Tim Wilkinson is gearing up to hit the double anvil next month.
No, Wilkinson — who grew up in the Cowichan Lake area and now lives in Nanaimo — isn’t embarking on a career as a blacksmith. He’s taking on a double anvil triathlon on July 3.
You’ve probably heard of a iron or half-iron distance. The double anvil is twice as long as an iron: a 7.6km swim, 360km bike ride, and 84.4km run. All that has to be done within a 36-hour time limit. He’s done plenty of triathlons in the past, but never a double anvil.
“I haven’t done it before,” Wilkinson admits. “I’ve had intentions of doing it before. This year’s race would have been a few days ago.”
That would be the IUTA World Championship in Gaston, Oregon on June 9-12, which Wilkinson couldn’t attend because of the COVID-19 pandemic. There, he would have had a full field of competitors to race against. As it is, he will be racing solo, although he won’t be alone: a good friend will kayak alongside him during the swim, and Wilkinson’s wife will join them as support for the bike and run portions.
Wilkinson has had to pick the perfect spot for his triathlon. He initially planned to swim in Nanaimo’s Westwood Lake, cycle to Campbell River and back, then run on a track. Then he switched his plans to do the entire race in the Cowichan Lake area. When he tested the roads for that course, however, he found they just weren’t conducive to a race, and switched back to Nanaimo, with the swim now taking place in Brannen Lake.
Wilkinson grew up in Caycuse and Lake Cowichan, and graduated from Lake Cowichan Secondary School. He played baseball and hockey growing up, and did a lot of running in the offseason to stay in shape for hockey. He stuck with running when he realized he wasn’t going anywhere in hockey, moving to marathons and ultramarathons, and then triathlons about 16 years ago.
For the most part, Wilkinson’s races have been half irons and longer. He tried shorter distances, but found they didn’t suit him.
“I found that myself, I’m built to do half irons and longer,” he says. “I get to these [shorter races] and find they’re too short. Most days my training sessions are longer than that.”
He tried his first ultraman distance in 2019. The ultraman is a three-day stage race, where on day one, athletes do a 10km swim and 145 km bike ride, followed by another 275 km on the bike on day two, then an 84.4km run on day three, all within a tight time limit.
“Each day, you get a maximum of 12 hours,” Wilkinson explains. “If you go beyond that, that’s the end of your race.”
Wilkinson’s first ultraman was the Canadian championships in Penticton in July 2019, where he finished seventh overall and automatically qualified for worlds in Hawaii that November, fulfilling a longtime ambition.
“What was particularly incredible is that I had never been to Hawai’i and I vowed never to set foot in Hawai’i until I had qualified and could run in a triathlon,” he says.
Wilkinson placed 19th overall at the worlds.
“Just finishing is an accomplishment,” he says. “Placing at any level is even better.”
Wilkinson is doing this race to support Nanaimo-Ladysmith Schools Foundation, which helps vulnerable students in a number of ways, from enhanced learning initiatives and scholarships to breakfasts, lunches and snacks at school to providing school supplies, clothes and PE shoes and money for field trips, school sports and grad ceremonies.
It’s cause close to Wilkinson’s heart. His mom died when he was three, and his dad had to raise three kids on one income.
“I grew up pretty much the same way,” he says. “Breakfast wasn’t always there. Some days I didn’t take a lunch to school. New clothes at the start of the school year didn’t happen. It wasn’t luxurious by any stretch.”
Anyone who wants to support the NLSF on behalf of Wilkinson can donate directly to them at nlsf.ca
Wilkinson has previously raised money for the SPCA, the Terry Fox Foundation, and Charleigh’s Journey, supporting a young Lake Cowichan girl with an extremely rare terminal genetic disorder.
“I enjoy it,” he said of raising funds through runs and triathlons. “It comes to me as second nature. If I’m training for a race, why not help somebody do something? I think more people need to do it.”