2023 Ironman Canada Hoka run Course preview

A new run course. A soon to be iconic Sting in the Tail.

This is the New WOrld Order


It was eight years before Ironman Canada returned to Penticton. With a family feud now put to bed, open arms will greet ‘Ironman the business’, along with the Iron people and spectators that form their ranks. Like any long term absenteeism there are changes to be assimilated and adjustments to be made. Compromises to be borne and expectations to be adjusted. This may not be the run course you were looking for. 


Changing Times

The City of Penticton has changed. Laws have changed. Neighborhoods have changed. Litigation has changed. Safety obligations have moved on. Let’s make one thing clear. The old run course is untenable, period. This is not the fault of Ironman, simply a mix of circumstances outside of their control. Anyone genuinely surveying the issues can only really come to one conclusion. Ironman did not come back to Penticton with the intent of changing the run course just to piss people off. My guess is that, if it was viable, it would have been both their first choice and a solution that required the least work and effort.


A brand new Ironman Canada Run Course

What we have is a new run course that ramps up the spectator involvement whilst maintaining the sting in the tail that is present in all legendary race venues. The course skirts Lakeshore and utilizes the gradual uphill and downhill of Main Street, stopping short of Skaha Lake.


A Sting in the Tail

The sting comes in the shape of Vancouver Hill. And what an epic sting it is. Getting this critical portion of the race wrong will be very costly. Get it right, and you’ll be putting some serious ground on several of your competitors. 

2023 Ironman Canada Run Course

Sponsored by HOKA

We break down the Run Course Preview into 4 Segments:

Vancouver Hill & KVR | Main Street | Lakeshore | Lap Two

Segment 1 – Vancouver Hill & KVR

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0 km – Suck it up kids.  This is possibly the ‘Hardest start to an Ironman Run in the World‘ [citation needed!].

Your initial kilometre is pancake flat. Get your head together, start slower than you anticipate your average pace will be, and focus. What comes next  will define your race.

Vancouver Road is steep. Very steep, for any part of any Ironman, but throwing in at the start is going to sort the smart athletes from the … well … not so smart.

The Ironman run is all about strength. How much of it you used up on the bike, and how much you left in reserve for the run. Most people aren’t over lactate threshold when they fall apart. They just have nothing left in their legs. This is why not using what strength you have left here, at this point, is so important. 

This hill will be the talking point after the race. It’s the bigger, badder, nastier punk sister of Kona’s Palani Road. It’s going to be an iconic badge of honour amongst Ironman athletes.

“.. Your run was hard? Well, have you done IMC and Vancouver Hill? No? Get back to me when you have! ..”

How much / little it will kill your legs and  how quickly you’ll recover from it will depend on your plan. Have a plan. Stick to the plan.

For all but the very best runners (and probably even those too) you are likely to lose more than you gain if you attempt to run this portion of the run course. Walking here is very likely the smartest thing you will do on race day. Even then, I would dial back the walk speed. Keep your HR as low as possible. Keep your stride short and efficient, limit your losses.

You will likely see people try and run this and, if you are walking, you will lose very little time against them. Any energy you save here will reap dividends when you are cruising efficiently along on the flat section.

Our PB+J Coaching Motto is “.. Don’t F@#k It Up! ..”.  You can gain significant advantage by sticking to that mantra.  If ever there was a section of race course where that motto applies. It is here. 

2 km – Think you are out of the woods? Not yet, you have 3km to go. Glad you walked the first bit now? A short left through a cul-de-sac and you’ll be motoring up the scenic KVR Trail with lake and vineyard views. It’s still uphill, but a lot shallower than Vancouver Hill. Stay efficient and pay very good attention to your effort levels here. It’s easy on these grades to get caught up with the idea of maintaining pace.

5 km – At 5km you are at the highest point of the run course and the entire route is easier from here on in. You have done the hardest part. Take a breathe, turn around, and start the downhill.

8 km – The downhill of Vancouver Road is steep enough that it will take a toll on your quads. I can see a few cramp situations playing out here as people start asking a lot more of their legs than their legs are prepared to accept. My tip here is that if it feels like it’s placing stress on your body, calm yourself down and dial it back.
Downhill running is about reducing downward kinetic energy. Keep your shoulder and arms up a little to stop them dropping heavily with each footstep. Keep your stride short and try to reduce as much pounding energy as possible. This is another area where short  lived gains have a long term impact in your run performance. 

Overall – This Vancouver Hill and KVR section is all about limiting losses. Keep your guard up, your chin down and let the run course punch itself out. This is categorically not the time to let emotion run high and your hero complex kick in. It’s an absolutely epic start top an Ironman. Congratulations, you just tamed the hardest Ironman run start in the World.


PB+J COACHING TIP – This Vancouver Hill and KVR section is all about limiting losses. Keep your guard up, your chin down and let the run course punch itself out. This is categorically not the time to let emotions run high and your hero complex kick in.

It’s an absolutely epic start to the run. Congratulations, you just tamed the hardest Ironman run start in the World.  [Questions? Contact us.]

Segment 2 – MAIN STREET

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10 km – You are back at the start, Vancouver Hill is done, for this year at least. The climb up and out of Penticton is not steep, but very gradual. It’s time to evaluate exactly where you are at from an energy perspective and also from a strength perspective. Any Ironman run is all about what strength you have left; you are highly unlikely to be hitting any upper cardio limits.

