Rocks blowing out the bike tires. Serious – serious! – discomfort in the neck. Gruelling heat. Lack of sleep. Risk of heatstroke. Seasickness. Hallucinations.
All in an event where you swim 76 kilometres, cycle 3,600 and finish with an 844 km run.
So – you want to be a double deca triathlon participant do you?
Vernon double deca and ultra athlete queen Shanda Hill is trying to overcome all of it as she competes in her second gruelling event in less than a month in San Felipe, Mexico.
Hill finished second out of four women at the 2023 Swissultra Double Deca in Buchs, Switzerland, on Sept. 15. She began the Mexican event on Sept. 23. It took Hill 24 hours of travel to get from Europe to North America.
You can follow her progress courtesy of her support team on Instagram and Facebook, Shanda Hill Ultra Athlete. There, for example, you will find out that today, Wednesday, Sept. 27, Hill has faced a challenging 24 hours.
She contemplated withdrawing from the race. While out on her bike, a gravel truck passed by, hurling a large rock that struck her bike, causing both tires to blow out. A bike mechanic for the race happened upon the scene, gave Hill his bike so she could continue, and fixed hers.
During the swim portion, she slipped in the pool and hit her chin which resulted in significant neck pain and inflammation. Playing hurt, Hill carried on and finished the 76 kms in the water. But as she began the lengthy cycling discipline, “navigating certain bumpy sections,” her neck jolts intensified the pain to almost unbearable levels.
She woke up in excruciating pain, unable to move her neck.
“The last time I spoke with her, she emphasized that completing the race is not just about her; it’s about completing this for all the people who support her,” said her team of HIll, who was brought to tears reading words of encouragement, support, and cheer from back home.
Should Hill finish the Mexico race, she will obtain a remarkable world record as the athlete with the most Double Deca Achievements Upon conquering this Double Deca challenge, she will secure a remarkable world record as the athlete with the most Double Deca finishes – three.
Her support crew put it this way: Hill will swim 152 kilometres, pedal 7,200 kms in two months and run 1,688 kms. The crew likened it to making a New Year’s resolution to achieve what Hill does in just two months spread out over an entire year.
It took Hill less than 60 hours to finish the swim discipline in Mexico, a time described by her team as “exceptional,” considering all the time she spent out of the pool protecting herself from the sun.
She had multiple complications to add to her swim for the first 20+ hours. First off, the water under the Mexican sun was intensely hot for extended swims. Hill resolved this issue during the day by taking her wetsuit off and swimming in her bathing suit. Two complications with that are a loss of buoyancy and the risk of sunburn. Luckily, her support crow, Jade, had some SPF 100 sunblock handy and got her all lathered up.
Secondly, she had an issue that she’s had in the past – seasickness. For the first several hours, Hill had trouble keeping any food down.
Hill also battled hallucinations throughout the first night. She thought the pool had morphed into a twisty maze, causing her to swim in bewildering circles. To top it off, she even had moments when she imagined snakes on the pool floor, which left her fearful of putting her feet down. Hill says it’s par for the course for athletes to experience these wild visions during a race, especially when they’re running on fumes from sleep deprivation and sheer exhaustion.