Saturday, June 23, 2012

Ironman Coeur d'Alene

The swim start, June 2008
Tomorrow morning, 2600 miles away in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, 2800 athletes will begin their day as the sun is rising.  While Enya plays on the speakers overhead, they will be getting their bodies marked and putting on body glide and wetsuits (which if done correctly, Dad, prevents horrendous chafing) and a pink or a blue swim cap.  At 7am, these 2800 people will embark on a 140.6 mile journey that begins with a cannon going off, a Van Halen or Bon Jovi song blaring, Mike Reilly's words of encouragement and thousands of cheering spectators.  Four years ago, Jim and I were among those 2800 athletes.

Coeur d'Alene is one of those places that holds a special place in my heart.  Being there in 2006 when we watched Joseph race, celebrated Edward's birthday and ended the week with Jim's proposal, gave the town a strong start in my good book.  Going back there and racing in 2008 made it unforgettable.  It reminds me of family meals by the water, as many Leopard Lattes as we could drink, and riding around learning how to take food and water from aid stations (aka Mum, Joseph and Edward).  I think of Leavenworth, the Bavarian town full of hat shops and German beer.  Coeur d'Alene reminds me of being out on the race course until well past midnight the night before Joseph's race, chalking as much of the course as we could with creative slogans like, "", "Hold 120's medal while he kisses your girlfriend", "Joe is butter cuz he's on a roll", and "watch out, #120 just passed you."  In fact, I recall cheering for Joseph on race day and some people that he was riding near (or drafting, the jury's still out on that one) responded by saying, "you're #120?  120 is all over this course!"

This was brotherly love at its finest

The "chalkers"

Our chauffeur! 

We even decorated our cars

A race morning hug

Joseph, with his signature bagel, coming out of T1

Edward's 19th Birthday


I was SO excited when I found this picture.  Ellie gave Jim this magazine and he was less than thrilled.


The view from our celebratory brunch!

Future third children in-law.

I think back to our race day, in 2008, full of nervousness, but mostly excitement to get the race underway.  I think of the hugs before the race, the anticipation of the unknown and the arctic water we would be swimming in.  I think of Dad's race advice: "Go slower than you think you should.  If it's easy, great.  Let it be easy and pick up the pace at mile 17 on the run."  I remember thinking, "this is easy", but always going slower than I thought I should.  And then, at mile 18 on the run, my thoughts switched over to..."oh, Dad does know what he's talking about...thank God I didn't go out too hard." At mile 18, I had no idea how I was going to make it to the finish line, but I knew that somehow I would.  It helps having a family full of Ironmen to motivate you!

Practicing the water bottle hand-off

I don't know who was more excited about the successful hand off...Mum or Jim!

I think of seeing Jim out there on the bike course at the turn around, and discovering that he was riding a few people behind me the whole time.  He and I have different memories of what happened after that meeting.  He says I took off.  I say he fell back.  Either way, it's pretty cool to have race pictures with the two of us riding together.  What are the chances of that happening, with 2800 people out on the course?

I seriously had no idea that Jim was right there!

I think back to seeing Jerry and Duane out on the course.  It's pretty amazing to have people that you care about racing out there with you.  Early on, we all exchanged cheers and high fives.  By the end, it was a small nod of the head.

I think back to the family cheering squad.  Both the Stephens and Clark families represented in full force and were spread out all over the course.  We had a great time together before the race and then celebrated in style, as both families love to do, after the race.

The sign making begins...

one of Joseph's helpful signs

Carolyn and Sarah even managed to work UBS into their sign!

a perfect Mum sign

Part of the fun of these races is the houses we stay in.  Families rent out their houses for the week and this house housed a high school boy, who went by the name of Frommer.  He had these posters in his room...

...and Jim's dad turned them into this amazing sign!

Impressive t-shirts

I think of those last steps of the run, hearing my favorite spectator of the entire day telling me that the finish line was just around the corner, and then hearing the cheering of the crowd and Mike Reilly's voice, knowing that in a matter of minutes, he was going to announce my name.  I don't remember running down the finishing chute...looking at the pictures, I remember the feeling though.  Head straight ahead and glazed eyes looking straight at that finishing line.  After hearing the words, "Amelia Stephens, come on home.  You are an Ironman," I will never be the same.  It's a blessing and a curse, because for the rest of my life, I know what I'm capable of and will not be able to settle for anything less.  I remember watching Jim finish and bursting into tears because we did it.  For six months, we trained harder than we knew was possible.  In November of 2007, Jim had never swam competitively.  Neither of us owned bikes.  And together, in June 2008, we raced our first Ironman.

Race morning

After Dad applied the body glide and missed a huge portion of my neck, which I didn't discover until after the race.

When I think of Coeur d'Alene, I'm flooded with memories.  I love the town, I love the race and some day, I know we'll go back.  Who knows? Maybe, when Jack and Lilly are older, Jim and I will train together for this race again.  

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