As dawn breaks Sunday, August 13 and most folks snooze peacefully in the comfort of home, an army of early risers and devoted volunteers will take to Coeur d’Alene’s quiet streets in preparation for one of North Idaho’s premier athletic events. By 4:30 a.m. city workers and a few volunteers will be setting up directional signs for a running course throughout the downtown area. Swimming specialists will place buoys and position sailboats in the waters off NIC beach. A crew will organize the staging area at the college parking lots.
An hour later nearly a 1,000 athletes will converge on the NIC campus to receive identification numbers on shoulders and thighs and respective ages/categories printed on their calves. And when the morning sun rises over the Coeur d’Alene mountains, first one wave, then another will take to the water for the first leg of the 12th Annual Coeur d’ Alene Triathlon.
Also known as the “Coeur d’Alene Scenic Challenge,” the swimming, biking and running event gets underway at 7:16 sharp. The course covers more than 50 kilometers of water, roads and trails around the area. The 1.5 km. swim forms a triangular course beginning and ending at the NIC beach, while the 40 km. bike route takes riders from NIC to HWY 95 south as far as Tall Pines Road. The route includes Kidd Island Bay Road and the trip back to NIC via HWY 95. In the 10 km. final leg, runners leave the college, travel through the park and past the hotel, wind up and around Tubbs Hill and then head back west through town to the finish line on College Drive.
It’s a course that offers competitors from throughout the world spectacular views of the lake, the Spokane River and popular spots in and around the Lake City.
Throughout the race, more than 250 volunteers on foot, aboard motorcycles and in kayaks will monitor, serve and aid the competitors. By noon, the last runner will cross the finish line, and, if all goes well, less than an hour later, top finishers will receive their awards at the NIC Arboretum Stage.
World Class Ironman Triathlete Scott Tinley will be announcing the prizes for professionals, amateur individuals and teams competing for everything from money to personal pride. For professionals, the event offers a purse of $13,600 with the top male and female finishers earning $1,650 each. Thirty-three corporate sponsors have donated prize money.
Meanwhile, top amateur individuals in several categories and teams will win plaques, medals and trophies. Other awards include the Corporate Cup and the Idaho Special Award, the Top Kootenai County Man and Woman and the Top Masters Man and Woman.
Every competitor will take home a race T-shirt, and several local businesses have donated goodies for competitor drawings. “One of our aims is to finish tabulating and have the awards ceremony as soon as possible so everyone can be recognized by their peers and be on their way,” veteran organizer Lee Brack said.
Brack expects a field comparable to or larger than last year’s 880 competitors. “We’ve grown every year except one,” Brack said. “That was 1991, the year after the Idaho Centennial when we had gotten lots of advertising. We fell back a little, but then picked up.”
Besides Tinley, world class athletes who have registered for this year’s event include Garrett McCarthy, who races for the Irish National Team. The Boulder, Colo., restauranteur still holds the swim record. Terry Martin, a winner of the Canadian Ironman in the women’s category and the Japan Strong Man, plans to compete even though she broke her collarbone in mid-July. This is her third appearance in Coeur d’Alene.
Since its start in 1984 when 75 individuals and 20 teams competed, race organization has improved dramatically, Brack said. “We took the good pieces from other races and added them to this one,” he explained. “You don’t learn how to improve by staying home.”
Now with its own office space (donated by Magnuson, McHugh & Co., P.A.) and two paid employees (director Cindy Lettau and administrative assistant Barb Ross), the race organization features a computerized operation and a cadre of experienced volunteers who have streamlined most dimensions of the event’s structure during its dozen years.
“We used to spend three or four nights stuffing bags for race contestants,” he recalled. “Now it takes a couple of hours.” He added that both athletes and organizers have learned efficiency along with the development of triathlons across the nation over the past 20 years. “We used to put all these markers out on the swim course,” Brack said. “After you see three or four races, you can see that people can find their way…this is a sport. After all, they’re not first graders.
“We can always improve,” he added. “But generally everyone has a lot of fun.”