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Local athletes survive, flourish in Ironman

Sandkuhl, Palm win categories, qualify for world championships



The conditions were near perfect for this year’s Ironman Canada race in Penticton – cool and dry with almost no wind – as a record turnout of 2,166 athletes took to the water last Sunday morning.

It would be dark again before many of them would get to the finish line, following a 2.4 mile/3.86 kilometre swim, a 112 mile/180.2 km bike and a 26.2 mile/42.2 km run. But an amazing 2,058 of the participants managed to finish the race this year.

The people of Penticton were thrilled to see one of their own, Tom Evans of Naramata, claim the pro men’s title this year with his time of eight hours, 28 minutes and six seconds. This was the first time in the event’s 22-year history that it was won by a local athlete.

Evans posted the fastest time in the swim and the run, building up a lead of almost 15 minutes in the first two events before his main competition, Gordo Byrn of New Zealand, turned up the heat in the run. Over the course of the marathon, which Evans completed with the seventh fastest time of 3 hours, 11 seconds, Byrn managed to close the gap to just under two minutes with a leading run time of 2:46:09.

Lisa Bentley of Caledon, Ontario defended the women’s title with the top swim, the second-fastest bike and the top run of the day, crossing the line in 9:16:02. Her closest competitor, Joanna Zeiger, was almost 13 minutes behind at the finish line.

Among the local competitors, Paul Nicholas of Whistler posted the top time of 10:44:41 to finish 186 th overall and 42 nd in the men’s 35 to 39 age group. He made the swim in 1:05:45, the bike in 5:33:35 and the run in 3:59:46, and spent just 7:22 in the transitions.

Greg Sandkuhl, competing in his first Ironman, blew the competition away in the 55 to 59 age category to finish first out of 64 competitors with a time of 11:01:08, qualifying for a spot in the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii.

Sandkuhl, who turns 60 this year, was 3:37 ahead of the next competitor in his category, placing first in the swim, fourth on the bike and third in the marathon. In addition, in both the swim and the run he was 272 nd overall.

Marla Zucht had an incredible first Ironman. She hoped to break the 12 hour mark, and succeeded by almost 40 minutes to finish 11 th out of 144 women in the 30 to 34 age category with a time of 11:21:28. In her age group she was 73 rd out of the water, ninth on the bike and 14 th in the run.

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