A champion of both physical and mental health, Whistler’s Christine Suter is getting a chance to promote both through Ironman Canada.
The local fitness trainer will be competing in her ninth Ironman event on Aug. 25 in support of the Kelty Patrick Dennehy Foundation’s Enough is Enough campaign, during which founders Kerry and Ginny Dennehy have been cycling cross-country to fundraise and advocate for greater mental health resources.
“I think every little bit counts,” said Suter, who is hoping to raise $2,000 toward the cause. “For me, it’s great because I’m very passionate about sport and I’m passionate about health — mental and physical. I get to put them both together, and in my hometown.”
Suter herself has struggled with depression in the past, but said she was fortunate to have access to counseling and education that helped her overcome it. Many Ironman participants complete the race’s 3.86-km swim, 180-km bike and 42.2-km run in support of a cause and now seemed like an appropriate time for Suter, also a life coach through Whistler Community Services Society.
“From doing work there, I see there are so many people out there (who) on the outside look good but on the inside, it’s not. There are a lot of people out there who are struggling,” said Suter, who also provides athlete training services through C2Sky Multisport. “I see it all the time, and I see it on many different levels.
“As a personal trainer, I work with people’s physical health all the time. But I’ve realized that it doesn’t always tie into their mental health — somebody can be doing their weights and their workouts, but they’re still negatively berating themselves in the head … I’ve realized that people need coping skills.”
It’s been a few years since Suter last completed an Ironman triathlon, her most recent taking place in 2010 at Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. However, she’s remained active in endurance events, completing a number of ultramarathons and other long-distance runs. By comparison, an Ironman will end up seeming like a nice change of pace, she said.
“One of the races, I was running for 15 hours and 58 minutes. Now I’m thinking, ‘OK, I get to do three sports in that time,’” she laughed.
Having the chance to participate in Ironman at home brings with it a whole new excitement level for Suter as well. She said she’s enjoyed meeting triathletes from all over the Western U.S. and Canada who have been coming up to train for the event, and she is expecting the resort to be a fabulous host as the new venue of Ironman Canada.
“I’m not a mountain biker and I’m not a skier. It was kind of like, ‘OK, what about my sport?’ So, I’m excited for it to be showcased. I think people are going to be blown away,” she said.
But Suter will be changing her focus on race day compared to her previous Ironman appearances, hoping to enjoy the experience of it all rather than focusing on her time or finish position.
“I’ve done Ironman before to race it, and it’s a much different mentality,” she said. “This year, I’m not doing that. I’m going out there to participate. I want to be able to engage with the people on the sidelines and just take it all in. So, it’s been a different training approach.”
The timing of the event nearly coincides with the end of the Enough is Enough tour, as the Dennehys will arrive home in Whistler on Aug. 29 after completing their nationwide ride. Suter is planning to meet up with them for the final leg, depending on how her post-Ironman recovery is going.
“I’ve talked with Ginny and she said, ‘We’ll be riding up from Squamish that Thursday, maybe you can join us.’ I told her if my legs can handle it, I’ll be there. If not, I might have to meet her in Function,” Suter laughed.
For more information about the Kelty Patrick Dennehy Foundation, the Enough is Enough campaign or to donate in support of Suter’s race, visit www.thekeltyfoundation.org. Suter’s name can be selected from a drop-down list on the donations page.