SRI LANKA SITES
“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.
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.
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