Back in 1996 a group of triathletes in Maui decided that it was time to shake up the triathlon format. Why swim on flat lakes when you can attack waves and currents? Why bike and run on pavement when the hills are criss-crossed by trails?
The first year, the event was billed as Aquaterra, later renamed Xterra for 1997. From there, the event grew quickly and soon there were events in a few dozen countries including Canada. Back in 2000 Whistler hosted the first Xterra Canada National Championships, but while there are several affiliated across the country Xterra organizers didn't host another championship in Canada until the event returned to Whistler for 2010.
Now, the championships are shaping up to be an annual event. On Sunday, Sept. 4, the race will return to Whistler.
Athletes going the full Championship distance will make two laps of a 750-metre course on Alta Lake, with a short run through Rainbow Park in between laps. From there, racers will head out onto two laps of a course that includes Whip Me Snip Me, Rainbow Flank, Bobs Rebob, Mel's Dilemma, Emerald Forest and A River Runs Through It - around 9km per lap, finishing back at Rainbow Park.
The run route heads up the same area as the bike then turns onto Beaver Pond, 99er, Middle Danimal to Lower Sproatt, Lower Sproatt back to 99er, Middle Danimal to Alta Lake Road and the valley trail back to Nita Lake Lodge - a distance of around 12km.
The Sport distance racers will do one lap of the lake, one lap of the bike course and will cut out of the run course around 6km.
If you're not a swimmer, you can also race the event as a duathlon, doing just the bike and running legs, or you can sign on to do the trail run only.
There is also a team relay category, with an added challenge this year - any duo or trio of athletes that beats the top time posted by the professional racer will get free Salomon shoes.
There's over $10,000 in prize money available to the top pro racers. The field will include four-time world Xterra champion and two-time Olympian Conrad Stoltz, and Nanaimo's Melanie McQuaid, a three-time Xterra world champion - and the Canadian champion in 2010.
The top age group athletes will be vying for spots in the Xterra World Championships in Maui on Oct. 23, and the top trail runners can gain entry to the Xterra Trail Run World Championships on Oahu in December.
Registration is online at www.xterracanada.ca.
If you can volunteer, the course will need a few marshalls. All marshalls will get an Icebreaker Merino wool shirt, kicking horse coffee and a ticket to the barbecue at the Nita Lake Lodge following the event.