Locals among Subaru Ironman Victoria 70.3 favourites

More than 1,500 triathletes from around the world have converged on the Island for today’s Subaru Ironman Victoria 70.3, yet the names of two of the favourites have a familiar ring to them.

Would anybody expect any different from a place that was also home to the likes of Ironman Hawaii multiple-time world champions Peter Reid and Lori Bowden and Olympic gold-medallist Simon Whitfield?

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Two-time Olympian Brent McMahon, however, will take home-course advantage to another level when the starting cannon sounds at 6 a.m. this morning for the swim in Elk Lake, to be followed by the cycle race over the Saanich Peninsula and run portion on the Elk/Beaver lake trails. The Ironman 70.3 designation denotes, in miles, the half-Ironman distance of a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike race and 13.1-mile run. (The total distance in kilometres is 113).

“I’m renovating our house in Broadmead, so all those squats and lifts from doing that will help on the hills,” McMahon quipped.

Three-time world X-Terra champion Melanie McQuaid, also of Victoria, is among the women’s favourites although she remains a race-day decision after her knee swelled following a fall a few days ago while training at Thetis Lake.

“I’ll be up at 3 a.m. to check the knee,” she said.

Both McMahon and McQuaid ruminated about racing at home in an Ironman event.

“Victoria has an amazing and very athletic community in general,” 45-year-old McQuaid said.

“Then all the clans come together here and we see how big the sport is in this city. Peter [Reid’s] success paved the way for Simon [Whifield], whose success paved the way for Brent [McMahon]. There are such great role models here for kids to aspire to.”

McMahon went from the shorter Olympic distance at Athens 2004 and London 2012 to transition successfully to the longer Ironman races.

The two-time Pan Am Games medallist set the course record in winning Ironman Lake Placid in New York state last year in 8:14:04 and recorded the third-fastest all-time Ironman, clocking 7:46:10, in 2016 in Brazil. He also holds the course record for Ironman Arizona.

But the greatest prize, in Kona, has so far eluded him. The latest setback at Ironman Hawaii came last fall when No. 3-ranked McMahon was stung by a box jellyfish in the swim and had to quit the race.

There are no known box jellyfish in Elk Lake, so the competitors should be fairly safe today.

“We have such a great triathlon community here, and it’s more excitement than pressure I feel, as I look forward to having my family and friends cheering me on,” McMahon said about racing at home compared with normally featuring in races around the world.

McQuaid agreed: “It’s great to compete in a major race along the routes where you train all the time.”

There is also another bit of home-course knowledge the pair take into the race today.

“The racers from around the continent and around the world shouldn’t get lulled by [Saturday’s] great weather,” McQuaid said about the forecast, which has rain expected today. That would mean greater danger of athletes spilling to the pavement on slick roads during the bike race.

“But the racers from the Island are used to it. The more you train in the rain, the less it fazes you having to race in it.”

This is the 23rd year for the race, formerly known as the New Balance Half Iron, before becoming the Victoria 70. 3 under the famed Ironman brand in 2014.

There are 30 qualifying spots available from the Victoria race for the 2018 world 70.3 championships in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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