Ironman Canada is no more and has ended it’s long and storied run as one of the most revered members of the Ironman family.
When word of the demise of Ironman Canada in Penticton became public just days before the start of the 30th anniversary of the race the initial reactions were shock and surprise.
In those first few days sadness, dismay, and disappointment was also prevalent among those who had gathered to take in Ironman Canada 2012 as athletes, volunteers, spectators, and especially those who had made the pilgrimage to the Okanagan Valley to sign up for Ironman Canada 2013 the Monday after the 2012 race was in the books.
For many of those on hand to ensure themselves a spot in 2013 it would have been their first Ironman and their opportunity to be part of Ironman Canada in Penticton was lost forever once the announcement was made.
THE THREE V’S
Some people will say that the race will be the very same in 2013 except it will have a different name. Instead of Ironman Canada it will be the Challenge Penticton.
As someone wrote in the Penticton Herald “all you really need is the three V’s and the race will be the same.”
The venue, the volunteers, and the voice of race announcer Steve King.
There is no denying how spectacular the venue is.
All those Ironman triathletes from all over the world who have taken a ride around Okanagan lake toward Naramata at dawn or at dusk will attest to that.
They will all remember the Jeffers Fryzz chip truck, the peach on the beach, and the good ship Sicamous.
They will remember the bike course that wound it’s way through fragrant orchards, the view as they climbed Richter’s Pass and the run around Skaha Lake. They will certainly remember the crowds on Main Street and the last kilometer of the race on Lakeshore Drive.
The volunteers are among the best in the world.
Many of them have been with the Ironman for a decade or two and in some cases perhaps more. From the wet-suit strippers to the medical staff to the teenager running alongside you at the aid-station to make sure you get some water, they are truly amazing and are also the biggest fans of the athletes they help along on their journey.
There is no doubt in my mind that Steve King is perhaps the best race announcer in the world and has a way of making every single athlete in any race feel special and Steve no doubt can help any race be a success.
Yes, the three V’s were extremely important to the success of the Ironman Canada, but there will always be something intangible missing from the equation now that the Ironman is gone from Penticton.
THE KONA CONNECTION
When Ironman Canada began growing it’s roots in 1983 as a long-distance triathlon it was born in the spirit and the shadow of this amazing race called Ironman Hawaii that began taking the world by storm in a quiet village called Kona on the Big Island.
There is no denying the ties that Ironman Canada always did have with Ironman Hawaii and in 1986 Penticton officially became part of the Ironman family.
The legend of this Ironman race in Canada in a small town called Penticton began to grow and for many triathletes who took part in Ironman Canada there was no doubting the connection between Kona and Penticton.
This is especially true of those of us who took part in IMC in the late 1980’s when the motels with full kitchenettes within walking distance of the swim start were $40 a night, you could enter the race 10 days before the race, and the favorite attire for the bike and the run was a Speedo swimsuit.
Perhaps as the years went by the Kona connection was lost on the next generation of triathletes taking part in Ironman Canada.
They are the ones most likely to say, “sure, I will still do the race no matter what it’s called because everything will be the same.”
To many people, it will never be the same.
THE GLORY DAYS
You can can change the race around and give it a different name but the one thing you can’t do is take away the memories of Ironman Canada that so many people around the world will always have.
Thousands of people chose Ironman Canada for their first try at reaching the Ironman finish line and how could you possibly ever forget that?
So many characters and great pros from around the world have graced this iconic race over it’s thirty year history. So many outstanding age-group athletes have qualified in Penticton to race in Ironman Hawaii.
There has been so much drama, heart-break, and joy over the past 30 years. If you did enough Ironman Canada races you could experience everything from smoke, to 100-degree temperatures, to freezing, driving rain.
But no matter what the day happened to bring, Ironman Canada was always an unforgettable experience that will never be duplicated.
Have a look at some Ironman 2012 videos on IronStrucktv on You Tube. Sister Madonna crossing the finish line, wet-suit strippers in action and the last five minutes ever of Ironman Canada.
They are all located at: IronstruckTV on YouTube