Of the roughly 2,500 athletes that competed in Ironman Canada on Sunday (Aug. 25), there were around 25 athletes who were able to sleep in their own beds that night.
Ben Biswell, a U.K. ski instructor now living in Whistler, took top spot among locals with a time of 10 hours, 56 minutes, 24 seconds, achieving his goal of finishing under 11 hours for his first Ironman.
“It feels just perfect, really, that I've done it,” he said.
“I think I was just really lucky the day turned out the way it did, nothing went wrong for me. I always thought that if I could get under 11 hours that would be the best possible outcome.”
Biswell has plenty of experience in ultra-running races and did a half-Iron last year in Victoria, but the swim remained as his biggest challenge
“It was quite rowdy until the first buoy,” said Biswell. “A lot of people were swimming over your back, interlocking arms and it felt as though people were constantly grabbing at your feet. On the other hand, I didn't get hit or kicked in the face.
“Because I live in Alta Vista and swam in Alta Lake so much I was used to the temperature. I just kept thinking myself 'This is my lake.' That gave me confidence.”
Biswell managed the ride the bike leg with little wind coming back from Pemberton, a stroke of luck which helped in the latter half of the day. The run was where Biswell's steady pace caught up with fellow local Ashley McMillan, who was using a run-walk strategy. Spurred on by seeing a familiar face, the two exchanged the lead several times in the last few kilometres before Biswell pulled away.
McMillan finished less than three minutes behind but still came in under the 11-hour mark with a time of 10:59:02. Julie Miller and Timothy Moore from Squamish also managed to stay under 11 hours with times of 10:56:15 and 10:59:11 respectively.
Christine Suter, who was competing in her ninth Ironman, crossed the finish line in high spirits at just over 12 hours.
“It was amazing, it was my best run in nine Ironmans,” she said.
“I got to pass people instead of everyone passing me, and I'm not vomiting now or in the medical tent. I met Nancy (Johnston of Pemberton) a couple times along the way, we all started to have a few stomach problems towards the end of the run.”
Johnston and Suter crossed the line within minutes of one another and gave each other a huge hug before lining up for post-race massages. Suter could not believe how much support she received throughout the event.
“At every single aid station I knew people and they were cheering,” she said. “I just said to two of the girls 'You just have to do (Ironman in Whistler) because you know everybody!'”
Marla Zucht, who completed her third Ironman Canada, said Tuesday (Aug. 27) that she was very proud of the job her home community did hosting the race.
“The consensus I heard from all the other racers was that Whistler was a spectacular venue for the Ironman event,” she said. “It was a tough course for sure, I would say tougher than Penticton. But the organization of the event was superb, including all the volunteers.”
Zucht had a challenging swim, but the summer of training on the bike route had made her ready for every hill on the 180-km course.
“I never really got away from the congestion in the water. My goggles got kicked off and broke for the last 400 metres, but at that point I could hear the swim finish line,” she said. “The run was definitely the toughest for me … I just kept telling myself 'One foot in front of the other gets me closer to the finish line.'”
Zucht echoed the statements of other local competitors in that she was blown away by the support for athletes along the course.
“We knew so many locals, there were so many familiar faces. It's the best way you would want a race to be,” she said. “I couldn't believe how many people were on the side of the highway between Blueberry and the Alpine Cafe. It was electrifying.”
Sea to Sky finishers:
Ben Biswell 10:56:24
Ashley McMillan 10:59:02
Andrea Westcott 14:20:52
Carlee Grant 12:49:04
Christine Suter 12:07:20
Colin Richardson 112:47:33
Edgar Alejandro Mujica 14:46:25
Jenni Chancey 12:15:30
John Crehan 16:22:03
John Legg 13:24:09
Julie Miller (Squamish) 10:56:15
Maridee Fitch 16:33:14
Marla Zucht 11:37:54
Mike Edwards 12:32:01
Nancy Johnston 12:08:45
Robert Flynn 12:08:36
Scott Brammer 15:12:59
Sheena Harris 12:10:03
Stephen Wheeler 12:00:45
Sunghan Kim 13:10:34
Timothy Moore 10:59:11
Travis Kubin 12:40:14
Tyler Massey 13:03:38