Ironman Whistler Course Review

The hustle and bustle have begun. The tents have taken over the Whistler Olympic Plaza and the highways are lined with flashing signs for road closures, all for one event. The Ironman. For most, a full year of training boils down to one day, the day of the Ironman. Rain or shine, some of the physically toughest and mentally determined individuals will gear up for one hell of a race, which happens to be this Sunday, July 24, 2016.

We’ve got the inside scoop on the course details from 9-time Ironman competitor and local Whistler photographer Scott Brammer. Scott is no stranger to the course, as he has seen it from both a competitor’s standpoint and a photographer’s. We asked Scott for his insights for our Ironman Whistler course review.

Ironman Whistler Course Review: The Breakdown

Stage 1: Swim

Distance: 2.4 miles
Location: Alta Lake

Scott’s Insights: Alta Lake is where it all begins. Athletes will gather at the crack of dawn ready to start the day with a 2.4 mile swim on Alta Lake. For the first time ever at Ironman Canada, the wetsuit legal swim will feature a self-seeded rolling start rather than the typical mass start. While this should allow for a more spread out swim with less crowding at the turn buoys, it also represents a shift from the tradition of the mass start. It also means that the athletes will never really know where they stand as the person they are racing alongside could have started a few minutes before or after them.

Best Viewpoint: For the early risers and cheerleaders alike, the best viewing area for the swim event will be at Rainbow Park off Alta Lake Road. Please note the road will be closed so arrive via foot or bike.

Competitors swimming during the Ironman Whistler.

A sea of commotion. This year will see a self-seeded rolling start for the swim. Image: Scott Brammer, Coast Mountain Photography

Stage 2: Bike

Distance: 112 miles
Locations: Callaghan Valley – Whistler – Pemberton

Scott’s Insights: Once the triathletes get out on the bike they are in for a challenging but scenic 112 mile course. The course starts at Rainbow Park and heads into the Callaghan Valley then back through Whistler and all the way to Pemberton and back. Competitors should keep their eyes open for the bears that frequent the roadside on the way up to the Whistler Olympic Park in the Callaghan. My favorite part of the ride is the Whistler to Pemberton section, where they are treated to a closed course with no traffic. After the excitement of the crowds throughout Whistler, this section really lets the athletes focus on their race with no distractions. Out past Pemberton, the Meadows feature about 50km of flat, out and back riding where the biggest challenge will be to stay away from the drafting packs that can form here. The ride back from Pemberton is the biggest challenge of the entire day, as the athletes will be battling the fatigue of a long ride as the climb back up to Whistler. This section is notorious for the very strong headwinds that always seem to blow in from the coast each afternoon.

Best Viewpoint: You’ll be sure to see the bikers buzz by if you hang out at Alpine Café as the competitors pass this location multiple times during the bike section of the course.

A competitor cycling during the Ironman Whistler.

Pedal power. The cycling stage takes competitors to the Callaghan Valley and Pemberton. Image: Scott Brammer, Coast Mountain Photography

Stage 3: Run

Distance: 26.2 miles
Location: Valley Trail network around Lost Lake and Green Lake

Scott’s Insights: The bike to run transition in Lot 4 gives spectators a chance to see their athletes up close, as they rack their bike and begin their run on tired legs. The first few steps are always the toughest, but the cheering crowds help ease the pain. The 26.2 mile run is a two loop course that starts with a trip around Lost Lake before heading out along the shores of Green Lake.

Best Viewpoint: The best place to watch is out at Nicklaus North where the racers pass by twice in the middle of each loop. Spectators can sit on the patio of the Table Nineteen Lakeside Eatery sipping a cold beer and enjoying a plate of nachos, while the athletes try to down another sports drink and gel. But, of course, the most special place of all is the finish line, especially in the final hour before the midnight cut off. The energy and enthusiasm of the crowds, along with the emotions of the athletes is sure to bring tears to the eyes.

A competitor running during the Ironman Whistler.

Pounding the pavement. No time to stop take in the views as competitors run past Green Lake. Image: Scott Brammer, Coast Mountain Photography.

The entire event will be streaming live on the big screen in the heart of the Whistler village all Sunday. When you see these tremendous humans swimming, biking or running this Sunday give them a cheer!

Additional Whistler Ironman course review details, including maps and elevation profiles, can be found here at the official Ironman site. To read more about Scott’s insider perspective on being an Ironman, check out our previous blog post, Whistler Ironman: An Insider’s Perspective.


Feature Image: Scott Brammer, Coast Mountain Photography

Abby Cooper

A lover of all things outdoors, Abby Cooper is a splitboarder, hiker, adventurer, year-round snow seeker, photographer and writer.