Penticton’s Jeff Symonds and Australian Carrie Lester both defended their titles at the 2014 Valley First Challenge Penticton on Sunday.
Symonds’s winning time of 8:26.58 was nearly three minutes faster than his 2013 time and 20 minutes ahead of American Chris Bagg’s second place finish in 8:47.01. New Zealand’s Simon Cochrane was third in 8:50.05. Victoria’s Andrew Russell was running in second for the first half of the run, but the steady paces of Bagg and Cochrane caught up with him. “Winning in your hometown: it is hard to get any sweeter than that,” Symonds said at the finish line.
The no wetsuit swim for the pros saw Josh Seifarth get out of the water in first in 53:40, seven seconds ahead the trio of Symonds, Sean Bechetel and Russell. Symonds then pushed to the front on the bike with a 10-minute lead ahead of Russell and Bechetel in a time of 4:39.28. He then ran an impressive 2:50.36 to his 20-minute lead
“I like being the hunter,” said Symonds, “I love that kind of mentality of chasing them down. When you are out front, you are the hunted and thinking ‘I can’t let these guys catch me.’”
On the women’s side, the 33-year-old Carrie Lester swam 59:52, and pushed hard on the bike to ride 5:09:31. Canadian Karen Thibodeau was making her bid for the front before having to pull out of the race at Twin Lakes. American Mackenzie Madison and Penticton’s own Jen Annett worked together to emerge slightly ahead of the field. Lester’s winning time was 9:27.24, followed by Madison in 9:47.49 and Jen Annett in 9:48.58.
“It’s the first time I have come back and defended a title, and it definitely feels good two in a row. I don’t think I found it any easier than last years at all, it was possibly harder. … There were some gnarly winds out there that picked up and came out of nowhere. I found that pretty tough on my own,” Lester said. She praised the race venue and organization: “In the last two years we have come to this race, we just feel so welcome and I think that makes a huge difference for us because everything is so relaxed, friendly and there is no pressure. It is a fun race and there is a lot of companionship out there even amongst the males and female pros who are all out there supporting each other.”