Now it’s her turn. After spending half her childhood on the sidelines of Coeur d’Alene’s biggest race, Tayler Petticolas is stepping to the starting line.
The college-bound teen makes her Ironman debut Sunday. Her training spanned the past year, but really she has been preparing for this day since she first volunteered for the race at age 7.
“I always thought, ‘Wow, it would be so incredible to do this,’” she said.
Petticolas – one of six Coeur d’Alene-area 18-year-olds registered for the grueling challenge – never has attempted a triathlon. She admits being anxious but also self-assured and excited about the big day, which starts with a 2.4-mile swim in Lake Coeur d’Alene, moves to a 112-mile bike ride and concludes with a 26.2-mile run.
“Right now, I’m grateful because there’s been so much support and Coeur d’Alene is such a great community to do a triathlon in,” she said. “But I can’t help but be nervous.”
During years volunteering alongside her family on race day, Petticolas has had considerable exposure to the Ironman culture.
She recalls assisting athletes in 2007, when choppy water and gusty winds made for a cold, rough start. “We were all handing out space blankets – anything to keep them warm. Everyone was so much more appreciative.”
Her favorite experience has been helping catch and support competitors crossing the finish line.
“There’s just nothing like sharing that moment with all the athletes and seeing so many different types of people coming through,” Petticolas said.
Two years ago she suffered shoulder and hip injuries in a car accident and wasn’t sure she’d be able to go on with volleyball at Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy. Through physical therapy she recovered, then transitioned into training for Ironman a year ago. She joined the Coeur d’Alene Tri-Team, a community group that trains together.
“You have people that are way better than you, and people that are starting out below you, and people that are right at your level,” she said. “And it’s fun to train with all of them. You get something unique from everyone.”
For the past three months, Petticolas worked out almost daily, while also finishing school and working at Beverly’s restaurant at the Coeur d’Alene Resort. In May, she ran the Coeur d’Alene Marathon with a double sinus infection.
“You know you’re ready through your training,” she said. “It’s really how you’re recovering through your long, hard days. I feel confident because my recovery has been great from those sorts of workouts.”
She said running comes naturally to her, and she always had been a strong swimmer. The cycling, though, was another matter.
“I had to start fresh,” she said. “I didn’t know anything about my bike, I didn’t know the ins and outs of biking. I had nothing.”
She bought a $2,000 bike and added another $600 in gear to it. That on top of the $660 entry fee, $600 wetsuit and more than $2,000 she spent on nutrition during her training.
“I knew it was going to cost me a lot – in time, ability to do extracurricular activities, and financially, especially,” she said. “But for me it was justified.”
This year her family will be all over the course to support her, including her parents, Peter and Hiedi, and brother Konner, 14.
“She’s always had a very strong streak of independence, and we’ve always tried to let her explore and find herself,” her father said.
He said he’s not nervous for her, just proud of her ambition and drive.
“She’s going to go for it. We’re hoping that this is something maybe she’ll really like and that she’ll be able to take to the next level. I’d like to see her maybe become a top competitor as she’s going to school.”
Petticolas will leave Aug. 17 to attend Northern Arizona University at Flagstaff, where she plans to major in hotel and restaurant management. She said she wants to attempt another Ironman down the road, but probably not during her freshman year.
For now, her focus is on fulfilling her dream Sunday.
“People would tell me you’re going to learn so much and it’s going to open your eyes to so much, but I never could have realized how much of a journey it would be.”
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