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More on Muskoka: Ironman Makes it Official

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In a statement provided to Triathlon Magazine Canada today Ironman officials confirmed that Ironman Muskoka has been cancelled and clarified the status of Ironman 70.3 Muskoka.

Here’s the statement we received from Ironman’s PR department this morning:

“After careful consideration, IRONMAN Muskoka will not be taking place in 2016. We appreciate the efforts and support of the city, volunteers, sponsors, and everyone else involved in putting on this race. We would also like to thank all of the athletes who have raced with us in Muskoka.”

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We also heard from Jeff Edwards, Vice President, North America Operations for Ironman, with more details on Ironman 70.3 Muskoka:

“Everyone should know that Ironman 70.3 Muskoka is still rolling forward on Sunday, July 10, 2016,” Edwards wrote in an email. “Some of the statements have made it sound like the town is taking over that race, which is not the case. The town is putting their full support behind the 70.3 event.”

While the Ironman statement didn’t provide any details on why the race has been cancelled, Huntsville mayor Scott Aitchison spoke to the town’s general committee on Monday, as reported in a story that appeared on muskokaregion.com. Huntsville had signed a three-year deal with Ironman, but lost $100,000 after the 2015 race, he said, and they feared losing more if they kept the event going.

“I met with representatives of Ironman Canada in Toronto and they weren’t particularly thrilled with the results either. They like to have about 2,000 people at these events and they only had about 1,500,” said Aitchison. He also attributed one of the main reasons the race didn’t do well was because of the challenging course. “They thought a full Ironman on these hills was a little too difficult. The ones that sell out are the ones that are flat. Arizona has no problem, Miami has no problem.” (Editor’s note: There isn’t a full-distance race in Miami – it hosts an Ironman 70.3 event in October.)

Muskoka burst onto the world triathlon scene in 1992 when it hosted the Triathlon World Championship. The “warm up” event, held in 1991, served as Triathlon Canada’s national championship and was named by Triathlon Magazine as one of the most beautiful races in the world … seven months before the inaugural event took place. For almost 25 years Huntsville has hosted a series of world class events, including a stop on the Triathlon Pro Tour and the popular Subaru Muskoka Chase, which sent the pro women off ahead of the pro men with a portion of the prize purse going to the first finishers across the line.

TriMuskoka, an advocacy group to promote triathlon participation in the Muskoka area, was founded in 2010 by Rich Trenholm and Kyra Watters. Trenholm was disappointed with the news of the cancellation, but remains optimistic about the future for multisport activities in the region.

“Registration numbers weren’t what they [Ironman] had expected,” Trenholm said in an interview today. “That, in combination with the fact the town had the licensing fee on their plate, along with a bunch of other expenses the town was dealing with, were all contributing factors … I think the idea that the course was really tough was a bit of a misrepresentation – if you train for this terrain you’re going to be OK.”

Trenholm also points out how hard it was for the full-distance race to compete with Ironman Mont-Tremblant.

“Being next door to Tremblant is hard because they do put on a great event and have so much support,” he says. “With only four roads in and out here, it’s difficult for the agencies here in Ontario to let us close down a few lanes of the highway like they do there.”

It’s not all bad news when it comes to multisport activities in Muskoka, though.  The region has a long history of hosting events, and doing that well. Even though it won’t on the calendar in 2016, Ironman Muskoka was a success in 2015, with athletes giving it a “satisfaction rating” more than five percent above the global average for Ironman events.

“We’re down an Ironman, but we’re not taking any steps back,” Trenholm says. “Now we’ve got two big swimming events, our short course races (the TriMuskokan in June), the 70.3 and a number of running events.”