Last weekend we headed to Whistler for some epic riding and running on the new Ironman Canada course. I am not doing the race but 1/2 of The SAA iron distance crew is, the other 1/2 are doing Challenge Penticton. The Challenge Penticton race is the old Ironman Canada location. Confused? Many are. Regardless of which race you are doing, Whistler is an amazing and tough place to train which makes it perfect for us Iron-types.
We drove up on Friday night in the warm rain. The weather the next day was forecast as a mixed bag of sun, rain and thunder showers. Every piece of cycling gear imaginable was packed for this trip. Sleeveless bike jerseys all the way to thermal shoe covers and everything in between.
After checking in with at the Whistler Athlete's Centre, we met up with our group who was already there. The Athlete's Centre has 2 options. Two bedroom town homes or dorm style living with shared bathroom, kitchen and laundry. We opted for the dorm room. Two single beds, two bedside tables and two closets. When you are training, you don't need much more. And at $55/night, it was hard to pass up.
After a good night sleep, we started bright and early at 7am for our ride. We first rode up Callahan Valley then down to Pemberton. Some of the group decided to ride Pemberton Meadows Road out and back to add on some distance. I was scheduled for a 5 hour ride so I skipped the out and back. Our group had two support vehicles which was very appreciated. The weather turned out to be very warm (32C in Pemberton) so having the vans to throw clothes into and take drinks from was fantastic.
I have to report that the Whistler IMC course is very challenging. At no time did I feel like I would not be able to ride the distance but the thought of running after that bike would be very tough. The climb to Callahan is beautiful and early in the bike. By the time one rides to Pemberton and the Meadows, you could still be thinking "this is a great bike course". All that will change when the climb out of Pemberton starts. Even without riding the Meadows, I was gassed coming back out of Pemberton. I had 2 bottles if Ironman Perform and an aero bottle with water and I certainly could have drank twice that amount. Because I had turned back before the group, I managed to ride from Pemberton back to the Athlete's Centre without seeing the support vehicles. I wasn't concerned since the distance is not that far. But those hills!
Thinking about showering and stretching after the ride helped me finish strong. That and the fact that there had been many bear sightings that day. Stop too long on the side of the road to rest and you might just end up bear food. Very motivating.
That night we were treated to a 50th Birthday Party BBQ at one of the town houses at the Athlete's Centre. One of our club members was celebrating her birthday with a traditional South African food feast. All the dishes were very tasty and much appreciated.
We called it a night relatively early since we had a long run planned for Sunday. It was agreed that the group would meet a 8am for a 8:30am start at T2 in the Whistler Day Lot. Myself and another member decided that was too late and agreed to run at 7am. This was a good decision since the weather was already hot by 7am. 20kms out and back (with a few detours) on the IMC run course was again a hilly experience.
With the training part of the weekend over, we were free to enjoy lunch on a patio, the Farmers Market, and the 54-40 Concert that evening.
Perhaps the best part of the weekend was celebrating Canada Day, July 1st, at the Scandinave Spa in Whistler. No phones, no cameras just relaxation and recovery. A piece of heaven in the woods.