12.5km – At this stage you will have passed most of the downtown stores and spectators that buoyed your early pace. You will get some reprieve from the gruelling climb as you had back down to pretty close to the same elevation you were at when you left transition. So, any uphill is paid back with some downhill. 

15 km – You get a small amount of flat to steady your nerves, before hitting the turnaround point at circa 16km. From here it is simply a reverse journey, making a small left/right dogleg to drop you neatly onto Lakeshore.


PB+J COACHING TIP – Make sure you soak up the crowd atmosphere early on and take some of that with you. The gradual hill on both the outward and return journey requires an honest reflection on your effort levels. Under no circumstances should you be chasing a goal pace, you have to accept the gradual climb and adjust pace accordingly.

This section can be hot and exposed. Very little shade, if any, and being away from the lake means you’ll not benefit from the lake breeze, if any. Focus on your hydration.

You may be tempted to hammer the downhill into town. This may be unwise. Down hill running can have a significant impact on your strength. So, exercise caution and use the downhill as a recovery from the uphill.  Save your beans for the second loop downhill as you head to the finish line.  [Questions? Contact us]


Segment 3 – Lakeshore

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22 km – This is, historically, one o the most iconic run sections in the history of Ironman. Penticton’s lakeshore has seen dreams realized and broken  since 1983. Th crowds here should be fantastic as you run alongside the lake towards the iconic and picturesque SS Sicamous paddle wheeler that  has stood guard over the west side of the beach since 1951.

24 km – As you turn left at the SS Sicamous you are thankfully spared the trail that runs along the other side of the ‘channel’. A route the I never liked when Challenge Penticton took over the course. Instead, you head down Riverside Drive and left onto Burnaby Drive for the first of two very short out and back sections. When you get back to Riverside Drive you turn left again and turn around before you hit the highway.  From here it’s straight back to the SS Sicamous (25km marker) and back down Lakeshore.


PB+J COACHING TIP – This is likely to be your favourite part of the run course. Again, bottle up that atmosphere and dream about it as you head out for a repeat of Main Street. Don’t get carried away with the sights, sounds and smells. Remember to take stock of your fuelling and hydration throughout this area. Any shortfall can be accounted for prior to heading out for the second loop.  [Questions? Contact us]


Segment 4 – Lap Two

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26 km – At around 26km your second loop of Main Street and Lakeshore begins. Thankfully, no Vancouver Hill this time. This time around you are almost certain to require a little extra grit and a healthy dose of sense to make progress up the shallow grade on the way out of town. 

32km – As you hit the turnaround at 32km there will be a reckoning. Did you save enough gas for the most epic and gruelling portion or Ironman? Or are your legs done for the day? Hopefully, you will have set goals for nutrition and hit those goals. Hopefully you will have paced based on how you feel with a little comfort zone thrown in.  Very few people reach 32km and think “I wish I’d gone harder earlier on”.

35km – You can see the top. Angels sing. Your skin tingles. It’s mainly downhill from here. A red carpet of negative grade  welcomes you all the way through town.

38km – The bliss of seeing the finish line is fleeting. The next 4km, despite being fuelled by spectator support, will seem infinite. Your legs no longer respond to input from you, they are doing their own thing now.  There are no tips for this. It’s do whatever you can with whatever you’ve got left.

42.2km – Congratulations. You just crossed the legendary Penticton finish line. 


PB+J COACHING TIP – The back half of any Ironman Course is really the end of the equation. It’s the sum of the previous parts. Your nutrition, your pacing, your hydration, your race decision making. All of these culminate in the back half of the run being something you can get to grips with or something you can’t.

Ironically, it’s hard if you got it right (you are still racing hard). Or it’s easy if you got it wrong (you’re run walking or just walking). 

My coaching tip for the run is always “Start with the bike”. The bike is where most people mess up their run. If you can, on the bike, always think about the second half of the run. It will be a great limiter. I don’t know anyone that bikes 180km and runs 42.2km on a training day. So, don’t bike like it’s just a 180km day and then expect to run 42.2km on the back of it. Think of your long training rides. Think of your long training ride power. How does that sit with a 42.2km run at Ironman race pace. It takes a considerable amount of power to generate a 10 to 15 minute reduction on the bike. Has this power just cost you 30 minutes on the run?

Have you done an Ironman before? Be honest. Was the run as good as it could be? The cliche is “There is no such thing as a great bike and a bad run”. One leads to the other. Be smart.

My second tip for this section of the race is to access any mental resolve using any means possible. Create a reasons for manintaining your pace. Friends, family …. whatever value you can allocate to the goal of ‘keeping going’. The more valuable the goal, the more you are likely to achieve. Many people have enough left physically, but no longer have the emotional will to continue. If you have paced well then this mental strength is the final piece of the puzzle. Visualize this part of the race. Use it in the race.  [Questions? Contact us]

ENJOY THE Course Tips?

PB+J Coaching has a great understanding of the Penticton course combined with the latest science driven approaches to endurance training; making us the perfect coaching choice for your Penticton 2021 campaign. If you have any coaching or course questions please CONTACT US.

Penticton 2023 Coaching

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