When the sun was rising at yesterday’s Ironman Canada triathlon, the question on most athletes’ minds was, “will this be a wetsuit legal swim?” But, by the time noon rolled around, the question was replaced with “how fast can I go today?”
Ironman Canada returned to Penticton after a 10-year hiatus. The event has its roots in the city starting in 1983 and, within a few years, Penticton became renowned as one of the sport’s top triathlon destinations. In 2013 the event moved to Whistler, but returned to Penticton this year, featuring the iconic course that includes a swim in Lake Okanagan and the famous ride up Richter Pass, all followed by a new run course through local vineyards.
With warm conditions leading up to Friday, it seemed as though the water in Okanagan Lake was going to be too warm. Racers were initially warned that the race might be “wetsuit optional,” meaning athletes could use wetsuits, but they would not be eligible for age group awards or Kona slots.
By Sunday at 6 AM none of that mattered. The call was made that it would be a wetsuit swim for all. By 6:30 the first athletes entered Okanagan Lake and, by midnight, the last of the official finishers were done in a day that featured some of the best start-to-finish weather conditions at an Ironman Canada race.
Local pro, Jeff Symonds, did compete in the event, but his results did not count, as it was not a pro race. Symonds swam a 51:44, cycled 4:45:36 and ran 2:57 to finish in an overall time of 8:38:03.
For the official participants on the women’s side, Waterloo, Ontario’s Jessica Cullen used a 1:04:15 swim, a 5:42:45 bike and a 3:16 run to post an overall time of 10:08:05 to finish first. From Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Christina Charles, who won her age group at the previous Ironman Canada in Whistler, went 10:28;56 for second overall. Rounding out the women’s overall podium was local athlete, 49-year-old Cailla Patterson from Kelowna, who finished in 10:33:58. Patterson who was nursing a heel injury in the last part of her preparation was able to keep things rolling on the run to capture third.
On the men’s side, American Cory Mayfield, an orthopedic surgery resident who trains an average of about 10 hours a week, claimed the top spot with a 51:20 swim, a 5:06 bike and a day’s best 2:55 run for an overall time of 8:59:15. Placing second was an aspiring pro from Brandon, Manitoba, Jameson Plewes. Plewes paid the price for an ambitious start to the marathon, but still came in at 9:04:57. Claiming third was Vancouver’s Nicholas Thomas in 9:11:55, who set his Ironman PB despite sacrificing a couple of toenails on the steep pitch down Vancouver Hill.