In front of a massive crowd, the 2,000 Ironman Canada athletes began their 226.3 km race in the warm waters of Okanagan Lake Sunday morning.
The 3.8 kilometres swim took them to the SS Sicamous and back and in fast pace they were out of their wet suits and onto the bikes for a the challenging 180 kilometres bike, a one-loop course that climbs up Richter Pass and Yellow Lake before taking a winding descent down White Lake Rd. back into Penticton.
Athletes are expected to dismount and begin their run around 11:30 p.m.
Hometown hero and Ironman professional Jeff Symonds is one to watch as he fulfills a childhood dream to come through the finish line in the city he grew up in.
“Even though there is no professional race this year, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to finally get ugly here! With no prize money, it might not be the best financial decision, but I grew up watching this race since I was four years old and watching locals compete is what inspired me to get into this crazy sport,” said Symonds on his Instagram account.
“It is important for me to be a role model and give youngsters in this town the same inspiration that I had growing up.”
Ron Zalko brought Ironman to Penticton, in 1983 for the love of the sport, the triathletes, and Canada, he said. He couldn’t make it to Penticton this weekend but sent his best wishes to all the athletes on the course.
Ironman Penticton is a 3.8 km swim, 180 km bike, and 42 km run through Penticton and surrounding areas.
This year will feature a new run course that is flat and fast, passing local vineyards and orchards along the KVR Trail in Naramata. At the end of the 226.3 km journey, athletes will make their way to the historic finish line on Lakeshore Drive with the first finisher expected around 3 p.m.
“There is nothing more inspirational than watching the athletes cross the finish line and hearing their stories,” said Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki.
The Ironman experience has been going all weekend long with the Kids Ironman being a huge success with over 400 kids racing on Saturday in front of massive crowds including Ironman professionals who cheered them through the finish line.