Red Deer’s Tricia Hepworth, 37, finished her first ever ultramarathon earlier this month in Texas. Not only did she finish, but she also was the first woman to finish. (Contributed photo)

Red Deer’s Tricia Hepworth, 37, finished her first ever ultramarathon earlier this month in Texas. Not only did she finish, but she also was the first woman to finish. (Contributed photo)

Red Deer Ultramarathoner wins grueling race in Texas

Nurse Tricia Hepworth won her first-ever ultramarathon

On somewhat of a whim, Tricia Hepworth decided to run further than most people can even imagine.

The 37-year-old nurse from Red Deer has always been one to take on new challenges as the COVID-19 pandemic wore on, but this was a whole different level.

Hepworth decided last year she would run the Trans Pecos Ultra Marathon in Texas, one of the only races of it’s kind in North America.

It was her first ever ultra and not only did she finish, but she was the first woman to finish.

Hepworth was one of just eight people to finish the six-stage, 265 kilometre race earlier this month. It took her 44 hours, 58 minutes and 58 seconds to complete the race.

“This was actually my first official ultramarathon. I have done a few on my own, in preparation for this. In and around Red Deer and in the mountains, but never anything official,” she said, adding she originally planned to do just the four-stage race, but decided in the summer to do the full six-stage, which is nearly double the distance.

“The whole stage race… I think everyone has a COVID thing… I used to do triathlons and of course, with COVID all the triathlons got cancelled. Pools closed, so I was running and biking a ton. I was looking for something pretty challenging. I started looking at stage races and there’s quite a few around the world… the Trans Pecos is one of two in North America. So that was one of the big draws.”

Hepworth said she’s always been one to tackle interesting challenges. She’s done ironman triathlon races, qualified for the World Championships in the duathlon (running and cycling) and CrossFit competitively. This was an entirely new challenge.

“When it comes to sports, I’m all in,” joked the 37-year-old.

“I’m committed to the project. I needed something that was going to be really challenging and way outside my comfort zone. This checked all those boxes.”

When she finished the nearly 45-hour race, in which she ran four marathons in four days, there were plenty of emotions.

“It’s like euphoria and agony at the same time,” she said in a phone interview with the Red Deer Advocate on Wednesday.

“I instantly started crying because that’s what I do, I’m a crier. Then you’re in a great deal of discomfort. Your hips hurt, your legs are sore, everything is tired. You’re super amped up because of what you just accomplished.”

She carried her food on her back, racing through desert heat with temperatures of over 37 C. A part from the snakes and spiders, you are mostly left to your own devices during the race.

“You’re alone for a long time… it’s extremely remote. There’s no cell service,” she said.

“I would go through a checkpoint and see a medic and the volunteers, then I wouldn’t see anyone for three hours. Not a soul.”

The last stage of the race was a 92 km section, the final 30 km of which she was able to run with several other competitors. That helped her push through.

“We suffered through that last 30K together, which was amazing. It would have been really, really challenging, way more challenging than if I was by myself. Just the accomplishment of doing it together, that was really awesome,” she said.

Despite the grind, Hepworth said she’s eager to take on the challenge again.

“It was absolutely worth it, 100 per cent. I’m going to do another one in September. Probably down in South America,” she said.

“I would do it again in a heartbeat.”