Lacamas Headhunters are aiming for Ironman Canada

The 140.6-mile swimming, biking and running event is set for Aug. 28

By Dan Trujillo, Columbian staff writer

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Thirty-four club members from Lacamas Swim & Sport had no idea what they were getting themselves into when they signed up to do a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run in one day.

That is a total of 140.6 miles. Most people would call that pure torture, but this tight group of Camas, Washougal, Vancouver and Brush Prairie residents have caught the rush.

After nearly a year of training, these Headhunters are aiming to cross the finish line at the 2011 Ironman Canada Aug. 28, in Penticton, B.C.

“You have to have some sort of internal craziness to try something like this,” said Lisa Wourms of Camas. “I think we all have a touch of that.”

“One person in the group starts drinking the Kool-Aid, and then the next person takes a drink,” added Sondra Grable of Camas. “And we just keep passing it around.”

Joining Wourms and Grable are Jason and Lori Saunders of Washougal. Other couples include Mark and Sonjia Chandaria, Bob and Denise Croucher, John and Suzi Shoemaker, and Brian Cummins and Nadine Taylor.

“It’s a fun thing to do as a married couple,” Jason Saunders said. “Crossing the finish line together holding hands would be pretty cool, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. But you never know, maybe we will.”

The rest of the tribe includes Terri Anderson, Natalie Benzel, Anita Burkard, Chris Clay, Glen Collins, Cara Denver, Cory Duncan, Denise Edmiston, Scott Essman, Lisa Engel, Mike Gilbert, Stacey Lake, Andrew Kallenberger, Jeff Macey, Alan O’Hara, Karen O’Quinn, Ian Rogers, Julie Seale, Deborah Skalbeck, Stephan Shoemaker and Tom Wortmon.

Knowing it takes about a year to train for an Ironman is the biggest hurdle, but there are benefits. Club owner and team leader Denise Croucher said the group has lost a combined total of 300 to 400 pounds. She personally lost about 30 pounds.

“After coming home from work, these people are putting in another 30 hours of training to get ready for this. It’s lots and lots of work, which is why having the support of your family and friends is so important,” Croucher said. “You finish something like this, and it changes your life. I hope they are all able to cross the finish line, get that medal and realize they are capable of doing so much more than they thought they ever could. That’s my biggest wish.”

Describing the task as “daunting” would be an understatement. The event opens on the shores of Okanangan Lake Beach, in Rotary Park. Competitors hit the water at 7 a.m. They swim in a north by northwest direction around the lake. Elevation at the transition is 1,125 feet. Once the racers get back to shore, they are directed through timing chutes and a changing station. Those who do not complete the swimming course by 9:20 a.m. are not allowed to continue.

The first part of the biking course is relatively flat, with a downhill section toward Okanangan Falls. After that, it gets difficult with an 11-kilometer climb up Richter Pass (elevation at the summit is 2,295 feet) and a series of challenging hills. The biking portion must be complete by 5:30 p.m., in order to continue.

After all of that comes the 26.2-mile run. To receive a medal, competitors must cross the finish line by midnight.

Croucher said a day has not gone by without one of the Headhunters wanting to hang it up, but the tribe would not let them quit.

“I think everyone on the team has had a day when they say, ‘I can’t do this anymore.’ But someone is always there to say ‘give it another day and see how it goes.’ And so they do another day. And then another, and another. All of the sudden, they’re there at the start line,” Croucher said. “Ironman is one of those thing’s that’s so big, you won’t know if you can finish it until you get there. Our goal is to get everybody there.”