While the Month of Pain isn't an officially sanctioned event, it's as real as could be for all the people that took part in multiple events during the month of September.
The list of events includes the West Side Wheel Up mountain bike race on Sept. 12, the Loop the Lakes run in Squamish or Terry Fox Run in Whistler on Sept. 13, the Cheakamus Challenge Fall Classic mountain bike race on Sept. 19, the XTC Squamish off-road triathlon on Sept. 20, the Whistler Spirit Run Cross Country Festival on Sept. 26 and the Rubble Creek Classic trail run on Sept. 27. All told that's about 105 km of off-road mountain biking and up to 57 km of running - most of it off-road. Some athletes also fit in 1,500 metres of swimming.
This year the overall King of Pain was Mike Edwards, who took things up a notch by also competing in Ironman Canada on Aug. 29. That represents another 3,800 metres of swimming, a 190 km road ride and a 42.2 km run.
"I was pretty baked by the end of it actually," said Edwards. "By the time I was running down Rubble Creek my legs were telling me 'that's enough.'"
His only competition for the 2009 title was Duncan Munro, who was forced to pull out of the final weekend of the Month of Pain. A foot injury from earlier in the year flared up and he sustained a knee injury in a mountain bike pile up in the XTC Squamish.
In the West Side Wheel Up, Edwards took an early lead over Munro with his time of 1:34:49, while Munro finished in 1:43:58. That gave Edwards a lead of 9:08 after the first event.
Both completed the 10 km leg of the Terry Fox Run, which isn't a timed event. Munro raced in full fire gear with other members of Whistler Fire Services.
The next Saturday Munro gained back about three minutes in the Cheakamus Challenge. His time was 4:14:19, while Edwards crossed the finish line at 4:17:32 - a difference of three minutes and 13 seconds, cutting Edwards' lead down to 5:55.
The XTC triathlon the next day was a big one for both athletes, and Munro placed third overall with a time of 2:14:19, while Edwards finished in 2:26:31. That put Munro ahead by 6:17 heading into the final weekend. But after consulting with a physiotherapist he decided to pull out of the last weekend's runs. Edwards continued on anyway, finishing the 8 km Whistler Spirit Run in 29:45 and the 26 km Rubble Creek Run in 2:29:21.
"It was actually kind of funny," said Edwards of the rivalry. "At the XTC I figured out that Munny was the only other racer doing all the events, and we talked about the Whistler Spirit Run and what event we would do. I could have done the 6 km Masters race, but we decided to do the 8 km race with all the university students. I could have walked away with a win and a bottle of wine, but instead I was dusted by all the university guys. I expected Munny to show up at the start any minute, otherwise I would have been in the 6 km race."
Edwards was a competitive triathlete, and had qualified for the world championships in Ironman in the past. He took a few years off competing at that level to enjoy life with his family, which meant he no longer had to schedule holidays around events and training opportunities.
Now, as the new owner of The Lift Coffee Company, Edwards decided it was time to start training again.
"I basically did Ironman off the couch and used that to start getting back in shape, and after that it was easy to follow up with all the great events in Whistler," he said. "They are all fantastic local events, most of them raise money for local charities, the volunteers are fantastic and the routes are great. The weather was also unbelievable, every day it was spectacular to be out there."
Edwards' Month of Pain highlights include the West Side Wheel Up and the high alpine section of the Rubble Creek Classic.
"I haven't done the Wheel Up since I was a kid when I was racing hard, so it was really fun to do that race," he said.
"Probably the biggest highlight was the top of Helm Creek, rounding the backside of Black Tusk on the cinder flats. It's just spectacular, there was a layer of hoar frost, the air was clear, and Black Tusk is looming over you."
On the women's side there were no contenders for Queen of Pain this year, although several athletes did both mountain bike races or multiple run events. If you or another athlete has completed at least three of the timed Month of Pain events, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.