Pro triathlete Nathan Champness of Vernon raises a finger skyward as he prepares to cross the finish line to take sixth place in the second annual Valley First Challenge Penticton race Sunday. He finished the course in a time of eight hours

Pro triathlete Nathan Champness of Vernon raises a finger skyward as he prepares to cross the finish line to take sixth place in the second annual Valley First Challenge Penticton race Sunday. He finished the course in a time of eight hours

Champness conquers nine-hour mark

Nathan Champness, in his words, “blew to smithereens” on the run portion of the Valley First Challenge Penticton triathlon Sunday.

Nathan Champness, in his words, “blew to smithereens” on the run portion of the Valley First Challenge Penticton triathlon Sunday.

Despite the blow-up, the Vernon triathlete placed sixth overall in a field of 293 at the second annual Penticton triathlon, the same placing as in 2013, but 10 minutes faster.

Champness covered the full distance 3.8-km swim, 180-km bike ride and 21.1-km run in a total time of eight hours, 59 minutes 31 seconds.

“I’m very happy with the result,” said Champness, 30. “I still took 10 minutes off my personal best time and broke the nine-hour barrier by 30 seconds.”

Champness was more than a half-hour back of the repeat winner, Jeff Symonds of Penticton, who crossed the line in 8:26:58.

Buoyed by the surprise appearance of his father, Mick, who hasn’t been able to attend his son’s races for two years due to work commitments, Champness had a great swim, then exploded on the bike, posting the fastest time of the day in the discipline.

He covered the 180 kms in 4:38:01, then paid for the bike energy boost on the run.

“It was three-plus hours of paying the bill,” said Champness, who collapsed into his girlfriend Tara’s arms after crossing the finish line, and had to be placed in a wheelchair.

“I was hurting by the 15 km mark. At one point, I was going up a hill with both of my arms and lower jaw going numb. If you put too much energy on the bike, eventually on the run it hits you like a sledgehammer. I held nothing back on the bike course and had to deal with severe depletion on the run. You can’t put enough food back in your body to deal with the energy losses.”

Champness was hoping to break the nine-hour benchmark a year after making his Challenge debut.

“To go through what I went through on Sunday’s marathon is huge, significant experience,” he said. “To mentally pull yourself out of a hole like I was in, it’s probably the proudest I’ve been in any of my races.”

Three other North Okanagan athletes competed in the full distance event.

Angie Macdougall of Coldstream was fourth in her age category, 144th overall and the 33rd woman across the line in 14:09:40.

Vernon’s Shanda Hill, competing in her first-ever full-distance triathlon, was 12th in her age group, 146th overall and was just behind Macdougall as the 34th woman to finish, doing so in a time of 14:11:59. Hill felt so good Monday after the race she was busy laying sod.

“It was an amazing experience and I’d do it again tomorrow,” said Hill, who ended her debut race with a 200-metre sprint to the finish line. “I had a good swim and a good bike, but had some troubles on the run. I had some amazing running friends out on the course with me.”

Dale McAllister of Vernon was the 93rd man across the finish line in a time of 13:30.14. He was 116th overall and 16th in his age group.

The Vernon team calling themselves Fast In The Past placed 22nd out of 105 in the full-distance team relay event. The trio covered the course in 11:48:13.

One Coldstream squad – Best Team Ever! – competed in the half-distance team relay (1.9-km swim, 90-km bike ride and 21.1-km run), and placed 49th out of 56 entries in 7:38.20.

Two Vernon athletes cracked the top-five in their age categories in the half-distance race which featured 415 participants.

Tara Ivanitz was third (68th overall) in 5:33:42, while Jennifer Jakobi (54th overall) was fourth in 5:25:48.

Other Vernon-Coldstream half-distance race results include (overall finish-age group finish):

Todd Benson (32-15), 5:09:12; Blair MacKeigan (34-16), 5:11:54; Craig Johnson (40-17), 5:18:29; Chris Spooner (66-24), 5:27:01; Jade Kersey (89-35), 5:43:05; Carol Winn (128-12), 6:02:02; Gerry Naito (140-18), 6:10:29; Danny Kermode (153-49), 6:15:11; Nicole Heffner (170-22), 6:23:06; Myra Mattila (179-11), 6:26:15; Bob Annand (192-28), 6:31:20; Michael Wray (215-55), 6:41:04; Gayle Wilson (320-31), 8:03:51; Randy Wilson (321-42), 8:03:51.

Coldstream’s Jay Hack and a number of other North Okanagan triathletes were members of relay teams that competed Sunday.