The St. Joseph Island Triathlon is an event Steve Demidovich has raced in for the past five years.
On Saturday he will compete at the eighth annual Island event against friends he trains with, which he says will help inject a little "friendly competition" into the race.
But this year when he takes part in the Olympic distance division it will also be a stepping stone for Demidovich, who has his sights set on a different event that will be held in Madison, Wis., next month.
"Right now I'm training for an ironman too. So this is kind of like a pre-ironman race," says the 35-year-old Sault man. "That will be my second ironman."
His first was in Lake Placid, N.Y., last year.
Olympic distance triathlons require participants to complete a 1,500-m swim, a 40-km bicycle race and a 10-km run. Ironmans are considerably longer and more grueling, Demidovich says.
The famous Hawaii Ironman consists of a 3.9-km swim followed by a 180-km bike ride and a 42.2-km run.
"They're (Olympic distance) still hard because you're going all out," he said. "It's more of a sprint race, where on the longer distances, you pace yourself more. It'a lot of fun."
Competition at the Island event has been stiff over the years, Demidovich said. And he expects things to be even tougher on Saturday.
"This year it's going to be good. I think there are a lot people doing it who didn't do it last year. There are some fast guys."
Demidovich was second in his division last year on the Island, finishing behind Walter Spoja, from southern Ontario. Last summer the race was shortened because of lightening.
"This year there's a lot of local guys, a lot of faster guys. So it should be good competition," Demidovich said.
Some of those he will go head-to-head with are friends. But he says there is no real rivalry, although he does train with them.
"We're around the same speed, so it should be good. But I wouldn't say it's a rivalry."
Demidovich's goal at endurance events is always to better his time, and to finish among the leaders in his age group.
Saturday's event will be his sixth race of the season. He and his wife Misha ran the famous Boston Marathon in April. He also took part in four triathlons earlier this year, mainly in northern Michigan.
"I race quite a bit. I like the training. I take it pretty serious."
Demidovich began endurance racing about five years ago, not long after Misha got him into running. He played basketball in high school and has played hockey since he was a child.
"I just wanted to get back into competitive sports. I missed the competitiveness and I tried this, and I got hooked. Actually, I don't even play hockey any more or anything. This is all I do now. I love it."
Demidovich says he doesn't really have time for anything else except endurance races because he and his wife have a 20-month-old boy, and another child on the way.
He finds time to train about 16 hours a week, sometimes working out twice a day either running and swimming, or cycling. While he doesn't take winters off, he does ease up a bit during the colder months.
"I like to stay fit, so I go all year. I cross-country ski and I run all year and stuff like that."
Ironman events require 24 weeks of training, he said. Competitors must complete the ironman in under 17 hours. Demidovich finished the Lake Placid event in 11 hours, seven minutes.
He's looking to better that time next month in Madison, which he must do if he hopes to one day make it to the prestigious Hawaii Ironman, the granddaddy all ironmans.
"I think everyone that does ironmen, that's their goal. Runners try to get to Boston, ironmen try to get to Hawaii," he said.
It will likely take more time and more training before he qualifies for that international event, because he must complete a sanctioned ironman event in under 10 hours to make it to islands in the Pacific.
"It's tough to get that time in my age group, but eventually I would like to. It's pretty competitive to get in there."
If he completes the Wisconsin race next month in nine hours and 50 minutes, he says it would probably be his ticket to Hawaii.
"But I think that's a really good day if I can do that."
Does he believe he can post such a time?
"I don't think this year. It'll be tough," he said.
For now he is concentrating on Saturday's St. Joe triathlon, which has its own unique benefits.
"It's a good race. It's well put on, and it's nice to sleep in your own bed. It should be good."