Quest For IM Part 6 - Coeur d'Alene Here I Come!

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Athletes were buzzing around, adding last minute things to their transition bags. The sidewalks and grassy areas are filled with spectators and cameras. Announcements were being made.

The Moment Has Arrived

You can read the details of my IM experience in my race report, but if it’s behind the scenes action you want, this is your article. The original plan called for us to pick up my daughter at the airport on our way to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, the site of the Ironman event. Her flight was to arrive at 11 a.m., and we would have been in CDA by about 5 p.m. that same day, Thursday. That would then give us plenty of time to unload, relax, eat some dinner, etc. Then I would have Friday and Saturday to meet up with my BT buddies for swims, jog, rides, and plain old B.S. I say we would have been in CDA by 5 p.m. but we weren’t because my daughter missed her flight, and the standby flight, and the next standby flight. Finally, she boarded the last flight of the day from Dallas, Texas to Portland, Oregon and landed at 11 p.m., twelve hours later then planned. After an hour and a half drive, we stopped at a motel for the night. Rule Number One in race day strategy is: “Ironman race planning is to expect your carefully laid plan to go wrong early on.” Yeah, but couldn’t it wait until the actual race to do that?

Enter the Joker

If you’ve followed this series then you know about my friend Chris. Chris and I are survivors of major medical procedures. Me, open heart surgery and a triple bypass, and Chris, brain surgery to remove a tumor. Prior to departing for CDA, Chris gave me a phone number and said it was for his brother-in-law, Brian. Brian is a race director for the Ironman series, and Chris suggested I call him, as he might provide me with valuable assistance and information. Chris also warned me that Brian was a practical joker and when he gave me the phone number he said something to the effect that he “couldn’t be responsible” for what Brian might do. Yeah, whatever, Chris.

The Joker Is Played

At 9 a.m. on Friday, after checking out of the motel, I received a phone call from someone identifying himself as Andy Ackerman, an Ironman race director. I said hello to him and he proceeded to ask me about my heart surgery. I filled him in on my situation, but it wasn’t good enough for ol’ Andy. He said I would need a signed note from my doctor that I could safely compete in the Ironman. I was two hundred miles from home and suddenly very frustrated. I tried to explain to him that seven months after heart surgery I ran a marathon and had completed several triathlons since then. Andy started laughing and said he couldn’t keep doing this to me. He then introduced himself as Brian, Chris’s brother-in-law. The Joker was starting early, and I wasn’t even out of my home state yet.

We’re There!

We pulled in to Post Falls, Idaho about 4 p.m. on Friday and found my cousin’s house. I unloaded my gear and gave hugs, hellos and goodbyes, and then headed for CDA to get my race packet. I called Bonnie (leopard 8996), and Doug (Captaintony) to tell them I was there. They’d enjoyed an OWS with Andrew (Adollar79) that morning and were planning on meeting up that evening at the pre-race banquet. My cousins had a pasta feed planned for me, so I had to bow out of the official function even though I was dying to meet in person the people I’d been swapping “inspires” with for months.


I did make plans to meet up with Doug on Saturday morning for an OWS, and then Bonnie and I would take a short ride and run together. Andrew decided to lay low, and unfortunately, I never had the pleasure of meeting him. I found Doug, and his friend Shannon, early Saturday morning, and Shannon was kind enough to watch my bike as Doug and I pulled on our wetsuits and went for a swim. There was a strong wind wreaking havoc with the lake, and little did I know it would be a precursor for tomorrow’s main event. It was a thrill to be there at ground zero amongst the sights and sounds of an international event, and I couldn’t wait for Sunday to arrive. I met up with Bonnie and we enjoyed a short ride over part of the run course, making small talk and getting to know one another in the process.


After the ride we took our bikes up to her room and I got to meet Preston, Bonnie’s husband. They’re a great couple. We got the run out of the way, I said my goodbyes to Bonnie and Preston, and wheeled my bike into the closest elevator. A couple got on when I did and I detected an accent in their speech. They were from England, here to do the IM. I said I didn’t think I would go all the way to England to do an IM, and right away an international incident started brewing.

