While the coast was being drenched in rain, the sky was overcast for the start of Ironman Canada Sunday in Penticton, and temperatures stayed cool during the day. The only impediment was a strong head wind that hit some athletes in the late afternoon, but times were faster on average than in 2007.
The race includes a 3.8 km swim (152 lengths of the Meadow Park pool), a 180 km bike (about the distance from Emerald Estates to the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal), and a full 42.2 km marathon (about the distance from Whistler Creek to Pemberton).
The winner was Bryan Rhodes of New Zealand in eight hours, 30 minutes and 12 seconds. Bernhard Heibl of Austria was second in 8:34:34, while Victoria, B.C.’s Jasper Blake was third in 8:36:08. Blake, the 2006 champion, was second until partway through the run course, where he couldn’t keep up the pace and fell back slightly.
Australian Belinda Granger won the women’s race, setting a new record of 4:52 on the bike leg. Her total time was 9:17:58, followed by fellow Aussie Alison Fitch in 9:26:15. Heather Wurtele was the top Canadian in third with a time of 9:39:51.
Only one of the nine Whistler racers in the event competed in the Elite category. Ollie Blake, the younger brother of past Ironman Canada champion Jasper Blake, was 18 th overall in a time of 9:08:19. It was Blake’s second Ironman, and he managed to shave almost 15 minutes off his time from the previous year. He was consistent from the start and got faster as the day went on, placing 25th on the swim, 26 th on the bike, and 15 th on the run despite a series of injuries to his foot, knee and back this summer that hampered his training.
“I was hoping the break the nine hour mark, but 9:08 is still pretty good,” he said. “I’ve been in and out of injury for most of the summer, but I managed to piece together enough training to get to the start line which was my goal.”
Because of his injuries Ollie Blake avoided running and biking the two weeks before the race. Blake paid for his efforts, and spent five hours in the medical tent after the race.
“I hit the 100 kilometre point on the bike and my legs were feeling bad, and the whole last 80 kilometres I was wondering how I was going to run a marathon,’ he said. “What kept me going was all the people from Whistler in the race and on the sidelines cheering me on. It was a tough run, but the Whistler crowd got me to the finish.”