In spite of the many changes following the City of Penticton's decision to sign with the Challenge family, the pieces for next weekend's triathlon are falling into place nicely.
The Challenge Penticton Canada triathlon, which replaces Ironman Canada, will be held Sunday, beginning and ending near The Peach at Okanagan Lake. The course is identical to that of the Ironman Canada triathlon, which was held in Penticton for 30 years before civic leaders opted to change brands.
"Things are coming together really good," said Paulette Rennie, chairwoman for Challenge Penticton Canada.
She said that any time an event is built from the ground up, there will be obstacles and difficulties to overcome.
"The actual race day, the race course, we know that (and) we have so much experience at that," said Rennie. "But all the other pieces for organizing an event of this size and making sure that we're providing the best experience but a new experience on top of that . . . you don't want to miss anything. You want to make it really special for people."
Rennie said it's exciting for the city to become the first in North America to host a long-distance triathlon of this type, and one that offers a relay option to allow entrants to focus on one or two disciplines rather than have to complete all three in a single event.
"We're bringing something new here that no one has experienced before," she said, referring to the relay.
"You've heard for years someone say, 'I would love to do it (Ironman), but I could never do the run or I could never do the swim.'"
About 900 single athletes are registered for the race, along with nearly 200 relay teams. The total number of athletes is about 1,400. Eleven countries will be represented, along with 10 of the 13 Canadian provinces and territories, and 26 states in the U.S.
A field of 24 professional triathletes will compete. They include former world champion Chris McCormack of Australia, hometown favourite Janelle Morrison and five-time Challenge Roth champion Lother Leder of Germany.
Because it's the first time the city has hosted the event, and because the number of entrants is less than what was typical for Ironman, there are fiscal challenges.
"You don't have the revenues to offset, so you're always trying to find that balance in making sure you're giving them the best and making sure that everything is there," said Rennie. "The community has come together to help us though sponsorships and so forth to make up some of those revenues."
Rennie, who was part of a group that travelled to Roth, Germany, to watch its Challenge race in July, believes Penticton can duplicate some of what's happening there and gain international status through its affiliation with the Challenge family.
"There's no doubt in my mind . . . after seeing Roth, and seeing the fantastic race that they run and their numbers," she said.
She also supported the city's decision to sign with Challenge after three decades under the Ironman moniker, and she believes both citizens and the business community were ready for a change.
"It seemed each year that more and more you heard that it became just a one-day event," Rennie said. "They came into town, set up and then they were gone the next day. Proceeds didn't stay in the community."
Rennie said profits from Challenge Penticton will remain in the city and be distributed in the sports community in the form of grants.
With the race now a week away, most volunteer positions have been filled. However, there is still a need for some help with transition areas, traffic management, aid stations and the medical tent (nurses and doctors in particular). Anyone interested in helping may fill out a registration on the Challenge website.
Events begin Monday with the traditional photograph of local participants. For a full schedule, visit wwwchallengepenticton.com.