Hometown victory for Jeff Symonds at Challenge Penticton
Despitesuffering a bike crash late into the ride, Penticton’s Jeff Symonds pulled off a dominant victory at the inaugural Challenge Penticton. Symonds’s negative split in the marathon, running a 2: 47:31 to win in front of the hometown crowd in 8:29:57. In the women’s race, Canmore, Alta.’s Karen Thibodeau led the swim, but ended up finishing second ( 9: 41: 42) to Australia’s Carrie Lester ( 9:27:26). We caught up with the proud hometown champion. Triathlon Magazine Canada: What does it mean to you to win your hometown race in your full- distance debut? Jeff Symonds: It was unbelievable. Having watched the race 22 times, just finishing was a dream come true. The fact that my family, friends and supporters were all out there cheering made it even more incredible. TMC: How did that nasty crash happen and how painful was it during the rest of the ride and the entire marathon? JS: It happened on the first descent after Yellow Lake and it was just something that would add to the “triathletes can’t ride bikes” stereotype. Just a momentary lapse in concentration and I lost control. As soon as I hit the ground my first thought was “I never want to ride my bike again, I’ll stick to running events from now on.” Once I picked myself up it was all focus and adrenaline. I had the line from Rocky going through my mind “It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward!” I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to run and when I was in transition there were a bunch of medical people asking me if I needed to get checked out, if I was able to run or if I wanted to drop out. TMC: How serious were your injuries? JS: Miraculously nothing super serious was done to me or my Orbea. My Garmin said I was going 60.6 km/ h at the time of the crash, so it is amazing that I and my bike were both able to continue. My left hip was super sore from the impact and I could feel it hurting with every run stride. But before the race I had already planned for the marathon to be painful so I was prepared. I have a ton of major road rash on both hips, my left shoulder, right shoulder blade and back, right forearm. The right forearm was ridiculously painful while I was in my aerobars during the last 30 km of the bike. I also have bad road rash and cuts on both hands and more cuts all over my body. TMC: Aside from the crash, you seemed to have a near perfect day out there. Was this the case? JS: My preparation for this race was amazing. My coach Kevin Cutjar and I left no stone unturned when preparing to race on this course. All of that came to fruition while I was out there. The biggest thing I will be taking forward is confidence. Confidence in my training and preparation as well as the confidence that Ironman is my best distance. TMC: Any extra jitters or pressure in going head to head with Macca? Or did he work to bring the best out of you. JS: Having Macca there was incredible. The word “Macca” was banned at home and at work at the Bike Barn leading up to the race, because Chris McCormack made him sound like just another guy. He is a great ambassador for our sport and now for Penticton. He made a point of saying “I hope you have really great day out there” during our swim warm ups. It was pretty cool. Having him there put me into the underdog role that I love to be in. TMC: Challenge Penticton was your focus for this year but what’s next? Will you be back to defend or will next year be a march towards Kona? JS: I am super excited to come back and defend the title next year. I am still not the fastest guy on my block as Tom Evans’s time in 2004 was a minute faster than mine this year, so I have some unfinished business to take care of. I am super proud of my hometown for stepping up and delivering such an incredible event. I’ll save Kona for my 30s.