Posted by: Feet Banks
Special Guest Blogger: Laura Gallant
Howling winter winds, pelting sleet and thick snow: Whistler skiers are accustomed to such weather– they even embrace it– but only a crazy person would consider it nice running weather.
53-year-old local Meridee Fitch isn’t crazy though, she’s simply out braving the elements every day as part of her training for Whistler’s inaugural IRONMAN® Canada Triathlon set for August 25, 2013.
Throughout the winter Meridee has been working out daily, for about 10 hours each week. As spring arrives she will double that, spending eight to nine hours each Saturday and Sunday swimming, biking and running in preparation for the most difficult race Whistler has ever seen.
LEFT: Photo by Larry Rosa/EnduraPix.com RIGHT: Mike Crane PHOTO
“The course is beautiful but challenging,” says Meridee, who completed an IRONMAN® Canada in Penticton in 2011. She expects this course to be, “a far greater challenge. I suspect it will be the hardest thing I have ever done.”
Whistler’s IRONMAN® Canada Triathlon Course
Whistler’s first ever IRONMAN® Canada begins with a two-loop 3.8 kilometer swim on stunning Alta Lake, beginning at historic Rainbow Park.
A quick lakeside transition leads into a 180km bike ride that first heads south to climb into the pristine Callaghan Valley, home to the 2010 Olympic Nordic events, before pushing north through Whistler and then down onto the flats at the far end of the Pemberton Meadows. Then bikers turn back for the return leg that climaxes in a 32 km uphill stretch (in a headwind) back to Whistler.
The 42 kilometer marathon includes two loops through the forests around Lost Lake and Green Lake. Triathletes will hit Whistler Village at the halfway point and will eventually cross the finish line at the iconic Whistler Olympic Plaza, the same location where medals were handed out during the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. Top competitors are expected to finish the course in just under nine hours.
But Meridee is not one to back away from a challenge. In 1993 she was a 5’1, 170-pound chain smoker when she saw a photo of herself and decided, right there, to start living a healthier lifestyle. ”I hadn’t really understood how heavy I was until I saw that image. That was the turning point.”
She began working on her diet and exercise routines. She quit smoking and in 2007 joined the Whistler Triathlon Club with her eye on competing in a 26 KM sprint distance Triathlon. One drawback, she didn’t actually know how to swim.
No big deal – Meridee asked her coach to teach her the basics and she subsequently completed a sprint distance and Olympic distance Triathlon. Then she did a Half-IRONMAN® to celebrate her 50 birthday and checked off her first full IRONMAN® Canada in 2011.
Meridee finishing at the 2011 IRONMAN Canada
“Just before the finish line when I was on hour sixteen of the race, I remember the supporters and volunteers lined on either side of the straightaway towards the finish,” Meridee recalls. “They really make the race. Especially that last little bit when people are yelling in support…it was because of them that I found that last push. As I crossed the finish line I burst into tears. I had been training for five years and building my fitness and doing intense IRONMAN® training for 10 months straight. It was the most incredible experience. I can’t put it into words.”
This summer in Whistler Meridee and 2500 other IRONMAN® Canada triathletes will be counting on that same spectator support, as well as the efforts of hundreds of race volunteers, to get them over the finish line.
“Watching your fellow humans go beyond their physical limits to achieve their goals is so impactful,” says Meridee. “It will stick with you forever so if you haven’t seen the finish area, get up here because it’s magical. But be careful: once you watch an IRONMAN®, you might just sign up for next year’s event.”
Click course maps to download larger versions:
Swim. Bike. Run.
BIKE ELEVATION RUN ELEVATION
Interesting fact: The unofficial rule of IRONMANreg is that if you don’t finish by midnight you can’t call yourself a true “Ironman (or Ironwoman)”. This makes for a fun scene at the finish line, as you can see in this video from a 2012 IRONMAN® Canada in Quebec. Looks like fun and Whistler should be rocking as our competitors bring it in. Book a room here.