Close to 1,000 athletes will flood into Huntsville this weekend for a 113-kilometre Ironman triathlon, happening for the first time since 2019. 

The 13th annual Subaru Ironman Muskoka 70.3 was bumped to this year after being cancelled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Athletes will have eight and a half hours to complete a 1.9 kilometre swim, 90 km bike course, and 21.1 km run. The event is a half-Ironman, consisting of 70.3 miles of total distance, compared to a 140.6-mile full-Ironman.

It starts with a swim from Camp Kitchen Beach, out into Fairy Lake, doubling back down the Muskoka River to the Canada Summit Centre. Contestants will then bike from the Summit Centre almost to Dorset and back, by way of Brunel Road and Highway 117. Finally, the run consists of two loops on Brunel from the Summit Centre to a turnaround on North Mary Lake Road, and back. 

Race Director for the event, Nick Stoehr, says last year’s cancellation has only increased anticipation for this year’s triathlon amongst athletes.

“A lot of them have been training for two years for this event, and now they’re going to get to test their fitness and their skill on this course, so they’re super excited to be back,” says Stoehr. “We’ve got lots of wonderful volunteers from Huntsville, Baysville, [and] Dorset coming to help out, cheer on athletes, and make sure that they finish their event with a smile on their face and have a great experience here in Huntsville.”

TriMuskoka President Jon Morton is one such athlete. Morton finished 18th in 2019’s Ironman Muskoka, and is hoping for a top ten finish this year. 

“I’m hoping for the best, as always,” Morton says. “I’m feeling pretty good, I’ve been able to stay in pretty good fitness over the break, I’m happy to be able to see what I can do on the race course this weekend, and hope for the best for myself [and] all the other competitors.”

Huntsville Manager of Facilities, Sales and Customer Service Greg Pilling says the event won’t be quite as international as usual, as travel restrictions have prevented most international competitors from coming. He says matters were also not helped by the fact that organizers weren’t sure whether the event would be able to happen until July. 

Pilling says he expects about 900 athletes to compete this year, each bringing one person for support. With COVID-19 restrictions in place, Pilling asks spectators not to crowd the area around the Summit Centre, since it will be busy enough as is.

“As it’s a long race, [there’s] lots of different vantage points to be able to watch,” says Pilling. “So that’s what we’re hoping people will be able to do, just come out and cheer on these athletes that are undertaking an incredible quest. They love the encouragement and the hospitality from the local community.”

From 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Brunel Rd. will be closed from Veterans Way to North Mary Lake Road. Brunel from North Mary Lake Rd. to Highway 117, and Highway 117 from Baysville to Dorset will be partially closed from 8:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.. According to Pilling, a small section of the downtown core will be inaccessible by non-emergency vehicle traffic while the closures are in place, but he says the occupants have been notified.

Huntsville’s Chief Bylaw Enforcement Officer Andrew Stillar says that to ease traffic during the event, parking on the day will be limited to one side of the road on Veterans Way, Centre St. South, West St. South, Town Line Rd., Hubble Crescent, Kelly Rd., Mary St., Duncan St., Princess St., Florence St., Rogers Rd., and Cora St..

The Ironman starts at 8 a.m. on Sunday, August 29th.