Symonds back for the Challenge

Penticton's Jeff Symonds is back to support his hometown race after competing in Subaru Ironman Canada Whistler

PENTICTON'S Jeff Symonds returns to defend his Valley First Challenge Penticton title. Symonds is excited to compete while his brother Mike takes on the half distance.

PENTICTON'S Jeff Symonds returns to defend his Valley First Challenge Penticton title. Symonds is excited to compete while his brother Mike takes on the half distance.

He came, he crashed, he conquered; and last year’s Valley First Challenge Penticton champion Jeff Symonds is back to race again.

Symonds took a nasty spill on his bike in the inaugural Challenge Penticton race in 2013, but made a miraculous comeback in the iron-distance event crossing the finish line bloodied, bruised and battered to win the top male title. His race was defined by some as one of the top triathlon performances in 2013.

“It was pretty unreal,” said Symonds, who set a course record finish time of 8:29:57. “I think the reason we all do triathlon is to see how tough we are, especially when we have those moments of adversity that we have to pull ourselves out of and see how we respond.

“It was pretty cool to have that moment at Challenge, in my hometown, and get up and keep going,” he continued in a new release. “Having the fortitude to keep pushing to the finish line is what makes triathlon special. Everyone in that race does it. They all have their own moments when they have to dig deep to get to the finish. That is what is great about Challenge because the whole field has that in common, professional athlete or not.”

The pull of racing in his hometown overcame Symonds and he decided on the last day (Tuesday) of registration to enter, despite only having a few weeks rest since he finished second in Subaru Ironman Canada Whistler on July 27. He will join more than 1,200 participants registered from 17 countries on Aug. 24 to race VFCP.

“It’s something special for me to race in my hometown, in front of people I grew up with, who helped me along the way and will be cheering me on,” said Symonds. “I know I am not coming into this race as fresh as I would like to be, but the big thing is having fun and supporting this race.”

Symonds was hesitant about committing to VFCP because of the short turnaround from competing in Whistler.

“I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel,” he told the Western News. “I just wanted to make sure that it was a smart decision before I kind of got caught up in the hype.”

The defending champion isn’t putting much thought into how he might perform and said, “It’s kind of nice because it puts me back to the underdog, kind of wildcard role that I seem to excel at.”

Symonds entered Subaru Ironman Canada Whistler because he knew Belgium’s Marino Vanhoenacker was competing.

“He is the Ironman world record holder. I really wanted to test myself against the best in the world,” said Symonds, who finished nine minutes behind Vanhoenacker in Whistler. “It was pretty good considering he’s the real deal. I got some work to do on the bike.”

He won’t be the only one with a hometown cheering squad on the course. His brother, Mike Symonds, will be racing the half distance.

VFCP Canada is busy preparing for its second race this summer and offers a full distance, half distance, full relay and now the inaugural half-distance relay.

No longer the lone Challenge race in North America, Penticton is part of five Challenge races being in held in 2014 with more to be announced for 2015. North America races include Challenge New Albany, Ohio, Challenge St. Andrews, New Brunswick, Challenge Atlantic City, New Jersey, Challenge Ranchero Cordova, California. The Challenge Family is the fastest growing global long distance triathlon series, now with 26 long distance triathlons in 18 countries and is changing the face of long distance racing around the world.