When Shanda Hill saw the finish line with her dad, Don, waiting for her, after six days of gruelling competition, the Vernon woman smiled.
Hill, 34, finished sixth overall and was the first female to complete the Virginia Quintuple Anvil triathlon, held at Lake Anna State Park in Spotsylvania.
The Rancho Vignola employee, mother and baking fanatic became the first Canadian woman to ever complete the Quintuple, which started Monday, Oct. 10, and competitors had until Saturday at 4 p.m. Pacific time to complete.
The event consists of a 19 kilometre swim (Vernon to Oyama), a 900 kilometre bike ride (Vernon to Medicine Hat) and a 210 kilometre run (Vernon to Ashcroft), or five times the distances of an Ironman triathlon.
“It’s the best feeling in the whole world,” said Hill Saturday just after 7 a.m. Pacific time. She crossed the finish line at 2:08 a.m. Pacific Saturday, posting an overall time of 117 hours, 46 minutes and 42 seconds.
“Not just because I finished, but because of when you set out to do something you want to achieve and complete it, it makes it so fantastic. It was the journey of getting here and completing the race.”
According to the usaultratri.com website, there were 19 competitors for the Quintuple Anvil. Hill was among five women entered and was the lone Canadian in the field.
Hill took the lead among the women on the opening day of the race and never relinquished it. On Oct. 11, she had opened up a 72-mile lead on the women’s side and was in third place overall.
On Oct. 12, Hill upped her lead to 110 miles on the second-place woman, and 235 miles on third place.
She made the transition to the run portion of the race Wednesday at 11 p.m. Pacific.
According to her boyfriend Lennard (Lenny) Winslow’s Facebook posts, the weather was warm during the day for the race but cooled down considerably at night.
The only time Hill encountered problems was Friday at 4 a.m. Vernon time.
“It was completely cold on the run, freezing, that was the hardest part,” she said. “My quad muscle tightened up and it really hurt.”
Despite the pain, Hill persevered. In fact, she said, there was no point during the race where she felt like giving up.
That was evidenced by her final run lap Saturday.
“I left my heart out on that last loop,” said Hill. “People who were running it did it in about 25 minutes. If they walked the final lap, they did it in 32 minutes. I did it in 16 minutes and seven seconds. I was still running my heart out.”
Also helping her along the way were Don, who would run with his daughter for portions of the race (though he had to be woken up for the finish because Shanda insisted he go and take a nap), and Winslow, who had been passing on text and Facebook messages to Hill.
“My dad is so special, and those messages were so motivating,” said Hill. “You realize it’s not just you out there. There’s all these other people who have taken time to check it out and pass along good wishes. That’s such extra motivation.”
Hill started running races in 2010. She ran 700 kilometres of races and competed in her first 50-km ultra trail running race, placing ninth out of 15 women.
She has twice competed and completed the Challenge Penticton triathlon (formerly Ironman Canada) and, to warm up for Virginia, Hill competed in July, and finished, the Oregon Double Anvil.
Hill, who returns home Monday, thanked her family – which includes her brother, Canadian snowboard cross champion and Olympian Kevin Hill – for their love and support, along with Winslow, Rancho Vignola, Professional Hands Massage and Sun Country Cycle, which provided her with an extra bike for the cycling portion.