Fifteen athletes from five countries are taking on Ultra520K Canada, which begins July 30.
Ultra520K Canada is a unique, individual, three-day event consisting of 520 kilometres of swimming, biking and running. Canada leads the way with six athletes, while Spain has four, the U.S. three and Australia and United Kingdom with one each.
Of the Canadians competing is Penticton’s Lisa Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald decided to sign up for the race after seeing it several times as she lives by the swim exit at Skaha Lake.
“It piqued my interest,” said Fitzgerald, 32, who will be the youngest athlete along with Spain’s Julio Hernandez Ortega. “After doing a few long distance Challenge events and Ironman events I thought that that was the next step I was looking for.”
Fitzgerald feels ready as she has been thinking about this race for two years and has trained for it over the past year. Fitzgerald, a territory manager for Swagman, is one of two females entered. Fitzgerald has completed Challenge Penticton twice and has done Ironman Coeur d’Alene. She has also cycled in the Prospera Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan five times.
When asked about doing the Ultra520K Canada, she said it’s a different landscape from doing one-day events.
“You have to get up the next day and give even more than you gave the day before,” she said. “I think that providing you keep putting nutrition into your body, your mind is going to dictate how you maneuver your way through day two and three.”
Day one begins with a 10-km swim in Skaha Lake to Sovereign Road near Okanagan Falls. After which, athletes complete a 149.8-km bike ride through the South Okanagan, over the Richter Pass, and ending back in Kenyon Park in Okanagan Falls.
Day two (July 31) continues with competitors cycling a 274.2-km bike route from Penticton to Osoyoos. They return to Okanagan Falls, then climb “The Wall” to Willowbrook and Twin Lakes on their way to Princeton where they complete an out and back section to Alison Lake to finish at the Princeton Arena.
Day three (Aug. 1) completes the event with an 84.4-km run from Princeton to Summerland along the Old Princeton Summerland Road. The athletes finish at Memorial Park in Summerland.
“I’m wanting to cross the finish line happy and healthy and just in good spirits,” said Fitzgerald.
She said it’s pretty phenomenal to be able to do an event like this in her city.
Race director Steve Brown said this was an unusual year with 25 athletes registering, but 10 dropped out due to training accidents.
“We normally expect to lose two, maybe three in the normal course of the training process, but this year was very different”, said Brown in a press release. “Over the months of April and May I was almost afraid to open my emails. Every time I did it seemed someone else had crashed or been in an accident of some kind, taking them out of the starting lineup. This was hard on us, but even harder on the athletes that train for months and spend a lot of time and money to do it. I know a few of these people personally and it was difficult for them. Some tried to fight through the injuries and recovery but the demands of the training were just too much.”
In order to be invited to this demanding endurance race, competitors must complete at least an iron distance race (226.3-km) in under 14.5 hours during the previous 18 months.
This year’s event features eight returning athletes, four of whom had difficulties completing the course within the cut off times last year.
“We are really excited that these individuals are taking another shot at this event. It takes a lot of courage and intestinal fortitude to step back up and take this on after the emotional disappointment of not succeeding the first time,” said Brown. “They will have the full support of everyone out there. The rest of the athletes and crews will be cheering for them to succeed. That is what makes this event special, everyone supporting each other.”
Local residents are invited to witness the end of all stages as follows: Day one/Stage one 10-km swim, Sovereign Road boat Launch just off Eastside Road 8:30 a.m.; Day one/Stage one 149-km bike, Kenyon Park, Okanagan Falls, approximately 3 p.m.; Day two/Stage two 275-km bike, Princeton Arena, approximately 3:30 p.m.; Day three/Stage three 84.4-km run, Memorial Park, Summerland approximately 2:30 p.m.
Alternatively, for the third time the event will be offering live streaming of selected portions of the event from our website at www.ultra520kcanada.com.