Triathlon Travel Spe­cial

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - Contents Volume 8 Issue 6 -

Race Va­ca­tions

Look­ing for a rac­ing par­adise? Race hard and play hard in some of the sport’s most breath­tak­ing venues. Plan your key events around some post-race down­time. Kevin Mackinnon guides you through the best ones and warns you of po­ten­tial pit­falls.

Triathlon Tourism

Three­Iron­man afi­ciona­dos sit down and start to ar­gue over the world’s most spec­tac­u­lar Iron­man des­ti­na­tion.

“A look down from the top of Mi­rador del Rio at the north­ern tip of Lan­zarote, Spain – that’s all you need to do to know that it doesn’t get bet­ter than Lan­zarote,” says one. “You look down from there and see the tiny is­land of La Gra­ciosa and the co­ral blue wa­ter be­tween. Even though you’re at the top of a moun­tain you want to dive in.”

“You’re sure you didn’t?” says an­other, who bal­ances an Iron­man ad­dic­tion with a busy busi­ness ca­reer. “Lan­zarote’s amaz­ing, but it’s noth­ing like hik­ing up to the top of An­gel’s Land­ing the day af­ter you’ve raced at Iron­man 70.3 St. Ge­orge, Utah, – that’s the ul­ti­mate. The climb is bru­tal on the quads, but once you get to the top and have to scale along the last half mile, it’s truly breath­tak­ing. You lit­er­ally have to hang on to chains they’ve at­tached to the rock face to avoid fall­ing to your death.”

“You guys have to get over your climb­ing deal,” in­ter­jects the third. “What about a re­lax­ing swim in Kona, tak­ing in all the colour­ful fish and the co­ral next to the pier? Or a sa­fari af­ter fin­ish­ing Iron­man South Africa – say, to Addo Ele­phant Park? Or tak­ing in a trip to the Ama­zon Rain For­est af­ter com­pet­ing at Iron­man Brazil? Or spend­ing a re­lax­ing cou­ple of days in Maria Worth on the Worthersee af­ter rac­ing in Aus­tria? I can think of 30 more in­ter­est­ing things than climb­ing along chains on top of a moun­tain in f lipin’ Utah.”

IWith the huge va­ri­ety of rac­ing avail­able these days, it’s not hard to find an event that will get you to one of your dream des­ti­na­tions. Plan­ning, though, is key. Iron­man races fill up within min­utes and, if you’re af­ter a na­tional team spot to com­pete at the ITU worlds, you’ll need to find a qual­i­fy­ing race, which of­ten means you’re plan­ning at least two trips.

can to­tally en­vi­sion that con­ver­sa­tion tak­ing place be­tween my­self, Luis Al­varez and John Wragg, although Wragg would be much more un­der­stated in his com­ments. Wragg has, over the last quar­ter- cen­tury, amassed an in­cred­i­ble record of Iron­man fin­ishes – 160 and count­ing last time I checked. Wragg can rou­tinely be seen at Iron­man events around the world these days with his wife El­iz­a­beth Model. The two met in the food tent af­ter fin­ish­ing Iron­man Ari­zona and she has quickly be­come an­other Iron­man trav­el­ling fiend. In 2013 the cou­ple have trav­elled across the world from Los Ca­bos, Mex­ico, to Lan­zarote, to Frank­furt, Ger­many, to Kona. Model has com­pleted 50 Iron­man races and only needs to fin­ish Ja­pan next year to have com­peted in ev­ery Iron­man race in the world.

