Yesterday, the day started early for the athletes in the Ironman competition. The morning air was chilly – about 52 degrees when they started the 2.4-mile swim in Lake Coeur d’Alene. The bigger challenge was the wind and choppy water as they headed out.
Donna and I followed the morning action online from the comfort of our coach. I was following the split times for two of the athletes – my friend, Allen Hutchinson from Michigan and a woman I met in the RV park. Her name is Angela Smith. She’s a 42-year-old fitness consultant from Oregon. After talking to Angela and her husband on Saturday afternoon, I learned that her goals for the race were much like Allen’s – they both hoped to finish in 11 and a half hours if everything went well.
While I posted to the blog and had another tab open to follow the race, Donna went out on her bike. She rode over to the Prairie Trail. I gave her bad directions and she ended up on a short trail going to Bluegrass Park. She turned around and rode south. At the Centennial Junction, she rode west past Post Falls toward the Idaho/Washington border. Parts of the trail run along the Spokane River. She took a couple of photos of the river along the route.
Meanwhile, out on the race course, Allen completed the swim in just under an hour and 16 minutes. Angela came out of the lake four minutes behind him. Their transition times to the bicycle were similar, so Allen had a four-minute lead. I wanted to go down to the course for the bicycle race and was waiting for Donna to return.
At the second split, Angela cut into Allen’s lead and was trailing by two minutes. Allen opened the gap again after that and led by five minutes. They weren’t really racing each other – it was just me comparing their times. Allen is in the men’s 40-44 age category while Angela races in the women’s 40-44 group.
As Donna rode back on the Centennial Trail, she met up with a couple from Washington riding on the trail. She rode with them and talked for awhile about RV life – they just purchased an Airstream and plan to retire in a few years. Donna missed the Prairie Trail turn and ended up downtown at the Ironman course. She called me on her cell phone and told me she was at the course on 4th Street.
I jumped on my mountain bike and rode down 4th Street to the course. I was bucking a headwind all the way down. I could only imagine how tough the race must be, climbing into the wind on the west side of the lake.
I found Donna and we watched the competitors. Apparently, we had just missed seeing Allen on the the bike course and it would be a couple of hours before we would see him head out on the run course. We rode up the street and stopped for lunch at a bar/cafe I had noticed on my way down. We dined at a table outside on the sidewalk.
I received a text message from Allen’s wife, Crystal, telling us she was in front of the Visitor Center with her daughters. We rode over to the Visitor Center and found them. Riding along the race course was difficult. We had to thread our way through the crowd. At some points, we had no choice but to get off our bikes and walk.
The split times showed Allen reaching the run transition area about six minutes ahead of Angela. He was on the bike for six hours and four minutes, averaging 18.4 miles per hour over 112 tough miles.
We saw Allen approach as he started the 26.2-mile marathon run. We cheered and he high-fived Donna and Crystal as he ran past us.
I looked for Angela to run past. Later, I found out she was in and out of the run transition quicker than Allen and wasn’t six minutes behind him. She was only about three minutes behind and I missed seeing the start of her run.
Donna and I rode home on the Prairie Trail. We showered and took care of a few things. I continued to monitor the split times. At the second split of the run, Allen had opened up a 10-minute gap on Angela.
It started raining. We sat inside the coach and debated whether we should take a taxi downtown for the race finish or wait to see if the rain would pass. I checked the race progress and saw we had plenty of time. The rain moved on after 20 minutes or so. We ate leftover lentil and sausage stew before riding back downtown on the scooter.
Before we left, I checked the split times again. At the 19.8-mile mark, Allen’s lead over Angela had evaporated. It was an interesting way to follow the race. When I saw Allen’s speed drop on the bike through a sector, Angela’s speed did likewise. I could imagine the hill they were climbing. Angela had overtaken Allen during the run and now was three minutes in front of him.
Parking the scooter downtown was easy. We walked down near the finish area on Sherman. I sent a text to Crystal to find out where they were. The were standing 50 feet away from us!
We cheered the competitors as they passed. Some were obviously happy, savoring the moment as the end was in sight. Others were clearly struggling, concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other to reach the finish line. A few kicked it into high gear and sprinted to the finish!
After awhile, I saw Angela run past. Her total time at the finish was 12:17. A short while later, Allen came by and finished in 12:31.
We walked past the finish line to the area where the athletes are given refreshments and space blankets to ward off the chill. While we waited for Allen, I saw Angela and congratulated her.
While we were looking for Allen, I overheard one of the professional triathletes comment on how tough the day was. He said it was the toughest conditions he’d ever faced in Coeur d’Alene. The choppy water, cold temperatures and high winds all took a toll. It made the run brutal, as so much energy had already been spent.
We finally found Allen. It was remarkable how normal he looked. You wouldn’t think he just completed a twelve and a half hour event that pushed him to the limit. We congratulated him and talked briefly. I didn’t want to hold him up for too long. I’m sure he has a post-race routine he follows.
We came home and I watched the Moto GP race in Assen that I had recorded. Later, we watched another episode of The Americans.
This morning I heard that 20% of the entrants (about 500 people) failed to finish in the 17-hour time limit.
Today, we have blue skies and a warm weather forecast. Summery weather is forecast for the coming week. Hooray!