“I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO IT LIKE YOU WOULDN’T BELIEVE”
VERNON - After a car accident left her with severe back and head injuries, Vernon resident Shanda Hill never dreamed she would be the first Canadian woman to compete in a quintuple triathlon — a race the equivalent of five Ironmans.
But, the 34-year-old mother has always loved a good challenge.
She got into sports as a teenager when her brother — snowboard cross athlete Kevin Hill — took up BMX racing. She soon followed, and competed in BMX racing across Canada and the U.S. — until a 2003 car crash almost took her out of sports completely.
She was riding her bike up Silver Star Road when she was struck from behind by a truck. She suffered a major back injury — one of the discs in her spine ‘crumpled’ — and also sustained a traumatic brain injury.
“It was one of the most frustrating experiences of my life. Coming off something you love and not being able to do it is hard,” Hill says. “But, a lot of good came out of it.”
While she’d always been an active person, she hadn't been to a gym before the accident.
“Now, I was forced into a routine of strength training to get my back strong again,” she says.
It took her five long years to get back into sports, something she says she couldn't have done without her family.
“The way my parents raised me is ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way.’ You just do it,” she says.
She took up running in 2010 and started out with the goal of completing a half marathon. Within that first year, she ran a total of 700 kilometres in races, and competed in her first 50 km ultra trail running race. Since then, she’s competed in over 15 ultra distance races, including an 80 km race, and a total of nearly 50 half and full marathons.
In 2014, a friend suggested she do a triathlon — so she did.
“I didn’t even have a bike,” she says. “I ended up setting up a Go Fund Me for one. It was a community effort to say the least.”
After competing in Challenge Penticton in 2015, a friend mentioned another race to her — the Oregon double Anvil — which is equal to two Ironmans.
“I don’t know what prompted me to do it. I guess I thought, ‘I still have a couple months to train. I’m doing it,’” she says.
She completed the race in 38 hours and placed second in the women’s category, qualifying her for a race she’d never even heard of.
“It’s called the quintuple anvil, which is five Ironman’s,” she says.
That measures out to a 19 km swim, a 900 km bike ride and a 210 km run. Participants have 132 hours to complete the race — about five and a half days. Hill is the first Canadian woman to compete in the race.
“It’s nuts,” she says. “I’m looking forward to it like you wouldn’t believe.”
The race is Oct. 10 in Virginia, and Hill is preparing with her personalized training regime. It consists of going on a 200 to 250 km bike ride once every two weeks, running a variety of half and full marathons, and spending a lot of time at the gym. It may be hard to believe that she only bikes every couple of weeks, but she says it’s important not to overdo it.
“I’m very diligent with equal amounts of activity and rest. It sounds bizarre, but I’ve found it works,” she says.
The lifelong vegetarian will be eating her usual diet of nuts and fruit provided by her sponsor and employer Rancho Vignola in advance of the race.
And she’s already got her eyes set on the next challenge.
“I’ve since found out there’s something called a deca — that would be 10 Ironmans which I have the full intention of doing when this is finished.”
Hill wants to thank her family, boyfriend Lennard, RanchoVignola, Prohands massage and Suncountry Cycle for helping her along this journey.
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