Al­varez com­pleted his 100th Iron­man in Kona this year and has been rec­og­nized in the Guin­ness Book of World Records be­cause he’s com­peted in ev­ery Iron­man in the world. Al­varez has added an­other chal­lenge to his triathlon ven­tures – over the last few years he’s been scal­ing the world’s high­est peaks. On his way to Iron­man South Africa a few years ago he scaled Kil­i­man­jaro. He made it up Rus­sia’s Mount El­brus the same week he fin­ished Iron­man U. K. While in Aus­tralia he added Kosciuszko, and Ar­gentina’s Mount Aconcagua was an easy jaunt from his home in Mex­ico City. Ever seen the com­mer­cial about the “world’s most in­ter­est­ing man?” It’s been com­pletely mis­cast – Al­varez wins that ti­tle hands down. He wakes up early ev­ery morn­ing for a few hours of train­ing, jumps on his mo­tor­cy­cle at ex­actly 7:30, be­gins his com­mute to work while on the phone with his as­sis­tant to run through emails and other busi­ness, heads off for a an­other short work­out at lunch, and then fin­ishes the day at work be­fore head­ing off to some sort of busi­ness func­tion. To meet his quest of 100 Iron­man races, he’s been known to f ly from Mex­ico City to Aus­tralia – for a week­end – so that he doesn’t have to use any more than his 30- day hol­i­day al­lot­ment as he trav­els the world from race to race. So de­ter­mined is Al­varez that he tried to fig­ure out how he could char­ter a jet to get from Swe­den to Mont-Trem­blant, Que. last year so he could get both events done on the same day. ( Even Al­varez couldn’t make that work.) This year he raced Iron­man Swe­den and Iron­man Copen­hagen, Den­mark on the same week­end in or­der to con­tinue his Iron­man string.

Both Al­varez and Wragg have done a much bet­ter job of tak­ing in the world dur­ing their trav­els than I. A few years ago my fam­ily staged a mini-in­ter­ven­tion dur­ing a Sun­day night din­ner.

“You go to all these amaz­ing places and just work the en­tire time,” they said. “You need to prom­ise that on each trip from now on you’ll check out at least one lo­cal site.” While I haven’t com­pletely kept that prom­ise, I have tried to be a bit bet­ter. ( Just don’t tell the folks at Iron­man, though.)

It’s“The na­ture of the sport vir­tu­ally de­mands that triathlon events are held in beau­ti­ful places worth check­ing out.”

not just the world of Iron­man that of­fers the op­por­tu­nity to travel the world, though. With the re­cent an­nounce­ment of Chal­lenge At­lantic City, N. J., the Chal­lenge se­ries of races now in­cludes 22 events around the world, in­clud­ing, among oth­ers, the stun­ning course in Chal­lenge Wanaka on New Zealand’s South Is­land, the epic Chal­lenge Roth, Ger­many, that fea­tures the sport’s largest en­durance race field and hun­dreds of thou­sands of fans and Chal­lenge Fuerteven­tura in the Ca­nary Is­lands.

The In­ter­na­tional Triathlon Union ( itu) has man­aged to put the World Cham­pi­onship in more than a few prime tourist des­ti­na­tions over the years, too. While Cana­di­ans might not have been as ex­cited with the lo­ca­tion in Muskoka, Ont. 21 years af­ter the fact I still meet ath­letes who fondly re­mem­ber the site of the first World Cham­pi­onship held in Canada and many more who look for­ward to rac­ing in Ed­mon­ton next year as a chance to take in some Cana­dian sites. This year’s Champ-ion­ship took place in Lon­don along the 2012 Olympic course. Other spec­tac­u­lar tourist venues have in­cluded Honolulu; Can­cun, Mex­ico; Auk­land and South Is­land, New Zealand; Syd­ney, Aus­tralia and Mal­lorca, Spain.

Home of the Xterra World Cham­pi­onship, Maui is an ex­otic spot for a race, mak­ing it yet an­other des­ti­na­tion event worth striv­ing for.

Race First

Theav­er­age Iron­man ath­lete spends 18 to 30 hours train­ing each week. An Olympic- dis­tance world­cham­pi­onship com­peti­tor prob­a­bly amasses be­tween 12 and 20 hours of train­ing a week. You prob­a­bly spend more time think­ing about races than va­ca­tions. Triath­letes are, typ­i­cally, com­pet­i­tive and driven ath­letes de­ter­mined to test them­selves and their lim­its. That said, once fin­ished the race, there’s lots of op­por­tu­nity to take in some of the lo­cal sites and f lavour. The na­ture of the sport prac­ti­cally de­mands that triathlon events are held in beau­ti­ful places worth check­ing out.

