IRONMAN and IRONMAN 70.3 Canada in Whistler, BC, is quickly approaching. Nathan Killam, a professional triathlete training in Vancouver, did a recon of the course in Whistler a few weeks ago and has some advice for those racing this weekend.
The weather can be hit and miss in the Coastal Mountains, but this weekend looks to be ideal, with moderate temperatures and humidity. Still be ready for the unpredictable says Killam, “Whistler’s weather can change on a dime so make sure you pack with both hot/dry and cold/wet conditions in mind.”
The race begins with a self-seeded rolling start on the beach of Rainbow Park. The temperatures of Alta Lake can fluctuate like the weather, but Killam is confident that you’ll be using a wetsuit on July 29th. “The lake can go from moderately warm to cold overnight if the wind turns the lake, but either way it will be a manageable temperature, made perfect in a wetsuit.” On a clear morning, the lake should be fairly calm, but Killam suggests some practice in slightly choppier water before race day, so you aren’t surprised if it happens on race day. “The swim is well populated with buoys, making this an easy course to sight,” says Killam. IRONMAN triathletes will make two loops of the swim course, while 70.3 athletes will do one. Remember, the big red buoys are for turns, and yellow/orange intermediate buoys are to follow.
Earlier this year, IRONMAN Canada announced a new bike course for this year’s edition. Much of the course is concentrated in Whistler Valley giving spectators more opportunities to support the athletes as they make their way through the bike. IRONMAN athletes make three loops, while the half distance triathletes will do one large loop, going past the ski jump and Nordic ski area used in the Vancouver 2010 Games. With the new course, Killam offers some insight to the road condition, “Highway 99 and the road on Callaghan is fairly smooth, but the main road section to be extra alert on is along Alta Lake Road.”
With a new course, comes some new terrain features. Killam says the main climbs to be aware of, in order of appearance are, “Callaghan Valley and a short climb up to the Stonebridge turnaround.” Callaghan Valley is not a long climb for the full distance, but it does have a nice kick that can tax the legs late in the race. “Cadence will be your friend here, choose an easy cassette option for race day and ride your easiest gear here,” suggests Killam. “Remember you have a marathon after, so try to keep your HR in check and don’t push too much above your goal HR or power,” says Killam. The Stonebridge climb is similar to Callaghan, so stick to your plan and stay within yourself.
After the bike, you then run the first 5K on some of the best flat-terrain trails Whistler has to offer. While out on his recon, Killam observed the terrain to be reasonably even, with wide trails that provide lots of passing space and room for high-fives. Overall, Killam estimates the run course is probably slightly more than one-quarter gravel, and the rest is smooth pavement. Concerning hills, “The main elevation changes will be along Lost Lake, and one or two small rolling bits on the way out to the flat Green Lake section,” says Killam.
For those concerned about the sun, Killam says there is some relief on the course. However, “As the temperatures rise on race day, make sure you use practiced techniques for cooling, such as sponges, pouring cups of water on your head, arm cooling sleeves, head covering, etc.,” says Killam.
Killam offers also offers some bear advice, “If you come across a black bear on the run course, stop, speak calmly and softly to the bear and back away slowly in the direction you came, maintaining forward contact with the bear, don’t turn and run.” It is unlikely, but not out of the question with all the food sources available on the course.
Lastly, concerning the topic of transition zones, Killam reminds athletes to put all their belongings in their bag. “The separate transitions should be noted, with a ‘clean’ T1 (meaning anything NOT put back in your T1 ‘bike bag’ will likely not be returned) at Rainbow Park, the swim start.” Do not be stressed with the transitions, “The race director does a good job of organizing the transitions, so race morning procedure is smooth,” says Killam.