Featured photo for Ironman Coeur d’Alene

Ironman Coeur d’Alene

I went to race in picturesque Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, along with my triathlon buddies and to hear the infamous words “you are an Ironman” for the first time.

Tom Erceg’s Quickie Report

The following was written by my friend Tom of the Tri-City Tri Club:

It was a rough day out there. 97 degrees at the peak. An all-time high for the month of June in Coeur D’alene. Lots of leg cramps.

The race venue was awesome. The area and the lake are just spectacular. The locals were completely into the race. They had 4000 volunteers and a waiting list of folks who wanted to help. The crowds around town were huge. The bike course has a little of everything: Hills, flats, wind, rollers. It’s not as demanding as Canada, but the heat certainly made up for it. The run course is also beatiful. Most of it is along the lakeshore.

So how did we all do? Those who finished were thrilled to have completed the course on a day like that.

Russ had a bike crash early in the second loop. Apparently someone with a hose was spraying people with water, and he and Russ got tangled up. Russ went down, banged his hip, and busted his helmet. I don’t know much of the details, but I did speak with him briefly at the start of my run. He’s doing fine, but obviously his race was over.

Steve had a good swim and a really solid bike ride, but the heat caused his stomach to shut down. After two miles on the run he was dizzy and unable to drink. So he made the correct and sensible choice and pulled himself from the race.

Sharon had her usual excellent swim, a good effort on the bike, and then ran like the wind. She’s the only person I talked to who ran the entire marathon (except for the hill she walked with me). She had a great day.

I PR’d the swim, and through 80 miles was demolishing my bike PR. Then my old friend Uncle Crampy came to visit. I struggled through the rest of the bike, and walked most of the marathon. Even with a 6:15 marathon I still broke 15 hours, so I’m happy with the day.

Felix is an Ironman! He struggled through the swim, but made the cutoff with more than 20 minutes to spare. By the end of the bike he had almost caught up to me, even after stopping to fix a flat. His marathon experience was similar to mine. Lots of walking and cramps, but he also broke 15 hours.

Phil’s day was pretty similar to mine. He was happy with his swim time. The first loop of the bike course was at record setting pace, and then the cramps came. He struggled the rest of the day, and put in an effort truly worthy of the title Ironman. Oh, and just for giggles, he got into an all-out sprint down the finishers chute with a bikini-clad competitor. I would probably have just followed her, but that’s just me I guess.

All in all, an epic day up in Idaho. This venue is going to stick. I’d definitely do it again. Just hopefully on a cooler day.


Felix’s Additional Notes

Good IM report, Tom!

First off, I’m really glad you are all right, Russ. I had seen an ambulance coming up while riding down by the lake, but didn’t realize you had gone down until Sharon told me later in the day. I was really scared when she mentioned you went unconscious but then she said the hospital released you a few hours later… big sigh of relief.

Secondly, just wanted to say that the presence of all of you who were there during IM week made the experience ever the more enjoyable and memorable, not just for the race but for the premeetings, parades, dinners, etc. So thanks!

Finally, I must say that the entire trip was an amazing experience despite the following indignities:

  • On the drive up, I suddenly realized that I left all my swim stuff at home, including my wetsuit… however, I only realized this after crossing the Oregon border! So I turned back and ended up driving ~750 “extra credit” miles…
  • During the swim, in which despite being in reality super slow and all, was actually feeling very comfortable… so imagine my astonishment when I got lapped by the pros with well over 500m to go on my first lap!
  • In the second lap of the bike course, my back completely went out on the climb up Upriver Road, and I cracked and got totally dropped. Quite demoralizing considering I was making really good time on the first lap (3:05 time split, despite getting my first flat at Mile 45). Fortunately, my back recovered after another 20 miles or so…
  • However, later on I ended up getting two more flats, the third one with just over one mile to go (in which I was out of tubes anyhow, so I just rode on in on the flat…)
  • During the run, apparently I was completely unable to mask the pain, as there were probably about 2 dozen spectators/volunteers/athletes who would say something like, “Go #176!…. er, are you okay???”
  • And finally, well after the event, I was so wasted I was literally near collapsing. (Thanks to Sharon and Laurie for helping me back to the car, that was sweet.) Oh, and it would only be Thursday after the race that I could walk down stairs without having to cling on to those handrails…

Memorable race for sure. Just don’t ask me if I’d do another Ironman again (at least not until I have fully recovered!) Kudos to everyone who even dared attempt such a crazy thing; I am amazed by you all!


Ironwoman Volunteer

At Ironman Coeur d’Alene, I met a volunteer named Deborah who really made me feel welcome. When she heard that I had come up to Coeur d’Alene alone to do a first Ironman, she and her family came out with signs to cheer me on during the race.

I was so touched by her support for a complete stranger that I submitted the following to HeroicStories.com. It was published on October 26, 2004.

Ironwoman Volunteer

by Felix Wong
California, USA

The road to Idaho from California was over 1000 miles and a full day’s drive. I arrived on my 28th birthday (June 26, 2003), but I had been dreaming of this moment for years. Destination: Coeur d’Alene, with its glamorous lake and scenic roads. Goal: Ironman Coeur d’Alene, my first Ironman distance triathlon.

The race was a 2.4-mile swim, followed by a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.4-mile run. Participants arrived early to take care of pre-race logistics, including registration and racking our bicycles in a secured area.

In the registration tent I was instantly greeted by friendly volunteers. Minutes later, I was in front of a table to pick up my race number. Deborah Silva, the friendly woman behind the table was quick to make conversation. “Have you done any Ironmans before?” she inquired. Nope, this will be my first time, I replied.

We talked several minutes, and I confessed my inexperience, being a seasoned long-distance cyclist, a mediocre runner and worse swimmer—never having swum farther than a mile before.

