Subura Ironman Canada, Penticton BC
By Angie Deirdorff Petro
Toby De Paolo thinks there should be more triathletes like him making the five-hour scenic drive to Penticton for Ironman Canada-guys (and gals) who scrape together the entry fee, retrofit an old ten-speed Bridgestone R1 with tri handles, camp out in a local’s backyard, and who might enjoy a homemade ale the night before the big day at Barley Mill Brew Pub.
Not that De Paolo didn’t take his first Ironman North America seriously. He just wants people to know you don’t need to be rich, sponsored, or be the perfect physical specimen to compete in the ultimate triathlon, and Penticton is a great place to become an Ironman.
“I saw all different body types in Penticton. And you don’t have to break the bank to be an Ironman either,” says De Paolo, who danced in celebration across the Ironman Canada 2005 finish line with a time of 12:40. “It can be an expensive sport but it doesn’t have to be.”
Penticton is a popular choice for first-timers like De Paolo, in part because of its beautiful setting. With a population of around 40,000, Penticton, British Columbia, is surrounded by mountains and Okanagan and Skaha Lakes to the north and south. Tourism is a primary industry year-round in Penticton-the Okanagan Valley region offers some of the best grape-growing weather in the world; tours of the over 30 boutique wineries are a popular attraction. The city boasts more hours of sun than any other in Canada, attracting thousands to its famous beaches each year, and Apex Mountain Ski Resort is only 21 miles west of town.
But the event that brings in more money, visitors and positive exposure in such a short time period is Subaru Ironman Canada. With approximately 2,200 athletes, 4,500 volunteers (known collectively as the “Iron Army”), and thousands of spectators, one of the favorite triathlons in the Ironman North America franchise is in Penticton, and in 2006 the race will be held on Sunday, August 27.
Ironman Canada is the oldest Ironman to be held in continental North America. Now in its 24th year, it is widely considered one of the best and most athlete-friendly Ironman events in the world.
“Veteran competitors often recommend Penticton to Ironman “virgins” for their first,” says Judy Senes, President of the local Ironman Canada Race Society. “There are three main reasons why the course is such a favorite among competitors. One-it includes the most scenic and beautiful terrain of all Ironman competitions; two-we have more aid stations than any other; and three-we have significant medical tents.”
The event is so popular that registration for Ironman Canada practically fills up the day after each race by 3 PM, with a lottery held later for a few remaining spots . So whether a veteran or a virgin triathlete, virtually the only way to get in the 2007 event is to head up to Penticton and stand in line on August 28 with your $500.
Places to sleep during the event fill up almost as fast as the registration. A wide range of accommodations can be had in Penticton for anywhere from $13.50 to $300 US a night, but rumors are flying on the Internet that rooms in local resorts, hotels, motels, b&b’s and the lone hostel are already scarce for Ironman 2006. However, those interested in watching the race or signing up for next year, may still be able to find a room with a four night minimum stay. Area campsites, rooms at Apex Mountain or in Kelowna (42 miles from Penticton) may also be available. Also, many local residents open their homes to athletes for the weekend (contact Penticton Visitor Information for lodging assistance).
Once you have somewhere to stay, you will want to take advantage of everything Penticton has to offer: the beaches, the wineries, the bike trails and the amazing variety of over 100 restaurants and bars. A few favorite spots for visitors and locals are Voo Doos (tapas, live music, and an alternative crowd), Grean Beanz Cafe (organic coffee), Dream Cafe (vegetarian, live music) and the Barley Mill (handcrafted micro brew). You can also load up on healthy local fruit and veggies at the farmer’s market held in town on Saturday morning. For competitors and their guests, Penticton’s Trade and Convention Centre hosts a buffet dinner the Friday before the race-the meal for 4,000 has a great reputation with triathletes world-wide.
The stunning geographical setting of the Penticton race combined with the incredible support of the entire town and its thousands of dedicated volunteers make Ironman Canada a must for aspiring triathletes or the wanna-be spectator. “It is a real team effort,” adds Senes, “the locals open their homes and hearts to the athletes.” For Toby DePaolo, Penticton will always be his first and sentimental favorite, and he’ll most-likely be back to compete in Ironman Canada again someday-his goal is to compete in Ironman competitions for the rest of his life at least once in every age group.
Maybe he should reserve his campsite before he starts training for Ironman Canada ’08.
Ironman N. America: (888) 280-9097 ext. 27 or Penticton Visitor Info: (250) 493-4055.
When You Go:
Penticton, British Columbia, is about 225 miles from Spokane, a 6-hour drive. From Spokane, head west on I-90 and take exit #277 onto US-2 West toward Davenport. Go 19.1 miles. US-2 West will turn into Broadway Street, go 1 mile. Continue to follow US-2 East for 42.4 miles. Turn Right onto WA-21 and go .6 mile. Continue on WA-174 for 19.1 miles. Turn Right onto Midway Avenue, go .5 mile. Midway Avenue becomes Grand Coulee Highway (WA-155) go .1 mile. Continue to follow WA-155 for 53.7 miles. Turn Right on Main Street North, go .3 mile. Bear Right on Riverside Drive, go .9 mile. Turn Left on US-97, go 22.4 miles. US-97 becomes South Whitcomb Avenue (US-97) go .5 mile. Continue to follow US-97, go 21.2 miles. US-97 becomes HWY-97 North, go 39.2 miles. Head into Penticton.