Jeff Symonds used a 2:44 marathon to run away from a solid field and win the Ironman Asia Pacific Championship in Melbourne this past weekend. It was an opportune time for a great race as he not only guaranteed himself a spot in Kona, but thanks to excellent coverage by WTC his gutsy performance was viewed and appreciated by triathlon fans around the globe. Symonds has gone from “that Canadian that no one talks about” to “that Canadian that we are going to talk about for a few days before we go back to talking about Lionel Sanders’ crazy training volume”. After he dealt with all the real triathlon journalists Symonds took the opportunity to “sit down” with me earlier this week to discuss his balls.
James Lange: This is the first time I’ve done one of these “e-mail interviews”. Is the idea that I kind of write these questions as if we’re having an actual conversation and then you’ll answer in a way so as to keep up the charade?
Jeff Symonds: Shhhh people aren’t supposed to know that none of us actually talk face to face!
JL: Ok, sweet. Well, let’s get started.
Jeff: Sure thing, thanks for taking the time to talk to me!
JL: Your head bob has received a lot of attention coming out of Melbourne. You’ve obviously embraced that aspect of your running “style”, but was there ever a point when you had the common decency to be ashamed of it?
Jeff: Never! In university I ran a 5000m with my testicles hanging out of my running shorts. I was ashamed of that! In fact it was 12.5 laps of pure shame! I even had a girl look me up on Facebook and send me a personal message that started out “Dear ball sack man…” Having everyone see my head bob is nothing compared to them seeing the boys bob. Although those who saw the race said I gave a real “Ballsy” effort!
JL: When I watch you run I always imagine that when your head is back you’re thinking “I’m dying…I can’t do this…Fuck this race…” and when your head is forward you’re thinking “Ooo fuck yeah bud. Out fer a rip. Just givin ‘er”. Is that accurate?
Jeff: Kind of like head back: “This is the part where I say I don’t wanna…“ and then head down: “I’m stronger than I ever been before. This is the part where I break free”? That would make a good pop song! But really at that point in a race all I’m thinking is “relax, flying, your pace, negative split”. I have heard a ton of theories on why the bob happens but nothing has worked to change it. I do think it’s a subconscious way of dealing with the pain.
JL: You mentioned in another interview that you were talking to guys as you passed them on the run. What were you saying?
Jeff: Words of encouragement mostly. I also managed to line up a Cupcakes with Cal interview during the early stages of the run. I am stoked because he does the best interviews in triathlon!
JL: That sounds nice, but isn’t there some strategy there? I mean, if a guy’s putting in a big effort to hold 4:10 kms and you come roaring up his ass doing 3:30s then slow just enough to chat him up for a few seconds, aren’t you rubbing it in his face? Not only are you faster than him, but you’re also fresh enough to shoot the shit. Surely that has to get into his head a little bit?
Jeff: Nah I am not that kind of guy. I am usually just having a good time and want to keep encouraging these guys as I understand their pain and head space. But even though I was saying positive things to them I am also at the same time saying them to myself! “You’ll catch these guys Brad (…and Jeff).” “Hang in there and stay positive Marko (…and Jeff)” You seem less crazy when you say things out loud to fellow athletes than yourself.
JL: Don’t play dumb with me Jeff…
Jeff: I’m actually a pretty smart guy…I’ve got a Marketing and Commerce degree from the Sauder School of Business at UBC.
JL: You and Melissa Hauschildt [the women’s champ in Melbourne] are both former steeplechasers. Are you willing to accept responsibility for the injury that I am going to suffer this summer when I work the water jump into my track workouts?
Jeff: 100%. Just make sure you catch it on video!
JL: Scenario: You, Lionel Sanders, and Brent McMahon are entered in an iron distance relay for a million dollars, who would do what event?
Jeff: Never heard of those guys. Do you mean Deion Sanders and Vince McMahon? If so, I have myself swimming, “Prime Time” riding and The Wrestlemania guy laying the smack down on the run.
JL: True or False: You coached a spin class just so you could look down girls’ shirts?
Jeff: If that girl was my girlfriend Sophia then true. Here is an old quote from a Pentictonite that came second at an Ironman Canada. “We should start our own spin class for women only, that way we can get paid and meet tons of girls!” There are three of us in town that have come second at Ironman Canada so you’ll never know who said that piece of flawed logic.
JL: As a native of Penticton do you ever feel a little bit dirty calling the race in Whistler “Ironman Canada”?
Jeff: Yes. I need to go take a shower now.
JL: Follow-up Penticton question: have you ever seen Ogopogo?
Jeff: I wish! There is a $2 million prize if you can prove it exists! The Japanese even sent over boats with some high tech sonar equipment. I think it’s the same stuff they used to track Godzilla!
JL: You’ve mentioned that you are a big sports fan. What are your teams?
Jeff: Patriots, Raptors, Canucks and now the Geelong Cats!
JL: The Canucks suck.
Jeff: Maybe so, but they had Bure when I was kid! The Russian Rocket won me over for life!
JL: Before you left for Australia earlier this year your girlfriend told you to come back with either an engagement ring or an Australian accent. Seriously, how hard have you been working on your Australian accent?
Jeff: If you closed your eyes you wouldn’t be able to tell that I wasn’t Australian. It’s really just my pale-ness and lack of sharp fashion sense that gives me away at this point. I even picked up an Australian hat (think crocodile Dundee) so I’m pretty much spot on mate.
JL: Well, that’s all the questions I have for you. Do you have any questions for me?
Jeff: Did you know Mad Max: Escape from Thunderdome isn’t based off a true story and doesn’t actually represent modern day Australia? I didn’t.
Jeff: Do you think Kangaroos are just deer that one day said “Screw it mate, I just want to walk around like a human!”?
JL: Not at all, I’ve never even seen one.
Jeff: Be honest, who did you really want to be your first interview?
JL: Oh man that’s tough, but I gotta go with Kirsten Sweetland.
JL: Right on ” ball sack man”. Thanks for taking the time, and good luck with the rest of your season.
Follow James on twitter @james_lange.