Sunday, August 28, 2016

Ironman Coeur d'Alene-Spectator Viewpoint

Joe shared his side of Ironman Coeur d'Alene, the really hard side for sure.  Now it's my turn.  :-)

We headed out to Coeur d'Alene on Thursday morning.  There was lots of last minute things to pick up and lists to double check before we left.  Finally we are to the point where we know we have the important, hard to replace things and anything we forgot we can probably pick up when we get there.
Ironman #3 here we come!!
It's a long drive from our house to Coeur d'Alene, between seven and eight hours.  That is a long time in the car no matter what the trip is.  But I actually like road trips with Joe.  We talk a lot about random things.  Sing along to the radio or my iTunes.  Laugh about stories we tell each other.  It's actually fun to just hang out together without too many distractions.

We stopped in Hood River for a stretch break and to see if we could find some arm coolers for Joe.  He was thinking they would be good for race day because it was looking to be hot.  We asked at a bike rental shop and they directed us to a place that hooked us up.  Win!

We made it to Coeur d'Alene with plenty of time to head straight to packet pick up.  This is not like packet pick up at a normal race.  At a normal race there is just a table where you can walk up and pick up your packet.  At Ironman there is a large white tent that only athletes are allowed into.  They go in and get a bracelet put on that indicates they are a participant.  They also don't just get a packet, they get a really cool Ironman backpack with their participant shirt and all their other gear in it.  Pretty cool.

While Joe was going through the athlete tent I was shopping in the Ironman store.  It's always fun to look at all the cool workout gear and t-shirts and things they sell.
I liked this shirt but didn't want to spend $40 for it.  lol
It wasn't long before Joe was done.  Conveniently the athlete tent dumps out right at the entrance to the Ironman store.  :-)  We purchased some visors and a few small things and headed to a food cart near the hotel that had really great sandwiches.  We got one to go so we could just eat in the hotel room once we were checked in.

With all the gear needed for the triathlon, the cooler, our suitcases and the bikes it took a bit to get all our stuff into the room.  I had brought my bike along so I could either hang with Joe or do my own thing if it worked easy.  Once we got everything in the room we had our dinner and then spent the rest of the evening just hanging out.

Friday morning we got up and worked our way to Lake Coeur d'Alene.  Joe needed a short swim, short bike and a short run.  I was going to tag along the best I could.  I hadn't brought my wetsuit along and Joe didn't want to bother with his for a shorter swim so we worked our way into the water.  It was a bit chilly to start with but once we were all the way in it was really nice.  We both took off.  I figured that whenever Joe turned around and passed me I would turn around too.  Worked out pretty well.  The lake was pretty calm that morning and there wasn't a lot of wake.  The water was really clear as well so it was easy to see the bottom of the lake.
So beautiful!
When we were done with the swim we put on our bike clothes over our swim clothes and got ready to do a 30 minute ride.  The ride was on a paved trail that went around the lake.  It's a really pretty area. It was a treat for me to be able to ride with Joe and I kept up without too much difficulty.  Of course he wasn't trying to go fast but still.  There was even one point when we were heading back that an Asian gentleman was taken a selfie while riding his bike.  Joe rode up behind him and smiled and flashed the peace sign.  lol  I hope it turned out!
Getting ready to ride.
We got back to the car and got ready for a 15 minute run.  I didn't try to keep up with him but just enjoyed trotting along the lake and people watching as I went.  By this time people were showing up to enjoy a day playing in the water.  It's fun to watch people hanging out and playing.

I LOVED being able to do this workout with Joe.  While I'm not as fast as he is we still were together.  A few years ago I would have been sitting on the shore of the lake with a book or hanging out in the car waiting for him to finish.  This time I was with him.  This was a big bonus to all the work I have done the past year.  It's hard to explain but it made me feel really great to be with him, more of a participant in his experience instead of just a bystander.

