ROCKWOOD – A Rockwood woman who has been named the champion of Ultraman Canada 2022 shares the story of her victory from start to finish.
Amy Robitaille, a 43-year-old triathlete, competed in Ultraman Canada between July 22 to July 24. The Ultraman event consists of a 10-km swim, a 421-km bike ride split between two days and ends with a 84.4-km run, which took place through the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. The course began at Penticton, B.C., and ended in Summerland, B.C.
This is Robitaille’s first Ultraman event, and over three days, she completed all three tasks in over 24 hours. Besides placing first overall, she also got a course record in biking for women during the second day of the competition.
“It didn’t really feel real,” Robitaille said about her win. “I felt like I was racing, doing my own thing and doing my best, whatever that looked like.”
“It took within the last two kilometres (of the run) that I believed I could be the winner.”
With more women competing in Ultraman Canada this year than ever before, Robitaille notes she wasn’t the only woman to win big.
“First, second, fourth and fifth were all women,” said Robitaille. “Not only did women show up, we showed up.”
It took seven years before Robitaille considered signing up for Ultraman Canada. Robitaille said she participated in previous triathlons and in an IRONMAN competition in 2016. She said she didn’t even start training in cycling or swimming until her 30s.
“Triathlete, but I was a runner first. My heart is in running,” said Robitaille, who ran cross country in high school.
Robitaille said the interest in Ultraman came from the coach of her training group, Discomfort Zone, which is based in Guelph. Her coach, Mike Coughlin, participated in the Ultraman World Championship in Hawaii in 2015. Robitaille said she held a viewing party to cheer him on.
For her, Robitaille explains watching Coughlin influenced her decision to start training, which Robitaille began in 2020.
“He was part of my crew,” Robitaille said about Coughlin. “He knew the course like the back of his hand and was able to give me advice on the fly.”
Robitaille calls training for the Ultraman ‘adjacent' to training she did for the IRONMAN competition. Robitaille spent long days working on consistency and focusing on proper fuelling and recovery techniques.
“Under-fuelling is very real,” said Robitaille, noting her best friend kept track of her nutrition during the event.
While initially intimidated by the other competitors, Robitaille said she felt she had nothing to prove during the competition, and enjoyed her first time in British Columbia.
“I knew it was going to be a beautiful experience. If nothing else, I had the views,” said Robitaille, noting she took a lot of mental pictures.
“Coming through first that (last) day was so very exciting, I was so glad not to run anymore.”
One marker of Robitaille’s success was her crew. For Ultraman Canada, Robitaille explains each participant needs a crew consisting of two to four members. Her crew consisted of her husband, Pat Robitaille, her best friend and her husband’s best friend.
Following her through the course in a van, her crew helped Robitaille setup and pack up her equipment, keep her hydrated and fuelled during events, and provided emotional support.
“It’s an individual result, but you wouldn’t get it without your team,” she said, calling them the ‘dream team.’
Robitaille also got lucky with her bike and didn’t suffer any mechanical issues which would cause her to pull out of the competition.
“Those are real things that can happen,” she said. “As you extend your race, the probability (of mechanical issues) increases.”
With this win underneath her belt, Robitaille is focusing on spending time with her family and friends. She said her kids were understanding of her need to train for the event, and she hopes they learned about the importance of perseverance.
“It was really awesome to tell them that I won the whole thing,” said Robitaille. “My kids have already decided we’re going to Hawaii (for the Ultraman World Championships).”