2.4 mi swim, 112 mi bike, 26.2 mi run
Coeur d’Alene, ID
“Bruce Richter, you are an Ironman!!!!!” Pretty cool to hear those words, though I have to be honest……I didn’t. I was a little caught up in the moment.
It all started well enough – a beautiful drive north from Boise to Coeur d’Alene was a great way to take my mind off the pain of the race to come. In fact, it must have worked really well, because I don’t recall ever experiencing the typical pre-race jitters. The lack of these varmints though is most probably a result of sticking to THE PLAN. A tough pill to swallow, THE PLAN was to enjoy my first Ironman, not race it. Let the swim be the swim, take it easy on the bike (blasphemy!), and hope there’s enough left in the tank to enjoy the marathon. In other words, I fully planned for this to be a learning event, and well, basically to go ahead and get schooled as a newbie.
THE PLAN was never really in jeopardy, although I will admit that 2 days before the event as I took in the flavor of downtown CDA amongst the other triathletes in town, I found myself sizing myself up against the others. They were everywhere with their veins popping out under last year’s Ironman Somewhere Bruce Hasn’t Been shirts……and I really wanted to beat them all. Those couple days hanging out in CDA before the race were starting to wear me down a bit. I just wanted to toe the start line and get this thing underway.
The night before the race, I woke up from a surprisingly deep sleep to hear the wind howling and rain hitting the hotel window. Just a passing storm but I still worried about my poor Cervelo P3C racked up in the exposed transition area without even a food bowl or water. By race morning, we had the makings of a perfect day for an Ironman. Temps were to be in the mid-70’s and the water was ready to welcome us with a “balmy” 59.5 degrees. Neoprene caps were recommended, and the ban on neoprene booties was lifted due to the water temperatures. I thought I’d do without. But before I get to how race day unfolded, I gotta give a shout out to the cast of characters that supported the act of idiocy that was to be my first Ironman.
I have to say, my support team was about as good as it gets. My parents were there as well as my sister Cindy and her family. What an amazing team I had representing the Tricredibles of NC in Claire, Emily, and Lizz (from henceforth, I’ll put a spin on a popular moniker and call these three Clemilizz). From the “Team Bruce” shirts to the chalked streets (that I actually paid attention to for once!), the beer at the finish line and the carrying of my sweaty gear, Clemilizz is a class act that will get you noticed in the crowd that races and watches the Ironman. Don’t invite them to your next Ironman if you want to race in anonymity.
There was one other there giving me support and I bet you thought I was forgetting. My good friend, Carl Bonner, once told me you can’t do an Ironman on your own. (Wise words from a man that gets turned on by hearing his daughter ask me what color panties I’m wearing everyday.) In my case, it takes an amazing wife to make something like this happen, and even though they gave me the finisher medal, Angie is more of an Ironman than I’ll ever be. This was a true team effort.
So, with the aforementioned support crew in proper position, a whole lot of training mileage and receipts behind me, I toed that Ironman line on the beach of Lake Coeur d’Alene. The swim plan was to start on the side, way off the popular line to the buoys and attempt to cut across the slower swimmers and miraculously find myself in clean water where I wouldn’t be trading left hooks and jabs with the masses……of which there were over 2000 by the way. I started well to the right of the crowd, but still in the mix and about 3 people back with my feet already in the frigid water. The moment that gun went off I regretted my choice of position. I was getting beat up and was inadvertently returning the favor. There was no way around it. To make matters worse, my goggles were leaking, and in that crowd there was no way to stop for fear of being run over. How the lifeguards, of which there are many, can possibly save you in that craziness would have to be proven to me. It was just downright dangerous and I wanted out of it.
I veered outside for cleaner water realizing I was heading for a longer swim. I still never got out of that crowd on the two laps in the water, and my feet were pretty much numb….but I was alive and Merle III (that’s the P3C) was getting antsy. What a welcome feeling to stand on dry land after that lunacy.
Transition from swim to bike was a little bit of an experience. People yelling in all directions, fetch your bag of bike gear, run into the tent, still people yelling at you, sit down and gear up…..what a well organized mess this thing was!
It had been a while since I had been on my bike, since Merle III arrived in CDA a good week before I did. I missed it. I hated to have to pedal slow (in many cases, not at all) but I had to stick to THE PLAN. I didn’t get very far into the ride before my old nemesis came a-callin’…….I hadn’t mastered the Pissing on the Fly Trick. Only this time, the other end wanted to come out and play too. Okay, it’s not like I’m out here in a rush anyway I thought, so I ducked into a Porta John.
That Korean space shuttle wasn’t positioned very well, by the way. It was on a rather steep shoulder, and I felt if I leaned back at all the whole thing was gonna tumble down the hill and leave me covered in blue and brown ick. Some things have a way of working out though.
I eased through that bike course as much as I could. I wasn’t thrilled to be passed so often by so many. But the hills at least weren’t bad. One particular German guy seemed to want to make sure I didn’t leave him on the bike. Every downhill he’d whiz by me only to get dropped on the next climb. I was tempted to get the handoff from a particular fan that was handing out cups of beer from his driveway. Even without that beer, I think I stopped to pee another 2 or 3 times. Yeah, stopped. As odd as it sounds, I SO wanted to pee myself just so I could roar by my friends and family and shout out my accomplishment but I guess years of figuring out how to hold it all in for fear of getting a spanking was not easily undone.
