A total of five Merritt athletes endured a blazing sun and scorching temperatures to successfully complete the Apple Triathlon in Kelowna on Sunday, August 18.

Melissa Mytruk, Heather Broman, Dylan Richardson and Arnie Gray all finished the Olympic-distance event, which is comprised of a 1.5 km open water swim in Lake Okanagan, a 40 km bike ride and a 10 km run.

Rick Josephson was a successful finisher of the sprint-distance course, composed of a 0.75 km swim, 20 km ride and 5 km run.

For Mytruk, it was her first triathlon ever and she was determined to succeed.

“I trained for this same triathlon two years ago, but I got sick three weeks beforehand and didn’t participate. That’s why I wanted to finish this one this year for sure. I needed to get it out of my system.”

Mytruk felt that she went into this year’s event in great shape physically.

“I feel more fit now than I’ve ever been because of the training for three different things. It’s nice to have that fitness level throughout your whole body.”

Mytruk had set herself a goal of completing Kelowna’s Olympic-length triathlon course in three hours. She beat it by a full 10 minutes, finishing in 2:50.10.

Triathlons are always somewhat frantic at the beginning as hundreds of swimmers hit the water at the same time and struggle to find space. Kelowna’s event was no different.

“It was a bit of a panic at first,” conceded Mytruk, who prepared for the 1,500m ordeal with Masters training at the Nicola Valley Aquatic Centre and open water swims of East Barriere and Adams Lakes. “It felt like a whole bunch of minnows in a very small area. You just had to keep focused. After the first ten minutes or so, everybody spread out.”

Any apprehensions about her first triathlon seemed to fade during the swim portion of the event and Mytruk said she felt great coming out of the water and climbing onto her bike.

“The bike phase was awesome,” she said. “I felt really strong and think that I could have gone faster.”

Like most other triathletes, Mytruk found the final 10 km run the toughest.

“I think a lot of it had to do with the temperature. Our group didn’t even start the triathlon until 9 a.m. By the time we were on the run course, the heat was just radiating off the pavement. Every time I passed an aide station, I would drench myself with water. But excitement and the adrenaline rush of the whole experience helped me ignore the pain.”

For veteran triathletes Richardson, Broman and Gray, all of whom completed Ironman Canada (2.5 km swim, 180 km bike, 42 km run) last year in Penticton, the Apple distances weren’t really the challenge.

“It’s more of a mental thing,” says Richardson. “Setting new goals and finding new threshholds.”

Like Mytruk, Richardson also had set a clear goal for himself this year.

“I did the Apple three years ago, and I wanted to beat my old time. I did that by about five minutes (2:50.58), so i was pretty happy about that.”

Richardson admits that he just tries to survive the opening swim portion of any triathlon.

“It’s not about how fast I can go but rather how efficiently I can swim in order to conserve energy for the rest of the race.”

The bike phase went well for Richardson. “I just kept picking up the pace with each lap. When i got off the bike at one hour and fifty-five minutes, I knew I had a chance [to beat my old time].”

As for the heat, Richardson said last year’s Ironman, with temperatures close to 38 all day long, prepared him well.”

Both Mytruk and Richardson plan to continue doing triathlons in the future. At some point, Mytruk would like to try a half-Ironman. In the meantime, she’s already back on the roads running, preparing for a half-marathon (21 km) on the Thanksgiving weekend in Kelowna.