For Cynthia Taggart, it was a pair of shoes. For John Sahlin, it was an escape from the law books. Those were the original motivators. These days, the hometown crowd inspires both as they continue to compete in the Coeur d’Alene Triathlon.
With encouragement from the local cheering section, each has earned awards as first-place Kootenai County female and male finishers in the annual race. Taggart, 41, won her initial plaque after buying some shoes and borrowing a bike from a friend to compete in her first triathlon five years ago.
“I found what a difference a good pair of shoes can make,” she recalled. “Running had been painful. I bought a $50 pair of Reeboks, and I bounced when I ran. (It was) just like being on a trampoline. I loved it.”
The shoes worked, and she now owns her own bike.
Taggart has led the Kootenai County women three times since her first race, including last year when she turned 40 and trained extra hard to win her new age division.
This year she’ll take on another challenge as the biker on a women’s team relay. She joins swimmer Cindy Clutter, 36, and runner Cathy Compton, 35, on a team known as “C’s the Day.” Taggart says the group is determined to take both women’s relay and the masters title. To compete as masters, team members’ ages must add up to at least 110.
“We want to win,” she said. An Olympics addict, Taggart has loved athletic competition all her life.
That enthusiasm has rubbed off on her daughters, Lindsay and Megan, both devoted swimmers. Megan had originally planned to compete with her mother until learning that her biggest swim meet of the summer conflicted with the local race.
“There were some tears over that one … I had her all psyched up,” said Cynthia Taggart.”I have a lot of friends who do other (triathlons). My girls, I follow them around swimming,” she said. ” In a few years I can do any triathlon I want.”
For now, she’s content with Coeur d’Alene’s race, where Lindsay, her husband Tom, her parents and friends provide vocal support.
“I love the atmosphere.”Unlike Taggart, Sahlin participates in several area races. Coeur d’Alene remains his favorite. “It’s one of the best organized, and the directors take pains to accommodate the runners,” the veteran triathlete said.
Over the past several years, Sahlin has continually crossed the finish line as the top Kootenai County contestant. However, winning has not always been easy for the Coeur d’Alene lawyer who began his running career at the University of Idaho.
“I started running in law school to get out of that grind of being in the law books,” he said. “First, it was stress relief. Then, it became a challenge.”
Sahlin maintains that he’s not a gifted athlete.
“I don’t have a genetic endowment,” the 45-year-old Spokane native says, “It’s consistency in training. As you’re consistent with your training, you’re consistent with your racing.”
His introduction to the triathlon in 1985 was disappointing, but since then Sahlin has perfected his training and improved his race strategy.
“I repressed that memory,” he said. “(but) I was interested enough in the sport to learn. I learned that it’s not that cold getting out of the water and onto the bike. You don’t need long pants and a coat.”
Sahlin has also tuned up his transitions, which, he says, can cut several minutes from a competitor’s time. “You don’t have to change shorts between biking and running and you don’t need socks,” he explained.
“I like the training,” the 1984 University of Idaho law school grad said. “It’s fun trying out different programs to see what works best.”
Like Taggart, he enjoys competing at home.
“It’s gratifying for me to see the number of people involved and interested enough to come and watch,” he said. “It’s nice to have so many friends and acquaintances cheering me on.”
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