Tuesday, 29 August 2017 07:00

Swift Current resident completes gruelling Ironman triathlon to celebrate 50th birthday

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Stephen Boss arrives in the transition area after completing a bike ride of 180 kilometres at the 2017 Ironman Canada triathlon, July 30. Stephen Boss arrives in the transition area after completing a bike ride of 180 kilometres at the 2017 Ironman Canada triathlon, July 30. Photo contributed

A Swift Current resident celebrated his 50th birthday by competing in a gruelling triathlon race through the mountainous terrain around Whistler, B.C.


Stephen Boss participated in the 2017 Ironman Canada triathlon July 30. He completed his third Ironman triathlon in 2006 and he felt it was time for another one.
“I did my first Ironman in 1997, when I turned 30,” he said. “Over the years I did three altogether, and then as I was approaching my 50th birthday, I thought, well wouldn’t it be nice to do another one.”
Participants have 17 hours to complete the race. It started with a swim of 3.8 kilometres. Thereafter they cycled over a distance of 180 kilometres and then ran a marathon of 42 kilometres.
He completed the triathlon in a total time of 16 hours and five minutes, which included the transitions between each event. Some participants will aim to spend as little time as possible in the transition areas and they will wear special tri-suits underneath their wetsuits.
“I wasn’t as concerned about time,” he said. “I just wanted to make sure I was comfortable and did it smart. So I took longer in transitions because I changed from my swim suit into my cycling gear on the bike, and then when I finished the bike I changed again into my running gear, and I’m glad I did. I was very comfortable.”
The Ironman triathlon took place at Penticton, B.C., when he competed previously. The course at Whistler was therefore a new experience. He felt the terrain made it more challenging.
“The bike was a lot harder,” he said. “I found it harder than Penticton because it’s so hilly. With all the training I did in Saskatchewan, it’s pretty tough to find hills that could come anywhere close to the race in Whistler.”
One of the big challenges of the bike course between Whistler and Pemberton was the tough climb towards the end of the race.
“In Penticton they put the mountains kind of more in the middle, but in Whistler they saved the hardest climb for the very end,” he said. “So you spend your legs, and then you’ve got another 30 kilometre or so and it’s all uphill. We had a headwind that day, so that didn’t help at all. So I had a wind blowing in my face, and trying to climb those last 30 kilometres. It completely took it out of my legs. I had nothing left for the run.”
He completed the swim in an hour and 16 minutes, and it took him just over eight hours to finish the bike course.
“I was really glad to get off,” he said.
He then ran the marathon in about six hours, which was about two hours slower then his usual time for a marathon.
“Even in a marathon in Ironman before, I’ve always come in between four and a half and five hours, but it took me an extra hour longer in Whistler just because maybe it’s older legs or just nothing left in the muscles after the bike,” he said.
A large part of the effort to complete an Ironman triathlon is simply the mental challenge to keep on going despite tired legs and exhaustion.
“You’re talking to yourself the entire day and you’re trying to assess how you’re feeling,” he said. “You really do have to take each event on its own. So during the swim you’re only thinking about the swim, and during the bike you focus on the bike and then you’re really glad to get off that seat at the end of the bike, and then by the time you get to the run it really is a mental game more than anything else, because you’ve done the training and the chances are you’ve got enough time.”
He knew he had enough time to finish the marathon before the cut-off time, while the cheering spectators and volunteers along the route as well as the scenery helped to motivate him.
“I had enough time that I could have walked it if I really wanted to, but nobody wants to walk their Ironman,” he said. “So you’re mentally trying to push yourself when you can.”
It required a lot of commitment to prepare for and compete in the Ironman triathlon, but the support of his family made a real difference.
“I made sure that I talked to my family about it and planned it with them, because it takes such a lot of time with training and time away” he said. “We factored it in to our vacation as well. So we went as a whole family to Whistler to do it. It was fun.”
Boss is the principal at Wymark School and he sometimes cycled to work from Swift Current while he trained for the triathlon.
“The key for me is if I don’t get a morning workout in, then I wouldn’t get the workouts in that I need,” he said. “So sometimes, if I was trying to fit in a longer workout, I have to get up at 4:30 or 5 o’clock in the morning. ... My family was wonderful at being understanding. They knew that this was a goal for this year. So the weekends were kind of the time when I would fit in the longer stuff.”
His years of experience an an athlete was a great benefit during his preparation for this triathlon and his training was aimed at maximizing the benefits of his workouts.
“I think as I get older, I get smarter with my training,” he said. “I’m convinced that everybody can do an Ironman if they wanted to and if they train smart. So I couldn’t put in as much back to back workouts, but the workouts that I did were a higher quality and I think I trained smarter.”
He plans to do another Ironman triathlon in the future, but he will perhaps wait until he is 60 before the next one.
“I don’t see why I can’t do another one, but I’ll probably wait until maybe after I retire,” he said. “Training would be a lot easier after I’m done work. There were people doing it into their seventies and you can tell that they’re very fit.”
In the meantime he wants to promote triathlon to athletes in southwest Saskatchewan. He is the co-chair with his wife Stephanie Prpick-Boss for triathlon at the Western Canada Summer Games, which will take place in Swift Current from Aug. 9 to 17, 2019.
“I hope that our community embraces it and I’d like to see some of our younger athletes just try it out,” he said. “When I was introduced to the sport I wasn’t a swimmer. I had a bike and at that time I was jogging, and that’s really it. So I want to reinforce that anyone can do an event like this and they might not be strong in all three, but the goal is to try to round yourself out as an athlete.”
They are planning to start a master swim club in Swift Current this fall as part of their efforts to promote triathlon.
“We’ve been working with the Saskatchewan Triathlon Association and we would like to get a master swim club going and promote the sport of triathlon in general,” he said. “It really is a wonderful sport and I hope that we’re able to promote successfully.”

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Matthew Liebenberg

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