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Vancouver Island man conquers heat, flat tire in tribute to survivors

Indigenous man from Alert Bay completes Ironman raising awareness for residential school survivors
Sasha Perron proudly crosses the finish line of his first Ironman race with a smile. (Photo supplied by Sasha Perron on Meta)

The Canadian flag was raised high above Sasha Perron’s head as he crossed the finish line to complete his first-ever Ironman race.

Ten hours before finishing the physical and mental battle, the athlete didn’t expect a late start, a flat tire and a frightening heartburn all in Cozumel, Mexico on Nov. 19, 2023.

Despite all the adversities Perron faced, he remained resilient – remembering why he started training for the triathlon back in 2021.

Perron was born in Quebec to a French Canadian father and a Kwakwaka’wa mother from the Da’naxda’xw First Nation. He and his family moved to Greater Victoria when Perron was in Grade 3. His mother and grandfather were each sent to a residential school. Taken from Village Island, B.C. at the age of five, Perron’s grandfather was brought to St. Micheal’s Indian Residential School in Alert Bay and remained there until he was 18 years old.

“It happened really incrementally. Originally I started running and I ran 20 to 25 kilometres in two weeks for that King’s residential school on unmarked graves and then, that started my endurance event, our endurance sports journey,” said Perron. “I just kind of kept going off that I wanted to be a leader in the community and try and find some positive ways to deal with the grief of a residential school. Since my family went to residential school, a way for me to cope and show my family that I was there and supporting them.”

READ MORE: Next generation looks to take some of the burdens from residential school survivors

Perron started training by swimming so he could recover from the heavy running amount of running he was doing at the time to raise awareness for residential school survivors. After, he started biking because he thought it would be the easiest part of the triathlon.

“If found out that wasn’t so true,” said Perron,” After biking for a little while, it’s actually really hard and really uncomfortable. I spent a lot of time on the bike, running, and swimming probably 18 hours a week training and in my peak of training. So probably a month and a half or two months before I had a solid eight weeks of 18-hour weeks.”

For the athlete’s training, he spent lots of time in the sauna and hot tub to prepare for the host country’s hot climate.

“You would run, or bike, or swim, and then hit the sauna for 20 minutes just to try to acclimate to that heat.”

Perron continued to eat well, do short workouts, and had other friends signing up for the Ironman in Cozumel which motivated him even more, but he was still nervous leading up to the race. “It just really comes down to confidence and knowing that you’ve put in the works to withstand the pain, I guess endure the pain of the race,” said Perron.

When the day of the race came, runners gathered at the start for the 7 a.m. take-off, but the start time was delayed because the ocean waters were too choppy. After two hours of the many hungry athletes standing around the swim was cancelled at 9 a.m.

“We ended up going to the biking transition and we waited there for another hour and a half. So it was about 10:30 a.m. and all the athletes were really hungry and hadn’t had any nutrition since breakfast or really any water since. That was definitely something that everyone had to overcome,” said Perron. Around 2000 people started the race and only about 1200 were able to finish according to Perron.

Well into the biking portion of the race, Perron got a flat tire. He waited for a mechanic but there was no spare tube. Finally, Perron was lucky enough to receive help from a friendly racer.

“He saved my day,” said Perron. During the final marathon leg of the race, Perron said he went from, “aid station to aid station with a burp, a puke, a heartburn and a hiccup.”

After a long fight, Perron crossed the finish line proud. Although it wasn’t a triathlon, it was truly the “ultimate duathlon,” said Perron.

“I was actually really excited for the swim because I’ve been swimming a lot and I’m definitely a strong swimmer now,” added Perron. “So I was kind of bummed that my first Ironman, it wasn’t completely full, but it was hard enough.”

Perron’s total bike time was five hours and 37 minutes, while his marathon was straight 5 hours. The athlete is ravenous to finish a full Ironman with even better scores as he’s competed in the Victoria Royal Marathon in 3 hours and 20 minutes.

This coming year, Perron is planning to continue the run he does every year on Orange Shirt Day to raise awareness for residential school survivors. For the past three years, he’s picked a new location for the walk or run to take place. “In the past, we’ve done a 21-hour-and-a-half walk from Sooke to Oak Bay Marina, and last year I ran 67 km for a residential school that found 67 unmarked graves,” said Perron.

In 2024 he and his sister plan on running in the Vancouver Marathon in hopes of qualifying for the Boston Marathon, and he has several half Ironman’s he plans to race in. Lastly, Perron plans to make his return to Mexico to truly conquer Ironman Cozumel.

With Files from Austin Westphal

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About the Author: Ella Matte

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