He could train for the sand and the distance, but one thing Whistlers Duncan Munro couldnt prepare himself for was the heat.
By the time it was his turn to run the final 21 km leg at the Red Bull Giants of Rio relay race, Munro had been outside in the Brazilian sun for about four hours with temperatures climbing as high as 42 Celsius.
"I ended up getting pretty sick and I was throwing up along the way. I tried to stay cool and stay hydrated (at the start line), but it took forever to get going on my stage. When we finally did start I think I got about six kilometres before I just started to feel awful. I tried to drink water, but it wouldnt stay down, everything came back up," said Munro. He estimates he threw up about eight times on the way to the finish line.
Arriving in Brazil just days before the Dec. 5 race, Munro didnt have much time to acclimatize to the temperatures. It was also cool when he arrived, as Rio was socked in by clouds and the temperatures didnt get over 25 C. When the clouds finally broke the day before the race, Munro knew it would be hard with the heat and the pollution.
Pushed along by a crowd of more than 30,000 spectators, as well as other competitors, Munro kept running. He briefly kept pace with a collection of runners that included Olympians, champion marathoners, the five time mountain running world champion from New Zealand, and the reigning champion from the 300 kilometre Marathon des Sables a five day race across the Moroccan desert.
"Everyone thought I was going to drop out, and I really felt like it, but I kept going, kept plodding away. People were yelling Go Canada because the team was wearing the jerseys, and that always got me going again. The whole route was packed with people cheering and yelling, so I knew I couldnt stop.
"Looking back I had a lot of fun, just loved every minute of it I even enjoyed the throwing up part. It made it a good story at least because I did finish. I just had a blast in Rio with all the competitors, and Red Bull really treated all the athletes like rockstars."
The Red Bull Giants of Rio, in Rio de Janeiro, is a four-person relay competition that features a three kilometre ocean swim along the beach, a 45 km mountain bike up to the top of Tijuca National Park, a hang glide back to the beach and a 21 km run on sand and sidewalks.
Munros team got off to a good start with swimmer Shannon Bell coming out of the water less than 10 minutes back of the top Australian and Austrian swimmers. Things soured on the second leg when Mathieu Toulouse, one of the top mountain bikers in Canada, got three flats. He was forced to borrow a tube from a French rider in order to stay in the race, but didnt make it to the top of Tijuca climb until more than two hours had passed. By that time the wind had changed direction, grounding the hang-gliders at the top. Organizers eventually cancelled that leg of the competition and got the remaining runners, who were still waiting at the beach to begin their half-marathon, off to a mass start.
Even with his health issues, Munro still finished his leg in a more than respectable time of two hours, two minutes and four seconds.
"Other than stopping to throw up, I really did my best. It wasnt easy. I kept pouring water all over myself to try and cool down, which made my feet wet, and the sand started sticking to me, weighing me down. I felt like I was running up the Alpe dHuez or something."
Munros team finished 69 th out of 79 teams from around the world.
The other Canadian team in the contest which included swimmer Hersee Dustin, mountain biker Andreas Hestler, hang-glider Brett Hazlett, and runner Dave Norona was 31 st overall.
Munro is hoping to get asked back next year.
"It was just an amazing experience to be running with so many Olympians and marathoners, so many great runners. I got to watch how they prepared, how they warmed up, how they relaxed before the race. I learned so much out there," said Munro.
Buoyed by his experience in Rio, Munro is looking to join some more adventure racing teams in the future, and may take part in a Mexican run later this winter.
He will also start hosting a snowshoe running clinic in conjunction with Whistler Running Experience and the RMOW in January. The program is for all levels and abilities, and will continue through to final event of the Yeti snowshoe racing series taking place in Whistler this April. More information will be available in the New Year.