Ladysmith’s Rich Huggins is racing at the ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships in Penticton on Wednesday. (Mike Gregory Photo)

Ladysmith’s Rich Huggins racing at off-road triathlon worlds in Penticton

Rich Huggins wanted a challenge at his first off-road triathlon in Canmore two years ago but wasn’t ready for how tough the race would get after a mechanical issue on the bike.

“My derailleur broke so there was only two gears I could ride in… and I almost drowned,” said Huggins, laughing.

That didn’t stop the Active Solutions Health + Sport physiotherapist from racing again in Victoria last year and putting his best foot forward, en route to finishing second in the 35-39 age group.

The result qualified him to race for the Canadian team at the ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships in Penticton this week.

“I enjoy just pushing the human element of being in that yellow/red zone for 2.5 or 3 hours,” said Huggins.

The father of two girls is set to compete Wednesday in a challenging race involving swimming 1.5 km, biking 31 km on single and doubletrack trails and finally an 8 km trail run.

The cross race is part of a larger 10-day ITU Multisport Festival that’s attracting 3,600 athletes from around the world to the Okanagan for five events in total.

“I think that will be cool, setting up the bike and seeing a Kiwi there or a guy from Great Britain or Australia,” Huggins said.

He has focused his training for the race more over the past 12 weeks but biked more throughout the winter this year and was even swimming open water by late April.

“I just find that cross triathlon is a well balance training regimen,” said Huggins, who trains six days a week.

Huggins is a veteran of the Mind over Mountain Adventure Race (MOMAR) in Cumberland, having competed in the kayaking, mountain biking and trekking event for the past eight years.

He said he’s excited about the experience of racing at an international event and that any nerves on race day will go away once the gun goes off and he finds open water.

“I could see the start being a bit full on,” said Huggins, who is hoping to finish in the top half of the 13 Canadians in his age group.

“I just kind of figure push it kind of like I did in Victoria and if things end up, they’ll end up.”