She: “What’s wrong with England?”
Me: “Nothing. I just don’t think I’d travel that far to do an IM. I don’t even know if I’d go as far as Florida to do one.” (Not that there’s anything wrong with Florida, right Sue?)
She: “Well, you’re not much of a traveler are you?” (You have to hear the accent.)
Me: “It’s more a matter of logistics. I can drive here and don’t have to worry about shipping my bike. Plus, I have relatives here to stay with.” (Funny, I don’t remember the elevator taking this long before.)

A Taste of The Joker’s Own Medicine

After making my way through the tent that served as the athlete registration area where I showed I.D., weighed in (I was 157 pounds and felt I’d properly carbo-loaded for the first time in my life,) got my packet, and left the building, I decided to call Brian to see if he was in the area because I wanted to meet him...and get even. As his phone rang a wry smile crossed my face.

Him: “Hello, this is Brian.”
Me: “Hi Brian, this is Tim Tomerson of the Coeur d’Alene Health Department.”
Him: “What can I do for you Tim?”
Me: “Well, I just got word that the majority of portables we set up contain expired urine blocks. I have some new ones on order and they should arrive on Monday. Will that be soon enough for you?
Him (laughing): “Hey Jeff, what’s going on?”
Me (under my breath): “Dang, he programmed my phone number into his phone.”

I guess when you’re always pulling things on people, you have to watch your back.


I want to again refer you to my official race report for specific details about my IM race, but race day morning was a spectacle. If you’ve ever experienced an efficient sound system, then you know what I mean when I say you could feel every bass note hit your chest with authority. Athletes were buzzing around, adding last minute things to their transition bags. The sidewalks and grassy areas are filled with spectators and cameras. Announcements were being made, and encouraging statements offered through the P.A. system. Somehow I missed the one about how rough the water was, and anyone who didn’t want to swim didn’t have to. Even if I’d heard it, I would have entered the water because I was there for a triathlon, not a duathlon.

Rule One of race day strategy: “Use your check list so you don’t forget anything.” That went out the door the moment I left home. We were well on our way before I realized I’d forgotten some key race day nutritional components. You train hard and work out a fueling system, testing it and refining it, and then forget half of it at home—not very smart. So far Rule One was making its presence known in a big way. I did my best to enjoy every yard of the Ironman, even to the point of saying hello to each kayaker I passed in the water. I tried to soak it all in but there was so much to see in nearly sixteen hours that I'm sure I've let some memories slip away. The site of a portable after 2200 athletes with numerous physical problems used it is something I wish would slip away.

This Town Cares

I can’t say enough good things about CDA. Because the bike and run courses overlap or parallel each other, I saw the same people cheering us on for hours, and some were there every time I went by. All the volunteers were friendly and helpful and made the whole experience as pleasant as possible. They made you want to keep going. It seemed like it would be a great place to live, and I’m happy the IM event was renewed and will be there for another four years because I’m going back next year.

Letting the Cat Out Of the Bag

If you’ve been reading this series, and saw last month’s article, you may have noticed my picture attached to it. I say in the article that the Ironman was just a day or so away but the truth is I’d already finished the Ironman when I submitted it. I had to keep up with the series and wanted to write an “on the eve of,” article and then this one after the fact. I wasn’t trying to trick anyone, and the picture is of me after the race so, really, if you were paying attention you may have figured it out already. No hard feelings?

An Offer You Can’t Refuse

Ron has been very generous in posting a link to my website with all my articles. I really want everyone to have a copy of my book, but I can’t give them away. If you’d like a copy, please go to my website and find the PayPal Donations button. Follow it and donate whatever you want, and I’ll send you a signed copy of “Make Mine a Triple . . . Bypass That Is.” It’s the true story of me running the Seattle Marathon seven months after open heart surgery. Ask Sue7013, or KathyG, or Gilligan, they’ve read it. I’m confident they would recommend it to anyone. The money goes to a good cause—namely, me, so I can visit heart centers and cardiac rehab centers and encourage those who’ve just had surgery. And while I have your attention, I would ask that if you know of a function or convention that needs a motivational speaker…have I got a story for you!

Well, I think this concludes the “Quest for Ironman” series. It's so nice to have an outlet like this to share ideas and experiences with each other. I appreciate all the stars you’ve attached to my articles, and as soon as I can come up with something else to write about, you’ll be the first to know. Now then, get to training!


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date: August 17, 2007


I love my family, football, tri training and racing, seeing heart patients smile when I share my story with them . . .


I love my family, football, tri training and racing, seeing heart patients smile when I share my story with them . . .

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