This post is more than one year old and may no longer be relevant. Please view this content with its age in mind.
Just over a week has passed since the inaugural Muskoka Ironman Triathlon was held in Huntsville and the surrounding area, and while many of the athletes and their families have long since packed up and headed home, the full impact of this world-class event will continue to be felt for years to come.
From August 28-30, thousands of people from destinations as far away as Russia, Argentina and Australia visited Huntsville to encourage the 1298 athletes who endured the gruelling challenge to vie for the title of Ironman.
Many will be back.
The Ironman was expected to bring in approximately $7 million worth of revenue to the community, according to the Muskoka event’s General Manager Myke Malone, and certainly the hotels during the weekend were full to capacity. Restaurants turned a steady business and local stores saw their fair share of browsers from many of the athletes and their families.
However, the exposure gained from hosting such a prestigious and well-known event can be very difficult to measure.
In speaking to some of the visitors, it was immediately apparent that the abundance of lakes, forests and friendly people are what make the heart of Muskoka such an alluring place for those who have never before experienced our slice of northern paradise.
“It’s nice. Obviously the area is well known for being super scenic, but everyone was really helpful as well. The people here have been awesome and the vibe is fantastic,” said Austin Anderson of Wisconsin, who was in town supporting his friend and the eventual Men’s 18-24 age winner Jeff Condit along with Jeff’s family Steve, Anita and Mary Jo. “Huntsville did a great job in putting the race on.”
It was a common sentiment expressed by many of the competitors and their families, including one of the leading authorities of the sport, six-time World Champion and the first inductee into the Ironman Hall of Fame, Dave Scott. While Scott did not compete in the Muskoka race, he did test out the course and was on hand to support his partner, Christine, in her first Ironman triathlon.
“I felt it was going to be done well,” said Scott after the closing ceremonies at Deerhurst Monday morning. “Huntsville has a great reputation putting on the Ironman 70.3 for many years, and this was no different.
“The town did a marvellous job and I think you do it as well as anyone else, and I travel a lot and have seen lots of races. Not only the flawlessness of the course but also the fans. When you see people out on the course cheering it’s magic for the athletes. We thought it was going to be first-class, and it was. Overall, five star.”
The course, known as the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ for the scenic route it traversed as well as the punishing elevation changes and constant hills, presented a stiff challenge to even the most seasoned triathletes. According to this year’s overall winner, Orillia native Jonathan McMillan, that may have given a slight advantage to the local competitors, who knew what to expect and how to properly pace themselves throughout an exhausting day in the late-summer heat.
“It’s an awesome course, but crazy tough,” said the champion after receiving his hardware at the Deerhurst ceremony. “I did the 70.3 up here earlier in the year and it was challenging, and a little worrisome actually. I was really fortunate to be so close to be able to come up here and train on the course. Early on in the bike when we were all fighting for position, I had to let some guys go knowing what I was getting into, and it seemed to make the difference on the day.”
Not all of the day’s champions were among the first to cross the finish line, however. The oldest athlete in the event and the lone representative in the 75-79 age category, Joe Gati finished his 12th Ironman and his 190th triathlon overall. With an impressive time of just over 15-and-a-half hours, Gati punched his ticket to the upcoming World Championships in Kona, Hawaii where he competed in his first Ironman over three decades ago in 1984. When asked how his body felt the day after enduring such a taxing feat of athleticism, the Oshawa, Ontario native’s face erupted in a wry smile.
“It was a great race. I was a little sore this morning, but I’m feeling fine now,” said Gati, holding yet another trophy bound for the mantlepiece back home. “Each time you take a step you start loosening up, so you take another, and another.”
When asked whether he would continue competing in more events next year, the response was both elegant and simple.
“When I can’t cross the finish line on time, or when they have to carry me off, that’s when I’ll retire.”
A full photo gallery from the event can be found on our Facebook page, or by clicking here.