Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Ironman Canada vs Challenge Penticton- Part II

So its been about a week since I posted on Ironman Canada vs Challenge Penticton and I can certainly tell from the web traffic and all the comments the post has received that its an issue a lot of people feel very strongly about.  The topic has been pretty divisive with supporters for both sides spread across first timers and seasoned vets alike.  Whether you're for or against the changes I have to say its refreshing to see this sort of response to the topic, it shows the passion and dedication to the sport that I think really characterizes triathletes.

I thought I'd post a quick update on how things seem to be coming along for the future of Ironman Canada.  A disclaimer right away though, a lot of this is based on rumour and conjecture, WTC has been pretty tight lipped around the process for where IMC is going to land.  So I'll start with what I know and then I'll work my way into the heresay.

Challenge Penticton

Registration for Challenge Penticton is open and they're signing people up for next August.  They actually had a registration area set up in the Convenction Centre in Penticton after IMC last week.  From what I read and heard it sounds like it was a well put together sign up with the Challenge Family CEO Felix Walchshöfer on hand to personally thank people for their trust and registrations.  Athletes who signed up last week in Penticton received a special loyalty price of $599 (online registration is now $675).  As a side note, the Challenge series has a decent refund policy with full refunds offered for 60 days after sign up, after which there is a $100 cancellation fee for athletes up to 30 days before the race.

The Challenge series has been doing their social media work to get the race out there with sponsored Facebook ads, an active Twitter feed, and a pretty sweet YouTube video on their website specific to Penticton.

The series is definitely taking their debut in the North American market seriously and I do think this bodes well for next year's Challenge Penticton.  We all know Challenge is a very well run race series and they know how important it is that they be well received in their inaugural event on our soil.  Whether it'll be enough to sway some of their detractors remains yet to be seen, but you have to admit, they get points for effort.

Ironman Canada 2013

So now starts the speculation.

Its been reported in Triathlon Magazine Canada and the Vernon Morning Star that municipalities have been given until September 24, 2012 to submit proposals to the WTC to host Ironman Canada.  An announcement is expected to be made by October.

A number of BC municipalities were put forward in the Triathlon Magazine Canada article including Vernon, Whistler, Victoria, Vancouver, and Kelowna.  To me that just sounds like a list of towns and cities in BC and I'd expect that only two or three of them are actually being seriously considered.

In order to put on an event the type and the size of Ironman Canada there are a number of pretty major considerations that need to be accounted for.  "Borzoibob" on the slowtwitch forums actually summarized a few of the logical criteria quite well pointing out that considerations like; lake and transition area size, proximity to major trauma centre, availability of volunteer and traffic control resources, and spectator friendliness might actually rule out a few communities straight out of the gate (probably Vernon and Whistler, maybe even Victoria if you think of how awkward it can be to get to).

Kelowna does keep popping up in the lists, but I've heard that they aren't interested.  They already have the Kelowna Apple Triathlon which is an important race in the Canadian triathlon calendar with its own heritage. Opening the doors to Ironman in Kelowna might be a bit of another headache for locals, and it could hurt Apple, and of course it does split the Ironman market between Penticton and Kelowna, given that the timing of Ironman Canada 2013 will still be August/September.  It seems to be Kelowna and Ironman Canada might be one of those perfect relationships in another set of circumstances, but not this time.

In my last post I speculated about Calgary 70.3 being converted to an Ironman.  It still makes sense and given the WTC's penchant for moving races to big cities, it could be an easy answer, perhaps even as an interim 2013 location.  I say Calgary and not Vancouver just because Calgary already plays host to an event and it seems like the relationships are already in place with the City of Calgary to host this type of event.  Vancouver on the other hand would require starting from scratch with a city that while beautiful, already leaves something to be desired in terms of urban planning.


No matter what, it seems like the date has been set and this October we'll know where Ironman Canada will make its new home.  I'll be watching this with a keen eye and keep you all posted on anything I hear.


  1. I have to say that the sign up for Challenge the day after IMC was amazingly well-organized and the line up moved FAST! Challenge made use of the infrastructure available in Penticton (namely the box office) to process the payments. The whole thing was smooth and seamless, especially compared to the hours I remember waiting in line to sign up for IMC. At least with Challenge, we were offered water or juice while waiting for the box office to open! I know they were having to make an impression, but it was still appreciated. I'm excited to try out the feel of the event with a new organizer. I've seen how, over the last 12 years, IMC has moved away from the community and towards larger corporate sponsors. Sponsors are important, but so are the local businesses. The only way I would leave the Challenge event to do the new IMC is if the WTC puts it in Whistler (I have an outstanding pinky-promise to do the race if it goes to Whistler with a friend who wants the brand for her first iron-distance). I can't see it happening, and I really hope it doesn't go there. Happily, I'm only trying to better my time and I have a better chance of doing that on a course that I know. And since I don't have a chance at qualifying for Kona, doing an "Ironman" event doesn't make a difference for me. Do I think Challenge will have fewer people register in it's first year? Absolutely! But I think it will rebound in the years that follow. And I think that the relay option will be very popular.

    For my two cents, I believe that Calgary would be the WTC's best option. Vernon doesn't have the right atmosphere, Kelowna will have problems with the conflict with Apple, and really, it's WAY too close to Penticton to run two large races around the same time, especially a week or so out from Apple. They'll burn out the community support. Victoria is just a pain (and expensive) to get to with the ferry. Vancouver has too much bureaucracy, and Whistler has no place to swim and only the Duffy Lake Road for a bike route.

    Way too much drama for a race.

    1. Thanks for the comments Squeak! You'll have to keep in touch with how things go with Challenge. I'm really interested in hearing how the communication and relationship with the athletes is.

      I'm inclined to agree with you regarding each of those cities/towns. It seems like a few municipalities are definitely putting their hats into the ring, but for the time being I have to say it seems like Calgary makes the most sense. I know some people like that, some people don't, but the City of Calgary could probably put together a pretty compelling proposal in terms of logistics and venue.

      Going to be interesting!