Locals have winning in mind

Local pro triathletes Jeff Symonds and Jen Annett aim to come out on top of 2015 Valley First Challenge Penticton half-distance

JEN ANNETT and Jeff Symonds

JEN ANNETT and Jeff Symonds

Local triathletes Jeff Symonds and Jen Annett have victory in mind for Sunday’s 2015 Valley First Challenge Penticton.

The two are among 49 pros competing in the half distance consisting of a 1.9-kilometre swim, 90-km bike and 21.1-km run.

Symonds, a two-time full-distance champ, said there will be different race dynamics coming into play this weekend.

“It’s almost a bit of an unknown,” he said.

Symonds, 29, said there are always nerves, but he hasn’t thought about that much.

“The pressure definitely gets amped up. For me it’s important to be able to deal with that. I’m at the point in my career where I want to win big races,” said Symonds, who will compete in Kona, Hawaii for an Ironman world championship on Oct.10.

Symonds expects the race to be good with a strong men’s field that includes half distance defending champion Alistair Eeckman. Symonds said the half distance brings out more athletes.

“It’s going to be quite competitive. You see all these guys with all these different strengths — you got your swim stars, guys who like to push the bike or like to run fast —I think this will be a race where you just don’t know who is going to win until near the end,” he said.

He added it’s great from the city’s perspective, to see athletes at the pinnacle of their sport. He is looking forward to the chance to beat Canadian Olympian Brent McMahon. With McMahon also competing in the world championship, he said Challenge Penticton could be a preview to Ironman World Championship in Hawaii.

“The half is pretty dynamic,” he added. “Faster and often guys take more chances. Guys are more in the thick of things.”

Annett would love nothing more than to win, which would see her walk away with $6,000.

“There is a crazy pro field that is showing up,” she said. “It presents a challenge. It is definitely a motivating factor. A lot of the women that are showing up are very good at the half distance. I would definitely say I’m better at the full distance. It will be interesting to see how the day turns out.”

Annett said the tough part about the half distance comes in falling behind.

“It’s harder to kick up that intensity. People that compete in the Olympic distance, they are used to that intensity.

There is less time to make up. If you get behind, you have half the time to make that up. It’s definitely going to be a close race.

“We’re fortunate, we have the course in our backyard. Especially the bike course,” continued Annett. “The bike course is very challenging.”

Annett has still been receiving coaching from Jon Caron for swimming. She is ready to take things to the next level to see where it can go. What will help push her are the spectators, who she loves when they cheer racers on.

“That’s a lot of my reason for doing the race. It’s so much fun being a local athlete. It’s awesome,” she said.

It will be the icing on the cake if they are able to cheer her on to being the first female to cross the finish line.