Little did Heather Wurtele know when she won the Ford Ironman Coeur d’Alene last year it would cost her her home.
With Coeur d’Alene as the cherry on top of a successful season and with her husband, Trevor, showing promise as a triathlete, the Wurteles decided to take the plunge.
“In Ironman you see a lot of the best athletes really peaking from their 30s all the way through to 40,” Heather said. “We’re both 29, we turn 30 this year. We thought now is the time in our life, you’re only young once so you might as well go for it.”
“Both of us had decent jobs, that’s kind of what people aspire to, but there was just something there,” Trevor said. “We wanted to see what we could do as triathletes. It just wasn’t possible to do that while working.”
They sold their home in Victoria, British Columbia, quit their jobs, bought a motor home and started training full time.
“We thought we can make a living at this sport,” Heather said Friday afternoon after the competition meeting for the 44 professionals (16 women) among the 2,200-plus entries for Sunday’s seventh annual competition. “While we were working full time, most of our competition (was) all professional athletes. We were competitive, but if we really wanted to do well in this sport we needed to train full time.”
She then described an exhausting day of workouts around her job as a researcher for National Resources Canada and Trevor’s in the financial industry.
“With our success last year we got (some sponsors),” Heather said. “We sold our home and basically everything we owned, and really tried to live as cheaply as possible. We save the best we can so we can be financially sound on our savings for a couple of years so the risk isn’t so high.”
They’ve started with four sponsors: AVIA for their running needs; Blue Competitive Cycles for the biking; blueseventy for wetsuits; and Custom House Currency Exchange, Trevor’s old company, throws in a little money.
“We hope as we continue to improve we continue to get more sponsors,” Heather said. “The financial end will take care of itself.”
After four months of training in California, this is their first major competition of the year.
“I’m really in much better shape than last year,” she said. “I feel awesome.”
She has a goal of improving on last year’s time of 9 hours, 38 minutes, 58 seconds for the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run. However, the weather forecast for cool temperatures with wind and rain could force her to look elsewhere to gauge her success.
She expects veteran Kate Major to be a top challenger, although any unknown competitor could be there as she was last year.
Trevor is hoping to be within 15 to 20 minutes of the winner.
“I could get a top five with that,” he said.
He pointed to Bryan Rhodes of New Zealand and Maximllian Longree of Germany as the favorites.
Triathlons were a natural progression for the Wurteles, who grew up in Vernon, B.C. Trevor started as a ski racer, moved on to cycling and then got into adventure racing. Heather was a volleyball player in high school and was a rower at the University of British Columbia before joining Trevor in adventure racing.
“We both decided to try to do triathlons, do Ironman to see what it’s all about,” Trevor said. “You just want to improve on your times and we’re both very competitive.”
They were married in 2006 and took their honeymoon to compete in the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.
That is their goal for this year. If they qualify on Sunday, that will determine their schedule for the rest of the year in preparation for Hawaii in October.
They are both extremely happy with their decision, even if there were a few adjustments.
“I liked having the Internet connection, (but) it’s been great for training. I don’t waste 2-3 hours in the morning,” Trevor said. “Our living room is outdoors. We just set up the lawn chairs.”
“It wasn’t really as hard to ditch everything as it seems,” Heather said. “It’s amazing what material possessions you can do without. You only become aware of it once you get rid of them.
“I miss being able to luxuriate in a big bathroom, (but) I didn’t find it hard to give up space. I thought we might feel a little claustrophobic, but we’re outside training so much.”
Penticton, B.C., dentist Tom Evans, the defending men’s champion, is not entered because of a death in the family. His time was 8:34.22. … The professionals start at 6:25 a.m., the remaining start their swim at 7. … After the swim at City Beach the bike ride goes to Higgins Point and out past Hayden Lake. The run is along the lake from just beyond City Beach to the turnaround at Higgins Point. … The “hot corner” where athletes pass by most often during the race is the Chamber of Commerce area at the corner of Sherman and First.