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Seeley has come back set to run

Matt Seeley is equally exhilarated and troubled by his best Ironman finish ever.

Seeley was within two miles of his first Ironman victory last year at the Ford USA Coeur d’Alene Ironman when Chris Legh pulled off a dramatic come-from-behind win.

With 1.2 miles to go, Legh passed Seeley, who had a nine-minute lead with 13 miles to go in the Marathon portion of the three-leg event.

“I was happy and satisfied with (finishing second), but I’m a bit haunted by being caught at the end,” Seeley, 34, said. “I’ve put a bigger emphasis than ever before on my running. When I came through the 13-mile mark and he hadn’t gained any time on me, normally it’s pretty much over and you just have to hold on. He was just able to dig down and find something extra for the second half.”

So intent has Seeley been to improve the final leg of the swim-bike-run event that he did the Boston Marathon in April.

“I didn’t run it for time, I did it for the experience,” said Seeley, who finished in 2 hours and 51 minutes. “I feel comfortable with my ability to run under 3 hours. That hasn’t happened yet in an Ironman. I feel like I’ve made a significant amount of improvement.”

Seeley’s strength, no doubt, is cycling. That’s where he built his significant lead last year at Coeur d’Alene.

He believes if he can do the 26.2-mile run in under 3 hours at the third annual Coeur d’Alene Ironman on Sunday, he will be among the top finishers. He did the marathon in 3:05 last year.

Seeley, who finished third in the first Coeur d’Alene Ironman followed by the runner-up finish last year, believes he can win the event. But he knows that with the prize money doubled to $50,000 that the event will feature it’s deepest and most talented field ever.

“That makes it a tall order when they raise the prize money and bring in some better athletes,” Seeley said.

Legh and Michael Lovato, the winner of the first Coeur d’Alene Ironman, believe Seeley will definitely be in the hunt.

“I won’t forget about Matt Seeley,” Legh said. “He made me hurt last year. He had a great (bike) ride last year but faded in the second half of the run. If he can put it together in the second half of the marathon, we could all be in trouble.”

“He’s an incredible athlete. I have a lot of respect for him,” Lovato said. “He’s a heckuva competitor.”

With the oldest of his two young daughters turning 5 this year and learning to ride a bike for the first time, Seeley, who teaches math at a Montana community college, knows his professional career is in the twilight stage.

“The truth is I can see the end,” Seeley said. “I’ve been on the verge of reaching the end for a number of years. It’s hard to make that transition to be less serious about it – especially when I continue to improve and perform better and more opportunities are out there. But I’m close. I’ve said a couple of times I would do this for just one more year. This is my seventh Ironman so that has a nice ring to it. It would be great to close out a competitive Ironman career with a great performance in Coeur d’Alene.”

An international flavor

The race will feature more foreign pro athletes than usual.

“You find a lot more foreign athletes in North America events now,” said Michael Lovato, the 2003 champ. “Part of it is because Ironman USA has a pretty good reputation for putting on quality events.”

Bryan Rhodes of New Zealand, Yoshinori Tamura of Japan and Victor Zyemtsev of the Ukraine are a few of the noteworthy entrants.

Rhodes has won Ironman Malaysia twice (2001 and ‘02), and he finished third at Ironman New Zealand in March.

Tamura is a proven triathlete since winning Ironman Asia in 2001.

Lovato said the international athlete to watch may be Zyemtsev, who placed second behind pre-race favorite Simon Lessing at the Florida Half Ironman in May.

“He’s won three Ironmans in Europe and seems to fly under the radar,” Lovato said. “He’s strong in all three disciplines. He could definitely be a factor.”

Returning age-group champs

Just three age-group winners return.

Karen Aydelott of Pasadena, Calif., is the lone two-time winner returning. Aydelott, who won the 55-59 women’s division last year in a time of 13 hours, 51 minutes and 56 seconds, will be competing in the age group for the last time. She is 59.

Jack Boyster, 58, of Laguna Beach, Calif., will try to defend in the men’s 55-59 division. He won in 11:00:56.

Sherry Coons, 40, graduates from the women’s 35-39 division she won last year. Coons, from Kihei, Maui, won in 10:37:30.

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