Deborah asked if I had family to cheer me on. “Nope, came here alone,” I replied. We talked a while, and as I exited the registration tent, I thought, what a wonderful volunteer!

Ironwoman VolunteerThe next day I had just racked my bicycle and was exiting the bike corral when I heard, “Felix!” It was Deborah. “I knew you’d be here. I’ll be rooting for you during tomorrow’s race!” She showed me a big handmade sign: “Go #176”: my race number.

Sure enough, on race day Deborah and her family were at Mile 50 of the bicycle portion, holding her sign and cheering me on. It really lifted my spirits, after having been one of the last athletes to emerge from the water in the morning and now confronting 90-degree heat on the bike and run course.

As if her being out there all afternoon wasn’t enough, after darkness had fallen and I was just finishing the race, there she was! “You did it!” she said. It was almost 15 hours since the race had begun, an exhausting day for both of us. Yet she waited at the finish line to congratulate me, give me a hug, and take pictures so that I’d never forget this day, the day I had fulfilled the dream of doing my first Ironman.

Deborah made a complete stranger from a distant place feel welcome in Coeur d’Alene, and feel that he had accomplished something truly special in a race tougher than anything he had done before. She made this day extra memorable by going far beyond her duties as a race volunteer, offering encouragement to a young Californian. And sure enough, a few weeks later my pictures arrived in the mail!

Race Data

  • 2.4 mile swim + 112 mile bike + 26.2 mile run
  • 7:00 a.m. mass start, 9:52 p.m. finish— 14.9 hours



  • Scenery: 5
  • Support/Organization: 5+
  • Food: 3
  • Weather: 2. 93 degree heat, then a freak thunderstorm with strong winds in the afternoon.
  • Relative Difficulty: 4. Supposedly it’s comparable to the IM Wisconsin course.
  • Overall Rating: 5

Official Ironman Athlete Video

Below is the official Ironman Athlete Video handed out to participants the day after the race. You can see me at 3:38-3:42 in the video.

Photos not created by Felix Wong may be subject to copyright.
2 days before the race, here's Canny in front of my motel room, in triathlon guise, all rarin' to go and ready to scout the run and bike course with me.
Attending the athlete carbo-fest.  You can see Sharon, Steve, and Laurie in this picture.
During the athletes' banquet, inspirational videos and speeches were shown.  Lots of energy here!
While scouting the run course I passed by this sign: Fe = Iron.  "But what about aluminum?" wonders Canny.
Felix Wong admiring Lake Coeur d'alene along the bike course, reflecting on how wonderful it would be to live out here.
[1 day before the race] Taking a last minute swim in the lake in the morning to test out the waters with the other athletes.
Racking my little race bike in the transition area.  Security dudes guarded the place overnight.
The day before the race the City of Coeur d'alene had us participate in an Athlete Parade!  Here's Phil and Sharon.
It was starting to get a little hot during the parade, but there still was a good turnout of both athletes and spectators.  20 different countries and numerous states were represented in the race, with the greatest representation from CA!
After the parade, Sharon and I scouted the bike course, which was very green and beautiful with a couple of good hills!
There was a mandatory athlete meeting in the afternoon and afterwards we took a picture of all of us in the Tri-City Tri Club who were doing the race.  From left to right: Felix, Sharon, Russ, Phil, Steve, and Tom.
Later in the evening some of us went to the Hot Rod Cafe in Post Falls for our last full meal before the race.  The place was incredible!  (Picture usurped from the hotrodcafe.com web site.)
Gramps and Tom awaiting some of the excellent food to come.  Some of dishes were named "Intake Manifold Meatloaf," "Chopped Top Sirloin," "Rumble Seat Ribs," and the big-block "Chrysler New Yorker."
Rounding out the table was Tom, Laurie, their son Steven, Felix, Sharon, Grandma, and Gramps.
Auto memorabilia galore with hot rods and even motorcycles all over the shop... er, restaurant.  This is a must-see place for an auto enthusiast in the inland northwest!
The view of the place from the front entrance.  Here's Sharon again!
[Day of the race]  Here's Laurie, who'd graciously take most of the following pictures for us while we did the race!
Tom in the transition area, all numbered up.
[Start of the race!] 1600 athletes lining up for the mass swim start.  You can sort of see whom I believe is Steve in the yellow TC^2 jersey.
Gramps and Grandma were also there to take pictures.
Russ coming out of the water.
Tom out of the water.
[Bike leg] On the top of the longest climb of the day--Upriver Rd.--were inspiring chalk scrawlings from the day before reading "Go Tri-City Tri Club... Tom... Felix... Sharon... Russ... Phil... Steve."  It made me feel warm during the two times I had to cross over it.
[Run leg] Here's Phil shortly after his bike-to-run transition.
Tom checking his time...
... and then proceeds to take off!
Felix Wong passing through, managing to give a wave despite all the pain!  He changed into a singlet and running shorts for the run as temps rose into the 90s.
Sharon giving a wave while blazing through, having a great day!
We did it!!  Ironman Sharon, Tom, and Felix Wong together after the race.
Ironman Phil did it too!  Here he is, sitting on some towels, awaiting a massage.  What a great event!
During the bike leg, Deborah, the most kind-hearted volunteer I have ever met in my life, came out to not only to hand off water bottles but to root for me!  Here she is with her family, including husband Bob and son Taylor.
Photo: Deborah Silva
Felix Wong coming down the finishing stretch giving high-fives to those in the stands while the announcer proclaimed, "... and you are an IRONMAN!"  What a feeling!
Photo: Deborah Silva
Moments later, with finisher t-shirt.
Photo: Deborah Silva
newspaper headline Men, women of iron, Gollnick, Lovato top field
And here we go, the race begins!!
Photo: Chris Orrery