One of the best things about competing in triathlon is the opportunity to travel. Local racing is great but for many training for 70.3 or Ironman distance races part of the enjoyment is deciding which race to do and where to do it. Calgary plays host to one of two official Ironman 70.3 races in Canada and the majestic backdrop of the Rockies and scenic landscape make it not only ideal for racing but also great for a vacation.
The Westin Inn in downtown Calgary acts as race headquarters and for those needing accommodations it not only makes it convenient when traveling to transition prior to and on race day but also is exceptionally convenient when exploring downtown Calgary. Most everything in the downtown core is within walking distance and there is much to see such like the shops and restaurants on the Stephan Avenue mall, a shared pedestrian/vehicle street, to the Calgary Tower with great views of the city.
The race itself is set up as a point to point. The swim start and Transition 1 are located about an hour away from Calgary on the edge of the Ghost Reservoir and the race finishes 90km away at the Glenmore Reservoir. For those staying in hotels or don’t have a car shuttle buses are available from the Westin at various times throughout the day prior to race day. Buses remain at T1 while athletes set up and then return to the Westin.
Race day is definitely an early start, even by Ironman standards. A series of buses begin to leave the Westin for the Ghost Reservoir at 4:00 am. The Pro’s start at 6:10am and the first wave of the age groupers is at 6:20am. The swim course follows the edge of the reservoir and takes athletes under a bridge lined with spectators. The bike course winds through the beautiful farmlands and rolling hills between Calgary and the Canadian Rockies and then takes you through Cochrane before finishing at the Glenmore Reservoir. Views of the mountain background are inspiring and much of the highway has been freshly paved with makes the riding smooth, fast and enjoyable. The out and back run course takes you through the North Glenmore Park and edges around the stunning Glenmore Reservoir.
Alberta has a lot to explore as Calgary sits at the foot of the Canadian Rockies. The town of Banff is only an hour’s drive from Calgary and offers great shopping and sightseeing. The summit of Tunnel Mountain is an easy hike from the town site and offers spectacular views of the Bow Valley, The Banff Springs hotel and Mt. Rundle. A short drive from town is Johnston Lake and Lake Minniwanka where you can view Mountain Sheep and do some hiking or canoeing. Lake Louise and Moraine Lake are another 45 minutes from Banff and offer great hiking in some of the most beautiful landscape in the country. One hike to consider from Moraine Lake takes you up through the valley of the Ten Peaks to Sentinel Pass. Another starts from Chateau Lake Louise and goes to the back of Lake Louise and up to the Tea House where you can enjoy afternoon tea and snacks.
Further up the highway is the Icefields Parkway, the road that takes you through Jasper National Park into the town of Jasper. The scenic drive up the parkway often offers great views of mountain sheep, bears, wolves, elk and mountain goats. Halfway up is the Columbia Icefield where motorists can stop and walk out on to the receding glacier. Jasper is a peaceful mountain town with an array of B & B’s, chalets and the famous Fairmount Jasper Park Lodge to stay in. Visitors can enjoy some beautiful hiking or visits to the Miette Hot Srings.
Ironman Calgary 70.3 is a great excuse to turn a destination race in to a destination vacation.