Home > News

Jeff Symonds: A chat with the Ironman Melbourne Champion

Penticton’s Jeff Symonds captured his first Ironman title at Ironman Melbourne with a spectacular and memorable marathon, we caught up with the newly crowned champion just before he headed off to the awards banquet.

On his first Ironman title

That damn Ironman champion title has eluded me for so long and so now to finally have that and have it at a huge race like this is just so freaking incredible!

It went exactly according to plan. Well, maybe not the swim. The swim was totally chaotic. Guys were going left and right and were super spread out. So I found myself struggling to catch any group and ended up just swimming solo, which is never ideal but happens. When I heard I was 4 minutes down out of the swim I was a little questionable (not worried though) and knew I had a bit of a tough ride ahead if I wanted to stay within striking distance.

On the bike I just stuck to my pace and rode my race and my watts. There were a few guys around that were riding around the same pace so I just stuck with them. Eventually we heard we were pretty far back from the leaders but catching up to the second chase group so the leaders of my group put in a few good surges. I remembered my girlfriend Sophia saying to maintain my race and my pace on the bike but not to have a tea party so knew it was time to make my move as well. I put in a few more watts then I wanted to but we managed to catch the group. After that, guys kept trying to surge ahead to catch Frommhold and Bell but I knew that a few minutes wouldn’t be a big difference for me and I wanted to save my legs so I just sat back and focused on my race.

Out of T2 guys were just smoking it and I thought to myself “2:40 didn’t feel this fast” so I knew they’d come back to me, and they did. I knew I was feeling pretty good because I was having conversations with almost every guy I passed so I figured things were going to go smoothly. So I just held my pace and one by one started making my way up. Tim Berkel wouldn’t budge though and he is one tough guy.

When we got Frommhold in our sights, I had to keep my emotions in check and just keep looking forward. I hit a bit of a downhill and decided to make my move on Berkel. All of a sudden I didn’t hear footsteps behind me and when I turned around he wasn’t there. It was at that point that I finally said to myself “don’t screw this up Jeff” and just kept moving forward. I thought about slowing down a bit but there was a huge group from Giant out on the course (Berkels’ main sponsor) so I knew he would get picked up from that so figured I couldn’t let up on the gas at that point. People comment on my running style (very ugly) and think I’m struggling but really that’s just how I’ve run for as long as I can remember. May not be pretty but it works. Hence my “get ugly” motto.

Going to Kona

I will definitely be taking the automatic qualification. My family has been itching at the chance to go to Hawaii so can’t say no now! I’m really just looking forward to seeing what this race is all about and getting familiar with the atmosphere. I plan on going back year after year so for my first year I’m really just looking forward at soaking it all up. I’ve never been to Kona during the race season (only been once before in April last year as a vacation) and I’ve heard just incredible things about the experience so I am really just looking forward to that.

Will he defend the Challenge Penticton title

I had planned my season around having a good race in Melbourne but not this good. So my schedule was planned around getting points. Now that I don’t have to worry about that I really don’t know how my season will change! I still can’t really believe that I got the golden ticket! I’ll definitely be back to take part in Challenge Penticton – if it is in a racing capacity has yet to be determined. Relay anyone?

His early season Australian training block

I had a blast in Australia. I got myself set up with Leon Griffin and an amazing group in Bendigo after my two races in Melbourne and Geelong earlier on in the trip. It was so great to meet a lot of new people and make some great friends. The big thing I’ll take away from this trip is just how nice and calm the people of Australia are. Nothing seems to faze these people! Everything just rolls off their backs and things are just way more in control and peaceful. I will 100% be back. Although I was only there for two months, Bendigo is my second home now.

Recovering from this victory

Well, I pushed the same watts and ran faster at IMC and was able to defend my title at Challenge Penticton 4 weeks later so who knows. It is really variable. I definitely think I emptied the tank a bit more this time around than I did in Whistler but really not by that much. The heat will definitely play a factor in this race. It was way hotter then it was in Whistler so that will take its toll on the recovery process. My plan right now is just to go back to Canada in a few days, relax and spend some time with family and my girlfriend Sophia who’s been holding down the fort for the past few months. I’ll start doing some light training in the next couple of weeks. The problem is that I don’t know what the rest of my season is going to look like now, so until I know that, then I’ll be able to get a more concrete plan in place.

Dreams and quoting Bieber

I dreamed about a day like this growing up in Penticton watching Ironman Canada. And it is so important that communities get behind the sport and promote this sport for those next generation of kids who are watching from the sidelines. I’ve learned so many incredible things from triathlon and it is really a great sport for any kid to get into. I was lucky enough to take part in the Geelong 70.3 kids race and the kids race this past weekend as well as going to an elementary school here in Melbourne with the Ironman Asia pacific crew and that’s really what I love to do with this sport. Get the next generation stoked. So I just want to challenge everyone out there, regardless of age, to check out triathlon and go for their dreams, because like the Biebs said, “Never say Never!” Also, huge thanks to all of my sponsors for allowing me to follow my dream, and live this incredible life that I get to live. I really do have the best support team surrounding me.

From: Get Ugly Racing – Jeff Symonds Triathlon