Penticton age group duathlon racer Paul Varga grabs the hand of U.S. competitor Sister Madonna Buder as they near the transition area to the bike on Monday at the International Multisport Championship.                                Kristi Patton/Penticton Western News

Penticton age group duathlon racer Paul Varga grabs the hand of U.S. competitor Sister Madonna Buder as they near the transition area to the bike on Monday at the International Multisport Championship. Kristi Patton/Penticton Western News

Iron Nun a world champion in Penticton

Sister Madonna Buder finishes ITU Multisport World Championship duathlon race

Sister Madonna Buder was already a world champion long before she stepped on the International Triathlon Union Multisport World Championship duathlon course.

She has pounded pavement in Canada, the U.S., New Zealand, Germany, Australia and a number of other countries — completing more than 340 triathlons. On Monday, the ‘Iron Nun’ from Spokane, Washington was one of the many age groupers to complete the duathlon (10 kilometre run- 40 km bike- five km run) but the only female that is 87 years old.

“I thought I was the last one to finish, some friends assured me I wasn’t but I’m not convinced,” she said with a big smile after the crowd of fellow triathletes who wanted autographs, pictures and just a second to speak with her started thinning.

The run, which was how she first got into triathlon at age 48 on the recommendation of a priest, proved to be the toughest part of her day with split times of 1:31:32, 1:40:23 and 47:29. Whatever she has lost from the height of triathlon career, it has not slowed down her sense of humour or her love for competing at events.

“People here in Penticton are so gracious and loving and the people not only from my own team, but other countries yelled at me, positively that is, and it was wonderful,” she said.

Related: Iron Sister enjoys her swan song

When she isn’t training or busy being a nun, Buder gives inspirational talks to groups, she authored a book called The Grace to Race, makes TV appearances to talk about age and health, found herself in a Nike commercial last year and even saved her neighbour from a house fire after seeing smoke coming from his home.

Buder, who was inducted into the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame in 2014, said the secret to keeping active is not thinking about how old you are, but how old you feel. The humble nun said she can’t explain why people think she is an inspiration.

“I don’t understand it. Don’t ask me about it because I don’t have the faintest conception as why it should be. It is just following the course that God has laid before you. He hasn’t said stop yet, but he sure has slowed me down that is for sure,” she said.

Buder’s rockstar status among her fellow athletes is obvious. Everyone wants a photo with her, cheers were the loudest when she pedalled out of the transition area and a crowd quickly gathered after she crossed the finish line on Monday. While she said she is contemplating if this will be her last appearance in Penticton (she has in previous years competed in a team at Challenge Penticton and raced Ironman before that), and perhaps maybe one of her last few races period — it won’t be an easy decision.

“I am so use to coming up for the Ironman and I was driving up and I was having all sorts of recollections. It was almost making me sad thinking this might be the end of an era for me, but to end it on a world championship — I couldn’t think of anything better.”

Just Posted

(Dave Ogilvie/Contributed)
Injured mountain biker rescued in West Kelowna

The mountain biker reportedly has a hip injury about 1 km up the Smith Creek Road trail

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed Eli Beauregard facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Asia Youngman (right) is pictured shooting another short film she wrote and directed titled Hatha. (Luba Popovic)
Peachland set to star in fantasy thriller film about N’xaxaitk’w — a.k.a. the Ogopogo

The film will follow an Indigenous teen as she navigates peer pressure, bullying and identity

Fruit farmers in the Okanagan and Creston valleys are in desperate need of cherry harvesters amid COVID-19 work shortages. (Photo: Unsplash/Abigail Miller)
‘Desperate’ need for workers at Okanagan cherry farms

Fruit farmers are worried they’ll have to abandon crops due to COVID-19 work shortages

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Jeanette Megens
KCR: Volunteering is sharing your story

Kelowna Community Resources shares stories of its volunteers in a weekly column

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Jaimee Peters photo of a Willow Midwives helping with a birth. Willow closed its doors March 31 because of a shortage of midwives. (Contributed)
South Okanagan’s only midwifery to re-open this summer

Willow Community Midwives was forced to close because of a shortage of midwives

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

Gord with a mom and her young son outside Pathways which was defunded on May 31. (Facebook)
Gord Portman with a mom and her child outside of Pathways. The sign says it all about the difference Pathways has made in people’s lives. They were defunded by Interior Health on May 31.
Penticton man takes the plunge for the recovery house that helped save his life

Gord Portman said Discovery House and Pathways have been everything in his 1 year sobriety

Most Read