Even 10 days before its third incarnation in Whistler, organizers of the Subaru Ironman Canada were hopping.
On July 16 at the outdoor "warehouse" in Lot 6 race organizers are using as their hub leading up to the race, staffers were preparing trucks to send out to each of the aid stations, trucks were zipping in and out to drop off supplies and even race director Evan Taylor was driving a forklift to help make everything run smoothly this Sunday (July 26).
"What we're trying to do is stage everything. It takes us a couple weeks," Taylor said after moving a flat of bottled water.
Taylor said the full army of staff, roughly 65 people, would arrive in Whistler by Wednesday, July 22 to ramp up the final preparations for the race. The number of athletes is expected to meet or surpass the field of just over 1,900 that challenged the course in 2014.
In order to better accommodate the athletes, Taylor explained there are a couple course changes for this year, but shouldn't affect anyone too greatly. Some aid stations along the bicycle course were relocated to make them "more strategic" to benefit athletes. As well, the run course eliminated a small section near Blackcomb base and tacked on that extra distance near Green Lake "to reduce the amount of twists and turns and fiddly bits of the course," as well as to again help with aid station location.
"There's been some minor course adjustments here and there just streamlining the bike and the run courses. The swim doesn't change much," he said. "We try not to change too much unless we have to."
Taylor said with growing pains starting to slow after the move from Penticton, organizers seems to be finding their groove. He praised volunteers for bringing innovative and efficient ideas to help with the race, while the understanding of what to expect in the resort has athletes far and wide intrigued.
Past participants have described Whistler as being on the challenging end of the continuum, even for Ironman races, but are beginning to steel themselves for the intense challenge.
"Athletes know what to expect now from the course, and some people love that sort of stuff," he said. "There are hills, as we're in the mountain ranges here, but each course has its own challenges.
"You can say there are easy Ironmans and there are hard Ironmans. They're all sort of hard, but this is where we say 'You can finish an Ironman, or you can finish an Ironman in Whistler.' We like to think if you finish this Ironman, you've done a hell of a good job to do it."
As the racecourse snakes its way through much of the resort from its Rainbow Park start to its Whistler Olympic Plaza finish, there will be several road closures throughout the day. Most notably, Highway 99 will be closed southbound from Portage Road in Pemberton to Alpine Way from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., while that northbound section will be shut down from 8:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The highway will also be closed from Alpine Way to Callaghan Valley Road from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Alta Lake Road, Rainbow Drive, Alpine Way, Callaghan Valley Road, Blackcomb Way West, Gateway Road, Village Gate Boulevard, Pemberton Meadows Road and the Pemberton downtown area will also have closures at various points throughout the day. A full list of closures and times is available at www.whistler.ca/culture-recreation/festivals-events-animation/ironman.
Those who want to show appreciation for the athletes' dedication are more than welcome to line the course throughout the day from the 7 a.m. start to the midnight cutoff, where the final runners are often welcomed with the most raucous applause.
Taylor said he anticipates roughly 2,000 volunteers will help the race go off, but said more hands are always welcome to help lighten the load. Those interested in helping out can sign up at www.doitsports.com/volunteer2/jobs-by-date.tcl?event_id=214744. Another option is to approach local non-profit groups to see if they are organizing a volunteer contingent — the larger it is, the larger the grant the organization receives from the Ironman Foundation.
"We could always use more volunteers," Taylor said.