Our Ironman Coeur d’Alene day started with a 3:30 am alarm clock. Good thing we were used to central time (as it was 5:30 am CST)…it made getting up much easier!! After a quick shower and breakfast, we headed out the door with two athletes that were staying at our Idahome B&B with us, Jeannete and Sonia. We were giving them a ride down to the start of the race. The four of us loaded the car and were ready to head off. Before we left, we decided to go through a checklist to make sure both athletes had everything they would need for the day…timing chip…check…race nutrition for the bike…check…race nutrition for the run…check…wetsuit…OMG…Sonia did not have her wetsuit!! Goggles…check…swim cap…check. Good thing we went through the checklist!!
After we dropped off both athletes, we found a place to park, loaded ourselves up with everything we would need for the day, donned our bike helmets and bikes and headed off to Lake Coeur d’Alene to the transition area. I checked into the women’s change tent and then went to find our Zoom Performance teammate, Christine, who was competing in her first Ironman.
We all headed toward the water’s edge for the swim start. It was a lot of fun to see the professionals start their day at 6:25 am for their first loop of the swim course. Starting 35 minutes before the age group athletes would allow most of them to start their 2nd lap before the age groupers would enter the water for their first loop. At 6:59 am the gun went off and all of the age group athletes began their game of rugby in the water. That is my analogy for the swim start of an Ironman competition since there is a lot of hitting, kicking and rough waters as you try to get your space in the water. There were 2600 participants all entering the water at the same time…it was so AWESOME to see!!
An Ironman consists of 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of cycling and 26.2 miles of running. The age group athletes begin their day at 6:59 am and they have until 9:20 to swim the 2.4 miles or they can’t continue. They have until 5:30 pm to bike the 112 miles or they can’t proceed, and they have until midnight to run 26.2 miles or they don’t get an official finish time, medal, finisher’s shirt, etc. There are a few other checkpoints along the bike and run courses, but these vary depending on the race.
After watching the swim for a couple of minutes, I headed off to the transition area where I began my volunteer shift in the women’s change tent. I have volunteered in the women’s change tent at Ironman Wisconsin, so I knew what I was getting into…so I thought…
First the professional women started to come through, followed by the women age groupers. At about 8:15 am, the chaos I was used to began…lots of women all coming into transition to change at the same time and not enough volunteers to help…this was nothing unusual…you just help as many athletes at once as you can and know that you have done the best that you can. The part that I wasn’t anticipating was how cold the women would be after getting out of the water. Those water temps were 59 degrees…the women were shaking uncontrollably, had little dexterity in their hands and were FREEZING!! When Christine came into T1 (the transition from the swim to the bike), she yelled my name very loudly so I could go help her do a complete change before sending her out on the bike. I was so excited to get the opportunity to help my teammate!!
When I was trained in Wisconsin to volunteer in the women’s change tent, we were trained to do the following:
1. Be very excited for EVERY athlete coming into transition.
2. Ask the athletes if you can carry their bag and help them change.
3. Ask the athletes if you can dump their bag and then put all of their gear from the previous leg (in this case the swim) into their transition bag.
4. Help the athlete change and get them out the door as soon as possible (when the women come out of the water and are wet, it is VERY DIFFICULT for them to get their sports bra and tops on, so they often need help with this).
5. Think for the athlete, as they are often times too delirious and overwhelmed to think for themselves.
We were not trained to do any of this in the women’s change tent by our volunteer captain at IM CDA. As a result, many of the volunteers sat around waiting for the athletes to ask for help instead of being excited, proactive and offering to help the athletes. I was very disappointed in the volunteers in the women’s change tent at IM CDA.
After T1, I went out on the bike course to spectate. It was fun to see the athletes come through the first loop on the bike course and begin their second loop. There was one athlete who got a flat tire near us on the bike and had NO idea what he was doing to change it. Thanks to Coach Julie, I have had lots of practice changing flat tires (even if they weren’t really flat) and was able to help him. After the staple was removed from the tire and the tube was replaced and inflated, I asked him if he had another tube and CO2 cartridge in his bike special needs bag that he could take with him just incase it happened again…he did not, so I took my spare bike tube and CO2 cartridge out of my bike bag and put it in his bike bag before sending him on his way.
After seeing Christine go by on the bike, we relocated to a spot down the road where we could see her again before she headed back out of town for her second loop on the bike.
As she left town, I went back into transition to the women’s change tent to help the women in T2 (the transition from the bike to the run). I was able to help a few women that I had helped earlier in the day (coming out of the water) as well as women I didn’t get the opportunity to previously help. I helped a deaf women change…that was a challenge since she was signing to me and I couldn’t understand sign language, so we mostly communicated through lip reading. I also had a woman come through transition with a ripped bib number (all athletes need their bib number when crossing the finish line), so I bit a hole in her sweaty, ripped bib number to create a hole to thread her race belt through…yes I know…someone else’s sweaty bib in my mouth…these are the things you do for your fellow athletes to help them become an Ironman!!
Eventually Jeannete came into T2 and I helped get her changed and out the door…she looked GREAT and was in GREAT spirits!! With about 30 minutes left on the bike before the time cutoff, Christine came into T2. I was so excited to see her!! I again helped her change and sent her out on the run. She also looked GREAT and was in GREAT spirits!! I was so happy both my girls were feeling so well!!
I quickly gathered up my things and left transition to go cheer Christine on out on the run course. I spent much of my time in more desolate areas where there were few spectators and I was able to cheer on a lot of athletes at some of their lowest points. Many of the athletes were thankful that I was out there cheering for them, some athletes were completely out of it and didn’t acknowledge me, while others were just pushing through to finish and go to the med tent.
At 11:23 pm, Christine crossed the finish line and became and Ironman for the first time!! I was so happy to get to support her (and all of the other participants) in any way that I could to become an Ironman!! Congratulations to all of you…YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!
After getting back to the B&B just before 1 am (it was a 22 hour day for us…boy was I EXHAUSTED), I decided which Ironman event I am going to participate in…Ironman Wisconsin in 2013. I love the volunteers, course, atmosphere and water temps at IMWI!! It is time to slay the dragon!!