Empress Hotel, Victoria Harbor, BC Canada.

— By Dan Smith

The first Canadian Ironman race of the season is less than a week away. Sunday’s Ironman 70.3 Victoria debuts some significant course changes which will enhance this popular event.

For triathletes who are returning to race Victoria this year, the major changes are that the swim has moved to the other end of the lake, there’s a new one-loop bike course and the run goes in the opposite direction.

Here are some tips to get the most out of your day.

1. Give yourself some extra time travelling. Victoria is located on Vancouver Island and accessed either by ferry or plane. Even though the ferry is an hour and a half cruise, budget at least three hours for the trip. By moving the transition to the opposite end of Elk and Beaver Lake Park there is plenty of parking at the race site. Bike check-in is Friday and Saturday.

2. This year marks the introduction of a self-seeded rolling start for the Ironman 70.3 Victoria swim. Similar to running races with time corrals, this type of start groups swimmers of similar ability and speed together. Be honest with your expected swim time to take advantage of being in close proximity to triathletes who swim the same speed. At the same time be aggressive and get on the feet of swimmers to get the best draft. Bonus Tip: Arrive in Victoria early for the ever popular coached Friday morning swim at Thetis Lake. Get open water practice with close to 100 triathletes.

3. The one loop bike course showcases the beauty and variety of the Saanich Peninsula. The first 10K wind through quiet neighbourhoods then head to more open rural roads. The bike course is deceptive; the first half is rolling and there are very few really flat sections except approaching Sidney. Use your gears to maintain your optimum cadence and power. Save energy for the second half where the climbs are more substantial. Willis Point Road, at 70km, is a 2.5 km climb at an average grade of 5%, which is enough to sap the legs. And it’s not the last one.

Victoria waterfront beach and cliffs with rustic fence

4. The run is two clockwise laps around Elk Lake. Possibly one of the most beautiful places to run in Canada, the run course is mostly flat and is on hard packed dirt. The ground is easy on the legs, but the trail can lead to a slightly slower pace time, so pace yourself by effort. Another bonus is that about 80 percent of the run is shaded.

5. Victoria has a very temperate climate year round, so race day temperatures are not expected be extremely high – expect 19 to 23C. Water temperature for the swim in Beaver Lake will also be close to 20C, or higher, due to the warm spring weather. However, race morning can be cool so pack arm warmers, toe covers and a vest just in case.

6. Have fun, enjoy the scenery and tack on an extra day or two to explore Victoria and Vancouver Island.

LifeSport Senior coach Dan Smith has been actively involved with the Ironman 70.3 Victoria race for the past 10 years. He has been coaching triathlon for more than 15 years and is also the 2015 Ironman Canada 50-54 champion.

Beginner and experienced triathletes looking to start or improve their performances are invited to join the LifeSport team. Visit them on the web at www.LifeSportCoaching.com or email LifeSport Coaching at coach@LifeSportCoaching.com.