“Anything is possible.” That Ironman mantra has profoundly impacted many individuals and the communities that host Ironman around the world. Who would have anticipated in 1983 that a fringe-sport endurance event consisting of 3.8 km swim, 180 km bike and followed by a marathon held in Penticton, British Columbia, would lay the foundation for race that would play such an intricate role in the history and evolution of Ironman? Who would have predicted that snow-bound country would produce four Ironman world champions? Peter Reid, Sylviane Puntous, Lori Bowden and Heather Fuhr who won eight Ironman world championship titles not to mention dozens of Ironman wins and have contributed to the draw and lure of Ironman around the world.
All that success helped inspire other athletes, too. The triathlon community enjoyed an era that saw the likes of 11-time Ironman champion Lisa Bentley and four-time Ironman champion, Tom Evans, regularly rack up international Ironman wins. Their wins fostered the way for the current generation of Canadian standouts that have recently excelled at Ironman and Ironman 70.3 distance triathlons. Now Ironman 70.3 world champion and Ironman winner Sam McGlone, three-time Ironman champion Heather Wurtele and Ironman 70.3 standouts Angela Neath and Magali Tisseyre consistently thrust themselves onto the international Ironman stage with outstanding performances. It is no wonder that a trio of Ironman events located north of the 49th parallel have risen to international prominence.
The Canadian Ironman family of events in Canada include Subaru Ironman Canada, Subaru Ironman 70.3 Muskoka and Viterra Ironman 70.3 Calgary. As diverse and unique each race location is geographically, they mirror each other in a number of attributes that make them so special and so Canadian. All three races have visually stunning and challenging racecourses that showcase their hosting communities and thoroughly test competitors. They all provide destinations that have family orientated recreational opportunities and provide ample and varied accommodations. The community support provided through their residents, local businesses and volunteers is unequalled as athletes and their families are greeted with welcoming and affable Canadian hospitality.
Subaru Ironman Canada
August 28, 2011 – 29th Edition
First and foremost, Penticton, British Columbia’s Subaru Ironman Canada has established itself as the pinnacle of triathlon events in Canada. After 28 years this iconic race has cemented itself in the storied history and culture of Ironman.
Ironman Canada has attracted a virtual ‘who’s who’ listing of Ironman’s top competitors over the last three decades. Ironman World Champions Paula Newby Fraser, Faris Al-Sultan, Erin Baker, Thomas Hellriegel, Peter Reid, Scott Tinley, Scott Molina, Lori Bowden and Heather Fuhr have all raced in Penticton. However, Ironman Canada’s history and mystique has not been exclusively defined by Ironman champions, but has been enriched through the performances of ordinary folks doing something extraordinary on the last Sunday of August every year.
It is the vision of the 80-year-old Sister Madonna Buder soldiering along on the run course that hugs Skaha Lake while defying time and age. Dick Hoyt selflessly towed his son Rick in a rubber boat in Lake Okanagan for their first attempt at an Ironman. Cowman, adorned with his horned headdress, climbed Richter Pass a few times. We also watched the age grouper turned pro, Lori Bowden, dominate the race for five straight years. Throw in the tireless fund raising done through the Iron Cops for Cancer over the last decade and the endless cast of characters who have competed and you have an impressive list of memories.
The course at Ironman Canada is legendary for its beauty and degree of difficulty, offering striking impressive views of the Okanagan Valley throughout the day. Another element of the course that has made it attractive to many is that it is one of the last remaining Ironman venues that offers up a single loop swim, bike and run.
Ironman Canada’s roots and history in the growth of Ironman set the stage for two additional worthy Ironman races to be added to Canada’s triathlon landscape.
(At the 2011 Subaru Ironman Canada triathlon age group athletes will compete for 65 qualifying spots to the Ford Ironman World Championships, held at Kailua-Kona, Hawaii on October 8, 2011.)
Subaru Ironman 70.3 Muskoka
September 11, 2011 – Fourth Edition
The pristine Muskoka region is a two-hour drive north of Toronto. The year-round vacation destination encompasses 6,500 km2 of towering pines, sparkling lakes and rivers, endless recreational activities, diversified culture and genuine friendly service. The district is dotted with picturesque villages and towns, farming communities, and cottages, lakeside vacation hotels and resorts near to golf courses, country clubs, and marinas.
The region has played a significant role in Canadian triathlon history. The Subaru Muskoka Triathlon has been a premier race on the Ontario schedule since the 90’s and in later attracted world-class athletes to the Muskoka Chase. In 1992, the world watch triathlon legends Simon Lessing and Michellie Jones win the I.T.U. World Championship hosted in Huntsville, which added to the rich triathlon history of the Muskoka region.
Huntsville’s Deerhurst Resort plays center stage for the Ironman 70.3 event. The single loop 1.9 kilometer swim in Peninsula Lake serves as the warm-up to the the demanding 94 km bike course that delivers competitors to a relentless ride that doesn’t have anything close to a level piece of real estate. The out-and-back 21 km run from the resort is as demanding as it is visually striking. It is no wonder that Ironman world champions Mirinda Carfrae and Craig Alexander have used the race as their final preparation for the Ironman World Championship the past two years.
With Muskoka’s extensive record and history of openly embracing and supporting multi-sport events, an Ironman 70.3 race was a natural fit for the region and the athletes that compete there.
(Age group athletes will compete for 40 qualifying spots to the Ironman 70.3 World Championships, held at Lake Las Vegas in Henderson, Nevada in September 2012.)
Ironman 70.3 Calgary
July 31, 2011 – Third Edition
Calgary has managed to effectively fuse their urban and western rural culture, values and a cowboy ambiance with the newest Canadian Ironman event. The good-old western friendliness is not something the city puts on just for the 10-day, internationally acclaimed, Calgary Stampede.
The third year event uses the challenges of the foothills of the Canadian Rocky Mountains as its stage to present the beauty of western Canada to competitors. Athletes are treated to views of snow-capped mountain peaks, the world-renowned Bow River, grazing cattle in rolling pastures, mustard yellow canola fields ripping in the mid-summer sun and farmers herding their ranging stock along the course.
This unique point-to-point race course starts at Ghost Lake, located 45 km west of Calgary, which is fed by the Bow River and its downstream flow from the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The rolling bike course journeys east toward Calgary and finishes off at the Glenmore Reservoir located in the western portion of the city for the bike-run transition. With the downtown towering buildings in the background, athletes run an out-and-back course that hugs the reservoir and portions of the Weaslehead Natural Reserve Park, giving the appearance they never have entered the city.
Ironman 70.3 Calgary has effectively incorporated its distinctive blend of a large contemporary city with the sprawling countryside of the foothills. The result is a race that leaves a positive and lasting impression of the race and city upon athletes.
(Age group athlete will compete for 50 qualifying spots to the Ironman 70.3 World Championships, held at Lake Las Vegas in Henderson, Nevada on September 11, 2011.)