With her dad having dragged her around to various triathlons while he competed, and as a two-time short-course competitor herself, Ashcroft’s Rhea Little wanted to meet one of the region’s most famous ultra athletes.
That would be Vernon’s Shanda Hill, who recently became the first Canadian, male or female, to complete the mind-boggling Double Deca in Leon, Mexico, the equivalent of 20 Ironman triathlon races.
Hill spent part of October swimming 76 kilometres, (like Vernon to Penticton and a bit), running 844 kilometres (Vernon to Medicine Hat, Alta.) and cycling 3,600 kilometres (Vernon to Winnipeg and back). She was the second woman across the finish line.
Little and her family drove into town Sunday where close to 60 people gathered at Iron Heart Gym in the first hour of a two-hour welcome home party for Hill.
“I wanted to see her, meet her and hear her stories,” said Little. “My dad (Wayne) really wanted to come and meet her. I liked her. She’s really nice, very bubbly.”
Also among the well-wishers was Chera Rossignol of Vernon, who has known Hill for 14 years.
“She’s amazing,” said Rossignol. “She brings everybody together. Even people she doesn’t know are here to support her.”
Hill, whose family was on-hand for the celebration, said she was blown away by the love and support she received during the race.
“Thank you so much for all of your Facebook comments and support over the past month,” said Hill. “Your support helped to reach almost half a million people about the sport I love so much. I truly felt each of you in my heart as I swam, biked and run.”
Sue Vignola is Hill’s boss at Rancho Vignola in Armstrong, a co-owner of the operation. Vignola told the crowd that Hill is one of the strongest women she knows.
“She has a tendency to come up behind the supervisors, big burly men, and pick them up,” said Vignola, drawing raucous laughter from the crowd. “She has the kindest heart of anyone I know. She’s a beautiful soul, incredibly kind to her co-workers. She’s incredible.”