Vernon's Nathan Champness races towards the finish line of the Pushor Mitchell Apple Triathlon Sunday in Kelowna.

Vernon's Nathan Champness races towards the finish line of the Pushor Mitchell Apple Triathlon Sunday in Kelowna.

Champness up for Penticton Challenge

Vernon's Nathan Champness caps amateur career with Kelowna Apple Triathlon win.

Vernon’s Nathan Champness capped his amateur triathlon career in style, winning the 31st annual Pushor Mitchell Apple Triathlon Sunday in Kelowna.

Champness completed the Olympic-distance event (1.5-km swim, 40-km bike ride and 10-km run) in one hour, 59 minutes and 39 seconds. It was his first win in five attempts. He was runner-up last year, and third in 2011.

The Apple also serves as Triathlon B.C.’s provincial age-group championships, which awards one spot in each age group for each gender at the 2014 World Championships in Edmonton.

Victoria’s Carlos Lesser was second in 2:00:49, while Ryan Smiley of Vancouver was third in 2:02:39.

“My swim was a little on the slow side,” Champness told The Morning Star. “I dropped four minutes on the second-place guy. I had to spend my entire bike erasing a deficit.”

By the time he hit the run course, Champness had a narrow half-minute lead on Lesser. Apparently, that wasn’t enough.

“I thought he would outrun me, so I basically took the first 2km at an all-out sprint,” said Champness. “I just threw caution to the wind and any sense of pacing.

“You wake up at 5km and go ‘Hey, I’m still here and in one piece.’

“It was a fun race that way, just chasing all the guys down on the bike and then hanging on for dear life. I haven’t enjoyed the thrill of racing that much in a long time.”

Earlier this season, Champness won both the Desert Half Iron and the Kal RATS Sprint. His half iron time (4:18:34) earned him a pro entry in Sunday’s Challenge Family Triathlon (formerly Ironman Canada) in Penticton.

Champness, who is sponsored by The Starting Block/Saucony and Olympia Cycle, is a rare breed of athlete, one that thrives as much on the training  as he does on race day. On top of holding down two jobs – he works at The Starting Block and GNC Nutrition – he is logging around 30 hours a week training.

Aside from swimming guidance from Laura Medcalf and former Ironman Canada winner Mel Spooner, he trains without a coach.

“They’re (training and racing) two distinct situations,” said Champness. “With that fun objective of planning for the training, you get to be a scientist of some sort, and then you just get to let it fly on race day. That’s when the emotion comes out.

“I live for that. Just figuring out how to tune the machine to be a better human being just fascinates me.”

Sunday will be Champness’ first crack at the Ironman distance (3.86-km swim, 180-km bike, 42.2-km run). Physically, he knows he is ready. Mentally, there are several questions he intends to answer.

“Pacing, nutrition and stubbornness play quite a role,” he said. “Fitness-wise I have potential to do an excellent time, but if it was just about fitness there wouldn’t be such allure to the event.

“If I race Olympic distance for the thrill of the chase, the Challenge distance is all about discovery. It’s where you go to learn about yourself.”

Other North Okanagan athletes posting top-five age-group results at the Apple include:

Peter Byrnes (fifth, men’s 45-49, 2:17:22), Erica Moser-Reschreiter (fourth, women’s 40-44, 2:28:05), Paul Filippi (third, men’s 60-64, 2:40:50), Cheri Stewart (fifth, women’s 50-54, 2:58:19), Linda Proce (second, women’s 55-59, 3:04:58).