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Going Beyond Iron: Connor Emeny's journey from Squamish to Antarctica

Elite triathlete Connor Emeny faces unexpected obstacles at Squamish 50.

Vancouver-based elite athlete Connor Emeny is used to overcoming challenges during gruelling physical feats.

After all, the 27-year-old triathlete is the youngest person to complete an Ironman on six continents.

An Ironman consists of a 3.86-kilometre swim, 180-kilometre bike ride and 42.2-kilometre run. 

Emeny is currently training to be the first person to complete an Iron-distance triathlon on all seven continents.

Though it isn't an official Ironman race, it will be the same distances, only in Antarctica conditions in January 2024.

Antarctica is known to be the coldest, windiest and driest continent on Earth.

But it is fair to say what happened to Emeny on his Squamish 50 run last weekend wasn't on his training agenda. 

First, like other runners, he was stung by two wasps in the first 20 kilometres of the race. 

But that was nothing compared to the next wild obstacle.

He was just completing the 70-kilometre mark of the race, near the aid station called Far Side. 

About a kilometre beyond that station, someone ran down the hill toward him yelling that there was a bear up ahead. 

He was passing another runner, Joshua Arruda, who had bear spray in his hand. 

"And I was like, 'Oh, maybe we should stick together for this part.' And he's like, 'Yeah, good idea,'" Emeny recalled, with a chuckle.

Sure enough, about 100 metres or so later, they heard rustling in the trees and saw the bear. 

They yelled "Hey bear!" repeatedly.

It was heading in their direction on the trail and then at about 10 or 15 metres from them, it started running toward them, said Emeny.

What they found out later was that there were cubs behind the runners, so it was a sow likely protecting its young.

Arruda pulled out the bear spray and sprayed the bear, which was enough to make the animal run off into the woods. 

"We just decided to keep running as fast as we could," Emeny said, adding that while he had felt low energy after about 13 hours of running prior to the encounter, he was full of adrenaline from there to the finish line.

"I was hurting quite a bit and it kind of brought me back to life a little bit. It felt like I had taken five Red Bulls or something and [I] just started running a way faster pace towards the finish line," he said. 

He said he feels really lucky to have ended up running beside Arruda, who had bear spray, though the fellow athlete had never deployed it before.

"It was just like a freaky moment. But we bonded over that and ran pretty much the last eight kilometres together and we've been chatting ever since," Emeny said. 

Despite their obstacles, Emeny finished the local 50-mile race in 15:10:43, while his new friend Arruda finished at 15:18:54. 

Emeny planned to run both days of the Squamish 50 as he was using it as mental training for his Ironman in January, but he had stomach issues that first day, so his team decided he shouldn't attempt the second day, he said. 

Going for seven

Back to his plan to be the first human ever to complete an Iron-distance triathlon on all seven continents, asked what motivates him, Emeny said most of all it is the quest to see what is possible and the like-minded people he meets along the way. 

"The biggest thing for me that keeps me going is the unknown of endurance. What are we capable of? How far can we go? Who else out there is doing something similar," he said. "Endurance sport attracts the most interesting people I've come across."

In the lead-up to the January feat, he plans to race the Polar Circle Marathon in Greenland in October. Then, at the end of November, he will be heading to Tuktoyaktuk, a community on the Arctic Ocean in N.W.T. where he is planning a half-Ironman distance triathlon to simulate the conditions he will face during the Antarctic event.

A documentary is being made about his journey to Antarctica and the folks who inspire him. 

Find out more on the Chasing Antarctica website. 

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