A fire along the Keremeos Creek over the B.C. Day long weekend rerouted a race equivalent to a double Ironman, but it didn’t stop a Steveston man, Jeremy Hopwood, from taking first prize.
The Ultra250, based in Penticton – which Hopwood calls the “triathlon heart” of B.C. – was on his bucket list to do when he was turning 40. This was delayed by a few years because of the COVID-19 pandemic but this year he completed it despite a medical setback, that being a bout of Bell’s Palsy in the spring.
The Ultra520 takes place over three days and Hopwood's time was 27:38:06, well ahead of the second-place finisher.
On day one, the competitors swim 10 kilometres and cycle 145 kilometres. Day two is a 275-kilometre bike ride and day three is a double marathon – 84 kilometres in length.
Preparing for the Ultra520 – or any other long race – includes getting ready psychologically as well as physically.
During the nine-hour days in the gruelling heat, Hopwood said he needed to break down what he had to accomplish into small chunks as not to be overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the race.
He compares it to his kids doing school projects, and breaking them down into achievable pieces.
“I think that’s a really important mental skill … otherwise, it can be nearly impossible as a whole,” Hopwood said. “But if you break it down, it’s a lot more doable.”
This means focusing on what you have to do, not how far you have to go, he added.
Especially given the heat, which got up to 44 degrees Celsius, there was a lot his crew had to do around to keep him cool, Hopwood explained.
“It was a lot about working with my support crew, what do we have to do in the next 15-20 minutes around my heat management, what do I need to eat, what do I need to drink,” Hopwood said.
Training for the Ultra520 meant doubling his training time, from his regular 10 hours a week to 20 hours of week of swimming, running and cycling.
Hopwood started this regime in May in anticipation of the July long weekend event.
Hopwood said he has a natural aptitude for endurance races, which attracted him to doing Ironman and other long-form events.
But part of his motivation is the “good community feel” among the athletes and their crew, especially in Penticton, which is known for its Ironman community.
Hopwood, who works for Telus as an IT program manager, finds training for endurance sports keeps him “grounded” and works as a stress release.
Without any distraction, training days are “very simple” with just trying to reach the next tree or the next post along his route.
In his spare time, Hopwood has gotten involved in coaching cross-country racing with the Kajaks, Richmond’s track and field club, and he hopes to learn more about coaching.
Having achieved this bucket list item, Hopwood is now gearing up to do an Ironman this weekend to round out this season’s races.
Ironman Canada started in Penticton in 1982, after a 10-year hiatus from the central Okanagan city, it’s back in Penticton again this year.