This weekend, an elite group of 27 athletes from 11 countries are putting their strength of mind and body to the ultimate fitness test.
The three-day, invite-only Ultra 520K Canada race is not so much about where you finish, but if you finish.
“It certainly takes the sport to another level,” said organizer Steve Brown. “This is a race against you and the clock and not necessarily against each other. It’s all about how well you do yourself at those distances.
“It requires one to certainly dig a lot deeper than what they’re used to. They have a 12-hour time limit, three days in a row, so it really calls on all their resources, mental, physical, spiritual. Whatever’s required to get you to that finish line.”
Penticton’s Dave Matheson, who turned in a record-setting time to win last year’s event, will not be competing as he’s currently preparing for a long distance event in Kona, Hawaii.
He finished the event in 21 hours, 37 minutes and 27 seconds, beating the mark he set in 2013 by 10 minutes.
Because it is such a small field of competitors, Brown says there is a strong sense of companionship among participants—to the point where athletes will cross the finish line together.
“The event is, first and foremost, an individual endurance challenge, where the spirit of camaraderie and goodwill are to be fostered whenever possible, and every athlete is recognized,” reads the event website. “It is not about how you finish relative to others in the event, but rather that you do your best while participating with fairness, honour and respect for all.”
Day one of this year’s event on Saturday is a 10-kilometre swim from Skaha Beach Penticton to Okanagan Falls starting at 6:30 a.m., followed by a 149.8-kilometre bike ride.
Day two consists of a 275.8-km bike course starting at Skaha Marina to Princeton Arena. Day three is an 84.4-km run along the Princeton-Summerland Road finishing at Summerland Memorial Park.
The awards banquet is Tuesday at the Lakeside Resort.
Each participant is required to have a vehicle and support crew of two to four members and have completed a full Ironman-distance event in the last 18 months in a set time.
“These are people who are just driven by wanting to go the distance,” said Brown.
Similar events are held in Mexico, Brazil, Spain, United Kingdom, Israel and Australia.
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