in 8:43.24 for a two-day total of 16:19.26.

“There were a couple of sections on the bike that were the toughest riding I have ever done, the first 25-km coming out of Keremeos into Hedley was brutal,” said Bergen, who played soccer at the collegiate level with Western Washington College. “We were riding into straight block headwind and the road conditions in that section aren’t very great so mentally that was a really tough section. I knew we all had to do it. If it was going to be as windy as it was all the way into Princeton, then I think a lot of us would have cracked.”

What motivated Bergen to take on Ultraman Canada was back in 2002 during Ironman Canada and he heard Steve King announce a finisher. Bergen had done Ironman Canada and it planted a seen in his mind.

“Steve Brown puts on an amazing event and I wanted to be part of it,” said Bergen, who loved the area and said it’s beautiful to race in. “You couldn’t ask to run bike or swim anywhere that is more impressive.”

In second-place was Brazil’s Roberto Parseghian, who finished in 26:38.44 followed by Jen Segger in third at 26:59.29.

Segger, who is from the Squamish area, said it was a tough race to finish.

“For me it was my hip flexors that were hurting,” said Segger, who had to wait for Joni Moore to come in at a certain point before knowing if she was the women’s champ.

While talking about the downhill portions of the course, Segger said they are not easy.

“I prefer the hills over anything,” she said. “It hurts, you just have to keep going. My crew was making me move.”

Segger said she gained time on the hills because she arrived at them early. Then she just maintained her lead.

“I went out maybe a little harder than I normally would,” said the 31-year-old. “I knew I had to. “I’m not really happy with my run today (Monday). I was hoping for faster than that (8:36.05).”

Penticton’s Ed Marbach came third for males and placed fifth overall as he finished in 27:14.57.

Marbach said he felt pretty good during the three days despite having some knee problems on the

final day.

“I went in there basically to finish the race,” said Marbach. “Day One I had the third fastest bike time (4:54.35), Day Two I had the second fastest bike time (9:06.26) and moved up into second place overall. That was kind of cool. Day Three, I had a 9:35 run so that put me fifth place overall which is pretty cool.”

Marbach’s efforts exceeded his expectations, especially during the final 20 kilometres which was completed in roughly 1:45 minutes. “We just pounded it,” said Marbach. “I had the course record for my age group in my mind and just came up shy on it. I had some incentive there to go for it.”

Marbach loved the experience saying it’s different from Ironman. With each athlete having his or her own crew, he said it can become overwhelming and emotional.

“To me it’s the true meaning of triathlon,” added Marbach. “It’s where Ironman was 25 years ago.”

Marbach said the completion of his three-day journey still hasn’t sunk in.

“I’m sure at the awards banquet it will all sink in,” said Marbach, who said that he will never do it again but strongly recommends others to try.

Brown, who has help in organizing the event, said he was pleased with how things went.

“This year we had fewer numbers than we did last year but that’s a good thing because it enhanced the closeness and allowed us to really foster the spirit of the event,” he said. “We’re about camaraderie than competition. Had a good group of athletes.”

Ultraman Canada had a special guest in American astronaut Alvin Drew, who was a keynote speaker for the athletes prior to the race and spent some time with them during the weekend. Drew spoke to the athletes about the parallels between preparing for doing something like a space walk and preparing for an Ironman.

“They are physically demanding, they are very emotionally demanding and require thought and prepartion to do it,” said Drew, who dates Penticton’s Patricia Tribe and wore an Ultraman t-shirt during his last voyage to space in February. “Just incredible to see athletes out here. They are in great physical shape but I think it’s much more than that. Takes mental focus and discipline and determination to get through something like this if you are going to come out on top.”

Growing up, Drew said he wasn’t really an athlete growing up in Washington.

“I had natural running ability but it wasn’t like I was doing anything to nurture that,” said Drew, who signed autographs for kids at the event. “My philosophy back then was run when you’re either chasing or being chased.”