To make matters worse, I passed a chick on the way in from the second bike loop who – as if she knew my dilemma and just wanted to rub it in – hollered out to me, “I just figured out how to pee myself on the bike!” Whoopee for you and I hope it stings.
There really was an awful lot of drafting out there. I hope they’re proud of themselves for sucking wheel. I knew I was riding my own ride, but I was startled to be approached by a race referee on a motorcycle only to hear him say, “Boy, you sure do have an awesome fan club! They’re everywhere!” Thanks family and Clemilizz!
Off the bike, I was not happy to find my running shoes and socks completely soaked from last night’s rain. But the running legs were fresh. I ran through town amongst cheers for the Tricredibles and people yelling my name as if I was someone special. That is some pretty motivating stuff. Clemelizz had done a spectacular job of chalking the streets.
Usually so in the zone I don’t notice these kinds of things, I have to say I caught every sign and every piece of chalk art the girls put out there for me……and it was great!
At about mile 8 I passed a volunteer in a feeding zone offering a paper plate full of Vaseline. I barely had finished the thought of wondering who would bother with that crap when I felt a blister on the pad of my left foot pop. Hmmm, I guess I better see him on the way back. He was nice enough to let me brace myself using his shoulder as I peeled off my sweaty shoe and sock. I plunged my hand in his plate of goo and slathered it on my foot. Then I took what was left on my hand and ran it across my chapped lips for good measure. Unfortunately, whoever used the Vaseline before me left a pubic hair in it that had inadvertently found its way to my upper lip. Oh well, there’s no shame in Ironman. I secretly hoped it was Desiree Ficker’s, but I’m pretty sure it belonged to the fat German guy from the bike leg.
On my way into town on the first run lap, I got passed by 2nd place overall Heather Gollnick following her protective mountain bike way-paver. I said something along the lines of “way to go Heather” as I reveled in the fact that she couldn’t tell I was looking at her butt. She asked, “Can you…….pant, pant……see a……pant, pant……mountain bike like this one behind me?” Normally when I hear tired competitors ask me something while they’re breathing really hard I like to say, “What?” just to make them struggle to ask again, but THE PLAN did not dictate playing head games……..especially with a woman that was 2 hours ahead of me clearly making me her “beyotch.” I told her honestly, “no.” I like to think I played a small hand in her second place finish that day. (aw come on, give me a little taste of glory, will ya?)
At one particular feed station that had a duck theme for some reason, they were playing that Crazy Frog song. I spent the rest of the marathon singing to myself ,”DING ding ding DING DING!” over and over again. Not my favorite song, but I find that a run always goes better when I have some sort of beat to sing to myself.
My legs started to feel tired around mile 17, but I was happy that I didn’t feel the need to walk. I did walk briskly through the last few feed stations, but once I had fueled up I was up and running again. I remember thinking as I finished the last 5 miles by the lake that I would miss this view and all it took to get here, and I vowed to enjoy every step of the way back to town.
I won’t say I didn’t have any pain in my legs as I watched that finish line draw closer on the home stretch, but it’s hard to notice when the streets are lined with thousands of people cheering you on. I was gaining on a couple folks down that stretch, but thought it’d be better to maintain the gap, let them have their finish line moment of glory, and maybe get a chance to have mine. Unfortunately, two geeks came flying by me in the finishing chute and stole my glory (I know their race numbers and will look out for them next time!). But I didn’t care, after 1:11:14 in the swim, 6:07:30 on the bike, and 3:58:23 on the run (11:24:38 total) I was now an Ironman!!!!
Family and friends were all there to high five me. I was glad to be done, and I know they were too. I was fully aware that it was there dinner time and I had made them all get up in the middle of the night to sit and cheer me on for nearly 12 hours. Ironman is pretty much an act of selfishness and I was eager for things to be normal again. Besides it was Claire’s birthday and we had a cake to eat!
I’ve met a lot of great people in this sport and I love the family that I’ve developed in triathlon. So I gotta give props to my coach. I never really planned to hire one, but somehow it seemed right……and I wouldn’t change a thing. Coach Lance Leo was spot on in all his training plans and advice, is a great friend, and an inspiring athlete himself. As I told Lance before the race, I could have done this thing without him, but if that Bruce had shown up at this race this Bruce would have owned him.
The Richter’s in Tricred Red. L to R: Nephew Sean, Niece Annie, Bruce, Daddy Ron, Sister Cindy, Mommy Ruth, Bro in Law Mark, Nephew Drew, and Wife Angie.
I can understand how some people do their first Ironman and are satisfied with that, but not me. I can’t wait to do another one, and this wasn’t a thought that needed to grow on me in these couple days after Ironman Coeur d’Alene. I’d have told you that the moment I crossed that finish line. I am frothing at the mouth to train hard for another, toe that line hungry, and race it firing on all cylinders. That is…..if my wonderful wife will let me!