I’m not good at swimming, biking or running, but I recently finished Ironman Coeur d’Alene. Here’s 20 things I learned while having the time of my life.
20. After meeting some of the best pros, I learned they are just like the rest of us age group athletes, minus the Mt. Dew addiction, body fat, and tendency to skip a workout to hang out on the couch to binge watch old “Three’s Company” episodes because the Ropers were a real hoot.
19. That guy with the snorkel I was making fun of before the swim? He just passed me in the water.
18. Not on the Ironman website: any description of what happens at the back of an Ironman swim. It should say: Don’t sign up for this event if you fear swimming next to people who are moaning, crying, urinating, and shrieking.
17. That guy doing the backstroke going sideways I was making fun of at the start of the swim? He’s still ahead of me... and now he’s pulling away.
16. Doing a sand angel on the beach after completing a 2.4 mile Ironman swim is as satisfying as it sounds.
15. The happiest place on the planet is the Ironman “banana peel” wetsuit removal area after the swim, mostly because the risk of drowning decreases exponentially on the bike and the run.
14. I look as ridiculous in compression socks as I feel.
13. Volunteers hold your bike while you pee. Sometimes they will mistakenly offer you the wrong bike that costs about $10,000 more than the bike you’re riding. It’s okay to pause before telling them it’s not your bike.
12. The 6’5”, 250-pound, 57-year-old guy who looks and sounds like he just smoked an entire carton of unfiltered Camels stops at every aid station on the bike to pee and then spends the next ten minutes catching up, passing me and engaging me in conversation as if he hasn’t passed me six times already.
11. Watching my fellow riders contort their bodies to provide relief to their backsides over the last 40 miles of the bike resembles a type of Ironman Cirque de Solei.
10. The volunteers apparently have some type of pre-race meeting where they all agree to lie to your face, telling you that you are “looking good”, “doing great” and “having a great race.” I learn to love their lies. Ironman volunteers are saints in fun orange shirts.
9. The first five miles of the run is a rolling party with athletes smiling, joking and confidently checking their watches to calculate their fun sunset pictures at the finish with their family.
8. The last five miles of the run is a rolling zombie apocalypse with athletes retching, cramping and reluctantly checking their watches to see when the volunteers will start handing out glo-sticks.
7. The 63-year-old woman that appears to be made of carbon fiber is walking faster than I am running.
6. Nothing tastes good on the run. Nothing. In fact, the motivation to finish the last half of the run is so you don’t have to eat any more of the stuff they’re serving on the course.
5. Nevermind. Now it’s late enough that they’re serving chicken broth that tastes like sweet honey made by angels. I am now slowing down so I can drink more chicken broth. Do they serve this in restaurants? Where has this been my whole life? I just hugged the lady at mile 25 who gave me chicken broth.
4. Finishing an Ironman is what I imagine heaven is like. There’s a beautiful sunset behind the finish line, a bright light shining at you, loved ones calling your name and a deep voice that may or may not be Saint Peter reading a declarative sentence about what type of person you are--”You are an Ironman.”
PHOTOS: Final leg of Ironman CDA
3. After I get my medal and my picture taken I am ushered into the Ironman finisher penal colony. It’s a fenced off area where no loved ones are allowed, they hand me a required foil blanket to take away my individuality, serve me mostly the same food they did on the course (oh, look... it’s the same banana/pretzel combo that almost came back up at mile 17), and give me a chance to sit next to the guy that outweighs me by 80-pounds who passed me in the last block like a crazed aardvark on acid--he’s having no trouble eating the bananas and telling me how it’s his slowest time ever in his 17 Ironmans.
2. Puke. It’s for the best.
1. It wasn’t easy, but it was awesome.
--Noah Cooper is KREM 2’s Executive News Director. He finished Ironman Coeur d’Alene in 14 hrs and 18 min while racing to raise money for the Gleason Initiative Foundation to fight ALS. If you want to learn more about ALS or donate money to fight the disease, click here.