Adam Ward hopes the road to Hawaii runs through Squamish.
The Whistler triathlete is making a serious push for the Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii in October, and hopes to punch his ticket in Whistler when the Subaru Ironman Canada race comes to town on July 26.
One warm-up upon which Ward hopes to build is a fifth-place overall showing in the Squamish Triathlon, where he finished roughly 10 minutes back of winner Robert Johnson of Chilliwack. Ward's time of two hours, three minutes and 39 seconds (2:03:39) was also good enough to top the men's 25 to 29 division.
Though it's a significantly shorter course than the Ironman, with a 1.5-kilometre swim, 37-kilometre bike ride and 10-kilometre run, Ward felt it was worthwhile to get out and get the blood pumping in all three disciplines as he prepares to make a final training push.
"I did the Squamish Tri as a taper event, and I get the cobwebs off," he said. "I get to see how I was feeling, so now I just get to taper into the Ironman."
Ward plans to train 14 hours this week and seven next week and he conserves energy for the big race.
In Squamish, he didn't go full out, but did enough to impress.
"The swim went well and the bike went well," he said. "I ran hard, but I wasn't pushing myself too much on the run.
"The result was awesome and I was surprised with how good I felt."
Ward's specialty is on the bike, and he ended up posting the third-best time of the day on two wheels.
"I grew up mountain biking. I raced in Ontario and then I've always been on my bike. For some reason, I can take the full end of the pain on the bike and I can push it a lot harder than I can push the swim and run," he said. "It's kind of weird how that happens."
Ward noted he enjoys making the short jaunt down the Sea to Sky highway to Squamish for the race, though he hasn't raced it since 2010 because he tended to be nursing nagging injuries at the time.
"I always want to do it, but it always seems like I can't do it," he said.
In last year's Ironman, Ward ended up third in his age category and 50th overall — he hopes to win the age group this year to earn a slot in paradise.
As there were smoky conditions in and around Whistler in the week leading up to the Squamish race, resulting in low air quality for much of the week, Ward played it safe by training indoors for the better part of seven days. His re-emergence outdoors actually ended up coming in Squamish.
"I was just training in the garage and at Meadow Park on the treadmill, in the pool and on the spin bike. I wasn't training outside at all," he said. "It was a typical week, almost. I do my long rides on the weekend, and it kind of got bad on the Sunday and I'd already completed my long ride.
"Monday is my off-day, and throughout the week, I was training indoors."
Several other Whistlerites made the trip, including Chris Bowen, who was second behind Ward in their division. John Blok was second in the men's 60 to 64 category, while Greg Sandkuhl (men's 70-plus) and Leah Blok (women's 35 to 39) each won their respective divisions. Catherine Haufschaud also hit the podium, placing third in Blok's category. All completed the Olympic distance.
In the shorter sprint distance, Karen Blaylock topped the female 55 to 59 division and Shannon Wilson was third in the female 25 to 29 event.
Full results are online at www.squamishtriathlon.org.