So how do you make all that work? Re­al­is­ti­cally, un­less your name is Luis Al­varez, you’re not go­ing to climb one of the world’s high­est moun­tains a cou­ple of days be­fore your race. (Al­varez scaled Kil­i­man­jaro on the Wed­nes­day be­fore Iron­man South Africa in 2010. He was in such a hurry to get to the top and back down that he ac­tu­ally dropped his two guides along the way.) You’re prob­a­bly not go­ing to be do­ing a lot of climb­ing af­ter an Iron­man, ei­ther, but there are lots of other ac­tiv­i­ties you can take in post-race. One of my favourite trips was to Iron­man South Africa. The day af­ter the race I took a bus tour to Addo Ele­phant Park and, well, saw a bunch of ele­phants close up. My co-work­ers are now of­fi­cially sick of what has be­come a bi-an­nual trip to the ob­ser­va­tory on the top of Mauna Kea two days af­ter the Iron­man World Cham­pi­onship in Kona. ( I don’t un­der­stand why they don’t share my en­thu­si­asm for try­ing to run at just un­der 4,600 m.)

Af­ter al­most a decade of rac­ing amongst the sport’s elite, Aus­tralia’s Luke Bell has taken the post-race ex­plo­ration to heart. Af­ter win­ning Iron­man Mont-Trem­blant last Au­gust, Bell spent an en­tire week ex­plor­ing the area and the quaint re­sort along with his fam­ily, who had trav­elled from Aus­tralia to watch his race and take in some Cana­dian sites and cul­ture.

With the huge va­ri­ety of rac­ing avail­able these days, it’s not hard to find an event that will get you to one of your dream des­ti­na­tions. Plan­ning, though, is key. Iron­man races fill up within min­utes and, if you’re af­ter a na­tional team spot to com­pete at the itu worlds, you’ll need to find a qual­i­fy­ing race, which of­ten means you’re plan­ning at least two trips.

Fam­ily Time?

TheThe triath­lete in the fam­ily isn’t the only one mak­ing sac­ri­fices. Pick a des­ti­na­tion race that can serve as a great trip for ev­ery­one.

triath­lete in the fam­ily isn’t the only one mak­ing sac­ri­fices. All those long train­ing days when you’re not around, the times you’re too tired to mow the lawn af­ter a six-hour brick and the early morn­ing alarm that man­ages to wake the en­tire household (even though you’re the only one head­ing to the masters swim), can wear down even the most sup­port­ive fam­i­lies. Which is why pick­ing a des­ti­na­tion race that can serve as a great trip for ev­ery­one can be a great way to make it all worth­while. Here are a few sug­ges­tions of races that might fit the bill on that front:

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emi­rates

We re­ported on the race in our July is­sue, but a triathlon travel story just wouldn’t be com­plete with­out a ref­er­ence to the Abu Dhabi In­ter­na­tional Triathlon, which of­fers ath­letes the ul­ti­mate ex­cuse to travel to this part of the world. Just tak­ing in the race will give you a chance to check out both the im­pres­sive city and the world-renowned race track, but other trips that should be on your agenda in­clude the var­i­ous mar­kets and the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

Lan­zarote, Spain

Set in the spec­tac­u­lar Ca­nary Is­lands, Lan­zarote is a pop­u­lar train­ing spot for Euro­pean triath­letes dur­ing the win­ter. Ac­tive fam­i­lies will love spend­ing time at Club La Santa, the ti­tle spon­sor of the Iron­man event, which of­fers over 40 dif­fer­ent sports and ac­tiv­i­ties. Pre- and post-race ac­tiv­i­ties in­clude vis­its to the beach or a trip to the Ti­man­faya Na­tional Park, where you can en­joy a meal cooked by the heat of the ac­tive vol­cano.