We headed back to the Ironman area.  Joe wanted to listen to the briefing and see if there was any information that he might need to know that was new or different.  We also walked around the different booths.  They had everything from nutrition and clothes to $8,000 bikes.  We ended up going into the Zoot booth.  They had wetsuits there and they were half off.  I decided to try on the largest women's size they had.  The wetsuit I have is a men's suit and it is baggy in the elbows and knees which causes bubbling when I swim.  Not the end of the world but probably costs me a little time when I'm racing.  I have lost weight since I bought that suit so that has made it worse.  I got the suit on.  It was a little bit of a struggle because we had just biked and ran and I was hot and sweaty.  But I could get it on and once on it felt really good.  We decided to buy it.  Here we are supposed to be focused on Joe's Ironman and we are buying me a wet suit.

I was ridiculously excited to be able to get a women's suit instead of a men's suit.  It's such a thing in my head but whenever I have to get a men's size in order to make something it fit it just feels like that means I'm big.  Being able to wear a women's size is a victory for me, even if it's just in my own head.  I was going to try it out the next morning and I couldn't wait!

We went back to the hotel and cleaned up.  Joe started sorting out all his gear and get his bags ready for race day.  He had a check list of what he wanted in each bag.  There was a morning bag, a bike bag, a bike special needs bag, a run bag, and a run special needs bag.  Anything he put in the special needs bag he wasn't going to get back after the race.  Joe had a list and as he put items in the bag I checked it off so we knew it was there.  Anything that had to go in the bag race morning I circled so we knew to add it.  He had race crap all over the hotel room!  We even put the Do Not Disturb sign on the door that morning to avoid maid service because he had stuff spread out all over the bed and we didn't want them to mess with it to make the beds.
We went and had dinner but we were back at the hotel early.  It was nice to just relax.  We watched some Olympics and then went to sleep.

Saturday morning we woke up and just puttzed around.  I got involved in the women's Olympic Triathlon so we had to stay in the room and watch that whole thing.  It only took two hours. :-)  It was awesome to watch!!  Very inspiring!  Joe took off to do a thirty minute bike ride.  I probably could have tagged along like I had the day before but I got the feeling he needed some alone time so I just enjoyed the quiet in the hotel and watching the Olympics.  It was a nice little recharge time for both of us.  One of the benefits to being married for so long, we kind of know these things without really talking about it and neither of us gets hurt feelings about needing a break.  :-)

We were leaving the hotel and we saw our friends the Yenchiks.  Terry Yenchik was also participating in the race on Sunday.  His son Joe was going to but pulled out because of an injury and difficulties that made training hard.  He had brought his daughter Emma who is a gem of a kiddo.  She had just done the IronKids race that morning.  They put on different length short races for the kids on the day before the Ironman.  She did the one mile race.  She got a big medal and showed it to us with a huge smile!  She was super proud of that medal!  Pretty fun to see her be excited about the experience and I think she had fun being a part of all the excitement going on for the Ironman.

We went to the Ironman area again so that Joe could check in his bike and his gear bags.  For some reason this is when it starts feeling really real.  He spent some time walking through the transition area to make sure he knew where he was supposed to go.

Then we went back to the truck and he got out a folding chair and I got my wetsuit.  It made me think of when I was doing my Olympic tri at Cottage Grove.  The day before that race he did an open water swim and I sat in a chair on the shore of the lake and just relaxed.  The suit went on much easier than it had the day before since I wasn't all hot and sweaty.  That was a good sign.  I got going in the water and the suit felt great.  Didn't pull or feel like it was restricting my arm movements at all.  I didn't feel like it was too tight around my neck.  I loved it!  It was only about a 15 minute swim but it felt great. I can't wait to use the suit at the Best in the West triathlon next month!!
My new Zoot suit. :-)
We headed back to the hotel and had some down time before we went out for an early dinner.  We found a place nearby that had wood fired pizza.  Joe wanted the leftovers for his race bags the next day.  The food was good and there was plenty of leftovers for him for race day.

