MINERAL, Va. — Ultra marathon veteran Shanda Hill from Vernon, British Columbia, had already caught her breath just minutes after conquering a 678 kilometre race with hours to spare.
The 35-year-old athlete crossed the Triple Anvil finish line in Virginia, which featured a 12 kilometre swim, 540 kilometre bike ride and 126 kilometre run, all to be completed within 60 hours.
Other than some blisters on her feet, she said she finished the race uninjured.
"I don't think it's as bad as people say. I think half of the problems in this life is lack of activity," she said.
Hill is no stranger to the course, having finished first among women and fifth overall in Virginia's Quintuple Anvil last year.
Her time in this year's Triple Anvil of 55:22:31 fell short of her goal of 50 hours, however, because the need to sleep and replenish her electrolytes Friday night.
Hill got her start in racing after a friend suggested checking out the Penticton triathlon in 2014. Her friend meant that she should watch the race to learn about it, but Hill says she misunderstood and signed up for the full iron-distance race.
"I didn't know at that time that anything shorter actually existed," she said.
Since then, Hill has completed the triathlon twice, a double triathlon, and a quintuple triathlon.
Already active with a physically-demanding job in landscaping, Hill said she added cycling twice a week and weight lifting to improve her swimming strength to train for these events.
She reached her most extreme achievement in August when she took on the Deca Ultra Triathlon in Switzerland, becoming only the sixth woman ever to complete the 38 kilometre swim, 1,800 kilometre ride and 422 kilometre run.
Swimming remains the most challenging part of the course for her.
"I generally don't like swimming ... It's not something I'm good at, it's something I kind of fight," she said, adding previous injuries to her collar bone and shoulder causes her stroke to be uneven and cumbersome."
While these tests of endurance may sound impossible to some, Hill said a combination of willpower, competitiveness and a passion for exercise makes the races manageable.
"Once you get out there it's a little bit boring but it's quite peaceful. You wake up every day knowing that you're going to get to exercise that day. It's not half as bad as people think," she said.
She said she's also grateful for her family's support, along with having her father and a friend cheering her on along the course this week. Her fellow athletes have also become a family, she added.
"Everybody here is kind of like a family and when new people come in they welcome them like a family, so that's part of what makes this a really unique subculture because it's like being at a family reunion every time you come to a race," she said
Hill said she now has her sights on an even greater challenge and wants to bring a double deca ultra triathlon to the Virginia race next year, which would be twice the distance of the Switzerland race.
—By Linda Givetash in Vancouver.