In his first trip to Whistler, Andy Potts made tracks like a seasoned local.
The Colorado Springs, Colo. resident and 2004 Olympic swimmer buzzed through the Subaru Ironman Canada competition in a time of 8 hours, 20 minutes and 23 seconds (8:20:23) to win his seventh Ironman overall.
Though strong all around, Potts is particularly famous for his swimming ability, which often allows him to get an early jump on his competitors. Here in Whistler, he got the jump after being the first to emerge from Alta Lake and didn't look back. Arizona's Pedro Gomes and Kelowna's Trevor Wurtele were his nearest challengers, with Gomes crossing the line 7:08 after Potts and Wurtele arriving 10:02 after the winner.
Potts explained after the race he found his pacing well - pushing his limits without going over.
"I don't measure my speed based on how I feel, because if you're going hard, it doesn't feel very good," he said. "If I was feeling good, that means I wasn't pushing hard enough, so I was right on the limit. I wanted to swim hard and ride really hard."
Though he didn't have the opportunity to soak in all natural glory of the Sea to Sky corridor, Potts noted it still helped play a role in his win.
"I'm super pleased with today. There was enough variety out on the race course to keep you engaged all day long, mentally, so I never felt I got stale because the race course offered so much," he said. "On the ride, there was always something to concentrate on and focus on whether you're going up, paying attention on the descents, trying to be disciplined on the flats. Then on the run, there was a ton of variety. I really liked running around Lost Lake with the rollers and the softer surface."
It may have seemed like a perfect day for Potts, who has won in 40-degree heat, but with so much time on the course, there's bound to be something that goes wrong.
"I had a little bit of a bad spell on the run, but there's ebbs and flows to everybody's Ironman. My dark moments came on the run for a little bit," he said. "When you have tough moments in any race, you try to simplify it. You don't want it to get too big.
"I dial it back to form. I think about, 'Bring your hands and make sure you can see your knuckles and drive the knees.'"
With Potts at times holding a lead of over 10 minutes, his competitors knew it was going to be tough to cut into. With Wurtele right on his tail, Gomes challenged as hard as he could for much of the marathon course before realizing he wouldn't catch Potts and sought to race for the silver when the gold was out of reach.
"When Potts is racing and you know he's going to go in as hard as he can from the gun, he outswims everyone most of the time," he said. "Once we were on the way back (from Pemberton), the pace really picked up. I was lucky to get away with Trevor coming into T2 (the bike-to-run transition). Once we got into T2, I immediately said to Trevor, 'This is going to be a race for second.'"
Racers will continue to arrive on Blackcomb Way West until the course closes at midnight.
For more, please see Thursday's edition of Pique.