We settled in early for the night because we would be up early the next morning.  It took me awhile to get to sleep.  I know Joe was restless too but I think we both got to sleep eventually.

Three thirty in the morning came all too quickly.  I made Joe some PB&J sandwiches for his race bags and gathered up what I wanted to have in the truck while he was racing.  In Canada I could just go back to the condo between times we saw Joe because everything circled through Whistler and was within walking distance.  At Coeur d'Alene the hotel is miles away and it's hard to get back because of the race route.  Also, then it would be hard to find a parking spot when you get back.  So I needed to have everything I might need or want along with me.  I had a small cooler and my backpack.  There was a chair in the car and I had a blanket as well.

This is the first time I have watched an Ironman without my friend Wendie along!  She was at the first Coeur d'Alene because her hubby was racing too and her and Josh came to Canada to cheer on Joe last year.  It was a little odd to be starting out the day without the Gums around!!

We headed to the race.  I carried the last race bags and Joe walked with his bike.  It was still dark when we were walking by the lake and we could hear the water splashing against the shore.  It wasn't going to be as calm as it had been for our swim on Friday, we could tell that right away.
Oh Dark Thirty for sure!  Let the party get started!!
Joe heads into the transition area and I walk around the fence to the side near where he will be racking his bike.  At this point my job is to hang out and take whatever he is done with and needs me to take back to the car.  First I get the bike pump.  Later I get his backpack that has his morning clothes in it because he is putting on his wetsuit.
All too soon it's time to walk down to the beach and get this party started.  I walk with him all the way down to where the athletes get on the beach.  Then I hustle down to where the inflatable is where the athletes will enter the water.  At first I couldn't get close enough to be able to really see much but soon a very nice gentleman told me I could squeeze in next to him.  I had a good view of where they funnel the athletes down to a single file line before they go through the start line.  At 6:00 a.m. they started the race.  I knew where Joe was going to position himself based on his expected swim time.  But a couple of times I was jostled by people and I looked away.  I didn't see Joe and I didn't see Joe. I started to think I had missed him going by.
I have one job at these races.  It's to be visible so that my guy sees my smiling face and knows that I'm there for him.  I thought I had blown it right at the start of the entire day.  I was pretty sure I had missed him and was getting a bit worked up about it.  Suddenly I see him waving his arms at me.  I was so relieved I cried!  He made the heart symbol with his hands and then headed for the water.
Found my Ironman!  Actually he found me first. :-)
Love this man so much!
Game face on!
Here we go!

I watched him take off and then I headed to the car to put his backpack and the bike pump away.  Then I hustled back so I could see him come out of the water for his first loop.  I saw him come out of the water and he spotted me before he headed back in.  I got a thumbs up.  I hung out and waited for him to finish the second lap.  I kept busy sending out updates on Facebook and texts to friends and family so they would know how things were going.

It wasn't long before he was coming out of the water and heading for transition.  I was able to see him after he got his wetsuit stripped off of him and as he was grabbing his gear bag.  When I say stripping the wetsuit I mean that literally.  They have volunteers who have the job of taking ahold of the wetsuit when the athlete sits on the ground and yanking that sucker off.  If the athlete isn't careful their shorts might just go along as well.  It's pretty entertaining to watch but it saves the athletes a lot of time.
Finished the swim.
I ran around the transition area so that I could see Joe come out with his bike.  The transition was pretty quick and it wasn't long before he came trotting out with his bike.  He gave me a wave and headed out for the bike ride.
Heading to the mounting area.
Now is when things get really long.  The morning up until this point is pretty busy.  I spend a lot of time with Joe and then the time between seeing him is shorter so it goes faster.  The bike ride is a long part of the day.  There are places to see him but it's longer in-between.  I stayed near the bike transition to see Terry and a few other people take off on the bike.  They all came out of the water really close to each other so that was fun.

