Jeff Symonds (left) and Jen Annett (right)

Jeff Symonds (left) and Jen Annett (right)

Penticton triathletes win 2016 Challenge Penticton long course

Penticton professional triathletes Jen Annett and Jeff Symonds are the female and male winners of the 2016 Challenge Penticton long course.

Penticton triathletes Jeff Symonds and Jen Annett would not be denied on home turf.

Symonds, born and raised in Penticton, and Annett, a Kelowna import, crossed the finish line to win the Challenge Penticton International Triathlon Union Long Course National Championship. They both also receive $6,000.

“It feels awesome. It’s the validation of all my hard work and the belief in myself. Just a great symbol that I’m back on track and I’m only going up from here,” said Symonds. “It was absolutely important. It had been a tough year, I wanted a good race. You want to defend home soil, take a national title, qualify for that world championships.”

Symonds was first overall finishing the three-kilometre swim, 120-km bike and 30-m run in five hours, 32 minutes and 39 seconds, while Annett was 16th overall to win her first Challenge Penticton championship in 6:13:49.

Symonds said it was unbelievable to win at home, his third Challenge Penticton win. Symonds attributed his win to a great swim and seeing where guys were.

“You don’t have to be in the lead to control the race,” said Symonds, who completed the swim in 42:07, the bike in 3:02:49 and the run in 1:45:00. “I know that I can make up a deficit on the run. That’s my strength. It was just knowing that those guys were within striking distance of me. It was good.”

Symonds’ running pace average per kilometre was 3:29, his best pace time was in the third part of the 30-km run when he averaged 3:20 per kilometre.

Symonds talked about taking a conservative approach on a new course distance and Drew Scott being a better cyclist. Symonds knew he had to let Scott go.

“You’ve got to have that confidence in what you do well,” said Symonds, who eagerly looked forward to a cold glass of water.  “You got to play to your strengths and be honest about your weaknesses. I think it really helped me out on the course.”

Scott, son of six-time Ironman World Champion Dave Scott, finished second overall. The Boulder, Col., resident completed the swim in 42:54, the bike in 2:57:09 and the run in 1:54:39 for a total time of 5:37:26. In third was Jordan Bryden of Calgary. He clocked in at 5:40:46.

Annett said it was amazing to win in her hometown despite the pain she was feeling.

“I didn’t think I had it. Liz (Elizabeth Lyles) had me until the peach (concession stand) there. I saw a dollar sign on her butt and I kept following it,” said Annett. “I just didn’t want to lose at that point. She’s an amazing runner. I’m just happy to have done what I did.”

Lyles, of Reno, Nevada, followed Annett into the finish line 30 seconds later in 6:14:19. Annett crossed in 6:13:49.

“It was very close for the last seven-kilometre. Within 15 seconds of each other,” said Annett. “I’ve never been that close and I’ve never had to have a sprint finish before. Sometimes you just hit this gear that you never knew you had. You just dig deep.”

As Annett reached the finish line, she took a quick look behind her.

“I wanted to know if I could actually enjoy the finish line or totally have to book it,” said Annet of why she looked behind her. “I would hate to enjoy the finish line and have somebody else with first.”

Annett, who twice finished in third place at Challenge Penticton, wasn’t happy with her swim, which she finished in 52:42. She joked about wishing she could blame it on the waves or not wearing a wetsuit due to the warm water temperatures.

“It was just not a good swim. I just took it steady on the bike,” said Annett, completing it in 3:13:42. “I think I came in second off the bike. Just stuck to the plan. That felt awesome and I felt amazing going on onto the run. Best I felt yet this year probably for racing. I just stayed in my own race until the last kilometre or so and then decided to kick it up. I’m happy.”

And she received a massive welcome with the help of announcer Steve King.

With the victory, Annett has qualified for the Canadian team for 2017. When told that, Annett said, “Freaking amazing.”

“It is a big deal. I get to race in my hometown and represent Canada and Penticton. It’s awesome.”

In third place was Vancouver’s Fawn Whiting, an age grouper, 30 to 34,  in 6:20:29.

In the Aquabike, Coquitlam’s Scott Dean won in 4:22:07, while the female winner was Vancouver’s Tamasin Reno, who was third overall in 4:28:05.

The Long Course race had 512 athletes, while the Long Course relay had 55, the Aquabike attracted 45 and the Aquabike relay three teams.