A first-time competitor in the Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Petawawa Ironman competition finished 10th out of 222 runners on Thursday.
18-year-old Matthew Choquette from Steinbach is attending the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario, earning his degree in physics and space sciences and graduated from Steinbach Regional Secondary School in 2016. Choquette says a couple months ago he started training for the CFB Petawawa Ironman competition, which has competitors from different branches of the military. He adds his training included running down dirt roads carrying a ruck (weighted back pack) and spending more time at the gym.
"Part of [why I decided to compete] is for personal testing - physically and mentally. The other part is helping represent the college, RMC, and showing the rest of Canada what the cadets are capable of doing."
The 32-kilometre course consisted of a four-kilometre portage, nine-kilometre canoe on the Ottawa River, and a six-kilometre run, all while carrying a 40-pound ruck.
"The hardest part for me, personally, was the portage. I've never done that before and I didn't have time to rehearse a portage myself. So, throwing that extra weight of the canoe on your back isn't exactly the funnest thing to do. But you just got to put your head down and keep going until you finish those four-kilometres where you can finally get in the water and start paddling to give your back a break."
He adds the canoe he carried weighed between 50 and 60 pounds.
"We started [the day] at 4:00 in the morning and it was pretty dark out, everybody had glow sticks on their back. They signaled to start and everybody took off, basically, you're just on your own going down these trails until the sun finally comes up where you can see where you're going. [There was the portage] and then you're getting on the canoe, so you get to give your legs a bit of a break. Then after that canoe portion, when you throw your ruck on again, there are the last six-kilometres. It's really motivating because you're so close and you just want to finish it."
Choquette averaged 7-minutes and 19-seconds per kilometre and finished the competition in 7-hours, 1-minute, and 51-seconds, placing him in 10th out of 222 competitors.
"This was my first time doing this competition and my goal was eight hours. So, I completely underestimated myself and I realized what I'm fully capable of."
He says he can't wait until next year to see how much he can get his time down. Choquette adds winning this competition does not lead to a higher level competition, but it's a great atmosphere with great competition.
"It's quite an accomplishment and I didn't expect that to happen at all. It felt pretty great when I found out just what I did and it gives me lots of motivation for next year."
Choquette is now heading back to Kingston as he continues his studies at RMC.