Eventually I worked my way up to the road so I could see Joe pass by after finishing the shorter loop. It's fun to visit with other people and find out where they are from and who they are cheering for.  I met people that were cheering for first timers and ones that were cheering for experienced Ironman.  One family was from Calgary Canada.  That was the most represented city at the race that day.  Because their phones didn't work in the US I looked up their athlete on my phone and let them know where she was.  They told me that she had never done a triathlon at all until July where she had done a 1/2 Ironman distance to get ready for the Ironman.  Geez!!  lol  I wish I could be that daring.  Her boyfriend said that she was super fit and athletic.  He also said she loves to just go for random, hard things because she loves the adventure of it.  I loved it!  He had done the 1/2 Ironman with her but was going to wait to do a full next year and they were going to do it together.

Joe came by and I got to whistle and holler for him.  The people who I had been visiting with cheered for him as well and I stayed and cheered for their athlete as she went by about 10 minutes later.  I love that part of these races.  Well, any race actually.  Meeting fun people and cheering people on that are working hard and doing badass things.  It's so much fun!!
Finished with the first time on the small loop, heading out for the long hill.
I headed back to the car at this point because Joe was on the big loop and I knew I wouldn't see him for quite awhile.  I charged my phone, updated everyone and got some food and water in me.  I had decided to volunteer at the race.  Joe said they had posted several times on Facebook that they were really in need of more people so I figured I would.  Especially since I didn't have any family with me to help keep me distracted.

About 10:00 a.m. I headed to the booth to check in.  Cynthia was my volunteer captain and she walked with me to my spot.  I was supposed to be on the corner of 9th and Sherman but they still had people there.  The people that were supposed to cover 8th and Sherman had told her they were going to take their dogs home and then they would go straight to their spot.  Cynthia wanted me to cover the corner until they got there and then go to the corner I was originally assigned.

Another hiccup was that there was some issue with crowd control somewhere over near the transition area so all the security people that were supposed to keep people from crossing the street when racers were coming were gone.  I literally was the only person on this corner.  I was standing in the middle of the road.  It was basically at the second bend of an S curve.  Bikers would some flying around the corner and then zip right by me around the second corner.  People who wanted to cross the street had to come half way, stand on the side of the cones that would keep them from getting hit by a biker taking the corner tight, and then wait for me to give them the clear for biker coming back in the opposite direction.

Most people were really great about following directions but there were some that were jerks.  First of all, when I say hustle get a move on.  I would tell people they could go if they hustled across and they would just stroll to the other side.  Seriously!!  Other people wouldn't listen to me and just go when they felt like it.  Ugh.

One guy refused to stand on the side of the cones I said.  He said he didn't care if he got hit.  I said I didn't care if he got hit either but I really cared about an athlete not crashing, thank you very much.

It was a lot of fun cheering on the athletes as they went by and then again as they were returning from their loop.  Four hours standing on concrete in the hot sun was hard on my feet though.  But not as hard as biking 112 miles in the hot sun and strong wind so I did NOT complain one bit.

Joe passed me and I didn't see him at first because I was helping people cross the street.  When he came back the other direction he actually stopped the bike to give me a kiss which was awesome.  The people watching were cheering.  :-)  I asked how he was doing and he said he was struggling but then he took off so I didn't know what that meant.  Struggling in general?  Something was hurting?  One of his spots that had been bothering him was flaring up?  So hard not to know!

Nothing I can do about it so I took a deep breath and finished my volunteering.

Then I walked back to the car.  It was quite a hike from where I was volunteering but I knew I had plenty of time.  Joe had 40 plus miles to go before I would see him finish the bike ride.  I changed out of my volunteer shirt and put on a tank top and a hat.  Then I charged my phone and made sure I had my portable chargers and the cord.  I went back to the park and managed to hook up with the Yenchik family and got to hang out with them while we waited for Joe and Terry to finish the bike ride.

