Road Trip to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
Posted June 28, 2005 10:22 PM
The Road Trip to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, started on Friday, June 24th. Debi Wood and I drove to the States to spectate at John Fyfe's first Ironman race. I have been coaching John since last fall to prepare him for his big day. John has many 3 hour long power hikes, 7 hour long rides, triple Elk Lake run loops, and triple swim loops at Thetis Lake under his belt.
Debi and I caught the first ferry to Vancouver at 7am and began the long drive to Idaho through Washington State. We had arranged to stay in a private house which was, supposedly, within walking distance of the race site -- first big lie! We arrived at about 5:30pm, to find that the promised bedroom "with double bed" was actually a tiny room with a double futon which was really too small for two people (unless you were married and really skinny!) David, our host, then offered to make up a bed for Debi in an adjoining room with no doors -- it turned out to be their massage table! Sheets were hung from the door openings to provide a little privacy. We off loaded all the gear from the car and headed downtown in time to catch most of the speeches and videos at the carbo load dinner. Afterwards we connected with John and wandered around the race site and along the lakefront. Coeur d'Alene is a gorgeous, well-kept jewel of a town set on a lovely lake. The next morning Debi and I cycled one loop of the bike course and got a good appreciation for what the athletes would encounter the next day. A challenging ride with lots of hills and some very technical downhills. You need to have good bike handling skills at this race. Part of the course heads into Greyhound Park, and the athletes actually cycle on the dirt greyhound race track (now paved over) from years ago. That's definitely a unique experience! After our cycle we headed downtown and connected with John and his family. One last opportunity for words of encouragement!
Race morning dawned clear, calm and warm -- perfect race conditions. We headed down to watch some of the body marking at 5:30am and before we knew it the athletes were being ushered down to the lakefront in preparation for the start of the race at 7am. The swim course is 2 loops with the athletes exiting the water after the first loop, running along the beach for about 150 feet, and then running back in to swim another loop. Very exciting for the spectators. The saddest thing we saw was one woman who hung back from the crowd and entered the water at the tail end. She was obviously having a major panic attack that she could just not control. She could not make herself start swimming, despite encouraging words called to her from family and from the crowd around. She eventually walked back towards the beach -- her day was done before it even started.
John had a great swim and headed into transition to change for the bike ride. With the two loops of the bike course the cyclists head first out of town in one direction to do a short "out and back" and then return through town to head out on the main portion of the ride. They do this twice so there are four opportunities to see the athletes. Same with the 2 loop run course. The athletes head out of town and come back down the same street, before heading out of town again and returning down another street to the finish. Debi and I staked out our spot on the sidewalk, plonked down our two foldable chairs, and had a great time watching the show. Every time we saw John his beaming smile preceded him. He was having an awesome race -- totally sticking to the game plan of being conservative and not pushing the bike ride. His nutrition and hydration worked out perfectly and his energy level stayed high throughout. He ran the entire marathon which not many people accomplish. I had a chance to run a few blocks with John as he was heading out on his final loop of the run, and I was just so thrilled at his enthusiasm. He was having a blast! Debi and I then headed down to the finish line grandstands to wait for the big moment -- John running down the finish chute to cross the line and become an Ironman! The culmination of a year-long dream.
Debi and I stayed until midnight to watch the final official finishers cross the line. Just a few minutes before the cutoff a blind athlete (one of 5 in the race), and her sighted partner, crossed the line. Talk about an inspiration...
The next day it was time to head home. We awoke to pouring rain and couldn't believe the change in weather from the glorious, sunny day and balmy evening less than 24 hours beforehand. The weather gods were certainly watching over the race this year!