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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Thousands compete in half-distance Ironman race in Coeur d’Alene

Warm, sunny weather greeted 2,132 athletes Sunday as they swam, pedaled and ran through Coeur d’Alene in the Ironman 70.3.

The half-distance triathlon entails a 1.2-mile swim followed by a 56-mile bike ride and a 13.1-mile run. Rolling starts began at 6 a.m. with athletes jumping into Lake Coeur d’Alene.

“The swim was cold – the coldest swim I’ve ever done,” said Becca Kawaoka, from Auburn, Washington, who finished first overall in the women’s division with a time of 4 hours, 28 minutes, 21 seconds.

Men’s winner Justin Riele finished in 4:00:02.

Kawaoka has participated in about 20 Ironman races and won the Victoria, British Columbia, 70.3 last month. Overall, Kawaoka said the weather was really nice compared to last year when the temperature reached 100 degrees.

“I didn’t feel overheated on the run, and the bike (course) was gorgeous, it was perfect,” she said. “It got a little windy at the end, but I can’t complain because I won.”

Last week, the Coeur d’Alene City Council approved a change from a half to a full distance, 140.6-mile Ironman for June 26, 2023.

Next year’s event will follow the same course as this weekend’s race but with extra laps. General registration will open July 4.

Historically, Coeur d’Alene has hosted the full 140.6-mile race since Ironman first came to the city in 2003.

Local organizers switched from the full distance to the 70.3-mile version of the triathlon in 2018 and in 2019. The 2020 race was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and last year’s race was another full version.

Kawaoka said she probably won’t run the Coeur d’Alene race next year, but she will be here to support her husband, Elliot.

“We do the 70.3s together, but he is very talented at the full distance, so usually I’m the ‘sherpa’ for him,” she said. “But we love Coeur d’Alene. We’re in Coeur d’Alene every year.”

Katie and Kent Green from Coeur d’Alene, who cheered on a friend from a street corner near the finish line, said they are excited to have the full distance race return next year.

“As long as we keep the race here,” said Katie Green, who completed the half distance a few years ago.

Other athletes like Alex Tereshchuk, a Ukrainian from Canada, prefer to run the half distance because there is less recovery time. It takes him a couple weeks to recover from a half-distance race; if he ran the full distance, it would take him a full month to recover.

“The full Ironman is really a different beast,” said Tereshchuk, who plans to race again in July. “My problem is it’s right in the middle of the season.”

Shawn Lehmann, who usually runs full-distance races, came all the way from Austin, Texas because he heard the Coeur d’Alene course is beautiful. He said it was “better than expected.”

“This course in particular has been a highlight,” said Tim Brosious, Northwest regional director for The Ironman Group, “not only in the North American circuit of Ironman events, but globally. It is one of the highest-ranked courses by our athletes.”

James Hanlon's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.