Emma and I got to talk about our puppies, my boxer and her boxer are sister and brother.  So we compared silly stories about our dogs.  Then she told me all about the IronKids race.  Later her dad took her to find some food and I got to visit with Joe's mom Mary.  What a sweet lady!  It's nice to have someone to visit with while we wait.
Awesome IronKid with a fabulous smile!
The tracker app on my phone had been working pretty good up to this point so I knew that Joe had gone much slower on the second big loop then he had the first time around.  That didn't surprise me considering the heat and the wind, especially when he said he was struggling.  I could see when he was heading back down the big hill and knew it wouldn't be long (compared to the rest of the day) before he would be there.

Where we were hanging out was just after the athletes dismount.  We also could see up the hill and watch them on the main road.  If you could recognize your athlete then it was easy to be at the fence by the time they were dismounted and walking past.  The volunteers would take the bike from the athlete and then one would walk with them to make sure they were steady and feeling good.  It was quite a process and they did all of their support very smoothly.

I saw Joe come in from the bike ride.  It was so good to see him!!  He said he had a hot spot on his foot but felt pretty good.  The path around the bike area to the transition tent went on the opposite side from where I was but a friend he works with was on that side and walked and talked with him as he worked his way to the tent.  Mike was there to watch his sister but had fun seeing Joe as well.  I made my way to the other side of the transition tent so I would be ready when he came out to start the run.

Joe came out looking good.  He saw me right away and gave me another kiss on his way out for the run.  Only 26.2 miles between him and another Ironman.
Leaving transition 2 and heading out for the marathon.
I went back to where I had been waiting with the Yenchiks.  I wanted to see Terry finish the bike.  The tracker app was not updating like it was supposed to.  It didn't show Joe finishing the bike and starting the run.  It showed Terry way out on the bike yet and we thought he should be farther than that by now.  This is where it gets hard.  Are they injured?  Is the tracker just not updating?  Did they have mechanical problems?  There is no answer and no way to find out.

Terry's son Joe was really worried, I could see it on his face.  Especially when we heard that they last biker to be allowed to continue before the cut off had just gone through the dismount area.  Now we knew that Terry wasn't going to be able to continue but we still didn't know if he was okay.

He finally made it.  Turns out he got a flat and damage to his tire.  Even when he got the tire inflated again the damage made it so he couldn't ride.  His day was over at that point.  I felt so bad for him!  That's a lot of work to have something out of your control end your day.  But at least he wasn't hurt!  That was a relief!!

I headed back to my car.  I was tired of lugging my small cooler around and wanted to drop it off.  I grabbed my backpack, shoved the blanket in it and headed back to the park.  I wouldn't be back to the truck until the race was over.
A wildfire had started between Coeur d'Alene and Spokane.  Made it a hazy afternoon.
The marathon route had been changed since Joe had done the event in 2013.  I wasn't sure exactly where to go to see him.  I was a little worried that I would miss him on his first loop since I had waited so long to see Terry.  Yenchik let me know where to go and I found a great spot where I could see the runners coming up the sidewalk for quite a ways.  I laid out my blanket and just sat down when I looked up and there Joe was!  I didn't even put on my sandals, I just started running so that I wouldn't miss him.  He told me he had a blister on the ball of his foot but was doing pretty good considering.

I didn't realize that they looped around and I could have seen him on the other side of the park.  I thought that was where he had just come from.  I did better the second time around.

On the second loop I saw him on both sides of the park.  He was pretty tired and knew that he wasn't going to make his original goal.  I was pretty sure he was still going to beat his time from his last Coeur d'Alene Ironman.  He was struggling but moving along pretty good all things considered.  I headed back to my blanket.  The spot I was at was also where runners that were finishing their last lap and were only about three blocks from the finish line.
Heading out for the third and final lap of the marathon.
Some were very focused and didn't pay any attention to people cheering.  Others knew they were close and got the biggest smiles on their faces.  A few looked like if they responded to us they would start to cry so they just kept moving.

