Triathlon Magazine Canada - - TRAVEL DESTINATION RACE -

“For Asia, this is ac­tu­ally pretty cool,” said Geoff Meyer, the CEO of the Iron­man Asia-Pa­cific re­gion.

That doesn’t mean it was easy. Tem­per­a­tures that got up to the mid-30s and high hu­mid­ity made the day a chal­lenge for those who took on the event set in the Sri Lankan cap­i­tal of Colombo. Even those who spend their time in even hot­ter re­gions like Bahrain, Abu Dhabi and Sin­ga­pore were dous­ing their heads with wa­ter at ev­ery aid sta­tion and pac­ing them­selves to get through the 1.9-km swim, 90-km bike and 21.1-km run in the hot con­di­tions.

Most of the jour­nal­ists who at­tended Iron­man 70.3 Colombo on a press trip last Fe­bru­ary would prob­a­bly have tried to beat Meyer sense­less with their sweat-soaked trisuits had they heard his “pretty cool” com­ment. Those

who took on the race were chal­lenged by the ex­treme heat and hu­mid­ity, while the wimps in the group (yours truly in­cluded) who were just there to cover the race found it hard enough to walk around the course with our cam­era equip­ment.

De­spite the chal­lenge, though, if you’re look­ing for a one-of-a-kind race-cation, Iron­man 70.3 Colombo and a trip to Sri Lanka should be at the top of your list. As Meyer so aptly pointed out, con­di­tions in Sri Lanka are con­sid­er­ably more rea­son­able than at some of the other events in the re­gion. Add to that the op­por­tu­nity to com­bine the race with a trip to one of the world’s most ex­otic and beau­ti­ful tourist desti­na­tions with out­stand­ing ac­com­mo­da­tions and food, and you have the mak­ings of a trip of a life­time.

The race

First things first – tak­ing on the Iron­man 70.3 race in Colombo. In an ideal world, you’ll ar­rive in Colombo a few days ahead of time. Sure, you’re not go­ing to be com­pletely ac­cli­ma­tized to the heat, but to truly get the most out this race-cation, I would sug­gest spend­ing a few days in Colombo, do the race and then take in the spec­tac­u­lar tourism op­por­tu­ni­ties.

The race day be­gins with the one-loop swim in the warm wa­ters (27 C) of the In­dian Ocean start­ing from the beach at Galle Face Green in Colombo. The swim is com­pleted with the sky­line of Colombo in the back­ground, and then it’s off to the flat, fast three-loop bike course that heads up to the Port of Colombo along the coast­line be­fore turn­ing around and head­ing back to the De­hi­wela Canal Bridge.

Those are the easy parts of the race. The chal­lenge for Cana­dian com­peti­tors, com­ing from the Cana­dian win­ter, re­ally starts with the two-loop run that once again fol­lows the coast­line. It’s all quite beau­ti­ful, but, thanks to the heat, most of the com­peti­tors spend their time look­ing for the next aid sta­tion rather than tak­ing in the sights.

De­spite the chal­leng­ing con­di­tions, shortly after they were done, the com­peti­tors seemed to be thrilled with their ac­com­plish­ments. For those of us in the jour­nal­ist “see Sri Lanka road show,” there was lots of cel­e­brat­ing after a mostly suc­cess­ful day (all but two of the jour­nal­ists fin­ished the race), and then it was time to head off to see some of the amaz­ing sites the small, tear-drop-shaped is­land south of In­dia has to of­fer.

Sri Lankan sites

There are nu­mer­ous Bud­dhist Tem­ples and Dutch Churchs and the beau­ti­ful Cin­na­mon Gar­dens that are worth check­ing out in Colombo.

Once we were done the race, our tour group set off in­land to Habarana, lo­cated about 170 km from Colombo. From that cen­tral lo­ca­tion, we were able to take in some di­verse and unique sight­see­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties, in­clud­ing a ride on a bul­lock cart and then a boat ride

deep into the wilder­ness of the area be­fore head­ing to a spec­tac­u­lar five-star ho­tel, one of many in the re­gion.

First on the list for day two was a trip up to the rock fortress of Si­giriya. A royal palace in the fifth cen­tury, the “cas­tle in the sky” re­quires a 600-foot ascent up the red rock to get to the sum­mit. Once at the top, it’s amaz­ing to see the var­i­ous pools and struc­tures that have stood the test of time.

After tak­ing in Si­giriya, we then had the chance to em­bark on an ele­phant sa­fari to Min­ner­iya Na­tional Park. The park is renowned for its large herds of ele­phants and other wildlife. We rode in jeeps to search through the jun­gle and man­aged to catch a large herd as they made their way to the reser­voir.

Day three in­volved a drive through the River­ston moun­tain range and Thel­gama Val­ley with its spec­tac­u­lar views of the ter­raced paddy fields. That night we ar­rived in Kandy, where we took in the Tem­ple of the Sa­cred Tooth Relic of Bud­dha, con­sid­ered the most im­por­tant place of wor­ship for Bud­dhists.

From there, the jour­ney con­tin­ued to Nuwara Eliya, a re­gion known as “lit­tle Eng­land,” be­cause the town re­minds peo­ple of the English Lake Dis­trict. The re­gion, which is at 6,183 ft above sea level, is full of tea plan­ta­tions, spec­tac­u­lar waterfalls and caves. The re­gion’s golf course is con­sid­ered one of the most pic­turesque in Asia.

Our fi­nal night in Sri Lanka brought us to Ngombo, a beach area not far from Colombo’s in­ter­na­tional air­port. Known for it’s cen­turies-old fin­ish­ing in­dus­try and long, sandy beaches, it’s one of the most pop­u­lar tourist desti­na­tions in the coun­try.

The ex­pe­ri­ence

If you’ve ever dreamed about vis­it­ing Sri Lanka and are look­ing for an op­por­tu­nity to ex­pe­ri­ence a race in an ex­otic lo­ca­tion, Iron­man 70.3 Colombo is cer­tainly worth your con­sid­er­a­tion. The race of­fers a tough but rea­son­able chal­lenge, as long as you pace your­self ac­cord­ingly. After that you’ll have the op­por­tu­nity to en­joy one of the world’s most ex­otic and beau­ti­ful coun­tries.—KM

Timothy O’Don­nell, Garmin-spon­sored pro triathlete, 7:55:56 IM PR

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