Shanda Hill is a low-profile type of athletic phenomenon.
It’s true that she’s been interviewed by media outlets across North America, even before she set a world record for female athletes by taking on two of the world’s most gruelling deca races in one calendar year, and earned numerous awards and accolades throughout her brief athletic career—but somehow Hill, 35, remains humble and focused on her goals.
“I don’t do it (compete) to set records. I do it because I just love the challenge,”she said.
“I’m just a mommy that’s damn determined.”
In August, Hill became one of six women in the world to complete the Deca Ultra Triathlon Continuous in Switzerland – a challenging 38 kilometre swim, 1,800 kilometre ride and 422 kilometre run.
The Vernon super athlete took on the Deca Ultra Triathlon in Leon, Mexico two weeks ago, just six days after conquering the Virginia Triple Anvil triathlon. She decided to do the Mexico torture test a day or so after the Virginia race.
The Mexico race, rumoured to be one of the world’s toughest, includes a 38-kilometre swim, an 1,800-km bike ride and a 422-km run. Hill finished in 13 days and seven hours, placing first among females in the two-week long endurance race.
The Virginia Triple Anvil triathlon was held at Lake Anna State Park in Spotsylvania, which consists of a 12-kilometre swim, 54-k cycle and 126-k run, all of which must be completed within 60 hours. Hill came in at 55:22:31 —which brings her total mileage in the last 2.5 months, to 88km of swimming, 4140km of cycling and a 970 km of running.
“Virginia was unreal,” said Hill. “I came first in 55 hours. It was hot but nothing compared to Mexico. It was 13 days, seven of beating heat from hell; I got the tan of a lifetime though.”
To date, Hill, who started started running less than a decade ago and competing in triathlons only three years ago, has completed more than a dozen ultra-distance races.She says she thrives on the opportunity to test both her physical and mental endurance.
“People call me crazy because I do this stuff. But to me, giving birth was more crazy than any race I’ve ever competed in, ” she quipped.
Aside from a few “nasty blisters” Hill has often emerged from these races relatively unscathed.
Of course, she’s no stranger to the tests of the course.
She finished first among women and fifth overall in Virginia’s Quintuple Anvil last year. That race, she noted, is even longer, and includes a punishing 900-kilometre ride, 210-kilometre run and 19-kilometre swim. In all, the five-day event covers a distance roughly the length of Alberta.
“I won’t lie—it wasn’t easy,” she said.
“Over the years I’ve spent many nights on the couch icing my neck. But nothing that’s good ever comes easy.”
Indeed it hasn’t for the hard-working single mother of one.
“I started out as a kid doing BMX racing, which involves a 30-second sprint around the track. But I was in a really bad accident and then I couldn’t do sports anymore,” she explained.
Hill says she got into running competitively after rehabilitating from the injury because it allowed her to be physical and challenge herself without getting as many concussions as she did during her BMX days.
“For me, it was really incredible to find something I could do, rather than something I couldn’t do.”
In 2014, she entered her first triathalon after a friend suggested she “check out” the Challenge Penticton.
“I went online and registered that night—I had never attempted anything like that before. I didn’t even own a bike anymore at that point,” she recalled.
“It was a really harsh learning curve, but I knew—I know, that if you put your mind to something, you can do it.”
For her next challenge, Hill plans to tackle the Double Deca Ironman in Monterey, Mexico. Hill is already preparing for the event and says she couldn’t do it without the “unwavering support” of her son, parents, friends and sponsors.