Why Subaru sponsors events that have nothing to do with cars

Why Subaru sponsors events that have nothing to do with cars

More than 2,100 swimmers clad in black wetsuits were churning up Alta Lake on the first leg of the 2013 Subaru Whistler Ironman. The sun was still struggling to burn off the morning chill, and from a vantage point on a boat in the centre of the lake, you could see steam rising from the swimmers. They looked like seals.

Divided into two groups, the professionals headed out first. These were the elites; roughly 40 who do this for a living, full-time, around the world. The rest? The rest could be anyone who dedicated to the training and accepted the discipline. Every age, size, shape and personality type.

Swimming 3.8 kilometres in Alta Lake on that morning had nothing to do with Subaru.

As the clock ticked close to the first hour mark, the pros were running up the beach. Tugging on the shoulders of their wetsuits as they headed in, dozens of volunteers in ubiquitous light blue t-shirts extended gloved hands, yelling at them. These people are called strippers; they were there to get those wetsuits off so the swimmers could transform into cyclists. The removal of the neoprene revealed another layer of skin-tight spandex. This is how the day would be: metamorphoses at each stage, some more graceful than others.

The leaders had been on their bikes for nearly an hour and a half – they would complete the cycle course in less than five hours – by the time the clock officially ran out for this first phase. Anyone still in the water would be fished out, their Ironman contest over.

The reward for making the cut? A 180-kilometre bike course through the lung-busting grades on the Sea-to-Sky Highway in and around Whistler. It was the event’s debut here, and the number of those blue-shirted volunteers rivalled the number of entrants. They needed them; there would be no way to pull off a contest of this size without them.

As the athletes peeled free of their wetsuits and took to the bikes, the lead started to lengthen. Spectators began to get glimpses of what an Ironman is about: a highly individual sport where you compete not with the person beside you, but the person within you.