Last year a friend of mine did her first Ironman Coeur d’Alene. As evening turned to night, her friends gathered on Sherman Avenue to watch her cross the finish line. It was a jovial moment.
One friend, however, was miserable. She’d spent her day running from place to place, keeping tabs on our buddy’s progress. Not only was she exhausted, she hurt. Her clothes chafed. Her feet – clad only in flip-flops – were killing her.
So if you’re heading out Sunday to watch athletes put their bodies to the test in this year’s Ironman Coeur d’Alene, I have one piece of advice.
Do not wear flips.
For more spectator tips, I turned to the true Ironfans out there – those who have mastered watching the big race. Here’s what they have to say:
1. Volunteer. As Michelle Haustein, the Ironman Coeur d’Alene volunteer coordinator put it, being a volunteer gets you to places the general public can’t go, including transition spots and the finish line. They typically need 3,500 volunteers to hand out water and nutritional supplements to athletes, provide athlete protection and crowd control, and other tasks. Visit ironmancda.com, if you’re interested.
2. Water. Food. Sunscreen. Comfortable shoes and clothes, in layers. “Lines can be long in a lot of places, so bring a water bottle and snacks,” Haustein said. And watch the weather: “We live in North Idaho, and the weather can change minute to minute.”
3. Know where you’re going. Samantha Whiting of Hayden suggests getting a map and planning where to watch the action. “Scope out what events you want to see,” she said. To see the swimmers hit the water, be at City Beach at least an hour beforehand. Laura Ketcham-Duchow of Spokane likes to grab a spot along the wall that separates the beach from the boardwalk.
4. Patience. There are 2,400 athletes, 3,500 volunteers and thousands of spectators. Haustein urges patience in getting around the town. “The roads are closed. Driving can be a challenge. Parking can be a challenge,” she said. Sheri Bullock of Coeur d’Alene, a longtime spectator who on Sunday will watch husband Scott compete, urges people to expect and embrace the crowds. “If you’re grouchy, who wants that negative energy?” she said. “The athletes don’t.”
5. Speaking of parking. There is ample parking at North Idaho College, Haustein said. “So I encourage people to park there and walk.” Whiting cautions against parking where a road may be closed behind you; you could be stuck for the duration. Check the road closures map and plan accordingly.
And pay attention to where you park. In her first year watching, Ketcham-Duchow stayed until the bitter end and found herself wandering around for an hour at “o’dark-30” looking for her car.
6. Make sure your phone is charged. This is key if you’re tracking an athlete and need to update others on their progress, Bullock said.
7. Need food but don’t want to miss anything? Restaurants on Sherman Avenue can make it worth the wait. Ketcham-Duchow said the lines for these downtown businesses can be long. But if the weather is nice and you can get a table outside, “That’s fun.” She also likes watching the run from Tony’s on the Lake, on Coeur d’Alene Lake Drive. Bullock watches the run just after the turnaround downtown, on Lakeside Avenue.
8. Follow the rules. Ketcham-Duchow has a friend who, while competing in the bicycle leg of the race, collided with a pedestrian who attempted to cross the road after being told not to by a course monitor. “Don’t duck under places you’re not supposed to,” she said.
9. Stay until the end. As the clock approaches midnight, and as the last athletes make it across the finish line, the atmosphere picks up. “That’s when the party at the finish line really gets started,” Ketcham-Duchow said.
10 Have fun and be supportive. “Be supportive for all the athletes, because it is such a huge accomplishment,” Whiting said. “They love to hear you cheer for them.”