Longtime Whistler resident Angela Shoniker is back home after an action-packed, cross-continental adventure that included a multi-day road biking trip through Spain, a personal-best marathon in Germany, and, to cap it off, a sixth-place finish in her division at the XTERRA World Championships off-road triathlon in Italy. Call it an endurance hat trick?
Initially, her vacation centred solely on a girls’ bike trip, with a friend’s house in Mallorca serving as their home base, she explained.
“I just started searching out what’s happening in Europe, race-wise, after that, close to those dates,” Shoniker recalled over the phone from Albufeira, Portugal, where she was wrapping up the month away alongside her husband Ben Thomas and their kids, Parker and Piper.
“I was like, ‘Oh, perfect, the Berlin Marathon. I think I should just sign up for that.’”
She crossed the race’s finish line on Sept. 24 in an impressive three hours, 21 minutes and 21 seconds (3:21:21), almost 24 minutes quicker than her previous personal best. It was fast enough to qualify Shoniker for the Boston Marathon, blowing her goal time of 3:29:59 out of the water. “I surprised myself,” she said.
The prestigious World Marathon Major event was only Shoniker’s second-ever marathon, after completing her first in Vancouver this May in about three hours and 45 minutes. “I finished that and thought, ‘Oh, I'll never do another one of those,’” she said with a laugh. “But next thing you know, you're thinking, ‘Oh, well, I've done one…’”
Shoniker was 643rd out of 12,633 women to cross the finish line in Berlin and 73rd in her age category. A total of 34,879 runners finished the race out of the 45,527 who registered.
Just six days later, Shoniker found herself queuing up behind another starting line, this time in Lake Molveno, Italy, for the XTERRA World Championships on Oct. 1.
Shoniker booked her spot for Berlin in May, one month before winning the women’s 45-49 age category at this year’s XTERRA Whistler off-road triathlon and earning herself a spot at the 2022 World Championships in the process. “My husband was like, ‘Well, you’ve really got to go to that, that will be amazing,’” she recalled. “I thought, ‘two weeks away from the kids is long enough,’ but he said, ‘Well, we’ll just come and meet you.’”
Her kids, ages seven and 10, ultimately ended up getting in on the race action themselves, competing in a youth XTERRA triathlon in Italy one day after their mom.
As for Shoniker, she finished World Championships off-road race in 4:27:37, earning sixth place in the women’s 45-49 age category. She tackled the swim portion in 0:26:31, the bike in 2:54:55 and the run in 1:01:16—making her the fastest runner in her age division. “I was so happy,” she said. “My goal was top 10, and I was sixth, so what can I say?”
This year’s XTERRA circuit wasn’t her first brush with triathlons: Shoniker previously completed a pair of half-Ironmans before finishing a full Ironman in 2019.
She wasn’t the only Whistler resident racing in the World Champs, either. Also competing in Molveno was veteran local triathlete Marla Zucht, who smashed out the course in 4:24:36 to finish second in the women’s 50-54 age category, after previously winning her age category in Whistler, and Mike Meade, who Shoniker said had to pull out of the event after an unfortunate mechanical.
Having those familiar faces around helped ease Shoniker’s nerves and made the course “feel like home,” she said. “It made it, I’d say less stressful and more fun.”
Zucht in particular, “is so experienced and she had such great advice,” Shoniker added. “To just enjoy where you are, enjoy what you're doing. I mean, that's why we went over there, to have a great time.”
What’s next for Shoniker? First, deciding whether to register for the World Triathlon Multisport Championships in Ibiza in April (“I'm 99 per cent,” she said. “The window is open on my phone. Everything's filled out. The credit card is entered. All I need to do is hit send.) and then, perhaps, checking off each of the remaining five World Marathon Majors in Tokyo, Boston, London, Chicago, and New York City.
For now, Shoniker is returning to Whistler grateful for her physical ability to run, bike and swim, and for the opportunity to show her kids what can happen when you push your limits.
“I’m 47 years old. It’s really surprised me to get faster, and I am now the fastest I’ve ever been,” said Shoniker, crediting her coach Karsten Madsen for his training program, in particular. “It got me where I am.”