Thanks for joining us Steve. It’s hard to imagine, but 2022 will mark the Peach Classic Triathlon’s 38th year on the race calendar. Could you introduce the event for those who aren’t familiar with it?
Steve Brown (SB): Thanks for giving me the opportunity to talk with you about the Peach Classic Triathlon. The event started in 1982, so this is the 40th year that the event has been around. When it first started, it was originally called the Beach Classic. At the time, there was no Triathlon BC, nor such things as a standard or sprint distance. The event distances were simply whatever worked out in terms of the terrain and local amenities. The Swim was from the SS Sicamous to the Peach Concession, approximately 1 KM. No wetsuits – as no one even thought about using them! The bike was close to 30km, and the run about 12km. The event went through a few changes over the years, but the current course has been in use for about 10 years or so.
Triathlon BC (TBC): When the Peach Classic Triathlon started back in 1984, what lead to the creation of the event, and did you envision being in the Race Director’s seat 38 years on?
SB: The race was started by Lynn Van Dove (formerly Ert) along with a group of locals including Steve King, members of the Penticton Pounders, the local running club, and others with an interest in this new sport. The first few years I was just a spectator, and it wasn’t until I got injured playing soccer that I fell into the sport as part of my rehab. I did the Beach Triathlon and loved it. I stopped playing soccer and took up triathlon at age 34 with the goal of doing an Ironman one day, but first, I had to learn how to swim (my first mile swim was 54 minutes, my last Ironman swim was 1 hr and 3 minutes, so I did learn something!).
Racing led me to volunteering, which led me to the board of Ironman Canada, where I could use my accounting background which led to all kinds of adventures until one day, I was a race director! I left the short course and Ironman scene for a few years, and ended up establishing Ultraman Canada in 1993 (10 K Swim; 421 K Bike, 84 K Run over 3 days) and then started my own brand in 2014 Ultra 520K Canada. I came back to the Peach and short course racing in 2015 when the Peach Classic Society approached me and Jeff Plant (Penticton Granfondo RD) to see if we wanted to buy the Peach and keep it going – we said Yes!
TBC: With so many successful years of hosting under your belt, what would you say are the necessary skills a Race Director must have?
SB: Probably the first thing you need is a bunch of good friends willing to work hard and take some pride in what they do. Having organizing skills, a “can do” attitude, and not willing to just accept “No” as an answer. You also need to be flexible and willing to learn and improve. You don’t know everything, so you need to get the folks that know the things you don’t. The other thing I try to do is allow volunteers to make decisions. If you try to solve all their problems, then you get overwhelmed. Ask them what they would do. They probably have a better answer than what you thought. Empower your people so they take an interest and become invested, your event will improve.
TBC: How, if at all, has the event and the sport changed over the past 3+ decades of hosting?
SB: Equipment, training, rules, standards, coaches, everything about the sport has changed from that aspect. While many of these things have brought about positive changes to make the sport , and has made it more “professional” on many levels, including acceptance into the Olympics, it has also taken some of the fun out of it.
There are very few characters left in sport, no cut off jeans, riding and running barefoot, riding cruiser bikes wearing a shirt and tie. Now it is all business and decorum: wetsuits, aerobars, disk wheels, Garmin’s, heartrate monitors, breathable fabrics, clipless shoes, and pedal systems. No more grabbing your old 3 speed (5 or 10 speed if you were rich) with a basket on the front out of the garage just so you can participate.
Having said that, I do enjoy watching the top athletes’ race – great athletic performance in any sport is captivating. It is also great that triathlon is one of the few sports where the ordinary athlete can still line up against the best and have the excitement of competing against them!
TBC: You have probably seen many highs and lows over the years. Is there a particular year that stands out as being incredibly successful, challenging or otherwise particularly memorable?
SB: We have been lucky at the Peach over the years, avoiding any major disasters in and around the event. The biggest challenge was COVID and dealing with the cancellation in 2020 due to the pandemic and public health orders. With so many restrictions and constant changes to hosting events, everything was out of our control. That was incredibly challenging – perhaps the most challenging in 35 plus years of hosting events!
The good years were many, with a lot of great performances by many great athletes – It is always a good year when your top athletes are also locals. We have had the privilege of being home to some very good Pros – Tom Evans, Jeff Symonds, and Jen Annett to name a few, and some that people didn’t know lived and trained here – Angela Naith! British Columbia has had many good pros and it was always a pleasure to host them in Penticton. Joanne Richie from Kelowna raced here when she was World Champion! It was a thrill to have someone of that calibre race here in Penticton.
TBC: This year, the Peach Classic celebrates the return from COVID with the BC Standard Distance Championships, as well offering Age Group athletes the ability to qualify for the 2023 World Championships (Standard distance), what caliber of athlete are you expecting, newby first timers, or elite racers? Is the Peach elite oriented, or does it embrace every athlete?
SB: We have always welcomed everyone to the Peach. We don’t a Pro or Elite Division. We’re happy to welcome everyone. We have included for the first time this year a non-Binary division. With the changes and acceptance within our society, we believe it is important to do our part to welcome everyone and give people the opportunity to compete as who they are. We believe the Peach should be reflecting our society. We just want people to race in a fair environment, do their best and have fun. If it wasn’t fun, then we take that personally because we must have done something wrong.
TBC: For an athlete that has never raced the Peach Classic, what is the secret to having a successful race day?
Race within yourself. Stay calm and don’t get caught up in someone else’s hype. This is a hilly course, so my advice to race within yourself. Don’t blow yourself up on the bike, Vancouver Hill is not the only hill you will deal with. Naramata road is what we call undulating (classy word for hilly) and be aware coming back into town and down Vancouver Hill to the finish! The run can be a gut buster as well.
TBC: You’re 71 this year. What’s on the horizon for you?
I keep saying retirement and traveling. However, the restrictions associated with COVID had other plans for me! Now I have a job as the Acting Executive Director for the Downtown Penticton Business Improvement Association. It is supposed to be 60% but is more like full time! I am still organizing the Ultra520K and I help Jeff Plant with the Granfondo as his site manager.
I now have 4 grandsons. I started the year with 2 and then my eldest daughter had identical twin boys 4 months. I try to help my girls as much as possible as I love being with the kids. On top of that my wife,
Maria, still has her honey do list – you would think after all that time I’d have finished the list by now – apparently not!
The Peach Classic takes place out of Penticton on July 17th, and hosts the Provincial Standard Distance Championships AND is a World Championship Qualifier! Hit the link today to register.