I almost asked coach if I could race Ironman Canada this weekend. Because FOMO.
As my first 140.6 distance race, Whistler holds a special place in my heart, and I’m a little sad to not be toeing the line there on Sunday. It’s a magical place… the mountains, the ocean, the woods, crisp clean air (maybe we should move to the Pacific Northwest, Nick?!). No doubt about it, I’ll race there again… who’s in for 2015?!
With that, here’s a quick rundown of the course :)
Surrounded by mountains, the two-loop swim in Alta Lake is nothing short of spectacular. The deep blue-green water is crystal clear and because it’s mountain fed, it’s clean and the perfect wetsuit temp (it was about 68 degrees last year). For the in-water start, I got in the water about 10 minutes prior to go and positioned midway back on the left. I swam just to the left of the numbered buoys – it’s a counterclockwise swim with sunrise to your left during the first straightaway – and had zero issues with anyone swimming over me, kicking me or ripping off my goggles. The turn buoys are a bit of a cluster, so be prepared to fight for position a bit. In 2013, racers were allowed to stay in the water between the two loops – much preferred (for me) rather than running out on the beach and back in.
For more on the swim, see my race report.
Oh, the bike! There isn’t a much more scenic road to bike than the Sea-to-Sky Highway (which was closed to traffic on race day)… water on one side and mountains all around. It starts from Rainbow Park with a longer run across train tracks and around a corner before crossing the line to hop on. Almost immediately, you’re smacked with an uphill followed by some rollers, so be sure to start in an easier gear. The first 30 miles are an out and back to Callaghan Valley, with the first half mostly climbing. After biking through Whistler again, the course winds north, up and down, toward Pemberton. Bike special needs is downtown Pemberton right before the 30-mile flat stretch on Pemberton Meadows Road. There were many pelotons here in 2013, and while it’s tempting to join them or hammer it, conserve a bit for the big 22-mile climb back to Whistler and T2. There’s a wicked S-curve descent on the climb back, so be cautious and slow down; it’s quite precarious, and though I love bombing down mountains, this one turn was terrifying (driving this section before the race is a good idea).
Remember: What goes up (and there’s a lot of up – 6,000 feet or so) must come down. My top speed was 46 mph, so be prepared for some flying descents. I was quite glad to have a 12-27 cassette.
More bike info on my race report.
The two-loop run is a nice mix of shaded and sunny asphalt trail and a little bit of gravel. It starts near Olympic Plaza and winds through the woods – that fresh pine tree scent! – and eventually snakes along Green Lake (where I saw a bear!), an out and back in the sun. After the turnaround it heads back by the lake and around Whistler village before starting loop two. A heads-up: The course is hilly. My 910 read about 2,000 feet of climbing, though I don’t recall it feeling like that much. The last mile is deceiving, as you can hear finish line cheering and “you are an ironman!” while you’re still winding around the village. And, when you finally round the corner… nothing beats that feeling of seeing – and crossing – the finish line.
More run info on my race report.
One other tip… add international calling to your cell phone plan. It’s fairly inexpensive (I think my Verizon was around $50), which sure beats overcharges if you don’t. That said, fifty bucks doesn’t go far, so hop onto free wifi whenever you can.
Happy racing, friends!