I decided to work my way towards the chute at the finish line.  That is literally my favorite place to be during the Ironman.  They have music playing and people are lined up along both sides of the fencing along the road.  Everyone is cheering for every single athlete that comes down the chute.  The different ways they finish is awesome.

Smiling with their hands over their heads.
Total focus as they sprint to the finish.
Stopping to hug and kiss friends and family.
Running up and down the chute to give as many people high fives as they can.
One guy stopped in the middle of the chute before he crossed the finish line, dropped to his knees, put his hands over his face and started crying.
There was a married couple that finished together holding hands.
A father waited for his daughter down the street so they could finish together.
Painfully trotting by and then collapsing after they crossed the finish.

All of it is inspiring and emotional.  I was in tears more than once.  They didn't care that they were finishing in the dark, they were ecstatic that they were finishing!
My view of the chute as the athletes head toward the finish.
The Ironman Finish line!
Waiting for my Ironman!
The people around me were friendly and I had fun talking with them, cheering for people and singing to songs I knew.

When you leaned out to see up the road you could see the silhouette of runners as they came towards the finish.  Suddenly I saw Joe, I knew it was him by his run.  They ladies next to me didn't think it was possible to tell in the dark but I was sure.  The first Ironman Joe did he didn't see me as he came down the chute, he was looking mostly on the opposite side.  So the Ironman in Canada and this Ironman I made sure he knew which side I was planning on standing on so he could find me.  He ran down the left side of the chute and found me pretty quickly.

I got a HUGE hug and an awesome kiss.  The people around me that I had been hanging out with for the last hour all went, "Awwwwwww" which made me laugh.

Then I watched my guy finish the Ironman again.  "Joe Van Veldhuizen,  You Are An Ironman!!!" Wow!!  That does not get old!!

I turned to the ladies I had been hanging out with and told them to have a great rest of their evening but I was going to find Joe.  Of course I was in tears.  They gave me hugs and sent me on my way.

I watched him get his hat, shirt and medal.  Then they took his picture.  We talked for a minute and then he headed to the med tent to have them check out his blister and get some food.  I settled down to sit on the curb near the exit.  It felt good to sit for a bit.

It wasn't too long before Joe came out and met up with me.  He was moving slow but looked pretty good to me.  We went and I got his bike and he got his race bags.  We walked to the end of the park and I had him sit on the wall by the beach to the lake while I walked the bike to the car and then came to pick him up.

We got to the hotel and I we got into the room so he could shower.  I made a couple of trips to get things back in the room.  By the time Joe was cleaned up and things were a little organized it was close to midnight.  What a loooooonnnngg day!

We both had a teary moment about him finishing.

I have watched and supported Joe through two other Ironman races.  Each time is nerve wracking and tough.  This was no different.

I think I am the most proud of him for this one though.  He had to push through a lot of injuries and setbacks in order to just get to the race.  He did this while still supporting me with my new adventures in working towards an Olympic triathlon.  Then he had to push through tough conditions that made it difficult to make the goal he had set for himself.  He did both in the strong willed way he has.

To say I am proud of him never seems adequate enough to express the feelings I have.  Not only am I proud of him but I also feel privileged to be the one he knows he can count on to support him on the journey to the race and during the race.

He has inspired a lot of people but most of all he has inspired me.  I know I never would have thought of doing a triathlon of any distance without him doing them and then encouraging me.  I know that I wouldn't have decided to work with a coach, because I don't like spending the money on myself, but he insisted because he wanted me to have the best experience possible in this new adventure.  There are so many things Joe does is for me and our family or friends.  I absolutely love being able to make him the focus for a change.

Looking forward to many more adventures with my Ironman.

**If you want to read Joe's side of the event check out this post: Guest Blogger-Ironman Coeur d'Alene 2016  It doesn't have any pictures, he was a little busy to bother taking any.  :-)

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