Flo­ri­a­nop­o­lis, Brazil

A tourist des­ti­na­tion of­fer­ing some of the world’s most spec­tac­u­lar beaches ( 42 of them, ac­tu­ally, but who’s count­ing), Flo­ri­a­nop­o­lis of­fers lots of op­por­tu­ni­ties to en­joy the unique Brazil­ian cul­ture – the New York Times once dubbed it the “party des­ti­na­tion of the year.” You can make this an even more un­for­get­table ex­pe­ri­ence by adding on a trip to the Ama­zon on the way home.

Nas­sau, Ba­hamas

The uwc Ba­hamas is a rel­a­tively new race set in Nas­sau has be­come a pro favourite be­cause of the lo­cal hos­pi­tal­ity and the chance to just kick back and re­lax in one of the world’s most fa­mous and pop­u­lar Caribbean des­ti­na­tions. Events in­clude a kids race along with sprint and Olympic dis­tance races, which means there’s some­thing for ev­ery­one in this early-November event.

Nice, France

What more needs to be said? One of the world’s most fa­mous des­ti­na­tions of­fers beach time over­look­ing the beau­ti­ful blue waters of the Mediter­ranean Sea and hun­dreds of out­door restau­rant op­tions that makes ev­ery evening a culi­nary ad­ven­ture. A trip down the road to Monaco is an easy drive or train-ride away, of­fer­ing a glimpse of the other-worldly life of some of the world’s wealth­i­est peo­ple. Cy­cling fanatics will want to take in some of the epic climbs in the area.

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Now en­ter­ing it’s third year, Iron­man 70.3 Puerto Rico is quickly be­com­ing a fam­ily favourite. Beach and sun time aren’t the only at­trac­tions – kids and par­ents alike will be en­thralled by the his­tory that lives on in the old­est city to f ly the United States f lag. A trip to the cas­tle at El Morro is a must, as is din­ner in the old city to take in the in­cred­i­ble at­mos­phere.

St. Ge­orge, Utah

Just a cou­ple of hours from Las Ve­gas, St. Ge­orge might be renowned as the site of the world’s tough­est 70.3 race, but it also of­fers some of the most in­cred­i­ble scenery you’ll ever see. A hik­ing trip to Zion Na­tional Park will be re­mem­bered for a life­time. If you can time your trip right, take in a con­cert at the Tuac­ahn Am­phithe­ater, set in the stun­ning red cliff walls of Snow Canyon.

New Zealand

While Iron­man New Zealand cel­e­brates its 30th an­niver­sary this year, it’s just one of the many events that can serve as an ex­cel­lent ex­cuse to take in the beau­ti­ful coun­try. In Jan­uary Auck­land hosts the Asi­aPa­cific Iron­man 70.3 Cham­pi­onship, while Chal­lenge Wanaka of­fers a half- and full- dis­tance race on the South Is­land and is con­sid­ered one of the most spec­tac­u­lar race cour­ses in the sport.

By Kevin Mackinnon

Op­po­site Chris Mccor­mack at the 2013 Chal­lenge Wanaka, New Zealand right top The Ama­zon rain­for­est in Brazil right Kevin Mackinnon at An­gel's Land­ing in St. Ge­orge, Utah

Above Luis Al­varez while sum­mit­ing Mount Kil­i­man­jaro Lan­zarote, Spain right

Top The Gemini Ob­ser­va­tory on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea above The 2013 itu World Triathlon Grand Fi­nal Lon­don

Op­po­site left the Mackinnon kids Sean, Ian and Chelse at Mi­rador del Rio, Lan­zarote, Spain op­po­site right The 2013 Chal­lenge Wanaka, New Zealand top Mi­rador del Rio on the bike por­tion of the Iron­man Lan­zarote in Puerto del Car­men, Lan­zarote, Spain cen­tre

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