Andy Potts did the hard work, “swallowing a lot of Lake Coeur d’Alene” in choppy swimming conditions, overcoming gusty winds on the bike and a so-so first loop of the run.
“Coming down Sherman Avenue I was happy but my body was saying, ‘You need to be done right now,’” Potts said. “I said to myself, ‘Let the crowd pull you home.’”
Potts raised both arms in celebration, took a quick glance behind to make sure he was safely ahead and crossed the finish line, earning his second Ironman Coeur d’Alene title in a time of 8 hours, 25 minutes and 44 seconds.
Viktor Zyemtsev made up nearly 6 minutes on Potts on the 26.2-mile run but finished second (8:28.32) for the second straight year. Defending champion Ben Hoffman had a day of what-ifs Sunday, enduring a crash and two flat tires on the 112-mile bike ride to take third in 8:29.12.
Canada’s Heather Wurtele followed her pre-race plan – with the exception of another aggravating flat tire – to defend her women’s championship. She timed 9:34.32, well off her 2013 course record of 9:16.02 but comfortably in front of second-place Kelly Williamson’s 9:50.07. Jessica Smith placed third in 9:58.42.
The 37-year-old Potts, a collegiate swimmer at Michigan who finished fourth in the 400 individual medley at the 1996 Olympic Trials, built a 5-minute lead after the swim, but dropped behind Germany’s Maik Twelsiek roughly 75 miles into the bike portion.
Hoffman was right in the mix but a huge wind gust jostled a crowd of cyclists, resulting in a crash with an age-group competitor near the 90-mile mark.
“I shredded my front tire, fixed that but obviously the tube was exposed at that point,” said Hoffman, who had some road rash on his cheek, side and knee. “I rode for about 10 miles, punctured it again so I had to wait for neutral support.”
Hoffman estimated the mechanical issues cost him 10-12 minutes.
Meanwhile, Potts quickly seized the lead from Twelsiek in the marathon but he knew three-time Coeur d’Alene champion Zyemtsev and Hoffman were closing the gap.
Zyemtsev pulled within 2:30 minutes with roughly 6 miles remaining. Potts churned out four straight 6-minute miles to open up an insurmountable lead.
Potts, who lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, won his fifth Ironman. He won his first title in Coeur d’Alene in 2010.
“I felt like I earned the win big-time because I was pushed so heavily,” he said.
Wurtele, 34, said Friday that she hoped to stay close to Williamson on the swim, build a comfortable lead on the bike and hope it was enough to withstand Williamson’s strong running ability.
That’s pretty much how it played out.
“You’re happy when your plans work out,” Wurtele said. “Just from experience I sort of knew what to do.”
Wurtele was third out of the water, trailing Williamson by 44 seconds and Smith by a few seconds. Wurtele took the lead 7 miles into the bike and opened up a 13-minute advantage over Smith and a 16-minute edge on Williamson through 70 miles.
For the second straight year, Wurtele encountered a flat tire, which chopped about 6 minutes off her lead.
“I don’t know what it is,” she said, “but I’m getting better at changing those quickly and staying calm.”
Wurtele maintained her big lead over Williamson, who passed Smith in the first 5 miles of the marathon. Williamson, who ran a 2:54 marathon to win Ironman Texas six weeks ago, timed 3:09.47, 37 seconds slower than Wurtele.
Derek Garcia, a 2002 Coeur d’Alene High graduate, was the top area men’s finisher. He was seventh in 8:57.57.
“I pretty much got everything out of my body I could,” said Garcia, who trains part of the year in San Diego. “I wanted to finish in the top five but I’m not disappointed. I have to keep working.”