In an effort to keep this Canadian long course classic afloat in an era of cutthroat competition, the folks at Challenge Penticton tried a few more new things this year.
After Challenge took over the race from Ironman in 2013, organizers kept the classic Iron-distance format and total entries plunged to 574 after decades of sold out 2,400 entries under the Ironman banner. Two years ago, they opened up the race to Iron-distance and half-Iron distance races as well as relay teams and entries rose to 743. Last year they kept the full and half distance single entries, relay teams became far more popular, and total entries rose to 1,061.
This year, organizers got radical. They changed the long course format to a 3k swim, 120k bike and 30k run – the old Nice International distance – which attracted 597 long course individual entrants and 150 long course relay entrants. In addition, they added a Canadian national duathlon with 110 entrants on the Wednesday before the race and a cross triathlon on Friday with 117 entrants. All together, the Challenge Penticton weeklong tri-festival attracted 937 entries.
Along the way, the premier pro category had another stirring race involving first-rate triathletes with some surprising results.
In the men’s race, an aspiring U.S. talent from a legendary family forced Canadian long course star Jeffrey Symonds to struggle hard. After Drew Scott kept within 47 seconds of Symonds on the 3 kilometer swim, Scott out biked his elder by 5 minutes and 40 seconds. On the run, Symonds unleashed a by-far race-best 1:45:00 split that outpaced Scott by 9 minutes 39 seconds. Symonds finished in 5:32:39 with a 4:47 margin of victory over Scott and 8:07 over 3rd-place finisher Jordan Bryden of Canada.
In the women's race, internationally renowned U.S. star Liz Lyles swam a women’s 5th-best 48:57 split that was 5:02 behind swim leader Steph Corker and, critically, 3:45 ahead of home town Penticton favorite Jen Annett. Annett more than made up for her deficit with a by-far women's-best 3:13:42 bike split that was more than 7 minutes better than the next best effort posted by Lyles. Lyles then gave it her best shot, a women's-best 2:00:30 split for the 30km run. But it fell 30 seconds short of catching Annett, who finished in 6:13:49 with a 30 seconds margin of victory.
Not bad for a mom who has been battling gran mal seizures from epilepsy for seven years.
So will Challenge Penticton, with the passionate support of its citizens over the decades, survive? Measured against the prestige and power of Ironman Canada, now held under the auspices of the World Triathlon Corporation in Whistler B.C., Penticton can make a case it is beginning to achieve a reasonable chance. This past year, the Whistler race limited its long course field to approximately 1,400 – about 450 more than the combined entries to Challenge Penticton’s weeklong roster of races.
Penticton, B.C., Canada
August 28, 2016
S 3k / B 120k / R 30k
1. Jeffrey Symonds (CAN) 5:32:39
2. Drew Scott (USA) 5:37:26
3. Jordan Bryden (CAN) 5:40:46
4. Nathan Killam (CAN) 5:44:19
5. Davide Giardini (ITA) 5:47:38
1. Jen Annett (CAN) 6:13:49
2. Elizabeth Lyles (USA) 6:14:19
3. Fawn Whiting (CAN) 6:20:29 *F30-34
4. Karen Thibodeau (CAN) 6:22:53
5. Christen Brown (USA) 6:25:30