It's been 12 years since friends of Squamish triathlete Bob McIntosh created an event in his memory, building it from a grass roots event to a sanctioned stop on the provincial triathlon series. It was also one of the first events to add a relay category, allowing teams of up to three athletes to experience a piece of an Olympic distance triathlon.
This year's event takes place on Sunday, July 5, starting with a 1,500-metre swim at Alice Lake, transitioning to a 37 km bike leg on a 4 km loop, and from there to a 10 km run on trails in the Cheekeye Fan area.
Things are a little bit different this year, according to race director Peter Hotston, starting with a minor change to the swim course.
"For the very fast people there was a danger of them crashing into the slowest relay people that enter the water after a three minute interval, so we adjusted the course to avoid that," he said. "Basically we've added an extra buoy to the course, and tightened it up a bit. We know it's exactly accurate at 1,501 metres."
The next change is on the 37 km bike course. This year riders will go down freshly paved Squamish Valley Road after crossing Highway 99 from Alice Lake, then turn south on Government Road and east on Depot Road before heading back up Highway 99 to the Squamish Valley Road Junction. Riders will make nine laps of the 4 km course.
The new course bypasses Ross Road, which is in rougher shape than other roads on the route and eliminates the need for a temporary bridge over Ross Road between the run transition and the finish line.
"It makes for smoother riding, and because we're not riding down Ross (road) we can do away with the bridge, which was steep and awkward for runners," said Hotston. "I think the course is a little more user-friendly now, and maybe a little faster."
The new route does cross the train tracks, but Hotston and company have come up with a solution there as well. This year they've started the race a half hour later, while Rocky Mountaineer has agreed to send the Whistler Mountaineer train a half hour earlier so there will be no rail traffic during the race. The tracks will also be covered and riders should be able to cross the tracks without adjusting speed.
Registrations are still coming in - the last week is usually busiest - but Melanie McQuaid from Vancouver Island will be on hand to defend her women's title. Registration is still open for solo racers and relay teams until end of day Friday, but spots are going fast. The race is capped at 400 racers, including solo racers and relay teams and as of Monday morning there were 240 individuals and 45 relay teams of two and three athletes.
The race sold out for four years in a row prior to the 2008 event, which was scheduled on the same weekend as a triathlon in Vancouver. Squamish Tri organizers have changed their date to prevent conflicts and are on pace to sell out once again.
The race is a non-profit, with $5,000 of the proceeds being split between two scholarships. To date the triathlon has awarded $38,000 in scholarships to local students. This year the winners of the Robert W. McIntosh Scholarship are Eden Imbeau and Jordan Platz.
The remainder of the proceeds go towards local trail projects, including work on the Ray Peters Trail in the Cheekeye Fan area where the off-road 10 km run leg takes place.
"Right now we have a 5 km loop so we do two loops of the trail for the running section," said Hotston. "What we're hoping to do next is develop a single 10 km loop in there. Right now we can do about 8 km in there, so we're getting closer all the time."
For more information and registration visit www.squamishtriathlon.org.