This Sunday, Aug. 27 marks the 28th running of the Ironman Canada Triathlon, after a field of just 23 athletes entered the water at Penticton back in 1983. In 1991 the race broke the 1,000 mark for the first time, and for the past decade it's sold out all 2,500 spots (give or take, as pro racers can enter at any time).
It's become a rite of passage for endurance athletes of all stripes, a tick off the bucket list that everybody who likes a physical challenge should try at least once.
As usual, when the race gets underway this year there will be a handful of Sea to Sky athletes in the group - some contending for spots at the Ironman Championships in Hawaii, but most pursuing personal goals - whether that's a sub 11-hour race or just finishing before the timer is turned off at midnight, 17 hours after the start gun.
Whistler athletes taking part this year include Duncan Munro, David Evans, Pete Field, Maridee Fitch, Sarah O'Byrne and Fero Piliar. As well, Liz Cullen is registered as a Vancouver athlete but lived in Whistler for several years and still spends time here.
From Squamish, the field includes Patricia Leslie, Derek Gagne and Byron Andres. The race starts off with a 3.8-kilometre swim, followed by a 180 km road bike. The last stage is a full marathon, 42.2 km from start to finish.
Most of the locals are doing the race for the first time, and three of the racers signed up together after watching friends race last year.
"I'm really excited about it," said Munro. "It's the unknown. I know what can happen in a trail running race and an ultra mountain bike race, but it's a whole new thing to train for swimming, biking and running. It's kind of fun and a little out of the norm. The only downside is this summer we're having when it's pissing rain and you have to go out for a 150km ride and it's 12-degrees outside."
It didn't make it easier that his partner Gillian Woodward did the race last year, and had near perfect training conditions through the spring and summer. However, with a training plan from Christine Suter he's kept his chin up and shrugged off the conditions as best as he could.
"When it's 10 degrees in early July it makes for interesting training, but I really have enjoyed it."
Munro is not going into the race with any goals - what happens on race is what happens. He has a background in swimming and water polo so the swim leg was relatively easy to prepare for, and he also has a lot of long-distance biking and running in his background - and recently placed first in the Rundle's Revenge race in Canmore in the Iron Donkey category, which included a 100km trail ride on Saturday, followed by a 50km trail run on Sunday.
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