Last November, Shanda Hill
became the first Canadian to complete a double-deca triathlon
. That’s 76K of swimming, 3,600K of cycling and 844K of running — equal to 20 Ironman
triathlons (one of which is gruelling enough for most people). Hill lives in Vernon, B.C., where she works out with a unique set of training partners: Nigerian dwarf goats. She got her first goat, Yoda, in 2018, and although her initial plan wasn’t to train with him, she soon found that her unorthodox pets were great to take on runs.
Hill entered the world of triathlon in 2014. “A running friend of mine said I should try a tri,” she says. “I didn’t have a bike or a wetsuit, and at the time I had no clue there was anything other than iron-distance.” She signed up for an iron-distance race (3.8K swim, 180K bike and 42K run) in Penticton, B.C., and she has been racing ever since.
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Two years after her triathlon debut, she heard about ultra-triathlons. As with her first race, it didn’t take much to convince her to sign up. “There was a double-iron race being held in Oregon that July,” she says. “While I was at the double, someone told me about a triple and a quintuple in Virginia. I ended up doing the quintuple.” She became the first Canadian woman to finish a quintuple triathlon, but she didn’t stop there. In 2017, she doubled up on that distance to finish her first deca triathlon (the equivalent of 10 Ironman races). She completed back-to-back deca races in 2018 in Mexico and Switzerland, and last year, she completed her double-deca, which was also in Mexico.
Hill has four deca races under her belt, and she wants to complete another six to total an even 10 on her racing resume. She planned on racing some this fall, but that won’t be happening now due to COVID-19. While she waits for racing to resume, she is keeping active at home in B.C. with her crew of training partners.
Training with goats
“I never anticipated having a goat, but in 2018, I saw one on Kijiji and I thought he was the cutest thing I’d ever seen,” Hill says. “I bought Yoda and then two weeks later got his brother.” Unfortunately, Yoda’s brother ended up getting eaten by a cougar soon after arriving at Hill’s home. From then on, she kept Yoda inside, where he would be safe from predators.
For a while, Hill had nowhere to keep Yoda. She knew she couldn’t leave him outside, but she had no place to put him in her house during the day while she was out, so she took him wherever she went. She works as a landscaper in the summers, which gave her the freedom to take Yoda with her to work. “I took him everywhere with me, because I was figuring out the cage situation,” she says. “When I took him with me on hikes and stuff, he did great. He does everything a dog does, but he doesn’t bark at people or chase wildlife.”
She says she didn’t plan on buying any more goats after Yoda, but when the breeder she knows asked if she had any interest in a newborn kid, Hill said, “Sure, we’ll get another one.” She now has five goats. “I had four as of a week and a half ago, but my partner got one.”
Hill is used to training for extended periods of time to prepare for her ultra-triathlons, but she says she doesn’t take her goats on those workouts. “A goat can walk and hike all day,” she says. “That’s what they do in the wild. I take them when I go running and out on the trails
. I’ll take them out hiking
. I do what I can to keep them active and keep myself active, too.” She adds that they really push her in quicker workouts. “Those goats can out-sprint me any day of the week. They have good sprinting
power and they climb
10 times better than I do.”
Are goats the ideal training partners for ultra-endurance athletes? We don’t know. But Hill has made this unusual pairing of farm animals and endurance training work well for her, and her goats simply make her happy, which is why she got them in the first place. “It’s a weird life, but it is what is it,” she says. “I’m making the most of it.”