For 22-years, the Town of Stony Plain has hosted one of western Canada’s oldest triathlons, the Great White North Triathlon (GWN). Stony Plain, located 17 km west of Edmonton, has retained all the warmth and charm of its cultural roots. More than 30 buildings throughout town have been painted with breathtaking murals that depict the region’s rich heritage – hence Stony Plain’s label “The Town with the Painted Past”. On the first Sunday of July every year Stony Plain surrenders the town to the triathlon and the 1,000 or so triathletes for one of the most popular races in Western Canada.
In 1991 race director Wade Church organized the first GWN after the Brooks half-iron distance disappeared from the Alberta triathlon race calendar. Church put his heart and soul into the race for twenty years and built the event by nurturing relationships with the athletes, volunteers and the community. The GWN has been the venue for the Alberta and National Long Course Championships on a number of occasions. In 2012 Michael Brown inherited the role of race director of GWN and knew he had huge shoes to fill. Brown now carries the burden of maintaining and building upon the legacy of this race.
The new leader
Brown is a seasoned Ironman veteran himself, having competed in the Canada Ultraman and the Ultraman World Championship in Hawaii in 2012. The 40-year-old father of one daughter has another child due three weeks before this year’s GWN, so he understands the time and commitment it takes to compete in a race of this distance. “I believe if I continue to place the interests of the athlete first and foremost the GWN triathlon will continue to prosper and to enjoy the successes the race has enjoyed for previous 21 years,” says Brown.
The GWN has seen some triathlon legends compete. Ironman world champion, Heather Fuhr, established a course record in 1993 that still stands today, while multiple Ironman champion, Tom Evans established the men’s course record in 2009. Jeff Symonds, who finished third at the 2011 Ironman 70.3 World Championship, will be defending his 2011 GWN title in July. Tara-Lee Marshall, Bryan Rhodes, Dave Harju, Mark Bates, Paul Tichelaar, Roch Frey, the late Mark Becker and Matt Seely are just a few of Canada’s premier triathletes who have raced in Stony Plain
The two kilometer clockwise swim takes place in Hubbles Lake, located 15 km west of Stony Plain. The mass swim start and bike transition are located at Allan Beach and Resort. Competitors then complete a 90 km single loop bike that heads southwest of Stony Plain past the vast canola and cereal grain fields before it heads towards the North Saskatchewan River. The bike is predominantly flat, with the exception of a lengthy decent and accent into, and out of, the river valley that is repeated twice before heading back to the second transition located in heart of the town. The run is flat and fast as it takes athletes through the town’s beautiful trail system as well as within tree lined residential streets.
Individual and team entries are still available for the July 7, 2013 race. Visit www.gwntriathlon.com to learn more about the race and registration.-SK