Ironman winners thrilled

Matthew Russell and Gillian Clayton take the 30th and final Subaru Ironman Canada triathlon

SUBARU IRONMAN CANADA pro champion Matt Russell hoists the finish banner over his head following his victory Sunday. The Arizona athlete finished the course in 8:48:30.  Below

SUBARU IRONMAN CANADA pro champion Matt Russell hoists the finish banner over his head following his victory Sunday. The Arizona athlete finished the course in 8:48:30. Below

When Matthew Russell becomes a father, he plans to take his kids to Penticton and show them the flower garden that lists all the Subaru Canada Ironman winners.

When they see their father’s name, they will see that he crossed the finish line on Lakeshore Drive in 8:48:30.

After grabbing the ribbon as he crossed the line and raising it above his head the Scottsdale, Ariz. resident went directly to his girlfriend Gillian Foreman and gave her a thankful hug and kiss. It was a sweet victory for him, his first as a pro.

“I feel blessed and thankful,” said Russell. “I’m ecstatic. Speechless.”

Russell said he didn’t know what could happen on Sunday, adding that a person could be feeling great until mile 23, but he was able to hang on and finish strong.

Following Russell was Penticton’s Olly Piggin at 8:54:17 and Germany’s Christian Brader at 8:58:59.

Canadian Gillian Clayton, who finished in 9:46:07, started to get that winning feeling after another male pro she was near who checked and didn’t see another female in sight.

“Unless she has Usain Bolt qualities, I was pretty sure I was going to make it to the line first,” joked Clayton, adding that she said to herself if she doesn’t fall on her face she would likely be OK.

“When I turned onto Lakeshore Drive, I just visualized all the videos I’ve ever seen of all these unbelievable champions winning and I thought you know this is going to be me,” she said.

Canadian Karen Thibodeau placed second at 9:50:52 and in third is Penticton’s Janelle Morrison at 9:53:20, who made a comeback after a car accident nearly killed her in 2010. Nine pro females completed the race.

While Clayton was the top female pro finisher, Denver’s Kendra Lee, an age group (30 to 34) winner, enjoyed the fastest women’s time of 9:44:58. She placed 39th overall after completing the swim in 1:02:08, the bike in 5:16:48 and the run in 3:20:47.

Russell said the toughest part of the course was the mental aspect.

“When you’re playing catch up the whole time, it’s really tough,” said Russell, a former occupational therapist since turning pro two years ago. “You just have to mentally stay in there.” 

Clayton, a physiotherapist, took advantage of the fact that Meredith Kessler, Samantha McGlone, Marilyn McDonald and Rachel Kiers didn’t show up.

“I think it’s really nice actually for professionals that are at my level just starting out,” said Clayton about the four not competing. “(Stephanie) Ossenbrink is another first year pro as well. It’s really nice for us to be able to be competitive and really be in it and not be overshadowed by who is going to get second.

“I think it would be fair to say that this is not the strongest field that this race has had,” continued Clayton.

Reaching the finish line first for Penticton and earning his best result was Piggin.

Heading into the run, his legs were feeling pretty ripe.

“I knew it would be all about the last 15 kilometres,” said Piggin, who was very satisfied with his effort. “I was holding on there which I did. It was good to have the support of the town and everyone out on the course. It really brought me home and helped me stay focused for sure.”

Also completing the race was 82-year-old Sister Madonna Buder, clocking in at 16:32:00. The final finisher was Kelli Telling of San Clemente, Calif., who crossed the finish line in 16:59:55. Telling had everyone, including announcer Steve King, cheering her on and pulling for her to finish. It was a memorable conclusion to the final Subaru Ironman Canada in Penticton.