Sizzling heat didn’t keep Sam Long from winning Ironman Coeur d’Alene as an amateur.
As one of the circuit’s top young professionals, Long didn’t let triple-digit temperatures deter him from shattering the course record.
Six years after winning Ironman Coeur d’Alene as a 19-year-old newbie, Long finished the Sunday’s world-famous triathlon – a grueling 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run – in 8 hours, 7 minutes, 40 seconds, the best mark since the North Idaho event’s 2004 inception.
Runner-up Justin Meltzer (8:13:03) and third-place Pedro Gomes (8:17:06) also beat the previous record set by Ben Hoffman (8:17:31) in 2013.
Long, 25, had even loftier goals as he neared the finish shortly after 1 p.m.
“I thought sub-8 hours was possible,” Long said.
Records continued to fall in front of a lively downtown Coeur d’Alene crowd, enjoying their first full Ironman event in the Lake City after a three-year hiatus.
Carrie Lester donned a bright-pink cap as she pumped her fists crossing the finish line on Sherman Avenue, setting a course record of 8:54:51.
Lester, a 40-year-old Australian, kicked well in front of Fenna Langridge (8:59:50) and previous Ironman Coeur d’Alene winner Linsey Corbin (9:13:21).
“In 2019, I was in the best form of my life. In 2020, I lost a lot of that (due to the pandemic),” Lester said. “I had to find the motivation to get it back.
The full Ironman returned to Coeur d’Alene after a 14-year stretch (2004-17) before solely adopting the 70.3-mile version of the triathlon in 2018 and in 2019. Last year’s race was canceled due to the pandemic.
Long and Sanders were nearly in lockstep for roughly 9 miles into the run before Long, who was boosted by a 4-hour, 18-minute bike ride, switched gears and left the competition in the dust.
Both qualified for the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii.
The 5 a.m. swim in a relatively chilly Lake Coeur d’Alene provided the biggest hurdle for Long.
“The first 800 meters of the swim. My God, I wanted to quit right there,” Long said. “I about had a heart attack.”
Hundreds of professional and amateur athletes returned to Coeur d’Alene in an event that had thousands of volunteers also battling the scorching heat.
There was a feeling of normalcy among the athletes, volunteers and spectators, who saw the Ironman halted in 2020.
Downtown foot traffic was heavy. Restaurants and bars were busy. The spirit of Ironman had returned.
“(Sherman Avenue is) just amazing. That audience,” Gomes said. “You can’t take that for granted after the year we just had. It just gives you the chills.”
“One of the best finishes in the entire Ironman circuit,” Long said.
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