Champness sixth at Challenge

Vernon's Nathan Champness ranks sixth overall at Challenge Triathlon Sunday in Penticton.

A fatigued

A fatigued

Vernon’s Nathan Champness doesn’t want to see a pair of running shoes any time soon, let alone strap some on his aching feet.

At least not until he is fully recovered from his sixth-place showing at the inaugural Challenge Family Triathlon Sunday in Penticton.

Making his pro debut, the 29-year-old finished the 3.8-kilometre swim, 180-km cycle and 42.2-km run in nine hours, 10 minutes and 54 seconds.

Penticton’s Jeff Symonds clocked an 8:29:57 for first overall, followed by American Scott DeFillipis (8:44:48) and Kiwi Jamie Whyte (8:56:08).

“Oh my goodness, I was hoping for top-10,” said Champness, who pocketed $2,500 for his effort. “There were a lot of good pros there.”

Champness thought he had dropped out of contention on the swim, when in fact he was 12th out of the water in a field of 16 pros.

“Because of the chop you couldn’t see anybody near you,” he said. “I could see the spray of the front group getting farther and farther away.”

And then once he got on his bike, his spare kit fell off and his spare tube ended up dangling in his brakes, causing him to dismount and reorganize. Despite the setback, he ended up posting the second-fastest bike split on the day (4:50:46), second only to Symonds (4:43:26), who actually crashed his bike.

“I just started mowing people down,” said Champness. “I’m fairly sure of myself on the bike and I know I can hang on and grit it out on the run.

“To find that wherewithal within yourself, it’s very empowering.”

Halfway through the bike race, Champness and seventh-place finisher Chris Bagg began a back-and-forth duel, which lasted until Champness dropped the American on the run.

“Twitter called it a bar fight,” smiled Champness, who got a much-needed caffeine/sugar boost from drinking Coca-Cola at aid stations. “It was awesome. I had a steady pace but he was tough.”

Champness, who carries sponsorship from The Starting Block/Saucony, Breakaway Fitness and Olympia Cycle, doesn’t plan to enter any other Ironman-distance races this season. He just wants to recover and get back into training mode.

“I’m going to take a good hard look at everything. I’ll emerge from some hole somewhere come May. I’m in no hurry to get smacked down by being over-eager.”

North Okanagan triathletes earning top-five age-group finishes at Challenge include Alanna Simms (11:35:37), who was fourth in the women’s 35-39 division, and Gerry Naito (12:58:45), who was fifth in the men’s 55-59.

Meanwhile, Vernon’s Trevor Wurtele continued his stellar triathlon season by winning Subaru Ironman Canada, which moved from Penticton to Whistler this year.

The 34-year-old finished in 8:39:33, nearly six minutes ahead of Scottsdale, Ariz.’s Matthew Russell.