Participants ready for Ironman challenge

Melissa Berrisford knows a thing or two about triathlons. The Summerland resident currently serves as head coach of the TriPower Triathlon Club, founded in 2009.

Melissa Berrisford knows a thing or two about triathlons.

The Summerland resident currently serves as head coach of the TriPower Triathlon Club, founded in 2009.

In that capacity, she has helped countless adults and children prepare and complete their first triathlon, no small feat by any measure.

But even an experienced triathlete like Berrisford knows that this Sunday’s Subaru Ironman Canada is a different challenge altogether, one that requires a certain humility and perspective, for this Sunday’s race will be her first genuine attempt at completing the gruelling race and its three legs — a 3.8-kilometre swim, a 180-kilometre bike ride and a full, 42-kilometre marathon.

Berrisford’s goals for the race appear at least on the surface modest.

“The goal is cross the finish line,” she said. “It’s about enjoying the day and enjoying it as much as I can.”

But Sunday’s race it is also fulfilling a long-held ambition for the 42-year-old mother of an 11-year-old daughter and two eight-year-old twin boys.

“It is something that I wanted to do since I was 15,” said Berrisford, who over the years has competed in sprint, Olympic-length and half-Ironmans triathlons.

It appeared as if this long-held ambition would become a reality in 2005, when she and her father Fred McLennan had signed up for that year’s race. But a flare-up of lupus, an autoimmune disease that sees body mistakenly attack healthy tissues leading long-term chronic inflammation of joints, prevented Berrisford from taking to the start line.

But she never gave up on the ambition and is now poised to participate along aside her 68-year-old father, who has completed two Ironman Canada, according to official results.

Sunday’s race will also be a family affairs in other ways.

Berrisford’s husband Mike is an assistant coach with TriPower Triathlon Club, and all of the couple’s three children are triathletes as well.

This family passion will be of practical benefit for Berrisford on the course.

“My husband and my kids are definitely my support team out there,” she said.

Berrisford will also receive support from her extended family, with several members set to fly in on the occasion of Berrisford’s start.

According to race officials, three other Summerland residents are slated to start Sunday’s competition. They are Peter Cambridge, Sophia Chadwick and Andrei Ionescu. Several attempts to contact these individuals failed.

The event has 3,240 athletes registered.

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